Saturday, November 24, 2007

Memories of Nirguna Prabhu

I want to share with you some words of glorification of Nirguna Prabhu, a dedicated book distributor and follower of Srila Prabhupada, who passed away on November 3, 2007, in Mayapur, surrounded by devotees chanting the holy name. This account includes a conclusion which is not included in the versions of this on or send to my email list, so if you have read those versions, you might skip down to the conclusion.
I will include notes from our travels together, notes on his lectures, a nice story told by Niranjana Swami about him, and perhaps most importantly, notes from his seminar on book distribution at the 2005 Odessa festival.

Nirguna Prabhu on the Polish Festival Tour

I got to know Nirguna Prabhu when he inquired from me about the Polish festival tour when were attending the Festival of Inspiration in New Vrindavana in May 2005. Seeing thousands of people coming in touch with the culture of Krishna consciousness each day on the Polish festival tour makes me so happy I love to participate in them. Many people ask me for details about the festival, but few actually show up, so I was pleasantly surprised to see Nirguna Prabhu arrive for the Polish Woodstock festival in July of 2005. On the Polish festival tour Nirguna Prabhu would go on harinama, answer questions, and teach yoga. I was fortunate to serve Nirguna Prabhu by holding an umbrella over his head at harinama on one rainy day at Polish Woodstock festival.

Nirguna once mentioned that when he teaches yoga, he has the students chant the maha-mantra one word at a time. Indradyumna Swami asked, “Do they do it?”
Nirguna said, “Yes, they like it very much.”

Notes from a class given by Nirguna Prabhu on the Polish tour, August 10, 2005:
He glorified Indradyumna Swami for his determination. “His only business is to use each moment to spread the glories of the holy name.” Regarding the spread of Krishna consciousness in Poland, Indradyumna Swami says he is simply a witness to all the things going on. “He appreciated the devotees’ service. He bought ice cream for all the setup devotees, and when he ran out he drove to town to buy some more.” Nirguna expressed appreciation for the cooperation of the devotees on the tour. He recalled Prabhupada’s statement that the devotees could please him by their cooperation to serve his mission. If we have an appreciation of everyone’s service, no matter how different it is from our own, that will help us cooperate together. Our attachments in the world keep us so busy we have no time to hear and chant about Krishna. One may be younger or have come to Krishna consciousness more recently, but they may be lifetimes ahead of us. One may do so much service, but the real measure of our Krishna consciousness is now we treat others. A devotee is a kind friend to everyone.

Traveling with Nirguna Prabhu to New Vraja Dhama and the Odessa Festival

After the Polish festival tour Nirguna Prabhu arrived in Warsaw around 6:00 p.m. or so after 30 hours of traveling from our basis near the Baltic coast. Apparently the tires blew out on the cart they were pulling which carried the generator, and they had to wait till morning for a mechanic. Nirguna slept under the van to have the luxury of spreading out and to avoid the dew. He was still determined to take the 6:00 a.m. train to Budapest for the New Vraja Dhama festival for Janmastami which Indradyumna Swami ordered him to attend. I decided to fulfill Nirguna Prabhu’s desire and go with him. It meant missing opportunities to catch up on emails and entering my journal into the computer. It also meant missing the Poland 30th year of Krishna consciousness festival and being with my friends from the tour. I played the role of Nirguna’s travel agent, and tried to get us to Budapest the cheapest way possible by paying for a ticket in each country separately and avoiding the costly international rail tickets. We saved $36 dollars each going from Warsaw to Budapest, and later $88 each going from Budapest to Kiev. Nirguna Prabhu used his sankirtana expertise with the passengers on the train to trade my dollars for euros as conductors will not take dollars and but will take euros, however reluctantly.
We got into Fonyod, near the New Vraja farm, at 10 p.m., long after the buses had stopped running, so we had to take a taxi for $33 to New Vraja (Nirguna talked him down from $40). Everyone was asleep at the farm, so we slept under someone’s porch where we were attacked by mosquitoes the whole night. Another night we stayed in a tent, myself near the center, to avoid the cold and mosquitos, and Nirguna Prabhu toward the edge. Unfortunately for him, it rained at night and his stuff got wet. I noticed he took the setback better than I would have.
On Janmastami during the Radha Krishna boat festival, Nirguna Prabhu spoke briefly about the Lord and His boat pastimes. At the feast, Nirguna Prabhu kindly gave me some of the sweets they gave the sannyasis, but there were more than I could eat so we gave them to the servers, who gratefully accepted them.
On Vyasa Puja, Nirguna Prabhu read from the Brahma-vivarta Purana about the golden age predicted by Lord Krishna and talked about Srila Prabhupada’s important role in fulfilling that prophecy.
On the train to the Hungary border, a young woman stayed in our compartment for a couple hours. She spoke English pretty well. She had been to a public program the devotees had done recently. Nirguna gave her an Isopanisad he had for distribution, and showed her pictures of the festival on his digital camera.
At the border of Ukraine we met a lady who could speak some English and helped us to get across the border and to purchase our tickets for Kiev. Nirguna gave her some cake prasadam which she gratefully accepted. I think due to Nirguna Prabhu’s piety the female train conductor gave us a two-person compartment, although we only had paid for a four-person one, and thus we could do our devotional practices in peace.
We chanted all the morning prayers and evening prayers as well, and we got caught up in our journals, in our reading, and in our resting. In that respect, train travel can be ideal. We had a sink in our compartment, which was nice for washing hands after eating.
We saw lots of green vegetation, a few cows and goats, and lots of small gardens with corn, squash, and other things, many with people working in them, as we went by at an average of 35 mph, slow for a train.
Devotees from Kiev met us at the very car of the train we got off at—talk about expert! They drove us 25 minutes to the temple where they offered us flower gardens, showed us to our rooms, and provided us some dinner, although we were not hungry since the Budapest devotees had given us so much prasadam for our trip.
In Kiev, Nirguna Prabhu gave class on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.1. He mentioned that the last verse of Vedanta Sutra stresses liberation through sound, and the last verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam, its natural commentary, stresses the congregational chanting of the holy name, a parallel I was unaware of before.

