Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Travel Journal#12.18: New York City Harinam and Philadelphia Ratha-yatra

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 12, No. 18
By Krishna-kripa das
(September 2016, part two)
New York City Harinam and Philadelphia Ratha-yatra  
(Sent from Jamaica, New York, on October 12, 2016)

Where I Went and What I Did

I chanted with Rama Raya Prabhu’s New York City Harinam party for the second half of September, except for a four-day excursion to Philadelphia to advertise its Ratha-yatra by doing harinama, to attend the Bhakti Experience retreat at Haryasva Prabhu’s Bhakti Garden, and to participate in the Ratha-yatra itself. In New York City, I also went on harinama in Times Square with the Harinama Ruci party, and lots of people interacted with us.

I share notes from Srila Prabhupada lectures and books. I share a great quote by Bhaktivinoda Thakura from his Harinama-cintamani. I share excerpts from Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. I share notes on lectures by Balabhadra Bhattacarya, Bhusaya, Ravindra Svarupa, Abhiram, Haryasva, Acarya, and Yashoda Dulal Prabhus. I include quotes from Back to Godhead articles by Karnamrita, Nagaraja, Suresvara, Yogesvara, Caitanya Carana, and Purusottama Nitai Prabhus, and by Meera Khurana. I also share notes on a Following Srila Prabhupada DVD and practical advice from Jayadvaita Swami.

I thank very much Pancha Tattva Prabhu, who I knew from Alachua, for his nice donation for my travels. I want to thank Vaishnava-seva Prabhu of ISKCON Desire Tree, who kindly gave me a great birthday gift, a four terabyte external hard drive, so I could free up some disk space and assist ISKCON Desire Tree in collecting HD videos of the kirtanas all over the world, which I have the good fortune of seeing and hearing. Thanks to the Indian lady at the Philadelphia Ratha-yatra for her contribution. Thanks to Kaliya Krishna Prabhu for helping to cover my expenses in New York City. Thanks to Atma-nivedana Prabhu, who has a weekly Saturday evening program at 26 Second Avenue, for his kind donation. Thanks to the Indian lady who gave me a donation on the A train in Queens. Thanks to Ter Kadamba Prabhu who bought my extra euros at a very good rate. I am very indebted to Sunanda Prabhu, who allowed me to stay in his Krishna Balarama temple in Queens, where I would commute from to New York City Harinam.

Thanks to Dharmatma Prabhu for his many pictures of New York City harinamas in Union Square, in Times Square, and on the subway in between. Thanks to professional photographer Jim Anderson for his photo of me dancing at Union Square. Thanks to Mansi for the picture of the monk using a computer in the subway station. Thanks to Kayla for her picture of the Bhakti Garden devotees in Philadelphia. Thanks to Lakshman Poddar for his picture of me dancing in the Philadelphia Ratha-yatra. Thanks to Purushottam Nitai Prabhu for the photo on his web site revealing the illusion of envy.


October 8–November 11: New York City Harinam
November 12–13: Gainesville
November 14–December 2: New York City Harinam
December 3: Vyasa-puja of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami in Stuyvesant
December 4–January 2, 2017: New York City Harinam
January 4–April: Gainesville Krishna House and several Florida universities

New York City Harinam

On the New York City Harinam party, I participate in different ways.

Most of the time I chant the response.

Sometimes I also dance.

I also give out our free literature, sit at the book table, and occasionally approach onlookers with books.

Sometimes I dance as I watch the book table.

Our New York City Harinam party attracts men, women, whites, blacks, Indians, adults, children, Hassidic Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and more to play instruments and dance in the glorification of the one Supreme Lord whose names are all holy. In this video, Kaliya Krishna Prabhu is leading (

Earlier that day, Stella Montoya sang a beautiful Hare Krishna tune, accompanied by Jeremy on the harmonium, and her kirtana inspired devotees and passersby to dance. We gave mantra cards to two high school girls from Queens who loved the dancing, and they also chanted as you can see at the end of this video (

Just see how much fun it is to dance with the Hare Krishnas!

Here some school boys dance with the devotees at Union Square and so does a mom with her kid in her arms (

Sofia, a young Russian devotee lady, led the chanting of Hare Krishna one day with striking intensity (

We have some dedicated book distributors on the New York City Harinam party:

 Bhakta Cesar, who is there full time.

Bhakin Sonya, who comes after work some days.

Mahotsaha Prabhu, who comes after school regularly.

Once Mahotsaha sold a young Jewish man a Krishna book and a couple CDs, and then that man joined the chanting party for some time.

As usual, families were attracted to take part by playing instruments.

And also by dancing.

Dancing with the Hare Krishnas is very popular.

In this video the girls played instruments and danced and later a boy played instruments (

As usual, people took videos of us and did interviews of us.

Sometimes Cinmaya Radha Devi Dasi swings around in the kirtana, while holding her daughter, Gaurangi, and the girl loves it.

Sometimes we chanted in Grand Central subway station in bad weather, and here Rama Raya Prabhu leads a lively kirtana there (

Other times we chanted in the Union Square or the Jackson Heights subway stations when it rained or was cold.

