Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 5, No. 15a
By Krishna-kripa das
(August 2009, part one, section one)
(Sent from Siemysl, Poland, on 8/17/09)
Where I Am and What I Am Doing
The end of July and beginning of August is the traditional date of the Poland Woodstock festival which I attended for the ninth time. I’ll just describe my experience this year, since the whole event takes pages to describe. I got involved in taking videos clips of the attendees dancing to the kirtanas, and I developed a real taste for that. Mostly the event for me was participating in kirtanas,including the Ratha-yatras, and distributing both invitations to our Krishna village and mantra cards. Some of the attendees were so happy to participate in the kirtanas and so glad to receive the mantra cards, I was happy to be able to assist them.
Mantra card distribution was a main service for me. I would stand at the entrance of the kirtana tent and offer mantra cards to all people as they were leaving, as a parting gift, and to anyone who watched for any length of time. I also went through our entire main tent two or three times during Hare Krishna kirtana giving the cards to people. I would say 95% of the people took the cards in the main tent, 90% while leaving the kirtana tent, and maybe 60% of the people watching from outside the kirtana tent.
Sometimes the people would become inspired seeing the mantra and reading the brief explanation of it and beginning to chant in earnest. At other times, the people’s faces would light up with smiles and happy exclamations, often of “Text!”, like receiving an old friend. They had heard the mantra for minutes, hours, or years, but never had the words to it before, and were glad to get them.
We had a Ratha-yatra through the crowds of many tens of thousands of people for three hours for each of the four days.
Some did their own dances in front of the Lord.
One girl having dredlocks and wearing a gold shimmering dress danced briefly in the Ratha-yatra a couple times continuing an interest in Krishna from at least two years which I remember.
We remember the great benedictions offered to those who see, follow, and pull the Ratha-yatra cart described in books like The Nectar of Devotion, such as attainment of the spiritual abode, and we rejoice in their uncommon good fortune.
Different people happened by our kirtana tent during the day and danced for some time.
There are always people with wild costumes. Three of these guys above wore sleeping bags, one with a stuffed animal peeking out of it, and another had a pillow stuck to his head. Somehow despite their madness, they get the spiritual credit for dancing in the Lord's kirtana.
One man from Katowice liked the chanting and purchased a book on spiritual happiness. I told him about our nama-hatta program in Katowice. He seemed interested and gave me his email which I gave that very evening to Adam, the nama-hatta leader there. I am wondering if he will follow it up. I previously met two separate girls from earlier years who got nama-hatta information from me and did not follow up on it. It is rare for people to take Krishna seriously, but whoever does, gets great reciprocation.
I met a young lady from San Francisco who is majoring in German and living in Heidelberg next year. She heard from a friend in Holland about the Poland Woodstock and decided to come. She liked our presentation at Woodstock and took down the web page address of our temple in Heidelberg. She was one of several German tourists, including some from Berlin I invited to the next Saturday’s Ratha-yatra there.
Dhruva Prabhu, an Indian devotee in his late fifties who lives in Kansas City, originally saw Srila Prabhupada in 1974 at one of those large pandal programs in Bombay. He decided he liked my lifestyle of doing harinama and festivals in Europe in the summer and wanted to travel with me. He put tilaka on consenting people both those on the Ratha-yatra and those who visited our Krishna village. He also taught pranayama at our yoga tent. Having heard about this festival for years, he was happy to come and hopes to return next year, like many Poland Woodstock festival addicts.
The prasadam was very popular as usual. Many people considered it was the best so far with the vegetable dish and the halava improved over last year. I talked to one young man who has eaten with us for five Woodstocks because our food is cheap and good. One guy wanted a free lunch. I got it for him although we cannot do that for everyone. It will give him a good impression of the devotees, and I do not get such requests every years, only two or three times in nine years. This year the devotees, headed by Rasikendra Prabhu, distributed over 130,000 plates of prasadam over five days, a number which increases each year.
One time waiting for the Ratha-yatra, I played my small accordion under the Ratha-yatra in the shade of which perhaps twenty people were sitting eating prasadam. One young lady chanted the response perfectly in a pleasing mood. I talked to her and found out she loves to sing and sings opera as a hobby. I explained that the perfection of song is to glorify the Lord and encouraged her to endeavor in that way.
B. B. Govinda Swami and his wonderful bhajana band was one of the highlights of the festival for many of the devotees, and the attendees took great pleasure in hearing and dancing along with his supremely beautiful kirtanas. He played several evenings in our kirtana tent. The dancing to those kirtanas by the devotees and attenders was wonderful to see.
