Friday, May 08, 2009

Travel Journal#5.8: JAX, London, Radhadesh, Amsterdam

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 5, No. 8
By Krishna-kripa das
(April 2009, part two)
Jacksonville, London, Radhadesh, Amsterdam
(Sent from Simhacalam, Germany, on 5/8/09)

Links to Great Videos on Queen's Day Harinamas
Wise Words from Kadamba Kanana Swami

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

For three months I had practically no time to write this journal or answer questions for What did I do? I lived in at the Gainesville Krishna House, where a number of students, both American and Indian, are beginning to take the practice of Krishna consciousness very seriously, several studying Prabhupada's books together both morning and evening. We had evening programs that always went late three nights a week, a two-hour harinama Wednesday at the Farmer's Market and a harinama in the downtown Friday night where the bars and restaurants are. I thought of eliminating the late night harinama, but three people had come to visit the temple as a result and had good experiences, some coming back, so I was reluctant to stop it. Two weekends and one weekday a month I went to Tallahassee to assist in the outreach there, mostly by doing harinama and giving lectures. I couldn't write with my laptop enroute as it was so flaky I was unwilling to invest in a new battery for it. When I didn't spend the weekend in Tallahassee, I spent hours in Alachua with a fellow assistant of Sadaputa Prabhu's, Sthita-dhi Muni, in looking through Sadaputa's materials to preserve and ultimately share them. We came across a script for a video called "The End of Physics" and a partial manuscript for a book called The Roots of Genius. It was spooky to see my handwriting on some of the documents in the files. There were whole articles I had typeset for him, and then forgotten about. It seemed so long ago, like another life. Reviewing the material, I was reminded of his genius, his talent, and his hard work. I have no regrets about that service, other than I really did not take advantage enough of his association. Both Drutakarma and Sthita-dhi Muni Prabhus became scholars as a result of his association, and I remained but a proofreader of publications. The good thing is that it doesn't matter what you do for Krishna, as long as you work for Him. That is my only solace.

Now by the grace of Brahmatirtha Prabhu and Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, I have a computer so I can write while traveling. I shall try to share the high points of the last three months, going into detail on other journal entries.

The happiest thing for me is to see young people taking the congregational chanting of the Lord's holy name more and more seriously, especially with a little or no encouragement. One time Bhakta Tim had explained how he had too much schoolwork to come on harinama. He walked with us to the car, to wish us well as we were leaving. As the door between us closed, I smiled, and said, "See you there!" Amazingly enough, despite his previous protestations of being too busy, he came out and had a great time.

Once I spent half an hour trying to encourage Bhaktin Jena to go chant with us at the Tallahassee Rainbow Gathering. At least a couple times during the conversation, she even said she would not go. As it turned out, she did finally go, bringing her guitar and ukulele to play along. She had a great time and was glad she came. I see in these examples the power of the holy name to attract people out of their humdrum material life and give them a higher taste. Now that many of the old-timers are leaving their bodies for new ones, it is heartening to see the young people are becoming more and more attracted, and so the movement will go on. Our Gainesville evening programs have such lively kirtanas that once when the lecture went an hour and twenty minutes, the lecturer tried to forgo the kirtana and go straight to prasadam, but the congregation refused to agree. The lecturer offered a ten minute kirtana, but the devotees kept going twenty minutes or more. Once in Tallahassee I had a party of five to chant at the local downtown park, Lake Ella. All were uninitiated devotees who had a taste to chant. During spring break, Tim and Kelly each drove me two hours to Jacksonville to chant at the campus there, and on the weekend they and some college-aged friends went to the beach in St. Augustine and chanted bhajans much of the time. This all reminds me that the interest in the Hare Krishna mantra among the youth is not just a 1960s phenomenon but the spiritual inclination of the soul shining through his/her coverings of ignorant darkness and thus we should give people all facility to gain such attraction.

