Thursday, December 25, 2008

travel journal#4.23: Harinama in Three Cities

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 4, No. 23
By Krishna-kripa das
(December 2008, part one)
Harinama in Three Cities
Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Delaware, Philadelphia
(Sent from Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
on 12/25/08)

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

After the wettest harinama ever in Tallahassee (click here for videos of the devotees and the crowd), Daru Brahma Prabhu served prasadam to the devotees. Some devotee children were being a little frivolous. Among them, I noticed one girl, who was a very nice singer, and her brother, Dharma, a great drummer, so I encouraged them to do kirtana instead (video), and I danced along to it with another kid (video). Thanks to a very friendly FSU student and Krishna lunch attendee, Denise Ogden, for the Tallahassee videos. I stayed for the Sunday feast, a Monday evening program, and a couple days of chanting at the campus. My goal in Tallahassee is to revamp the Sunday feast program so it is at least something that all the devotees in Tallahassee want to attend. When I chanted at the campus, a Christian girl I met last time gave me a button saying, “You are loved.”, a nice sentiment.

Prema Sindhu Prabhu, Derek, and a another devotee chanted with me at University of North Florida in Jacksonville, on the day of my flight to Philly. People were so nice I was thinking that is my favorite school in America for chanting at. Prema Sindhu Prabhu sold two Gitas and a few small books in just an hour and a half from a book table as the rest of us chanted. Derek brought two drums, and two students sat with us and played for half an hour each, one music major and an art education major who volunteers for the Interfaith Club on campus, a group we may participate in. Prema Sindhu kindly gave me a digital camera I can use to illustrate this journal. Thank you so much, Prema!

I spent two days in Delaware with my initiating guru, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, going on japa walks with him. I never take japa walks in temperatures in the 30s [-1 to 4 C], but I made an exception in this case. Thanks to Baladeva Prabhu for the scarf and Tara Prabhu for the longjohns that made it possible, although I never remembered to wear both at once.

I also made walnut and cashew burfi sweets for Guru Maharaja’s lunch. He liked the cashew one better.

We had a Vyasa-puja gathering for Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami at Govinda’s Restaurant in Philly that was attended by about twenty-five devotees, including godbrothers, godsisters, disciples, and friends. At one point, he asked us to remember times we felt we benefited from our interaction with him. I said I was inspired by chanting japa with him in Mayapur and Delaware, as it was an important part of our relationship. As he was chanting to please Srila Prabhupada, I was chanting to please him. By his telling me to dance more in the kirtanas, after one guru-puja in the mid-1980s in Philly, he was the cause of my developing so much love for the congregational chanting, that I dance even in the bhajanas when everyone else is sitting, and I chanted in twenty-seven cities in Europe last spring and summer. I also appreciated that although he had difficulties in his spiritual life, he decided to recommit himself to his own spiritual practice and to deliver his disciples, instead of breaking his promises to Srila Prabhupada and to them. He was so responsible, he could not do otherwise. Satsvarupa Maharaja describes the Vyasa-puja event in his journal online.

I was planning to go to Montreal where I heard the devotees do daily harinama in the subway stations, but when my godbrother, Bhagavatananda Prabhu, heard that, he said he would do daily harinamas in Philly if I stayed here, and so I did.

Bhagavatananda Prabhu (in back), full of enthusiasm, says “Morning!” to people we met in a friendly way, even while leading. Mother Sraddha (left), despite responsibilities including personally serving her guru, the Vedic Temple of the Planetarium cosmology project, and temple management, likes to take a break once or twice a week to go on harinama. Mother Anindita (right and below), a regular and a key person in the party, speaks so nicely to people she sells several books whenever we go out.

When she asked this lady if she wanted books,
the lady said, “Yes. All you have.”

We went out six days a week, from one to two and a half hours.

Monday to Thursday on the streets, or at the Chinese bus station when it rained, or at Suburban Station when it was too cold. Friday nights we did South St., meeting many friendly people, some enthusiastically telling us to continue or giving a thumbs up gesture. Saturday night we did a walking harinama right on the Univ. of Penn campus for an hour, after the weekly college program. I am hoping Sraddha will schedule three people to do a harinama for at least an hour and a half each day so the newly formed party will continue when I leave.

Prabhupada Nectar

From Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu lectures:

Srila Prabhupada once told reporters he came to give people a brain. Then he explained we had a headless society, and the brahmanas are the head of the social body. The present society is all sudras, people who get pay checks, and a few vaisyas, people who give pay checks.

Prabhupada kept trying despite setback after setback. When asked why the preachers meet difficulties, Srila Prabhupada said, “If there is not a hard struggle, how could they be a glorious victory?”

Krishna is a master of timing. If Srila Prabhupada came to America in 1955 instead of 1965 the movement would not have gotten off the ground.

