Travel Journal#11.21: New York City Harinam, Philadelphia, and Maryland
Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 11, No. 21
By Krishna-kripa das
(November 2015, part one)
By Krishna-kripa das
(November 2015, part one)
New York City Harinam
(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, on November 26, 2015)
(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, on November 26, 2015)
Where I Went and What I Did
I continued participating in New York City Harinam for the first twelve days of November. We continued engaging the public in offering candles to a picture of Krishna in his childhood feature as Damodara. During that time, we were visited by Bhaktimarga Swami. On Thursday, November 12, we celebrated Govardhan Puja in our Harinam Ashram in the morning and the Brooklyn temple in the evening. The next day I chanted in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square and took my niece, Fern, to Govinda’s Gourmet to Go. Saturday and Sunday I chanted with my friends Sankarasan Prabhu and Sivam and the Potomac ISKCON devotees in Silver Spring, Maryland. Sunday was Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance day, and I attended the program in our Potomac Hare Krishna temple, and I share realizations of the several Prabhupada disciples who spoke on that occasion.
I foolishly left my computer bag on a New York City bus on November 10, so I lost all my lectures notes from the first ten days of November. Still I share insights from Bhaktimarga Swami, Jayadvaita Swami, and Romapada Swami, who were visiting New York City, Sikhi Mahiti Prabhu (temple president of Philadelphia), and an Indian devotee who speaks in Potomac.
Thanks to Abhimanyu Prabhu of Gainesville for the use of his computer to complete this journal issue. Thanks to Natabara Gauranga Prabhu for his photo of the Harinam Ashram Govardhana Hill, and to the servants of Bhaktimarga Swami for their pictures of him chanting in the streets of New York City.
November 21–December 15: Gainesville area (except 5 days in Tallahassee)
December 16–January 4, 2016: New York City Harinam
January 5, 2016–February 25?, 2016: Gainesville area (and Florida campuses)
New York City Harinam
As usual many people were engaged in the unlimited auspicious activity of devotional service to Lord Krishna by interacting with our chanting party.
One Malaysian NYU student, whose university is on one side of Union Square and whose dorm was on another, would see the devotees chanting as she passed by every day. She is interested in religion and the effect it has on people’s lives, and she decided to do her final audio/visual project on our New York City Harinam party.
One young college student said he had only enough money for lunch but none for a book. I suggested if I gave him lunch then he would have money for the book. He said that would work. Thus he gave two dollars for a medium book, and I gave him some khichri, which he liked.
A young man was begging for money for food on the subway, and I gave him half a piece of banana bread. He really liked it. Two weeks later he happened to come by Union Square. He recognized me and stopped, and he asked for a pamphlet. While visiting us, he chanted, played the shakers, and danced. I offered him a piece of banana bread out of gratitude. I was happy to see his devotional service to Krishna increasing.
Once, three young ladies sat with our party, one singing and playing the shakers.
Another time a lady came up to photograph us, but I showed her a Science of Self-Realization, and photographed her.
Photographers would take photos of their friends dancing with Kalyani Devi Dasi.
Inspired by their young daughter,
these parents also played the shakers,
Once two Oriental kids played the shakers.
One lady who met the devotees the previous year and who remembered that joy, bought a Bhagavad-gita and delighted in dancing with Kalyani when I invited her to.
A guy also danced with us.
Another guy played shakers and danced, with his guitar on his back.
Harinama leader of ISKCON Denver, Ananda Murari Prabhu, led a delightful kirtana inspiring some dancing (https://youtu.be/j-YpZd7-ruY):
Rama Raya Prabhu usually led the evening kirtana.
It was often very lively as on this night (https://youtu.be/CbypuKNW_BI):
Here is another ecstatic night (https://youtu.be/6ZK70VONDv0):
We continued encouraging people to offer lamps to our picture of Damodara from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. each evening.
Some new people really delighted in offering lamps to Damodara.
Kids also participated.
So did a group of friends.
One lady dressed in striking black offered a lamp.
One evening after offering lamps a young lady played the shakers with us.
Later a guy played the shakers with us.