Enroute to Europe

Enroute to Europe, while waiting in Jacksonville airport for Jet Blue's afternoon flight, having missed the morning one at an expense of $40, I had the good fortune of meeting Bhakti Visrambha Madhava Swami who was just arriving, and who in his usual jovial mood firmly embraced me with affection. He told me about his latest innovative outreach strategy—to enthuse householder devotees to grow vegetables and fruits for Krishna. It gives them something practical to do that gives a good result, and can inspire them further in Vedic culture and Krishna consciousness. Every little bit of land can be utilized for such gardening, even the roof of buildings. You can grow potatoes in the rings of old tires, stacked one above the other, and at the end of the growing season harvest the potatoes simply by removing the tires.

The Jet Blue flight to JFK was an hour late, and I arrived at the gate designated for my Delta London flight twenty minutes after it was scheduled to depart. I was the last person to board, and I apologized but the stewardesses said not to worry.


When I arrived in London, my customs officer turned out to be a Brahmin who got a masters degree in Sanskrit from Punjab University. I told him I was here to give a few lectures on Bhagavad-gita, and then go on to Amsterdam. He asked if I knew Sanskrit. I said I knew a few words and quoted Bhagavad-gita 4.9. He chants the Hanuman Chalisa and other prayers at 3:30 a.m. every morning. I suggested that he become a preacher as he was a Brahmin but he did not reply. He was aware of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and when I said I would speak on Gadadhara Pandit, he said that he was not a mortal. I replied affirmatively saying, "All the principle associates of Caitanya Mahaprabhu were liberated souls." I invited him to come to our temple at 10 Soho Street. He said he rarely comes but that his wife comes there almost every day. Because of my inviting him, he said he might come. It is nice to connect with people who have a connection with Krishna.

Harinama in London was great as usual. The day I arrived we had a party of nine devotees and Krishna blessed us with a rare sunny afternoon. One girl joined us midday, dancing as enthusiastically as the other devotees for at least half the harinama. Turns out she had seen the devotees in her homeland of Poland and she does Indian dance professionally so for her to join us and participate was natural.

On Saturday, I joined the "weekend warrior" party who went to Kensington and set up with sit down kirtana, prasadam, and book distribution. They were mostly new devotees, so I got lots of opportunity to play my harmonium tunes. After that, we stopped half an hour from the temple on the way home, and chanted harinama the rest of the way. Later to top of the day, we had the famous Saturday night downtown harinama. Many people danced with us. I distributed invitations to those who smiled, danced, or took pictures of our party. Once I gave a flyer to three teenaged girls who were approaching our party with great curiosity. I told them, "Don't repress your natural urge to dance." Two of them gave their belongings to the third for safekeeping and joined the female kirtana dancers with great delight. Another time I encouraged a couple in their thirties who were dancing with each other, amidst the kirtana dancers. I praised their dancing, and they continued another ten minutes before remembering their planned evening engagement, and leaving with invitation in hand. My realization is that a few positive words can really increase a person's participation in devotional service.

In London I was reminded of the smallness of our Hare Krishna world when, one day, four different devotees came up to me and reminded me of my previous connection with them—one girl from Finland, one boy from Slovakia, and two boys who visited Alachua.

On the flight from London to Amsterdam, I happened to sit with an Indian student who is just becoming interested in Hare Krishna. He had read Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers and was beginning Science of Self-Realization. He was going to Amsterdam to visit some friend who had invited him for Queen's Day. I gave him a copy of my BTG with the article on last year's devotee participation in the event, and he was grateful. I hoped to see him there, but I think his association with friends that were not devotionally inclined kept him from meeting up with the devotees during his brief visit to Amsterdam.

Wise Words

Kadambda Kanana Swami's Vyasa Puja was a nice event. He gave a couple of lectures that day that I attended. Here are some of his realizations:

The secret of Krishna consciousness is to remain always inspired. We must fix our mind on Krishna, not just for some time, but at every moment. We must create a culture where this constant remembrance of Krishna goes on.

It is said a pure devotee of Lord Caitanya can deliver the universe. In Srila Prabhupada, we can see how it is possible. We are here by the devotees' mercy.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura said that the kirtanas of Lord Caitanya and His associates are still going on at Srivasa Angam and some can hear while others cannot. Those who cannot can hear them through the scripture, and then there is no different between the two groups.

This movement is compared to waves. Different groups appear from time to time and play key roles.

Always make sure our roots are strong. See what Srila Prabhupada valued and make sure we are doing that.

