Saturday, December 13, 2008

travel journal#4.22: Too Much Nectar--Orlando, Gainesville, and Tallahassee

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 4, No. 22
By Krishna-kripa das
(November 2008, part two)
Orlando, Gainesville, Tallahassee
(Sent from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. on 12/14/08)

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

I finished up my stay in Orlando, meditating on how each of our centers is a blessing for my devotional service in different ways. In Orlando, I benefited from the association of Trivikrama and Danavira Maharajas, offered some mangala aratis, cooked sweets for campus distribution and the Sunday Feast, learned two new tunes on the harmonium, started reading Mahanidhi Swami’s book on the holy name, attended morning and evening programs, even on the weekends, and lived in a setting better suited for brahmacari life. In Gainesville, I appreciate the many enthusiastic student devotees who attend both the temple programs as well as the bhajanas on campus, and the new Friday harinamas, which I will tell more about later. We ended the month with the best Thanksgiving program ever in Gainesville, a great harinama in Jacksonville to a very favorable crowd, two-thirds of which took the pamphlets on chanting Hare Krishna, and finally, the wettest harinama ever in Tallahassee.

Prabhupada Nectar

Trivikrama Swami recalled, "When I came to Srila Prabhupada’s quarters in Bombay the first time, after paying obeisances, I looked around and said, ‘Vaikuntha.’ Srila Prabhupada said, "What did you say?" I repeated ‘Vaikuntha.’ Srila Prabhupada smiled, accepting my words." The residence of the pure devotee is as good as the spiritual world.

Danavira Goswami recalls, "When Prabhupada gave babaji initiation to one disciple with a terminal disease in Chicago in 1975, he said ‘Because you are thinking you can die at any moment, which is the mentality of a paramahamsa, I am giving you the initiation of a paramahamsa.’"

Danavira Goswami mentioned that Srila Prabhupada once said, "If anyone understands just this one verse of Bhagavad-gita, 2.13, he will attain the transcendental platform."

Quotes from Kalakantha Prabhu:

Q to Srila Prabhupada: What sect of Hinduism are you?
A by Srila Prabhupada: The one with the Absolute Truth.

Srila Prabhupada once said, "What is the use of catching a big fish that pulls you back into the water?"

Notes on a Srila Prabhupada lecture:

Why do we not see the demigods now? Can a common man see the president or the king just by demanding to see them? First qualify yourself, and you can see the demigods and God.

Still Krishna is so kind He comes as the Deity and lets us know in Bhagavad-gita how to see Him even with our present senses in water, in the sun, etc.

By being engaged in Krishna consciousness, you become purified, and Krishna will reveal Himself to you.

Sometimes people bequeath their wealth to their dog. This means they are thinking of their dog at the time of death. So when they die, their dog will get their wealth, and they will become a dog in next life. This is unknown in the modern civilization. If we approach such people and ask for money for our Krishna consciousness movement, they will say no, for they want to use all their money for their dogs. Therefore they are rascals.

We have sufficient strength to prove that any materialist is actually a rascal.

"This Krishna consciousness movement was started to engage people twenty-four hours daily in the service of the Lord and in His glorification. The students in this institution engage in the cultivation of Krishna consciousness from five in the morning to ten at night. They actually have no opportunity to waste their time unnecessarily by discussing politics, sociology and current events. These will go their own way. A devotee is concerned only with serving Krishna positively and seriously" (SB 5.12.13, purport).

"Despite a very rigid life in devotional service, Bharata Maharaja did not consult a spiritual master when he became overly attached to a deer. Consequently he became strongly attached to the deer, and, forgetting his spiritual routine, he fell down" (SB 5.12.14).

"If one concentrates on the descriptions of the bodily features of the Lord, one will never fall down" (SB 4.8.51, purport).

"As soon as one chants the Hare Krishna mantra, he sees the forms of Krishna, Rama, and Their energies, and that is the perfect stage of trance. One should not artifcially try to see the form of the Lord while chanting Hare Krishna, but when the chanting is performed offenselessly the Lord will automatically reveal Himself to the view of the chanter. The chanter, therefore, has to concentrate on hearing the vibration, and without extra endeavor on his part, the Lord will automatically appear" (SB 4.8.53, purport).

The Best Thanksgiving Ever

In Gainesville, we had what Kalakantha Prabhu later described
as "the best Thanksgiving dinner he had in 36 years." I agreed.

