Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Travel Journal#5.4: Florida Rainbow Gatherings & Great Insights

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 5, No. 4
By Krishna-kripa das
(February 2009, part two)
Alachua County and North Florida’s Regional Rainbow Gatherings
(Sent from Ljubljana, Slovenia, on June 24, 2009)


Harinama and Food Distribution at North Florida's Regional Rainbow Gatherings
Insights from Hridayananda Dasa Goswami and Others
Conversations with Others About Spirituality

Where I Was and What I Was Doing

One eventful experience during the second half of February was going to the Rainbow Gathering in Ocala National Forest to chant and distribute spiritual food. Later, in March, we went to the Rainbow Gathering in Tallahassee, a fairly new, but similar event we had never done before. Although in different months, both are history now, so I will describe them together to compare and contrast them. The second half of February was also special because I heard at least five lectures by Hridayananda Goswami, much more than usual, and I mention his interesting insights. Also younger and newer devotees tell some nice stories and share some nice realizations in this issue.

Harinama and Food Distribution at North Florida’s Regional Rainbow Gatherings

To assist our food distribution at the Ocala Rainbow Gathering, Gainesville’s Krishna Lunch program donated one bucket of rice, one bucket of dal, and one bucket of rice and dal mixed, and most importantly, seven buckets of halava, I favorite among devotees and Rainbows alike. When we found out we had to walk an hour into the woods at Ocala’s National Forest, we realized that we were understaffed to easily transport it all. A very philanthropic man drove us and our equipment over a rugged road to a slightly closer entrance. Some of us had to stand on the back bumper of the truck to fit on board. We had a couple trolleys of limited effectiveness and some of the Rainbows helped us carry the prasadam in. With great endeavor did we get the food to where the people were. We stopped part way to the main circle, at a place where a lot of people were sitting around and distributed almost all the rice and dal, singing kirtana as we did so.

Then we went to the main circle where we distributed all but about two buckets of halava, to the mostly young people who stayed in a circle at sundown to share food around a bonfire. Another bucket we distributed on the way out. At the main circle bonfire Visvambhara, Bhadra Prabhu’s son, who is an excellent kirtana man, sang for two or two and a half hours. Usually, according to Garuda Prabhu, also known as Yogi G. and Soaring Turkey, a seasoned Rainbow Gathering attender who often sets up his own Krishna tent, the Rainbows don’t let the Krishnas chant for more than twenty minutes. Visvambhara and his drum playing friends were such good entertainment for them, they were able to keep going over two hours. Some of the devotees and some of the Rainbows danced around the bonfire. I gave our Gainesville mantra cards and invitations to the most appreciative people. Although most of the people liked our chanting, a few became restless and wanted to hear something else. Since most of the people liked it, we didn’t take the others too seriously, until they became more assertive. I think that next time, we should stop a little sooner, just avoid making some people irate, even if most of the people like it. It is better to leave people desiring more, than to leave people desiring less. In addition to Visvambhara and his Vaishnava youth band, I recall that Maha-kirti Prabhu and Mother Ali Krishna were particularly enthusiastic and played important roles in the event. In particular, Ali Krishna distributed many books to people with a spiritual interest, who have time to read them while camped out there in the woods.

The Tallahassee event was different in many ways. The national forest which hosts it, is just outside the city limits, and thus it is convenient for Tallahassee residents. The main circle is just a ten or fifteen minute walk instead of a whole hour, a welcome relief. We had nine devotees and stayed for the whole afternoon and part of the evening. One difference about this event was that the Rainbows invited us to participate in one of their circles just about to commence when we arrived. Mother Mrgaksi thought it would be good for us from the social point of view to accept their invitation, and as she is senior person and made a good point, I went along with it. The topic of that meeting was how to respond to violence committed by Rainbow’s own front gate staff on the others as they came and left the gathering. One man was clearly responsible and was ultimately the object of some disciplinary action by the others. Each person in the circle could say something which others were allowed to respond to, when they were holding a certain feather, which indicated the right to speak. Many of the points were repetitive, but since each person had a right to speak, that was almost inevitable. When it was my turn, I decided to mention part of our mission there, distribution of spiritual food, and I explained that one effect of eating spiritual food is that it makes one less violent, citing a few practical examples. Bhaktin Jackie spoke nicely, mentioning the beneficial effects of the universal principal of chanting the holy name of the Lord. Some of the devotees left the circle early and did some harinama around the site, a sentiment I could also appreciate. Later one of the Tallahassee Rainbow leaders told a devotee that his appreciation of the Hare Krishnas increased to a new level as a result of their participating in the circle. That was certainly a victory for us.

