Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Woodstock 2007 (Day 1 of 4)

Our First Harinama

We went on harinama around 3:30 p.m. or so. About sixty devotees went, led by Sri Prahlada Prabhu. Mother Urmila mentioned to me that she considers Sri Prahlada’s kirtana so sweet it is worth traveling any distance to hear it.

There are very few people gathered for the Woodstock event compared to the hundreds of thousands who will be here in a couple of days. Some of the young people danced with great delight, swinging around, their hair and hand bags swirling, with smiles and laughs, along the side of our party. There were another two or three always following the devotees at the end, dancing as well. For the first time I wished I had a camera to catch the happy expressions of the dancers. Some were drunk, of course, but others displayed a more natural happiness.

Our flyers had the wrong time for the beginning of prasadam distribution, so I crossed it out with my pen and wrote the correct time in as we walked. I hate distributing flyers with incorrect information on them.

Sri Prahlada sang my favorite tune and I stopped correcting flyers and passing them out to dance along to it.

The most striking thing for me about the flyer distribution was the sweetness with which the people said “Dziekuje” or “Dzieki” (the Polish “Thank you” and “Thanks”). I have been passing flyers out for four weeks and no one has said “thank you” in such a sweet voice as the people today. Perhaps remembrance of previous festivals made them especially grateful. Sometimes people would say “thank you” in English, and I would be so surprised I wouldn’t remember what to say or else I would say “Prosze”, the Polish “You’re welcome”, out of habit.

One pair of girls handed the flyer back saying, “we don’t know Polish.” I said smiling with great delight and laughing, “Well I don’t know Polish either!” I translated the flyer to English for them the best I could. They said they were from Berlin, and they came last year. They especially liked the dramas and were looking forward to attending again.

I remember seeing in a previous year one unique young woman who was very overweight and had pierced facial jewelry.

After the harinama, Prema Harinama Prabhu and I passed out flyers for an hour or so, and Mother Kinkori relieved me so I could take lunch at 6:30 p.m. Prema Harinama Prabhu was so fired up he was still distributing flyers at 8:00 p.m. when I took the bus home, having skipped eating all together. I told him the next bus wasn’t till 10:30 p.m., but he was willing to stay and pass out flyers. How inspiring!

While taking prasadam, I talked to one couple and then to a boy and two girls who were students. They all knew English well enough to understand me. They all liked the food, and I used that fact to encourage them that it was possible to live quite happily on a vegetarian diet. All but one had come in previous years to our festival. I explained to them about the new drama and the amazing dancers from Manipur, India, who can play drums and dance in unison. One girl was getting her degree in philosophy, specializing in the mind. I told her how human life is meant for philosophy and that the Vedic tradition has lots of knowledge about the mind. The state of our mind we have a death is said to determination the body we get in our next life. By practicing yoga, one can control the mind, and choose his future destination, rather than having his mind control him. Our mind can be our best friend, but if uncontrolled, can be our worst enemy. I mentioned our books tell a lot about the mind, and we have a seminar on the art of happiness combining ancient knowledge of the mind and modern psychology, which she might be interested in.

I also mentioned we would have a parade with the big cart present there modeled after a well attended festival in India called Ratha-yatra which has been going on for thousands of years.

It felt nice to talk to people in a friendly way, to inform them about our festival, and to share a little Vedic knowledge with them. I am looking forward to the Woodstock event for so many people become exposed to the wealth of Vedic culture which culminates in pure devotion to the Supreme Person from whom everything emanates, Lord Krishna.

“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).