Sunday, February 21, 2010

Travel Journal#6.2: India, London, USA

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No. 2
By Krishna-kripa das
(January 2010, part two)
Chowpatty, London, Albany, Gainesville, Miami

(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, USA, on February 21, 2010)


Traveling with Sacred Substances

Visiting Home

Miami Ratha-yatra

Insights from Tamohara Prabhu, Sesa Prabhu,

Madhava Prabhu, and Others

Where I Was and What I Did

The second half of January was full of traveling for me. I began at Ganga Sagar, West Bengal, taking the train to Mumbai, where I stayed in Radha-Gopinatha Mandir in Mumbai for a day. At that temple, every two weeks during the Bhagavatam class period on Monday, the devotees do harinama in the local area, and by the grace of the Lord, I showed up on that very day. There must have been about fifty devotees or so in the party, and it attracted attention of the people. Then I went on to London, where about nine devotees did a two-hour afternoon harinama, despite the 37 degree F (3 degree C) temperature. We were clearly the happiest people on the streets of London that day. Now each day, the London sankirtana devotees do four hours of book distribution in the morning and two hours of harinama in the afternoon. I next returned to America after nearly nine months, visiting my family in Albany for four days. Then back to Gainesville, Florida, except for a day trip to the Miami for the Ratha-yatra.

Traveling with Sacred Substances

I brought water and sand from Ganga Sagar, which are both considered sacred coming from a holy place. While boarding Kuwait Airlines in London, in addition to the standard security, officials again looked at our carry-on luggage before allowing us on the plane. My Ganga Sagar water was in an unmarked container than could not have been more than the 100 milliliter limit. Still the officials were going to take it from me since it was unidentified. Finally, they asked the ultimate authority, a very Arab-looking official of Kuwait Airlines. Wearing my saffron robes, I explained that this is water from a sacred place in India. Seeing the official, I thought that the Muslims have their sacred dress and their sacred places, and I hoped he would be liberal and let me board. He looked at me and the water and motioned that it was OK.

Arriving in New York, at customs we were threatened that if we had certain substances and we did not declare them, we could be punished. Soil was one of the forbidden substances, so I thought I should declare the sand from the beach at Ganga Sagar. The official made me find the soil in my baggage, and he was about ready to toss it, when I said in great anxiety, “It is not soil, it is sand!” He looked at it again, and gave it back to me.

Thus by Krishna’s grace, my sacred substances made it to America.

Visiting Home

In London’s Heathrow airport I told the official at one of many check points that I was going to America to see my mother. I did this to convey the idea to her, and anyone who was listening, that Hare Krishnas are socially responsible. She said, “Then you will get some nice home cooked food.” I explained that when I go home, I cook all the meals. “When I was young, my mother cooked for me. Now I cook for her.” She smiled and said, “Oh, you should tell my son that!”

Going home for me means cooking and distributing prasadam. My mom kindly bought me some ghee for $10, which upgraded my cooking program. Kofka balls are always a favorite. We used the recipe in Adi Raja Prabhu’s cookbook.

I always get up early and chant my japa while my relatives are asleep, and then start cooking. Usually I do pancakes at least one day for breakfast, using an eggless recipe I found on the internet. I like to make homemade syrup with whatever fruit is available. I play Bada Hari Prabhu’s CDs while I am cooking when I go home, as I once gave them to my sister since she likes mellow music.

My niece Fern has been vegetarian her whole life and likes the food we cook and helps to cook as well.

I always go to Quaker meeting with my mother. I always dress as a Hare Krishna monk when I go there as I have for over twenty years. People sit in a circle and share realizations when inspired. People were talking about having faith in the Lord’s plan. I spoke and told the story about the king and the minister which shows that the Lord’s plan is ultimately good, although it may not always seem good:

The king accidentally cut the end off of his finger, and the minister explained that it is God’s mercy. The king, angered at his opinion, threw the minister in jail. Later when the king was hunting in the forest, he was captured by dacoits, who want to offer him as a human sacrifice to Goddess Durga. While preparing him for sacrifice they see his finger is missing, and deciding he is unfit for sacrifice, they let him go. The king is overjoyed to be spared, and frees the minister from jail, now seeing that his missing finger was indeed God’s mercy. But he has one doubt. Why did God let him throw the minister in jail? The minister explained that if he were not in jail, he would have accompanied the king on his hunt, and when the dacoits found the king unsuitable for sacrifice, they would have sacrificed his minister instead, so it was God’s mercy that he was thrown in jail.

I made dal and coconut burfi for the lunch after the Quaker meeting, and many people got prasadam.

I saw Jack Daniels, the most theistic of my family’s friends from my youth. He is over 90 years old and has caretakers to assist him. He has Parkinson’s disease, and it is frustrating for him to be limited in his ability to move. I gave him some water from Ganga Sagar, and showed him my new harmonium from India which I played a Hare Krishna tune on. I also showed him some videos of Krishna festivals from my trip to Europe in the summer.