At the Tallahassee Rainbow event, our chanting party had, in addition to traditional kirtana instruments, two guitars, a ukulele, a djembe drum, and a trumpet, and we played for a few hours along the path leading to the main circle, and a few people joined us to listen or play their own djembe. We distributed prasadam there to those who passed by. I passed out invitations to our campus lunch, yoga, and temple programs to those whose dress indicated they were locals, and would be in the position to attend them. We also distributed books to interested people. I cooked twelve gallons of kitri and five gallons of halava, which I found to take more time and be more physically demanding than I ever imagined, and I gained admiration for those who routinely cook large quantities for prasadam distribution. Daru Brahma Prabhu also donated prasadam from his campus lunch program. We had too much prasadam as this was just the third year of this regional gathering and attendance was not as great as at the other. While I was distributing halava at the main circle, one middle-aged man with his two pre-teen daughters said he had made a lot of halava in his day. I inquired what he meant, and he explained he had been a cook in our Chicago temple in the 1980s named Atmaratha Dasa. I told him about our local temple programs in case he wanted to again pursue the spiritual practice of his youth. As we already chanted for several hours and because we had got some negative feedback from chanting too much at Ocala’s main circle, I was doubtful abut chanting at the main circle at the Tallahassee event, but when some of the people saw us preparing to leave, they asked us to stay and sing. We chanted for twenty minutes or so. It felt better to be asked to sing, rather than to be asked to stop.

Both the Ocala and Tallahassee programs were tiring, as after packing up and walking out to our vehicles, we still had at least a two-hour drive home to Gainesville. We returned between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m. each time, but it was worth it to distribute prasadam, chant Hare Krishna, make new friends, and visit old ones, and many people, including those of us who participated took another step toward Krishna. And so both were very happy experiences, and I am very thankful to all the devotees who participated. In particular, I appreciate Mahakirti Prabhu, a veteran organizer of festival events like the Czech Woodstock, who assisted greatly by contributing his enthusiasm, transportation, and funding to both the programs.

Insight from Lectures

Hridayananda Dasa Goswami:

Hridayananda Goswami (February 15, 2009):

Srila Prabhupada said it is our duty to mold our lives to always think of Krishna. If we realize our life does not facilitate Krishna remembrance, we have to reboot it. Sraddha means not merely to believe God exists but to place one’s faith in God. The temple is meant for making you see Krishna in everything when you walk out the door. Imagine a friend comes to you and is dressed in a different way, and you don’t recognize him. That is what we are doing when we see Krishna in the Deity but not in everyone’s heart.

The “akama sarva-kama” verse means that everyone has the same duty (one-pointed devotional service), and everyone has the same chance.

Krishna is not, thank God, a religious fanatic.

When an ISKCON leader was too severe, Srila Prabhupada said, “They are my disciples, do not break them.”

Hear entire lecture at:

Hridayananda Dasa Goswami (February 19, 2009):

The name “Dhrtarastra” comes from two words “dhrta” meaning “to hold” and “rastra” which means “kingdom”, and so Dhrtarastra is he who held on to the kingdom.

Formerly when people went to the forest for retirement there were places (ashrams) and people who could instruct them on how to live in the forest and counsel them about their issues regarding leaving their families.

When Pandu died, Dhrtarastra saw it was his chance to get the kingdom, and thus he looked the other way when his son Duryodhana tried to murder the Pandavas. Later Duryodhana practically took control. After that, sometimes Dhrtarastra remembered Pandu and felt bad about supporting his son’s atrocities against Pandu’s sons, the Pandavas. But still he went on with the war.

Yudhisthira recalled Dhrtarastra’s taking care of him and his brothers when they were young and felt Dhrtarastra had paid for his crime of supporting his son’s murder attempts against him and his brothers by losing his hundred sons in the war.

In a society dedicated to sense gratification, old people are a nuisance. But in a society dedicated to wisdom, old people are a great asset and should be taken care of and respected.

Hear entire lecture at:

Hridayananda Dasa Goswami’s japa talk (February 21, 2009):

We want sat, cit, and ananda. In other words, we want to continue to exist, we want to understand, and we want to be happy.

In our relationship with Krishna, our self-centeredness is a problem for us.

In this world, we idolize people to fan our own fantasies.

We have to make a conscious decision to approach Krishna and do what is required.

I like to take long japa walks and practice seeing Krishna everywhere. We actually live in Krishna and should be looking for Him everywhere, like the Six Goswami’s taught. Every living body is a mandira (temple). We go to the mandira, so we can learn to see that when we go outside there are mandiras everywhere.

Japa is an opportunity to hang out with Krishna. Krishna is a really nice guy, in addition to being God.

