Saturday, June 06, 2009

Travel Journal#5.10: Paris, New Mayapur, and More

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 5, No. 10
By Krishna-kripa das
(May 2009, part two)
Paris, New Mayapur, Orleans
(Sent from Amsterdam, Holland, on 6/7/09)

Insights from Lokanatha Swami
Harinamas in France

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

I met Param Gati Swami in Gainesville in February, and told him I spent a week last year in Paris doing metroyoga, congregational chanting of the holy name on the Paris metros. As GBC for France, He encouraged me to come for two weeks this year, and so I did.

Amidst my journey there from Zurich, I played accordion and chanted on the train station platform in Mulhouse, France. I wondered what the customs officers, who had let me into the country, were thinking as they walked passed me, but they did not protest. I did harinama in Paris for a week. Then Gadadhara Priya Prabhu, our Paris harinama leader, became Lokanath Swami’s driver to New Mayapur, where Maharaja was going to work on a book on padayatra, so our party also went there for several days, adding three new cities to the list of places I have done harinama. While in New Mayapur Lokanath Swami gave a great class on cow protection and narrated a slideshow on the Aravade temple opening.

Harinamas in France

I described the metroyoga program in this journal last year (click here for the description, which appears near the bottom of the page). This year it changed a little in that Gadadhara Priya Prabhu speaks when Chandrashekhara Acarya Prabhu is traveling and his style is a little different. One thing he does is asks the people if they believe in reincarnation. Most say “No.” or “I don't know.” but some say “Yes.” Then Gadadhara Priya continues, saying that hearing the chanting is beneficial in any case.

Last year a Paris TV news station did a story on the program. (If you don't speak French, it is helpful to watch the video below with a French interpreter.)

This year, the first day I went on metroyoga, two masters degree students filmed our Paris harinama party for their final project.

In Paris, especially at the Eiffel tower, where the devotees chant on Saturday night, but also elsewhere, people enjoyed interacting with the devotees on harinama.

A couple of young ladies, one decorated like a clown, as well as a couple little black girls with a lot of energy, danced with our party underneath the Eiffel Tower. The little girls must have danced for at least half an hour.

At the Bastille, a couple musicians joined our party for ten or fifteen minutes. One played his own guitar, and the other, with his guitar strapped to his back, played the mrdanga in time.

After visiting New Mayapur, we stopped midway to Paris at Orleans, home of the famed Joan of Arc (depicted in the statue above), where we did harinama for two and a half hours. There I met a man from Kolkata, who told me his relatives play mrdanga and do kirtana, when I advised him “Pratidin Krishna kirtan korun!" [Every day chant Krishna kirtana!] I invited him to the Paris Ratha-yatra and he said he would come. One of the devotees in our party distributed 40 euros of books during the harinama. Gadadhara Priya realized from the experience that he should always break up his monthly trips between Paris and New Mayapur with a harinama in the middle and thus not let a day go by without the public chanting of the holy name!

Insights from Lectures

Lokanath Swami:

You have so many flowers here, you should do puspa-abhiseka [bathing of the Deity with flowers].

Krishna’s beauty [as the Deity] is increasing every day. Our beauty is not increasing every day, at least as far as the body is concerned, but our beauty as souls does not diminish.

As man has a form like the Lord similarly the cows of this material world have a form like that of the surabhi cows of the spiritual world.

Cow protection is part of the peace formula.

Lokanath Swami very much appreciated the bulls and bullock cart that came to greet him when he arrived in New Mayapur.

Raja (the king) takes care of his praja (citizens) like they are his children as Lord Rama demonstrated. It is not that the cows should not be protected because they have no passport. Prabhupada said the government should prohibit the cutting of trees unless the paper was used for spiritual publications.

It was brought to the attention of the Indian parliament the blades on the devices for slaughtering animals caused them unnecessary suffering. No one thought of proposing the closing of the slaughterhouses, instead they decided to import more modern equipment from the West.

Now the Middle East supplies petrol to India in exchange for Indian meat. It is hard to imagine that India has become so degraded. Even in Indian media you hear that milk is bad for your heart and wine is good for it.