Soon after Srila Prabhupada took sannyasa he was gored by a cow. He accepted it was Krishna’s mercy, but he said he did not immediately understand how. He said that later he understood.

Analysis of how Krishna consciousness was spread: Srila Prabhupada took Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s idea that the disciple takes his guru’s order has his life’s mission, and tried in so many ways to preach: Back to Godhead magazine, translating Srimad-Bhagavatam, Jhansi , coming to America , etc. Seeing this Krishna felt, “I must reciprocate.” But Srila Prabhupada did not want anything except that the people be delivered. But Krishna said, “They are not qualified.” Srila Prabhupada replied, “But that is all I want.” And so Krishna arranged to deliver so many people.

Once Prabhupada described the brief reunion of Radha and Krishna at Kuruksetra as being too tragic to tell.

From Prabhupada’s books:

“Yoga means to concentrate the mind upon the Supreme by controlling the ever-disturbing senses.” (Bg. 2.48).

“The conclusion is that blind faith in a particular mode of nature cannot help a person become elevated to the perfectional stage. One has to consider things carefully, with intelligence, in the association of a bona fide spiritual master. Thus one can change his position to a higher mode of nature.” (Bhagavad-gita 17.2, purport)

“It is essential, therefore, that one constantly associate with pure devotees who are engaged morning and evening in chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. In this way one will get the chance to purify his heart and develop this ecstatic pure love for Krishna.” (NOD, chapter 17)

“Even by a little association with devotees, the conditioned soul can get out of this miserable material condition. This Krishna consciousness movement is therefore trying to give everyone a chance to associate with saintly people. Therefore all the members of this Krishna consciousness society must themselves be perfect sadhus in order to give a chance to fallen conditioned souls. This is the best humanitarian work.” (SB 5.14.38, purport)

Srila Prabhupada faith in the scripture is powerful, as is his ability to create faith in others. Consider this paragraph, “Revealed knowledge may in the beginning be unbelievable because of our paradoxical desire to verify everything with our tiny brains, but the speculative means of attaining knowledge is always imperfect. The perfect knowledge propounded in the revealed scriptures is confirmed by the great acaryas, who have left ample commentations upon them; none of these acaryas has disbelieved in the sastras [scriptures]. One who disbelieves in the sastras is an atheist, and we should not consult an atheist, however great he may be. A staunch believer in the sastras, with all their diversities, is the right person from whom to gather real knowledge. Such knowledge may seem inconceivable in the beginning, but when put forward by the proper authority its meaning is revealed, and then one no longer has any doubts about it.” (CC Adi 5.14, purport)

Inspiration from Lectures

Although both Purnacandra Swami and I are from America , we knew each other not from
America but the Ukraine festivals. It was nice to see him in Philly.

Purnacanda Swami, at Govinda’s in South St., Philadelphia , Bg. 9.3

Bg. 8.14 is the first time Krishna mentions pure devotion. In Chapter Nine, he tells how this state can be attained. Bhakti is not based on just knowledge but on faith. “Uddhava-gita” is considered more advanced than Bhagavad-gita because it is the knowledge Krishna wants Uddhava to give to the sages meditating at Badarikasrama. Besides sruti (that which is heard from the Vedas), there is sense perception, history, and conjecture, which are needed to exist in the material world. Our ability to use pratyaksa, sense perception, in devotional service increases as we advance. This is because our senses become purified. Seeing this result increases our faith. Studying the levels of faith is not meant to prop ourselves up or criticize new people but to use as a map to chart our own progress. The previous acaryas have described the stages of devotional service in such detail, and seeing this can also increase our faith.

When Purnacandra Swami was a new devotee he took it like a yoga society and thought, “Let me try it for five years. After all, my hair will grow back.”

We need to have the humility to know that we need the help of the devotees and the Lord.

Russian saying, “It is better to have a hundred friends than a hundred rubles.”

Laksmi says in the Fifth Canto, “Don’t pray to the Lord for your material needs. He already knows them. Just serve Him and you will get what you need.”

Q by Haryasva: Although we have some faith, we tend to forget that just last week Krishna saved us, and we continue to think in a faithless way.
A: Hearing the holy name and of the process of devotional service from devotees will help make our faith steady.

Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, SB 6.17.25-27:

Vrtasura has one misfortune after another, but it turns out to be the mercy of the Lord. The same with Pariksit Maharaja and the Pandavas. We say “chant Hare Krishna and be happy,” but if a materialist sees the Bhagavatam pastimes, he may doubt it, seeing all the misfortune.

People are so proud. When the corporate automakers first came to Washington to beg for money, they each came in their own corporate jet, oblivious to the obvious hypocrisy.

If one actually wants to advance in Krishna consciousness, he desires to become humble. He understands, “If I become humble, my love of God will increase.”

Devotees who are fully surrendered do not get karmic reactions, but to complete free their minds from any lingering tendency for enjoyment, Krishna sometimes allows them to
suffer reverses that appear to be like karmic reactions.

Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, weekly telephone conference call lecture [contact Sraddha at our Philly temple to participate], SB 11.4.5-6

Lord Vishnu is mentioned, but not the mode of goodness, because Vishnu does not touch the mundane mode of goodness although He controls it, but Brahma and Siva are affected by passion and ignorance respectively.

The Lord protects religion as a pastime not as a prescribed duty.

In Drumila’s description of the avataras, he spends half the time (11 of out of 22 verses) discussing Nara-narayana Rsi. Nabhi, the grandfather of the nine yogendras (one of whom, Drumila, is speaking), worshiped Nara-Narayana and attained Vaikuntha. Thus He is described in more detail than other incarnations.

Curiously Nara-narayana Rsi is often spoken of in the singular case although he consists of two persons, Nara and Narayana.

“Long ago this essential anthology of all the Puranas was spoken by the infallible Lord Nara-Narayana Rsi to Narada, who then repeated it to Krishna Dvaipayana Vedavyasa. O best of the Kurus, the same Suta Gosvami who is sitting before us will speak this Bhagavatam to the sages assembled in the great sacrifice at Naimisaranya. This he will do when questioned by the members of the assembly, headed by Saunaka.” (SB 12.4.41-42)

Nara-Narayana Rsi is the presiding deity of Bharata-varsa, and he is the ista-deva of Narada Muni, who offers Him prayers.

Q: Bhava Sindhu what does Prajapati mean?
A: Sometimes Vishnu, Brahma, and those demigods who help to populate the universe are all sometimes called Prajapati.

Ravindra means literally sun god but the name also is used to refer to the Supreme Lord.

Q: What can we tell someone conditioned by superficiality and artificiality?
A: Pascal said that human beings are so mad that to be free from madness is another kind of madness. Like in a battle, you see people dying at every moment, and therefore, if you are not a physical casualty, you are a psychological casualty. A battle is like normal life speeded up. Devotees can see the material world as it is because they have an alternative and so do not have a stake in the material world. Reading Bhagavad-gita as much as possible, and the first two cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam, especially the beginning of Canto Two, will help. One scholar wrote a scholarly book on the Bhagavatam called Tales for the Dying. We should see we can die at every moment. Srila Prabhupada said, “If one is not pessimistic about the material world there is not impetus for spiritual life.”

Comment: In Ramayana we learn devotees greet each other by asking “Is everything going well on your struggle to conquer birth and death?”

The Bhagavatam tells how the devas and yogis see the universe. I think there is a greater difference between human beings and demigods than there is between ants and human beings. The last course I took in college, as I was becoming a devotee, was “Archeology in India .” I did a paper on Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. It increased my faith in the Vedic version as I saw all their theories were based on such scanty evidence. Since that time practically everything they taught about the development of Indian civilization has been shown to be wrong. There is no evidence of an Aryan invasion, and the scholars do not really know what went on.

Planets are called grahas because they grab you [from the astrological point of view].

Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, Bg. 2.48, Sunday Feast Lecture

Working with the desire to enjoy the results is the cause of future material bodies. Bg. 2.47 and 2.48 are said by Visvanatha Cakravarti to be teaching naiskarmya karma yoga.

Even if we fail on the material platform, if we endeavor for spiritual success, that will be our success. I have come to the conclusion that I do not know enough to judge why Krishna is making any particular action a success or a failure.

Vibisana Prabhu:

Q: Sometimes we go to places where it is difficult to preach. What do we say?
A: Actually in all parts of the world, they are people who are ready for Krishna consciousness, and we just have to be there to remind them that they are eternal servants of Krishna. Sometimes people require very little preaching, just a reminder. Some people have practiced for many lives, but have just forgotten.

We have to become without a trace of envy to go back to the spiritual world and associate with Krishna because His associates must be very highly qualified.

Mother Anindita dd:

When I see devotees from all over the world advancing in devotional service, I see it is not just an Indian thing.

Godel’s theorem states that an arithmetic system cannot be both consistent and complete, but Krishna consciousness differs because it is consistent and complete.

Detachment is natural for devotees. We see so many devotees who are happy doing menial service in the temple, and then we later find out are very far advanced in wealth or learning, although you wouldn’t have guessed that from their behavior.

Real detachment is detachment from being the proprietor and enjoyer of things, not from the things themselves.

kalim sabhajayanty arya
guna jnah sara-bhaginah
yatra sankirtanenaiva
sarva-svartho ’bhilabhyate

[Karabhajana Rsi to Maharaja Nimi]: “Those who are advanced and highly qualified and are interested in the essence of life know the good qualities of Kali-yuga. Such people worship the age of Kali because in this age, simply by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra [congregationally] one can advance in spiritual knowledge and attain life’s goal” (SB 11.5.36).