We do not give our whole heart to Krishna because part of our heart is not quite sure about it yet.

Krishna is His name, so we have immediate access to omnipotence.

The perfection of Srila Prabhupada is not in terms of knowledge of the material world but in terms of knowledge of the spiritual world and how to attain it. In time, Srila Prabhupada was increasing his knowledge of the material world, such as the modern Western technology with which he was originally unfamiliar. Prabhupada expressed many times his perfection was he represented the scripture as it is. Srila Prabhupada created a gurukula system, yet he had never set up a school before. Basically he wanted to facilitate the spiritual life of the children and facilitate the parents of the children to have time to work for the benefit of others. Although there were problems, still his motives were pure, and we should honor his pure desires. He tried different strategies and learned as he went along.

Hear entire lecture at:

Hridayananda Dasa Goswami (February 26, 2009):

To torture your own children forever for mental crimes (doctrinal mistakes) as some religions characterize God as doing is most evil.

If all you knew were the religions of Asia, would you consider religion the cause of war?

In Bhagavad-gita 12.3, Krishna acknowledges those who work for the welfare of others.

We are not stuck with a jealous God who has self-esteem issues.

To those who are vegetarian and for animal rights, we ask, “Why not add gratitude to the person who has given you everything to your good qualities?”

Some people who give charity out of pride do not like God.

The central component of goodness is devotion to God. For those who want to understand God, to be open-minded about it, is a very important qualification. Because there is only one God, we should be willing to consider information from other sources, especially a culture with so much knowledge and devotion to God for thousands of years, like the Vedic culture. There is nothing like Vaishavism in terms of sophisticated philosophy. It is really unique, and a serious person should consider it.

You cannot give something you do not have. Srila Prabhupada empowered his disciples to give Krishna consciousness to others. He encouraged them: “Do something practical.” “Krishna consciousness is common sense.” When Srila Prabhupada would go somewhere [mentally], he would take you there.

Q: What is the biggest misconception we have of Srila Prabhupada?
A: The guru does not want to take anything from us. He just wants to give us love of God. He had no attachment to anything of this world. He saw the devotees were bright-faced because they were happy sharing Krishna consciousness with others.

Q: How can we attract people?
A: We are not trying to attract people. We are trying to attract Krishna.

Hear entire lecture at:

Hridayananda Dasa Goswami (February 27, 2009):

Because we have taken up Krishna consciousness based on our previous practice, we enter at different levels.

Some people think that a perfect person has stripped away all personal tendencies, but fortunately that is not our philosophy. It would be very weird to hang around with denatured people.

On a morning walk in Los Angeles, a devotee told Srila Prabhupada that in Israel, the government is criticizing the rabbis for praying all day. Srila Prabhupada replied, “Why do they pray all day? They should do something practical.”

Srila Prabhupada considered that ignorance is to some extent an excuse.

The sincerity of the devotee is the extent to which he struggles with his conditioned nature and tries to surrender to Krishna.

If we represent Srila Prabhupada’s heaviness and not his compassion, then we are not really representing Srila Prabhupada.

Srila Prabhupada was not really against science but against scientism and pseudoscience.

People who oppose me are either:

(1) Reasonable and I learn from them and refine my position. (2) Emphasing the opposite side but serving a valuable role in that they keep people from taking my side to an extreme. (3) Crazy.

Plato says that when you come out of the cave into the brightness of the sun, because you are used to the dim light of the cave, you stumble about and are less functional for a while.

Srila Prabhupada personally told me that there was no time that he did not remember Krishna, and I have no doubt that he was telling the truth, and that he came from the spiritual world.

Adi Karta Prabhu:

The only real enjoyment for the soul is love of God. Persons who attain this give up the pursuit of physical knowledge.

Krishna appeared as a cowherd boy to show us the importance of the cow to human society.

Mother Akuti:

We should not wait to the end of life to take spiritual life seriously, as Dhrtarastra did.

Srila Prabhupada was addicted to Krishna and was hoping we would become addicted to Krishna.

Bhakti can be attained with the help of someone like Vidura who sticks with you till the end.

Gandhari, because of her austerity, was powerful enough to reprimand all the great Kaurava leaders like Bhismadeva and Dronacarya, although no one else could do so, when these leaders callously permitted the insulting of Draupadi.

A book distributor once asked Srila Prabhupada how he could be unaffected by dealing with all the materialistic habits of the people he approached on book distribution. Srila Prabhupada advised him to chant all sixteen rounds in the morning in one sitting.

Kalakantha Prabhu:

If we see bad things done to us as our karma, then we can forgive the offender.

Srila Prabhupada said, “We must learn how to forgive and forget, otherwise how can we live.”

