Saturday, February 25, 2017

Travel Journal#13.3: North Florida


Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 13, No. 3
By Krishna-kripa das
(February 2017, part one)
North Florida
(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, on February 25, 2017)

Where I Went and What I Did

I spent the first week of February in Tallahassee, chanting at Florida State University during the week and at Lake Ella on the weekend. About nine devotees from Gainesville’s Krishna House came up to Tallahassee for First Friday, an art walk where Nama Kirtan Prabhu distributes a Krishna Dinner, and it was great to be chanting with a lot of devotees again. February 8 was Nityananda Prabhu’s Appearance Day, and my sister, Karen, and her partner, Victor, came to visit me in Gainesville and Alachua, and they got lots of prasadam and met some nice devotees. We went to Ichetucknee Springs the next day as they like the outdoors. Friday I chanted at Krishna Lunch midday and with the Alachua devotees in the afternoon.

Then I gave a talk called “Blissful Traveling” for the Friday night program at Krishna House, showing harinama videos from different parts of the world. 
On Sunday, devotees from Gainesville’s Krishna House and Jacksonville’s Bhakti House chanted in Ocala National Forest at the Ocala Regional Rainbow Gathering for six hours, also distributing prasadam and books. The next three days I chanted with Krishna Club students at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. I also attended the Monday evening program at the Jacksonville Bhakti House, and I chanted with Youssef and Richie at the Jacksonville Beach Art Walk on Tuesday.

I have a nice quote by Srila Prabhupada about the importance of the association of spiritually minded people. I share an excerpt from Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name. I share notes on lectures by Mother Madhumati, Caitanya Carana Prabhu, Ekayani Devi Dasi, Abhimanyu Prabhu, and Bhakta Hanan.

Thanks to Nama Kirtan Prabhu of ISKCON Tallahassee for donating to my travel expenses there. Thanks to Lovelesh Prabhu of Jacksonville for his kind donation.

Thanks to Victor for the nice picture of Karen with Radharani’s garland. Appreciating Radharani’s mercy on my sister, over ninety of my Facebook friends liked that picture. My posts are rarely so popular!

Itinerary

February 25: Sacred Sounds @ USF, Tampa
February 26–28: Gainesville Krishna House
March 1: Jacksonville Art Walk
March 2: USF, Tampa
March 3: First Friday, Tallahassee
March 4–April 8: North and Central Florida campuses
April 9–11: Washington, D.C.
April 12: Albany
April 13: New York City
April 14–September 5: Europe

Harinamas at Florida State University

I chanted on the Landis Green behind the main Florida State University library for three hours each day, distributing free vegan, gluten-free cookies, and trying to interest people in Srila Prabhupada’s books, our Krishna Lunch program at FSU, and our local temple programs.

One young lady said she really enjoyed hearing my singing whenever she passes by Landis Green, and she said that she should stop and ask what it is about when she has free time. I gave her a flyer for the Krishna Lunch and the Sunday Feast. Although I almost never do so, I said, “My name is Krishna-kripa. What is yours?”
She said, “My name is Reema. I teach Arabic here.”

After taking a gluten-free vegan oatmeal cookie from my table, one young lady returned three minutes later saying, “I just had to come back and tell you how good that cookie was!” 


I always try to use the best ingredients, and I pray to Radharani to empower me to make cookies that please Her beloved Krishna. Another person said the cookies were “awesome!”

A couple ladies stopped by at different times and said they had often seen me singing on the green and they wondered what it was all about. That just reminded me about how important it is that devotees go out in public and represent Krishna in order to create an interest in Him.

Lord Nityananda’s Appearance Day

Several devotees who do not sing every day at Krishna Lunch, came out especially to sing in celebratation of Lord Nityananda’s Appearance Day:

Here Purusartha Prabhu chants (https://youtu.be/dKgi5G7aIvI):


Here Radha Govinda Prabhu chants (https://youtu.be/qmtdmXSgd-Q):


Here Tulasirani Devi Dasi chants (https://youtu.be/3mVxT6_5ZT0):


My sister, Karen, and her partner, Victor, on a Florida vacation from the New York winter came to visit on Nityananda’s Appearance Day. I suggested that would be a good day because it always seems there is extra mercy for everyone on the festival days. While eating Krishna Lunch spaghetti with the devotees, they got to hear Tulasirani Devi Dasi tell the amazing story of Lord Nityananda’s delivering Jagai and Madhai from their lives as debauchees. Victor was reading a novel about a Jewish saint, and as Tulasirani was from a Jewish background she was interested to hear about it. Tulasirani gave Victor a copy of The Journey Home by her guru, Radhanath Swami, and before Victor left the next day he gave Tulasirani the book about the Jewish saint, although he hadn’t finished reading it. Karen and Victor also visited our harinama at the Farmers Market and attended the festival for Lord Nityananda in Alachua. They met lots of nice devotees, including Sukhada Devi, who had met Karen when she visited seventeen years ago. 

Sukhada gave her the garland worn by Radharani on Nityananda’s Appearance Day.

Here Tulasirani Devi Dasi leads the Krishna House devotees in chanting Hare Krishna at the Gainesville Farmers Market on Lord Nityananda's Appearance Day (https://youtu.be/vCOPirHWzeI):


The Nityananda feast was wonderful, and Karen, Victor, and I all liked it. I was happy there was plenty of sweet rice.

Ichetucknee Springs



Ichetucknee Springs is a popular spring to visit for the Hare Krishna devotees in Alachua. I had thought of visiting Payne’s Prairie State Park, which was more on our way, as Karen and Victor, as well as myself, were southbound the day after the Nityananda festival, but when Karen and Victor had heard from Sukhada Devi that her son had seen manatees at Ichetucknee, they developed a desire to go there. Sukhada’s son, Ramananda Raya, was our guide, and he was very knowledgable about the springs and he got on well with Victor. They went for a swim together, while Karen and I floated down the river in our kayaks, wondering where they were. I had hoped to visit the springs in the morning and go to Tampa with Ramiya Prabhu in the afternoon, but I realized at the pace we were moving that would be impossible, and the frustration of my desire to chant at University of South Florida colored the rest of the day for me. 


