Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Travel Journal#5.15b: Berlin Ratha-yatra, Polish Festival Tour

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 5, No. 15b
By Krishna-kripa das 
(August 2009, part one, section two)
Berlin Ratha-yatra, Polish Festival Tour 

(Sent from Zagreb, Croatia, on 8/26/09)


Berlin Ratha-yatra

Polish Festival Tour Experiences
Kavicandra Swami Reception Address
Janmastami Lecture
Instructions to Initiates by Indradyumna Swami
Nectar from Vyasa Puja Offerings

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

After the Polish Woodstock, Dhruva Prabhu and I joined the Poland summer festival tour for a couple weeks. They had more devotees than they needed, and we are grateful to Jayatam and Nandini Prabhus that we were allowed to come anyway. We took a break one day to attend the Berlin Ratha-yatra, which was for me, my fifth consecutive one. 

Berlin Ratha-yatra

Sacinandana Swami, and Kadamba Kanana Swami were there, along with Prithu Prabhu. Every Ratha-yatra has unique features. In Berlin, they have a small ratha cart which the children pull that goes in front of the larger one. Also Gaura-Nitai Deities ride on a palanquin carried by four men, or sometimes four women, ahead of the Jagannatha cart. Sometimes when the Jagannatha cart stops, the devotees turn the palanquin around so Gaura-Nitai can see Jagannatha and the devotees singing and dancing before Him. This reminds us of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes with Lord Jagannath when He was in Puri, and He exchanged feelings of love with Lord Jagannath in the course of the Ratha-yatra there. Once when the women were carrying Gaura-Nitai, a line of woman dancers danced underneath the palanquin, a sight I had never seen before. The following video hints at what it was like:

The crowd, like that in Prague, was full of tourists, and I talked people from America, Holland, and Spain, and of course, other parts of Germany. I could see the festive atmosphere created by the blissful devotees, colorfully decorated, singing and dancing, and pulling the cart, created quite a curiosity in the people. Because of this curiosity many more people took invitations than they would otherwise.

The Berlin devotees always do a good job with the feast, always a curd subji, and one special sweet, often malpura, this time srikand. 

The stage show did not started immediately after the Ratha-yatra. The feast was served out inside. Feeling a lack of transcendental sound, Kadamba Kanana Swami, picked up my mini accordion and played to fill the gap:

Kadamba Kanana Swami told me he is thinking of bringing me to South Africa, to do harinama, and to write a Back to Godhead article on the cultivation of the black community there.

Poland Summer Festival Tour Experiences

As a newcomer to this year’s tour, at first, my name was not yet on the list of devotees for the harinama bus. One day I chose not to compete for a seat on the harinama bus, but take a city bus or hitchhike to harinama instead. Because it was Sunday, buses were so scare, hitchhiking was the only opportunity. Three young men picked up me and Lilesvara Govinda Prabhu, my Mayapuri companion. They asked to hear me play my accordion, and thus unknowing got to hear the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. We gave them mantra cards and good wishes, and they dropped on the main highway, 89 km from Miedzyjdroje, our destination. We did not get a ride for two hours, but on the up side, we did chant a lot of kirtana while waitingFinally a minivan bus came by and took us to within 10 km of our festival site, the time to reach the harinama site before its end, having elapsed. As I sat waiting for my friend to shop at a bench by an intersection, two persons photographed me sitting playing the accordion and chanting Hare Krishna there and many more watched with curiosity. It took only ten minutes to catch a ride to our festival. When the driver saw we were Hare Krishnas, he smiled and asked if we were at Woodstock, and we said, “Yes.” He showed us his red Woodstock patrol badge, and told how he came for three years, and how he liked our food. We gave him and his wife a mantra card and invitation to our Wroclaw temple, which is near their hometown. They did not know about our festival in Mrzezyno, the town they visiting, and were happy to find out about it. It is always interesting to see who Krishna arranges for us to meet up with. Almost always we can see how both ourselves and those we encounter benefit by the experience. At the end of the evening, back at the base, Jananivasa Prabhu told me that the couple came to the festival, stopped by the book tent, and the lady purchased a copy Ramayana. That really made my day!

Insight from Lectures

Kavicandra Swami (reception address):

Christ washed the feet of his disciples to teach them to serve each other. Through this reception of me, Indradyumna Swami is showing how to honor one’s godbrothers, not only how to honor his godbrothers.

What the devotees do, Krishna is doing through them, so by glorifying the devotees you glorify Krishna. The devotee knows Krishna is doing everything, but that Krishna also wants to give the devotee credit.

I come here on the Polish tour for the inspiration. Except for Mayapur, there are more devotees working together here than any other place. Worshiping the Deity and teaching others to worship the Deity is exemplified here more than any other place. So much prasadam distribution.

Lord Caitanya made it easy, “Where every you go, whoever you meet tell them about Krishna.”

