Thursday, January 07, 2010

Travel Journal#5.20: Paris and Berlin

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 5, No. 20
By Krishna-kripa das
(October 2009, part two)
Paris and Berlin

(Sent from Mayapur on January 7, 2010)


Paris Harinama Nectar

A Week in Berlin

Insight from Lectures
by Partha-sarathi Goswami, Kadamba Kanana Swami,
Arjuna Prabhu, and Madhavendra Puri Prabhu

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

During my accidental visit to Paris enroute to South Africa, I was reminded of how much I liked the association of my harinama friend there, Gadadhara Priya Prabhu, and the program of daily harinama, often on the metros. Thus I decided to stay in Paris for a week on the way back from South Africa to Berlin. The Berlin temple has always been a place I visited on the way to some other place, like Poland for the tour, and I never stayed there for more than two days at a time before. I decided that it was unfair to discriminate against Berlin, and so I stayed there for a week this time. I got a little caught up in this journal, in my LiveHelp chats, and in my proofreading work, as the weather was chilly for harinama and the temple understaffed. The weather improved and more devotees showed up so we did two nice evening harinamas at the end of my stay. Next I went to London, where there is a steady daily harinamaprogram, because London is the cheapest place to fly to both India and America. While there I went to the wonderful 40th anniversary festival for Radha-Londonisvara, which I will describe in journal no. 22.

Paris Harinama Nectar

The service of harinama sankirtana is always an adventure, and two experiences in Paris really stand out in my memory. Usually we chant on the metros or the streets downtown from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. from Monday through Friday. This Friday, we got a late start and didn’t begin till 6:50 p.m. We found that then you get a different crowd on the metros, not a crowd burned out after a week of work and rushing home, but a crowd of people looking for some entertainment on a Friday night. In Paris, there are the standard metros, with separate coaches, linked together, but mostly self-contained, and the new ones, which are like one long train, without doors separating the different coaches. Previously only line 1, a line with high security had the new trains, but now line 2 has them, and we tried them out. You reach a much larger audience without the separation of the coaches, and you can more easily move down the train. We found many people were really in a mood to reciprocate with the chanting by smiling, clapping, and moving with the music. As we left one train after chanting for fifteen minutes or so, some of the people showed signs of heartfelt lamentation to see us go. It was powerful to see.

Later we chanted in the Indian section of Paris, while shopping for a banana tree stalk with bunches of bananas for the Diwala drama. I continued the singing because I thought it only took one man to find the bananas and the rest could keep the kirtana going. Many Indian Parisians were attracted by the kirtana party, and at one point we stayed outside the shop of a favorable vendor for a while. We ended at Gare du Nord train station at 9:30 p.m., and while waiting for the train to our temple in Sarcelles, one young Indian man came up to us and said, “I just heard your chanting party, and your singing really touched my heart. I just followed you all down here to thank you.” It was a victory forharinama sankirtana.

On Monday, Gadadhara Prabhu, our singer and the person who speaks to the crowd, had to leave to get surgery done, and Bhakta Raul, our drummer had to visit his parents. That left me and Bhaktin Sara from Italy to do harinama, and neither of us could speak to the crowd in French. Citraratha Devi Dasi, who lives in Geneva and knows French, a devotee for decades, said she could come, but her voice was not strong enough to speak to the people on the metros. I was in a quandary about how to maintain the program of harinama on the metro in that situation. We decided to get the lines Gadadhara Priya uses to speak to the passengers and have Citraratha teach them Bhaktin Sara, who is very friendly, outgoing, and has a nice loud voice. We borrowed Gadadhara Priya’s small harmonium, and I sang a couple of the prettier and easier of the ten or twelve tunes I knew. We all pushed passed our limits in order to do the service. I am not accustomed to leading kirtana, Bhaktin Sara was not accustomed to speaking French, and Citraratha was not accustomed to approaching so many people to give them mantra cards. I think people could see that we were all really new at what we were doing, but that also they could see that we were very sincere, and therefore, it actually worked. It reminded me how in the pioneer days of the movement, devotees had to do a lot of things they had little experience in, but Krishna blessed their efforts, and people became attracted to Krishna consciousness, and it spread. I felt grateful to the devotees for making it happen.

