Travel Adventures of a Krishna Monk

by Krishna-kripa Das

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Travel Journal#10.22: New York City and Florida


Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 10, No. 22
By Krishna-kripa das
(November 2014, part two
)
New York City and Florida
(Sent from San Juan, Puerto Rico, on December 26, 2014)

Where I Went and What I Did

For the second half of November, after four more days of chanting with the New York City harinama party, I went to Florida for eleven days to attend the Festival of the Holy Name and to chant at four universities, two football stadiums, and the Gainesville Farmers Market. Only the two Sundays and Thanksgiving Day did I not do harinama, the other eight I did.

It was nice to see the beautiful deities Radha-Shyamasundar in Alachua, who look gorgeous even in their simpler evening dress.

I have a powerful quote from a letter by Srila Prabhupada, wonderful realizations on varnasrama by Bhakti Raghava Swami, wisdom from Rtadhvaja Swami, notes on a seminar on improving Vaishnava relationships by Kalakantha Prabhu of Gainesville Krishna House, and notes on classes in Alachua County, Florida, by Nanda Devi and Ranjit Prabhu, and in New York by Abhiram Prabhu and Rama Raya Prabhu.

I would like to thank Namamrita Prabhu, who is a pilot with Airtran, for the guest pass enabling me to fly to Florida for the Festival of the Holy Name and several harinamas and college outreach opportunities in the second half of November. Thanks to Mithuna Prabhu and another devotee from ISKCON Queens for their kind donations. Thanks to Lovelesh and the JAX Krishnas and Sudevi and the Bhakti Satsang of USF for their donations. Thanks to Badahari Prabhu of Krishna House, Alex, Raju, Lovelesh, Amrita Keli, and Kalki for driving me around in Florida, and Lovelesh, Amrita Keli, and Sundari Gopi for letting me stay at their place in Jacksonville and Sudhir for letting me stay at his place near Tampa. I am so dependent on the mercy of the devotees!

Thanks also to Courtney for her pictures of us chanting at University of North Florida, Dennis Sher of PhotoIsMyLife.com for pictures of the evening kirtana at the house of Gaura Shakti Allin, and JR (Janaka Rsi) for the pictures of the Gainesville harinama on the street corner. Thanks to Jiva Photos – NRR for the photos of the Alachua Festival of the Holy Name. 

Itinerary 

December 26 to 30: San Juan, Puerto Rico
December 31 to April 2015: Florida (Gainesville, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Tampa)


Chanting at the University of North Florida


After flying from New York, I chanted for four hours at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville on a beautiful sunny day. Eight devotees participated for some of the time! It was a pleasant change for me from the New York subways. Thanks all who participated.
 
Chad, sitting with his back to the camera, impressed me by joining our chanting party twice and allowing me to rest at his place before the program although he has only been coming to Krishna Club for a few weeks. The Krishna Club meeting was also very nice. As usual there were dedicated regulars and new people.

I planned to take the Chinese bus from Jacksonville to New York City on November 30, the Sunday evening of the Thanksgiving Weekend, but it was full. 
 

Thus I got to chant at the UNF campus again the next day, and Amrita Keli, Dorian, Mallory, and Chad joined me. Both the day I arrived from Florida and the day I returned to New York, we met people on the campus who were very interested to learn of our Krishna Club and its meetings. One lady came by both days and the second time gave us a donation for the book she had received from us eleven days before.

Chanting at the University of South Florida
  

The next day after flying to Jacksonville from New York for the programs at the campus there, I took a bus to Tampa, where Raju Manthena and I chanted for four hours at University of South Florida and at least three new people came to the evening program as a result. The staff let us chant right in front of the library door. Andrew, a brand new person, learned the karatalas in one sitting. 


Another student enjoyed talking with us. 

I used to chant just three hours at the universities but inspired by Rama Raya Dasa and Harinama NYC I increased to four the first two days in Florida!


The evening program at University of South Florida was well attended. That night attenders included an inter-faith group liking to experience and to learn about different spiritual practices and who had lots of questions.


We did a lively stand up kirtana briefly at the end of that program, and the student who enjoyed talking to us, a first-timer at the club meeting, brought his instrument to play along.

