Thursday, July 27, 2006

Woodstock: Meeting & Making Friends and Rathayatra

On the last day of our festival in Kolobrzeg, the largest city we have a festival in on the Baltic Sea coast, two people promised they would see us at Woodstock.

One, Izabela (Isabel), had come to question and answers for two days in Kolobrzeg. Although a Catholic, as most people in Poland, she had developed enough interest in Krishna consciousness that she had downloaded a song called Govinda from a devotee web site and inquired out of curiosity about Govinda from Nirguna Prabhu at our Q & A booth. She also had either won a sari or bought one, which she wore on the last day. She happened to live in Kostrzyn, site of the Woodstock festival, so the devotees invited her to come and she said she would. Yesterday I thought I saw her as our harinama party passed people in the crowd, and today as I looked at the audience in questions and answers, I saw her there, with her boyfriend. She later introduced me to her boyfriend, Mikal (Michael) and another male friend.

The other was a jovial rowdy guy who took pleasure in swinging the male devotees around in the final kirtana in Kolobrzeg, the most lively kirtana of the summer tour, so far. After the kirtana ended and we were leaving, he shook my hand and said "See you in Woodstock". As I was walking through our village in Woodstock, he smiled and said, "Remember me from Kolobrzeg? I told you I would see you in Woodstock!"

In my experience of trying to encourage people to attend devotional gatherings, so many people say they will come and never do, that although their words are inspiring to here, I cannot take them very seriously. In this case, I was pleasantly surprised that both people came as promised, and they came early enough to participate in our entire three-day festival.

We had two Ratha-yatras this day and these and the Ratha-yatras on the subsequent days were filled with a lot of young people dancing with us with great enthusiasm. In addition to dancing, it seemed to me that more of them were also chanting than in previous years. A nice feature was the throwing of prasadam apples, peaches, and bananas off the cart and into the crowd. Sometimes Indradyumna Swami himself did this. Everyone took pleasure in jumping, reaching for the fruit, and eating it. Once I got an orange which I broke into slices and distributed them to those who did not get anything. It was just another wave of bliss in the ocean.

The Ratha-yatras had another level of specialness for me as I had just been to the Puri Ratha-yatra one month before and its impressions were still in my mind. At these Ratha-yatra's at the Poland Woodstock festival, there were features that surpassed the one in Puri. Our deities were clearly visible, illuminated by the radiant sun, while the Puri deities, although impressive in size and riding on individual carts, are blocked by devotees riding the cart and shadowed by the cart's canopy so as to be only vaguely and partially visible. In India, there are so many opportunities to obtain the Lord's mercy from holy places, holy rivers, sadhus, and many Vedic literatures, that the Ratha-yatra is just another opportunity to come in contact with the form of Krishna. However, in Poland, contact with the form of the Supreme Lord, is rare and so for hundreds of thousands of people to see the transcendental form of Lord Jagannatha, at the Woodstock Ratha-yatra, or see His devotees absorbed in His service, is more of a benediction.

To prepare myself for questions and answers, I prayed to Guru Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada, Lord Caitanya, and Krishna to be able to properly represent them. The questions were not too challenging nor too trivial, and unlike on the summer tours, they were no gaps when there were no questions. I felt very satisfied to do the service. My only lamentation is since we had one venue instead of three and I could only do two hours over the three-day period. Last year, on the final day alone, I did seven hours.

During free time, I sometimes wandered through the young people taking prasadam, and I would ask people who appeared to like the prasadam if they knew English. Sometimes I read Bhagavad-gita in a public place, like the shade of the Ratha cart, and would talk to people who started a conversation with me. One devotee wore a sign saying that he could answer questions in English, but I was to shy to wear such a sign.

One boy, Rafael, who spoke English nicely said he had come for three years. Of the prasadam, he said he liked the havala the best. I told him about the Ratha-yatra, and its schedule of 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. each day, and he seemed interested.

One girl from the middle of Germany, about seven hours from Berlin, came with some friends. She had met the Hare Krishnas at some festival in Hungary and had learned the mantra. She and her friend were impressed with how the devotees appeared to be very balanced and to be very happy. I explained there is a higher spiritual happiness that the devotees are connected with. I gave her a card for our web site and said wrote the address of our German site on it, I told her she could meet me the next day at questions and answers after my slot at 7:00 p.m., but she did not come.

One boy came up to me and said we had talked for some time in Pobierowo last year. I remembered him. He did not know English well enough to continue our discussion and I couldn't find any translators, so we agreed he would meet up at questions and answers the next day, but it didn't happen, unfortunately.

Sometimes people would say they had no money for food. I would joke with them, even in Polish, "How is it you have money for beer, but you have no money for food?" It was a sorry state that some had to make such a choice, and more sorry that they made the wrong choice.