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!

Monday, July 07, 2008

travel journal#4.12: European Harinamas / Prabhupada Nectar

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 4, No. 12

By Krishna-kripa das

(June 2008, part two)

Greece / Sofia / Prague / Brno / Bratislava / Poland

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

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

In Sofia, I learned that Thessaloniki, the Greek city where my friend Tara Prabhu lives, is just six hours south on the train, so I decided to visit him. Bhakta Efi, from Israel, who likes Tara, came along. Ultimately Efi decided to travel with me and join the Polish tour. We did harinama in Greece, returning to Sofia to do a harinama the next day on our way back to Prague, where we did two harinamas, including one with Trivikrama Swami, the next two days. After Prague we went to Brno and did harinama there and the Saturday weekly program. Next I went to Bratislava to do the Sunday feast lecture and morning class, and back to Brno for another harinama before traveling 18 hours on five trains from south Czech to north Poland for the Laksmi-Nrsimha traveling festival tour, where I will be through mid August.

Devotional Notes

Nectar from Trivikrama Swami:

Bhakti Caru Swami said in an Orlando lecture: "You have your cell phone which you carry with you always. You should be like that with Bhagavad-gita."

We become weak when we chase after sense objects because we become dependent on them.

Q:(By Chandrashekhara Acharya Prabhu) The purport to Bg. 9.28 says one who is always thinking of how to spread Krishna consciousness is liberated, but we have experience that some such devotees have obvious anarthas (unwanted desires). How do we reconcile this?

A: If they really are always thinking of spreading Krishna consciousness, we should consider the anarthas to be insignificant. Of course, they may be only thinking of spreading Krishna consciousness part time, as an ordinary person works five days and takes the weekend off. Also they may be working fulltime to spread Krishna consciousness, but have some material motive like fame. Service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to be on the liberated platform.

Nectar from IDS lectures on the Polish tour:

"Although in life we careful to always know where we are going next, we do not know where we will go at the time of death—we make no plan nor do we know how to make a plan—this is a serious omission."

"This is a whole festival without any beer and everyone is happy." [For Poland and many European countries this is amazing and impressive.]



Nectar from Trivikrama Swami:

Srila Prabhupada was strong because his faith was unshakeable. But he was soft like a rose and gave his association to others, although he did not have to.

Once while giving a lecture in Minsk, Maharaja asked if any of the devotees had had dreams of Srila Prabhupada. About a hundred devotees raised their hands. He asked if any of them would share their dreams, and one former Harikesa Swami disciple agreed. He was so distraught when his guru fell down because he felt if his guru was so advanced and he had failed, then how could he succeed? That seemed like an impossibility. He went to sleep in this depressed state. Srila Prabhupada appeared to him in a dream that very night, and spoke the following words: "Who says impossible? I am still here."

Srila Prabhupada liked bhajanas and would regularly sing them, therefore, we should include bhajanas in our daily sadhana.

A devotee asked Srila Prabhupada why Lord Caitanya did not spread Krishna consciousness all over the world. Srila Prabhupada answered that Lord Caitanya wanted him to get the credit. This is not an exaggeration.

We do not have to present ourselves as saviors, we just have to cooperate with Srila Prabhupada.

A really great leader can create a movement that will continue after he leaves. There are so many charismatic leaders, but they cannot keep their movements going after they leave. Yet Srila Prabhupada is doing that.

When leading devotees left, people asked Srila Prarbhupada, "Why?" He said that they were not sincere.

Srila Prabhupada left his movement in the hands of his disciples, not his godbrothers. Prabhupada had the expertise to spread this movement all over the world, and he trained his disciples in that way. He said that we should be friendly with his godbrothers, but not that we put them in the center.

Nectar from Mother Sitala:

Mother Sitala, Hari Sauri Prabhu's wife, and their daughter, who was initiated by Indradyumna Swami last fall, both are here on the tour. Sitala often tells Prabhupada stories in her classes.

When Sitala was head pujari in Paris, she peeked through the curtains to watch Srila Prabhupada take darsana of the Deities. She was amazed to see two tears come straight our of Srila Prabhupada's eyes as he viewed the Deities. She felt a little embarrassed to be in the middle of their intimate exchange.

