Thursday, February 25, 2010

Travel Journal#6.3: Gainesville, Miami, Ocala

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No. 3
By Krishna-kripa das
(February 2010, part one)

(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, USA, on February 25, 2010)


Harinama at the Super Bowl

Bringing Krishna to the Ocala Regional Rainbow Gathering

Insights from Rtadhvaja Swami, Brahmatirtha Prabhu,

Chaturatma Prabhu, Kalakantha Prabhu, Nanda Prabhu,
Sunanda Prabhu, and Others

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

I am living in the Krishna House in Gainesville and chanting at the University of Florida for two and a half or three hours a day. On Wednesday afternoon, we chant at the farmers’ market downtown for one or two hours, and on Friday night, we chant downtown near the bars and restaurants for an hour or an hour and a half in the evening. Three days a week I teach an hour-long course on a chapter of Bhagavad-gita. I also help with morning and evening classes occasionally. There are several students who are enthusiastic about different of our practices, and so it is very inspiring to be here.

The beginning of the month we did a couple weekend adventures, chanting at the Super Bowl in Miami and at the regional Rainbow Gathering in Ocala National Forest, where we also served prasadam.

Harinama at the Superbowl

Four devotees from the Alachua area joined four devotees from Miami in chanting for three hours at the stadium in Miami before the Super Bowl game. Siddha-vidya Prabhu, who has been doing harinama in Miami for decades, and Sunanda Prabhu, presently the head cook at Gainesville’s Krishna Lunch, were the main singers. Only one devotee lady was on the party.

We chanted inside the stadium gate for sometime, until relocated to outside the gate by the police. Once outside the gate, we were warned not block the sidewalk, which, in fact, meant that none of us could even stand on the sidewalk, with being warned again by the police. We accepted that we were given any place at all to chant was a benediction from the Lord. Previously devotees had been ordered by the police to leave after no more than an hour’s chanting, so I felt we were blessed.

More than one person said he hadn’t seen the Hare Krishnas in years, and for me, that is additional evidence we should get out there in public and chant the holy name more often. One such person appeared glad to see us and eagerly took the “On Chanting Hare Krishna” pamphlet I gave him. Another person exclaimed, “They used to have three hundred people, and now there are only nine!”

I do not recall any persons who were inimical except some Christians who took the trouble to blaspheme Krishna. The Christians were out in force, on each street corner, where there were a man with a loudspeaker, some people holding signs, and some others giving out propaganda. Some of the signs protested abortion.

I was thinking the Saints fans being from New Orleans, where we have a temple, were more familiar with the devotees, and gave a us more positive reception, and so that might be favorable for their victory. It turns out the Saints did win.

Although it was five-hour drive from the Alachua / Gainesville area to Miami, we all felt it was worth it to help thousands of people come in touch with the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra which we received from the chain of spiritual teachers by the grace of Srila Prabhupada and his followers and which we feel has greatly benefited our lives.

Bringing Krishna to the Ocala Regional Rainbow Gathering

For years devotees in Alachua and Gainesville have brought Krishna prasadam and kirtana to the Rainbow Gathering in Ocala National Forest, at least to extent of a day of kirtanaand prasadam. This time was especially sweet because so many people appreciated our contribution and no one complained. We brought half a bucket of chili and rice, two buckets of spaghetti, and three buckets of trail mix halava, one of this years’ most popular flavors. When we arrived at the trade circle, where many people were sharing their wares, a young lady named Michele, who was happy to see us, found a place for us to set up and offered her blanket for us to sit on. People came with their plates, which were sometimes pieces of cardboard, bark from trees, or a bowl made from half a coconut. Others simply accepted prasadam on their palms. We chanted for three hours while distributing prasadam.

I asked one girl who was glancing at the kirtana party as she ate her halava if she had encountered the Hare Krishnas before. To my great surprise, she exclaimed, “Krishna-kripa, you don’t remember me?” It turned out I talked to her in our Tallahassee temple one time, and she was the roommate of the daughter of a friend of mine. Rafael, who helped Daru Brahma Prabhu prepare and serve prasadam at Tallahassee, was also there. One girl told me about how the devotees came to her peace picnic at University of North Florida in Jacksonville and asked if I remembered her. I said, “Are you Amanda?” “Yes,” she said. “Amanda Fowler, right?” I replied. “Yes.” She was surprised I remembered. I told her we were thinking of chanting in Jacksonville again during our spring break and would keep in touch.

