Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Polish Woodstock, Days 2-4 (August 2-4, 2007)

I will attempt to give some idea of the Polish Woodstock Festival and in particular, Krishna's Village of Peace, the Hare Krishna festival that went on there. I describe what I was personally most involved with. I do not have the energy to describe it all. Our stage show and our tents were extensive. I described more about these aspects of Krishna's Village of Peace on my web sites of previous years: 2001, 2002, and 2003.

The Temple Tent

Especially in the evenings there was always lively chanting and dancing going on in the temple tent.

Sri Sri Gandharvika Giridhari graced the altar,

pictures of Krishna’s pastimes blessed the walls.

Both the devotees and the Woodstock attendees chanted and danced, and at sometimes as many as fifty people crowded into that small tent.

Sometimes the devotee ladies taught different dances to the new people. Sometimes people danced in circles or in chains. Just see the happiness of the people dancing!

Once in the afternoon we had a small gathering, and the seven people I gave mantra cards to all chanted along with us, half of them dancing as well. We felt happy to see the people enjoying the kirtana.

One blond girl came all three days and danced happily in the temple tent. She also came to at least two of the four Ratha-yatras. I asked her what she thought of our event. She liked the music, the food, the people, and the whole atmosphere. She is from near Krakow, and I introduced her to some Krakow devotees, Indulekha Dasi and her husband. In this way, she can have some connection with devotional service after the Woodstock is over.

I danced with one boy by interlocking arms and swinging around him around. When we changed directions by changing arms, he had to move his cigarette from one hand to the other. Finally, he gave up and tossed the cigarette away.

One girl in the temple tent asked me about what tilaka was, and I explained it was sacred clay from India. She wanted some. I bring my tilaka with me to put on before Ratha-yatra and before doing questions and answers, so I went to get it. I found a devotee lady willing to show the girl how to put it on. When she was done, I asked the girl if she wanted a piece of tilaka. She did, so I gave her a small lump. Her friend and other nearby Woodstock attendees could not appreciate her interest in the tilaka, but somehow it was really important to her, and she did not seem to care what the others thought.

We chanted till 1:20 a.m. each night there in our temple, and the last night we went to 3:15 a.m. We hoped to go to 5:00 a.m. but our security force was not completely in place because everyone was tired from the festival. They were afraid some of the many wandering, rowdy drunk people might hurt us. It is nice to connect with people at the end of the festival, but staying up till dawn the last day could be dangerous. We decided to try to chant the next day, as the prasadam serve out would continue and people would come. If Woodstock happens again, perhaps we could plan a harinama for the day after, just as we had one the day before. I am sure people would appreciate, and I am sure enough of us love harinama, so even in our exhausted condition, a number of us would still be into it.


The wonderful Ratha-yatras are likely the most powerful events of our whole festival because they touched so many people there. The big cart and the lively singing and dancing of the devotees created a natural curiosity in people’s minds. I was very pleased to see the happy smiles of the onlookers as the Ratha-yatra approached.

This year was extra special because the last Ratha-yatra lasted six and a half hours! After four hours, Indradyumna Swami realized there would not be time to do the second Ratha-yatra scheduled, so he decided to make the first one extra long. He announced that we would continue another two hours, and we should not pay attention to our bodily aches, hunger, thirst, exhaustion, or whatever, but push on and take advantage of the great opportunity the Ratha-yatra affords—to share the happiness of Krishna consciousness with many, many thousands of people. Indradyumna Swami was amazed that although the cart was so large that cars had to drive over the curb and on the grass to get around it, no authorities complained about the six and half hour obstruction to traffic. In any other city, he said, the authorities would never let us get away with that.

I like to chant my japa before breakfast, but because of the long Ratha-yatra, I didn’t have breakfast till 7:30 p.m.! I had so much fun, however, I didn’t really notice the austerity.

