Friday, October 17, 2008

travel journal#4.18: The Best Ukraine Festival Ever and More!

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 4, No. 18
By Krishna-kripa das
(September 2008, part two)
Ukraine Festival, Poland, England, and Back to the USA
(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, on 10/17/08)

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

The second half of September I went to a very sweet festival
in Ukraine attended by four thousand devotees, and then traveled through Katowice, Wroclaw, London, and Manchester, on the way back to Alachua, Florida, U.S.A., where I attended a memorial service for Sadaputa Prabhu.

Devotional Meditations

Notes from Prabhupada Lecture:

If we see the Ford car, which was produced under the direction of Mr. Ford, and we think we have met Mr. Ford himself, that is foolishness. In the same way, everything is God, but God Himself is not every thing.

If you meet someone who has no father, that is God.

Om namah bhagavate vasudevaya, means "Krishna, I accept your invitation to surrender unto You."

By chanting Hare Krishna you can always think of Krishna and become a first-class yogi. The perfect yogi has all power from within.

Q: Sometimes there is maya in the temple.
A: Show me a place where maya is not.

God is one and the path to God is one, bhakti, as Krishna says in Bg. 18.55. Others persons, who take to other paths, waste their time because it will take them longer.

One who is inquisitive about the Absolute Truth will ultimate attain it depending on how he is situated, but for a devotee who can accept immediately the Bhagavatam version, liberation is attained. Those who can accept the authority save time.

God is not dead, because we are part of God and we are not dead.

Notes on Srila Prabhupada lecture (SB 1.5.15, New Vrndavana, June 15, 1969):

If we do not come to the spiritual platform, just some regulative principles on the material platform will not help us. Neither will going to the temple, while maintaining desires for sense enjoyment, bring the ultimate benefit.

Just as you can get a position in the government and be better situated than an ordinary man, you can become a demigod and be better situated than a human being.

Direct people to Krishna. Do not misguide them by leading them to some demigod.

The impersonalists claim the impersonal feature of God is supreme, and think that temporarily one can worship any demigod to elevate himself to that point. The Vaishnavas accept the Bhagavatam version that the personal form of Krishna is Supreme.

Krishna and maya are side by side. As soon as you are a little slack in Krishna consciousness, maya is there waiting for you.

We give brahminical initiation as recognition that the disciple is pure in habits, learned in the scripture, and engaged in devotional service.

The born brahmanas without brahminical qualities have destroyed the India’s spiritual culture.

I foolishly left my notebook in Poland, but I remember one class at the Ukraine festival by Gopiparanadhana Prabhu on the prayers of Queen Kunti. He was making the point that the devotees of the Lord do not actually suffer although they may appear to. One devotee raised a doubt, "Didn’t Devaki suffer when her six children were killed?" Gopiparanadhana was firm in his reply, "No." He explained that when actors put on a play, so many calamaties may happen in the course of the drama, but no one actually gets hurt. Rather the actors are happy to see that the audience enjoys the play. In the same way, the pure devotees of the Lord do not actually suffer in the course of playing their parts in the Lord’s pastimes. It was such a powerful analogy, it remains fresh in my mind.

Ukraine Festival—Better Than Ever

Many people I talked to said that the Ukraine festival was better than ever this year. Many reasons combined to make it so. There were no festival or prasadam fees. There were an estimated 4,000 devotees, more than ever and 500 more than last year. B.B. Govinda Swami and his harmonium player and saxophonist/backup singer were there to lead bhajanas every night, along with Niranjana Swami, Indradyumna Swami, and Bhaktivaibhava Swami and others. One very special reason for the swell of devotional emotions is that Niranjana Swami, who has been a GBC in Ukraine for many years and is a main inspiration behind the festival, returned after a two-year absence because of health. He fully participated and the devotees were grateful. Moreover, some wonderful presenters made their first appearance this year, Bhanu Swami, and Deena Bandhu and Gopiparadhana Prabhus. The three hours of kirtana every evening was taken very seriously both by the presenters and the attenders, perhaps even more so than usual, and there was much chanting and dancing and great joy. The organizers planned for no seminars, prasadam serve outs, or vendors of devotional items during the scheduled evening kirtana, to encourage participation. Those evening kirtanas are what I miss the most as I recollect the festival, sitting crosslegged on my gray cadar at Pzremysl Glowny, the train station just over the Poland-Ukraine border, grateful to the Polish railroad company, PKP, for the free power. Unfortunately, they leave the train station doors open, and the coldness of late September creeps in. Thinking of the festival, I feel the saddest of separation from the devotees, their devotion, and their kirtana. Of course, there is always next year, and one can always get the DVD with all the lectures and kirtanas, and relive it through hearing.

The devotees in Ukraine are sweet. One young male devotee came up to me the first day of the festival and gave me a bag saying, "Some matajis wanted me to give you this." I thanked him, and later looked in the bag. It was some very thick woolen socks. During the next mangala arati, feeling the unexpected cold of the floor, I realized what a great gift they were. Indradyumna Swami once told me, "The best gift is not the most valuable thing, but that which is most needed."

Devotees are such charitable people, I asked one for change for ten euros, and he gave me six more euros and told me to keep the ten. The next day, I asked another to change ten euros into grivnas, the Ukrainian currency, he gave me a hundred grivnas (over sixteen euros) and also would not accept the ten. When will I become charitable by their good association? Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita 18.5, "Sacrifice, charity, and penances purify even the great souls." What to speak of me.

