Monday, August 10, 2009

Travel Journal#5.14: Prague Ratha-yatra, Czech Padayatra, Berlin

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 5, No. 14
By Krishna-kripa das
(July 2009, part two)
Prague Ratha-yatra, Czech Padayatra, Berlin
(Sent from Siemysl, Poland, on 8/13/09)


Prague Harinamas
Prague Ratha Yatra
Czech Padayatra
Bliss in Berlin 2009
Insights from Srila Prabhupada, Bhakti Vikasa Swami,
Prithu Prabhu, and Others

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

After Budapest, I went to Prague to do harinama and go to the Ratha-yatra, and then the Czech farm, to attend the beginning of the Czech Padayatra. Next on to Berlin to meet Dhruva Prabhu, an Indian devotee from Kansas City who wanted to travel with me for two months, especially to the Poland festivals. We did harinama in Berlin a couple days before going to Kostrzyn, Poland, for Woodstock 2009.

Prague Harinamas

In 2004, Lokanatha Swami told me Prague is the best place in the world to do harinama. There are tourists from all over the world, and the narrow streets amplify the sound nicely. When the three-month summer bhakta program is in session, there is harinama five days a week, Monday through Friday. The rest of the year, it is just Wednesday and Friday.

Some people always sing and/or dance with us, like these young people, who happily tried chanting the mantra after getting a mantra card.

Prague Ratha Yatra

Prague Ratha-yatra was attended by ISKCON dignitaries

Danavir Swami, singing and dancing in ecstasy,

Bhaktivaibhava Swami, who took his turn sweeping for the Lord,

and Prithu Prabhu, always smiling, who played a full-sized harmonium as he sang.

Prague harinama veteran, Vidya Vicaspati Prabhu sometimes led
and sometimes accompanied others on the harmonium.

The large cart and narrow streets made the parade extra impressive.

I danced and distributed flyers describing the festival in both English and Czech.

Actually 85% of the people were tourists, and I talked with people from Norway, Holland, Belgium, France, England, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Germany, Italy, and Nepal, in addition to a few people from Czech Republic itself.

A group of high school girls from Belgium glanced at our party as we completed the parade, some mimicking the dancing. I decided they had some attraction and said a few words to them. The most interested among them was a girl who said she became vegetarian at the age of ten. I gave her the address and web page for the temple in their hometown of Antwerp, as well as a few nice words about that temple from my personal experience. They stayed for part of the stage show.

Two college girls from Spain, one health care student and one philosophy student, listened to the stage show for over an hour and took prasadam. I explained some of the philosophy and gave them the address and phone number of our temple in Madrid, their home town.

On the Ratha-yatra parade itself I met a congregational member of our temple in London. During London’s Ratha-yatra parade he was so busy rendering service, he had merely enough time to bow down to the Lord in his cart but missed the whole procession. Later, being tired of living in London, he bought a ticket to Prague for the weekend. Unknowingly he happened upon the Ratha-yatra parade and ended up staying through the stage show. Lord Jagannatha is so kind to his servant that because he could not attend the parade in London, the Lord inspired him to come to Prague on the day of the Ratha-yatra there, so he could participate in the Ratha-yatra parade!

After the parade, as the cart stood still during the stage show, devotees distributed maha-prasadam to eager devotees and attenders.

The pictures of Prague Ratha Yatra that were not taken by me were downloaded from and you can find many more pictures there.

Jarek who used to help organize festivals in Czech and who is opening the fourth Hare Krishna restaurant in Prague this summer, Tomas, a brahmacari from Slovakia, and other friends decided to do a spontaneous harinama around downtown Prague during the bharat-natyam dance portion of the stage show after the Ratha-yatra. We told everyone we met about our stage show and free prasadam at Old Town Square. During the chanting, a short, college-aged girl came up to me, and asked “Are you from Gainesville?” I explained I had spent four-months there earlier this year. She told me her name was Amy and that she and her boyfriend attended University of Florida and that she was a regular at Krishna Lunch, where I had chanted earlier this year. I explained that we were demonstrating how we can experience spiritual happiness by chanting the names of God, and I was traveling all over Europe promoting the idea. A Czech brahmacari gave her a book, and she gave a donation for it. She is just a freshman, so perhaps I’ll see her again at UF. You never know where you will meet the people from Krishna Lunch! Last year I met one in a park in Amsterdam.

Prithu Prabhu’s appreciation: “The people at the Prague Ratha-yatra were amazing. Even the Germans were friendly! One German man came up to me and said, For two hours, I haven’t been get out of here. What is it about this place?” I gave him a plate of prasadam.Although he eaten a meal just two hours before, he ate the whole plate, commenting that he had never had vegetarian food before and couldn’t imagine it could be so good.