In addition to eating the feast, it was very nice helping out with it. Mother Ali Krishna impressed me by making tofu turkey, stuffing, gravy, and pumpkin pie. Kelly made cranberry sauce and a cole slaw with fruit. Andres made incredible sweet potatoes with pecans that were so good that when I distributed the maha-prasadam, almost everyone asked for the sweet potatoes. Sveta Svarupa Prabhu made sweet rice. I made vegan walnut burfi. Others made soup, pakoras and chutney, and puris.

There was more community spirit than I had encountered in a while.

For the lecture, I spoke about unbroken devotional service as transcending the three modes of natures, and I asked if anyone wanted to share their realizations about devotional service.

Some of the newest people made positive comments about the devotees’ friendly association. One was Angie, girl whose friend met us on harinama, and who had come with her to the Saturday dinner program. This was her first program real Hare Krishna program. She had a great time, and even helped clean up afterwards. I was impressed and surprised about the appreciation of such new people. Ali Krishna told about the first time she heard of the "three modes of material nature" after having joined New Vrindavana, and how she could really see distinct periods in her life which were dominated by each. Times of intoxication, and times of seeking sanity and health, but no apparent consistent progress in a positive direction. She felt devotional service gave her, and gives us, real hope of ultimate improvement. Govinda told how while preparing for the Los Angeles Ratha-yatra he was so absorbed in devotional service, everything went smoothly and naturally in his life.

Jonathan suggested we all tell about what we were thankful for. He began telling about the nice relationship he had with the Gainesville temple and its devotees, through the course of its changes, their changes, and his changes.

Brian said, "I appreciate I can make advancement by eating food like this."

Many appreciated the loving attitude of the devotees and the prasadam.

I said I was thankful to chant three hours a day on campus,
thankful that the students at the center are so enthusiastic,

and that the first-ever vegan version of my walnut burfi
came out perfect by the grace of the Lord.

For more pictures of Thanksgiving in Gainesville, click here.

Friday Harinama in Gainesville

The Halloween harinama in Gainesville was the beginning of a new era for the students living at our Gainesville asrama.

On Halloween the chanting was so festive, as you can see, 
they got a taste for harinama!

Consequently they went out many Fridays evenings after that, once from 9:00 to 1:00! I went out with them on Friday, November 21. They didn’t get going till 11:00 because many of the people went to a bonfire at Adi Karta Prabhu’s place. It was really cold that night, and around 12:15 I encouraged them to wind things up for the night. Mother Ali Krishna decided to make a final sweep through the area. Around 12:30 we met some people who really got into dancing with us. One couple, including a girl you can see at about 3:00 minutes into the video, had so much fun they decided to come to our Saturday dinner program, along with a friend, and later to a bhajana program that night. The enthusiasm in the kirtana was very special, and I want to share a video of it with you:

For some great pictures and videos of this and other Friday harinamas, click here.

Memories and Wise Words from Mother Mukhya

Kartamasa Prabhu has a program for many years of asking senior devotees to come and speak to a group of Vaishnava youth about why they joined the Krishna consciousness movement and why they stayed. As he was getting ready to go to India and his wife was already there, the program was at Navina Syama and Krishna-priya Prabhus’ place. Mother Mukhya, the new Alachua temple president, was the guest.

Q: How did you come to Krishna consciousness?
A: I had to visit three religions for a college course and my boyfriend convinced me one must be a Hare Krishna temple. I had a wonderful time. I got a Bhagavad-gita and as I was reading it I could understand that it had an answer for all my questions. Later I was driving with my boyfriend in a Fiat to a Sunday feast, and the car in front of stopped suddenly and our car crashed into it. We were not hurt but the whole front of the car, including the engine, was smashed so we could not drive it. We called the temple, and they sent someone to get us, and in this way, we moved into the temple and never left.

Q: Why did you stay?
A: I love to be in Krishna consciousness. It is the best thing I know—it is so much better than anything I else knew. I believe in the philosophy. I am committed, and commitment is important. I think initiation is very important, and young devotees should take initiation. It is just like you may have a boyfriend or girlfriend, but when you get married, you take the relationship more seriously because you have made a commitment. Commitment in general makes you a better person. If you cannot commit to initiation, then commit to chant a quota of rounds a day. Be true to yourself. Find the thing in you that you really like to do for the movement. Try to remember Krishna very day.

This is a mystic process. If you do things that you do not like at first, you will find your feelings can change.

Prabhupada taught by example. He never took anything for himself, and he gave everything to Krishna. He was incredibly kind to everybody. Anyone is trying is very dear to Krishna.

Q: What do you think you would do differently?
A: Learn about marriage. Learn about parenting. Learn a little about human psychology, how to encourage others. Every decade is better. Pace yourself—take time for things that are important.