One evening lots of wild dancing went on.
Previously we did not do the offering of lamps to Damodara in the subway because we knew authorities would object to the open flames, but now that we were using electric candles in Union Square because the park police had complained, we had them to use in the subway station.
Here Jake guides a happy lady in offering a lamp.
One man offered a lamp while holding his son.
Then he held the boy and helped him offer a lamp himself.
One day a young lady named Amanda was attracted by the chanting and the peaceful effect it had on her mind. She sat down on our rug next to the harmonium player, listening and smiling for two hours. She was surprised how much time had passed. I invited her to that nights’ program with Bhaktimarga Swami, who had walked and chanted across Canada four times.
She came and delighted in the Bhaktimarga Swami’s kirtana, which I share the culmination of here (https://youtu.be/ZYw-uEOk0bI):
She and another young lady, who also learned of the program from our Union Square harinama, stayed to the end of the program.
Amanda even joined us on harinama the next day.
One day when Tulasi Das Prabhu was leading kirtana in the Union Square subway station, one Afro-American guy really got into dancing to our Hare Krishna chant. After dancing for a while, he would go to leave, but he liked it so much, he kept coming back. Ultimately he gave a donation and got some literature. You can see for yourself (https://youtu.be/N1ceWgdDIkg):
I share videos of different devotees chanting, sometimes by day and other times by night, and inspiring the passersby to dance:
Kaliya Krishna Prabhu (https://youtu.be/FDzrLSkU_3Q):
Deva Madhava Prabhu (https://youtu.be/aqG3aHy8eW0):
Ananta Gauranga Prabhu (https://youtu.be/yHmgquDxlKc):
One day I came out of the Burlington department store bathroom to return to our Union Square harinama, and I was surprised to see a man standing there reading a Bhagavad-gita he must have purchased from us.
Bhaktimarga Swami in New York City
One day Bhaktimarga Swami joined us on New York City Harinam. He chanted the “Damodarastakam” followed by the Hare Krishna mantra. Nihal continued inviting passersby to offer lamps to Damodara. After they made their offerings, devotees gave them spiritual food and literature. You can see all this in the video (https://youtu.be/ctVrjl-PkNs):
Bhaktimarga Swami wrote about his experience, “In the evening we went to chant at Union Square in Manhattan. It was outstanding to see how many people came forward to offer a small light to the image of Krishna and His mother, Yasoda, which was placed upon a small table, after being welcomed to do so as we chanted away.”
Once day Bhaktimarga Swami and some followers and devotees on the New York City Harinam team chanted from Union Square Park to Tompkins Square Park. There we chanted around the famous Hare Krishna tree.
Bhaktimarga Swami and those who walked with him, even part of the way, from Boston to Butler, Pennsylvania, and then finally to Manhattan, shared realizations, and Abhiram Prabhu and I told stories about the supernatural events that take place at the Hare Krishna tree.
At our Harinam Ashram many devotees contributed sweets to our Govardhan Hill, which had the Govardhan-silas of Jayadvaita Swami and Rama Raya Prabhu seated atop it.
On Govardhan Puja day we chanted at Atlantic Avenue / Barclays Center subway station so it was easy for us to attend the evening program at Radha Govinda Mandir in the evening.
One young lady stepped forward with a smile and watched our kirtana party for some time. I spoke to her. She asked if it was intentional that our singer was playing in the same key as the competing musician nearby. I said yes, because he told us he was going to do that to make the best of the situation. She said she was a musician and that she played piano.
I invited her to sit and play the shakers with us, but she said she would rather dance, and so she took off her sweater and did just that. Here is a brief video of her dance (https://youtu.be/oHGbs2Xsae4):
She had Bhagavad-gita and knew about the Bhakti Center, and I told her about our Brooklyn temple, just one stop away on the subway, and our special festival that night. She said she would try to convince her boyfriend to go.
Later, when we did the offering of lamps to Damodara, Sasha gave remnants of our Harinam Ashram Govardhan Hill to the people after they offered their lamps.
The Govardhan Hill at Radha Govinda Mandir was very opulent.
