Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 4, No. 21
By Krishna-kripa das
(November 2008, part one)
Gainesville, Alachua, Orlando
(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, U.S.A. on 11/21/08)
Where I Am and What I Am Doing
I started off the month by going to Srila Prabhupada Disappearance Day observances in Gainesville and Alachua, and then Hridayananda Dasa Goswami’s Vyasa Puja in Gainesville. I gave the Sunday feast lecture in Alachua and tried to glorify Srila Prabhupada for his gift of the process of Krishna consciousness—especially the Hare Krishna mantra and Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, and talked about how to increase our faith in and taste for hearing about Krishna. One bhakta told me that he attended my evening classes in Alachua years ago. He was attached to Mayavadi impersonal ideas at the time, and said I helped him get past that. I felt successful because delivering people from Mayavadi impersonalism is an important part of Srila Prabhupada’s mission. The remainder of the month I have been in Orlando in Trivikrama Swami’s temple, where I chant at the campus of University of Central Florida three hours a day.
Bhakta Andres recalls an analogy that Adi Karta Prabhu uses to explain Krishna’s partiality. We are all Krishna’s children but most of us are sitting with our backs to Him, therefore, the few people who sit with their faces turned toward Krishna are the ones that Krishna reciprocates with.
Prayer by Bhaktin Kelly for renunciation, "Dear Lord, I think I am ready to let this go. Please help me."
Notes from Trivikrama Swami’s classes at his ISKCON temple in Orlando:
"If we just do what Srila Prabhupada wants, we will not be the loser, but rather we will be situated in the safest position."
"The coal is nothing by the sun’s energy yet it is separate from the sun and appears quite different, black and cold. In the same way, this material nature is the Lord’s own energy, but it is separated from Him and appears quite different."
"Scientists claim that life or conscious comes from matter, but they have never demonstrated that. Therefore it is not unreasonable to consider the Vedic conception of the soul."
People were afraid of Prabhupada. Even his godbrothers were afraid. And some of his disciples were afraid. They could see by Prabhupada’s example that surrender is required, but they were hesitant to surrender. People were exposed in his association.
When Trivikrama Swami met the devotees, he was attracted, but he had doubts. After he graduated from college, he decided, "for one year, I am going to live as devotee, and if I do not get some higher realization, I will go to California and get a job and raise a family like I was planning." He never left the devotees.
In Vrindavana in 1974 when Srila Prabhupada was not feeling well, Trivikrama Swami and Srutakirti Prabhu came to visit him after the evening kirtana. Srila Prabhupada said, "This kirtana is our life. Without a taste for kirtana, there is simply sex life."
Notes from Danavira Goswami’s classes in Orlando:
The material nature is so well designed it appears to be automatic. A child may foolishly think a door in a supermarket opens by magic but actually there is a complicated mechanism behind it that was designed by a person. The materialists similiarly think material nature is automatically working without a cause.
Trying to make the material world a nice place is like spraying perfume in a toilet.
You may have your opinion, and I may have my opinion, but if there is a God then God’s opinion is superior.
Srila Prabhupada commenting on Bharata Maharaja’s attainment of a deer’s body for one life due neglecting his devotional service, which had matured to the stage of bhava, writes " It is proved herein that due to the grace of the Supreme Lord, a devotee is never vanquished. Due to his willful neglect of devotional service, a devotee may be punished for a short time, but he again revives his devotional service and returns home back to Godhead" (SB 5.8.27, purport).
Srila Prabhupada’s Disappearance Day Offerings
(from notes taken in Gainesville and Alachua)
"‘Love starts with obediance’, said Srila Prabhupada in Sri Isopanisad."
"Our tests will now begin," Mother Jitamitra thought, on hearing of Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance. "Previously Srila Prabhupada’s words solved all problems, but now it would be different. I am glad I did not stray away from ISKCON in those turbulant years immediately after he left."