For me, some other devotees, and some of the attendees at the Woodstock, the Village of Peace reggae band with its original lead singer, Sri Prahlada was a special treat. Over the years, we grew to love his Hare Krishna tunes and songs with spiritual lyrics, and it was great to have him back. Many attendees in the crowd sang Hare Krishna, danced, and repeated the chorus of the different songs like “Wake Up,” “Reincarnation,” and “Rainbow”. Reggae music was something people asked about when I was distributing invitations, and it was great we had a solid offering in this area, as the music is the main thing the kids go there for.
Kavicandra Swami is a great devotee of the Poland Woodstock and the festival tour coming almost every single year. He says that the questions get better each year. This year most of the people were asking the kinds of questions that devotees usual ask, not those of newcomers.
Although Woodstock is frequented by many in their teens and twenties, there were families there as well, and even some elderly people as way. Some families participated by singing and/or dancing in the kirtana.
At one gathering after the Woodstock, Indradyumna Swami told us that three of the older people in the kirtana tent who enthusiastically participated in the kirtana were the head mistress of the green school and her two secretaries. She had not wanted to rent us the school, but our other prospects fell through, and so the mayor of Kostrzyn pressured her to rent us the school, and she acquiesced against her will. Because so many people said good things about us, she went to our Village of Peace, and came to the kirtana tent. She was mesmerized by the singing of B. B. Govinda Swami and then a devotee girl pulled her into the dancing. She ended up coming every day to the kirtana tent, and now desires that we rent her school first the next year.
Harinama the Day After Woodstock
Govinda Prabhu from Scotland and I did harinama at the train station for an hour the day after Woodstock. It was a program I started two years ago and felt was beneficial enough to continue. There are always people are always happy to see to see the devotees chanting Hare Krishna. One girl, smiling to see us, did a few dance steps and whispered the mantra as her voice was burned out from the dust, like many of us. She didn’t want the mantra card because she already knew the mantra. A couple of guys wanted to learn our karatalas and one who plays a drum set, tried the mrdanga. A taxi cab driver took pictures of us close up, and promised to email them to us. He later came back and recorded a few mantras of a catchy Village of Peace Hare Krishna tune we sang, using his MP3 player. When I gave one boy a mantra card, he said happily, “I was looking for this!” One older lady, with hair dyed bright red, danced with her hands raised above her head. Later she came across the street with her friend to get mantra cards. Other people, seeing us giving out the mantra cards, came up to get their own. I would say at least four out of five people took the mantra cards. After twenty minutes or so, two Russian devotees who had come to book a train for later in the evening joined us. One even had his own karatalas. I felt so happy about the experience. You really see how Lord Caitanya is the real organizer beyond such events, as it went so smoothly. Harinama sankirtana, ki jaya!
In the beginning I had a conversation with a guy who was both drunk and thoughtful. His main doubt was, “Why repeat an obscure name of God? It just confuses people.” I explained that was why we had the mantra cards with some explanation. It was an interesting point, and I think we should in all places we do harinama, we should distribute an explanation of it as well. Otherwise in addition to purifying people unknowingly, we may confuse them. We have good reasons for chanting and whenever I take the trouble to explain it, people appreciate.
At evening prasadam Bhagavan Misra Prabhu was explaining to me the analogy of the mountain which Srila Prabhupada used to explain the three features of Brahman: Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. He said that when the mountain is just a colored patch on the horizon, that distant vision is like Brahman realization, when you can actually see the form of the mountain, that like Paramatma realization, and when you see the rocks and trees, that is like Bhagavan realization, realization of Krishna. I told him that reminded me of the train analogy, which Prabhupada used to explain the same point. There, Brahman is like seeing the light of the train from a distance, Paramatma is like seeing the individual cars, and Bhagavan realization is like seeing the people on the train. He told me he never heard that analogy, although I thought it was common knowledge. Then he told me something that surprised me even more. He said he had just returned from a japa walk, during which he had chanted down by the railway tracks. He had seen a train coming from the distance, which eventually came so close to him, that the driver of the train waved to him. He had only seen a train from so close up maybe three times in his life, and this time, later on the very same day, I had told him that Prabhupada analogy of the train, which he had never heard before. What an amazing coincidence!
One of B. B. Govinda Swami’s servants waits till the last possible minute to prepare to travel, and Maharaja often has to wait for him. Indradyumna Swami seeing the situation asked B. B. Govinda Swami how he tolerates it. B. B. Govinda Swami said that when one acts as badly has he has acted himself in his own life, he cannot find fault with others. Such a humble soul!