Rama Raya Prabhu chanted Hare Krishna with his characteristic intensity at the Jackson Heights / Roosevelt Ave. subway station one rainy day (

Earlier that day, three young ladies delighted in dancing with us (

Philly Harinamas

The most striking thing about doing harinama in Philly was how friendly the people were compared to New York City. Even on my way from the Chinese bus to Govinda’s I invited a couple people to the Ratha-yatra even though I had not planned on it. The first day I chanted from Govinda’s to Rittenhouse Square and back, spending about two hours chanting at the square. It took longer for me to go to and return from the square than I thought as I had so many conversations on the way. If someone seemed attracted by the chanting, I would give them an invitation to the Ratha-yatra as I was walking, and I would become engaged in conversation. One lady declined an invitation saying she already had one hanging on her refrigerator. One lady was attracted by the harmonium, and I explained what it was. She said, “I know. I just came from Bhaktifest.” One older black man sitting on a bench at the square wondered why the devotees were not at the square Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. as they usually are. I invited him to the Ratha-yatra on Saturday. He knew about the festival but did not realize this Saturday was the 24th and might have missed it. A guy and a girl playing instruments said they were not planning to be here Saturday as there was so much competition with homeless people that few people gave them donations for their music and so they were planning to leave. I described the Ratha-yatra in such a way they said they would consider staying for it. Two students, an American man and a Chinese lady, doing a documentary on food, interviewed me as I sang in the square. I read from Bhagavad-gita about the characteristics of food in the three modes of nature and also told about offering food to the Supreme Lord. I also talked about how meat eating is unnecessary violence and how there is a lot of bad karma from it. I felt happy to interact with so many people and to tell them about the Ratha-yatra. Even though no other devotees joined me, I had so many positive experiences on harinama I did not feel bad about having to go out alone, as I sometimes do.

I was amazed to see the enthusiasm for the chanting Hare Krishna by the youthful devotees at Haryasva Prabhu’s Bhakti Garden in Philadelphia. The first night of their Bhakti Experience retreat, I encountered this lively kirtana (

Haryasva Prabhu invited four different senior devotees to speak during the four-day Bhakti Experience retreat he arranged for those in his congregation at Ratha-yatra time. You can see my notes on these lectures by Ravindra Svarupa, Balabhadra Bhattacarya, Bhusaya, and Acarya Prabhus under “Insights” below.

Haryasva Prabhu organized an evening harinama the day before the Philly Ratha-yatra to distribute invitations. Many of the young people who are regulars at his programs at his Bhakti Garden participated enthusiastically. Jagannath Kirtan Prabhu (Jagi) of Alachua joined us and led the chanting much of the time, and it was very ecstatic. Kaulini had a friend from art school named Carlye who came on harinama for the first time and who absolutely loved it.

Daniel, who teaches yoga at Palo Santo Wellness Boutique and helps Haryasva Prabhu improve his health with yoga sitting postures, was happy to have the harinama party come to his yoga class, and everyone was happy to participate in the kirtana led by Jagi (

Two or three of the girls from the yoga class chanted all the way back to the Bhakti Garden with us, and then stayed in the kirtana there for some time.

At one point a young devotee named Kamalaksi Radhika Devi Dasi, who met Garuda Prabhu of Tallahassee at a Rainbow Gathering in Tennessee and ultimately got initiated by Jayapataka Swami, led the chanting (

The Bhakti Garden devotees were so fired up from the harinama to and at the yoga class and from chanting all the way back to South Street that they had an amazing kirtana for Pancha Tattva when they returned to the Bhakti Garden (

Last year we did not have Ratha-yatra in Philadelphia as the Pope visited the city the last weekend in September. To facilitate the Pope’s visit, certain streets of the city were blocked off from traffic. The city residents actually enjoyed having the streets blocked off, and the city decided to do it every year from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the last Saturday in September, an event called Philly Free Streets. Thus South Street, which runs in front of Govinda’s and the Bhakti Garden, was free from cars and crowded with pedestrians, joggers, moms with strollers, and bicyclists on the morning of the Ratha-yatra day. Haryasva Prabhu decided we could chant in front of Govinda’s and pass out invitations to the noon Ratha-yatra and its afternoon festival with free vegan and vegetarian food to be held in front of the art museum. We also put up the remaining posters where those walking down the street would see them.

Kaulini, daughter of Sacisuta and Keli Lalita of Stuyvesant Falls, playing my harmonium, sang an attractive Hare Krishna tune on South Street, with the Bhakti Garden devotees responding. I had never seen Kaulini lead on harinama before, and although she was a bit shy to do it, she did a good job (

A friend made the point to me that because her mom, Keli Lalita, was Kate “Kate-08” Reddy, the bassist for the devotee hardcore band, 108, Kaulini’s natural musicial talent and her willingness to perform were not surprising.

She continued singing as we walked from Govinda’s to the start of the Ratha-yatra procession (

Dancing for the pleasure of Lord Jagannatha is always an important part of the Ratha-yatra for me.