Chanting at the University of Florida Stadium

Devotees from Alachua have been chanting outside the stadium for two hours before the University of Florida home football games since before I moved to Alachua in 1994.


Here Kaliyaphani Prabhu, a Srila Prabhupada disciple originally from England, led the chanting.


A group of devotees ladies danced, with Nitai dd distributing Krishna: Reservoir of Pleasure. Tulasirani dd most perfectly wore the orange and blue of the Florida Gators.


One young devotee lady distributed prasadam cookies. 


Other devotees distributed literature.

One aging fan smilingly said, “I was with you guys 45 years ago.” Turns out he was in Gainesville when Prabhupada visited on July 29, 1971, and was friends with Amarendra and Gadi Prabhus of the Gainesville Hare Krishna temple. Someone else, probably at least in his late forties, came up and said, “I just want to thank you guys for being here!”

Festival of the Holy Name


For several years devotees in Alachua have had a twenty-four kirtana called “Festival of the Holy Name” the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November). The devotees chant twelve hours each day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. One devotee was telling me it is our best festival in Alachua, and I agree. Thus even when I am in New York City, I come back for it. Madhava Prabhu, originally from Mauritius, comes every year. This year and last Agnidev Prabhu from Trinidad came. One year Niranjana Swami came. He was very impressed with all the work the Hare Krishna devotee youth of Alachua did to put on the event and told me he would come again just to encourage them. Unfortunately it did not work out with his schedule the last two years.

Beginning the Saturday before, there are evening kirtanas for three hours or so at different devotees homes or at the temple each night.


The first one was Gaura Shakti Allin’s, and his place was packed full. It was ecstatic. He is dancing with upraised arms by the door.

His beautiful Gaura Nitai deities made it extra special.
 


Purushartha Prabhu played the bass.

I danced as did a number of others.

Ultimately I escaped to the kitchen in search of more room to dance.

The other evening kirtanas were wonderful as was the Festival of the Holy Name itself.

 
 Gaura-Nitai

and

Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva, and Lady Subhadra 

increased our meditation and our devotion.



It made me so happy to see so many friends, acquaintances, and people I did not even know all together singing Hare Krishna heart and soul.


Events like this give the participants and onlookers a chance to experience that the holy name is a transcendental sound beyond our material experience and to increase their own commitment to chanting. Through chanting of the divine names all material miseries can be vanquished and all spiritual happiness can be attained. It is so nice. The ultimate attainment from chanting is described in this beautiful verse from Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila 1.96: “The Absolute Truth is Sri Krishna, and loving devotion to Sri Krishna exhibited in pure love is achieved through congregational chanting of the holy name, which is the essence of all bliss.”

I did not take many pictures and just one video. Friday, the first day, the first kirtana that got a few people up dancing was lead by Mitra Sena Prabhu and lots of his friends, mostly from North Carolina. It was really upbeat and joyous (http://youtu.be/Y4MT1lr-APE): 





On Saturday, when I returned from Tallahassee, Dhanya was singing so beautifully I had to listen until she finished even though I needed to use the bathroom after the journey and was also attracted by the dinner being served out.


Madhava always tries to get the audience to completely absorb themselves in the holy name, and I appreciate his emphasis on that.

The final evening, when Madhava Prabhu sang, the tent was packed full. With great difficulty I found a place to dance behind the people sitting in chairs.

I personally want to thank all the Alachua youth and the New Raman Reti devotees who put so much time, energy, and money into the festival, and I hope it gets better and better every year.

Chanting in Gainesville Across from the University


It was inspiring to me to see that seventeen devotees took a break from the Festival of the Holy Name to maintain the weekly harinama across from the University of Florida in Gainesville.
 
One local joined in and danced with us.

Chanting at the Florida State University Stadium

Every second year the Gainesville Florida Gators play the Florida State University (FSU) Seminoles in Tallahassee, and devotees have been chanting outside that stadium for two hours before that game for several years. Now that event coincides with the second day of the Festival of the Holy Name, but still nine devotees took an eight and a half hour break from the festival to drive to Tallahassee and sing at that event. All the devotees involved in our student center by FSU were not there because of the holiday weekend, and Suresh, who has been involved in assisting Hare Krishnas in Tallahassee for over 20 years, helped facilitate our party in many different ways, and we were very grateful to him.