I would often pass out invitations although I prefer chanting and dancing. I realized that no matter how many distributors we have, a few people go by our party without getting an invitation, and so I considered that my distribution of flyers to those people would be a help and felt satisfied to give more people the chance to come to the festival and benefit spiritually in an ocean of different ways. I became involved in the Krishna consciousness movement seriously as a result of getting a flyer for a temple, so I have faith in their power to transform lives.

We were scheduled to do two Ratha-yatras per day, but the next to last day of the Woodstock, we did not have time to do the second one. Prema Harinama Prabhu was so enthusiastic he encouraged me to organize another harinama. We got Indradyumna Swami’s permission, an amplifier, instruments, and several security guards, and twenty-five devotees attended. We went out for an hour from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. and distributed many flyers for Krishna’s Village of Peace. We were all glad that we went out again and felt victorious that more people heard the holy name and got invitations from our efforts.

More young people chanted as well as danced this year on this years’ Ratha-yatras. The beautiful smiles on their faces was heart-warming to behold. One girl, with a lollipop in her mouth, also chanted the mantra to my great surprise, as that is a little tricky to do, even for a seasoned chanter. Sometimes Indradyumna Swami showed the young people great mercy on the young men by dancing with them.

One of these boys later helped diligently to take down our festival, and another we met twice on harinamas the day after the festival.

In addition singing and dancing, many Woodstock attendees would happily help pull the cart.

At intervals the devotees would throw fruit from the cart into the crowd of Woodstock attendees surrounding it.

The people were very blissfully jumping and grabbing the thrown fruit, and eating it with great relish, meditating on its transcendental taste.

Once devotees brought whole cases of fruit onto the cart to throw off, and Indradyumna Swami personally threw the fruit into the crowd.

After the Ratha-yatra returned to Krishna's Village of Peace, kirtana with dancing would continue for some time, with the massive Woodstock site with its thousands of tents in the background.

The Ratha-yatra cart had influence in additional to that shown during the procession. When standing in the middle of our site, it was an object of pictures and inquiries. Some boys wanted to climb up on the cart to get a close up picture, and we let them with the permission of security. From the cart, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva, and Lady Subhadra, along with their representative, Srila Prabhupada, would bless Krishna’s Village of Peace by their glance.

Illuminated at night, the Ratha-yatra cart was an impressive site.

When people inquired about the Ratha-yatra cart, I would explain that Ratha-yatra festival has gone on in a city in India called Puri for thousands of years. We are now doing it all over the world in Los Angeles, New York, London, and other big cities. Next week we do Berlin. In different religions people go to church to associate with God and those devoted to God and thereby advance spiritually. However, in the Ratha-yatra festival God and His devotees go out to see the people and bless them with spiritual advancement. That simple explanation disclosing the Lord’s merciful nature would always make the people smile.

Questions and Answers

Mother Urmila (right) expertly answers questions
with the help of translator Mandakini Dasi (left).

My friend Shanti Parayana Prabhu arranged for me to have a hour in questions and answers, as the organizers of that event didn’t schedule me. The tent can accommodate one hundred people and is always nearly full. The Polish people are quite willing to engage in philosophical discussion for quite awhile, even after having had a few beers. One question that is fairly common is “If God is one, then why are there so many different religions?” God arranges for persons to teach as much about him as the people at a given time and place are able to hear. Even Christ said that he had more to say, but the people could not bear to hear it. A person with a Ph.D. in math may teach an elementary student how to add, an older student how to multiply, and in high school, he may teach the student algebra. In algebra the equation “6 + x = 8” makes sense but someone just learning addition might complain, “What is this ‘x’? Math deals only with numbers not letters. This isn’t math. You are cheating me by teaching something bogus.” In this way, some religionists see others as not valid, when in reality they are also meant to gradually awaken one’s God consciousness.