One famous personality was going to speak on American TV in favor of vegetarianism, but the meat industry was powerful enough to keep him from speaking, worried that their sales would go down.

In Prague, there was an ecology fair where chemical fertilizer was condemned for destroying the natural fertility of the earth. Cow dung has been used for thousands of years but no negative side effects have been reported.

A global survey concluded that America is the most unhealthy country. This is no surprise to me. From bhoga [sense enjoyment] comes roga [disease], and America is famous for teaching the world how to enjoy.

If you deal with the cow and bulls who have feelings, it is good for you. By dealing with machines you become machinelike, and your heart becomes like steel.

Factories cannot solve our basic needs. We cannot eat deep-fried nuts and bolts or rubber tube salad.

If use bullock carts, there will be no accidents. Beyond that, the bulls know well the way home, so the driver can sleep on the cart and wake up when he arrives.

The economic problems existing now are because we have more of an industrial economy and did not exist when there was an agrarian economy.

When the cow stops giving milk, she is not useless. Cow urine is always curative for many diseases. Cow dung is always good for fertilizer.

The cow is so dear to Krishna. It’s not that He hired someone to take care of the cows, He did it Himself. Not that just spoke about cows in the microphone. Less speaking, more service. Krishna cared more for the cows than Himself. His mother wanted to give Krishna shoes, but He would not accept him unless the cows all had shoes too. The same was true with an umbrella. Krishna had names for all his cows, and He counted them. Two of the eight daily pastimes periods, Krishna focused on caring for the cows.

One devotee lady said she read of an island off of Africa where there is a country where the cows and bulls are protected. The people eat vegetables and fish. One who kills cows there can even get the death penalty.

The vegetation is like the clothing of Mother Earth, and the demoniac, who are attempting to disrobe her by their deforestration programs, will be subject to their own destruction. Forests benefit by providing oxygen and preventing both drought and flooding.

Lokanath Swami picnic at Govardhan Hill replica:

Govardhan Hill was sixteen miles (two yojanas) high during Krishna’s time but is slowing sinking according to a curse. It is expected to completely flatten in 10,000 years.

Lokanath Swami, Slideshow on the Aravade temple opening

In the villages, people would name their animals. There is a group of devotees traveling around to Indian villages and doing name-giving ceremonies for villagers’ animals. The idea being to change the attitude they have toward the animals by making them more a part of the family.

Several countries have padayatras. It is a useful thing for the bulls to do.

Aravade, Lokanath Swami’s place of appearance and one of 500,000 villages in India, has a population 4,000, but they hosted 100,000 for their temple opening, including 10,000 ISKCON devotees. They used to get 100 visitors on Sundays and now they have 4,000 at the new temple. The senior guests were offered turbans at the opening ceremony. The fireworks were so extensive they impressed the American and European devotees. They had a horse dancing on its hind legs. There was one devotee from Africa who balanced a chair on one leg on a stick he held in his mouth. Pune devotees did an expert one-and-a-half hour Ramayana. In addition to the Radha Gopala Deities, were Garuda, Jaya Vijaya, Sita Rama Laksmana Hanuman, and Vitthala Rukmini. They had a rasa dance diorama with mirrors to show many Krishnas and gopis.

Lokanath Swami, 5/28, SB 1.17.12, New Mayapur

When the king sees even one citizen unhappy, he becomes unhappy.

By promising to follow the four rules we help the Lord establish the principles of religion. By not eating meat, we help establish mercy. Eating meat makes us very hard hearted and without higher sentiments. By not taking intoxication we help establish austerity. By not engaging in illicit sex, we establish purity. By not gambling, we help to establish truthfulness.

During Prabhupada’s time, one woman was upset wondering why her son was killed in Vietnam, but Prabhupada was not sympathetic. He observed that so many cows are mercilessly killed in America that it is only natural some Americans might be killed.

The pastime of Mrgari the hunter shows how the most merciless person can become the most merciful simply by chanting the glories of God.

When we perform austerity, by the mercy of the Lord, we attain an inner happiness, and this happiness is not contaminated by distress. This differs from the material happiness, which is mixed with inevitable distress. Better to enjoy less in this world in terms of material pleasure, for then you will experience less suffering.