Balabhadra Bhattacarya Prabhu led kirtana at Philadelphia Ratha-yatra and devotees danced (

These two young ladies, who enjoyed decorating themselves with the flowers offered to Lord Jagannatha, came from New Jersey for the festival. One of the girls had a friend or relative who was a devotee, and so they became interested in attending the festival.

The Philly devotees provide both a free vegetarian and vegan feast for everyone.

They even display the contents of both feasts so people can choose:

Acyuta Gopi of Brooklyn led a very lively kirtana after the Philly Ratha-yatra, devotees chanted and danced, and onlookers watched (

I told my Philly friends if they would go on harinama with me on Sunday, I would stay in Philly and chant with them, but otherwise I would return to New York City and chant with Rama Raya Prabhu’s party. Gurudas Prabhu, disciple of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami from Washington, D.C., said he would stay and chant with me in Philly if I found a third person, and Esa, a Bhakti Garden regular, who works at Govinda’s was that third person. 

Thus the three of us chanted in Rittenhouse Square, joined by a regular park goer, who likes the devotees. I was happy we passed out many flyers for Haryasva Prabhu’s Bhakti Garden and my remaining invitations for our main Philly temple. I met someone who was very much attracted and lived right next to our temple in Mt. Airy. He was happy to hear about our Sunday program there.

It is always interesting to see the invitations the devotees use in the different places to try to attract people to their programs. Sometimes we can learn from others ways to improve our own flyers. Here is the Bhakti Garden flyer:

Times Square Harinama with Harinama Ruci

After Philadelphia Ratha-yatra, the Harinama Ruci party spent a few days in New York City. On the last day in the city, they decided to do a final evening harinama at Times Square. A few devotees from the New York City Harinam party joined them.

We chanted while waiting for the subway at the Union Square subway station.

We also chanted on the subway to Times Square.

A lot of people interacted with the devotees.

A tour bus crew delighted in chanting with the devotees (

A large jovial man took great pleasure in singing and dancing with the devotees and a crowd gathered to watch (

Later two ladies and the rest of their party enthusiastically participated in the chanting and dancing (

A family with two girls also chanted and danced with us (

Nitai Sundar Prabhu of Harinama Ruci tried to engage the New York residents in chanting Hare Krishna on the subway as we returned from Times Square. One young Argentinian lady sang along and played the karatalas as best she could, a couple Indian ladies sang, and one young guy, standing near the door, was also willing to chant (

Special Photos

It is not every day you see a tulasi plant in an underground kirtana!

Mangala Arati Prabhu let the party use his tulasi plant for the summer harinamas, and the devotees’ kept it in a Union Square Park garden until late September. This day, however, it became cold, and thus he decided to take it home for the winter after the day’s subway harinama.

People from Indian have certain expectations of monks, and some things Hare Krishna monks do are beyond their expectations. 

Thus one young Indian professional named Mansi could not let a vision of Hare Krishna using a laptop in a subway station go by without taking a photo. The wireless internet at the place I was staying did not work with my computer, so I was using the free transit internet in the subway station after harinama in Jackson Heights.

I think of birthday cakes as a Western invention and that only Westerners can make good birthday cakes.

Santosh surprised me by making an awesome cake for the birthday of Bhaktas John and Frank.

At birthday ceremony in a Queens temple, the mothers would spoon feed the birthday girl the cake, an Indian twist to the birthday tradition.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump is unpopular in many parts of America, like New York City, as is evident in this photo taken in Times Square:

While proofreading the article of Purusottama Nitai Dasa of Kolkata in Back to Godhead, I encountered this photo illustrating his blog,

To see photos I did not include in this journal, click on this link:


Srila Prabhupada:

From a lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.1–2 in Melbourne on May 22. 1975:

People do not believe in the next life, but that will not excuse them from having to accept another body.

We have higher intelligence and should not apply it only to eat, sleep, mate, and defend like the cats and dogs. That is not very intelligent.

The end of knowledge is to understand God. Until we attain that end, our knowledge is imperfect.

Nature is like a machine. Therefore it must have some operator. We do not have to see the operator, but we can guess there must be a supreme operator.

Krishna is so kind as to give evidence in Bhagavad-gita 9.10. If you accept, your business is done. Krishna gave evidence that He is the controller of nature by lifting Govardhan Hill. If you believe this, you know God immediately.

If you accept the knowledge that descends from Krishna, then your knowledge is perfect.

By chanting Hare Krishna you can attain perfection, but if you think “what is this nonsense chanting” you can read the books. Either way you can realize God.

Disciple: This man says he is not suffering and he is not afraid to die.
Prabhupada: He is a mad man. Who cares for a mad man?

Disciple: It is not hard to explain one is not the body, but it is harder to explain how one is not the mind.
Prabhupada: It cannot be understood immediately. It takes education.

From a lecture in New Vrindavan on August 31, 1972:

We have to transcend both the gross and subtle body and come to the platform of the spiritual body where there is real happiness.

In this society there is no information of the spiritual body. People are just concerned with the gross and subtle body. Thus ours is a very important movement.

