Thursday, September 17, 2009

Travel Journal#5.17: World Holy Name Week

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 5, No. 17
By Krishna-kripa das 
(September 2009, part one)
World Holy Name Week
Budapest, Brno, Slovakia, and Ukraine

(Sent from Zaozernoe, Ukraine on September 17, 2009)

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

After Radhastami in New Vraja, I traveled to Budapest, Hungary, Modra, Bratislava, and Kosice, Slovakia, and Brno, Czech, and on to the Ukraine festival on the Black Sea at Crimea, after a day in Kiev. It was World Holy Name Week, and I was blessed to go out on harinama almost every day, and on the other days, we did extra chanting in a temple. I raised my japa quota to nineteen rounds also to celebrate World Holy Name Week.

World Holy Name Week

I appreciate the idea of ISKCON leaders to spend a week focusing on the dharma of the age, the chanting of the holy name. This was so much stressed by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu who had a daily program of harinama sankirtana in the Navadvipa area. Also in early ISKCON history, devotees chanted in public many hours each day. Because of this they were very happy. Many people were attracted, simply by seeing their happy faces. The constant congregrational chanting also kept the devotees in a very purified consciousness.

I am not a big organizer myself, but I did try to increase harinama in the places I went that week, assisted by Dhruva Prabhu, from Los Angeles, who decided to be my traveling partner for two months. I also decided to chant nineteen rounds instead of eighteen each day.

Originally I planned to chant in Vienna with some friends for a few days and then a few days in Brno to promote their Ratha-yatra. The people I planned to chant with in Vienna changed their minds and the permissions for the Brno Ratha-yatra were not granted, so I had to make another plan.

In Budapest, devotees do a weekly Friday harinama. I asked if I could do some extra ones as World Holy Name Week was beginning, and they ended up facilitating my desire by adding Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday harinamas for two hours in downtown, and chanting for twelve hours in the temple on Sunday.

On the first extra harinama twenty-seven devotees participated. The leader Gunagrahi Prabhu plays the harmonium and sings nicely, and a group of six ladies danced in front. There was a djembe player in addition to the mrdanga and karatalas.

Eighteen devotees came out on Thursday.

A much larger group came on Friday, their regular day. I enjoyed participating with them very much Wednesday through Friday, and they wanted me to come back again.

On Saturday, we went to Modra, Slovakia, to do a nama-hatta program. While enroute, we had some extra time at a train station in Hungary called Hegyshalom, not far from the Slovakian border, and I chanted there with my accordion while waiting for the train for fifteen minutes. Although Paramesvara and Gopali Prabhu's house programs are a month apart, Saturday's program was just two weeks after the previous one. The hosts wondered how many people would come and were pleased that twenty did. Last year when I visited only about six people came. It is a pot luck event and there was quite a variety of prasadam, including five desserts. In addition to the usual kirtana part of the program, there was kirtana for a congregational member Zuzana, who had left her body that week. After the lecture, the devotees were so enthusiastic there was even more kirtana, and after that, someone decided we should sing the evening arati song! I was happy to see the chanting of the holy name going on there nicely due do the natural enthusiasm of the devotees. Paramesvara Prabhu told me that one guest said, "Last month's program was the best in three years, but this month's was even better. I am wondering what you will have for us next month!"

Next I went to the Sunday afternoon program in Bratislava. There I was pleased to see they heard and chanted about Krishna for three hours straight, alternating between kirtana and readingKrishna book. Just a few devotees live in the temple, usually too few to do an evening kirtana. But on the days we were present, Sunday and Tuesday, we were able to get people to do an additional kirtana in the evening. On Sunday, we sang for a whole hour, letting others take turns leading. In Kosice, there also was not a regular evening program, but we were able to inspire enthusiasm for an evening kirtana there on Wednesday.

Monday took a day trip to Brno, Czech Republic, about two hours from Bratislava. Only two people now reside in that temple, Kuba and his wife, Kristina, but they are a good kirtana couple, he, with nice mrdanga talent and knowledge of a few tunes on the harmonium and she, with kalatala ability and a sweet voiceWe chanted almost two and a half hours in the late afternoon in a park there. Many people stopped to listen, many took invitations, and many kids watched us with curiosity, often looking backwards to continue seeing us while they passed along with their parents. One lady, perhaps in her sixties, along with another, perhaps in her thirties, looked at us with broad smiles, almost transfixed. They stayed for five or ten minutes and began singing the mantra along with us. As they left they continued smiling, and accepted invitations with great gratitude. It is so nice to meet people with such a natural attraction. I encouraged Kuba and Kristina to chant in the park whenever they get a chance, and I hope they do. I felt so happy to have come there to do harinama in another city this year, and to support some nice devotee friends who are struggling to maintain a presence there in Brno, the second largest city in Czech.

Raghunatha Priya, the temple president in Bratislava, rescheduled their Wednesday harinama for Tuesday so we would be there for it, as we had to leave early Wednesday for the Ukraine festival. In Slovakia, public opinion of the devotees is improving due to great media coverage. There was a favorable report on the devotees" Janmastami harinama in Kosice on the evening news, which included a very positive comment by a Christian leader, who spoke of the devotees as representing a genuine religion. Later T-Mobile made a television advertisement with the devotees doingharinama in the background. On our harinama in Bratislava, I could sense a better reception than last year, when I noticed people were much less favorable than in the neighboring Czech. This year I did not see a real difference. Many people took invitations and were very happy to see our chanting party. They had no harinama accordion or harmonium player, so I played a couple catchy tunes on my small accordion, and people seemed to like them. I try to avoid singing more than half the time, as there are better singers, I cannot claim a monopoly on devotion, and it is good to give others a chance, so they may be inspired too.

