Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Visit to Charnigov, the Northernmost City in Ukraine

While at the Odessa festival, some devotees from the congregation in Charnigov invited me to come to their temple, and so I said I would come if there was time in my schedule. Charnigov is north of Kiev almost two hours by bus. To get there we took a trolley to the metro, to the bus. I was given a guide to put me on the bus, and the leader of the Charnigov congregation, Giridhari Prabhu, kindly picked me up. I chose to speak about Srila Prabhupada as tomorrow is the anniversary of his disappearance. I mentioned how Lord Caitanya predicted back in the 1500s His holy name would spread all over the world. In the 1800s Bhaktivinoda Thakura predicted that in a short time that prophecy would be fulfilled. He also prayed to the Lord for a son who could help him in his mission. That son, Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Goswami, encouraged many of his disciples to preach in the West, but Srila Prabhupada because of his great faith and determination, was able to succeed. So Srila Prabhupada is a very dear devotee of Lord Caitanya who assisted Him in His mission just like Haridasa Thakura, Rupa Goswami, and the other eternal associates of the Lord we hear about in Sri-Caitanya-caritamrita. Prabhupada said he was successful in his mission because of his faith in his guru and in the holy name. I read some quotes from Prabhupada Nectar describing Prabhupada's thoughts on education, his preaching spirit, the power of his books, and his explanation of how we can serve him personally although physically separated from him. I also told a story of how a siksa guru of mine had some difficulty, and I had bowed down to Srila Prabhupada's murti in the temple and prayed to Prabhupada to give me solace in that situation. A couple days later a godsister of mine said she had a dream of Srila Prabhupada and that I was also in it. In the dream, Srila Prabhupada said, “Krishna-kripa is my disciple.” That godsister had no way of knowing I had prayed to Prabhupada as I rarely spoke with her and I hadn't told her about my prayer. In this way, I can see that Srila Prabhupada is present and will reciprocate with us if we approach him, and therefore we should not lament thinking we have no access to Srila Prabhupada. He is still here in his books, in the association of his followers, and in his murti in the temple, and he will reciprocate with us.

Dhanesvara Prabhu, who was looking for land in the area to build a varnasrama community, arrived at the end of my lectures, and I invited him to speak about Srila Prabhupada. He told about the context of a Srila Prabhupada quote I had heard many times, “All of you have joined because of prasadam. Even you! [he said pointing to the temple president]” Prabhupada had been talking about prasadam with the Radha-Damodara devotees and others. The devotees told him about a pakora-eating contest in which one brahmacari had put twelve cauliflower pakoras in his mouth and was chewing them when someone came from behind and slapped his cheeks and the half-eaten pakoras came out of his mouth. It was after hearing many such stories that Prabhupada had made that famous quote.

The first time Dhanesvara Prabhu met Prabhupada, when Prabhupada chanted the “Jaya Om” prayers after the kirtana, Dhanesvara Prabhu alone did not bow down, because the small temple room floor was packed full. Prabhupada made some indication to him, and he responded with a gesture, to indicate there was no room to bow down.

When Dhanesvara Prabhu got gayatri in Atlanta in 1975, Srila Prabhupada described to him how to wrap the sacred thread about his thumb three times, but somehow or other, he couldn't follow the explanation. Then Srila Prabhupada grabbed his thumb and wrapped his sacred thread three times around it. Dhanesvara Prabhu considered that it was his life's perfection to be touched by Krishna's pure devotee.