Next we did a little harinama through the woods for half an hour or so. The girl from Tallahassee who remembered me, followed at the end of our party, eating her halava on the way. Two boys, who had also taken prasadam, also followed our harinama.

While on harinama, we learned of the location of the main circle and since evening was approaching, we returned to the trade circle and packed up the remaining prasadam, a bucket and a half of halava, and proceeded to the main circle on the path which was demarcated by pink ribbons tied on the trees. I played my harinama harmonium along the pathway in the woods, struggling to avoid branches overhead and debris underfoot, as I walked and sang.

At the main circle, Garuda Prabhu, known also by the Rainbow name Soaring Turkey, was making an enthusiastic appeal that the Rainbow people unite to discourage the use of alcohol and which was becoming excessive to the point of being a disturbance to the mood of the gathering in recent years. It was nice to see a devotee advocating that persons, who he plays a leadership role in relationship with, act to protect a principle of religion. Garuda Prabhu, as usual, camped out and shared prasadam and kirtana with the people for most of the gathering, and we were glad to see him again this year.

We chanted “om” with the Rainbows and then began serving out our halava at the main circle, Mahakirti Prabhu starting at one point, and I starting 180 degrees away. For many, the halava was the first preparation on their very imaginative plates, and they were eager to get it. The halava went around the circle once, and then I took seconds to about half the circle, and many people were happy to get some more.

After serving prasadam, we asked Garuda Prabhu where we could chant Hare Krishna, and he invited us to his tepee, which had a fire burning within it and was just a few feet from the main circle. We chanted for an hour, and then he chanted for about fifteen minutes until it was 8:00 p.m., the time we planned to leave. While we were chanting, I asked a girl who seemed to be really getting into dancing to the kirtana, if she had encountered the devotees before. She said she hadn’t. She was from Coconut Creek and into Tibetan Buddhist meditation. After awhile, she stopped dancing and sat near the fire to meditate. However, the kirtana was so lively, she soon found herself moving to the music, and abandoned her attempt to meditate and resumed dancing. The two boys who had followed our harinama were there along with a girl, who had come with them from Ashville, North Carolina. They had never met the devotees before, but they seemed really to appreciate both the kirtana and the prasadam. I gave them a card for, so they could get more information.

We chanted through the woods back to our car. As it was dark, the temperature was dropping and my fingers were getting numb as I played the harmonium, so I had to reposition them to improve the circulation. It was Krishna’s mercy that Jaya Sita had asked as we were about to leave if we had any flashlights, and finding we had none, she lent us two. Her brother held one facing ahead of him and the other facing behind him, so we could see the path. It was the hardest experience for me to play harmonium in the dark, in the cold, and on a path in the woods, but by Krishna’s grace I kept it up for forty-five minutes or so, until we reached the car.

Thirteen devotees came out together from the Gainesville and Alachua area and all of them loved the program, many saying they would like to attend the Tallahassee Regional Rainbow in March as we did last year for the first time. We saw old friends and made new ones, and many people, including ourselves, advanced in Krishna consciousness.

Insight from Lectures

Rtadhvaja Swami:

When people are situated properly according to varna and asrama, they will naturally be happy.

My friend’s Dad planned to work hard his whole life and buy a recreational vehicle and travel around the US. The day he was to leave on his trip he got his first heart attack. His insurance paid for it, and then six months later he tried again. In the course of his traveling, he got another heart attack, but his insurance would not pay. He had to sell his recreational vehicle and live off his social security.

When I met the devotees, they told me I couldn’t enjoy in the material world. I thought they just hadn’t figured out how to do it, unlike me. I could show them how to enjoy in the material world. After several months, I realized they were right. I called the temple and told the devotees, “You ruined all my fun.” I used to enjoy all these things, but now I realize such enjoyment is not real.

My father said on his deathbed, “I can’t stop this,” and died.

Learn to give up material things slowly, and do not get too involved in material things in the first place. If you do a Folio search, you will be amazed to see how often Srila Prabhupada used the word “gradually”.

We should have SGA, Sense Gratifiers Anonymous. We come before the Deities and say, “I am Maharaja, and I am an addict.” We have our twelve step program, “Mangala arati,Krishna prasadam, . . .

Brahmatirtha Prabhu [known as the Bob Cohen in Perfect Questions, Perfection Answers] originally heard Hare Krishna from the musical Hair and could not get the mantra out of his mind.