Q: What would you do the same?
A: Remember this is Prabhupada’s movement. We are not here to serve each other. Prabhupada has certain principles, and these are very important. Books are the basis, preaching is the essence, and utility is the principle. In the name of helping the devotees, we must not neglect Prabhupada’s principles.

Q: What would you do if you had forty more years?
A: Preach Krishna consciousness according where I am and what I have to offer. Think about the best way in each situation. You Vaishnava youths have things I never had, knowledge of Krishna from the beginning of your life and Krishna conscious parents. Be there for your kids. Treat people as you would want to be treated.

Q: Did you ever meet Srila Prabhupada?
A: Prabhupada visited Detriot twice. He gave me gayatri mantra alone in the room. My attachment to Prabhupada is on a supernatural level. It always was as I only saw him twice. Therefore it was not so different when he left.

For many years, Mukhya had a very successful restaurant in Sarasota called Mims. Practically all her employees were nondevotees. One girl from her restaurant was always curious about her offerings on her small altar there, and later she came to her home program, and ultimately went to Miami and joined the temple.

Once her employees told her to take a week off because she was overworked. When she returned, she asked how it went. They said it was a little chaotic in the beginning. Then we remembered that we did not offer the incense on the altar, so we started doing that, and everything went alright after that.

Other advice: Find something you like to do, and see how you can use it to make money. Figure out what you need for a balanced life. Keep in mind that simple life and high thinking is more satisify than having more materially. I have tried both.

Alachua is a show place in that the community has lasted so long, compared to other communities of other groups.

As far as what to do with the Alachua property, we can be a religious retreat conference center if we change the zoning of 50 acres for $25,000. We can have a guest house, gift shop, a working farm, and more.

Inspiration from Lectures

Trivikrama Swami told a story he heard about from astrologer, Shyamasundara Prabhu. "I recently read about a old sadhu who had a serious disease. He continuously prayed to Lord Krishna but nothing happened and he continued to deteriorate. So the sadhu approached an astrologer for a remedy. The astrologer suggested something to him, he did it and was cured. The sadhu again prayed to Krishna. Krishna told him, ‘If you had not been cured you would have come back to me in this lifetime itself. This is why I didn’t answer your prayers because I wanted you here, but now that you have been cured it will take you three more lifetimes to come back to me.’ Shyamasundara commented, "It is not always obvious what Krishna’s plan is. But whatever it is we can rest assured that it is in our best interest even though we might not think so."

Danavira Goswami:

Some say God is formless, yet God is accepted as the father. Do you know of any cases of sons who have forms but who have fathers who are formless? Where has such an idea come from?

We remain steady when we do not take credit for success, and when we see distress as sent by God for our benefit.

In the early days of ISKCON LA, things were very organized. The first day I arrived at the temple and reported to do service, they told me to go to the parking lot and ask Ekendra how to wash the vans. I went to the parking lot and looked around. I saw a five-year-old boy there, and asked him, "Where is Ekendra?" The boy said, "I am Ekendra." I said, "I was told to ask you about washing the vans", and the boy got the paraphenalia for cleaning and demonstrated how to do it.

We have to be convinced that there is nothing else of value but devotional service, then we can convince others.

Kalakantha Prabhu:

In one temple the president had the devotees recite Queen Kunti’s prayer for calamities. The van broke and a sankirtana devotee broke her leg. Then he ended that practice.

The depth of the advanced Vaisnava’s regret that he has left Krishna is so great that it overwhelms the tendency to enjoy the material world.

My contributions:

Kunti because of humility was seeing her relationships with her pure devotee relatives as mundane.

Detachment from family does not mean neglect of duties to family members or to neglect to respect them as souls.

Feel comfortable about performing austerities.

Material things are not bad in themselves, but aspiration for unnecessary material things is bad.

Krishna takes care, as he did in my case, giving me funds to do harinama in Paris where Janananda Goswami had invited.

By looking at the prayers of pure devotees like Kunti, we can see how much advancement we still have to make.

The tendency for idle talk can be used in preaching to people who do not yet
have a taste for talks about Krishna.

Joke: People used to think that married men lived longer, but later studies reveal that it just seemed longer.

One study showed that women have ten times as much white matter in the brain, but men have six and a half times as much grey matter. White matter deals with communication. Grey matter deals with logical thinking.

Women transmit the values of the culture by educating the children.

Hridayananda Dasa Goswami:

If we do not preserve the dignity of an office, we loose our culture.

Q: There is a tendency to reject the kirtanas, lectures and books, of someone who later falls down, as non bona fide.
A: If they were following at the time, then I do not see why their works should not be accepted. If they had a parallel life at the same time, and their writing is later seen to have traces of this, then it would be another thing.