This movement is flooding the entire world, and yet it is simply moving from one person to another.

Q: How can I not be proud of what you [as my guru] have been able to do through me?
A: Just look at how much more devotees like Vishnujana Swami and Jayananda Prabhu were able to do. And look at Srila Prabhupada himself.

The spiritual master is always present, even if he doesn't always answer our emails.

It makes me feel like a failure as a guru that a disciple wound up in jail. As far as disciples disobeying the order of the guru is concerned, I simply ask that they are honest with me. In this way, things will not get completely out of hand.

Suhotra Swami would practically never argue on the basis of his being a GBC or temple president. He would argue philosophically. Suhotra Swami could not tolerate compromise. He was a sadhu, a man of truth.

To think we are mercy cases is actually good, especially if we aspire to repay the guru, but still, the chanting of the daily sixteen rounds and following the four principles is good enough.

I want you to utilize your nature and capacity in Krishna's service. I look for maturity, sadhana [spiritual practice], and doing something for the mission. If you need ideas, I have them.

As a youth, I vowed never to follow any authority, other than my own. I was depressed, and encountering Srila Prabhupada, I agreed to surrender to him, but to surrender to the different leaders of his movement, was another thing. But I was able to because I was not willing to let temporary, insignificant things, get in the way of attaining Srila Prabhupada's mercy.

Everything is parampara [the line of spiritual predecessors]. That is the essence. I am simply trying to follow the parampara.

Lord Caitanya promised his followers who chanted 64 rounds they would attain Krishna. Srila Prabhupada reduced it to 16 rounds and four rules. Can those who recommend four rounds really promise their followers that they will go back to Godhead?

Spiritual life is more than choosing a service or accepting one chosen by the spiritual master. Our natural inclinations will become obvious in the course of time. Anyone who is a natural book distributor should try to do it as long as possible without being disturbed by asrama or other external considerations.

I will tolerate all kicks from any cow that gives milk.

Do something special in acara [behavior] and pracara [enlightening others] and get some special mercy.

Notes on Vyasa Puja offerings:

Mayapur Chandrodaya Prabhu mentioned that although he played the role of his guru's personal servant and that others were also eager to serve him, his guru always made sure there were proper accommodations for his personal servant.

One lady, I didn't know, mentioned how hearing the realizations of the other disciples brings us closer to the guru.

The feast was so extensive that if you took all you felt like, your body could not handle it, so it was a test of my self-control. There were several desserts including the treasured gulabjamons.

Queen's Day

Queen's Day was bigger both in terms of participation by the general populace and by the devotees. Apparently there was an attack on the royal family which prompted the government to cancel all the festivities in cities other than Amsterdam, so everyone went to Amsterdam to celebrate. Kadamba Kanana Swami had his Vyasa Puja festival at Radhadesh, just under four hours away, so he would get more people to participate, and the strategy worked. There must have been at least a hundred and fifty devotees taking part, at least seventy more than last year. Maharaja thanked me for the BTG [March/April 2009] article on last year's event, saying that now half the devotees in South Africa want to come to Amsterdam for Queen's Day!

Our chanting party lasted seven and a half hours, two hours sitting at our booth, and the rest during two harinamas through the streets, before and after our lunch and rest break. In the beginning at least twenty people joined in dancing with us, becoming part of a 'snake' of dancers winding through the crowd, and they all appeared very happy to take part. [Click here for video.] While at our booth, I would dance at the side of the entrance, offering invitations to those who took pictures, smiled, or stopped to look. [Click here for video.] One pair of college girls watched for a while, and taking an invitation, one began chanting the mantra along with us. I informed her about the prasadam, the books, and the temple nearest her. She was interested in other cultures and had a special interest in India. For more videos on the Hare Krishna participation in Queen's Day 2009, click here.

naham tisthami vaikunthe
yoginam hridayesu va
yatra gayanti mad-bhaktah
tatra tisthami narada

"Lord Krishna told Narada, 'I am not situated in the spiritual world Vaikuntha, nor am I in the hearts of the yogis, but you will find me, O Narada, wherever My devotees are chanting my glories.'" --Padma Purana

Next on to Antwerp, Munich, the German Nrsimha farm (Simhacalam), and more.