Monday, August 06, 2007

The Day After Woodstock

I looked at my watch after the Woodstock festival. It was August 5. The last date I remembered is August 1. The days in between blurred together in my mind. I was so busy I didn’t think about the date the whole festival.
I only slept three and half hours the day after Woodstock. I went to sleep at 4:30 a.m., which is usually the time I wake up.

Shanti Parayana Prabhu was interested in the idea of doing harinama at the site and encouraged me to bring the instruments and the sound system and see what transpired. Candrasekara Prabhu also expressed interest in the idea.
Indradyumna Swami wanted everyone to go to the site to help take down the festival. I did not want to defeat his program, so I told him that after the easy work is done, we end up just sitting around wanting for the bus while the strong men do the remaining heavy work. I was thinking that during that time we could have a harinama with the idle devotees. He accepted that idea.

I spent about an hour and a half helping to clean up. I chose tasks involving carrying things from here to there, so I could also work on chanting my japa quota in the process.
During the cleanup time, Radha Caran Prabhu met a couple guys who played guitar and who were interested in learning the mantra and a tune to sing it to. He taught them, and they left playing guitar and chanting Hare Krishna.

Indradyumna Swami looked at the cleanup progress and remarked with delight how everything was almost completely taken down so quickly. I suggested that we could celebrate by doing a harinama. He said that we had already done so much harinama, and he also did not want the remaining devotees finishing the clean up to feel bad they couldn’t participate.
Harinama at the Woodstock Site
Soon after that Indradyumna Swami left, and Candrasekhara Prabhu arrived with a desire to do harinama. Prema Harinama wanted to do harinama more than anyone, and Mother Kinkori also expressed some interest and encouraged five of her friends. Thus we had a nine-person party. We started a little away from our festival site toward the main Woodstock stage so as not to disturb the remaining cleanup crew.

I was so happy to be on harinama again. It seemed a fitting way to end the Woodstock. We started harinama as people were arriving, and now we were having our final harinama as they were leaving. Once after a Gaura Purnima festival, we chanted on the boat to Navadvipa, and felt a special end-of-festival harinama ecstasy that I rarely feel but was feeling again today. Some of our friends among the Woodstock attendees smiled and waved as we chanted past. I gave some mantra cards to Prema and one devotees lady to distribute, and four of the ladies danced in their characteristic patterns.

Ahead of us one girl sat on a blue barrel, clapping and moving in time with the music, smiling along with her friends. The devotees recognized one of the men with her to be one who Indradyumna Swami had danced with on Ratha-yatra, and so we came to visit their party. Two guys motioned like they had something important to show us so Prema and I came over to look, and they moved their tent revealing a large eight-foot deep hole in the ground. Two of the guys then jumped into the hole and danced along with our chanting of Hare Krishna, their heads below the level of the ground and their upraised hands just reaching the top of the hole. It was such an unexpected and unusual experience. They enjoyed chanting with us for sometime and then we moved on, giving them mantra cards to reciprocate their hospitality.

When we passed the vendors at the far end of the field, a group of them smiled, waved, and said “Bye!” in unison.
Sitting at a table I saw a short girl smiling at us who I recalled from the Woodstock 2003 festival in Zary. She was so special that Indradyumna Swami mentioned her in his closing address to us that year. He said that the last evening of our festival he surveyed our different tents and found a wild kirtana going on in our bhajana tent. He wondered who was leading it and looked over and saw a girl who was not even one of our devotees, wearing a bikini and black boots and chanting Hare Krishna and playing the harmonium, along with a girl friend. When Maharaja came back over an hour later her kirtana was still going strong. I described the whole wonderful story in more detail on my web page from that year To see that part of the page, after the introductory words, in the table of contents, click on the link “People Who Were Attracted”. I gave her also the explanation of the mantra. She said she came to our temple tent this year as well.

We headed back toward our festival site and met one person who invited us to his ‘home’. Apparently he and his friends constructed a dwelling with four logs at the corners and a log frame. Boughs of evergreen trees were fastened to the framework to enclose it and about seven people were relaxing inside, so we chanted and danced for their benefit and gave our host a mantra card. A neighbor was playing her djembe drum in time with our music, and we stopped by to give her friend a mantra card for her.
Continuing back, we met a young man who had a bag of pickles which he offered to us.

One man and his girlfriend wanted to get married. He spoke English and inquired from me about the possibility that we could perform the ceremony for them. Perhaps he knew we did marriages on stage in previous years or that religious people often perform marriages. I said that as far as I knew we usually just did marriages for our members, but I knew some priests and if he gave me his phone number, I would have someone get back to him. Later Trisama Prabhu promised to give him a call.

We continued back toward our site, meeting favorable people along the way.
I was so happy we had gotten to do another harinama and give a few people some more mercy. Our whole program was to give mercy to people, and there were still many hundreds of people to give mercy to so it was hard to miss the chance.

