Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Travel Journal#5.21: London

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 5, No. 21
By Krishna-kripa das
(November 2009, part one)

(Sent from London on January 20, 2010)


A Couple of College Programs
College Retreat at Bhaktivedanta Manor
Memorable Harinamas
Memories of Tribhuvanatha Prabhu
Insights from Lectures by Maha-Vishnu Swami, Urmila Prabhu,
Jai Nitai Prabhu, Murali Manohara Prabhu,
Bhutabhavana Prabhu, and Others

Where I Was and What I Was Doing

I planned to stay briefly in London until I arranged for flights to India and America. While there, however, I learned they were celebrating their 40th anniversary festival for the installation of Radha-Londonisvara, and that four of the original six devotees who started Krishna consciousness would be coming as well as Radhanatha Swami. I thought with all these great souls coming to London for a festival that only happens perhaps once in ten years, why should I go to India? Better I stay for the festival, and so I did. That I describe in the next issue in some detail. This issue describes the other things I did in London during November and the tail end of October, most of which happened before the big festival.

Our London Soho Street temple is always a positive place for me. Plenty of harinama and lecture opportunities, including college programs. [There are also great wheat rolls from Govinda's restaurant.]

A Couple of College Programs

I attended one weekly evening program the devotees do at Kings College with chanting, prasadam, and a talk on Krishna consciousness. The lecturer and topic were scheduled in advance, so I just listened. Mostly that program is attended by students from Indian backgrounds, but a couple of English nursing students have been coming regularly, and really like it, so much so, they attended the retreat at Bhaktivedanta Manor which I describe below.

I was amazed to find one of the girls has a mother who is Quaker by religion and a peace activist by occupation. That is the situation of my own mother, and it is the first time, in thirty years that I met someone interested in Krishna consciousness who had that similar background. I met her mom at Govinda's restaurant later, and she mentioned the Quaker meeting is unprogrammed, like the ones which I was familiar with, and held not too far away from our temple on Soho St. Perhaps I will go there sometime and share some realizations with the people, like I do when I go home.

One devotee invited me to do a program at Imperial College. Apparently that program just started the previous week, and only three people came to the initial meeting. The week I did it, there were initially just three, but the organizer walked around the building for ten minutes at the beginning and recruited three more. I recall the people who came were really interested in the discussion, and that Krishna consciousness sounded like a very reasonable philosophy with real evidence supporting it. The people who came seemed to have a good time. The next week's topic was vegetarianism, and I was invited to speak again, but my flight to India came through, so I missed the chance. I was optimistic, thinking that if we provide interesting and informative presentations, good food, and friendly dealings, that attendance would steadily increase. I was happy to hear from the organizer that the next week twenty-five students came to hear about vegetarianism.

College Retreat at Bhaktivedanta Manor

In the London area alone there are twenty college outreach programs and twenty-six for the UK as a whole. Once a semester the students who attend these are invited to Bhaktivedanta Manor for a one-day retreat for a nominal charge of five British pounds. The retreat includes a group session led by veteran college outreach person, Bhutabhavana Prabhu, a follower of Bhakti Tirtha Swami, with an ice breaker followed by a discussion of how Krishna consciousness can help to solve identified world problems better than present proposed solutions. During the ice breaker, we were asked to think of:

(1) anyone in history we would like to have lunch with

(2) anyplace we would like to go

(3) anything we wanted to change in the world

There were a variety of students, ranging from the offspring of Indian congregation membership to the general London student populace, and many answers struck me as surprising and humerous. Students wanted to have lunch with Christ, Hitler (2), Alexander the Great, Krishna (3), God (3), Gandhi, Srila Prabhupada, Michael Jackson, Einstein, Mother Theresa, and Radharani. "Why would anyone want to have lunch with demonic people such as Hilter," I thought. One student explained, "Just to try to understand the mentality that led them to act as they did." Students wanted to visit the Last Supper, Mayapur, the Moon, India, Tirupati, the Bahamas, their graduation, Woodstock, the holydhamas (sacred places), and Vaikuntha, the spiritual world. They wanted to reverse global warming, eliminate money, eliminate the credit crunch, change themselves, make people more humble, make people vegetarian, free people from false ego, eliminate maya (illusion), and remove borders. In particular, medical students wanted better health care, and law students wanted speedy justice. As for myself, all I remember is that I wanted to go to Mayapur, and by Krishna's grace I did for six weeks in December.