Insights from Lectures
Patita Pavana Prabhu (Lord Balarama’s appearance day):
Although I have inauspicious material desires and have therefore taken birth in this material world, still by speaking Srimad-Bhagavatam and the instructions of my spiritual master, I can be purified.
There was no Hindu temple in the USA until Srila Prabhupada opened one at 26th 2nd Ave.
Lord Balarama appeared in this Hare Krishna movement, along with His brother, Lord Jagannath, and sister, Lady Subhadra, in San Francisco in 1967.
Shyamasundara Prabhu, who carved Deities of Lord Jagannath, Lady Subhadra, and Lord Balarama under Srila Prabhupada’s direction, said that at the first Ratha-yatra in San Francisco was one of only times in history, you could tell the people that the Deities of Lord Jagannath, Lady Subhadra, and Lord Balarama were God Himself and they would accept it.
In Bhubanesvara, with the help of Srila Prabhupada, Gour Govinda Swami introduced the worship of brass Deities of Krishna and Balarama.
You are evidence that this movement is not fixed but will continue to expand carry out Lord Caitanya’s desire.
Indradyumna Swami could not do what he has done without praying to Srila Prabhupada at every moment.
One time at Bury Place Srila Prabhupada told the devotees that they had all been together in a previous life and were now together again, and they were overcome with emotion and all started to cry.
Srila Prabhupada said that astrology was not necessary, but that if you know it is going to rain, you will bring an umbrella.
Balarama in the form of Nityananda tolerated the misbehavior of Jagai and Madhai to deliver those rogue brahmanas.
One devotee was glorifying the building of the World Trade Center to Srila Prabhupada, but he was not impressed, saying all these buildings will be destroyed.
As Ananta, Lord Balarama is eternally narrating the glories of Lord Krishna and has not run out of things to say.
Intoxication in this world is a reflection of the intoxication in the spiritual world, exemplified by Lord Balarama and His varuni beverage.
The Supersoul in the heart is an expansion of Lord Balarama, and we can pray for His guidance. The guru is His representative.
Balarama is the enjoyer of His strength.
If there is anyone who can know the mind of Krishna, it is Lord Balarama.
Lord Nityananda is the original spiritual master, and the line of the spiritual masters represents him, and thus the spiritual master must be followed strictly.
According to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, “Asking the spiritual master for a material benediction is like asking a king for ashes.”
Kavicandra Swami (Lord Balarama’s appearance day):
Q: What’s the different between Krishna and Balarama?
A: Krishna is black, and Balarama is white. Krishna wears yellow, and Balarama wears blue.
Krishna expands to have a friend who is equal to Himself to enjoy with. Just like sannyasis like to enjoy with their sannyasa friends, and Russians like to enjoy with other Russians. Thus Krishna expands as Lord Balarama to have a friend to enjoy with.
Balarama was a year older than Krishna, but during the first year of His life he was practically inert, Then Krishna appeared, and He came alive.
Duryodhana was a very submissive disciple of Lord Balarama, his club fighting teacher, and thus Balarama favored him. Still when Duryodhana asked him to fight on his side, He declined because he did not want to fight against Krishna. Neither did he want to fight against Duryodhana. Thus Balarama was disgusted with all the politics and went on pilgrimage.
Lord Balarama sometimes becomes quickly angry as when the Yamuna would not come near for pastimes, when the Kurus, after arresting Samba, insulted Krishna and the Yadu dynasty at the time that Balarama came to seeking his release, when Rukmi cheated at chess, and when Dvivida gorilla insulted His associates and stole his varuni beverage. Yet as Lord Nityananda, the very same person, He is glorified as akrodha, without anger.
When Lord Nityananda first entered the Jagannath temple, He took off Lord Baladeva’s garland, placing it on Himself, and He embraced Baladeva. The guards tried to stop him, but He threw the guards out of the way. Then they realized He was not ordinary.
When the Krishna Balarama Deity was installed in Vrindavana, Srila Prabhupada was ecstatic. The next day on a morning walk, he said, “Now Balarama is here. If you feel weakness, pray to Balarama for spiritual strength, and He will give you strength.”
garbha-sankarsanat tam vai
prahuh sankarsaṇam bhuvi
The son of Rohini will also be celebrated as Sankarsana because of being sent from the womb of Devaki to the womb of Rohini. He will be called Rama because of His ability to please all the inhabitants of Gokula, and He will be known as Balabhadra because of His extensive physical strength. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.2.13)