“In the animal kingdom every animal has a particular type of food. A tiger eats flesh and blood, but if you give the tiger nice oranges or grapes, he’ll not touch them, because those are not his food. Similarly, a hog eats stool. If you give the hog nice halava, it will not touch it. You see? Every animal has a particular type of food. Similarly, we human beings have our type of food. What is that? Fruits, milk, grains, vegetables. Our teeth are made for such foods. If you take a fruit, you can easily cut it into pieces with your teeth. If you take a piece of flesh, it will be difficult to cut with these teeth. But a tiger has a particular type of teeth, and he can immediately cut flesh into pieces. We are advancing in education, but we do not even study our teeth. We simply go to the dentist, that’s all. This is our advancement of civilization. The tiger never goes to the dentist. Its teeth are so strong that immediately it can tear raw meat into pieces. But it doesn’t require a dentist, because it doesn’t eat anything unnatural for it. We eat anything; therefore we require the help of a dentist.”

“So hear about Krishna attentively. You are kindly doing that now. It is a very good opportunity. I thank you very much. You are all young boys and girls, but you are very fortunate. Your fathers and grandfathers do not come here. But you have come because you are fortunate. Continue this. Just try to hear about Krishna. Your life will be successful. You haven’t got to do anything else. It doesn’t require that you become an M.A. or a Ph.D. No. God has given you two ears, and if you kindly submissively hear from the realized souls, then your life will be successful.”

From a letter written to Sri Pannalalji on May 16, 1974, in Bombay:

“To preach Bhagavat religion sometimes we have to quote from the sastras [scriptures] what is not palatable to unscrupulous so-called religious persons. But in preaching we cannot do without quoting the proper verses. Sometime they take it adversely and we become subject to unwanted criticism. We are presenting Krishna’s philosophy and teaching as it is and what can we do more? But this process of presentation has become fortunate, and we have become successful. I do not wish to change the process. I hope you will appreciate this process of preaching to please the facts as they are confirmed by all Vaisnava acaryas.

From a class given in New York City on January 6, 1967:

“Universal love means to love God. People do not know the technique. This man, this hunter, loved God, and he became a lover of the ant automatically. There was no need of separate education. ‘Love this ant, love this cow, love this tree, love this country, love this man, love the white man, the black man, this man . . .’ No. As soon as you love God, and you understand what God is, then you love everything.”

“You have to know the techniques. Simply by theoretical knowledge you cannot make any improvement. And these are practical examples. Because there is no love for God at the present moment, all this nonsense universal love, fraternity, is going to hell. Therefore we are interested in this Krishna consciousness movement. You have to change your consciousness, make it full with Krishna or God. Then everything will be all right.”

From Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.16.3:

“When the mind is fixed upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His external feature made of the material modes of nature — the gross universal form — it is brought to the platform of pure goodness. In that transcendental position, one can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva, who in His subtler form is self-effulgent and beyond the modes of nature.”

From a conversation in New Vrindaban, West Virginia, on June 24, 1976:

“Killing is illegal, according to the law of God. But the government does not want to follow God’s law. They would rather follow their own cruel whims. On the one side, the government prohibits the flesh-eaters from eating animals who have died a natural death.

“On the other side, they allow the flesh-eaters to put millions of animals to most unnatural, painful death in slaughterhouses. These rascals are in power. But legally – according to God’s law – they should permit flesh-eaters to eat only animals who have died a natural death.

“In India, for example, after some animal has died, people come and take the carcass away – free. They get it without any cost to themselves. They get the skin for making shoes and so forth. They get the flesh for eating. Let them cook and eat it if they want. The farmer does not charge anything.

And we would not charge anything. ‘Here. You can take it. Why slaughterhouses? Take this.’”

Bhaktivinoda Thakura:

  “One who chants with a pure heart experiences how divine bliss enters his heart and makes it soar with sublime light.  This is the essential nature of the holy name.”  (Harinama-cintamani, p. 78)

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami:

From Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name:

“I have read the prayers of devotees begging You, my dear Lord Krishna, for the nectar of the holy name.  Please accept my japa as a form of begging for that same nectar.  I am just a Kali-yuga beggar with no pious credits, but Your pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada, induced me to chant.  I can’t stop.

“I regret that I don’t regret my lack of achievement.  I cannot tell this to anyone, but You know my heart.  I cannot tell the nondevotees because they will use it as ammunition in their war against theism.  I cannot tell the devotees because they don’t want to hear my continual complaints – they want relief for their own situations.  I must tell the truth – I don’t want to hide it or be afraid of it or bluff.  I chant but can’t pay attention.  Due to offenses, I am not attracted to the holy name.  With these words, I am able to express what doesn’t come out clearly even in chanting.  At least let me confess and beg for mercy from the Supreme.

“I have heard that pure chanting will solve all the problems for oneself and for the whole world (param vijayate sri-krishna-sankirtanam).  Please, Lord, descend to me in Your most merciful form.  If You will not descend because I am an offender, please let me know what I must do, because now I cannot even face You.  I try but I cannot hold my focus.  Something is wrong.  You are not allowing me to face You and pray to You.  I have been given the mantra in parampara.  I am trying to follow the order of my beloved, exalted spiritual master, although imperfectly, so why can’t I at least pray and be aware of harer nama?  Will you please help me?”