Srila Prabhupada once said a class should contain four important ideas: (1) we are not these bodies, but spiritual souls, (2) the mission of Lord Caitanya is to spread love of Godhead worldwide, (3) chanting the holy name is best way to approach God, and (4) the personal feature of God is superior to His impersonal feature and is the desired goal.

Phanibhusana Prabhu on The Nectar of Devotion:

Offer Krishna forest flowers not florists’ flowers!

The term “His Divine Grace” referring to the spiritual master can be explained with the “His” referring to Krishna because the guru is the ‘divine grace’ of Krishna.

On surrender:
I will go where you want me to go.
I will do whatever you want me to do.
I will say whatever you want me to say.
I will stay wherever you want to stay.

Mother Indrani:

Yudhisthira Maharaja teaches us to inquire when we in distress and thus be relieved, just as he inquired from Sanjaya and Narada Muni.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

When Arjuna is depressed because he doesn’t want to fight and turns to Krishna, Krishna smiles. Similarly Krishna is smiling when we turn to Him.

Q: You can get angry at God for sending you bad things. How to avoid this?
A: On a bad day, we see it as Krishna’s plan. We ask Krishna, “What are we to learn from this?” He will show you.

Q: How do you make plans if you know that Krishna may not accept your plans?
A: Just to live we have to make plans, but we can seek guidance and observe our motives. Is it to help others? Is it to please Krishna?

I wanted to go to Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s samadhi opening in Mayapur, and I made so many plans, but due to some physical aliment I couldn’t go. Then I had to surrender to the fact that Krishna did not want me to go. I had to pray to be able to accept it.

Bhakti Tirtha Swami said, “The mind puts up a wall for the soul to express itself. The mind, by its very nature, can only accept and reject the subject matter of the material world.”

Mother Ali Krishna:

Krishna consciousness is all auspicious because it: (1) attracts everyone, (2) benefits everyone, (3) liberates everyone, and (4) brings happiness to everyone.

Just like when you are a kid and you really want a tricycle for your seventh birthday, you cry to express the intensity of your desire, in the same way, we should cry to be engaged in some kind of devotional service to Krishna.

Our situation in his world is like someone who comes out of a coma and has amnesia and cannot recognize his dearmost relatives. In the same way, we cannot recognize our beloved Lord until we come out of amnesia by the process of devotional service.

Mother Namamrita:

When I was younger, when my mom went to dress the Deities, sometimes I felt remorseful, thinking I was being neglected, but now I can understand and appreciate the value of her service and her greatness.

Conversations with Others About Spirituality

Murti Dasa, an enthusiastic, young book distributor, decided to experiment by doing book distribution in varieties of attire. He tried wearing, on three different days, (1) a suit and tie, (2) ripped jeans, and (3) Hare Krishna brahmacari robes. His conclusion was that dress had an insignificant effect on the number of books he distributed. He suggested that one dress in whatever one feels comfortable in, but then added that acting for our own comfort may be yet another attachment to overcome on the path to pure love for Krishna.

Andres, one of the IVS students, told us that when he was becoming interested in Krishna consciousness, he was at a party of his friends, both those also inclined to devotional service and those not. The nondevotee friends all got intoxicated while his devotionally inclined friends remained sober. One by one the intoxicated friends passed out. Then the devotee friends had kirtana for half an hour, enjoying the spiritual intoxication of the chanting. His other friends were trying to enjoy life by getting intoxicated but in reality, they just passed out. However, his devotee friends, who did not take intoxication, were happily intoxicated chanting Hare Krishna.

Gemini told how he became vegetarian when he was tripping on acid and saw a TV show with a man jogging, along with his dog and his turkey, who were also jogging. He then understood the turkey was also a living thing, and became a vegetarian that very day, throwing out all the meat in his residence. His commitment was tested later when he was hitchhiking and a Muslim man offered him a ride. The Muslim man was going to a wedding, and made Gemini the guest of honor. As the honored guest, he was given the first plate of lamb at the wedding banquet. Gemini was worried. He did not want to offend the hosts nor break his vow of vegetarianism. Thus he told the wedding assembly that he had heard of Allah’s kindness to all, and it moved him to become vegetarian. They all applauded. Two weeks later, the bridegroom wrote Gemini that he had become inspired by Allah to become vegetarian too.


patrapatra-vicara, nahi sthanasthana
yei yanha paya, tanha kare prema-dana

“In distributing love of Godhead, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates did not consider who was a fit candidate and who was not, nor where such distribution should or should not take place. They made no conditions. Wherever they got the opportunity, the members of the Pañca-tattva distributed love of Godhead.” (Sri Caitanya-cartamrita, Adi-lila 7.23)