Q: What is Vedic culture?
A: Krishna says "by all the Vedas I am to be known" (Bg.15.15), therefore, one can say Vedic culture is that culture which helps one to understand Krishna. During Krishna’s time, so many aspects of what we usually consider Vedic culture were present, but Krishna told Arjuna that He had come because the spiritual knowledge was lost.

In the Bhagavatam, are things being described or enjoined? Is the Bhagavatam telling how things were done or how things should be done? In Govardhan-lila, Krishna asks his father if the Indra-puja he was doing was according to the Vedas or according to tradition. His father did not chastise Him, saying "What do you mean, we only do things according to the Vedas!"

Are japa beads Vedic? They are not mentioned in Sri
. People did count their chanting. For all we know, they could have been introduced from the Catholic rosary.

When a devotee paints a picture of Krishna, Krishna is there in the picture, smiling at the way the devotee has depicted Him.

The nice thing about bhakti is that if your heart is in the right place, Krishna will fix your head. Krishna is not going to bust you on a technicality, if you are really sincere.

We have to differentiate between principles and ethnic details. What a woman wears is an ethnic detail. Chastity is a principle. Men and women should dress in such a way they do not arouse lust in each other.

Srila Prabhupada told me to present Krishna consciousness to the intelligent class. I am trying to understand it intelligently and do that.

Joke: A man always gets the last word, "Yes, dear."

Even the scholars recognize that the Bhagavatam is in a class by itself. There are more commentaries on it than other Puranas. From the literary point of view also, it is unique.

The Bhagavatam, according to Lord Caitanya in his conversation with Dhananjaya Pandit, appears and disappears like Krishna’s other incarnations.

Vyasa composed but did not write.

Laksmi Nrsimha Prabhu’s Bhagavatam class in Gainesville

"Almost all our faults are more pardonable than the methods we resort to hide them."—French 17th century writer, Francois De La Rochefoucauld

"In pride our error lies," wrote Alexander Pope. It is all I remember from my college education. I put it on my checks, so I always remember.

Pride produces illusion, ignorance, deceit, deviousness, presence, and offensiveness according to Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his Manah-siksa.

Our chanting should never become parrotlike. Prabhupada says we should call out like a child crying for its mother.

"It is said in the sastras that by once uttering the holy name of the Lord, the sinner gets rid of a quantity of sins that he is unable to commit. Such is the power of uttering the holy name of the Lord. There is not the least exaggeration in this statement. Actually the Lord’s holy name has such powerful potency. But there is a quality to such utterances also. It depends on the quality of feeling. A helpless man can feelingly utter the holy name of the Lord, whereas a man who utters the same holy name in great material satisfaction cannot be so sincere. A materially puffed up person may utter the holy name of the Lord occasionally, but he is incapable of uttering the name in qualiy" (SB 1.8.25, purport).

Q: We may think that we are more fallen than other devotees. But then we may hear that humility is a symptom of advancement. What do we do so that we do not become proud of being advanced.
A: The secret is to remember that whatever we have accomplished has been done by the mercy of our guru.

If we can gain people’s appreciation then that begins their devotional service.

Adi Karta Prabhu:

In beginning marriage life or spiritual life, we make a serious commitment by taking a vow in front of the fire, which represents Krishna. To break such a vow, Srila Prabhupada considered was a very great offense.

When the Vedic culture was practiced, the society was such that there was a lot of support for the wives who husbands took sannyasa.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura recommended take ksetra sannyasa which allows living with one wife in a holy place.

Krishna was expert. He treated His wives in such a way that each thought she was His dearmost.

Q: Why has your marriage been successful?
A: I have a good wife. She is serious. We always went to mangala-arati together. I have always been satisfied with the life of a devotee. I do not want to become a materialistic enjoyer. I do not want to take birth again.

Canakya Pandita said, "The king is the ornament of the earth, knowledge is the ornament of a man, a husband is the ornament of a lady."

Krishna-nama Prabhu’s Bhagavatam class in Orlando:

When Lord Caitanya came to Advaita Acarya’s home, Advaita Acarya was just about to perform arati for the Deity. Seeing Lord Caitanya, He fainted, but when He recovered, instead, He began to perform arati for Lord Caitanya personally. Gadadhara Pandita was surprised at this, because even though he was the internal potency of the Lord Himself, he could not recognize who Lord Caitanya was.

Nanda Kumar Prabhu:

The essential meaning behind Kunti’s prayer asking for distress is that for the devotee of the Lord, the association of the Lord is the real pleasure, not a comfortable material situation.

Reading the qualities of advanced devotees can make us feel humble as we see our lack in developing them.