“You have the best tourists in Prague. The tourists are relaxed here. London and New York cannot compare. In that sense, you have Krishna’s mercy. For preaching to tourists you have the best place in the world.”

Czech Padayatra

The Czech Padayatra is similar to the Slovenian Padayatra in many ways. In Czech they started padayatra in the early nineties while in Slovenia they started in 2002. Both places have steadily done padayatra till the present day.

Book distribution is part of the program.

One nice feature of the Czech one is that they have a bullock cart instead of a horse-drawn cart.

Also with attractive Gaura-Nitai Deities,

and having a beautful picture of Krishna on the back.

Another is instead of doing an evening program for the public just four times during the two-week event, they do one every day. These two to three hour programs include chanting, Indian dance, face painting, plays [“Truth and Beauty” and “Krishna Kidnaps Rukmini”], prasadam sweets,

instruction in chanting and dancing,
and a dance contest with prizes, especially for children.

Each night a few local children, in addition to the devotee children, would really enjoy the chanting and dancing as well as the prizes they got which included a padayatra postcard, pictures of a horse, pictures of Prabhupada, a reincarnation book,Prabhupada-lilamrita (abridged), Krishna book, Sri Isopanisad, and garlands from the Deities. I would make sure the kids who really liked to chant got an invitation with the mantra printed on it, so they could take the mantra home with them.

During the padayatra, if it was ever austere because of being tired or feeling that there is so little interest in our message, I would remember that Lokanath Swami telling us “Lord Caitanya is taking us on His padayatra, not that we are taking Him on our padayatra. Thus our business is to satisfy Him and not our own mind’s whims nor the whims of others. Thinking in that way, I would become peaceful. Lord Caitanya’s mission is to give the greatest spiritual ecstasy to even the least qualified people. It the most glorious mission and it is the highest honor to be allowed to take part in it by the grace of His stalwart representative, Srila Prabhupada.

For more information on Czech Padayatra, you may visit their web site at

Bliss in Berlin 2009

We chanted on harinama for two days, an hour and a half on one and two hours on the next. The first day was austere, and we did not meet any very special people nor did anyone at all give a donation. The second was just the opposite. We had one mysterious encounter with three thirteen-year-old girls. One of them returned the invitation our distribution had given them to the devotee who was playing the karatalas, not the person who gave it to her. They then decided to tease us by throwing things at us. Next they decided to insult us by putting cigarette butts in our donation box. I had never before seen such a thing. I was reminded of the sadhu, who when given ashes by a man while begging alms, humbly accepted them, saying, “Let him begin his charity!” They teased us for some time but we keep chanting happily. I was singing a very upbeat Hare Krishna tune that Sri Prahlada used to sing on the tour, and from the response of the people, it was the best tune of the day. Next the girls sat down before us, watching and sometimes smiling or making faces at us. A bhakta gave them each an invitation with the mantra on it and encouraged them to chant, and they did, in a joking way, at first. Then they got into it and became very dedicated. The bhakta then indicated they should not sing when the leader is singing. When one of them would forget, the others would remind her by putting their fingers to their mouths and whispering “Shhhh.” And so they chanted for half an hour, always smiling and sometimes chanting in a very exaggerated or boisterous way. When they left, they each took invitation cards and distributed them for twenty minutes. Later that night as I was using the computer, we received a call at the temple from one of the girls. She asked if I could sing her the tune that we sang on harinama. I did not know German, and I asked a devotee to thank them for singing with us and to tell the girl where she could find Krishna music on the web. He also told her about the upcoming Ratha-yatra and the Sunday feast program. Also on that harinama, one man gave ten euros and several people watched for some time, a couple buying books. The donations covered our travel expenses. The transformation of the girls from taunting rascals to enthusiastic appreciators, wanting to render service shows the wonder of the holy name. We never know what adventure Krishna has in store for us on harinama. Two weeks later a devotee from Berlin said some devotee had met the girls on the street, and that they wondered when we would be singing again. That hints at the value of regular harinama programs—people can more easily increase their participation.

Insights from Lectures

Srila Prabhupada, from Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami’s The Yellow Submarine, No. 141:

In a 1968 lecture, Prabhupada said that taste (ruci) is when you like Krishna consciousness so much that you go out and perform sankirtana in the streets. It gives you such a nice taste.”

Bhakti Vikasa Swami:

It is not difficult to criticize modern society, for the age of Kali is an ocean of faults. Indeed, every facet of life has some problem, yet ironically the devotees are criticized for being nonconformists.