Still the springs was very beautiful and peaceful. 


We used Ramananda Raya’s three inflatable kayaks and rented one more. 

I saw more turtles than I ever have had before. They apparently take great pleasure in sunning themselves on the logs that fall into the river. Everybody besides me enjoyed a swim.


Here Karen swims at one of the deeper springs that feed the Ichetucknee River, which is said to be 72° F (about 22° C) all year.

Govinda’s in Gainesville

Karen, Victor, and I all went to Govinda’s in Gainesville for dinner. We all got the buffet, and we were satisfied with it. There was plenty of variety, and everything was good, especially the soup. Thus my relatives got plenty of prasadam during their visit, something that Srila Prabhupada considered essential.

Chanting at the Ocala Regional Rainbow Gathering

Devotees from Alachua and Gainesville have been visiting the Ocala Regional Rainbow Gathering in Ocala National Forest for decades. At least once in the mid-1990s, New Vrindaban devotees also came. At least a couple of people from that Rainbow Gathering have become Hare Krishna devotees. Now there are more alcholics and druggies than spiritual seekers, and some people do not go there anymore for that reason. Still we find people happy to encounter Krishna music, Krishna food, and Krishna literature both for the first time and once again. This year was better than last as we had more devotees, and we had more positive interactions. Altogether, we had nine devotees from Krishna House, six devotees from Jacksonville, and one former Krishna House resident who was traveling through.

Coconut, here talking with Tulasirani Devi Dasi, participated in the chanting for over 3½ hours, though never having encountered it before!

 Tulasirani Devi Dasi really has a taste for talking with people.

 We served sabji, halava, and salad.

This person, after having gotten some prasadam, chose some spiritual literature.

Megan, holding her son, was happy to encounter the devotees again. She told me that once Adikarta Prabhu did a program at her house, and she said, “I owe that man my life!”
One girl wanted to take a picture of her stuffed monkey with the Hare Krishnas, so Abhimanyu Prabhu put it on our drum, and we posed for this picture.

One vehicle we passed on harinama had many slogans on its rear door. One my mother used to always say prompted me to take the photo, “Were all in this together.” Many are consistent with Hare Krishna philosophy or practice like “LOVE>FEAR” and “PLANT SEEDS & SING SONGS.” 

See Krishna House devotees chanting Hare Krishna and distributing spiritual literature and food at the Ocala Regional Rainbow Gathering (https://youtu.be/tiTPlKMlIMQ):


Armed with musical instruments, a box of books, and a bucket of halava, Hare Krishna devotees from Gainesville’s Krishna House walk through the woods and by a lake sharing Krishna music, literature, and food with attendees (https://youtu.be/aN0Sdngs5K0):


Here Amrita Keli Devi Dasi, Hare Krishna chaplain at the University of North Florida, leads the chanting of Hare Krishna, as devotees from Gainesville and Jacksonville share Krishna consciousness with attendees at the Ocala Regional Rainbow Gathering (https://youtu.be/n8kRrituYcs):


Jacksonville Bhakti House Monday Evening Program

Every Monday at the Jacksonville Bhakti House is a evening program with prasadam, kirtana, and a spiritual discussion.

Realizations of attendees on prayer and deity worship:

Laura: Prayer even works if you do not believe in it.

Kira: Through prayer I find I refine my desires until I focus on what I really want.

Amrita Keli Devi Dasi: When I was first attending Krishna House in Gainesville, for six months I did not even notice the altar. As I began chanting and developed devotion, it became noticeable to me.

I worried when I began the deity bathing, “Oh, this is going to take hours!” But when I am done, I feel blissful, and if I was feeling sick, I feel better.

In junior high school, I was a vehement atheist, but I wanted to find the truth. I prayed to God, “If You exist, I am willing to admit I am wrong. If You exist, I want You to come into my life.” After that I immediately felt there was a presence around me as I was walking down the street.

Richie: I realize the deities set the atmosphere for the whole house. People like the atmosphere here, and I tell them, “It’s the deities.”

Youssef: I agree you do not have to believe in God to start making prayers. I started making prayers before I really believed in God. Can you really improve yourself the way you want by yourself? Prayer is really special, whether you believe in God or not. It can really help your self-improvement.

Jarel: Although I consider myself an agnostic, I enjoyed making the halava, and I liked to participate in the ritual of making the offering.

Krishna-kripa das: I found although I had no attraction to deity worship, when I did it out of a sense of duty, I noticed when I went on vacation and left it behind, when I returned, I was eager to get back on the altar with the deities. Just as we all have become attached to kirtana and prasadam, the spiritual chanting and food, although we formerly knew nothing about them, in the same way you can find yourself becoming attached to deity worship because all these devotional activities are natural for the soul, and we are all souls.

My favorite prayer, which I have offered regularly every day for some segments of my life and which I still offer frequently is: “My Lord, I know that young girls have natural affection for young boys, and that young boys have natural affection for young girls. I am praying at Your lotus feet that my mind may become attracted unto You in the same spontaneous way.” (Padma Purana, quoted in The Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 9)

Although we had two kirtanas before discussing prayer and deity worship and having prasadam, the youthful attendees were excited to have two more afterward, and most of the people stayed for them. What was striking for me is to see the expressions of absorption on the faces of the chanters.

Here Laura chants Hare Krishna at the Jacksonville Bhakti House Monday evening program (https://youtu.be/bznFrNk3SII):


Here Amrita Keli Devi Dasi chants Hare Krishna at the Jacksonville Bhakti House Monday evening program (https://youtu.be/TbSvmB97l5c):


I am sorry the video is so dark. My camera does not work well in the dim light, and in many places, unfortunately for me, devotees like to chant kirtana in dim light, and I did not want to disturb them by turning on the light.