Miami Ratha-yatra

I can’t miss an opportunity to go to a Ratha-yatra. Indeed, one year I prayed to Lord Jagannatha in Mayapur to be able to attend as many Ratha-yatras as possible. At the event, I consider my service to sing and dance for the pleasure of Lord Jagannatha, but this year in a rare mood of semi-surrender, I also spent an hour and a half helping make puris for the feast. I also enjoyed explaining the event and its history and spiritual significance to local residents who were looking on with curiosity. The idea that the Lord and His devotees come out of the temple to bless the people who are unwilling to come to the place of worship has appeal to people with even a little piety.

An appealing feature of the Miami Ratha-yatra is that Lord Jagannatha and His entourage spend half an hour singing and dancing in Peacock Park in the middle of the yatra. It reminds me of how in the original Puri Ratha-yatra, the Lord enjoys at Gundica temple before returning to His temple in Puri.

At least fifteen of the participants came from Alachua, and they provided the cart, played music, and helped cook. Teamwork between ISKCON centers help make events such as Ratha Yatra possible.

For the final quarter of the kirtana, there was no chanting of Hare Krishna, just Jaya Jagannatha, and the like. I wished I could rectify the situation, but I did not know who was in charge and was afraid the leader would be offended if I told her to just chant “Hare Krishna.” Also, the parade route was in a not so populated place. Saturday would be a better day than Sunday, but perhaps the authorities did not want it that day. Outside of those anomalies, it was a great event.

All glories to Lord Jagannatha, who is an ocean of mercy.

Thanks to Purusharta Prabhu for the pictures of Ratha-yatra. For more, see

Insights from Lectures

Tamohara Prabhu [Gainesville on Lord Nityananda’s Appearance Day]:

We do not say that Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda are incarnations because They are identical to Krishna and Balarama [original forms of the Lord].

Lord Nityananda Prabhu was about twelve years older than Lord Caitanya. They met when Lord Caitanya was twenty years old.

Lord Caitanya would say to Lord Nityananda Prabhu, “You are spreading the sankirtana movement. You are delivering all the fallen souls.”

Lord Nityananda is most dear to the devotees because of His compassion. By praying to Him, especially on His appearance day, we can get a taste for chanting the holy name and for devotional service.

Laksmipati Tirtha Swami was the swami who begged Nitai from his parents to be his servant.

Some of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers considered that Srila Prabhupada was personally empowered by Lord Nityananda to spread Krishna consciousness in this world.

One must pray for the mercy of Lord Nityananda Prabhu to understand Lord Caitanya.

A pack of thieves decided to plunder Lord Nityananda’s jewels. The first night, the thieves fell asleep. The next night, they saw Nityananda Prabhu’s house surrounded by powerful guards, all chanting the names of the Lord. The final time, they were struck with blindness. Some fell into ditches of leeches and scorpions. Indra sent hail and icy cold rain. Finally the leader of the thieves decided that the version of the people that Nityananda was the Lord was factual, and he decided to surrender to Lord Nityananda. When the thieves began thinking positively about Nityananda, they became free from their suffering. When the leader of the thieves bowed down at Lord Nityananda’s feet, he attained spiritual ecstasy and took up the chanting of the holy name. Ultimately, the former thief converted many other thieves to become devotees of Lord Nityananda.

Jagai pleased Lord Caitanya by stopping his brother from further attacking Lord Nityananda, and Lord Caitanya offered him any benediction, giving him devotional service. Madhai begged for mercy, but Lord Caitanya said that because he had hurt Nityananda Prabhu, his offense was greater. Lord Caitanya thus told Madhai to surrender completely at the feet of Lord Nityananda, and so he did, and attained the complete mercy.

Sesa Prabhu [Gainesville]:

In most traditions, there is the idea of the souls having a relationship with the Lord of either son or servant, but in Vaishnavism friendship, parental love, and conjugal love are also known.

Unalloyed transcendental service is the key to having an intimate relationship with the Lord.

“Service is pervertedly represented in the material world and broken untimely, resulting in sad experience.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.11.35, purport)

The Lord’s queens captivated the Lord by affection and service not feminine attractiveness.

Some qualities in the disciple which lead to a positive guru-disciple relationship: faith, determination, service attitude, humility.

Maya’s strategy is to isolate you from the other devotees.

Devotional service is very powerful, but we are very conditioned for millions of lives. However, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Nityananda Prabhu are so kind that we can become purified in one life.

Q: Is not the chanting purifying? Why were you stressing association?

A: Yes, the chanting is purifying. What do we do in the association of devotees? So much chanting is there. And chanting in the association of devotees can strengthen us. We may have some weakness that could defeat us if we were left alone, but which could be overcome in the association of devotees.

Madhava Prabhu [Gainesville]:

As we take pleasure in varieties of relationships with elders, friends, and subordinates, so Krishna also takes pleasure in these relationships, which are individually manifest. Our imitative relationships in this world are not as fulfilling as our individual relationships with Krishna. In this world, we hope to gratify our senses through our relationships with others, but unless these are connected to Krishna, they will not be ultimately fulfilling.

Sometimes at markets, vendors give free samples so people get a little taste of their product and become attracted to buy it. Similarly Vyasadeva gives a little taste of Krishna’s pastimes in the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam to lure the reader onward.