I saw Dhanesvara Prabhu in the audience, and I felt bad for him as he is senior person, and he didn’t have a chance in questions and answers either. To be fair, I should have given him half my time, but I was too attached to what little I was given. So I told him, he could start after I had done forty-five minutes. I hoped the next devotee would be willing to give up some time to Dhanesvara Prabhu as well, but I was wrong, and rather than just take fifteen minutes, Dhanesvara let me do the whole thing.

I felt bad, so I gave Dhanesvara Prabhu that slot for the next day, taking a certain amount of trouble to find a translator for him. Unfortunately, that slot was given to someone else, and I wasn’t told till the last minute. So that attempt to facilitate him also failed.

The final day, as Shanti Parayana advised, I obtained a translator and sound system and made the arrangement for Dhanesvara Prabhu to answer questions in the reincarnation tent, as had been done in previous years. Actually when we had more space we had three questions and answers booths at Woodstock, all of them busy. Dhanesvara Prabhu was grateful for the opportunity, and his translator, Jananivasa Prabhu, a disciple of Kavicandra Swami, told me that some favorable people came and Dhanesvara answered their questions nicely in personal way and they appreciated.

I took the next hour after him. People often ask why we believe in reincarnation. I say that in religion, one receives knowledge from revealed scripture and we accept reincarnation by the strength of Bhagavad-gita.. When they ask if there is other evidence, I tell them about the studies of Ian Stevenson of detailed investigations of children’s past life memories. One of his books is now translated into Polish and available at our book table.

People often ask if they can come back as animals. I answer that if they act like an animal in this life, they can come back as an animal in their next. If they are very crude, have no respect for the rights or property of others, have no conception or worship of sGod, and have no regard for the laws of the land, such degraded people can come back as animals, rather than return as humans and continue to torment human society by their misbehavior.

One lady praised the explanations of karma given by Alexander Berzin in his books, and asked our opinion of them. I had to admit ignorance of both the author and his book. I told her if she gave me her email address, I would research it and get back to her. Later on the Internet, I found that Alexander Berzin is a Buddhist author, but I could not understand which of his books the lady referred to and so I will have to write her, with the help of my translator.

One man asked about dinosaurs, which was rather unusual. He wondered why books like the Bible did not mention such beings. I said that the Vedic world view does provide for 1,100,000 reptiles, so we do not have a problem accepting that dinosaurs could exist. I mentioned that 400,000 humanlike forms are also described and thus angelic beings and ghostly beings that people report seeing, as well as UFOs, could exist as far as the Vedic world view is concerned.

After an hour and a quarter, I had had enough, because of the tiredness characterizing the final day of the festival, because of having to speak over the rock bands, and because of the disturbance of occasional drunks. My translator had had enough too. As we were leaving a young woman came up and spoke to me with great concern. “We have heard this is the last Woodstock. What will happen to your Krishna’s Village of Peace that I have enjoyed coming to each year?” She mentioned that there are probably many people who would come if we could somehow continue it. I told her about our festivals on the coast and gave her the web site with the schedule. As far as Krishna’s Village of Peace, I don’t know. If Woodstock’s organizers, when announcing the end of Woodstock, promote Krishna’s Village of Peace, perhaps we could have it. Otherwise, how would people know of it?

Occasionally Trisama Prabhu would send someone to get me from the temple tent, where I was dancing, to answer some questions in English. In one case I talked with a boy who was so addicted to sex that he couldn’t go a day without it. He was completely unable to understand the simple idea that if we are spiritual beings beyond the body, that addiction to bodily pleasures will prevent us from realizing the primary spiritual truth, “I am not the body.” It reminded me of a friend I was traveling with who had the same difficulty when I first joined the temple back in 1979.

In general, however, the devotees all said that the questions are getting better every year.

Hare Krishna Kirtana in our Main Tent

On the first day of our stage show, Indradyumna Swami and other devotees chanted nice Hare Krishna bhajanas on our main stage. Only four devotee ladies danced in the audience, and I danced on the opposite side. I wished that Woodstock attendees would dance but not much happened. A couple guys, obviously a bit intoxicated danced around near me, taking my picture from time to time. Then a couple devotee men danced in the middle. I would glance at the audience on occasion.