A Week in Berlin

Each center has nice features that exercise different of our abilities. Because most of the devotees were doing traveling sankirtana, just a few householders who maintain the Deity worship and brand new Bhakta Simone, just a month in the temple, were there at first. It was nice for me in that I got to lead a lot of kirtanas and give a lot of classes. I finally learned to play “Damodarastakam” on the harmonium because there were few enough devotees that I got to chant every third time, and we chanted it twice a day. Simone was inspired with the classes and later wrote me asked for the list of Bhakti-sastri verses to study. Later some devotees returned, and we had enough for five or six to go onharinama the last two nights I was there. As a result, some of the devotees developed a taste for making harinama a regular event. We chanted at Alexanderplatz, a large, busy square, for a couple of hours each night. I would sing a little but mostly pass out invitations. I recall, on several occasions, persons would see me handing out the invitations and being attracted by what we were doing, they would approach me for an invitation. It was a very positive experience.

Insight from Lectures

Partha-sarathi Goswami:

Seeing a devotee, associating with a devotee, and going to the places associated with a devotee is more valuable than the Lord’s sight, association, and places of pilgrimage.

When handling candles, our hands become covered with wax. Similarly by associating with devotees, we gain to some degree, their prema [love of God].

Kadamba Kanana Swami:

Q: What about realizing we are sinful? What about repentance? How should we do it?

A: Repentance is not a primary feature of our process. We understand we cannot purify ourselves. But by our engaging in the process of devotional service, Krishna purifies us. So our process is all hopeful. Krishna dasa Kaviraja said, “I am lower than a worm in stool. Anyone who says my name loses all pious credit. But Lord Nityananda is so merciful, even I am blessed.”

Hridayananda Goswami once told me, “I used to pray to the Lord, ‘Please purify me.’ Now I pray, ‘Please purify me softly.’”

When the devotee suffers, he doesn’t lament and is not disturbed or doubtful about Krishna. He sees either that it is his karma or that Krishna is purifying him.

We have to understand that we are facing Krishna at every moment. When we realize that, we are on the internal platform.

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says that although Krishna can fulfill all His desires, He still desires the love of His devotees so much that it controls Him. This is the greatest secret in the Vedic literature.

Krishna’s official role is the deliverer of His devotees, the chastiser of the demoniac, and the establisher of religion.

Krishna is not just acting. His yogamaya potency makes Him really afraid of His mother’s stick. His yogamaya keeps Him from guessing the identity of a friend who covered His eyes from behind, although He knows everything.

We act as if shopping is the dharma of the age.

Love of God is not “me and Krishna and everyone else out of the way.”

Philosophy is for those who have material desire.

In Jaipur at noon, the shopkeepers close their shops and go to the noon arati [worship ceremony in the temple].

This movement is not a movement of big, big temples. There are a few. Otherwise, make your home a temple. Invite a few people and do everything there. You do not feel like going to the temple? Then invite sadhus to your place.

On the disappearance of Narottama Dasa Thakura:

As a baby, Narottama Dasa Thakura would not eat the grains at his grains ceremony because they were not prasadam [offered to the Lord]. Thus people could understand he was a great devotee.

At the Khetari festival [about 20 years after Lord Caitanya’s disappearance] during the kirtana, Lord Caitanya and his principal four associates appeared, and everyone became amazingly ecstatic. Later when they suddenly left, the Vaishnavas cried so many tears, the ground become muddy from them.

One brahmana criticized Narottama Dasa Thakura calling him a sudra [a lower class man]. The next day the brahmana got leprosy. He understood it was a reaction to his offense, and so he surrendered to Narottama Dasa Thakura, begging him to put his feet on his head. Narottama Dasa, out of humility did not put his feet on the brahmana’s head, but started a kirtana, ordering the brahmana to dance, and as he danced, the brahmana’s leprosy disappeared. Thebrahmana ended up taking initiation from Narottama Dasa Thakura.

The title of Narottama Dasa Thakura’s collection of songs called Prarthana means “requests” or “beggings”.

When the devotee perceives the mercy the Lord is bestowing on him, his love for the Lord flares up. Love of God is not a static feeling, but it intensifies by certain impetuses called in Sanskrit, uddipana.

After the Govardhan pastime, Krishna questioned Indra about how he, as a devotee, could try to drown all the residents of Vrindavana, all great devotees. Indra explained that it was pride. Krishna said that with intelligence, one must cut down his pride. Indra explained that he became angry and lost his intelligence. Krishna was not pleased with his explanation, but it is interesting, nonetheless.

Because of Vasudeva Datta’s sincere desire to accept the sinful reactions of all living beings so they could be relieved, Lord Caitanya said that He was the property of Vasudeva Datta and that Vasudeva Datta could sell Him anywhere.

During Lord Caitanya’s time, one devotee, his wife, and his daughter were pursued by some Muslims, who appeared particularly interested in the women. The family walked as fast as they could but came to a river and could go no further. The man prayed to the Lord to be saved. Out of nowhere a boat appeared, and the family got on it and was taken safely out of danger. Later Lord Caitanya revealed to the devotee, “Remember that boatman who appeared out of nowhere to save you? I was that boatman.”

