Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Travel Journal#5.16: Czech Woodstock

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 5, No. 16
By Krishna-kripa das
(August 2009, part two, section one)
Polish Tour, Czech Woodstock, Hungary
(Sent from Marianka, Slovakia, on September 8, 2009)


Enroute to Wroclaw
Enroute to Trutnov
Czech Woodstock
Personal Interactions
Insights from Indradyumna Swami,
Kratu Prabhu, Mother Sitala, and Others

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

I did harinama on the Laksmi-Nrsimha festival tour in Poland through August 18, when we left to attend the Czech Woodstock, where I got to do a lecture and encourage people in Krishna kirtana, and Dhruva did a lecture and a lot of face painting, including tilaka. Ratha-yatra was a new feature of the Czech Woodstock this year, making it much more festive. Then on to the Zagreb and New Vraja Radhastami festival I described separately and then a few days in Budapest, where they have beautiful Deities of Doyal Nitai Vijaya Gauranga, a solid book distribution program, some lively kirtana musicians and the best internet connection I have encountered in ISKCON. Although they have just a weekly Friday harinama, they did several extra ones in honor of world holy name week.

Enroute to Wroclaw

The bus we hoped to take from our base to the local city, Kolobrzeg, apparently does not run in the summer. We started hitchhiking but had only half an hour to get a ride. Dhruva Prabhu suggested I ask a guy who was filling up his gas tank at the station across the street. I explained to the man that we were going to Kolobrzeg, but there was no bus. The man said in a helpful mood that we could come with him. In the car, he told us how the devotees brought Krishna food to his house one time and he liked it so much. I told him of our festivals in the nearby towns of Ustronie Morksie and Kolobrzeg the next five days, and gave him a couple alu-patras which he was grateful to receive as well as mantra cards, festival invitations, and a number to contact for more information. Just as the last time I hitchhiked, once again I met a person who knew and liked the devotees, and we benefited by our mutual interaction.

Enroute to Trutnov

Enroute from Wroclaw to Trutnov, the site of the Trutnov Open Air music festival, popularly known as the Czech Woodstock, upon reaching Hradec Kralove by train, things got wild. The platform was filled with kids on the way to the Czech Woodstock.

There was standing room only on the train. I showed some high school kids videos of Village of Peace playing at the Polish Woodstock and all the young people dancing. I told them we had a Krishna Camp there at Trutnov, showing them where it is mentioned on the promotional flyer. Some train officials removed a wall, revealing a large empty space we could spread out in. I played my accordion and chanted Hare Krishna. Some of the kids sang along. The most favorable was a girl who told me later she came to our Krishna Camp last year for two hours and really loved it. You could see how it had made an impression on her. The kids wished I could play other songs, and it occurred to me perhaps I could learn George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," because it has devotional sentiments. One kid seriously asked me what we believed, and I explained about how the soul is the active principle of life in the humans, animals, and even plants. The consciousness is more or less covered, depending on the body. The chant helps to uncover the consciousness. When some of the people said that they were atheists, I told them that people become atheists because religion is not explained in the right way. That many religions cannot inspire people with an interest in God is their defect. Some listened. It was a nice experience, but it was challenging for me to be interesting enough to keep the kids attention and to try to inspire them. When one boy expressed difficulty conversing with me, I joked that I observed there is an inverse proportion between beer consumption and ability of Czech people to understand English. The favorable girl agreed it was true. Dhruva Prabhu taught her Srila Prabhupada's explanation of spiritual mathematics, and she appreciated. I was thinking if I was a great musician or someone with some natural charisma, I could have better engaged the people. For now, maybe I will learn "My Sweet Lord" when I get a chance.

Czech Woodstock

The Czech Woodstock lasts four days and 20,000 or 30,000 attend, paying 30 euros to see the many bands playing on their main stage. On the site, we have a Krishna Camp, organized by Punya Palaka Prabhu of Prague, and on our stage, we have traditional Hare Krishna bhajana, contemporary devotional music, music of people who are friends of the devotees, and bharat-natyam dancing. Some of the people who come by really get into singing and dancing with us as you can see from this brief movie.