Nagaraja Prabhu, editor of Back to Godhead, came on almost all the harinamas for many years. Then for some time, being absorbed in other commitments, he did not come so much, but now I see him again almost every time, and we are happy to have him back.

One lady wearing Gator colors played the karatalas while she danced.
 
An older Gator fan tried beating the drum.

One Seminole fan danced with Krishna Keshava Prabhu in great delight for quite some time, and his friends took pictures of them.


Both men and women danced with upraised arms.



More fans than usual from both sides took pleasure dancing and sometimes even chanting with the devotees, and we felt it was worth the sacrifice to drive up there.

You can see how lively it was from these video clips (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGerEnGdI0xLYqwl-xYn4_NiUd1ELebWw):


It was great to take a break from winter for eleven days and chant with my Florida friends.

For photos I uploaded but did not include in this journal, click on the link below:

Insights

Srila Prabhupada:

from a letter to Gargamuni on September 15, 1967:

Take sufficient rest and chant Hare Krishna; so long as we have got this material body we have to undergo these situations [diseases such as jaundice], if we increase our love for Krishna we shall be able to get out of this maya. People who therefore not exerting to improve Krishna Consciousness are simply wasting their valuable time and human life. Their human life is a chance to be out of the entanglements of material bodies. We get material bodies according to our activities, doggish men get the bodies of dogs in the next life, men in Krishna Consciousness get bodies like Krishna, so developed consciousness of human life is to concentrate of Krishna Consciousness so that we may be out of the clutches of material entanglement. These truths should be preached all over the world and those who are intelligent enough will take to Krishna Consciousness very seriously.”

Bhakti Raghava Swami:

The five processes, sadhu-sanga [the association of devotees], nama-kirtana [chanting the holy name], bhagavata-sravana [hearing the Srimad-Bhagavatam], mathura-vasa [living in the holy city of Mathura], and sri murti sraddhaya sevana [serving the deity with faith] are especially important because they can give Krishna-prema [love of God] very quickly.

Mathura vasa means we should live in spiritual communities.

There are two sva-dharmas [personal duties], spiritual and material, and most people in society know of neither.

Krishna has created a social system, varnasrama. We do not have to invent one. We just have to hear about it and implement it.

Cow that are protected protect the brahmanas who protect society.

We cannot be Krishna conscious without being cow conscious. This is important to understand even for devotees who live in the city.

There is a surabhi mantra glorifying the cows of the spiritual world which are the origin of all cows.

When people used to travel, they would bring their cows. They could not live without cows. If we find ourselves living without cows, we should examine our life.

Not only the vaisyas, but also the brahmanas and the ksatriyas had cows.

The human society has the responsibility of offering the products of the cow to the Lord for they cannot do it on their own.

Our goal for 2016 is to adopt 50 villages in India.

Every center and project should have a varnasrama college.

comment by lady devotee: I have been hearing Srila Prabhupada’s lectures from 1976 and 1977 about a new phase of encouraging devotees to act according to their own nature rather than creating a brahminical society.

Prabhupada spoke of four movements: sankirtana movement (harinama and books), establishing temples and deity worship, spiritual initiation movement (connecting people with Krishna’s family through initiation) [nama-hatta, youth, and college preaching are in this category], classless society movement [although we are one as Krishna devotees, we act as if in a drama in a role in varnasrama dharma]. We have focused on the first three but not the last which makes our movement seem churchy or ecclesiastical.

When the present prime minister of India was a leader in Gujarat he closed the slaughterhouses and also restricted drinking and gambling, and it is said that he told people if he became prime minister, he would do the same in the entire country.

Cow killing is not permitted in India by law, but people have gotten away with it through loopholes.

After one year in the house of Srivasa Thakura, Lord Caitanya took his sankirtana to the streets. Then he sent the Goswamis to write books in Vrindavan.