It was covered with varieties of doughnuts from the Doughnut Plant.
Chant at Philly’s Rittenhouse Square
After taking my niece, Fern, to Govinda’s Gourmet to Go, in Philadelphia, I chanted by myself for three hours at Rittenhouse Square.
I met a nice young lady who was doing a documentary on spiritual sound and was happy to hear of the 24-hour kirtana at the Philadelphia temple starting at 6 p.m. that night. She asked if she could come and video it.
I met friends of the devotees who were also happy to learn of the kirtana program.
I met devotees I knew from England, New York, San Diego, and Florida when I visited the Philadelphia temple’s 24-hour kirtana program. It was truly amazing. Even though I could not participate the whole time, it was so inspiring to hear the constant kirtana.
Silver Spring Harinama
Both on Saturday, and Sunday, which was Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance day, we did harinama for about three hours in Silver Spring, Maryland, a Washington, D.C. suburb.
Gaura Vani Prabhu, a popular Hare Krishna kirtaneer, joined us on Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance day, after he chanted a couple hours at the temple. He told me, “I had work I had promised a friend I would do, so I was not planning on coming out. It’s my kids who got me on harinama tonight. They wanted to go. How could I tell them no?”
Devotee children distributed lollipops and pamphlets.
A lady onlooker played the djembe.
One lady heard our kirtana as she left an ice cream shop, and followed the sound to our party, listening to us as she finished her ice cream.
She remembered the Hare Krishnas from when she was a Moonie and also distributed in Miami airport. Since then she became involved in following an Indian teacher who also does kirtana, and thus she was attracted to our chanting.
Here is some of Gaura Vani’s kirtana on the streets of Silver Spring (https://youtu.be/LhSI_vUbFqw):
Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa Puja in Potomac
Srila Prabhupada didn’t like us singing songs without knowing their meaning.
The spiritual master is never touched by the three modes of material nature.
In the brief time Srila Prabhupada was present, his encouragement and the youthfulness of his followers combined to spread make Krishna consciousness dramatically.
Everyone was aware anyone could please him by distributing his books.
Even now, by distributing books and doing harinama, we can feel Prabhupada’s presence.
Srila Prabhupada explains the situation of the pure devotee, and thus his own situation, in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.55:
“A pure devotee of the Lord does not live on any planet of the material sky, nor does he feel any contact with material elements. His so-called material body does not exist, being surcharged with the spiritual current of the Lord’s identical interest, and thus he is permanently freed from all contaminations of the sum total of the mahat-tattva. He is always in the spiritual sky, which he attains by being transcendental to the sevenfold material coverings by the effect of his devotional service. The conditioned souls are within the coverings, whereas the liberated soul is far beyond the cover.”
Do not let Prabhupada disappear from your life. Keep him present by hearing from him.
Kalindi Devi Dasi:
Although living in Vrindavan, I was visiting Delhi the day Srila Prabhupada left this world, and I returned in the evening. I recall one godbrother, insufficiently dressed for the cold November evening, chanted bhajans all night before Srila Prabhupada’s body, before it was interred.
Prabhupada said even if you do not understand, continue hearing and someday you will understand.
We would hear him speak in Hindi and would somehow understand.
The ear processes information 1000 times faster than the eye.
The devotees loved to please Srila Prabhupada, and he loved to please them.
He stressed “you are not the body” and “life is meant for self-realization.”
When I first saw Srila Prabhupada step out of a car in Vrindavan in 1974, I realized he really was a pure devotee and I also realized, in shock, that I would have to surrender to him. I am still trying to do that.
To see the photos I did not include in this blog, click on the link below:
From a talk on walking at the Bhakti Center:
Walking is a chance to make friends. It is a friend raiser rather than a fund raiser.
I find the media is favorable and willing to learn.
Walking helps you focus on the present.
Devotional clothes make a difference. I have been called Buddha, Jesus, and Gandhi.
Walking is a chance for communication. It gives people a chance to perform service to the sankirtana movement. It shows people we are there. It can make you more sensitive.
We get into elementary schools and yoga centers.