There are many people who think we should go back to a more traditional culture. This Vedic culture is the oldest such culture.

We greatly value freedom, but in traditional societies that was not so.

Although there is a philosophy of egalitarianism in modern society, there is still a working class, intellectual class, and an aristocratic class, which is now based on amassing wealth, rather than refined behavior.

In modern life, everyone is educated, and after education, many people often end up with no worthwhile skills and many cannot find jobs.

Most people are stupid. Evidence for this is the popularity of Coka-Cola or Pepsi-Cola. Such companies make billions of dollars on colored, sweetened water, which is completely unnecessary. Only because it is advertised with young men and young women jumping around enjoying themselves do people foolishly buy it. And this has been going on for decades. The whole advertising industry therefore works on the supposition that people are stupid.

Traditional societies also were based on the idea that most people are stupid.

The difference is the traditional societies gave the people fixed social roles meant to keep them from harming themselves and others and meant to elevate themselves to a higher level, but the modern society exploits them for the economic development of a few.

Modern education is not conducive to human welfare. There is no evidence that life arises from chance combinations of chemicals, but that is what is being taught. Thus no one thinks about the next life.

Modern music is a transformation of a scream of frustration with a little melody and rhythm added.

The idea that is alright for people to believe in God in any way they like, does not make sense, because if God exists, then He must have specific qualities.

The fine points of the science of God are not understandable by everyone because God is the most subtle.

Worship of God was not just considered of primary importance only in Vedic culture, but also in Europe, not so many years ago.

The downside of freedom is that the rascals have more freedom to create trouble and people have freedom to do things that hurt themselves and others. The sexual freedom of adults results in children losing the right to grow up in a stable family situation.

In the Vedic culture, the brahmanas were given full freedom because they did not misuse it, whereas sudras were restricted from doing things against their self-interest.

The problem of unemployment did not exist in Vedic culture.

Actually when the industrial revolution began, there were riots since people was satisfied living and working in the villages and did not want to move to the cities and work in the factories. They had to forcibly take the land away from and leave the people with no choice. Then compulsory education was introduced to convince them that their new life is progressive.

The modern idea of freedom gives freedom to a few intelligent businessmen to exploit the masses.

Q: How can we realize the truth that we are not our body.

A: By acting on the spiritual platform. By offering Krishna a leaf, flower, fruit, or water, knowing Him to be the Supreme Lord as He describes in Bhagavad-gita, we can get the realization.

Prithu Prabhu:

I have not seen such a farm that works so nicely in England, France, Spain, or Germany, as you have there in Czech.

Any shortcoming there is in ISKCON is because we have not yet perfectly developed what Srila Prabhupada has already given. Sometimes people think we should try something else, but because our intelligence is affected by lust, our plans are inferior to the plans of our guru.

In Mayapur, one disciple of Srila Prabhupada told Srila Prabhupada, “The Ganga is rising but Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Road is protecting our property.” Srila Prabhupada said, “That is a fact. As long as we walk on Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s road, we shall be safe.”

In the beginning of the Rainbow Gathering preaching, ISKCON was the only Vaishnava group there, and we would have five hundred people coming to our Srimad-Bhagavatam class. We would invite people to help cut vegetables for breakfast. The devotees would send the sincere ones to me. At the first gathering, we made ten devotees. Five left in due course, but five remained and are still doing service. At the second one, we had nine people ready to join, and I thought we should have ten, so I looked around and found another. Then I thought actually eleven is a better number, so I spent half a hour and found one more and shaved him on the spot. He is Vishnu das and is still around even now. The next year, there were more Gaudiya groups, and so we could only make five devotees, the next year, only one, and the next year none at all. People would come up to us with long hair, and say I am so and so Das. Once a Vaishnava youth I was preaching to for three years came up to me saying he found a guru and told me his new spiritual name. I asked the name of his guru, and he said it was “Nara… something, I’m really not sure.” I said, “That’s alright, come takeprasadam.” As he got up to get prasadam, a joint fell out of his pocket.

Srila Prabhupada said that if you chant Hare Krishna and you smoke marijuana, you’ll go crazy because it is an offense to the holy name.

The mind is the dirtiest part of the body. When the mind and intelligence is engaged in Krishna, they become purified.

If we change what we hear, then we will mislead people.

I had a large group of devotees in Ireland I personally brought to Krishna consciousness who were initiated by one devotee. Then we found that guru was secretly taking acid. I explained to the devotees because their guru was not following, you have to reject him, and told them the story of Bali rejecting Sukracarya. All twenty-four of them rejected their guru right then and there. However, in England, we lost one hundred twenty people to illusion.