Srila Prabhupada cried tears of love out of gladness when Brahmananda Prabhu returned from Pakistan because there were reports of an American being killed there, and the devotees worried it was Brahmananda.

Sitala was once fanning Srila Prabhupada when Prabhupada indicated she stop. Later the temple president urged her to continue, and when she finally did, Prabhupada again indicated that she stop. She cried, feeling worthless because she was displeasing her spiritual master, and Prabhupada compassionately interrupted his class to say to her, in explanation, "It is not so cold."

Thessaloniki Harinama

Tara and his wife, Mother Radha Sakhi Vrinda, took care of me and my friend, Bhakta Efi, from Israel, so nicely. We had plenty of great prasadam, both during our visit and for our trip. Tara got all the devotees together for harinama. Their previous harinama was two years before, and I was glad that they were going out again after such a long time. They all seemed to be so happy on the harinama. One devotee lady, Syamapriya Dasi, visiting from Serbia, led the kirtana for some time with such delight, she appeared to be "Chant and Be Happy" personified. It reminded me of Sacinandana Swami who also chants with obvious delight. Later Tara told me, to my amazement, that the lady is actually a disciple of Sacinandana Swami! That is a good qualification for a disciple—to remind one of one's guru. Tara Prabhu and his friends are cultivating people through a yoga center in Thessaloniki, where the students chant Vedic mantras and take prasadam, as well as doing yoga, and some of their students happened to come by our harinama. They enthusiastically encouraged passersby to take the books and CDs we had for sale. One young woman, who came by was fascinated by everything Indian, and talked with one of the devotee ladies for half an hour. One student, who was studying photography, took several pictures of our party. Tara gave a free CD to some teenaged girls who were watching us for awhile. I am hoping the devotees can go out more regularly and experience and share the nectar of the holy name there in Thessaloniki in a public way. If you happen to be in the area, you might come by and encourage them, as there are just four of them there and not many visitors.

Sofia Harinama

This time the weather was good enough to do a walking harinama. We encountered a couple teenaged girls who were dressed just like hippies out of the sixties. They had in their knapsacks a couple small percussion instruments that rattled which they shook in time with the music as they danced with our kirtana party for ten minutes with great delight. Later Jagannatha Misra Prabhu explained that now in Bulgaria, people are fascinated with the sixties era. Later a young female photographer who had worked for the Sofia newspaper for two years took several pictures of our kirtana party from all different angles. She explained that she wanders around Sofia looking for potential objects to photograph, and she found our party. The harinama was nice way to spend the two hours between our train from Greece and our flight to Prague, and I am glad the devotees organized it.

Great Harinama on a Rainy Brno Day

In Brno, the train station has a lot of shops underneath and many people walking here and there. Because it was pouring rain outside, we chanted there instead. Sometimes in situations with lots of shops someone complains and we get kicked out but no one did. Also outside the train station, underneath, there is a place near a bus stop where frequently many people get off the bus and would pass our party. Some cities do not have a good place to chant in the rain, but I was grateful that Brno does. I printed an invitation for the upcoming Ratha-yatra, and one devotee lady successfully distributed them all, to my great happiness. A festival good enough to put on, is a festival good enough to advertise.

Back on the Tour

It is nice to be back on the Polish festival tour—to have Indradyumna Swami's association, to see some very dedicated devotee friends, and to see the many thousands of people coming in touch with a spiritual culture that offers them unlimited benefit even unknowingly—all are wonderful experiences.

Indradyumna Swami was amazed that the first festivals went so nicely as many key devotees from Ukraine were delayed by Polish embassy officials, who were not eager to issue them visas, and thus arrived for the third festival. 

Some pictures and videos of our festivals are available on www.nama-hatta.pl.

'sadhu-sanga', 'sadhu-sanga'—sarva-sastre kaya
   lava-matra sadhu-sange sarva-siddhi haya

"The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment's association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success." (Caitanya Caritamrita, Madhya 22.54).