Harinamas at University of North Florida in Jacksonville

I felt grateful that Youssef was willing to chant with me the whole three hours on Monday, Amrita Keli chanted with me on Tuesday, and Kira on Wednesday, so I had someone to chant with each day at University of North Florida in the grassy area between the Student Union and the lake. In addition, Richie came part of the time on Monday, and Youssef came part of the time on Tuesday and Wednesday. As usual we saw old friends and made new ones.

Here is some video of Youssef chanting Hare Krishna with Amrita Keli on Tuesday and with Kira on Wednesday (https://youtu.be/LvqapbamXs8):


While waiting at the campus bus stop near the library, I saw a man, perhaps forty or fifty years old, wearing a spotlessly white dhoti and a blue kurta. He looked just like a Hare Krishna devotee. He saw me wearing yogi pants and a kurta, and he saw my harmonium, but he did not say anything to me. I figured he was from another group, and I thought of a question I could ask him to find out. I decided to say, Are you some kind of spiritual practitioner? He explained that he was a Buddhist and that he was a student. I mentioned I had a friend at the Interfaith Center and asked if dealt with that organization, but he said he was too busy studying. I told him that my sister taught mindfulness, a Buddhist practice, but that I was a Hare Krishna. I could see he was not interested in talking so I left it at that. I never saw a Buddhist student wearing a dhoti before.    

Jacksonville Beach Art Walk

In January when I learned from the Jacksonville devotees about the Jacksonville Beach Art Walk, a new event they chanted at, I immediately developed a desire to attend and tentatively added it to my schedule. That happens the second Tuesday of each month.

One man we met remembered eating prasadam on the University of Florida campus in 1971, the year the Krishna Lunch program began. He recalled that they served a potato salad dish on Monday and that they distributed Bhagavad-gitas. His pleasant Krishna memories inspired him to donate two dollars, but he did not take a book, thinking he already knew about Krishna.

One rather drunk lady who was paired with a fairly sober guy was attracted to interact with the devotees. Richie went through the mantra two words at a time with her, and she tried chanting it for a while. She also did quite a bit of dancing. She wanted us to play while she sang some mundane love songs, but I was not into it. She had a nice voice, and I recommended that she sing devotional songs about God. At one point she was fascinated with the harmonium, leaning too close to the poor brahmacari, who was playing it and who had to smell the alcohol on her breath. Youssef encouraged her to dance, and she left the harmonium player alone. The guy she was with read the entire “On Chanting Hare Krishna” while she was interacting with the kirtana party, and according to Richie, he seemed to understand it. As he goes to University of North Florida, he may well come to the Krishna Club meetings there.

One friendly lady donated a candle for Youssef to use to heat the mrdanga head to improve its sound.

Youssef distributed some books and pamphets while we chanted.

Insights

Srila Prabhupada:

From Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.9.11:

“Transcendental devotional service cannot be complete and cannot be relishable without the association of devotees. We have therefore established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Anyone who is trying to be aloof from this Krishna Consciousness Society and yet engage in Krishna consciousness is living in a great hallucination, for this is not possible.”

Satsvarupa dasa Goswami:

From Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name:

“How will it take place that the ordinary, struggling japa will evolve into awareness of Krishna’s presence in His form, qualities, and names? What does Srila Prabhupada say? He says it will happen. There is no doubt about it. Krishna will reveal Himself; Krishna will teach us if we follow the guru’s order with full faith.

“Srila Prabhupada should be confidently accepted as a great authority for faith and realization of the holy name. He did what no one else dared, and what many Vaisnavas hardly dreamed of—brought the chanting of Hare Krishna mantra to mlecchas and yavanas who had never even heard of Krishna before. And Srila Prabhupada convinced us to chant with love, to enjoy kirtana, and to join and work with him in founding the Hare Krishna movement. No one could spread the chanting of the holy name so widely and deeply unless he was empowered by Krishna (krishna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana).

“So let me chant because he told me to. Never doubt. And wait for the day to come when Krishna will appear and say, ‘I am like this.’”

Mother Madhumati:

The yogis sit with half-closed eyes but not completely closed, as we sometimes see in Bhagavatam class.

The Indian answer is yes and no, moving the head sort of like this. [She moves her head in such a way that she indicates neither clearly yes or no.]

All Lord Nityananda is saying is, “Have faith in the holy name and all perfection will be achieved.”

Lord Nityananda is freely giving the holy name. Sometimes when someone gives us something for free, we do not value it.

Just by hearing of the activities of Lord Caitanya’s associates we become purified, what to speak of if we actually follow them.

Next time you clean the temple room at Krishna House, you can meditate on the pastime of Lord Caitanya cleansing the Gundica temple. Actually we should always meditate on Krishna’s pastimes when we do our services.

“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu washed and cleansed the temple in great jubilation, chanting the holy name of Lord Krishna all the time.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila 12.85) We should also follow Lord Caitanya in always chanting Hare Krishna as we serve.

When you are chanting Hare Krishna and doing service, there is no grudge.

Caitanya Carana Prabhu:

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said:

1.    One who thinks this world is in need of reformation is himself in need of reformation.

2.    We see faults in others because we are honeycombed with faults ourselves.

Seeing the suffering in the material world people conclude God does not exist or God does not care. Because God is omnipotent, if He has not reduced the suffering, they think it means He does not care.

Walking away from a situation is different than running away from a situation.

Ekayani Devi Devi:

We see people in society who appear to have good qualities but they are not steady in these qualities, and when their senses go out of control, they can do things that are not good. Thus, it is said one that who is not devoted to God has no good qualities because he cannot act steadily in a good way.

Krishna steals the butter and the clothes of the gopis. He also stole the parijata tree for Satyabhama.

