Friday, June 06, 2008

travel journal#4.10: Simhacalam / Japa Retreat / Paris Metroyoga & Eiffel Harinama

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 4, No. 10

By Krishna-kripa das

(May 2008, part two)

Simhacalam / Japa Retreat / Paris Metroyoga & Eiffel Harinama

(Sent from Prague, Czech Republic on 6/6/08)

Harinama at the Eiffel Tower

About twenty devotees from Paris have a lively two-hour harinama at the foot of the famed Eiffel Tower on Saturday nights.

One young lady and her fiancée watched us for a few minutes. The lady was captivated by the kirtana. Janananda Swami encouraged the couple to dance with us, which they did for ten minutes or so. The lady was smiling with great happiness the whole time. When they left, waving good-bye, I lamented I had no invitations to give them. Fortunately, they came back, and I gave the lady my final business card with the mantra and web site on it. She said she was from Uruguay in South America but had seen the Hare Krishnas in Thailand. I invited her to look up our temples in Uruguay on when she returns home.

One boy was selling miniature Eiffel Towers which dangled from a ring, and he humorously shook the ring like a tambourine in perfect time with the karatala beat. One young black man also selling Eiffel souvenirs moved his whole body in time with the music.

The most humorous thing was how one man who was painted silver and held poses for money interacted with the harinama party, imitating their characteristic dance pose. This induced bystanders to join in as you can see in the picture. Thus more people participated in exchanging with the devotees than otherwise would. It was very funny. Between Janananda Swami and the silver man in the pictures, is Nitai Gaurasundara Prabhu, who deserves special mention for his years of selfless service as Paris temple president.

If you are ever in Paris don't miss the Eiffel Tower harinama. It is a lot of fun, as you can see. To see more pictures, click on this link:

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

After repairing the car in Cologne, we drove to Munich, spending the night in our temple there; and then arrived at Simhacalam for Europe's best Nrsimhadeva's Appearance Festival. My ride to Paris having not materialized; I returned with the Radhadesh devotees hoping to catch a bus from Brussels, but I was happily detained by a very beneficial four-day japa retreat with Sacinandana Swami, like that I had been desiring to do for years, and which started the day after we arrived. The last week in May I spent in Paris, doing harinama and prasadam distribution, mostly on the subways, which the devotees here call "Metroyoga," and finally culminating in a walking harinama at the Eiffel Tower.

Devotional Notes

Notes from Lecture by Sacinandana Swami on Nrsimha Caturdasi at Simhacalam:

"If you have faith in the Lord's protection, you will be a devotee, if not you will be a materialist."

Q: Should we tolerate a painful situation considering that it is sent by Krishna or should we try to change the situation?
A: (by Sacinandana Swami) If we can see that it is an attack of maya, we should resist. But if it is coming from Krishna for our purification we should accept it.

From Sacinandana Swami's japa retreat in Radhadesh, May 20-24:

"You will not come to the next level if you keep doing what you are doing."

"Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati said that it takes three lives to perfect our chanting: one offensive, one clearing, and one pure." [Janananda Swami comments that Srila Prabhupada is more merciful because he said we can do it in one life.]

"If one is forced, resistance builds up. If there is taste, it is easy, and you do not want to stop."

"Advanced devotees have three desires: to reach Krishna, to serve Krishna; and to enter into a relationship with Krishna."

"The last gate to see Radha and Krishna opens from the inside [we may do many things to attain Krishna's mercy, but in the ultimate issue, Krishna reveals Himself.]"

"When you do not complete your sixteen rounds, the holy name, who is a person, slips into the background, thinking you no longer care for Him."

"To increase my appreciation of the holy name, which I came to understand is the most important part of our practice, for one month a year, I try to chant as many rounds a day as possible."

Tulasi is so important. Even Radharani offers Krishna tulasi leaves in hopes of pleasing Him and attaining His association.

"So as Nrsimhadeva touched the head of Prahlada Maharaja, immediately you can have that same facility. . . . Nama rupe kali kale krishna avatara. Krishna is present by his name, Krishna. . . . Always think like that, that as soon as you are chanting Hare Krishna, you must know that you are touching Krishna with your tongue. Then you get the same benefit as Prahlada Maharaja." --lecture by Srila Prabhupada on SB 7.9.6 in Mayapur on February 26, 1977.

"Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati advised that while chanting japa we can meditate that our beads are the toes of Lord Gauranga."

"The mind is like a roommate who is engaged in constant chatter and thus distracts us from our duties. It is filled with neurosis and lamentation. If we had such a roommate, we would be so eager to get rid of him we may even pay the additional rent for a new place, but we are so foolish that we continue to accept the mind's association."

"Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, it's very difficult to control my mind when I chant. It wanders.
Prabhupada: So what is the controlling of mind? You have to chant and hear, that's all. You have to chant with your tongue, and the sound you hear, that's all. What is the question of mind?" –Morning Walk, February 3; 1975, in Hawaii
[During the japa workshop both myself and a friend got more realization of these practical words of Srila Prabhupada than ever before.]

"If we address Krishna [by chanting] but then ignore Him when He turns to us; what will He think?"

