Friday, July 28, 2006

Singing and Dancing at Woodstock Festival

I slept three hours as it is hard for me to sleep when day has come and others are up. I was able to chant my rounds, take breakfast, and use the Internet for half an hour before Ratha-yatra. That Indradyumna Swami lead kirtana a lot was a nice feature of this year's Ratha-yatra. All the devotees were really enlivened and the Woodstock youth picked up on the mood, many of them dancing with the devotees. Maharaja showed some special mercy to one guy who looked really out of it, and the guy miraculously became really enlivened. Maharaja engaged him in sweeping in front of the cart, in dancing, and Maharaja finally embraced him. That boy came to all the Ratha-yatras and the final kirtana on the last day, and appeared very happy and in a sober condition.

After the Ratha-yatras the kirtana would continue for some time. One girl had just gotten a plate of prasadam, when she saw the kirtana in front of the Ratha-yatra cart. She ran over to the cart and began dancing ecstatically with the devotees, with a big smile on her face, still holding the plate of prasadam in her hand!

Later in the day I talked to one girl who was committed to her Catholic religion but a little curious as well. She could understand English, but could not speak English. I would talk to her in English, and she would talk to her friend in Polish, and her friend would talk to me in English. She asked about our purpose in coming here. I said our main purpose was to people to benefit spiritually. We were not just trying to convince people of our spiritual path, but if they didn't have one, we would advocate ours. I mentioned about the Catholic Saint Francis who considered that the animals were his brothers and sisters, and that we thought it would be better if Christians adopted that exemplary mentality. In the course of the discussion she made the point that the giving up intoxication and meat eating is consistent with the actual teaching of the Bible, but it is hard to follow so no one does. I made the point that that is the main problem with religion. People claim to belong to a certain religion but do not actually follow the principles of the religion, and thus they do not get the promised spiritual advancement.

On Friday, we had an evening harinama instead of Ratha-yatra, probably because of the crowded conditions. Many young people chanted and danced as usual. Once we went back and forth through rows of tables crowded with people drinking beer. As our lively party of dancers passed, two girls dressed in black, eagerly got up from their table, beer cans in hand, and began dancing with the devotee girls at the front of our harinama party. They learned the dance steps by imitation, and after twenty minutes or so, they had either finished their beers or through them away to concentrate on their dancing. When our party stopped in one place for fifteen minutes or so, the girls followed the movements of the female dancers from Bali, this year's attraction at our stage shows at our festivals, and learned them as well. I had to take a break to go to the questions and answers service, which I found was preempted by more ambitious devotee, but when I got back after the half an hour or so, those two girls were still dancing with our party. At one point, the devotee girls' gave them their own flower garlands to wear. They ended up staying until we returned to Krishna's Village of Peace and continued chanting there for twenty minutes or so until the kirtana ended. While we chanted and danced before Lord Jagannatha and his brother and sister atop their chariot in the center of our village, Indradyumna Swami sprayed the hot chanters and dancers with a mist of water from the hose, enlivening them and cooling them off.

I was dancing to the final kirtana on the main stage, and a boy approached me with great feeling and said, "Remember me?" I have such a bad memory for faces, so I didn't and so just stared blankly. Then he said, "You gave me a plate of food last year." Then I remembered. I was dancing in kirtana and this boy wanted something. The volume of the music was so loud, I could not understand what he wanted, so we went outside to talk. He told me he wanted some free food, so I made a plate of whatever the devotees had for lunch and gave it to him. I was delayed for sometime, but he was still waiting for food, and he was very thankful. This year he remembered the event with the same gratitude. He said of all the Americans he knows, I am the best. (Of course, he does not know Indradyumna Swami.)

In previous years when we had more space, we had continuous kirtana in both a temple tent and a meditation tent. This year, neither were planned, thus some of us felt a lacking. Even some of the people coming to our festival wondered where the temple and meditation tents were and lamented their absence. At Shanti Parayana Prabhu's suggestion and with his encouragement, we turned the yoga tent into a bhajana (devotional songs) tent from 9:00 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. We often had between thirty and forty people, with five to fifteen dancing in the center. Several people chanted the mantra for over an hour, some smiling the whole time. Indradyumna Swami came by around 3:00 a.m., after Black Summer Crush, a band he had invited from America, had finished on the Woodstock main stage. Their final song was a Hare Krishna tune, heard by hundreds of thousands of people. When Indradyumna Swami came by our tent a peaceful devotee lady named Jana was singing. Later he told me he liked her singing. I hoped to continue our singing in the yoga-turned- bhajana tent to 5:00 a.m. (sunrise) on the final day, and I promised some of my friends we would do this.