Whenever I would call home, my mother would criticize Krishna and the devotees, and I would preach to her. After this went on for two years, I finally made a truce with my mother. She would not criticize Krishna and His devotees, and I wouldn’t preach to her. I haven’t preached to my family for 35 years. If they asked a question, I would answer it. In that time, they asked two questions.

Brahmatirtha Prabhu:

Srila Prabhupada said not to change things after he left, but he also wanted us to act about time, place, and circumstances.

It is said they are no atheists in the foxholes, however, after the war there are many atheists because both sides pray to win but one side loses.

Why do bad things happen to good people? One Biblical answer, fortunately not the only Biblical answer, is that there are no good people because we are all tainted. We all deserve to suffer in hell.

Once I went to the Museum of Torture, where I learned that much of the torture in history was performed by priests who considered that by torturing people they were purifying them of their sins.

Bad philosophy creates bad activities.

What do bad things happen to good people? I have heard two explanations: (1) I don’t know. (2) Karma. The “I don’t know” is sometimes phrased in different ways such as “You just have to have faith.”

In a hospital there is always a morgue because so many people die there, but it never has a sign on it that says “Morgue” because that would freak out people. It is called “X-Ray Room” or something like that.

Brahma Tirtha Prabhu: What good does it do if we are suffering for something we did in the past life if we cannot remember it?

Gopal: Well, if a murderer gets amnesia and cannot remember his sinful act, should he not be punished?

Chaturatma Prabhu:

Srila Prabhupada was also aware of the contemporary culture as can be seen from his description of Maharaja Bharata, “Because of the boy's becoming so strong, more than the so-called modern Tarzan, the rsis in the forest called him Sarvadaman, or one who is able to control everyone.”

In a public lecture in San Diego, Srila Prabhupada was explaining that we cannot get any satisfaction. Then he turned to a devotee, “Just like that song says. Don’t think I do not know these things.”

We can learn one pointedness from Arjuna who was tested by his archery teacher Dronacarya who wanted him to shoot the eye of fish behind a wheel situated on the ceiling that was seen only by reflection. Because he saw only the eye of the fish, he was successful.

Although Sridhara Swami and Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura disagree in their commentaries, Srila Prabhupada saw the value in both versions and gives evidence how both are reasonable. This is a wonderful example to be followed.

Once a leader who was pushing on Krishna consciousness in a particular part of the world was complaining to Prabhupada about how difficult it was to get the devotees to work nicely in the way he wanted. Srila Prabhupada smiled and said, “As I am tolerating you, you must tolerate them.”

We cannot hold maya back ourselves, but in the association of devotees, it becomes possible.

As far a plant is high, so deep are the roots. Similarly in the hearts there are the roots of our sinful tendencies. These must to uprooted by taking shelter of the Hare Krishna mantra.

State fathers must be wise devotees of the Lord, breakers of the discipline of sinful, and uprooters of the symptoms of Kali.

Srila Prabhupada was not just an acarya, teacher by example, for the twelve years he was preaching in the West, but for his entire life, including his childhood, which he engaged in devotional service.

The different between a grhamedhi and grhastha is how much you give Krishna consciousness to others.

It is important to have the Deity in the home, so we realize this is not my house, but Krishna’s house. Otherwise the tendency is the male-female relationship tends too much toward sense gratification. As grhasthas, you have to have deity worship in the home, otherwise you end up thinking you are lord of the home. Many times Srila Prabhupada speaks of the necessity having deities in the home for grhasthas.

From the viewpoint of the Protestant, Jewish, and Moslem faiths, the idea of deity worship is completely foreign. In Catholicism, there is the idea of the worship of the form of saints.

Srila Prabhupada writes that no one can worship in raganuga through the bhagavata vidhi without going through the pancaratrika vidhi (sadhana-bhakti). Pancaratrika worship allows anyone regardless of background to do deity worship as long as he is initiated by a spiritual master.

In the temple, the standard is very strict, but in the home it is the mood of convenience. This, however, does not mean a mood of frivolity. For example, the deities take rest at a certain time, but if you have friends over for bhajanas and things go late, it is alright that they take rest late. If you are performing arati, and a guest comes, you invite them in, and then continue with the arati. You may not use all the mantras and gestures that are used in the temple worship. It can be very simple, or in a phase of your life when you have more time, it can be more complicated. You have to be practical and not fanatical, otherwise you will cause distress for both yourself and others. Both in the temple and at home, cleanliness is most important. By consulting with the spiritual master, other devotees, and the scriptures, we can refine our worship.