[If the above video is too fuzzy, try this version:

Our Hare Krishna chanting always went late into the night, as long as there were listeners. Friday night I left at 2:00 a.m. but was told that the others continued to 3:00 a.m. They said they tried to stop five times but the people wanted to hear more. Saturday night I left just before 5:00 a.m. as the sky was beginning till lighten. Then ten people were dancing and another fifteen listening. Some of the devotees continued playing to a gradually waning crowd till 9:00 a.m. when two listeners were left. Both the enthusiasm of the devotees to chant and that of the Czech young people, most of whom are atheistic, to hear, was impressive to me. Toward the end, between kirtanas, I told the people we have programs in different parts of Czech with Krishna music and food, and if they give their emails, we could give them details. One girl who knew English gave her email, and I engaged her in personally telling the others individually what I had said, but in the Czech language, so they could understand. Thus I got seven emails to give to the Czech devotees who like to cultivate relationships with the new people.

The last night, as the devotees were packing up, I stayed up chanting with the few remaining people, first playing the drum and then the harmonium. One boy stayed until the devotees finished packing about 4:20 a.m. That boy had some natural rhythm and did his best to play along on the mrdanga, and he was sad to see me go. I got his email to send more information.

It is inspiring to witness increases in our programs of Krishna consciousness in the places I visit. In 2007, the Czech devotees introduced Ratha-yatra to Brno, in 2008 to Prague, and this year, Lord Jagannatha appeared on His chariot in Trutnov.

Jagannatha's smiling face is not new to Trutnov. Martin, the organizer of the entire festival, is a friend of the devotees and has a fascination for Jagannatha. Thus Jagannatha's face appears on all the promotional material for the festival, the wristbands of the attendees and even the plastic beer cups.

This year, many of the attendees were fortunate to see Jagannatha in His grand position, decorated on a cart, pulled by His devotees, and blessing everyone with His glance.

In this uncommon picture, you can see on the right Lord Jagannatha's face decorating the Trutnov Open Air main stage, and Lord Jagannatha personally appearing on His cart, on the left.

Tomas and Jakub, a couple of young devotees from Slovakia, travel around Europe selling Srila Prabhupada's books. Trutnov was unexpectedly good for them and they almost depleted their entire supply of books in one day. Then they got more books sent from Prague and continued with similar success.

Personal Interactions

I remembered several people from last year's Czech Woodstock and they remembered me. Some remembered my dancing and one boy from Ukraine remembered that I drank water in the way Prabhupada taught by his example. I remembered some who chanted and danced and some I conversed with. We were glad to see each other. As before, some spent hours in our tent.

Prasadam is a key element in the devotees' outreach at Trutnov. The devotees are experienced at it, with their three restaurants in Prague, two Govinda's and a Balarama's, now joined by a fourth, Gopal's, just this summer. The best dessert the devotees had at their three prasadam venues was made with yogurt, rice, and strawberries, and I had some every day.

They also had these "spitz" which were made of several pieces of cut vegetable placed on a wooden skewer, which was then dipped in a batter and fried like a pakora, another tasty treat. One day I talked to two people who said we had the best food at the event, and Jakub, one of the book distributors, was told the same thing.

A couple girls chanted the "Govinda Jaya Jaya" song with charming delight, following Prabhupada disciple Jaya Gurudeva, who plays guitar and sings in a reggae style to attract the participation of the youth. They were two of four high school friends who are from Trutnov and came by to take part in our program two or three times a day. Although aged sixteen, because two of them spent a year in America, their English was excellent. I got one of their emails and will send them the video clip and the contact of a local devotee who has programs in their area.

One girl, using her phone as a camera, stood as close as possible to our stage to take a picture of something. Wondering what fascinated her so, I looked into the camera's viewer and saw she was trying to focus on the Hare Krishna mantra. To make her life easier I gave her a mantra card. Receiving the mantra card, she was so happy, she wanted to embrace me. Such an expression of happiness to obtain the mantra!

Insights from Lectures

Indradyumna Swami festival lecture:

[Each night on the tour, Indradyumna Swami tells about India's spiritual philosophy and his talks are full of meaning and good examples. Below is a summary of one.]