Kalakantha Prabhu reminded us of this great purport, "When the mortal body of the spiritual master expires, his disciples should cry exactly as the queen cries when the king leaves his body. However, the disciple and spiritual master are never separated because the spiritual master always keeps company with the disciple as long as the disciple follows strictly the instructions of the spiritual master. This is called the association of vani (words). Physical presence is called vapuh. As long as the spiritual master is physically present, the disciple should serve the physical body of the spiritual master, and when the spiritual master is no longer physically existing, the disciple should serve the instructions of the spiritual master" (SB 4.28.47, purport). Kalakantha also praised Prabhupada’s wisdom in having a GBC rather than a single acarya, "When there is a committee you cannot change anything very fast."
Bhakta Hanan from Israel, who is has been main manager of the Krishna lunch program for many years, recalls Prabhupada’s letter to the Gainesville devotees: "So do something wonderful there in Gainesville. Wonderful means simply you chant loudly and distribute prasadam. That is not very difficult. It is very easy. Simply if you do it enthusiastically and sincerely, then success will be there." He commented, "It is Srila Prabhupada’s kindness that Krishna lunch is going on so nicely." The Krishna lunch is so famous that someone dressed as a Krishna lunch server for Halloween! That day also Hridayananda Goswami took prasadam with some professors. Hanan further said about Srila Prabhupada, "Srila Prabhupada demonstrated tolerance. Although he could have reacted many times, he chose to be tolerant and set an example."
Bhaktin Kelly said, "For so long, I thought about what the devotees have done for me and what Srila Prabhupada has done for me, but now I think about what we can do for Srila Prabhupada."
A devotee who spent time in Africa remarked, "In Africa, it was so poor it was hard to imagine how Krishna consciousness could spread there, but now everything is developing wonderfully by Srila Prabhupada’s mercy."
Amarendra Prabhu recalls Srila Prabhupada’s visit to Gainesville. "Srila Prabhupada had a great time in Gainesville. From morning to evening all he did was preach. He came to the plaza and spoke there. That is why so many people are coming now [for the Krishna lunch]. Seven or eight hundred students came to hear Srila Prabhupada speak on the 6th chapter of Bhagavad-gita. I thought it would be too esoteric for them. But, all the students said things like, ‘This was the best lecture I ever heard.’ Many people who were at that lecture went to other parts of the world.
I asked Srila Prabhupada, ‘How can we make people Krishna conscious?’
Srila Prabhupada replied, ‘Simply you request them to chant Hare Krishna and your business is finished.’"
Mother Visakha quoted, "Materialists are generally very attached to their present bodily comforts and to the bodily comforts they expect in the future. Therefore they are always absorbed in thoughts of their wives, children and wealth and are afraid of giving up their bodies, which are full of stool and urine. If a person engaged in Krishna consciousness, however, is also afraid of giving up his body, what is the use of his having labored to study the sastras [scriptures]? It was simply a waste of time" (SB 5.19.14). She reminded us of Prabhupada’s analogy that the jaws of the cat are death for the rat but protection for the kittens. Similarly death is painful for the materialist, but for the devotee, it is Krishna coming to bring His devotee back home.
Puskara Prabhu reminded us that Ramananda Raya says the greatest pain is separation from pure devotees. "Srila Prabhupada could have given so much veda, knowledge, but he gave the essence, the Hare Krishna mantra."
Mother Pasupati mentioned, "Visvambara Goswami of Vrindavan developed greater appreciation of Srila Prabhupada when he came to America and saw the Bowery and 26 2nd Ave., and the obstacles Prabhupada had to overcome."
Madana Mohan Prabhu made the interesting point that, "The greatest pain is separation from the pure devotees, and Krishna’s feels the separation of His pure devotees who are now covered by maya in the material world."
Mother Jaya Radhe is thirty years old and spoke with sincerity and great emotion that she wants not to waste her youth, but to do something for Srila Prabhupada.
Navina Syama Prabhu said he wants to play a part in making Srila Prabhupada
the most famous person in the world because it is destined to happen.