Very gradually more and more people joined in, and by the end of the kirtana we probably had twenty-five devotees and twenty-five of the Woodstock attendees dancing happily together. I later mentioned to Indradyumna Swami that I worried at first that no one was getting into the dancing but in due course they did and that it must have been the power of the Holy Name. He replied affirmatively and indicated that it is always like that. It noted that it took a while this time. His secret appears to be just to keep on chanting with faith.

People We Met

I was amazed that on the first day of the festival I met three people who planned to vacation on the Baltic sea near Kolobrzeg after Woodstock. I told them about our festival program there and gave them a flyer with the web site address so they could check the schedule, attend the festival, and get some more spiritual ecstasy.

Nanda Kumar Prabhu told me that the two girls from Kolobrzeg festival, who had their picture taken with Indradyumna Swami on the last day and who promised that they would see us at Woodstock, actually came and he and his wife talked with them.

Izabela, who saw us at Kolobrzeg and Woodstock last year, and who is a resident of Kostrzyn, the city where the Woodstock is held, came again, along with her boyfriend, Mikal, who bought a Bhagavad-gita last year. She would come every day to the questions and answers. She hoped to see the Shyam dance, but it was cancelled the day I saw her and not scheduled on the final day. I promised to give her a DVD of it to make her happy. I also saw her at the train station the day after Woodstock and invited her to come to our evening program at the school the next day, and she wrote “It was good to see you singing at the railway station today evening. I would be very, very happy to come. I love singing with you :)”

I met a young Indian man from the UK who talked to me for half an hour during the end of the long Ratha-yatra. He knew so many stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata, but he did not know much about the Hare Krishnas or our philosophy. I stressed the importance of Bhagavad-gita a lot, and he asked if we could read the Gita together for some time. It sounded like a good thing to do to encourage him, and after the Ratha-yatra we found some quiet place in the dance lessons tent between classes and read. I talked to him about important verses like 4.11, “As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha” and verse 18.66, “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” We talked about how Krishna reciprocates with people as they approach Him and that increases their faith in Him. He was one of those people who doesn’t pay for things but accepts whatever people give him. I gave him the remainder of a liter of orange juice given to me, and I got him a plate of prasadam. Generally we feed people who come to hear from us about Krishna, so it seemed natural for me. I had to go to the reincarnation tent, but I gave him my card, and told him to write. The man was only twenty-one, but I would have guessed he was older. In the course of our conversation he mentioned he really liked Chaturatma Prabhu’s style of answering questions. He thought Chaturatma was really “cool” and he suggested that Chathuratma’s picture would look good on an album cover, if we had such things.

While waiting for prasadam for the young Indian man, I talked to a girl named Matilda in line. She had not committed to any religion and was just curious to see what people believed in. She said there are a lot of people like her.

As I was arranging the amplifier for the reincarnation tent, I saw a man wearing a T-shirt with German writing on it. Figuring they spoke English, I asked his party of four how they liked the festival and mentioned about the Berlin Ratha-yatra, just next weekend. They were from Leipzig, about two hours from Berlin. I also mentioned our Leipzig Ratha-yatra had been today.

Cakra Tirtha Prabhu was talking with someone from Germany. He asked him about himself and he started to list all his bodily designations beginning with his name. Cakra Tirtha explained that he had just told him about his body which is finished at death along with all its designations. He inquired what the man had to say about himself, and the man came to realize he did not know about the self and was open to inquire about it.

Radha Caran Prabhu (below with satisfied custumers) noticed that when he went out to the visit the Woodstock attendees in their tents, as he did before it got too crowded, he could sell more books in the same amount of time than he did in our book tent. He felt the Polish people appreciated him coming to “their home” and were more open and at ease in that environment.