If you have many deities, it may not be possible to worship them all every day. However, the main deity, your ista-deva, should be worshiped every day.

Caturatma Prabhu has three silas from Narottama Dasa Thakura. He has a little cloth from Lord Nityananda’s staff and Lord Caitanya’s dhoti, and salagram-sila forms of all of the dasa-avatara (ten avatars) except Lord Kalki. He also various remnants from Srila Prabhupada, and bark from the Siddha-bakula tree, the tree Lord Caitanya was born under, and tree in Tompkins Square Park that Srila Prabhupada chanted under, and many, many amazing historical Vaishnava remnants.

The bath water from the salagram-silas can be used bath the Siva lingam and Ganesa.

Q: Why worship demigods at all?

A: Because by pleasing the servants of the Lord, we can approach the Lord. The example is the gopis worshiping Katyayani to attain Krishna.

In the homes of the different devotees in the community, the focus is worshiping Krishna for the perfection of developing love of Krishna, but the details are different.

The coral from the beach in Dvaraka (known as dvaraka-sila) is nondifferent from Krishna.

Kush is the best oil for polishing the sila. Never leave a bottle of oil uncovered.

You can either sit the sila on tulasi or stick tulasi with sandlewood to his head.

You can use one side of the sink for Krishna’s plates and the other for your own. Use a separate set of cloths to dry the different plates.

As many householders there are, there are different ways of offering bhoga. The simplest is just to set the plate on the altar.

Gauranga-kisora Prabhu told a story that Puri Maharaja served a feast to the devotees in the temple. Radhanatha Swami inquired if they should close the deity’s curtains. Puri Maharaja said, “No, the Lord like to see His devotees eat.”

Q: When someone lives in an ashram is it alright worship personal deities?

A: Yes, but your personal deity worship should not overshadow or interfere with the temple worship.

Bhaktin Lacie adds: when I do the temple service to the temple deities, I meditate on my personal deities.

On neem deities, water destroys the wood and oil destroys the paint, so do not use those substances in bathing them. Wiping with a slightly damp cloth is sufficient.

Srila Prabhupada told the early book distributors they could do arati to the Bhagavatam before they read it.

I put our dying bird, which I found on the bottom of his cage, in front of our altar and with his beak he struggled up two steps to Srila Prabhupada’s altar, looked at Srila Prabhupada, and left his body. My wife and I were amazed to see this.

Kalakantha Prabhu:

In the Mahabharata, Duryodhana gave the Pandavas half the kingdom, but the half where nothing grows and which was useless for all practical purposes. By Krishna’s grace, they were able to turn it a place so wonderful that was called Indraprastha, the abode of Indra, the king of heaven. Therefore Duryodhana refused to give the Pandavas even five villages to rule for fear of giving them the slightest foothold, and thus he caused the Kuruksetra War.

Srila Prabhupada said the defending propensity is even stronger than the mating propensity.

Steve Covey’s book on self-improvement was originally a Mormon book on spiritual upliftment, but the publisher encouraged the author to secularize it and, it became incredibly popular.

Treasure these days in Krishna House when you can easily come together in the morning and do your spiritual practice for they may not last forever. When you are married you will not have so much time to devote in this way.

We talk of glorifying the name, qualities, and pastimes of the Lord, but my experience is the chaplain I meet because they have so little knowledge of these, they supplement their spiritual meetings with alcohol. One chaplain has “Theology on Tap” where they meet in a bar and discuss theology. Another chaplain was once given a big assignment by a leader in the church. To calm his nerves after hearing of it and to prepare himself to execute it, he had a drink. When he was quickly successful, the church leader celebrated by breaking out a bottle of whiskey.

The Lord is not punishing us in the material world but just letting us realize it is not possible to be happy separate from him.

Nanda Prabhu:

We are always incapable when it comes to making offerings to the Lord, and thus it is the devotion that makes the offerings worthy.

The Lord accepts the arca-vigraha, the deity form, so we can worship Him.

The Lord is always reciprocating, not only with Maharaja Pariksit, Maharaja Yudhisthira, and Sukadeva Goswamis, but also with us, who are trying to serve Him.

The Lord does not want the nondevotees to suffer but to become rectified.

Early in the movement, we had a regular event of devotees taking turns coming before Deities and offering prayers to Them during a Sunday morning kirtana.

Sunanda Prabhu:

Srila Prabhupada told us that an animal who takes prasadam next takes a human birth.