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami began by recalling a story Giriraja Swami tells. "In the middle of the night, Srila Prabhupada asked his servant to get Giriraja Swami. Giriraja Swami came.
Srila Prabhupada asked him, ‘How will movement go on?’
Giriraja Swami replied, ‘By chanting, etc.’
Srila Prabhupada said, ‘More is required: intelligence and organization.’
Srila Prabhupada cared for the material and spiritual health of his spiritual children. After that care, all his talk was of the Hare Krishna movement. Srila Prabhupada recognized what was needed to keep Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s mission alive in the 1960s and 1970s. To serve him, we have to use our intelligence to see how to keep the mission alive in the present day. Are our communities more focused on benefiting the public or benefiting ourselves? We preached to the neglect of our own needs at first, and then we paid attention to our own needs. Now is time for a recommitment to the preaching again."
Notes on Hridayananda Dasa Goswami’s (Hridayananda Goswami’s) Vyasa Puja
Mother Duhsala mentioned that Hridayananda Goswami has been sannyasi since the age of 23, and a guru since the age of 29—truly an amazing record of service to Srila Prabhupada.
Brahma Tirtha Prabhu: He is very humble, admitting his many mistakes. [This reminds me of one attender describing a Vyasa Puja as a Hare Krishna roast.] He is the unofficial philosopher for ISKCON.
Amarendra Prabhu: I asked for help in Gainesville, I was sent Hridayananda Goswami, and his enthusiasm brought life to everyone, by reciting verses, holding classes in each of Srila Prabhupada’s books as they came out, etc.
Lilananada Prabhu: Hridayananda Goswami knows Portuguese so well that he can speak with proper accent for the region of Brazil he preaches in. This really wins the hearts of the people.
Mother Nartaka Gopal: I appreciate his erudite scholarship, practical application of wisdom, dedication to increasing book distribution, and humor as well.
Hridayananda Goswami: Krishna, as time, not also destroys the world, but also glorifies the devotees.
Vedasara Prabhu: I always thought of old people as grumpy, but Hridayananda Goswami changed all that. I was worried about getting involved in ISKCON management again in Atlanta, but Hridayananda Goswami deals with his managers so nicely I felt encouraged.
Hridayananda Goswami: We should dedicate ourselves to helping others, whatever our particular situation is.
Mother Syama Priya quoted a great verse, SB 7.9.28: "My dear Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, because of my association with material desires, one after another, I was gradually falling into a blind well full of snakes, following the general populace. But Your servant Narada Muni kindly accepted me as his disciple and instructed me how to achieve this transcendental position. Therefore, my first duty is to serve him. How could I leave his service?"
Mother Mantra Murti: Great stories of Hridayananda Goswami’s inspiration in book distribution in Brazil.
Mahavira Prabhu: Recalls Hridayananda Goswami’s amazing preaching in South America opening BBTs and inspiring thousands of people.
Mother Nila Madhava: "Although you are exalted you treat me as a friend, and it makes me feel like I want to become more exalted."
Balabhadra Prabhu from Atlanta’s wife, Mother Gandharvika, liked the Krishna consciousness philosophy but had doubts about organized religion. Hridayananda Goswami was able, however, to convince her to live in the temple.
At an emergency GBC meeting, Hridayananda Goswami had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, while everyone else had thalis by the greatest ISKCON cooks. Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami looked over toward Hridayananda Goswami, saying, "Do you have any more of those?" Soon everyone, except Tamal Krishna Goswami, also got peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Hridayananda Goswami: "Raghunandini at age 4, in response to my question, ‘Should I go to Jagannatha Puri?’ said, ‘Yes, Krishna wants you to go to Jagannatha Puri.’ She spoke with such authority, I took it as coming from Krishna, and so I did."
I was intimidated by the eloquence of the speakers and their closeness to Hridayananda Goswami, and I also did not want to delay everyone’s lunch, so I chose not to speak. I would have praised his maintaining Prabhupada’s enthusiasm for defeating the misconceptions of materialism and impersonalism in his conmpletion of the Srimad-Bhagavatam commentary. I’d thank him for his prompt assistence in helping answer my Krishna.com inquires on Sanskrit and Mahabharata. And I’d tell him I like his classes because I always learn something new.