By suffering Krishna, at least we suffer for something, while the materialists suffer for nothing.

This whole world is made of people who think they know better. To think you know better is not a good qualification.

There is no defeat for one who controls his mind and senses and engages them in Krishna’s devotional service.

When we are linked with Krishna, we can do wonderful things, but without linking with Krishna, we are powerless.

I convinced my mother to be vegetarian, but the priest convinced her to eat meat again. He said that vegetarianism is a demoniac diet. However,

Jesus and his disciples, when all of Israel was eating the Passover lamb, were eating bread and drinking unfermented grape juice.

Srila Prabhupada said to one German professor, “Two thousand years have passed and still you have not understood Jesus.” If they could understand Jesus, they could understand Krishna, but they have not understood Jesus.

Q: Should we continue to perform devotional service throughout this life, even if we are full of material desires?

A: Yes. Krishna says even one who commits the most abominable act is saintly, if he is rightly situated. Whether one is free from all desires, full of all desires, or desirous of liberation, he should perform one-pointed devotional service. We should continue bhajana-kriya, devotional service, and then there will be anarta-nivrtta syat, freedom from anarthas, unwanted things. What else is there to do? There may be problems, but we keep going.

Real intelligence is to take shelter of truth. We make mistakes and so to take shelter of our own intelligence is not intelligent. To take shelter of Krishna is intelligent.

He tells about a foolish man who would drive his cows on to the devotees’ land at night. When they challenged him, he said he knew nothing about it. Prithu Prabhu hid behind a rock with a camera and took a picture of the man and put the picture in the man’s mailbox and with a note that he would call the police. Later he saw the man sawing a branch on a tree that he was sitting on. You hear about people who are so foolish that they do that, but you never actually see anyone doing that. But this man was actually so foolish he was doing just that. I shouted from my land rover to warn him. But he became angry. Then he fell off the tree, and all of us in the land rover laughed.

German saying: “Stupidity and pride are fruits on the same tree.”

As long as there is pride, we go from one difficult to the next difficulty.

Pythagoras said, “Everything in this world is moving.” Only Krishna is constant.

Krishna asks at every moment, “What do you want?” And then He kindly fulfills the person’s desires. And the other question Krishna asks, “When are you finished?” That is “When are you finished with all your nonsense desires?”

If we want to save the world, without listening to the wisdom of the great souls, we will lose our own selves.

People are slaves of their minds and slaves of their masks. The real person is he who is serves Krishna. Krishna told Arjuna, you have so many plans, but because they are different from My plan, they are all useless.

He told a story about a hunter and some birds. A hunter planned to trap some birds in a net, but the birds noticed the plan and talked about it among themselves. When the hunter saw the birds understood his plan, he was worried he would not catch any, but he continued anyway. He then put bread crumbs in the trap, to lure the birds. The birds warned each other, “The hunter is putting bread crumbs in the trap to lure us.” The hunter thought there was now very little chance he would catch a bird, but he continued. After looking at the bread crumbs in the net for some time, suddenly all at once the birds made a dive for it, and the hunter caught them all.” The moral of the story is that you may see what is going on but if your senses are uncontrolled you will not be able to profit by this knowledge.

In this material world everyone is fighting to get the best prison cell. That is all. And those who get the best prison cell in this life, get the worst prison cell in the next life because those who take more than their quota are punished by the laws of nature.

The greatest disqualification is disobedience to the Lord.

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura wanted a united preaching mission but his followers disagreed. Srila Prabhupada tried to create such a mission, and therefore, he was empowered by his guru.

By associating with those who are disobedient, we become disobedient. By associating with the obedient, we become obedient.

Srila Prabhupada wanted us to stay within ISKCON. When Srila Prabhupada was present, some strayed from ISKCON, and I personally saw how angry Prabhupada became about it.

Jayapataka Maharaja invited some of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers to visit in Mayapur. I took the opportunity to ask them some questions.

Q: What was Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s standard for initiation?

A: Chanting 64 rounds, but if one lives outside or has a lot of service, 16 as a minimum.

Q: How many principles to do have to follow?

A: The four principles [the same ones we follow in the ISKCON].

Q: How is it some of you come to the West and initiate people who chant only 4 rounds and are only vegetarian?

Before anyone could answer, an elderly man from Madras, stood up and said, “We know who those people are and they should be kicked out of the Gaudiya Math.”

Then I knew Srila Prabhupada actually was representing Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.