Balabhadra Bhattacarya Prabhu:

In the beginning, the Sunday Feast was the reason I stayed in Krishna consciousness. This was because I did not have a strong understanding of the philosophy behind it.

What I want you to walk away from this discussion with is that the essential instruction is to always remember Krishna and to never forget Krishna.

First we hear about Krishna, and then we make facility for others to hear about Him.

In 1975 when Srila Prabhupada spoke in Philadelphia, he spoke of it as “the great city of Philadelphia.” After leaving Butler, Pennsylvania, Srila Prabhupada visited Philadelphia on the way to New York City.

I grew up going to a Baptist Church where I learned that God is somebody to be feared. I could not understand why I should fear God. But in Krishna consciousness I learned God is somebody to loved, to be served, to be dressed, etc.

If sense gratification is our aim, detachment does not make sense.

Death defeats all our plans for happiness. Why is this obstruction there? We should be inquisitive about this.

26 Second Avenue changed the world.

When we hear Srila Prabhupada say “therefore,” we know we will have to surrender.

In devotional service we have a tool box of verses that inspire us. Many of the verses in Srimad-Bhagavtam, Canto 1, Chapter 2 are suitable to include into our tool box.

By rendering service to the devotees, we develop the desire to hear about Krishna.

God knows that you are attached. Do you think God is stupid? When He sees we are eager to take time out of our busy life to hear about Him, He is inspired to help us to become detached.

What kept me in Krishna consciousness? Hearing.

When I met Vishnujana Maharaja, he told me, “We are going to have good times together.” We went on harinama. The entire party was arrested and put in the Atlanta jail. They took away our instruments. Vishnujana Swami began doing a Srimad-Bhagavatam class in jail. Laksmi Nrsimha Prabhu recalls that one old black man who was lying on the floor came to consciousness, and seeing the effulgent Vishnujana Maharaja asked, “Am I in heaven?” 

When I was selling books in the airport, every day I would read the headlines of the newspaper and use them in the course of distributing books.

One day an amazingly attractive woman came up to my book stand in the airport. All the onlookers, both the devotees and the airport workers, were wondering what I would do. It was a challenge for me to think about her spiritual welfare instead of how I could enjoy her association, but I was successful and she bought a book.

Early morning hearing and chanting about Krishna can empower us to continue throughout the day.

Bhusaya Prabhu:

We think of Srila Prabhupada as the master, but he thought of himself as the servant.

There is such detailed knowledge in Krishna consciousness we have to learn of it from a devotee.

We are not trying to make this material world a better place, but we are trying to become qualified to leave it.

To acquire the vast knowledge that a devotee has in a traditional educational facility would cost millions of dollars, but the devotees are teaching it for free.

Srila Prabhupada said that gratitude is a sign of love.

One thing that Krishna is showing through Srila Prabhupada is what it is possible for a single person to do.

Just as a child does not have to worry about paying the bills, the pure devotee does not worry about how the Lord will maintain him.

I was at a temple, and none of the locals ever visited the temple, but when Srila Prabhupada would come many of them came.

Krishna especially loves those who love His devotees.

You and Krishna are separate individuals, but you are connected through serving, loving, and living.

An advanced person lives in the love. 

Krishna consciousness is the one thing that you really have to fight for.

Persons who liked to lord it over others and did not treat people properly ended up leaving the Krishna consciousness movement, but those who cultivated a loving attitude for others ended up staying.

Comments by Haryasva Prabhu:

These people [coming to this Bhakti Garden Bhakti Experience Retreat] have not lived in a temple, and they may not live in the temple, but by the association of devotees they will make advancement.

If you fully take part in this retreat called “The Bhakti Experience” you will have some realizations by the end of this weekend, and you can tell me what is the bhakti experience.

Jayadvaita Swami:

From a correspondence:

Me: “I find there was a conflict between Abhirama Prabhu and Rama Raya Prabhu, and they are situated in different places. Do you have any insight into this conflict as a friend and well-wisher of both? How should I view the situation and how should I deal with it?”

Jayadvaita Swami: “I suggest treating the issue as ‘past history.’ At this point, talking about it and hearing about it serve no useful purpose. Let’s put it aside and get on with our business of hari nama.

Karnamrita Prabhu:

From “My Cancer Diagnosis As Krishna’s Embrace” in Back to Godhead, Vol. 51, No. 1, Jan/Feb 2017:

 “Contemplating our death is important, and death itself is not a failure – as is sometimes thought by doctors trying to save lives – just another natural stage of life.”

“Even though negative thinkers may be more objective about possible negative outcomes, that doesn’t mean they are happier or more successful.”

Nagaraja Prabhu:

From the editor’s welcome in Back to Godhead, Vol. 51, No. 1, Jan/Feb 2017:

“When His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada conceived the idea of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (TOVP), now being built on the bank of the Ganges in West Bengal, he always knew it would be something unique. As a temple it would certainly be a place for the grand worship of Radha-Krishna, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and their intimate associates. But it would also be a place to display the universe as seen through the eyes of pure Vedic sages of antiquity. While understanding the sages’ view has been a challenge, one truth comes through with force: behind the universe is a creator with a purpose. In proposing the TOVP, Prabhupada too had a purpose, or perhaps many of them. But one was certainly to draw attention to the Supreme Person behind the cosmos.”

Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu:

When you take birth, you get a new body, but you do not get a new mind.

When you are born, your mind is so conditioned to sense gratification, it is hard to condition it to self-realization.

When I began to chant with attention I felt an uneasiness that developed into an intense grief that I had abandoned Krishna and come to the material world. I was too embarrassed to share this with anyone. This grief continued. But then I realized that although I had abandoned Krishna, He had not abandoned me. He sent Srila Prabhupada, who was willing to suffer in so many ways, just to bring us this Hare Krishna mantra to reconnect us with Krishna, and this gratitude toward Krishna for reaching out to me in this way mitigated my grief.

When I was chairman of the GBC, and was expecting a tough year, I decided to go Vrindavan for Karttika and chant 64 rounds a day to become empowered to deal with it. During that time, I encountered a book by Bhaktivinoda Thakura about Lord Caitanya’s “Siksastakam.” He relates the different prayers to the nine different stages of bhakti which I never realized before.

At ruci, when given the choice between a Krishna-conscious activity and a non-Krishna-conscious activity we spontaneously choose the Krishna-conscious one without any endeavor. 

Asakti means addicted to Krishna and Krishna consciousness.

The first things you should notice are that lust, anger, etc., start to decrease.  

Lotuses bloom in the sunlight, and lilies bloom in the moonlight. The flower referred in the first verse of “Siksastakam” is the lotus.

Bhaktivinoda explains the happiness from the sankirtana does not cause pride because it is so pure.

The first verse is a verse of preliminary faith.

Dainya, humility, is introduced at verse two.

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura told all of his disciples who knew English to preach in the West, not just Srila Prabhupada.

Srila Prabhupada publicly told his disciples, “My guru told me to preach in the West when I was young, but I was so attached to household life I could not do anything until my old age. And now because you are helping me, I am able to do something, so I have to thank you more.” Srila Prabhupada was demonstrating and teaching Vaishnava humility. In the beginning we did not understand this, and some still do not understand.

Chanting with attention is very important to get the full effect of chanting.

We should understand that humility is realism.

By considering our fault in coming to the material world and by considering the superior qualities of those who are more advanced than we are, we can cultivate humility. 

In America there are a few vaisyas and the rest sudras. If you get a pay check you are a sudra.

Verse 3 is anartha-nivritti (giving up unwanted attachments).

Verse 4 indicates ruci (taste). I do not want anything else but Krishna.

Sundarim can mean beautiful women, beautiful poetry, or verses glorifying attractive fruitive activities.

The first four verses deal with our relationship with the name, and the last four deal with our relationship with the named.

Verse 6 refers to the qualities of bhava, but it is a state that Lord Caitanya was praying to attain in the future.

Our emotions in bhava have a similar power to our deep instinctive materialistic emotions which are no longer present.

Note that the feelings of separation come before the meeting.

The last two verse are spoken in the voice of Srimati Radharani.

They say in science you can verify the knowledge by repeating the experiments, but often until you are a fourth year graduate student you cannot actually do that. Our process is superior in that anyone can repeat experiment himself. Anyone one chant Hare Krishna and experience the effects. 

The main thing is to be willing to take the next step, and then the step after that will open up, and you take that. Then things will start to happen.

By chanting in the clearing stage, we are showing Krishna that we are interested.

The future of the modern world is not good because Srila Prabhupada said the standard goal of this civilization is happiness in the mode of passion, and the mode of passion results in misery.

Separation sounds like anguish but because Krishna is present it is actually a closer union.

Suresvara Prabhu:

From “Your Srila Prabhupada” in Back to Godhead, Vol. 51, No. 1, Jan/Feb 2017:

“Prabhupada once told a personal assistant, ‘My desire is to spread Krishna consciousness everywhere at once.’” (Remark by Srila Prabhupada to one of his personal assistants, Hari Sauri Dasa, as reported by Hari Sauri in his seminar “Srila Prabhupada, the Living Bhagavatam.”)

“In August 1968 a new initiate in Montreal told Prabhupada she felt far away from him when he wasn’t there in person. Prabhupada replied: ‘Oh, that you should not think . . .There are two conceptions [of the spiritual master]: the physical conception and the vibration conception. So physical conception is temporary. The vibration conception is eternal. Just like we are enjoying or we are relishing the vibration of Krishna’s teachings. So by vibration He is present. As soon as we chant Hare Krishna or chant Bhagavad-gita or Bhagavata, so He is present immediately by His vibration. So we should give more stress on the sound vibration, either of Krishna or of the spiritual master. Then we’ll feel happy and no separation.’ (Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture, 7.9.12, Montreal, 18 August 1968)”

Srila Prabhupada said, “Because people are in darkness, we require many millions of gurus to enlighten them. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission is, He said, that ‘Every one of you become guru.’” (Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture, 6.1.21, Honolulu, 21 May 1976)

Yogesvara Prabhu:

From “The Unseen Universe” in Back to Godhead, Vol. 51, No. 1, Jan/Feb 2017:

“To see the universe as God sees it: that succinctly describes the purpose of the Vedic Planetarium.”