As I took the bus from the Ukraine’s Lvov airport to Shegyni on the border of Poland, I saw about fifteen cows coming down a rural highway closely followed by a middle-aged woman with a stick. It reminded me of India. There, of course, it would have been a man with the stick. Many houses have vegetable gardens and squash is in season. The crowded condition of the bus also reminded me of India as do the simplicity of the people and their paraphenalia. That the prices are less is also like India, although not that quite that much less. Of course, Ukraine is much greener than India.

On the train from Przemysl to Katowice, I met a Polish young man who has lived in Munich for four years, and I gave him a invitation to the Munich temple I obtained during my visit there. Another, who kindly lent me his phone, told me he had friends who enjoy going to the Hare Krishna camp at the Polish Woodstock. He recalled, "I think they call it Krishna’s Village of Peace." I smiled and replied with its Polish translation, "Pokojova Wioska Kryszny!" And he smiled back. By the grace of Indradyumna Swami and his followers, Krishna is popular in Poland.

Krishna Consciousness in Katowice

Although I visited Bhakta Adam and his very devotional wife three times last year, I always missed their Sunday nama-hatta program. This time I stayed for it, although it was austere as the city failed to begin heating his apartment building in time for the cool autumn season. I recall the seven or eight guests who came were all very attentive in the kirtana and played the instruments and chanted nicely. It is so much more fun when the people respond with a degree of enthusiasm. Adam and his wife will get some mercy from Lord Caitanya for faithfully maintaining that weekly program.

A Couple I Met in Wroclaw

While waiting for the bus to the Wroclaw airport, I passed out Polish Hare Krishna mantra cards to the others at the bus stop. One middle-aged couple enroute to London on the same flight as me I found out was vegetarian—a rarity in Poland. I invited them to our Sunday program there in Wroclaw as it was their home. The man had a African djembe drum, and I told him he could bring it to play at our program. I wrote down the address of our Govinda’s Restaurant on Soho St. so they could come there during their two-week London visit. I also told them about our summer festivals on the Baltic Sea and at the Polish Woodstock and gave them invitations for each, saying that next year’s schedule will be posted on the web site. I hope they take advantage of some of these many opportunities.

Painting by Jagannath Krishna Das,
now Gopi Vallabha Das.

Sadaputa Prabhu Memorial at London’s Matchless Gifts

Amazingly enough, the day after I arrived in London, I saw Jagannatha Krishna Prabhu, now reinitiated as Gopi Vallabha Prabhu, who did some illustrations for Sadaputa Prabhu in San Diego. I had not seen him since that time, and it was comforting to see a fellow associate of Sadaputa Prabhu, soon after hearing he left his body. Gopi Vallabha and Rama Nrsimha Prabhus were planning a memorial service at the King’s Cross store front’s, Matchless Gifts’, Friday evening program, and they invited me to participate. I showed some clips from Sadaputa Prabhu’s videos, including those showing cheating in archeology, the complete improbability of evolution by natural selection, and empirical evidence for the difference between the mind and the brain. Gopi Vallabha told of how Sadaputa Prabhu patiently answered his scientific doubts for two or three hours when he was becoming a devotee, and how that helped him greatly in his Krishna consciousness. We felt happy that Parasurama Prabhu, the president of the center, and several individual devotees said they liked the program very much.

Manchester Ratha-yatra 2008

I went to a great harinama on Saturday in Manchester to advertise the next day’s Ratha-yatra and found the city to be a great venue for doing harinama, with many pedestrians walking in areas intentionally offlimits to cars. I was also inspired to see a group of enthusiastic congregational devotees eager to participate. Indeed, to witness the cooperative spirit among those planning and executing the Ratha-yatra was uplifting. Most amazing was that Manchester, reputed to be the rainiest city in England, had a mostly sunny day in honor of Lord Jagannatha. A busload of devotees came from London for the event.

Maha-Vishnu Swami, seen here with his accordion, played a key role in the life the kirtanas.

I am hopeful the event can happen yearly at a scale at least as large as it was this year. A brief article with a gallery of pictures can be found at:

That site links to a nice video as well:

Memorial Service for Sadaputa Prabhu in Alachua, Florida

It was a little bewildering after sleeping one hour the night before, to take an hour and a half of buses, eleven hours of flights, from London to Orlando, and then two hours of traveling by car to Alachua for a memorial service for Sadaputa Prabhu that evening. I had been gone for fifteen months, and experienced the mixture of the happiness to see old friends and sadness that Sadaputa Prabhu was no longer with us, and the frustration at not being able to reciprocate with all the people I saw there that I knew. From the memorial service, I learned about other aspects of Sadaputa’s life, both as a new devotee and as a family man, that I had not known before, and I found that beneficial. For my part, I played an excerpt of his "Mind and Brain" video where he talks about empirical evidence that the soul is different from the body, near-death experiences and past life memories. I prefaced it by saying that we are so much affected by materialistic ideas we have learned in school, that hearing of this empirical evidence confirming scriptural injunctions about the eternality of the soul is valuable.

Birthday Party

Three devotees at Gainesville ISKCON had birthdays on September 30. We were 22, 32, and 49 years old. The two eldest of us, Saranga Prabhu and I, did presentations for the evening class. He discussed his silas and worshiping Them, and I showed some clips from Sadaputa Prabhu’s videos and shared some of the material I did not have time to present the previous night at the memorial service. Barbara and Brian, Sadaputa Prabhu’s wife and son from his first marriage, appreciated hearing more about him. We all had cake and ice cream. A nice way to end the month.

"Advanced people are eager to understand the Absolute Truth through the
medium of science, and therefore a great scientist should endeavor to prove the
existence of the Lord on a scientific basis" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.22,
purport). All glories to Sadaputa Prabhu, who endeavored his best in that