University of Central Florida, Orlando
In addition to chanting at the campus with a book table and invitations, I brought halava from the Govardhan Hill for interested students. Two students, seeing the halava sitting on my table, inquired if it was prasadam, which was quite surprising to me, as that is uncommon word. One was a Turkish lady with a Sikh husband, and the other a young Hindu lady originally from Guyana. Across from me, after an hour or so, a group of Christians appeared, one speaking loudly and attracting a crowd that grew to a hundred. He was getting on the case of the students for voting for Obama because of his position on abortion and national health care. In the course of his speech against the health care, he said that Jesus was a capitalist. Somehow I had never thought of Christ in those terms. I am sure in my youth I encountered those who considered Christ to be more socialist than capitalist. Hearing the tirade of insulting words, one young Christian lady told me she was embarrassed that her fellow Christians would publicly speak in such a way. Yet another Christian lady was hurt by the crowd’s mockery of the Christian evangelist. I suggested that perhaps it is not that they are against Christianity but against the style of presentation. However, that did not make her feel much better. I used the crowd the Christians attracted to distribute prasadam, and I also continued playing harmonium and chanting, but not so loud as to appear purposely disruptive to the Christian speaker. After the Christian finished I was able to talk to a group of five or seven people about different aspects of the philosophy of Krishna consciousness.
One day I set up near the bank of a pool that is off limits to student bathers the whole year, except the day I was there, when students are allowed to wade or swim in it for two hours. Thus hundreds of students heard the Krishna chanting. One man, probably in his thirties, asked many questions, and I helped to increase his knowledge of religion. He did not know that the main Hindu text, Bhagavad-gita, recommends against the worship of the many demigods that Hinduism is famous for, and that the saints, or pure representatives of God, are superior to the many administrative demigods, who often have their own agenda to some extent. He also learned that God has many names. Two friends of the devotees came by, and I gave them some prasadam, which they gratefully accepted. One English major from Oregon considered that Bhagavad-gita philosophy must be worth studying since such great writers as Thoreau and Emerson found it so impressive. That boy’s girlfriend was a vegetarian.
A young student named Eden, who works for food services at UCF stopped by, saying "It always makes me happy to see you people chanting." She mentioned that it was a refreshing change from the presentation of the most radical of the "hating Christians," who often frequents the same free-speech area. She described herself as a "loving Christian" as opposed to the "hating Christians" who yell at you for all the sinful activities they think you are commiting, and which are for her also, an embarrassment.
A thirty-one-year old student named Derek came by my table. He was a friend of Richard who had attended our evening temple program the previous night. He had met a Hare Krishna devotee, who referred to himself by the letter "G", at a local Rainbow gathering. When he told me the devotee’s Rainbow name was Soaring Turkey, I knew it was Garuda Prabhu from Tallahassee, who often sets up a Krishna tent at the Rainbow gatherings. Derek had gotten beads and a Bhagavad-gita from Garuda. He asked me about chanting, and I encouraged him to chant as many times around the beads as he could easily maintain, and then gradually increase. He said he will come to our evening programs.
Like in Tallahassee, in Orlando, I found I always met a few students who find the chanting, the prasadam, and the philosophy of Krishna consciousness attractive. I also found that students dislike the presentation of the Christian evangelists, and are more attracted to our program of kirtana and prasadam.
aksnoh phalam tvadrsa-darsanam hi
tanoh phalam tvadrsa-gatra-sangah
jihva-phalam tvadrsa-kirtanam hi
sudurlabha bhagavata hi loke
"O Vaishnava! To see you is the perfection of the eyes. To touch your holy feet is the perfection of the body. To vibrate your holy qualities is the perfection of the tongue, for it is very rare to find a pure devotee within this world" (Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya 13.2).