We do not want think of death, especially when we are on vacation. But we do not want to be like the ostrich. Better to face the truth in knowledge.

If I ask to write down where you are going in detail at death, most of you would not know what to write. But we do want to know where we are going. No one plans to go on vacation without knowing where there are going. After packing your car for your vacation journey, if you asked your husband where you were going and he said he didn't know, you would worry. If you ask your teenage girl where she is going on Saturday, if she says she doesn't know, you won't let her out the door. We always want to know where we are going. That is why death is an uncomfortable subject for us, because we do not know where we are going.

If you do not pass the exam, you cannot go on to the next grade but have to redo the same grade again. Similarly, if you are not self-realized, you have to be reborn again. According to your desires, you take birth in the womb of a certain mother.

Just as we have cars, simple or fancy, to get around in this world, at death we get another body to move around this world.

We say in America, "I have been there and done that." In the course of time, in different incarnations, we have been everywhere and done everything.

Reincarnation is just another feature of this world like sunrise and sunset. Thus we should try to understand ourselves beyond these changing bodies.

Don't think for a minute that any amount of material opulence will satisfy the soul. Just as a fish cannot be satisfied with any objects of enjoyment until he is returned to the water, we, who are spiritual beings, cannot be satisfied until we attain the spiritual world.

Love of God is natural. Love is natural. Just like love for your wife. You do not have to go to school to learn to love. Similarly, love of God is natural.

There is one God. He has no competitor. He is present in His name. If you want His association, sing His name. Water is different than the substance water, so by saying "water" your thirst is not quenched. But God is nondifferent than His name, so by chanting you are getting His association and become spiritually satisfied.

You never see a picture of God as an old man in India. He is eternally youthful. There is so much detailed spiritual knowledge there.

I went over my time limit because I saw some of you where listening very attentively. Sometimes I do that because I know some of you, in addition to having important positions in society, are very interested in spiritual knowledge.

Kratu Prabhu:

[Srila Prabhupada's purport to Sri Caitanya-caritamrita Madhya-lila 3.182 is a very nice description of Lord Caitanya's teachings.]

One verse that describes that Krishna's dharma or intrinsic nature is that He is enjoyer of all rasas (rasa-sekara) and is very compassionate to all living entities. Thus He devises many ways to reclaim the souls and deliver them back to Godhead, so He can enjoy pastimes with them.

Lord Caitanya tried to be a spotless sannyasi, explaining that even a little back spot on a white cloth is immediately visible.

Lord Caitanya situated Himself at Jagannatha Puri to simultaneously be near His home and also to spread the congregational chanting of the holy name. Sometimes devotees have an idea to perform their chanting in a secluded place, but the yuga-dharma is sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy name. Lord Caitanya recommended Krishna nama (name), Krishna katha (activities), and Krishna aradhanam (worship).

Many lives we can chant, but if we are inattentive and do not chant with our heart, we will not attain love of God. Srila Prabhupada said that we should be "serious and sincere." No laziness or craziness.

As Krishna is topmost of gods, Siva is topmost of Vaishnavas, and the Ganges is topmost of rivers, so Srimad-Bhagavatam, the spotless Purana, is topmost of the Vedic literatures. The glory of Srimad-Bhagavatam is that it describes Krishna Himself and His activities. It should be daily recited to awaken our love for God. (SB 1.2.18)

Sukadeva Goswami did not mention Radharani by name in the Srimad-Bhagavatam because Radharani told him not to and because he would experience too much ecstasy to continue reciting it.

Srila Prabhupada describes in The Nectar of Devotion that Deity worship can make you a raganuga-bhakta. In sadhana-bhakti the external senses is important, and in raganuga-bhakti the internal meditation of the heart is important. Both the tongue (rasana) and the mind (manasi) should be engaged as mentioned in Nectar of Instruction, verse 8.

Congregrational preaching programs were originally established by Nityananda Prabhu, and then reestablished by Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and now Jayapataka Swami and Radhanatha Swami.

Sivarama Swami is writing a book about New Vraja dhama. This is very good, because then it is much more likely to continue.