Devotees from New Ekachakra farm in eastern Slovakia gather from time to time, but not always every week, at Govinda's restaurant in Kosice and do harinama around the town. I was fortunate that on Wednesday we passed through Kosice on the way to Ukraine, they were planning to do harinama. I got to play the accordion again as their singers who play harmonium were both absent. I found people in the city very receptive, and many smiled and took invitations. Where we do harinama in Kosice is less passionate than the Bratislava venue and more beautiful with parks and trees, and the whole atmosphere was very pleasant. Many cafes had outside seating and thus many people got to hear our harinama. The Slovakian devotees talk about doing Ratha-yatra there some year. I think it is a great idea. They already have padayatra the week before Janmastami in the towns near New Ekachakra, and I am considering attending some year.

Thursday I got to briefly chant Hare Krishna and play the accordion at 1 a.m. in Chop, Ukraine, when the Ukrainian customs officer saw my minature accordion and asked me to play something. It was definite a case of ajnata-sukriti (unknowing devotional service) on her part. I also chanted for ten minutes at Hmelnickii, in mid-Ukraine, when our train stopped for a break.

On Friday, Dhruva who is from an Indian background, tried to arrange to give a lecture or informal talk with students of Indian culture at Kiev University. While he was doing that I chanted with my small accordion at a busy intersection across from the university while lots of pedestrians. I set out my chadar and placed a Russian book and some invitation to the two Kiev temple weekend programs on it. One person gave a donation of one grivna, a very small sum ($0.12).

Thus ends the description of my small offering of increased chanting of japa, increased sankirtana in the temple, and increased sankirtana in public. I hope the devotees, acaryas, beginning with Srila Prabhupada, and Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, Lord Krishna, and His beloved consort, Radha, are all pleased.

Insights from Lectures

Srila Prabhupada disciple, Patita Pavana Prabhu, and his wife, Abhaya:

The Precetas are grandsons of the famed King Prthu.

From the astrological point of view, the western direction is associated with enjoyment and ultimate destruction or abandoning what one has acquired.

Srila Prabhupada understood that Krishna consciousness must be spread in the West to completely hammer down the spirit of enjoyment on the planet.

Every devotee should make sure his wife is a preacher. Srila Prabhupada appreciated the contributions of the ladies. Once, appreciating the instructive artwork of his disciple Jadurani, he brought to her Montreal to speak.

Srila Prabhupada was very cordial, but then in the spirit of a sadhu, he would speak the truth about the soul and the body. To become a sadhu, one must simply accept the words of your spiritual father on your head. That was the key to Srila Prabhupada’s success. He followed his guru’s instructions to go to the West and preach. He performed many austerities to preach in the West, suffering two heart attacks on the boat, and one later on.

When you bring people to the temple, you are bringing people back to Godhead. As people visit the temple, the elements of their body are spiritualized.

Q: Many devotees have come and gone, but you have served Srila Prabhupada for so many years. What is your secret so we can benefit by it?

A: We can hope and pray that Srila Prabhupada will notice us. We have many godbrothers who have pleased Srila Prabhupada. For example, Indradyumna Swami, whose shoulder is permanently damaged from carrying a book bag on sankirtana for ten years. When he began he felt he could dedicate his whole life to preaching and he has. Although sixty years old, he is out leading thesankirtana party.

We must become Prabhu, then Prabhupada’s name, which means “he who at whose feet many Prabhus sit” will be true.

When I got brahmana initiation in 1969, Srila Prabhupada told us, “I expect all of you to become spiritual masters.” There is no question of rtvik. We must follow the tradition of spiritual masters.

Dhruva Prabhu:

We are meant to be aloof from the material world just like lotus floats on the water.

Arjuna was very intelligent and could understand the purport of Krishna words without Krishna having to comment at length on them. Others study the Gita their whole lives and do not understand it.

Gandhi tried to use Bhagavad-gita for political independence, but knowing the Gita in truth one can achieve greater independence, independence from the three modes of material nature.

We all love something, our car, our dog, our house, ourselves. We know how to love. We just have to turn that love to Krishna.

In India when people go to a temple, they receive a morsel of prasadam, but then people go home and eat all kinds of bhoga. That is like taking a shower with a drop of water and then rolling in the mud. How can one become cleansed in that way? Srila Prabhupada taught that one should only eat prasadam. By eating only prasadam and chanting Hare Krishna one can get purified very quickly. 

Arjuna was worried about sinful reaction and thus had so many doubts about fighting. Therefore, Krishna concluded his instructions by promising Arjuna that He will take all sinful reactions for one who surrenders to Him.

Prabhupada was a chemist expert in mixing medicine. Similarly he mixed the different items of devotional service in a formula, his morning and evening programs, to cure our material disease. 

If you do not study Srila Prabhupada’s books, you gravitate toward a position of blind faith, which is a weaker position than faith based on intelligence.

Doubts are like blocks in our devotional service. By inquirying, we become free from these blocks.

Many temples have only a morning program but no evening program. That is like hopping on one leg.

Practice makes perfect, if we have a perfect practice.

Jitendra Dasa:

People may be attracted to Krishna consciousness because they are interested in peace and the devotees are peaceful. Those who have tried for happiness in the material world and failed may be attracted to the peaceful devotees. We can tell people this to motivate them toward an interest in Krishna consciousness.

One who does not follow the guru is like a dead branch on the tree.

Most problems in spiritual life have to do with inattentive chanting.

One devotee wrote to Srila Prabhupada that the brahma-bhuta platform is devoid of anxiety but I still feel anxiety. Srila Prabhupada replied saying that he was also in anxiety about how to spread Krishna consciousness.


harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty evna
nasty eva gatir anyatha

In this Age of Kali there is no other means, no other means, no other means for self-realization than chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name of Lord Hari. (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi 17.22)