When walking, you cannot help but wonder what it was like before the Europeans came to the West.
We have had incredible Hindu hosts, though usually we camp and bath in rivers and camp sites.
People from the Film Board of Canada traveled with me for a month, and we are part of their documentary, The Longest Road.
Srila Prabhupada said the GBCs (Governing Board Commissioners) should travel with brahmacaris throughout their zones.
I started walking in 1996 as an offering to Srila Prabhupada for the centennial of his birth.
My mantra for new devotees is “you are taking over.”
Every time you do a long walk, it gets better and better.
Now there is more security than when I started in 1996, but there is also more acceptance by the people I meet.
I told Ambarish (Alfred Ford) that I do not like cars. I do not like what they have done to the world. Ambarish said, “I don’t like cars either.”
In 2016 I plan to walk from New York City to San Francisco to encourage Americans in a more car-free, care-free life.
The food we eat is garbage. The wild food is heavenly.
We found a deity of Ganesh in a lake we went swimming in.
I would be happy if I could walk until I am 108.
Many people who do long distance walking end up believing in God after.
From a lecture on Govardhan Puja on this verse spoken by the gopis (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.21.18): “Of all the devotees, this Govardhana Hill is the best! O my friends, this hill supplies Krishna and Balarama, along with Their calves, cows and cowherd friends, with all kinds of necessities — water for drinking, very soft grass, caves, fruits, flowers and vegetables. In this way the hill offers respects to the Lord. Being touched by the lotus feet of Krishna and Balarama, Govardhana Hill appears very jubilant.”
The gopis praise Govardhana Hill for the variety of services it renders to Krishna, while they feel they themselves are unable to do so much. This is the attitude of the advanced devotee.
Annakuta comes from two words, anna meaning rice, more generally grains, or even food, and kuta which means mountain.
Everyone was pleased by Govardhan Puja except Indra.
As you [the New York Harinam devotees] seek shelter in the subway station from the rain, the residents of Vrindavan sought shelter from the rains sent by Indra. They did not have subways, so Krishna lifted up Govardhan Hill to protect them.
Govardhan Puja has all the elements to attract people all over the world, just as does the Jagannath Ratha-yatra. I envision someday a massive Govardhan Puja festival in Madison Square Garden.
Q: What is your favorite sweet?
A: Pure devotional service. The only problem is I cannot get enough of it. In Nectar of Devotion it is said that it is rarely attained.
Keshava Bharati Maharaja renovated a broken down old palace to create our present Govardhana facility. Vasesika Prabhu and others take shelter of our Govardhana ashram and read Srila Prabhupada’s books there hours a day during Karttika (October-November).
Rupa Goswami exalts Govardhana above Vaikuntha [the kingdom of God] and even Vrindavan [Lord Krishna’s personal abode].
Sridhara Maharaja said that Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura did not stay at Radha Kund. He considered Radha Kund the place of residence of his superiors.
Srila Prabhupada wanted us to strictly follow so we could ultimately attain the highest state.
We are dancing into the pastimes of Radha and Krishna by our sankirtana and our preaching, not being babajis or dressing in saris in Radha Kund.
Srila Prabhupada said the entire spiritual world is contained within the four walls of our Krishna Balaram temple compound in Vrindavan.
Comment by Abhiram Prabhu: When the sun shines from different angles at Govardhana, the rocks reflect different colors.
If you do not observe Govardhana Puja you will be bitten by snakes of Govardhana Hill.
Comment by Rama Raya Prabhu: Or the snakes of material desire.
The Lord, having just encountered the brahmanas performing sacrifices in the forest, returned to Vrindavan to find its residents performing a similar sacrifice.
The Govardhan pastime is meant to teach us that there is one Supreme Lord, who is the recipient of all sacrifices, and that is Krishna, and also that Krishna and Govardhan are nondifferent.
Children who hear Krishna book when they go to sleep when they are young become so attached to it they will not go to sleep without hearing it, even though they can explain it themselves.