From the subsequent discussion by Bhutabhavana Prabhu, I learned that although "everyone has a theory of happiness, the Vedas have a formula for happiness." And "if we share commodities, we find we end up getting what we need because what goes around comes around, but if we hoard, the reaction is that we will lack.

There was a tour of the temple room and the property, along with a nice explanation of Deity worship. We learned that we bow down entering the temple because we are indebted to our guru and the Lord for the facility, knowledge, etc., which we received from the temple.

There is a nice path in the garden decorated with plaques inscribed with important Bhagavad-gita verses, giving an opportunity for a little explanation and meditation on the philosophy. There was a cooking demonstration and opportunity to milk the cows, followed by a nice prasadam lunch. A lot of the students were really into milking the cows. Later in the afternoon, there was the Kali drama with its Krishna conscious message, followed by a discussion of the drama.

Many of the over eighty students who came to the college retreat I attended in early November had a very positive experience, and I do not think anyone had a bad time.

I am thinking perhaps we could do a similar retreat in Alachua which is no more than two hours from the campuses of Florida State University, and the Universities of Florida, Central Florida, South Florida, and North Florida.

Memorable Harinamas

The first day I arrived in London, October 28, was warm and sunny. I chanted a very lively Sri Prahlada tune at Oxford Circle and a good number of people sang and danced with us for some time. One Polish girl, who had met the devotees before, participated very enthusiastically. I was really happy to be in London, where I can count on enough people to be there for harinama.

One day in late November, we did four harinamas in downtown London! They were at 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3:00 p.m., and 6:30 p.m., and each an hour long. Parasurama Prabhu decided that we should chant to the colleges where his party distributes spiritual food, and so we did an extra harinama midday. Krishna Vidhi Prabhu, London harinama stalwart, is always ready to go out after breakfast, and usually so am I. One other devotee is committed to a Thursday evening weekly harinama. Adding these to our usual afternoon harinama, we had four harinamas on that day.

Memories of Tribhuvanatha Prabhu

Tribhuvanatha Prabhu, among other adventurous outreach projects, did Hare Krishna festivals in East Africa for years.

Tribhuvanatha would always begin scheduling festival programs and renting halls although he did not have enough money. He put Krishna in the position where He would have to reciprocate with Him.

If you wanted to know anything about Srila Prabhupada, you would ask Tribhuvanatha. He knew so many pastimes of Srila Prabhupada.

Tribhuvanatha Prabhu was getting the Bhagavad-gita printed in Arabic. The cheapest printer was in the middle of the war zone. One time he was in a taxi and bombs began going off, so the taxi driver abandoned the vehicle. Tribhuvanatha got in the driver's seat and continued driving to the printer.

Parasurama Prabhu:

Tribhuvanatha was often in great anxiety for Krishna.

He was very renounced and kept his luggage in a plastic bag.

Devotee lady: I do not know when he got any sleep. He was always preaching, traveling, and more.

He was always compassionate. He gave all the ladies on padayatra his bus to sleep in, and he slept outside. We had thirty kids stuffed in the closets and toilets on the bus. He once gave up a whole summer to drive the devotees kids around. Some were into all kinds of nonsense, but he was really nonjudgmental.

Radha-Damodara Prabhu: He was totally dedicated to preaching. Every day he went to mangala-arati and took prasadam with the devotees.

Giridhari Prabhu: Every day was fun, exciting, and an adventure. He was a powerful personality but kind and friendly. He would give us different missions, get halls, advertise programs, etc.

At the end of his life, he said, "I have lived my life in the fast lane, and this is the result."

He was always late because of trying to do so many things. Even after he left his body, his body was taken in a casket in an ambulance to rush to the airport to catch the plane.

For him, all vehicles were toys to be engaged in Krishna's service. He deeply understood the nature of the material energy.

He was a unique devotee, yet in many ways, he had an ordinary life and was very human. His glory is that he extricated himself from his material life and rededicated himself to Srila Prabhupada's mission. On one hand, he was very strict and austere, and on the other, he was very liberal, kind, and understanding with others.

Vince: He used to dream about Narada Muni. You have to be connected to a higher energy to keep up that pace of activity for the nine years I knew him.

