Tuesday, July 15, 2008

travel journal#4-13: Polish Festival Tour & Ukraine Trip

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 4, No. 13

By Krishna-kripa das

(July 2008, part one)

Polish Festival Tour and Ukraine Trip

(Sent from near Kolobrzeg, Poland on 7/15/08)

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

I am in a school with 200 devotees, half an hour from Poland's Baltic Sea coast. We do three hours of harinama and have a four and a half hour festival six days a week at different towns along the coast. I took two days off to go to Ukraine on a special mission at the beginning of July.

Devotional Notes

Notes from Indradyuma Swami's classes:

Regret about one's past sinful activity is absolutely necessary for the advancing devotee. We must give up the mentality of enjoying sense gratification. Remorsefulness is practically a guarantee that one will not return to such activities again. In this sense, we can agree with the Christian adage, "Repent and be saved."

Sometimes you have to stop and consider the great jewels that our guru and Gauranga have given us.

Once Srila Prabhupada told one inquirer that Hare Krishna means "O my friend! O my friend!"

We gain faith in the holy name not only by witnessing the pure devotee chant but also by seeing the effect of the holy name on materialistic people.

From Indradyumna Swami's introductory lectures at the Polish festivals:

God has given some gift to each of His children. The birds can fly, the fish can swim, but God has given human beings intelligence to understand our deeper spiritual nature.

One Franciscan monk friend of Indradyumna Swami told him, "If there is not life on other planets, then God wasted a lot of space."

As the sun is tiny compared to the universe, but as it lights up the universe with light, the tiny soul illuminates the soul with consciousness. As the universe would be lifeless without the sun, the body is lifeless without the soul.

We are falsely proud of our caterpillar-like existence, ignoring the beautiful butterfly of our higher spiritual nature within.

If we say "I want to tell you" to emphasize this we may point to our heart when we say "I" and point to the others' heart when we say "you". This is because intuitively we understand the soul is in the heart.

You can speak for hours about your body, but how long can you speak about your soul?

The children may think the puppets on the stage move by themselves but the adults know there is a person or a hand inside, moving them. Similarly there is a living soul moving the body.

You make concrete plans about where you will go on vacation. You do not think, "I think we will go north this summer." In the same way, you should make plans about where you will go after death.

Bhagavad-gita is like an unabridged spiritual dictionary. It can answer any question you have about spiritual life.

As man can design a Porsche, God can design a body.

In difficulty people take shelter of intoxication and end up destroying their bodies. Actually difficulty should be used to take shelter of God.

Words from the Indian ambassador to Poland at our Kolobrzeg festival:

Agriculture teaches how to grow crops. Human culture teaches how to grow humans. We presently think school is all that is necessary to grow humans. In school we just learn some skills. Everything else is left to the Internet. Culture today means internet, the cell phone, the best car, etc. But is all this required for good martial and sibling relationships or relationships among humans in general. We need inner-net not internet. The university does not know this inner-net, but Indian culture does. The Hare Krishnas are in contact with both the inner-net and the Internet and that is a powerful combination. Bhagavad-gita 2.63 gives practical instruction on living our daily life, how to control anger. Indian culture teaches how to live practically, raise responsible children, etc.

From an Indryadyumna Swami ista-gosthis:

The Christians say, "A family that prays together stays together." Bhakti Caitanya Swami has added, "A family that dances together advances together."

You cannot chant someone's name every day unless you have some love for them.

One lady to another: "What is this?"
Other lady: "This is the festival."
First lady: "There are so many festivals."
Second lady: "No! This is THE festival!"

One way of defining sincerity is to act at every moment as if your guru is personally present.

Indradyumna Swami said that every successful person has a mission statement or some words of advice to live by. His is that given by Lord Caitanya to Raghunatha Dasa Goswami:

"Do not talk like people in general or hear what they say. You should not eat very palatable food, nor should you dress very nicely. Do not expect honor, but offer all respect to others. Always chant the holy name of Lord Krishna, and within your mind render service to Radha and Krishna in Vrindavana." [Sri Caitanya Caritamrita Antya 6.236-237]

Prabhupada Story

Once Srila Prabhupada asked Guru Kripa Prabhu, who had learned many verses for preaching in India, which verse was most important. Guru Kripa recited "In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way." Srila Prabhupada replied, "No, only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed."

Festival Experiences

I went to distribute the extra invitations downtown, as we distributed them during the beach harinama only. Some people took, some said they already had them, and others refused. One middled-age man made a nasty gesture as if to say "Get out of here." I wondered, "Should I continue? Perhaps I am doing more harm than good." I decided to do an experiment by distributing to ten people and reporting the results to Indradyumna Swami and ask if he thought I was getting a good enough reception to continue. I also decided to make a special point to be respectful and gentle in my presentation. The next ten people all took the invitations. That never happens! Practically never. I took it that Krishna gave me my answer as to if I should continue, and I went to the park downtown and distributed the rest of the invitations to people most of whom were receptive.

