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Hindu leader near death

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Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2001 12:00 am

Followers flock to Kaua'i for vigil for world-renowned Gurudeva.

People are flocking to Wailua Homesteads from all over the world as part of a massive vigil for the spiritual leader of Kauai's Hindu Monastery and a huge sect of Hinduism.

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, or Gurudeva as he is known to friends and followers, is near death, a monastery spokesman said.

Gurudeva entered Wilcox Memorial Hospital earlier this month after blood tests had determined he was seriously anemic. Doctors soon concurred that he had advanced colon cancer, which had spread to other parts of his body.

Gurudeva, 75, remains free from pain, said Acharya Palaniswami, one of 24 monks at the Wailua Homesteads 50-acre site who are keeping a 24-hour vigil over their spiritual leader.

"Indeed, he is comfortable and radiant and has told us that he is in the final days and is preparing consciously for the blessed passage known in our tradition as Mahasamadhi, the Great Union," Palaniswami said.

People from all over the world have converged to be near their spiritual leader, even though he is not accepting any visitors. They'll be able to attend his cremation ceremonies and basically want to be near him and share their chants and prayers, Palaniswami said.

"He loves Kaua'i, and Kauaians have powerfully expressed their deep love for him. Everyone's prayers for a blessed and peaceful passage are profoundly appreciated in the days ahead," said Palaniswami.

The work of the monastery, both locally with the Drug Free Kaua'i campaign, Kaua'i endowment and other initiatives, will continue, Palaniswami promised.

Also to be seen to fruition is the massive temple, now under construction, which will be the largest and most elaborate Hindu place of worship outside of India.

Gurudeva last year joined select company as a recipient of the U Thant Peace Award. Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pope John Paul, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu are other past winners of the award named in honor of the late United Nations secretary general.

Bodhinathaswami Veylan, 59, a disciple of Gurudeva's for 35 years and a Kaua'i resident for 30 years, will take over as spiritual leader of the monastery after Gurudeva's passing, said Palaniswami.

Traditional, sacred Hindu rites will be conducted after Gurudeva's death, Palaniswami said.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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