Also long as we are not pure devotees, we are dealing with the three modes of material nature, and as long as we dealing with the modes we need to act in varnasrama.

We need a foundational document on varnasrama just like we do on Prabhupada as founder-acarya, before we proceed.

How to get more involved with cows? We should make friends with people who have cows.

Sudras is a controversial term. We should think of sudras as servants, and as Vaishnavas, we glorify service to the Lord and His devotees.

comment: By not consuming food that destroys the earth and offering the deities natural produce, we indirectly support cow protection.

Rtadhvaja Swami:

Who I am” is a big question because if I misidentify myself to be something other than I am, then the activities I am performing may not allow me to progress.

Arjuna because of his identification with his bodily relations became completely confused and surrendered to Krishna.

Our tendency is to adjust spiritual truth to satisfy our material desires.

Krishna explained to Arjuna, “Whether you engage in this battle or not, everyone will die.”

As the sunlight contains heat and light, one would expect that its source, the sun, must at the least have these qualities. In the same way, we can expect that God, who is the source of our existence must have qualities of individuality and personality which we find in ourselves.

We are like ants wandering across the universe, trying to figure it out.

Our attachment to material desires causes us to lose our inquisitiveness about spirit.

We are not independent. We are like Jim Morrison said, “riders on the storm.”

Because of the flickering nature of the mind, we cannot attain steady happiness until we attain the spiritual platform.

In the material world our attraction to sense gratification is so strong because it is a perversion of our strong attachment to Krishna, krishna-prema.

Those in the heavenly planets think our activities of enjoyment are foolish and disgusting just as we think that about activities of the hogs that happily eat stool.

The real problem is life is not “she loves me, she loves me not” but to conquer the conditions of birth and death.

Self realization not sense gratification is the goal of life.

Abhiram Prabhu:

Because he is a pure devotee, there is nothing about the life of Prahlada Maharaja that is only indirectly related to Krishna.

In our conditioned state, our pure consciousness is altered by our material coverings of ego so we cannot see things as they are.

Just as when learning music one plays the music of great composers before one begins to make his own compositions, devotees on the stage of vaidhi-bhakti (devotional service in practice) offer the prayers of the great devotees before composing their own prayers.

Lord Nrsimha Himself in this verse (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.10.14) accepts Prahlada Maharaja as an acarya to be followed.

Kalakantha Prabhu:

By his mystic power, Durvasa Muni could understand that Ambarisa Maharaja drank water before serving him breakfast but could he not understand the king had been fasting and needed to break his fast?

For many people, religion means being in constant fear of a dictator-like God, and therefore they reject it.

When there is no love, how can you think about another person all the time?

In the four key verses of Bhagavad-gita 10.8–11, just half of the first verse deals with Krishna alone, and in the rest the Lord talks about His devotees and their relationship with Him.

If we do not have the knowledge of how to connect with God, we are like an orphaned child.

If we show Krishna just a little bit of desire to connect with Him, He will reciprocate in a dramatic way.

Why do we not reach out to Krishna? Because are afraid Krishna will take something away that we do not want to give up.

When we tell Krishna in all sincerity that He is the most important person in our life and we act like that, Krishna will provide whatever we need.

By understanding how we are incapable of dealing with the challenges in our lives, and how Krishna is willing and capable to help, we can let go of our material attachments.

Srila Prabhupada once said, “All we are asking you to give up is your miseries.”

Hearing from devotees who have experience of Krishna’s reciprocation to their surrender can give us the conviction we need to surrender ourselves.

Srila Prabhupada said that Krishna consciousness is all about training others.

comment by Babhru Prabhu: The real blessing of the guru is the knowledge he gives to attain Krishna.

Bhakti Tirtha Swami said to be careful about you how you deal with devotees for they may be the people you die with.

We do not have to try to be humble. We just have to try to please Krishna.

The origin of the word “relationship” is a Latin word meaning “carry back,” implying give and take.

We see this give and take in Bhagavad-gita verses 10.8–11. The devotees worship Him with all their hearts, and He gives them knowledge.

Remember: The relationships between devotees are always more important than points of philosophy or the task at hand.

Words are hard to retract. They are like arrows.