We should not be disturbed by seeing the inconceivable in Krishna’s pastimes. If Krishna is God, it is not a surprise that He periodically does things that we cannot understand.

We have so much faith in different aspects of the material world, like faith that other drivers will follow the rules of the road. To advance spiritually, we must have such implicit faith in Krishna.

In the spiritual world the devotees are so absorbed in their own relationships with Krishna that they are not worried about whether another devotee is in a superior relationship to Krishna.

That we have even a little appreciation of Krishna’s pastimes is His mercy upon us.

The devotees who play roles in Krishna’s pastimes are not there by accident and do not play those roles just out of duty but strongly desire to relate with Krishna in those ways.

Syamanandana Prabhu [Chowpatty]:

Acting without the fruits can be compared to recording with the input level set at zero. When you play it back, there is nothing there.

Srila Prabhupada never advised filling the people’s hearts with “don’ts.” Srila Prabhupada came, he saw, and he chanted. Like a coach, he encouraged, “It is not difficult, just a little more effort and you can attain the goal.”

Lord Caitanya has not lowered the passing grade, but He has made the process of purification more powerful.

Bhutabhavana Prabhu [London]:

If the aim of your devotional service is to attain love of Godhead, whatever else that is needed, you will receive in abundance.

Srila Prabhupada said Krishna consciousness is difficult, but material life is impossible.

People think that a form would limit God, but even mathematically it is possible to have infinity in a defined space. One can take a centimeter of space and divide it in half. And those halves can also be divided in half, ad infinitum. Thus within a centimeter, you can have infinite divisions.

The day Krishna left Vrndavana, Radharani put on saffron.

Devotional service is to make our plan according to Krishna’s plan.

Srila Prabhupada was so kind to accept the devotees’ offerings, thinking that if he was displeased with them, then the disciples would have no access to Krishna.

Sometime Kartika is compared to a sale, but actually in devotional service every day there is a discount.

Vaikuntha Murti Prabhu [discussing Sivarama Swami’s Suddha-bhakti Cintamini in London]:

The pleasure of prema is millions of times greater than that of bhava what to speak of the insignificant pleasures of sense enjoyment and liberation.

If Krishna is not visible, one in prema feels oceans of remorse.

At bhava, Krishna sporadically appears in the heart of the devotee, and disappears to increase the devotee’s desire for Him.

Bhava is compared to a sunray and prema to the whole sun.

When the devotee gets darsana of Krishna [with his eyes], the other senses, by the grace of the Lord, can also inconceivably perceive him, and the experience overwhelms the devotee who faints. Krishna awakens him and begins to speak, and all the devotee’s senses can also inconceivably hear Him, and the experience overwhelms the devotee who again faints. Krishna again awakens him, and when he begins to smell the fragrance of Krishna’s body, and all the devotee’s senses also inconceivably smell Him, and the experience overwhelms the devotee who faints. This progression continues with the taste of Krishna’s remnants and touch of His form.

As much as the devotee is overwhelmed with prema, so is Krishna, when he considers the devotee’s loving service.

At bhava, the devotees know their siddha-deha, but have not been practically engaged in that eternal service.

Devotional service in the mode of goodness is performed for purification. If we perform devotional service for the purpose of going back to Godhead, we will become so purified that we will not desire any particular result from our devotional service.

Ali Krishna dd Prabhu [Gainesville]:

One should avoid giving your heart to those not spiritually inclined.

We can tell we are advancing when our relationships improve.

There are shelters in the mode of ignorance, like drugs, or in the mode of goodness, like our parents.

Sophia: Krishna consciousness is more than a lifestyle, it is a consciousness.

Dave: Seeking shelter in the material world will lead to more distress.

Rohini-kumara Prabhu on Japa:

We should chant loud enough to hear ourselves but soft enough so other people can hear themselves.

Comment: Confessions of a loud chanter: I chant loudly because Srila Prabhupada said we should cry out to Krishna.

Reply: We can scream without making a sound.

What you meditate on when you chant Hare Krishna does make a difference. At one japa retreat, a devotee was sitting on a rock, away from the other devotees. From time to time he worried what would happen if a bear were to come. Later a devotee, who was down the path a ways, looked up and saw the devotee on the rock, and behind him, a big bear. While he was wondering about how to warn his friend about the bear in the safest possible way, fortunately the bear disappeared of his own accord. Therefore, what you meditate on when you chant Hare Krishna does make a difference—it just might appear!


ratharudho gacchan pathi milita-bhudeva-patalaih

stuti-pradurbhavam prati-padam upakarnya sadayah

daya-sindhur bandhuh sakala-jagatam sindhu-sutaya

jagannathah svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me

As the Lord mounts His Ratha-yatra cart and parades along the road, there is a constant accompaniment of loud prayers and songs chanted by large assemblies of saintly brahmanas. Hearing their hymns, Lord Jagannatha is favorably disposed toward them. He is an ocean of mercy, and is the true friend of all the worlds. May that Lord of the Universe, along with His consort Laksmi, who was born from the ocean of nectar, kindly become visible unto me. (“Jagannathastakam”, verse 5)