Every lecture should be about doing something extraordinary for Krishna. Is there any topic so worthy?

When the Deities are asleep, chanting is not a disturbance but talking prajalpa [nonsense] is.

Q: Why do we not worship Lord Caitanya as a sannyasi?

A: Because out of love the devotees want to give the Lord all kinds of comfort, and that is not possible if He is in the mood of a sannyasi.

Q: Is it possible that we can get mercy and not realize it?

A: Yes. When Arjuna got off his chariot after the battle, the chariot burst into flames. He asked Krishna, “After it survived the whole battle, why did it burst into flames now?” Krishna replied, “I was protecting it by My personal energy, but now there is no need to protect it, so I withdrew My potency.” We would fall down many times each day, but Lord Caitanya is personally protecting us.

Arjuna Prabhu (Prabhupada disciple residing in Mauritius):

In Kali-yuga, the present age, it is said that Krishna is manifest in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the river Ganges, tulasi, and Lord Jagannatha.

When we open the cakra between the eyes, we realize the eternal nature of time and space. Time can be split into fine divisions of a second. Those who are sense controlled can utilize the fractions of the second.

After the sages completed their thousand years sacrifice, they were wondering whether to stay or return to the higher planets. Narada Muni appeared and instructed that it is practically impossible to control the tongue and genitals in Kali-yuga, so all but one decided to go to the higher planets. The sage who remained became degraded by Kali-yuga, first taking birth as a brahmana, and then a brahmani. As a brahmani, she took birth as a female dog as a result of killing her older brahmana husband so she could enjoy with her young brahmana lover. As a female dog, she was liberated when touched by a drop of Ganges water from a devotee drying his sikha after bathing.

One who is under eight years old, sick, or elderly, is not required to observe the Nirjala fast.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that Ekadasi is the mother of devotion.

The papa-purusa, the personification of sinful activities, was especially created to give misery to those who harm devotees.

When the Lord was visiting Yamaraja, he heard the screams of people suffering in hellish conditions, and He became compassionate. Thus from his own karuna-shakti (mercy potency), He created the lunar day of Ekadasi. Thus the suffering living entities gradually become liberated and attained Vaikuntha, the spiritual world. The papa-purusa became weakened by Ekadasi’s influence, and he feared that if he died, everyone would attain Vaikuntha and there would be no facility for the Lord’s pastimes in the material world. The Lord laughed and said that he could take shelter of grains on the Ekadasi day. Thus Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedas, says three times, “Don’t eat grains on Ekadasi.”

Lord Jagannatha appeared to Bhaktivinoda Thakura and said, “I did not bring you to Puri just to deal with legal matters. I want you to reestablish the siddhanta [philosophical conclusions] taught by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Bhaktivinoda Thakura doubted that he could, and he asked the Lord to send an empowered person. The Lord advised him to take shelter of Bimala Devi, and so he did. Thus Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was named Bimala Prasad when he appeared.

In different traditions it is understood that spiritual knowledge is revealed.

In Mauritius, they plant arjuna trees to act as windbreakers since the biggest cyclone will not blow them down. Thus Krishna chose a very difficult tree to knock down for His Damodara pastime.

Madhavendra Puri Prabhu:

Descartes tried to prove that God exists. He claimed that “God exists” is the most consistent philosophy.

Most philosophers are more interested in searching for truth than finding it. Einstein had an IQ of 165, Mohammed Ali’s was 93, and one philosopher had an IQ of 85.

If you want to know Krishna, pick a flower, offer it to Him, and He will reveal Himself.

One scholar approached Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura to ask him a philosophical question. Bhaktisiddhanta said that he was busy, and had one of his disciples host him while he waited. That disciple was cleaning some Deity paraphernalia and engaged the scholar in assisting. While cleaning the paraphernalia, the answer came to him. When he finished, his question answered, he began to leave. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura met the scholar as he was leaving, and inquired about his question, and the scholar told how the answer came to him. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura then explained that knowledge is a byproduct of devotional service.

The position of Srila Prabhupada in Krishna consciousness is like the position of Christ in Christianity. No Christian, however advanced, will compare himself to Christ.


kalim sabhajayanty arya
gunaj├▒ah sara-bhaginah
yatra sankirtanenaiva
sarva-svartho ’bhilabhyate

“Those who are actually advanced in knowledge are able to appreciate the essential value of this age of Kali. Such enlightened persons worship Kali-yuga because in this fallen age all perfection of life can easily be achieved by the performance of sankirtana.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.5.36)