Four stages of learning:
unconscious incompetence
conscious incompetence
conscious competence
unconscious competence

comment by Dhamesvara Mahaprabhu: I think we can discriminate without saying inferior or superior.

Srila Prabhupada said, “Are you here to serve or disturb?”

Intimacy grows in time. When Srila Prabhupada left this world, I was just a devotee for a few years, and I did not cry. But when Tamal Krishna Goswami, who was a friend for many years, left suddenly, I cried for many days.

If you criticize someone, the laws of nature will not allow you to stay with that person. Pick who you want to criticize, and you will not hang out with him.

Peter Burwash as a young tennis professional, gave $1000 to a temple president who took it and left. When he met Srila Prabhupada and asked him about it, Srila Prabhupada said, “Do not blame the agent of your karma.” Peter Burwash made that understanding a pillar of his life.

Nobody should criticize anyone. Because everyone is engaged in the service of the Lord, according to one’s capacity, and the thing is, Krishna wants to see how much one is sincere in rendering Him service.” (Srila Prabhupada, from a letter to Tamala Krishna written on August 19, 1968)

comment by Tulasirani Devi: Sivarama Swami said being bitten by a poisonous snake can end our body but offending a Vaishnava can harm our spiritual life for many births.

If we are offended, it is good to resolve it.

When you hear a devotee criticized. . . .
Say something positive about the person being criticized or leave.
Don’t gang up on the person being criticized and especially do not repeat what you heard (except in extreme cases, and then only to appropriate persons).

Three ways to appreciate Vaishnava:
Talk about Krishna’s names, pastimes, service, etc., with them.
Serve them.
Find the good in them.
  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for others’ opinions. Never tell someone they’re wrong.
  3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way, and admit it quickly.
Do not condemn, criticize, or complain.

If we are thinking that we want to have better relationships with devotees, Krishna will see that and reciprocate.

comment by Babhru Prabhu: Avoid knee jerk reactions.

It never good to be angry at a devotee. Only if it is controlled and one is an acknowledged trainer, can one use anger with a devotee.

I once addressed my godsister, “Mother Yamuna.” Yamuna replied, “Yes, Father Kalakantha.”

When we start revealing our minds to persons of another gender, we cross the line of appropriate behavior, except in the case of a guru-disciple relationship.

We can respect all Vaishnavas, but we must choose who to reveal our mind to and who to respect from a distance.

If a grhastha asrama is not financially independent then it is not a grhastha asrama.

It takes a lot of endeavor to find the right partner for a Krishna conscious marriage. [The three devotees present who had the experience of a broken marriage all agreed it was the worst experience of their lives.]

If you enter into a marriage thinking I am going to serve this person in this way, this way, and this way, then it works.

In the grhastha asrama, one advantage is that you naturally develop a service attitude for others.

Nanda Devi:

Upon hearing the verse “Every learned man knows very well that attachment for the material is the greatest entanglement of the spirit soul. But that same attachment, when applied to the self-realized devotees, opens the door of liberation.” [Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.20], one can immediately understand there are not many learned men.

Sometimes we disparage liberation, but when seen in the right way, liberation is good.

Be good association so you emanate Krishna consciousness, and also take good association.

One who understands that Krishna is the goal of life and is attempting to reach Him is a sadhu [saint].

Ranjit Prabhu:

You could say that Arjuna had proven himself to be in the top of his class in society yet he was unfulfilled before the speaking of Bhagavad-gita. Krishna reveals his imperfection.

Rama Raya Prabhu:

After book distribution one day a friend and I recited all the phala srutis [benedictions given to one who hears the pastimes in Sri Caitanya-caritamrita], and it was a very profound experience.

-----

yatha yathatma parimrijyate ’sau
mat-puṇya-gatha-sravanabhidhanaih
tatha tatha pasyati vastu suksmam
caksur yathaivañjana-samprayuktam

When a diseased eye is treated with medicinal ointment it gradually recovers its power to see. Similarly, as a conscious living entity cleanses himself of material contamination by hearing and chanting the pious narrations of My glories, he gains his ability to see Me, the Absolute Truth in my subtle spiritual form.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.14.26)