We have to make arrangements for people to find us, because by a moment’s association one can attain perfection.

I met a man who got a mantra card in Africa 30 years before. He said whatever I get into trouble, I chant the mantra. I advised him that it is good to chant both in happiness and distress. But the experience showed me how important it is to distribution mantra cards, books, etc.

My mother was very prejudiced, especially against Africans, so Krishna sent me there to preach to purify me so I can see all people as spirit souls.

The year 2012 is end of a calendar and the end of an age, but not the end of the world. Now is a very auspicious time because the Lord Caitanya’s movement is spreading all over the world. Many things are happening but this sankirtana is the leading edge. In Greece, the devotees chant at the yoga groups. The yoga groups sometimes have their own kirtana groups

It is heavy to accept all kinds of respect and gifts, because we have to pay back. We should never accept anything without giving back.

When I first came around the temple, the devotees told me you had better join right now because this movement is going to spread all over the world, and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to get in on the beginning of it.

Leipzig is the first place in East Germany to get Srila Prabhupada’s books. Now there are many enthusiastic young devotees there.

Usually Siva is famous for destroying the universe, but in the case of the churning of the milk ocean, he saves the universe by drinking an ocean of poison.

The demigods ultimately win because they take shelter of the Supreme Lord.

In Bangkok, there is a large diorama of the churning of the milk pastime which is the first thing you see coming from the airport, with Kurma, the big mountain, and parties of demons and demigods.

People are suffering because of their karma and there is not anything you can do to change it. One time some Americans arranged to send a boat of food to some starving people, and so many impediments arose, the food never reached the people.

Preaching Krishna consciousness is the most pleasing thing to Krishna, and for one who has pleased Krishna, there is nothing one cannot attain. Krishna fulfills such a devotees desires without his asking.

Some people wanted to stop the free food distribution in London. They were worried that it would encourage people to become or remain homeless, so they could get free food. Former homeless people, now much better situated materially, testified, “The Hare Krishnas saved my life.” The spokesman for those opposing the free food said, “The Hare Krishnas can distribute free food, but the others must stop.” He recognized that the devotees, led by Parasurama Prabhu, were doing more than just offering physical nourishment. They were changing people’s lives for the better.

We should be thankful to Lord Nityananda for giving us this opportunity.

If Krishna sees that a person gives up everything to help others, Krishna will take care of that person better than he could by himself.

Janmastami lecture:

Bhaktivinoda Thakura says holy days like Janmastami are the mother of devotion for those who celebrate them. Srila Prabhupada recommended kirtana, katha, abhiseka, and a prasadam feast.Kirtana is an expression of love from the heart. Thus Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura would sometimes purposely have the less expert musicians play to stress the devotion is more important than the music. Take full advantage of the freedom we have to chant kirtana in the streets. We have not always had it, and may not always continue to have it. Bhavisya Purana states when the citizens of Mathura asked when Krishna had taken birth so they could have a festival. He told them persons eight or older should observe it by fasting and that His Janmastami would someday be observed in every town and village of the world. Krishna’s conception is the original immaculate conception as He appeared in the mind of Vasudeva and was transferred to the mind of Devaki. Jiva Goswami in Gopala Campu comments that in addition to Yogamaya, Yasoda had a boy, Krishna, and that Narayana was born to Devaki. When the Narayana was swapped with Yogamaya Yasoda was left with both Krishna and Narayana until Narayana merged into Krishna in the next moment. 

The day after Janmastami is called Nandotsava, and Nanda Maharaja gave charity in honor of Krishna’s birth. That Krishna arranged that Srila Prabhupada take birth on that day is Krishna’s greatest charity to the world. We are grateful to Srila Prabhupada that he is engaging us in fulfilling Lord Krishna’s own prediction, that Janmastami will be celebrated in every town and village of the world.

The real nectar of the Vyasa Puja Day is to hear the glories of the honored personalities that the Lord reveals in the hearts of their faithful followers.


Instructions Given to Different Initiates by Indradyumna Swami:

Be strict in your practice and merciful to those who have no connection to this movement. Follow your vows strictly and you will get spiritual strength. Srila Prabhupada said after initiation you should chant in earnest. Be brahmacari as long as you can. Take good care of your fiancĂ©. It is nice to accept as disciples those people born in Vaishnava families—in these cases, we feel we are just adding the finishing touches. And read Srila Prabhupada’s books—all essential knowledge is there.

Nectar from Vyasa Puja Offerings

Indradyumna Swami:

Vyasa Puja Day is an important day of all of us in ISKCON. We can remember his pastimes and sacrifices. We are all recipients of his mercy, and we all have some realizations of this. Someday people may appreciate what he did for the world. For now, appreciation lives in the hearts of his followers. Prabhupada wanted Krishna to be a household word, and it is to a large extent. We must similarly try to make Srila Prabhupada famous.