Insights from Lectures

Maha-Vishnu Swami:

The impersonal emanates from the personal.

Radha-Londonisvara are the first Radha-Krishna deities in the Western world.

Consciousness is maintaining the body not that matter is maintaining consciousness.

When I first came to the temple, I was a real Mayavadi. I couldn't understand why everyone was bowing down. I thought that when they became advanced they would not bow down, like me.

Srila Prabhupada would say "Chant Hare Krishna and be happy. Follow the four rules. Finish your business in the material world, and go back to Godhead."

Q: On your harinamas, was it your strategy to preach to people to stay in the temple?

A: We were happy chanting and following our Hare Krishna lifestyle, and we just shared it with interested people. We would try to convince them it was a superior lifestyle.

A (by Guru Das): When we were the Radha Krishna Temple Band, we would play at different gigs. We gradually came to leave two or three seats free in the van for people who wanted to come back to the temple. It was not our strategy so much as Krishna's arrangement, and we went along with it.

Prabhupada quote (by Guru Das): "The Mayavadis will argue about tat tvam asi, but we will go back to Godhead by eating prasadam."

With varnasrama there is no human society. We are not born in a human society. Everyone is just trying to gratify their senses.

In Vedic culture, the idea of nations was absent.

There is evidence that the Druids used to wear sikhas [the little pony tails the Hare Krishna men wear], as well as shaved heads.

There is a great video on YouTube from the Brighton Halloween harinama.

As soon as Krishna sees someone taking some interest in the holy name, prasadam [spiritual food], or transcendental literature, He begins to work within the heart.

This is a hit and miss civilization. If we spread this sankirtana movement, Krishna will be pleased with us.

By our karma, we get a certain time in a certain body, whether we have a heart transplant or not.

On a morning walk, Srila Prabhupada was talking about remembering Krishna at the time of death. He made the point that just as it is difficult to remember Krishna when we are asleep, it is difficult to remember Krishna at death. Death is like a big sleep. How much more difficult then will it be to remember Krishna at death. Therefore we must practice to chant very seriously.

In London there are people from all over the world imagining they can enjoy, but those who have been here for ten or twenty years are fed up with it.

Someone asked Srila Prabhupada if Prabhupada could read his palm. To the devotees' surprise, Srila Prabhupada agreed to do so and looked seriously at the lines in the man's hand for some time, finally saying with dismay, "Disease, old age, and death—all bad. But if you take to Krishna consciousness your future will change for the better."

Srila Prabhupada said that the greatness of a person is measured by his ability to tolerate difficulty.

As casinos are meant to exploit people, so the whole material world is like that.

Just as we are not meant to stay in prison forever or to stay in a particular grade in school forever, we are not meant to stay in the material world forever.

Devotees use misery to take shelter of Krishna. Krishna favored Kunti more than Draupadi because Vasudeva, Devaki's husband was there to protect her, but Kunti had no one but Krishna to protect her in her calamities.

Srila Prabhupada said that 99% of our advancement is based on our chanting. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said that if we chant but do not try to give up committing offenses, we will became attached to sense gratification.

Urmila Prabhu (on Bhagavad-gita):

Krishna says, "Give me a leaf." Who is satisfied with a leaf? If you give your boss a leaf, will he be satisfied? If you give your husband a flower, will he be satisfied?

Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura once said, "Although the jiva is finite, his capacity for enjoyment is unlimited."

The question is not whether or not to act according your nature, but who you are going to please by acting according to your nature.

Jai Nitai Prabhu:

We hope to find very good friends who will warn us about attacks to Krishna or to our Krishna consciousness. We should spend 20% of the time with those more advanced, 20% of our time those who need our help, and 60% of our time with our peers.

Nanda Maharaja could have easily discounted Vasudeva's advice thinking, "What does this guy know? He has been in prison for so many years." Nanda Maharaja considered Vasudeva's advice, as he returned to Gokula, because he thought that such a great personality's advice could not be without meaning.

Krishna tries to teach us from within. If that fails, He sends someone to tell us, and if we will not accept that, then He arranges that we may learn by experience.

Srila Prabhupada's mood of compassion and acceptance pervaded everything in the early days of Krishna consciousness in London, and hearing the devotees spoke about it was very powerful and transforming. Srila Prabhupada has gifted us with this mission, and it is a gift because most people do not have a mission in life.