Abhiram Prabhu:
At the hippie camp that Srila Prabhupada visited, Vishnujana was wearing a skirt, living in a tree and playing a flute.

Sukracarya was warning Bali that Vamanadeva would take everything and also in effect advising him that it was an opportunity to surrender everything to the Lord.

In martial arts, the people are trained to take defeat in a positive way, as they are being taught a lesson.

Sukracarya is like the mind who gives so many excuses for not surrendering to Krishna.

When one leader fell down from his position, Srila Prabhupada shook his head in disappointment saying, “But he promised.”

In the age, people do not value keeping their promises. The politicians are always boldly making promises but failing to keep them.

This body is untruth in that it is temporary and in that it is not what it masquerades to be, our true self.

When Srila Prabhupada was leaving this world, Kirtanananda Swami was showing him pictures of the palace he was building for him in New Vrindaban. Srila Prabhupada said, “We will see what kind of palace Krishna wants me to live in.” 

Why did Bhaktivinoda Thakura not get reinitated by Jagannatha Dasa Babaji? Because he did not consider it important. He felt it sufficient that Jagannatha Dasa Babaji was his siksa-guru, and he took full shelter of his instructions.

Those siksa-gurus who are so steady they not likely to fall down are given the opportunity to be diksa-gurus. That is really the only difference.

Sukracarya you can see as your mind or as one of the false gurus who poses as guru but does not lead one to surrender to Krishna.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Making promises and keeping them may be difficult, but we have the opportunity of pleasing the Supreme Lord by doing it.

Sin happens in secret. We should have association with other devotees. If we do something questionable, reveal it to another devotee.

We should always work under a guide. For me it was Tamal Krishna Goswami, and now it is Jayadvaita Swami. I check in with him once a week about what is going on.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura says to understand where we are and then proceed from there.

Following Srila Prabhupada DVD:


Prabhupada said he had two places that were his favorite, Bombay and Hawaii. He said wherever there are palm trees is a good place.

The tenants would gather and greet Srila Prabhupada in the morning. Sometimes we would have disagreements with the tenants, but they all loved Srila Prabhupada.

Prabhupada would have darsana and speak constantly from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the evening.

Prabhupada said that Gandhi advised Nehru and the other leaders to make each village self-sufficient, but they betrayed him and followed the British idea of introducing factories. Prabhupada said, “I loved Gandhi. He really wanted the best thing for India.” The next day Prabhupada extended his morning walk all the way down the Juhu beach to offer respects to a Gandhi statue. On the way back, some life members questioned Srila Prabhupada about Gandhi and his presentation of the Gita. Srila Prabhupada said, “Gandhi destroyed the Gita,” and so many critical things. Then he turned to the devotee who heard him said, “I loved Gandhi” the previous night and smiled.

Explaining to an Indian man why he spoke so strongly, Srila Prabhupada said on his morning walk that because Krishna criticizes people who do not surrender to Him, we also have to do that. Later at Prabhupada’s Guru Puja, the man who objected to Prabhupada speaking strongly, offered flowers at Prabhupada’s feet and bowed down with tears in his eyes, apologizing for his offensive words.

Haryasva Prabhu:

The main thing in the bhakti experience is the holy name. The holy name is both the means and the goal.

If I thought I had paid my debt to Srila Prabhupada, I would leave here in a flash. I am just here to pay my debt to Srila Prabhupada. I am here until you can take it over.

This is not just some parade. These are not statues. This is Lord Jagannath, and He is here to benedict the conditioned souls. The internal potency is going to make all kinds of arrangements today for His pleasure, but you have to enter into it, and if you have a service attitude, you can enter into it. 

Acarya Prabhu:

In the stage of practice, sadhana-bhakti, we should be eager to understand how we can progress to bhava-bhakti, serving with devotional emotions.

Sadhana-bhakti is a process of awakening something that is already there. Srila Prabhupada explained that it is like a child learning to walk. Because the potential to walk is there, it can be awakened by practice. We could practice flying for years, but we would never be able to fly because the potential is not there.

Any of the five superexcellent processes of bhakti [association with devotees, chanting the holy name, hearing Srimad-Bhagavtam, living in a holy place like Mathura, or serving the deity with faith] can bring us from the stage of practice to bhava-bhakti.

Krishna descends from the spiritual world in the form of His holy name to make Himself available to us.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura advises four things to transform your home into a temple: (1) to worship the deity, (2) to chant the holy name, (3) to read the scripture, and (4) to offer and to eat prasadam.

Ratha-yatra is special because the five most important items of devotional service are there in abundance, and we can get a taste for them.

When I was a new devotee, my sankirtana leader, Jada Bharata Prabhu, would bring me to all the festivals. He considered because of the association of devotees and the intensity of the devotional activities that we make most of our advancement from observing the festivals.

When we pull the ropes of the Ratha-yatra, if we meditate that we are humbling following in the footsteps of the residents of Vrindavan in pulling Krishna back there, it will enhance our appreciation of the experience.

If you see how Lord Caitanya would celebrate the Ratha-yatra, you can understand how important it is.