Some famous Jamaican musicians were there to play on the main stage, and Indradyumna Swami developed a relationship with them.

They also participated in a very lively kirtana to a tune the devotees love on our main stage at near the end of the evening of the next to last day of the festival. Many people had a great time dancing and chanting to it. On the final night of the festival the Jamaicans accompanied our festival singer Tribhuvanesvara Prabhu, who sang Hare Krishna to a very catchy tune on the Woodstock main stage to hundreds of thousands of people for ten minutes around 2:00 a.m. It was well received.

Devotee Bands

Five devotee bands played contemporary music to devotional lyrics on our main stage from 5:00 p.m. to about 1:00 a.m. each night for three nights. Some of the devotees were really into hearing their favorite band.

I only knew 18 Days, whose lead singer is my friend, Candrasekhara Acarya Prabhu (below).

I did not feel like cultivating an appreciation of other devotee rock bands at this point in my life. I was happy to dance to the nice Hare Krishna tunes that they played as well as their song “Giri Govardhan”, a favorite among the devotees.


The prasadam is always very popular. People without exception said very good things about it.

As usual the halava is most well received. One of the people who highly praised the prasadam was heading to the Baltic coast for a holiday after the festival, and I encouraged him to come to our festival there where we have a much greater variety of prasadam that tastes even better than this. Usually I use the topic of the food to introduce the idea of vegetarianism.

The devotees distributed just over 100,000 plates in four days, as is usual at this event.

General Comments

A couple of my friends said their health on Woodstock was better than on the rest of the tour. For myself, I did not get sick at Woodstock this time, probably because I avoided eating too many beans and too much halava.

Devotees also felt the mood of cooperation among the devotees putting on the festival was better than previous years.

We had more educational programs this year which were very popular. These included instruction in dance, drumming, and the art of happiness. Sanjib Bhattacharya said he taught dance for six hours straight on the final day of Woodstock.

In Conclusion

For me Krishna's Village of Peace at the Polish Woodstock festival is a profoundly happy experience because I have faith in the great spiritual benefit that one receives from hearing the holy name of the Lord, seeing the devotees of the Lord, seeing the Deity of the Lord, observing the Ratha-yatra festival of the Lord, and taking the prasadam of the Lord. Every day many, many tens of thousands of people benefit, and sometimes even hundreds of thousands. Whatever role I can play in this makes me feel happy. That is why I have come for seven years. For me there is just nothing like it. If I can show by example how one can chant Hare Krishna and be happy, if I can answer philosophical questions, if I can invite people to Krishna’s Village of Peace, if I can give them a mantra card, if I can connect them to other devotees or other devotional activities so they can progress after Woodstock, if I can interest them in Bhagavad-gita or the Science of Self-Realization I feel I am connected to Lord Caitanya’s great mission of distributing love of God which Srila Prabhupada has brought to the Western world and which Indradyumna Swami wants to promote in a big way. I just wish I had the spiritual vision to see all the people’s karma destroyed and tens of thousands of seeds of devotion planted in their hearts and watered. Then I would be even happier.

“Lord Caitanya excused them all, and they merged into the ocean of devotional service, for no one can escape the unique loving network of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu” (Caitanya Caritamrita, Adi-lila 7.37).

All glories to all the wonderful devotees who worked tirelessly in an ocean of different ways to put on the festival of Krishna’s Village of Peace at the Polish Woodstock. All glories to the acaryas, beginning with Indradyumna Swami and Srila Prabhupada, who have given us precious faith in the distribution of devotion to Krishna. May we always remain in their service.

I gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Madhai Jivana Nitai Dasa, Prahlada Nrsimha Dasa, and Radha Caran Dasa, who gave me the beautiful illustrations that accompany this article. For more pictures of Woodstock, you may visit Madhai Jivana Nitai Dasa's gallery or Prahlada Nrsimha Dasa's gallery.