Krishna is always making arrangements to fulfill everyone’s desires. Kishor was serving Krishna Lunch, and he said he was so bored just lifting the prasadam and putting it on the plates and that he was a more active person. Not more than ten minutes later, a thief ran off with the cash box, and Kishor ran after him.

The brahmanas work best without an authority structure or under anarchy, the ksatriyas thrive in monarchy, the vaisyas work best with capitalism, and sudras prefer communism, where they work and get their necessities. If anyone of these four social structures predominates, some people will not be happy, because all four classes of people exist in society.

Lord Caitanya’s pastimes are the sweetest because they are of Krishna who has come to experience the joy of devotion to Krishna.

Abhimanyu Prabhu:

Even though Suruci, Dhruva’s stepmother, offended Dhruva before he became a pure devotee, she still had to die untimely as a reaction to the offense. Thus we have to take care not to offend someone who may become a pure devotee of God in the future.

The ksatriyas would appreciate the prowess of fighters on the opposing side.

The weapon Lord Narayana has made for us is the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, and it can dissipate so many illusory distractions to our spiritual life.

Q: If the holy name is completely pure why does it matter who is chanting it?
Comment by me: Although the holy name is pure, because the holy name is Krishna Himself, He reciprocates with the surrender of the chanter, and so the demoniac may attain liberation from the holy name, but they do not attain the perfection of love of God that a pure devotee would.

Hanan Prabhu:

The madhya-lila of Lord Caitanya is known as the acarya-lila because He is teaching religious principles by His example especially at this time in His life.

At Krishna Lunch there was a controversy between devotees in which different devotees were criticizing each other. I told them they were ruining their spiritual lives by criticizing each other and they should stop, and I said I would be happy to discuss with them the details later.

It is said that Krishna’s mercy is especially present in Vrindavan in its dust and in the Yamuna River, His mercy is present in Mayapur in the kirtana, and in Jagannatha Puri in the prasada of Lord Jagannatha.

Even if a field is full of stool and there is only one flower, a bumblebee will seek the flower.

I went to take the Bhaktisastri course in New Vrindaban, and it was advertised that Radhanath Swami was going to teach. As it turned out, he was present, but he did not teach. Once Radhanath Swami was coming down the path opposite to us, and he spoke to my wife, who had sometimes cooked for him. He asked how we were doing. I expressed how the flyer had said he was going to be teaching Bhaktisastri, and he said that he was not planning to do that. I said that I was going to tell the devotee lady who had organized it.
Radhanath Swami interjected, “You are not going to tell her anything because she is doing her best.”
I replied, “Yes, Maharaja.”

-----

This is the third verse of the “Siksastaka” of Lord Caitanya in which he reveals the proper mentality in which to chant Hare Krishna. Reflecting on my lack of humility and tolerance, it is no wonder it is not easy for me to chant always. This verse is a reminder of what work I have left to do. Srila Prabhupada said this verse is the formula for attaining krishna-prema, love of God.

trṇad api su-nicena
taror iva sahisnuna
amanina mana-dena
kirtaniyah sada harih

 “[Lord Caitanya said:] ‘One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor but is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.’” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Antya 20.21)


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Travel Journal#13.2: North and Central Florida

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 13, No. 2
By Krishna-kripa das
(January 2017, part two)
North and Central Florida
(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, on February 18, 2017)

Where I Went and What I Did

I continued staying in Tallahassee for eight days, chanting at Florida State University for three hours each weekday, distributing vegan oatmeal cookies and invitations to our campus Krishna Lunch program and to the temple Sunday Feast and Tuesday Bhagavad-gita class, and trying to interest people in the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita. I also taught a class on mantra meditation there. Then I spent a Wednesday chanting at the Gainesville Krishna Lunch and the Farmers Market and attending a University of Florida interfaith event, a progressive dinner. Then I joined Ramiya Prabhu and his wife, Ananta Dasi, in chanting at and attending our campus Bhakti Yoga Society program at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Friday I chanted at Krishna Lunch and with the Alachua devotees at the University of Florida entrance. Saturday devotees from Alachua, Gainesville, and Tampa chanted for three hours at the yearly Gasparilla pirate festival in Tampa and had a picnic in a park. After attending the Sunday feast in Alachua, I went to Jacksonville to chant with the University of North Florida Krishna Club devotees on that campus and attend the evening program at the Jacksonville Bhakti House. Then I returned to Tallahassee for the final day of January.

I share insights from Srila Prabhupada’s books and lectures. I share excerpts from Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. I include notes on lectures by Srila Prabhupada disciples from Alachua, namely Mother Nanda, Ramiya Prabhu, and Mother Sukhada. I present notes on a class by Kaliya Damona Prabhu about japa, and a quote from “A Succession Conflict Caused by Selflessness,” a Back to Godhead article by Caitanya Candra Prabhu. I share notes on a class by Hanan of Krishna House and interesting quotes from a Christian preacher and people from different faiths, who attended the University of Florida interfaith progressive dinner.

Thanks to the lady who gave me a donation on harinama at Tallahassee’s Lake Ella.

Itinerary

February 18: Jacksonville Monster Truck Jam harinama
February 19–24: Tallahassee, FSU campus
February 25: Sacred Sounds @ USF, Tampa
February 26–April 8: North and Central Florida campuses
April 9–11: Washington, D.C.
April 12: Albany
April 13: New York City
April 14–September 5: Europe

Chanting Hare Krishna in Tallahassee

I chanted at Florida State University in Tallahassee for three hours each weekday, distributing vegan oatmeal cookies and invitations to our campus Krishna Lunch program and to the temple Sunday Feast and Tuesday Bhagavad-gita class, and trying to interest people in the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita.