Daiva netrena” literally means the “by the eyes of the Supreme.”

Lust sits in the senses, mind, and intelligence. If the lust is just in the senses, it is not so bad as when the lust is in the mind, and when the lust is in the mind, it is not as bad as when the lust affects the intelligence, because then you are finished.

These principles of religion are for the whole world to follow. They are not just for “Hindus.” There is one group who is trying to convert followers from Hinduism to their own group, arguing that then they will not have to worry about the law of karma.

To encourage the devotees, he reminded them that at Kurukshetra on the winning side there were just the five brothers, while on the other side there were a hundred.

Devotee whose name I did not know:

Those who are not punished for killing on the spot will have to suffer greatly in the next life. We can understand this by hearing submissively from scripture.

When a human being gives in to lust, envy, etc. , he becomes worse than a beast, as Jagai and Madhai exemplify. But harinama we can purify people from their lower motives.

Prasadam has six benefits:

1) one is not in anxiety because he is not stealing from God, the source of all foodstuffs.

2) the devotee feels connected with God

3) the immediate karma of killing animals and future karma of meat industry on environment is avoided

4) prasadam frees one of previous karma

5) the devotees purify their consciousness from material effects

6) the devotees awaken love of God

Raja Dharma Prabhu:

One hospital worker shared her realization that life is just hanging on very thin string. Recently Anon, a 61-year old sitar player, who was part of the congregation, was seen by the devotees one evening, but then the next day died of a stroke. He was not so much attached to this world, and when he left his body, his son was reading Brahma-samhita to him has he looked at his home Deities.

Srila Prabhupada stresses that people do not take spiritual life seriously until they realize the life is actually full of miseries.

Without being detached, you cannot you give proper guidance. Therefore, the brahmanas were meant to be detached.

Tapana Misra and Candrasekhara Acarya were considered kanistha adhikaris or on the neophyte stage because they could not defeat the blaspheme of the Mayavadi sannyasis against Lord Caitanya.

We are grabbing toys that give us a little temporary satisfaction but when the body is diseased we come to understand that these little adjustments will not satisfy us.

Krishna, love of Krishna, and service to Krishna is real wealth.

Some say the story that Narada told Valmiki to say to “Mara” because he couldn’t say “Rama” is erroneous because “Mara” is a Bengali word not a Sanskrit one and that perhaps a Bengali translator concocted it.

Nrsimhananda IDS Prabhu:

In history, those who have been famous for centuries, all have some connection with religion.

Krishna out of kindness curbs the pride of devotees who are proud of becoming famous by putting them in a condition where they are treated as less than ordinary people.

To be enthusiastic in the material world, we have to run toward some goal. Two classes of people exist. The materialistic class, in modern times, exalt sex life as the highest enjoyment, but it is not difficult to see dedicating one’s life to chase it results in frustration. The spiritualist instead runs toward God. To discover who I am and what is my relationship with God is a lofty goal that the animal has no access to. The spiritual path is exciting to follow even before the goal is reached, just as we are excited to go on vacation, even before we get to our destination. All religions are based on scriptures which teach us how to behave properly, so we can become free from the limitations of material existence, and return to the kingdom of God. The Kali-yuga tends to drag us down and thus we must be dedicated to protecting the four pillars of religion in our own life. When we are negligent in that, we lose enthusiasm, and wander on the mental platform. It is easy to find oneself meditating on money instead of meditating on Krishna. We think we need all these different things to be Krishna conscious which are not actually necessary.

In reality we have nothing we really possess. All we have to offer Krishna is our feelings. Without meditating on Krishna, we cannot offer our feelings to Krishna. We cannot give our attention fully to two things at once. For example, if your mouth is full of food, you cannot chant Hare Krishna. Krishna can concentrate on everyone at once, but we cannot.

When we chant japa, we are not in the center. It a personal offering to one person, Krishna. Imagine you have a friend who is sick and you go to him and perform service for him for two hours a day, just think how that will enhance your relationship with them! It is like that with Krishna, when we concentrate attentively on japa.