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.
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.
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
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.
Hare Krishna Kirtana in our Main Tent
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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).