One day a young lady named Isabella stopped by my table, and in the course of our conversation, she mentioned that her mother did meditation and had compiled research showing how meditation actually changes the structure of the brain. I invited her to the Krishna Lunch and to the mantra meditation class I was going to do that evening behind the library. She looked at her watch and realized she had better leave soon if she wanted to make it in time for the lunch. As it turns out, she was the only one to show up for mantra meditation. I explained how we have an existence beyond the body and mind and that the mantra nourishes our transcendental self. We chanted twice for ten minutes each, with some discussion in between, and I encouraged her to chant ten minutes each day. She has been doing it for three weeks now and writes, “It is wonderful. I am so happy to have stumbled upon the practice. It has impacted my life very positively.” She also became a regular attender at Krishna Lunch and enjoyed the one Sunday Feast program she came to.

On Inauguration Day, as I was chanting at FSU’s Landis Green, I could heard students protesting the inauguration behind me. Of course that made it harder for me to focus on my chanting. Some students seeing me chanting during the protest indicated they thought my contribution was the real solution, and I appreciated that.

One day I made oatmeal with slivered almonds roasted in coconut oil, cinnamon, and turbinado sugar, and offered it to our Gaura-Nitai deities at the Tallahassee temple. It was just awesome. I really think it was the best oatmeal I had this life. Maybe Gaura-Nitai were pleased I decided to cook Them something instead of just having Krishna Lunch leftovers for breakfast.

The last day of the month I returned to Tallahassee. While I was singing, a woman named Suzette came up to me who appreciated the chant. She told me she lived for two months in a Hare Krishna ashram in Chapel Hill.


Looking at her graying hair, I asked, “In the 1970s?”
She replied, “Yes.”
She told me that the Hare Krishnas had the best food in the world, and I smiled and told her of the Krishna Lunch on the FSU campus. Every Tuesday, she takes a class in teaching French, so she promised to check out the Krishna Lunch the next week, and sure enough she did. She was very happy to see the Hare Krishnas still have the best food in the world. She wanted to learn how to cook it, and I told her about Yamuna Devi’s amazing cookbook, Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, that won awards for being the best Indian and the best vegetarian cookbook the year it came out.

Chanting at the Gainesville Farmers Market

The devotees canceled the weekly harinama at the Gainesville Farmers Market because the yearly interfaith dinner was Wednesday night, and they felt there was not enough time to do both. I had returned from Tallahassee on Wednesday just to participate in it, and so I encouraged them to chant at the Farmers Market for just an hour so they would have time to do the other event. Later the devotees expressed gratitude that I resurrected the program that week.

Here Bhaktin Christiana chants Hare Krishna at the Gainesville Farmers Market (https://youtu.be/9XBDG5XTHYo):


Here Krishna Prasada Prabhu chants Hare Krishna at the Gainesville Farmers Market (https://youtu.be/SEzem0rHa9A):

  

The University of Florida Interfaith Progressive Dinner

For the last four years or so, the chaplains at University of Florida have organized what they call an interfaith “progressive” dinner. The initial snacks are always at the Hillel House far to the west on University Avenue. The main course is always the Hare Krishna spaghetti which this year was served along with the Lutheran’s salad at their place to the east of Hillel. The Episcopal church serves the hot drinks, usually tea, coffee, and hot chocolate. This year they had Bengal Spice, my favorite of the herb teas.

At that church some artistic types had made a nice sign welcoming the people from the different traditions and thanking Christ and Krishnas:


Other signs in that church had progressive messages:


Standing up for truth is important. Truthfulness is sometimes said to be the distinguishing quality of a brahmana.


What does Krishna say about kind words? “Austerity of speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature.” (Bhagavad-gita 17.15)


I had never heard of Gandhi’s seven deadly social sins. Have you?

This year I decided to talk with some of the older people who encourage the students in their faith instead of the students themselves. I asked one Christian gentleman in charge of a spiritual program for his group what motivates the students the most in a spiritual direction. He explained retreats, where you get away from your daily life and just focus on spiritual activities, either in town or at some remote retreat center, are the most powerful way of motivating the students.

The Wesleyans have the dessert at the end, along with the entertainment.

Chanting with Alachua Devotees at the University of Florida Entrance

Almost every Friday since I moved to Alachua in 1994, I would chant with the Alachua devotees at the corner of University Avenue and Thirteenth Street in Gainesville, on the northeast corner of the University of Florida campus, where the entrance gate stands.

Here Nagaraja Prabhu, editor of Back to Godhead magazine, chants Hare Krishna at University of Florida entrance (https://youtu.be/nA7XcFxv39M):


Here Shankha Prabhu, the famous cook, chants Hare Krishna at the University of Florida entrance (https://youtu.be/ogQ81m7ieLI):


Here Hari Priya chants Hare Krishna at the University of Florida entrance (https://youtu.be/aRq48CTK4zA):


Here Bhaktin Christiana chants Hare Krishna at the University of Florida entrance (https://youtu.be/bvD5CbiH8ks):


Chanting at the Krishna House Friday Evening Program

Every Friday we have a program at Krishna House which begins with twenty minutes of kirtana.

Here Bhaktin Tsurit chants Hare Krishna at Krishna House Friday program (https://youtu.be/R6dJgQjoXfs):


Chanting After the Alachua Sunday Feast

After the Sunday feast devotees who love kirtana, young and old alike, stay and chant in the temple room until the deities are put to rest for the evening, just after 9 p.m.

Here Lilananda Prabhu, disciple of Srila Prabhupada, chants Hare Krishna after the Alachua Sunday Feast (https://youtu.be/4gKEf2MuLiM):


Here Dhanya, wife of Bali Prabhu and daughter of Havi Prabhu, chants Hare Krishna after the Alachua Sunday Feast (https://youtu.be/yo_y9TfM8Nk):


Anasuya, a third-generation devotee girl, chants Hare Krishna after Alachua Sunday Feast (https://youtu.be/2kOtP4esZtY):


Conversation with a Nurse

A nurse asked me what I did as a monk, and I told her that I taught classes on Bhagavad-gita. She surprised me by saying, “I am studying Bhagavad-gita.” I asked her where she was studying the Gita, and she explained that the hospital she was working in had a course on holistic medicine, and that was part of the course.

