Friday, June 22, 2007

A Visit to London

I arrived at London’s Soho St. temple at 2:50 p.m. When the devotee introduced me to Murali Manohara Prabhu, who is in charge of the brahmacari asrama and who allowed me to stay there, I realized he was a devotee I had met in Mayapur. He reminded me that we talked over prasadam on a number of occasions. I was overjoyed to find out that harinama, one of my main impetuses for spending a day in London, was going out in just ten minutes. Although I couldn’t have slept more than three hours and I had just two bananas for the day’s meals and hadn’t even taken my shower yet, I could not miss this great opportunity to chant on London’s crowded Oxford Street with a group of very dedicated devotees. I saw Krishna Vidhi Prabhu, the main leader of the party, who I had met in Mayapur last year, on harinama, of course, as well as his wife, who I remember from when I came to London in 2002. The biggest surprise was to meet Prema Harinama Prabhu, a brahmacari who loves harinama and who I see every year on the Polish festival tour. Here they are very liberal and consider it a benediction to hear me lead harinama, and so for half an hour or so I chanted a favorite Hare Krishna tune I had recently played at Gainesville’s Krishna Lunch (

There are many people on Oxford Street, including businessmen, students, and tourists, in abundance, and many persons smiled, moved in time with the music, and took pictures of our chanting party. It was a very lively environment to do harinama in.

I was amazed that when the harinama was over at 5:00 p.m. Krishna Vidhi and Prema Harinama were discussing doing another harinama at 6:00 p.m.! At the conclusion of their discussion, they decided to go out again at 5:15! Such enthusiasm is most inspiring to see. After that they went to a local preaching program at King’s Cross. I wanted to go as well, but I had promised Murali Manohara Prabhu a couple weeks ago that I would give the evening class on Bhagavad-gita, which is at 6:00 p.m., during my visit.

I meditated on the verse during the harinama, but found out while giving the class that in the purport Srila Prabhupada stresses Arjuna’s good qualifications as the cause of his indecision to fight instead of his material attachment to his cousins on the opposing side. I talked about how that section around and previous to today’s verse, Bg. 2.6, discusses Arjuna’s reasons for not fighting, and it was interesting for me to see how sometimes Prabhupada praises Arjuna for his good qualities like compassion and sense control and at other he criticizes him for being materially attached. I followed Srila Prabhupada in his purport and praised Arjuna’s sense control and detachment in his willingness to consider the situation from a religious point of view and to live by begging if necessary to avoid fighting his relatives for the kingdom. I tried to explain clearly how sense control and detachment are necessary for giving up identification with our bodies and thus ending the cycle of repeated birth and death and making attainment of the kingdom of God possible. By the end of the class, there were at least ten people there.

The speaker traditionally leads the evening arati kirtana there at Radha-Londonisvara Mandir, and I chanted Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s beautiful Gaura arati song with great enthusiasm, along it felt odd to me that there are no Gaura-Nitai deities there, just a small picture of Pancatattva. Many people were enthusiastic about kirtana and that make it extra special. There must have been twenty or twenty-five people, many of them Indian, and I felt so happy to see the nice attendance.

I spent most the rest of the evening sorting out what I would not use until I return to London in October, as I have at least 5 kilograms of baggage over the limit for my next flight. I also helped a brahmacari install Wincom on the temple computer.

Reflecting on the whole evening, I felt so happy to be engaged in such superexcellent devotional activities as going on harinama, giving Bhagavad-gita class, and leading the sundara-arati, all in just the half day I spend here at Srila Prabhupada’s temple in Soho Street.

Onward to Poland tomorrow.

Srila Prabhupada ki, jaya! Sri Sri Londonisvara ki, jaya! Gaura premanandi!