Once while distributing invitations, I met a middle-aged man who was interested in Buddhist meditation, but did not accept the Buddhist philosophy of reincarnation. He wanted to talk to me about philosophy, probably because he finds so few people into philosophy. Because of our training that you have to accept the authority completely in spiritual life, I could not relate to his partial acceptance of Buddhism, yet he was unwilling to change his view. I told about Ian Stevenson's empirical evidence supportive of reincarnation, but he still had no faith in the idea.

As it was our last festival in Ustronie Morksie for July, I tried to pass out all the remaining invitations. While I walked throughout the town, I was heartened to see a girl carrying the Polish version of Science of Self-Realization. I saw a couple other girls wearing saris over their other clothes and several happily decorated with gopi dots. One older woman explained she had been to the festival, and used the universal word "super" to describe it. I really enjoy passing out the invitations as I know how people really benefit from the festival, spiritually and materially, in every way.

In Kolobrzeg two girls came to our festival all three days and danced every day. The first day they won saris, and the last I noticed they heard Maharaja's lecture. Apparently they are residence of Kolobrzeg and regularly correspond with Jayatam, who along with Nandini, organizes the festivals.

The father of one girl who won a sari made the point of proudly identifying himself to Maharaja as a Catholic. The next night the daughter came wearing her new sari and danced in the kirtana. To Maharaja's surprise, the father, with his eyes closed in a meditative mood, chanted the Hare Krishna mantra for the entire last half of the kirtana.

Krishna Protects

I was given a special mission by Indradyumna Swami—to take Gaur Mohan, Gopiparanadhana Prabhu's ten-year-old son, back to his grandmother in Lvov, Ukraine. The boy's parents did not have a problem with him traveling alone, but Indradyumna Swami felt it would be more responsible to send an adult with him, and somehow or other he chose me. Last autumn, I crossed the Poland/Ukraine border three times near Lvov, and I wonder if that was why. During the course of the journey, I felt a sense that Krishna was protecting us several times.

During three-quarters of the sixteen hour train trip, we had a whole compartment which holds eight people all to ourselves, so we could sing our morning prayers and do our chanting of japa on beads together.

In the Wroclaw train station, one drunk young man was disturbing me while I was trying do to my computer work. He was one of the low life people who think clergymen they encounter should contribute funds to their drinking habit, but I was not inclined. Gaur Mohan was not right there but absorbed in the Internet twenty feet away. I did not know enough Polish to talk with the guy and tried my best to ignore him, because I wanted focus on my computer work, but he was determined to get my attention. Finally the cops came and dragged him off to my great relief.

Later we were going toward the Polish border at Przemysl, and the conductor indicated something about changing trains, which we had not been told we had to do. Neither the conductor nor any of the people in the compartment knew English. Finally I drew a map to show my understanding of what they were trying to tell me. And they confirmed it—we had to change trains at the next stop, or we would miss our destination.

After dropping Gaur Mohan with his grandma in Lvov, I had just two and a half hours to make it back to Przemysl to make my 10:03 p.m. train back toward the Baltic coast. If I missed it, I would have to wait at an all night bar to 4:30 a.m. for the next train and miss another festival. I could only make it if there was no delay in getting to Shegyni on the Ukraine border by bus, no delay in going through the Ukrainian passport control, no delay in going through the Polish passport control, and if there was a bus already to go from Medyka on the Polish side to the Pzyemysl train station. I was listening to a Prabhupada lecture while leaving Lvov, and he was saying that we just have to depend on Krishna, because He is ultimately in control. I reflected about the insignificant chance of being successful by material calculation and that success would be only by Krishna's mercy. Still I felt the anxiety plaguing my mind, although I played lecture tapes the entire way. The time was always tight, but I passed the potential obstacles one by one. I did not know where to get off the last bus for the train station and if some kind souls didn't tell me, I would have missed the train. As it was, I boarded the train two minutes before its departure, with great relief and gratitude that Krishna made it easy. Last time, last year, it took over an hour to go over the Ukraine-Poland border, not just twenty-five minutes, and I missed my train.

In the purport at the next day's morning class, we read "According to Vedic civilization, everyone has the responsibility for taking care of brahmanas, old men, women, children and cows." [SB 6.2.28 purport] I reflected how Indradyumna Swami took this to heart and wanted to make sure the young boy had someone to travel with, and I because of trying to be cooperative, I got to assist him in this. When my mother and I traveled with Maharaja briefly in India, I saw then too that Indradyumna Swami was attentive to see that I took care of her properly. It is inspiring to see people who care to protect others, and it reminds us of our dharma.

When I offered obeisances to Srila Prabhupada in the morning upon returning from Ukraine, I occurred to me that Prabhupada had wanted that someone travel with the boy, and so he had inspired Maharaja to make the arrangement. Srila Prabhupada ki, jaya!