Later as she reviewed my chart, seeing the date of my birth she exclaimed, “September 30! That is the same day my dog, Bhakti, was born!”
“You have a dog named Bhakti?” I inquired incredulously.
“Yes,” she replied. “I have three of them, Jai Ram, Kali, and Bhakti.”
I asked her how she came up with such spiritual names for her dogs, and she told how a very devout Muslim patient, who gave a her Koran out of gratitude, started her on a spiritual search.

She said that she thought that our meeting was providential.
I had explained I was doing a meditation on my beads, and when I left, I gave her a copy of the new On Chanting Hare Krishna, with the text of Srila Prabhupada’s description of the Hare Krishna mantra from the record album, and I told her about Dhira Govinda Prabhu’s research showing the Hare Krishna mantra decreased stress and depression to a statistically significant degree while a bogus mantra of Sanskrit words in the same pattern was ineffectual from the statistical point of view.
It was striking to me that a Western lady about forty, with a perceptable English accent, would be studying Bhagavad-gita and have dogs named after an incarnation of Krishna, a pure devotee of Krishna, and the process for attaining Him.

Harinama at Gasparilla

The last Saturday in January, devotees from Alachua, Gainesville, and Tampa chanted for three hours at the yearly Gasparilla pirate festival in Tampa and had a picnic in a park.

On college-aged lady told her friend, “They are the Hare Krishnas. They are on all the campuses. I see them at the stadium in Gainesville.”

Cloe, who attends Krishna Lunch at Florida State University in Tallahassee, and who has stopped by my book table behind the library two or three times during the last couple of weeks, greeted me in Tampa, as surprised to see me as I was to see her. She apparently drove at least four and a half hours by herself from Tallahassee to Tampa to attend Gasparilla for the first time. She was amazed to see the large group of devotees, and I explained we have a large community in the Gainesville / Alachua area, and we came down for the event.

One couple, who enjoyed dancing with us, especially the girl, said they had moved here just recently from Colorado, and were happy to encounter us. They wanted to know if we had a Tampa temple, and I made sure they had an invitation card for the local nama-hatta programs. She had graduated from University of South Florida in Tampa, and I gave her a card for the programs we have at that university.

Here are just some of the highlights, including the dancing dinosaur [6 minutes] (https://youtu.be/k7M4s2WN3G0):


If you want more, here is all the video I took [32 minutes] (https://youtu.be/N8Jf2HPsNCY):


Harinama at University of North Florida

University of North Florida in Jacksonville is my favorite college to chant Hare Krishna at because so many students from their Krishna Club are willing to join us and so many students passing by are open to taking cookies and invitations.

Special thanks to Amrita Keli Devi Dasi, Hare Krishna chaplain at UNF and organizer of the party, who is playing the drum in the beginning of the video, and thanks to lead singers, Richie, Youssef, and Dorian, respectively (https://youtu.be/tCwwGnW_7UA):


All the devotees had led kirtana except Courtney (on the far right at the end of the above video), who had never led before and who was celebrating her birthday that day. I suggested she lead, but she said she preferred to follow. Amrita had suggested she could sing the Prabhupada tune because it is very easy. So I offered to I play the Prabhupada tune for her while she sang it. She decided to try. Afterwards I complimented her for going beyond her limits, and she replied, “That was awesome! I really loved doing that!” It is nice to be an instrument in people taking another step toward Krishna. If you have a Facebook account, by clicking on this link, you can see Courtney sing in this video taken by Amrita Keli Devi Dasi (https://www.facebook.com/2040949/videos/vb.2040949/10110281001766861/?type=2&theater). Amrita also took a video of me singing (https://www.facebook.com/2040949/videos/vb.2040949/10110281005304771/?type=2&theater). It is nice to see the enthusiasm of the students for the chanting.

Insights

Srila Prabhupada:

From Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.19.2, purport:

“Since no one in this material world can tolerate another’s advancement, everyone in the material world is called matsara, envious. In the beginning of Srimad-Bhagavatam it is therefore said that Srimad-Bhagavatam is meant for those who are completely nirmatsara (nonenvious). In other words, one who is not free from the contamination of envy cannot advance in Krishna consciousness. In Krishna consciousness, however, if someone excels another person, the devotee who is excelled thinks how fortunate the other person is to be advancing in devotional service. Such nonenvy is typical of Vaikuntha. However, when one is envious of his competitor, that is material.”

From a class on Bhagavad-gita 13.26 in New Delhi on September 22, 1974:

“When this body, this old body, will not be workable, when the machine will not act, then I – or you, every one of us – will have to change. Suppose your car is going on then somehow or other it stops. Then you take another car and continue your journey. The car’s stopping to work does not mean that the man who is in the car also stops. No. He continues.”

“There are so many different types of next life, beginning from Brahmaloka, the highest planet, down to the smallest insect. So why should we try to make a better position within this material world? Why should we waste our time like that? We have seen that to occupy the post of president, Mr. Nixon had to work so much in the beginning. I was in America at that time. He was advertising, ‘America needs Nixon now.’ He had to spend millions and millions of dollars, and there were so many cliques and there was so much political intrigue. But now, somehow or other, his presidency is gone. He has been dragged down.”

“Krishna’s name, Krishna’s form, Krishna’s qualities, Krishna’s pastimes – everything about Krishna is absolute. You’re chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. It is not only a sound; it is Krishna personally. You are in direct touch with Krishna when you chant Hare Krishna. This realization is Krishna consciousness.”

“So how can one learn about Krishna consciousness? Those who do not know can come to this Krishna conscious center, and they will understand by hearing from the members. We are opening so many centers. Why? Because people do not know about Krishna, and it is our duty to give them the chance to know. They’ll inquire. They’ll see how we are worshiping Krishna, how we are offering prasadam, how we are serving. They also can go back home, back to Godhead by learning from us. It is a school. We are teaching others.”