When I got back I told Chaturatma Prabhu about “our unauthorized harinama.” He laughed and explained in his usual jovial mood that there is no such thing as “an unauthorized harinama.”
Harinama at the Train Station

It occurred to me that there must be a lot of young people at the train station waiting for the next train to their destination. I asked people who like to sing like Radha Caran and Hanuman Prabhus, but I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to go or who could take us. I mentioned it to Prema Harinama. He couldn’t forget the idea and kept reminding me about it. Sri Prahlad Prabhu was scheduled to do bhajanas which are always nice, but the harinama idea sounded like a special opportunity. Prema Harinama and I got a drum and karatalas and met in the school parking lot. A devotee whose car was otherwise empty was just leaving, and we asked him for a ride to the train station. It is difficult to get rides in that parking lot. Sometimes you have to wait half an hour or more. I accepted that Krishna was trying to encourage us by arranging the ride. When we got in the vicinity of the train station, we were not disappointed. There were hundreds of young people sitting on the grassy areas near the train station, in the bar next to the train station, and on the platforms from which they would board the trains. I wished we had brought more devotees with us.

We ran into some people playing music, including a djembe drum. We could get them to chant a little Hare Krishna, but mostly they wanted to sing mundane songs. They sang an old tune called “Yellow Submarine” and tried to get us into it. I wished Trivikrama Swami was there to get them to chant Hare Krishna to that same tune for it is one of his favorite ones. He hardly lets a kirtana pass without singing it. Seeing we were being influenced, and we not influencing them, we moved on. I would play the drum, and Prema, who is from Croatia but knows Polish, would talk to the people and pass out mantra cards to the favorable ones.

On the train platform we ran into the boy that Indradyumna Swami had danced with and who was still accompanied by his friends. We stayed with them for some time, and some of them chanted along with us and some of them danced with us. One girl beat on their blue plastic water drum as if it were a musical instrument. They proudly showed us where they had written the Hare Krishna mantra in Polish on the drum’s surface. The girl who was most into our music began to dance. She had many dredlocks including one that was so long, to my amazement, that it reached the ground behind her. While she danced to the kirtana, she spun her longest dredlock in a circle in front of her, then to her left side and then to her right side, and then in back of her, just like Dina Dayal Prabhu does with his baton on our festival show. It was so funny to see.

We would walk along, until we found people who liked us, and we would stay there for a while. The young people who come to the Woodstock are generally very musical and they would sometimes ask to play the drum or karatalas. I would let them try to play the drum, and Prema would show them the karatala beat. At one point, we found two friends, one who played the drum and the other, the karatalas. I would sing and dance, and Prema would talk and pass out mantra cards. Then another devotee joined us, and we had grown to a five-man party. The two boys would walk in front, playing the instruments, then Prema and I, and finally the other devotee. It must have been such a sight for the people to see. At the far end of the platform, we saw the girl I remembered from Zary in 2003. She knows the mantra well and chanted along with us.

In addition to playing our instruments and the plastic water drum I mentioned, the young people had other creative instruments of their own. One boy played three sticks, two in one hand and one in the other. After he boarded the train, two girls banged the same sticks together to make music. One guy played the old plastic water bottle instrument, a girl rapped on the train window with her jeweled hand, and a boy banged on his cup with his spoon.
The lending of the karatalas to the boy backfired, when he showed them to someone else who was on the train. They disappeared into the train and were not seen since. Prema promised to donate his personal karatalas to the tour to atone for the mistake.

We kept walking along the platform, back and forth between the two groups of people, those who had boarded the train and were waiting for it to leave, and those who were waiting on the platform for the next train. We stopped in front of the people from either group who liked our music. One guy stood on the train seat and danced with his head and arms sticking out the window. Unfortunately, he spaced out once and banged his head on the train window. Looking through the train windows, we could see others clapping and moving to our music in different ways. From their smiles and their waving goodbye to us as the trains departed, we could see they were attached to the devotees. We tried to reciprocate as best we could.

While chanting at the train station we would see different railway personnel, security, and police. Not one objected to our presence there in the least.

We kept going for two and a half hours during which two trains departed taking most of the young people toward their next destination. Then we decided to walk back to the school which is our base as it was nearing 10:00 p.m. and getting dark. Prema found the boy who danced with Indradyumna Swami and his friends were to leave on the 11:00 p.m. train, and so he had just enough time to get leftover prasadam to bring to them and others waiting for that train. I was too exhausted to consider doing something like that, but he actually did it. I found Prema Harinama Prabhu’s enthusiasm for preaching most inspiring. Harinama sankirtana, ki jaya!
Second Harinama At Train Station
Prema Harinama Prabhu was so enthusiastic to do another harinama at the train station. He said there were people leaving the site today who would be taking the train. I was a little doubtful, but I didn’t know for sure. We decided to go and see. Unfortunately we did not get a ride, and we had to walk about half an hour to the station. We brought a bucket of halava and two-thirds of a bucket of sweet rice. This time Maksim, Dhanesvara Prabhu’s translator from Ukraine, also came with us and sang about half the time. Whenever we saw a potential customer for prasadam, we stopped and Prema Harinama spoke to them and served out the food, while Maksim and I kept the kirtana going. There were about five Woodstock attendees at the train station, and every fifteen minutes or half an hour, another group of Woodstock attendees would come by with their belongings, and stop and take prasadam. Also on the way back, we would meet people on the way, and serve them prasadam and chant to them while they ate. We gave out mantra cards to interested persons, and several people tried singing the mantra, and one danced with us. On the way back, we met a group of about six devotees who were shopping, include Ajita Prabhu, who is a great kirtana leader, and Balarama, who is a great mrdanga player, and they led us in kirtana back to the school that was our base. We felt victorious as we distributed three-fourths a bucket of halava and half a bucket of sweet rice, and many people heard the holy name and got mantra cards.