"Therefore, when we chant Hare Krishna, we are praying, 'O Lord, O energy of the Lord, please accept me.' We have no other prayer than 'Please accept me.'" –Path of Perfection, Chapter 10

"Where a devotee takes shelter, especially in trying times, reveals the strength of his devotional service."

"We must be aware that on our own strength we cannot attain Krishna.

"Mauna does not mean just not to talk but silence the mind's chatter."

From Janananda Swami's SB 3.5.6 class in Paris:

"You cannot wake someone up if you are sleeping [we have to be enlightened ourselves if we hope to enlighten others]."

"Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati said that anything that can be measured is maya (illusion or relative truth) for the Absolute Truth cannot be measured."

Nrsimhadeva's Appearance Festival at Simhacalam

I went to the festival at Simhachalam, a rural temple near the southeastern German city of Passau, a couple of hours northeast of Munich, for Lord Nrsimha's Appearance Day, and I was truly impressed. On the appearance day of the Lord, we desire to concentrate fully on Him, and I cannot think of a better place than Simhachalam, where Lord Nrsimha is so obviously in the center—the only large deity on the altar, along with Prahlada seated on His lap. His facial expression is fierce, but seeing Prahlada on his lap, we recall his affection for His servant, as a lioness is kind to her cubs.

The emphasis on kirtana (chanting) was very inspiring. I was amazed that the kirtana the day before the Lord's appearance went till nearly 11:00 p.m., and even great leaders like Sacinandana Swami stayed till the end. More impressive than this was the kirtana performed after the Nrsimha feast was served out at 8:30 p.m. At 9:30 p.m. as many as one hundred devotees were chanting together in the temple for the pleasure of the Lord, and when I left at 11:00 p.m., so I could make it till mangala-arati, there were still sixty or seventy devotees chanting together.

Devotees from all over Germany, and some from nearby Czech, Austria, and Poland gathered for the festival, with some attending from Radhadesh, Amsterdam, and London. Devotees who have often encouraged me to visit Simhacalam were there to add to the sweetness. Kadamba Kanana Swami encouraged me to participicate in the bathing ceremony of the Deity which was another nice feature.

Nrsimhadeva's appearance was a special day for me as I was initiated on that day, twenty-five years ago, and I felt really blessed to observe the festival so nicely there at Simhacalam. If you are ever in Europe at the time, take the opportunity to go.


Chandrashekhara Acharya Prabhu and Gadadhara Priya Prabhu have developed an innovative harinama program palatable for the commuters on the Paris metro. They go out weekdays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Chandra is a natural musican and master of ceremonies, and he speaks a few words of introduction after he and three devotees enter the metro car chanting, playing harmonium, drum, karatalas, and carrying sweets. "Now is the time for a daily session of what we call 'Metroyoga.' Yes, metroyoga, ladies and gentlemen—we have to adapt ourselves to urbanization. But do not worry; it is totally authentic according to the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition of India, it is free . . ." After chanting for one stop, he tells about the associated culinary tradition and one devotee offers a Dwaraka burfi, using tongs, to each passenger beginning with the more obviously favorable, along with a mantra card with the "" web page on the front. Many accept, sometimes as many as six of the eight in each division of seating. At the third stop, Candra mentions the purifying effects of the mantra, even twenty feet underground ("Thank God for us!"), and at the fourth he concludes, "Ladies and gentlemen, they do this free of charge, with devotion, to bring a little bit of joy to Paris. Please, give a round of applause to the metroyoga team! Thank you for your tolerance. See you next time." Then the devotees leave, continuing to chant, and waiting on the platform till the metro begins moving, when they wave to their audience, many who smile and wave as well.

What do the people think? One Muslim girl wrote an email that very evening: "I entered inside the metro . . . in the middle of the chanting that you were singing. I didn`t understand much, but I felt various emotions; it touched me immensely to see your smiles, your friendliness and kindness, which could be seen from the traits of your faces. As the doors of the train were closing, one of you gave me a CD, which I rushed to listen to upon returning home. I found these chants to be absolute amazing. . . . A big, big 'thank you' to you all for those few minutes of joy."

One girl who received the sweet and mantra card from us followed us when we moved from one subway car to another as we do on the high speed train home at the end of the evening. She visibly lamented when her stop came, and she had to leave us. The sweet mantras brought another girl to tears.

One girl waiting for the metro smiled as we walked by. I gave her our card; when she took it I offered her a sweet. When we chanted; I noticed she was chanting along, so I told her that we had some CDs of the music, and that if she gave a donation, I would give her one. She dug through her pockets as she boarded the metro with us, and then her bag, and finally gave us three euros, and we gave her the CD.

In five days, I only saw one guy who was a little offended, some were just absorbed in their books or listening to a portable music device, but many liked the chanting and the entertaining presentation, and no doubt have a good feeling about the Hare Krishnas and their chant.

kalim sabhājayanty āryā
guna jñāh sāra-bhāginah
yatra sankīrtanenaiva
sarva-svārtho 'bhilabhyate

Those who are actually advanced in knowledge are able to appreciate the essential value of this age of Kali. Such enlightened persons worship Kali-yuga because in this fallen age all perfection of life can easily be achieved by the performance of sankīrtana [the congregational chanting of the holy name] (SB 11.5.36).