Sri Prahlada Prabhu: 

About eight years ago, some Sri Vaisnava pandits came to a temple in South India, and asked to talk someone. They were sent to me, and they asked their question, “Who is Prabhupada?” I replied, “He is the founder of ISKCON, and disciple of Bhaktisiddhana Sarasvati Thakura. He spread Krishna consciousness all over the world.” They said, “No, that is his biography. Who is he?” I said, “Could you explain what you mean by that question?” The Sri Vaishnava explained, “In our tradition, we understand that because Ramanujacarya spread Vishnu-bhakti in South India in a miraculous way, and we understand he must be Balarama, the Lord’s personal expansion. But your teacher, spread Krishna consciousness not only in South India, but all over the world. Therefore we are wondering who is your master.” I replied, “When Srila Prabhupada was asked that question, he merely said, ‘If I told you, you would faint.’”

One time a book distributor in San Diego encountered a person who was excited to find he was distributing Bhagavad-gita. The man took the book, and turned it over, and saw Prabhupada’s picture. “That’s him, that’s him,” the man excitedly said to his wife. “He came to me in a dream and told me to read Bhagavad-gita.

Prahlada-Nrsimha Prabhu:

In Ecuador, the authorities decided to stop book distribution to raise money to buy temples instead continuing to rent houses. I fought it, and they let me keep the book distribution going in my temple alone. I worried I offended many Prabhupada disciples in my arguing. That night I had a dream with Srila Prabhupada leading my through the woods to a break in the trees wherein we saw Krishna and Balarama and their friends playing. Then Balarama turned to us, and from His hands emanated a pile of coins and jewels. Next in the dream, Srila Prabhupada told me not to worry. “Just maintain the book distribution and everything will come.”

Indradyumna Swami:

By your desire to save me, I have been saved from a life like my contemporaries ending in being harassed by material desires, though wanting peaceful autumn years. By reflecting every day on your mercy upon me, I recommit myself daily to your service. There is no difference between your traveling the world fourteen times over to preach and frolicking in Goloka with Krishna, Balarama, and their cowherd boy friends. For us, such preaching results in our joining the eternal pastimes. One you lamented how the Mayavadis were flourishing as the Vaishnavas retired to nirjana bhajana. We wish that we may save you from such lamentation by our preaching. You spoke of preaching vigorously in Poland. We are now in our 20th year doing Festival of India on the Polish sea coast. At least 75,000 people come and appreciate bhajanas, katha, dramas, prasadam, etc. At Woodstock we distributed 130,000 plates of prasadam. We appreciate you are engaging some of us hapless souls in assisting your mission. I would gladly do this preaching work eternally. Service to your lotus feet is more attractive than all the charms the world has to offer.

Sitala Mataji on Srila Prabhupada:

Why is it difficult to write a Vyasa Puja offering to Srila Prabhupada?

1. He is like a gem with so many facets that you cannot describe it.

2. His brilliance exposes all. We realize our actual position—how far we have to go and how insignificant we are.

Govinda dasi had more association with Srila Prabhupada than practically any other female. Once in the early days, Govinda dasi made a birthday cake for Srila Prabhupada and placed it on his altar with candles flaming. She explained that is how we celebrate birthdays in America. She continued, “You make a wish and then blow out the candles.” Prabhupada compiled expertly blowing out every last candle and exclaiming, “I have done well.” She explained, “Now your wish will come true,” Govinda Dasi said. Srila Prabhupada explained, “I wish only for Krishna and for Krishna’s service.” In her remembrance, Govinda dasi expressed gratitude that Srila Prabhupada accepted her offering of an American birthday party, and then shared his important and instructive realization about the value of Krishna’s service with her.

Sitala recalled that in 1971 the devotees made a chocolate cake for Srila Prabhupada on his Vyasa Puja day and offered him a piece which he began to eat as he disappeared into his room. The devotees devoured the remain cake, and when Srila Prabhupada asked for another piece, the devotees were ashamed there was nothing more to give him.

Govinda dasi recalled how Srila Prabhupada told her to chant to a poor slug which she had expressed disgust at seeing. She was grateful to witness his compassion in this way.

Once Hari Sauri was trying to remove a mosquito from Srila Prabhupada’s mosquito net before Prabhupada took rest. He hit it so hard that it fell to the ground resting on the sheet. Prabhupada had a pained look on his face, and Hari Sauri felt like he had murdered someone. They both looked at the mosquito for some time and then suddenly it flew away, and Srila Prabhupada expressed relief, saying, “Oh, I thought he was gone.” 


“In the Bhavisya Purana it is said, ‘In such a ceremony, if even a candala [dogeater], simply out of curiosity, sees the Lord on the cart, he becomes counted as one of the associates of Vishnu.’” (Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 9)