Murali Manohara Prabhu:

In the material world, if a lover returns after not seeing his beloved for several hours, he does not faint in ecstasy. Although there are songs like "Everybody Needs Someone to Love", there are more songs of not finding a lover or songs of disappointments over lost lovers.

Sadhana is an operation on the heart with the doctor being the spiritual master and the disease being lust.

Krishna's sweetness enters His flute and enchants all the residents of the spiritual world.

Q: What hastens our development of love of God?

A: Sincerity in trying to chant without offense and the mercy of our superiors.

A (from a lady in the audience): Association with great souls.

A: (by Murali Manohara) The love and affection of the great souls is transmitted through their words, and when we hear them speak it enters our own hearts.

There is no such thing as uninterrupted happiness in the material world. Even if we are situated in a happy place, our attachments to others will cause us distress. A faithful person sees that everything is the Lord's will.

Curiously, when Vidura came on a peace mission to Dhrtarastra, Dhrtarastra said that the war was all destiny and part of Krishna's plan. But it is a dangerous policy to justify our improper behavior as destiny. Krishna says he is not responsible for one's sinful acts (Bg. 5.15).

Some people argue it is not my destiny to chant Hare Krishna, but that is not a good argument. Human life is meant for dharma, and thus it is our destiny to chant Hare Krishna as it is the dharma.

Choosing to engage in devotional service can change our destiny, otherwise destiny cannot be changed.

Bhutabhavana Prabhu:

The more an ideology differs from the Vedic paradigm, the more destructive it is.

We are in so much illusion that we think that we can cause so much harm to the animals, and yet we imagine that we can live peacefully.

One boy, who was psychic, commented on seeing our Saturday night harinama party, "There is a light that is surrounding your whole party."

People are more easily convinced to change their behavior if they think it will make them happy rather than if they think it would be good for them.

Gadagraja Prabhu:

Before Lord Caitanya's advent, the Vaishnava studied Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam with Advaita Acarya Prabhu.

The sages at the Ganges bank could not agree on the best advice to give King Pariksit just before his death. The only way to attain perfection is pure devotion. Arjuna was confused and helpless, but in this age we are more confused and hopeless, so how much we should take shelter of Bhagavad-gita.

In one place, the Lord says that Bhagavad-gita is His very self. The first five chapters are His head, the next ten chapters are His ten arms, and the sixteenth is His belly, and chapters seventeen and eighteen are His two feet.

Tarun Krishna Prabhu:

We are always in illusion—either maha-maya (the illusion of forgetting our relationship with Krishna) or yoga-maya (the illusion of covering the Lord's opulence so we can intimately deal with Him).

When I went to India at age 18, I saw the people were poorer than I have ever seen. But the people were also happier than I had ever seen—more peaceful, more relaxed, and more loving. That taught me that wealth is not the cause of happiness.

Only Krishna can receive the loving service of the living entity. For anyone else to do so would seem artificial.

At Christian school they told a story to illustrate the mentality of hell and heaven. In both people are sitting at a long table, and they have spoons three feet long. In hell, they are frustrated trying to feed themselves, and in heaven they happily feed each other.

Radha-Londonisvara Prabhu:

Three things we can learn from the Damodara pastime are:

1) Yasoda always wants the best for Krishna, such as first class butter, so she made it herself from the milk of the best cows.

2) Great determination was required to successfully bind Krishna.

3) Yet Krishna's mercy was also essential for success.


mayavadi, karma-nistha kutarkika-gaṇa
nindaka, pasandi yata paduya adhama
sei saba mahadaksa dhana palaila
sei vana ta-sabare chunite narila

taha dekhi' mahaprabhu karena cintana
jagat dubaite ami karilun yatana
keha keha daila, pratijna ha-ila bhanga
ta-saba dubaite patiba kichu ranga

The impersonalists, fruitive workers, false logicians, blasphemers, nondevotees and lowest among the student community are very expert in avoiding the Krishna consciousness movement, and therefore the inundation of Krishna consciousness cannot touch them. Seeing that the Mayavadis and others were fleeing, Lord Caitanya thought, "I wanted everyone to be immersed in this inundation of love of Godhead, but some of them have escaped. Therefore I shall devise a trick to drown them also." (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita 7.29-32)