“We are all eternally the servants of Krishna. That we have forgotten. Now, in this life, we have surrendered to Krishna and accepted His service. ‘Krishna, for so long I forgot You. I am Your eternal servant, but I forgot. Now, in this life, I can understand. Therefore I surrender unto You.’ This is our life. Krishna consciousness means, ‘Krishna, I forgot You. I forgot my relationship with You. But now I have come to know that I am Your eternal servant. Therefore engage me.”’

“Consider Mahatma Gandhi. He was serving his country, but his countrymen killed him. It is a fact. So you cannot satisfy anyone. Who can give more service to his country than Mahatma Gandhi? But what was the return? His countrymen killed him. This is the return. You go on serving your senses in the name of your country, society, and family, and they’ll never be satisfied. So why should you be so serious about serving someone other than Krishna? That is sensible.

“Better to serve Krishna. Then you surpass the jurisdiction of birth and death. You conquer the repetition of birth and death simply by this process of hearing. If you simply hear Bhagavad-gita from realized souls regularly, by hearing alone you will be able to conquer birth, death, old age, and disease. This is the result.”

Satsvarupa dasa Goswami:

From Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name:

“You want to be a part of the spiritual world, of Krishna's pastimes in Vraja. It is beginning to happen. But so far, it is not that real to you. You have only been hearing it for a few years, and it has only been a few months since you gained the focus that this should be the goal of your life. For many years and lifetimes, a file has accumulated, filled with so many real and imagined adventures (they are all actually mayic misadventures). So you cannot be part of any world right now. You cannot sink roots into this earth, and neither can you fly to Goloka. You cannot entirely give up your sense of self in this world, and you are tired of playing the center of existence. The condition of your japa reflects this confused state of being.

“I am not confused, but between worlds is a more accurate wording. Arjuna also felt this and expressed it to Sri Krishna: ‘But for Yourself, there is no one who can remove this doubt.’ Arjuna thought that if he followed Krishna’s instructions for self-realization, then he would have to give up his hopes for happiness in this world. But what if he failed to attain the transcendental goal? Then he would be neither here nor there, but be like a small cloud torn apart from a big cloud and floating loose in the big sky. Lord Krishna assured His friend that one who does good never meets with evil. Even if Arjuna could not completely succeed on the path of bhakti, there would be no loss. Whatever gains he had made would be continued in the next life. As a result of his spiritual efforts in this life he would be born in the family of yogis or devotees, or pious wealthy people. From there he would be automatically attracted to spiritual life again, and as soon as possible, complete the course for going back to Godhead.

“Therefore, if we cannot chant with attention right now, chant anyway and chant more. Make efforts to control the mind. Discuss the aparadhas in chanting and be alert to when you may be about to commit them. Be glad if you don’t feel part of this world. Go on hearing the pastimes of Radha and Krishna. Associate with devotees and avoid those who would destroy your faith and enthusiasm. Your devotional activities are all gains. They often seem comical because of the awkward place you are in, so there is no harm in having a laugh at yourself. At least you won’t become proud that you are an accomplished taster of rasa.

Radhanath Swami:

Quoted by a disciple:

There is no such thing as a mistake, if we are always learning.

Mother Nanda:

The primary characteristic of pure devotional service is favorable and in relationship to Krishna.

Such pure devotional service begins by developing faith in the spiritual master.

If we only look forward we may be discouraged because the distance we have to go is so vast, so it is good to look back sometimes to see how far we have progressed, but it is not good to always look back.

Comment by Gopal: A sign we are advancing is that, although we may still have material desires, our tendency to act on them is no longer present.  

Sometimes you realize you are not as advanced as you thought. That realization, although it seems like a step down, is actually a step up.

Ramiya Prabhu:

If we become Krishna’s devotee, we enter Krishna’s inner circle and He takes special care of us.

Our material life is like a quarter. You do not get just the heads, but you get the tails too. You want just happiness, but you get distress as well.

When we see Krishna has helped us, we should feel grateful and do something for Him to express our gratitude.

If we chant the glories of the Lord, He will take seriously our claim to be His devotee.

Like parents, what do they want from the child? Just love. Krishna is the same way.

Bandhu means you are my friend, like on Facebook, but not outside, but suhrt means someone who is always my friend.

Krishna is waiting for everyone in Tallahassee to turn to Him, but most of them are not inclined.

Srila Prabhupada explained that if we offer something to Krishna with the mood, “I have no good qualification to be Your friend, but please accept this gift,” Krishna will happily accept it.

Q: If someone is a great devotee his whole life and then does something wrong, what will happen to him?
A: That is up to Krishna. Bharata was a great devotee, but he become absorbed in taking care of a deer and forgot his devotional practice, and Krishna punished him giving him the body of a deer in the next life. Usually that does not happen to a devotee [that he takes an animal birth], but Krishna wanted to teach him a lesson.

Mother Sukhada:

Formerly kings were so powerful they could end drought and famine.

Srila Prabhupada would make the point there is no scarity only mismanagement.

Srila Prabhupada tried to connect with anyone he could. He would talk to famous amd important people in hopes of convincing them of his message.

Srila Prabhupada made an analogy in a conversation with Toynbee that the situation of the people in general is like children who have a father who has given them a great inheritance but whose dependents are unable to access it and thus benefit by it. God wants everyone to have the joy of krishna-prema, but the people do not have the knowledge of how to attain it.

The drug problem is so bad that every 19 minutes someone dies of an overdose of drugs.

Srila Prabhupada, while talking with George Harrison and Yoko Ono, praised them for becoming successful in the music industry, and he urged them to take advantage of that popularity by sharing spiritual knowledge through their music. George Harrison took it seriously and thus inspired many in a spiritual way.