Srila Prabhupada said, “If a thousands asses say you are very good, what is the use?” We want to get a certificate from Krishna, “This man has done something for Me.”

If we comprise our culture, we lose everything. Just like what happened when Paul comprised the teachings of Jesus. The success of the devotee is to be in parampara. That was Srila Prabhupada great qualification. By following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions we meet all success.

Q: What about devotees who cannot be organized?

A: We should know the standard. We may admit that we are not qualified to follow the standard, but we do not change the standard.

Q: I mean we are renting a building for the Ratha-yatra but we cannot use the parking lot, but devotees do it anyway and we get in trouble.

A: Once when devotees were in a park, and the park warden said you have leave. Srila Prabhupada got up to leave. The whole reputation of the devotees in Germany went to hell because they did not think they had to follow the laws.

Once in Germany the man at the petrol station gave us five euros too much, and a devotee asked me what to do about it. I said we should return it. He was shocked, “But why don’t we use it in Krishna’s service.” I said, “Suppose he finds out later that he gave us too much.” So we returned it. Years later I was distributing books. One man didn’t want one. Then he said, “Who are you guys anyway?” I said, “We are the Hare Krishnas.” He said, “Well, in that case, I will take one.” I inquired why, and the man said, “I have an uncle. He worked in a petrol station. Once he gave the Hare Krishnas too much money and they returned it. My uncle has been talking about it for the last five years because that had never happened before. The Krishna people, you may say what you like about them, but they are very honest people.”

From the fact the demigods were disturbed by the mere presence of the demons, we can understand how much disturbance the presence of demons can cause.

The world should be run by those who are pure devotees of God. Now the leaders are all demoniac. Even the priests have so little spiritual knowledge. They do not know animals have souls. They think people have souls like they have ipods; not that they are souls. They do not know who is Krishna, who is Radharani, who is Lord Caitanya.

We live in a hellish society. In America every second child is aborted. That is worse than Auschwitz. It is mass murder. In the dairy industry, they monitor the milk production of each cow, and when gets too low so the cow is not profitable, she is sent for slaughter.

Srila Prabhupada said in reference to smoking cigarettes, “Only dragons blow smoke.”

The space station has cost 100 billion. It is a huge toy. There is a German saying, “What is the difference between a boy and a man? It is in the size of their toys.”

One time I was flying out of Delhi, and it was more crowded than I had ever seen it. I found out why. Mickey Mouse and Goofy had arrived

from Orlando. They had built for them the biggest vyasasanas I had every seen. A priest offered incense, lamps, and food, and passed the lamps and food around as prasadam. How sad—the worship reserved for God and His great devotees is offered to rats, and this in India, the mother of religion.

Whether we live inside or outside of the temple, our business is to chant Hare Krishna and to serve Krishna. It is the only authentic life.

Otherwise we are living a lie. Otherwise we identify with the body, and our activities are one lie after another.

People have such illusory values. The Fisher of Fisher Mansion fame, buried his pet dogs in caskets of gold 100 kilos each, and the neighbors dug them up after Fisher died.

Except for the endeavor for devotional service, are activities are waste of time.

Q: To get a society of brahmanas what can we do.

A: Preach. You have to go to the people, because the people will not come to you. This Ratha-yatra was wonderful preaching. You should have such a festival every week. Do things Prabhupada wanted us to do nicely. Book distribution. Trutnov (The Czech Woodstock). Padayatra.

Dhruva Prabhu (from Kansas City):

The bottom line is that everyone is endeavoring for happiness, just in different ways. However, real happiness is not to be found in the material world. People are cheated by advertisers who associate happy faces with their products and thus sell innocent people things that will not make them happy.

The karma-kanda portion of the Vedas is like advertising for the heavenly planets and is also cheating because going to heaven will not satisfy the soul.

Because we are part of Krishna, by satisfying Krishna, we can become happy, as we can nourish the parts of the body by feeding the stomach.

As time passes the chanting of Hare Krishna becomes more relishable whereas material activities become less relishable.

I find in my travels that the Jagannatha festival (Ratha-yatra) gets the most attendance of devotees and public participation of all our festivals.

We must stop sinful activities then there is hope. There is no hope a fan will stop if we keep it plugged in.


yatha taror mula-nisecanena
trpyanti tat-skandha-bhujopasakhah
pranopaharac ca yathendriyanam
tathaiva sarvarhanam acyutejya

As pouring water on the root of a tree energizes the trunk, branches, twigs and everything else, and as supplying food to the stomach enlivens the senses and limbs of the body, simply worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead through devotional service automatically satisfies the demigods, who are parts of that Supreme Personality. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.31.14)