George Harrison donated $19,000 for the printing of the Krishna book. Srila Prabhupada never forgot George, and a few months before Srila Prabhupada left this world, he gave Tamal Krishna Goswami his sapphire ring to give to George as a gift.
From a conversation over prasadam:
Kalindi Devi Dasi, former wife of Rupanuga Prabhu, says that in the sixties, she asked Rupanuga before he had met the devotees, where he wanted her to take him for his birthday. He had just seen in the local newspaper the picture of Srila Prabhupada singing with his disciples in Tompkins Square Park, so he told her he wanted to go to the park and chant with the Swami. So they did. She took care of their kid, and he listened to Prabhupada sing.
Sikhi Mahiti Prabhu (Philadelphia temple president):
The Padma Purana states that chanting Rama once has the same potency as chanting Narayana one thousand times, and chanting Krishna once has the same potency as chanting Rama three times.
The holy name is so powerful people do not have to agree with it, they just have to hear it.
Anyone who hears the devotees chanting Hare Krishna is a mahatma, a great soul. It is so rare.
In the initiation letters throughout the 1970s, Srila Prabhupada would regularly list street sankirtana [congregational chanting of the holy name] as a duty of the newly initiated disciple.
Comment by Vishnu Gada Prabhu:
In New York City, when Srila Prabhupada visited in 1971 or 1972, he spoke on the first three chapters of Canto 6 of Srimad-Bhagavatam. He said that Maharaja Pariksit inquired about how the living entities could be delivered from the hells described at the end of Canto 5 because that is the kind nature of the devotee of the Lord. He quoted the verse “kecit kevalaya bhaktya / vasudeva-parayanah / agham dhunvanti kartsnyena / niharam iva bhaskarah: Only a rare person who has adopted complete, unalloyed devotional service to Krishna can uproot the weeds of sinful actions with no possibility that they will revive. He can do this simply by discharging devotional service, just as the sun can immediately dissipate fog by its rays.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.15) He said the Ajamila story is an explanation of this verse. The Hare Krishna mantra is an explanation of this verse: “aho bata sva-paco ’to gariyan / yaj-jihvagre vartate nama tubhyam / tepus tapas te juhuvu? sasnur arya / brahmanucur nama grinanti ye te: Oh, how glorious are they whose tongues are chanting Your holy name! Even if born in the families of dog-eaters, such persons are worshipable. Persons who chant the holy name of Your Lordship must have executed all kinds of austerities and fire sacrifices and achieved all the good manners of the Aryans. To be chanting the holy name of Your Lordship, they must have bathed at holy places of pilgrimage, studied the Vedas and fulfilled everything required.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.33.7)
An Indian devotee, who gives classes in Potomac on Sunday mornings:
Underneath Govardhana Hill, although you would expect to find a lot of dirt, there were grass and streams. Stones fell from the Hill and surrounded the perimeter thus keeping the water out. The light of Krishna’s toe nails illuminated everything.
Indra, the boys, and Yasoda were in anxiety. Indra was in anxiety because he offended Krishna, the boys were scared that Krishna’s flute playing would melt the stones of Govardhana Hill, and Yasoda was worried that Krishna was hungry. Krishna reassured the boys.
Krishna will deliver us if we take shelter of Him as did the residents of Vrindavan.
Indra’s mother advised him to approach his guru, Brhaspati, who advised him to approach Brahma, who told him to surrender to Krishna. This shows the value of devotee association.
Krishna corrected Indra in a secluded place, demonstrating his ideal leadership.
Engaging everything we have in devotional service to Krishna will protect us.
kuveratmajau baddha-murtyaiva yadvat
tvaya mocitau bhakti-bhajau krtau ca
tatha prema-bhaktim svakam me prayaccha
na mokse graho me ’sti damodareha
“O Lord Damodara, just as the two sons of Kuvera–Manigriva and Nalakuvara–were delivered from the curse of Narada and made into great devotees by You in Your form as a baby tied with rope to a wooden grinding mortar, in the same way, please give to me Your own prema-bhakti [pure loving devotion]. I only long for this and have no desire for any kind of liberation.” (“Damodarastakam”, verse 7)