Nirguna Prabhu—Book Distribution Seminar Notes

Niranjana Swami glorified the devotees who had come for the first time to Odessa to do seminars, among them, Nirguna Prabhu. Niranjana Swami told a nice story illustrating Nirguna Prabhu’s dedication to distributing Krishna consciousness. Once Nirguna was hit by a car while distributing books in North Carolina, and when Niranjana Swami and Madhuha Prabhu heard about it, they went to visit him in the hospital. He was in surgery when they arrived so they had to wait a couple hours. When they were finally allowed in, Niranjana Swami put his face above Nirguna’s head since his body was completely wrapped up like a mummy because of extensive injuries, and he couldn’t move. When Nirguna saw him, he immediately exclaimed, “Niranjana Swami, please accept my obeisances! Tell me, how is the preaching in the CIS?” During their brief conversation, Nirguna was reluctant to talk about the accident. He was more interested in hearing how Krishna consciousness was being accepted in the former USSR. When Niranjana Swami left, Nirguna said, “Could you just bless me I might always be engaged in distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books?” Niranjana Swami was amazed how little Nirguna was concerned about his body, even when in such a serious condition.
Nirguna Prabhu shared knowledge and techniques about book distribution and also went out distributing as well. I only attended two of his several sessions, but he shared very valuable realized knowledge that I would like to pass on to you for your inspiration since Srila Prabhupada valued book distribution so much. Here are some of the things Nirguna Prabhu said:
We must read Srila Prabhupada’s books to be inspired. We must buy some books. Keep the book room neat. No damaged books. Books of each type together. Keep inventory. Ukraine, because it has many devotees, can do a lot to spread Krishna consciousness.
One devotee who was doing carpentry in the temple noticed how ecstatic the sankirtana devotees were from selling books, and he decided to go out. Very soon he sold many books and gave up the carpentry to do fulltime book distribution.
Keep at least one of each of Srila Prabhupada’s books on hand, and the inexpensive and mass produced ones, you should have a stock of. Every book that is distributed is read by an average of five people. Try different venues for distributing books and see which works for you. Every home can have a book display. We must want to distribute Krishna consciousness more than everything. We must try to avoid distractions from devotional service. The more our mind is fixed on Krishna, the more effective we will be. Set time aside to distribute books.
Greet somebody in a very friendly way and stop them. Ask them a question. Put a book in their hand, and say we are showing these to everyone today. Show them some of the pictures in the books and say a few words about them. Say we like everyone to have one because they make people’s lives better. We just ask a donation. Distribute damaged books to poorer people, some pious person who will read it. Sometimes bad weather is good because the people will buy the books because they appreciate the devotee’s determination.
Nirguna asked devotees to tell stories of book distribution.
One young Russian lady told how she brought some books home with her when she went home to visit her grandmother one day’s train ride from Moscow. When she went to the nearby town to make a phone call, she dressed in a sari because it was so hot outside. A guy who was waiting for the bar to open started talking with her about a cure for his hangover. She decided to go home after making the call because she felt that this person was not good to associate with, but when she went he followed her. He said that he read that people dressed the way she was had a cure for hangover, and he asked if she had some prayer he could say. When she got home, she wrote down the Hare Krishna maha-mantra on a piece of paper for him and gave him some yogurt prasadam. He was so grateful that he gave her 50 rubles ($1.75) and told her to buy some chocolate. She decided that was enough to cover the cost of a book, so she gave him a book. He said, “I want you to get some chocolate!” And he gave her 50 more rubles, and so she gave him another book. He was so grateful, he said, “Thank you. Thank you.” And walked down two stairs to go and said again, “Thank you. Thank you.” And he waved his hands in the air like the devotees do during kirtana.
One older lady saw an ad for Srila Prabhupada’s books in a Russian magazine. Bhagavad-gita was in the center of a group of books, and the caption read, “These books can change your life.” She told her husband that she wanted to order them, and he permitted it, so they did. In time, they forgot about it. A few months later, an unexpected package showed up. She was going to open it after lunch, but when she went into the kitchen to cook, it was as if a voice within her suggested that she open it then. It was the book she had ordered. When she saw the picture on the cover, she wondered what this nice boy is doing involved in this war. When she started reading it, she found it was about a battle, but she wasn’t interested in warfare.
Then she skipped through the first chapter and came to the second. Then she found it so fascinating that she read it day and night, whenever she got a chance and finished it in twenty days. Her husband was traveling and happened to meet the devotees and was interested in the books but did not buy any because he was poor. He was glad to find that his wife had the Bhagavad-gita when he returned home.