Kirtana is so popular that they even have rabbi kirtana in the synagogues.

One lady in Hawaii got a book from the devotees and put it on her shelf. She did not read it for years, but once she was a little depressed, and she took the book off the shelf, and read it. She read it a little bit more, and she moved in the temple in Hawaii.

There is a celebrated story of a man who was so disturbed by a lady distributing books on a bus, he ripped the book in half and stepped on it, and rudely pushed the lady off the bus. So as not to litter, he put the ripped up book in his bag. His maid found the book, repaired it, and put it on the shelf. Years later, the man’s wife died, then he got cancer, and he was depressed and he saw the book on the shelf and read it. He realized it really did tell about ultimate goal of life. He felt so bad about how he mistreated the lady who was distributing it, he went to the temple, and explained what had happened. He had one desire: to meet that lady and apologize. And the devotees made that arrangement.

Comment by Yugala: I distributed a book to one lady on a bus who wrote me back really grateful she got the book. She said she had decided to kill herself, but on reading the book she changed her mind.

Kaliya Damana Prabhu:

From a japa class:

Srila Prabhupada said that Jayananda was the first pure devotee to come out of ISKCON. Jayananda Prabhu would say, “Always encourage and never discourage.” He would always leave the room when he heard criticism of devotees.

Everything we do is to chant better.

Japa is like the password that unlocks your computer. Everything becomes available if you have the password.

In Denver as an experiment, we had the whole congregation chant one round of japa together at the Sunday feast. We happened to have 500 sets of japa beads on hand, and we engaged in the whole mostly Indian congregation in chanting one round together. We ended up selling 250 sets of japa beads that day and making japa a weekly event.

I find it hard to focus on the holy name on a japa walk. Prabhupada did it, but I know he wasn’t window shopping.

Comment by Abhi: In Jaiva Dharma, Bhaktivinoda Thakura said, “A Vaishnava has no taste for arguments.”

The Bible indicates that Jesus was a vegetarian:
Isaiah 7: 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.

Comment by Tulasirani Devi Dasi: I beg Srimati Tulasi Devi to help me when I chant japa, and I find very soon she helps me.

Krishna wants us to offer everything to Him, not just the good things. When we offer the bad things into the fire of Krishna consciousness, we become purified.

If thoughts come to mind during japa if you write them down, then they will be off your mind and you can chant peacefully.

Caitanya Candra Prabhu:

From “A Succession Conflict Caused by Selflessness” in Back to Godhead, Vol. 51, No. 3 (May / June, 2017):

“Valuing relations over possessions is foundational for the sustenance of family, society, and humanity. Bharata considered the affection he relished in his relationship with Rama far more meaningful and fulfilling than the gratification of ruling the kingdom. Even if we can’t be as selfless as Bharata, still a slight increase in selflessness in our relationships can significantly improve them and substantially decrease conflicts.”

Hanan:

The difference between the university and life is that in the university you learn first and then you take a test and in life you get a test first and then you learn from the test.

The first six chapters of the Bhagavad-gita deal with karma-yoga, the next middle six chapters deal with bhakti-yoga, and the final six deal with jnana-yoga.

Bhakti is in the middle because it is confidential and to protect it.

Comment by Dhamesvara Mahaprabhu dasa Prabhu: Without the touch of bhakti, karma and jnana are not fruitful. Thus bhakti is in the middle in order to touch both.

When we hear if we remember Krishna at the end of life that we will attain Krishna, we might conclude, “I will do what I like and then just remember Krishna at the end.” That however is not practical because the time of death is a critical time and it not easy to just remember something that we have no deeply routed attachment for at that time. Therefore, Krishna recommends to practice to remember him.

Patanjali says that attachment is a moment of pleasure we become attached to so we want to do it over and over again.

Shabari was a goat herd girl, who was upset when she was told she would be married and some of her goats would be killed for the marriage feast. She did not want the goats to be killed, so she left home for the forest. She took shelter of the ashram of Matanga Rsi, and she rendered all kinds of services to him. Then he and the other monks left, having attained perfection, and before going they instructed Shabari to continue worshiping Rama with devotion. Rama came by her place when He was in the forest. She would pick fruits, taste them to make sure they were sweet, and then offer them to Rama. Although it was nonstandard to taste fruits before offering them, Rama accepted her devotion, and blessed her she would attain perfection. After Rama left, she sat in trance, meditating on Lord Rama, and attained perfection. We can learn from this that bhakti is so easy that no qualification is needed to execute it.

The whole story of Shabari as told by Radha Govinda Swami in detail, I found online at:
https://groups.google.com/forum/ - !topic/istagosthi/s8Yilyr98DU
[After clicking on the link above, you will have to then click on the line beginning:
 B. Radha-Govinda Swami (ACBSP)]

Comment by me during prasadam to guests: We can also learn from the story of Shabari, about the power of associating with devotees in attaining bhakti.

Interfaith Progressive Dinner participants:

A Quaker lady: If you have 2 Quakers, you will have 3 opinions.

A Christian boy: If God leads you to it, He will lead you through it.

A young Mormon preacher: When God gives you a test, you are either strong enough to pass it or about to become strong enough to pass it.

Christian TV preacher:

God loves it when we trust Him. He loves it when we trust Him in all aspects of our life.

-----

In the Hare Krishna movement, we advise everyone to engage in the congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord (sankirtana) and to encourage others also to perform this chanting for their ultimate deliverance from material existence and attainment of spiritual perfection. Lord Caitanya was so advised by His guru, Sri Isvara Puri, who said:

naca, gao, bhakta-sange kara sankirtana
krishna-nama upadesi’ tara’ sarva-jana


“‘My dear child, continue dancing, chanting and performing sankirtana in association with devotees. Furthermore, go out and preach the value of chanting krishna-nama, for by this process You will be able to deliver all fallen souls.’” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi 7.92)