Comments by me:

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said that Sri Krishna-nama sankirtana [the congregational chanting of the holy name of Lord Krishna] is the emperor of all sadhanas [spiritual practices].

Lord Jagannatha is especially merciful, and in the West, we need so much mercy.

Caitanya Carana Prabhu:

From  “A Devotional Take on Mistakes” in Back to Godhead, Vol. 51, No. 1, Jan/Feb 2017:

“Just as an expert musician can produce quality music even with a poor instrument, so too can Krishna produce auspiciousness out of a messy situation.”

Yashoda Dulal Prabhu:

Sannyasa means realizing I need nothing from this world.

When one is happy internally one does not need external satisfaction.

Suta Goswami makes it clear from the very beginning, “The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.”

Satisfaction and bliss go together. Without satisfaction, there is no bliss.

The inner connection with Krishna through love and devotion is the only thing that can give satisfaction.

Biologically they say if there is breathing there is life, but for us, if there is love and devotion to Krishna there is life.

Visvarupa is an expansion of Lord Nityananda to participate in the early pastimes of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

Lord Nityananda appeared twelve years before Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

Sacimata worshiped deities of Krishna Balarama.

Some say that Visvarupa is the sannyasi who took Lord Nityananda on pilgrimage.

It is said that Lord Krishna one day came from Dvaraka to Pandharpur and transformed Himself into the deity there.

Compassion is to tell the people of this world that material things cannot bring them the satisfaction they desire. They must aspire for self-realization.

It is said that Vishnu sleeps for the four months of the Caturmasya, and on the Ekadasi in the middle of that period, He changes from sleeping on one side to the other.

Sannyasa means giving up acting for your own desires and beginning to act only for the benefit of others.

When you see an uttama-adhikari, a devotee on the topmost level, you feel your love for Krishna rising in your heart.

People look at the renounced persons and think they lead a hard life, but they are experiencing an ocean of bliss: “I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Gosvamis, namely Sri Rupa Gosvami, Sri Sanatana Gosvami, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami, Sri Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, Sri Jiva Gosvami, and Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, who are always engaged in chanting the holy name of Krishna and dancing. They are just like the ocean of love of God, and they are popular both with the gentle and with the ruffians, because they are not envious of anyone. Whatever they do, they are all-pleasing to everyone, and they are fully blessed by Lord Caitanya. Thus they are engaged in missionary activities meant to deliver all the conditioned souls in the material universe.”

At a certain point Krishna reveals His form and qualities through His name, and one gets such a taste he does not want to stop chanting.

At the cinema, we are surrendering to whatever we are seeing on the screen.

When we become elevated in devotional service, we see Krishna’s pastimes on the screen of our hearts.

If we do not aspire to the higher states of devotional service, we will not experience them.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura prays:  
“When, O when, will that day be mine? When will you give me your blessings, erase all my offenses and give my heart a taste [ruci] for chanting the Holy Name in purity? . . . When will I buy, borrow or steal the ecstasies of the Holy Name? When will I lose myself in the intoxication of the Holy Name? When will I immerse myself in the nectar of the Holy Name after grasping the feet of a saint who constantly relishes the flavors [rasa] of devotion?”

Purusottama Nitai Prabhu:

From  “How Association Can Ensure Our Spiritual Life” in Back to Godhead, Vol. 51, No. 1, Jan/Feb 2017:

 “After hearing the Gita, Arjuna said to Krishna, ‘I am prepared to act according to Your instructions.’ (18.73) We can also say the same to Krishna, and like Arjuna become Krishna’s close friend.”

Meera Khurana:

From  “Sprinkling Krishna Consciousness at Work” in Back to Godhead, Vol. 51, No. 1, Jan/Feb 2017:

“An additional benefit of prasadam is that it often initiates a conversation about the food. I’ve found that this is a good way to start talking about food in the mode of goodness and the sanctification of food, or making food sinless by offering it to God. This is a novel concept to most people, even religious people. People of other religions find this interesting and even wonder why it is not part of their religion. If you love God, why not offer Him gifts? It is also a good way to explain why we eat only cruelty-free food. Because God is the father of everyone, a concept all faiths seem to agree with, He does not accept anything involving cruelty or the killing of His children.”


Because Rama Raya Prabhu is staying in a smaller place these days, I spent some time living in Sunanda Prabhu’s Krishna Balarama temple in Queens. Every day when I would see the beautiful deities of Krishna and Balarama, this verse spoken by the gopis, who are famous for their exemplary devotion to Krishna, would come to mind:

sri-gopya ucuh
aksanvatam phalam idam na param vidamah
sakhyah pasun anuvivesayator vayasyaih
vaktram vrajesa-sutayor anavenu-justam
yair va nipitam anurakta-kataksa-moksam

“The cowherd girls said: O friends, those eyes that see the beautiful faces of the sons of Maharaja Nanda [Krishna and Balarama] are certainly fortunate. As these two sons enter the forest, surrounded by Their friends, driving the cows before Them, They hold Their flutes to Their mouths and glance lovingly upon the residents of Vrndavana. For those who have eyes, we think there is no greater object of vision.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.21.7)