One great Vaishava acarya threw remnants of his meal to the fish in the river, and they assumed spiritual forms and returned to the spiritual world. His disciples had one doubt. “We always take your remnants of your food, but we remain in this world. Why is this?” The master replied that the fish had not committed any offense while taking theprasadam.

Disciple: Bhaktivinoda Thakura said he left his work unfinished. What did he mean by that?

SP: He left it for you to finish.

Lord Caitanya taught by His example to observe the Ratha-yatra festival, to travel and preach, etc. By following His example, we please the Lord and the acaryas.

The Lord’s example and instructions teach two principles: personal purification and benefiting others.

Although we are not important persons, still our good example can benefit each other and inspire those around us.

Paraphrase of some of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions on prasadam distribution:

This program of mass distribution of prasadam was advocated by Lord Caitanya, because those who take prasadam will come again in touch with Krishna consciousness.

Prasadam is the key medicine for driving away maya.

If you have prasadam and sankirtana success will come very quickly.

Because you are preaching and distributing prasadam, management will follow like a shadow.

If only the intelligent class appreciate our mission, it will become successful.

By prasadam distribution you will please the Lord and also the public will be pleased.

As far as prasadam distribution, we do not discriminate between rich or poor, otherwise it will be karma-kanda.

What is the use of a temple with no prasadam distribution?

People cannot hear philosophy if they are hungry.

Prasadam in this country means full meal. Lord Caitanya’s policy was to feed people up to the neck, akantha.

Lord Caitanya would chant four hours of sankirtana and distribute prasadam.

You can keep two or three first-class cooks, and they must be fully engaged.

Our temple is managed by Srimati Radharani who Laksmiji [the goddess of fortune] so why should there be want?

Our main programs are distributing prasadam and sankirtana.

The official who gives permission for our Jacksonville Ratha-yatra ate Krishna lunch when he was a student. He gives us the band shell and other facilities.

Madhava Prabhu (Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Appearance Day):

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura initiated himself into sannyasi because he had no godbrothers to do it, and he wanted to remain in the line following Gaura Kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja.

Ali Krishna Prabhu:

If we recite the prayers of the previous acaryas [spiritual teachers], we can be sure that we are praying for the right thing.

This universe is cosmic sensitivity training. When we suffer, we should think, “What is Krishna trying to teach me?”

I pray to increase my attraction to the devotees and to devotional service.

This is description of a Hare Krishna community: “Devotees of the Supreme Lord are twenty-four hours daily engaged in glorifying the qualities and pastimes of the Supreme Lord. Their hearts and souls are constantly submerged Krishna, and they take pleasure in discussing Him with other devotees.” (Bg. 10.9, purport)

We have to learn how to begin spiritual conversations with people in a way that they will not be disturbed, and they can gain spiritual knowledge. We must be pleasing and inspiring. It takes work, and we have to practice. We have to find out their background, so we can think of what aspect of Krishna consciousness might inspire them.

Seven steps toward more spiritual conversations from a Christian web site that may be valuable for us.

1) Make it a priority.
2) Pray for opportunities.
3) Get out in the community.
4) Cultivate relationships.
5) Learn to ask the right questions.
6) Look for evidence of God’s working.
7) Guard your heart.

Pray for spiritual conversations. Associate with more advanced devotees.

Q: How to speak with people?
A [by Kelly]: Just by being ladies and gentlemen is very powerful. Hear them to show that you care, otherwise you will seem irrelevant.

A by [Gauranga Kishore:] (1) Nothing is really mundane as if comes from Krishna, so if we talk about ordinary topics with a person for the sake of inspiring them in Krishna’s service that is OK. (2) Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura said that one should not tell others about Krishna if one doesn’t have tendency to give respect to others.

Gauranga Kishore Prabhu:

The message of Bhagavad-gita is simple. God is a person. We have a loving relationship with God. If we awaken our relationship God, we will find the happiness in life that we are looking for in other things.

Krishna explains to Arjuna that real happiness does not come from anything external.

We say seeing is believing, but in reality, we see things according to our beliefs.

The confidential message of Bhagavad-gita is that Krishna is God. Many people both at the time the Gita was spoken, and now, understand there is a God, but it is very confidential knowledge that Krishna is that God.


yajña-śistāśinah santo
mucyante sarva-kilbisaih
bhuñjate te tv agham pāpā
ye pacanty

“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (Bg. 3.13)