1. All the books are based on Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
2. Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura wanted to preach all over the world.
3. Book distribution is our primary service.
4. If they get a book, they have Srila Prabhupada’s association 365 days a year.

For success in Srila Prabhupada’s book distribution:
1. read the books
2. do little nonsense
3. make your abode like a temple
4. associate with devotees
5. have books for distribution on hand
6. have a book display
7. bring books with you wherever you go.

Notes from a class given by Nirguna Prabhu on September 13, 2005, in Kiev, Ukraine:
By surrendering to Krishna we can transcend material nature, because He is in control of material nature.

Nirguna gave a book distribution seminar in which he told of novel ways people had come in touch with Srila Prabhupada’s books. One person saw a shaft of sunlight shine through a crack in some rocks onto a picnic table in the forest and illuminate a Srimad-Bhagavatam that happened to lay there, so he picked up the book. As a result, he developed an interest in Srila Prabhupada’s books. Another person found a Bhagavad-gita As It Is in a cave in an island off the coast of Crete where he was vacationing, and he read it and became a devotee. Another heard a clanging noise when he drove over something with his car. When he investigated, he found it was a Bhagavad-gita, and he read it and became a devotee. Still another was going to commit suicide by jumping off of a cliff, but he met a devotee who showed him a Back to Godhead magazine, and so he changed his mind, read the magazine, and then became a devotee.


I hope this account gives you some insight into the transcendental qualities of Nirguna Prabhu, a faithful servant of Srila Prabhupada. For me I see his submission to Indradyumna Swami in following Maharaja’s advice to go to New Vraja’s Janmastami festival. I see his humility and practicality in inducing the train passengers to trade their euros for my dollars. I see his humility also in not wanting to disturb the New Vraja residents by arriving at 11:00 p.m. to the extent of being willing to sleep under someone’s mosquito-infested porch. I see his tolerance manifest when his paraphernalia got wet when it rained at night. I see his gratitude and compassion in sharing prasadam with those who helped us on our journey. I see his preaching spirit in distributing the Sri Isopanisad to the girl on the train and showing her pictures of the New Vraja festival. His preaching spirit is actually so strong, inspiring him to come to the Polish festival tour for two years and to teach the seminar on book distribution at the Odessa, Ukraine, festival. Niranjana Swami’s account shows how Nirguna valued spreading Krishna consciousness far more than worrying about his personal comfort. I could see from traveling with Nirguna Prabhu that he is a remarkable, spiritually advanced personality.
My only prayer is that Nirguna Prabhu, by his service and qualities, may attract the mercy of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is famous as Krishna-prema pradaya, the giver of Krishna prema and that Nirguna Prabhu might receive from Him that ultimate gift. Please join me in this prayer.
I also pray to him that he may forgive me for my incompetence in his service.

Nirguna Prabhu ki, jaya!
Srila Prabhupada ki, jaya!