Q: I do not see myself developing so much the mentality of raganuga-bhakta in my Deities' seva.
A: Be patient. Talk to the Deities, they will become your friends.

Q: Here Prabhupada says one need only be "interested" to install Deities.
A: My understanding is that refers to Gaura-Nitai Deities. Srila Prabhupada wanted them widely distributed. For Radha-Krishna worship, one must be fixed in devotion.

Mother Sitala:

In the SB 4.2.31 purport, Srila Prabhupada mentions that the proof of the authority of the Vedas is that those people who do not follow them become degraded.

Just as one cannot swim across the ocean, one cannot swim across the ocean of material existence but must take the boat of dharma, the Vedic direction.

Lord Caitanya's special mercy is like the extra lane in which you can drive extra fast. Srila Prabhupada has given us the opportunity to get into that fast lane. All the austerity Srila Prabhupada went through in publishing his books was to give us this gift.

Gargamuni Prabhu in the early days at 26 2nd Avenue asked Srila Prabhupada if there was anything else to do to advance spiritually. Srila Prabhupada answered very gravely, "You can help me with my mission." Gargamuni wondered all day what was Prabhupada's mission. He concluded that it involved printing his books, and when he saw a Dictaphone, he decided to buy it and give it to Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada was so happy because he appreciated how the Dictaphone could help him in his book production.

When the first Krishna book came off the press, Srila Prabhupada wanted to give it to George Harrision, because he kindly gave a donation. George spent an hour in Srila Prabhupada's presence looking at the Krishna book page by page.

When our temple got the first shipment of the Krishna book, Bhagavan told us that Srila Prabhupada wanted us to distribute them on the street. I thought it was a crazy idea, who would book buy one of those big gray books on the street? On harinama we would chant half an hour, and then Bhagavan would nod at different people and then they would begin to distribute. I decided to keep my eyes closed so I would not have to do it, but you can only keep your eyes closed for so long, and when I opened them, Bhagavan was looking right at me. I knew there was no way out of it. I took a book and place in front of the next person who walked by. I didn't even say anything at first. The person opened it to the foreword by George Harrison, and decided to buy it, asking the price. I was shocked. I think Krishna was using me to inspire the devotees because if I, with all my reluctance, could sell a book, then anyone could sell a book.

Govinda Prabhu, disciple of Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, from Bhaktivedanta Manor:

One in ignorance will automatically be attracted to the scriptures in that mode. Materialistic people following the materialistic parts of the Vedas will in gradually become purified because sacrifice to Vishnu is part of any sacrifice and because by associating with those in the Vedic tradition eventually one will meet the pure devotees and attain the seed of bhakti.

Cursing and countercursing cause one to lose piety, thus the wise do not engage in them. The Siva-Daksa pastime exposes the cheating religion of both the materialistic bhahmanas and the degraded followers of Lord Siva.

Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami says Krishna, Krishna bhakti, and prema are the three topics of the Vedas. These translate into sambandha, abhideya, and prayojana. Six types of hellish vision include seeing the Deity as stone, the guru as ordinary man, the scriptures as ordinary books, considering the water washed the feet of Vaisnava as ordinary water, etc.

Hungarian devotee:

As Gopisvara, we pray to Lord Siva to become residents of Vrindavana dhama.

Atheism existed before Darwin, but Darwin developed a scientific justification for it. Previously Lord Siva as Sankaracarya gave a metaphysical justification for it.

From the example of Lord Siva as Sankaracarya teaching atheism as a service to Krishna, we can understand that we may be given a service that is not very relishable, but we can benefit by doing it, and so we should it enthusiastically.

Chota Haridasa was given a very heavy punishment for a slight offense, but because it was ordained by the Lord, he could accept it in a positive way. We can learn from this, and not get angry if we feel punished in an excessive way for a small offense or nonexistent offense, but continue and do our service nicely. When a devotee is in a difficult situation, he prays to God, and that is a good mentality. Humbleness is very good. If you are humble, you will never leave the spiritual path.


patrapatra-vicara nahi, nahi sthana sthana
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 Panca-tattva distributed love of Godhead." (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila 7.23)