Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No. 9b
By Krishna-kripa das
(May 2010, part one, section two)
Belgium and Holland
(Sent from Munich, Germany, on June 1, 2010)
Where I Was and What I Did
While at Sacinandana Swami’s wonderful holy name retreat at Radhadesh, which I described in a previous issue, I met Janmastami Prabhu, who I had done harinama with Belgium and Holland, and Krishna Vidhi Prabhu, who I had done harinama with in London. By Krishna’s mercy, I was able to schedule two harinamas with their help. These were in Namur and Leuven, Belgium, new cities for me, on the last day of the retreat and the day after, respectively. Then I stayed with Janmastami at our Antwerp temple, doing three harinamas, and the Tuesday nama-hatta program at Krishna-priya’s house. In Antwerp, Sunday morning is market day and many, many shoppers heard the holy name, some quite happily. There were just a few grumbling vendors in the beginning. Next I went to Amsterdam, and did harinama there three days, and on to Den Haag for the Sunday feast, where I did harinama there after the feast with three feast goers, and the next day in Delft, both new cities for me in Holland. The whole visit to Den Haag and Delft was just dreamed up at the last minute, and it was an unexpected success for me. I spent another day doing harinama at Amsterdam, and went to Germany for the upcoming Munich Ratha-yatra and Nrsimha festival at our Bavarian farm, Simhachalam.
The afternoon after Sacinandana Swami’s Holy Name retreat, twelve devotees chanted in Namur, a city of about 100,000 about 60 km from Radhadesh in the French-speaking part of Belgium. It seemed at first like the people were unfamiliar with the devotees, and some were even afraid to look at them. We walked through the city to a busy street corner, just across from the main train station and near a bus stop, where we chanted most of the time. I let a variety of devotees lead the chanting, because I like to encourage people in chanting, only reminding them, from time to time, to focus on the Hare Krishna mantra. One devotee lady complained I should just let the best singers chant. Of course, if only the best singers chant, then the others do not get any practice and consequently do not improve, and sometimes they even feel discouraged. It is a case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
Although in the beginning it looked like there was very little interest in Namur, as time passed, the devotees became more and more enthusiastic, and the onlookers became more attracted. We even distributed all our invitations in one hour of the two-hour event. After all, we just spent a week glorifying the holy name, and so we really believed in what we were doing, and we were really fired up. It was a very positive experience for me, and I was happy to see that so many devotees wanted to take part.
Leuven is a college town a little more than midway between Radhadesh and Antwerp, in the Flemish part of Belgium. We had five devotees initially, and then a party of three book distributor joined. Many tourists took pictures of our party, including a man from Egpyt, a lady from Spain, and a girl scout from another part of Belgium. The girls scouts had a great time dancing with us. I asked the three photographers to send me their pictures, but none of them did. It is not such a surprise. Only 10 to 20% of the time do people send me pictures when I ask them to. Once a man did, and one of his pictures was ultimately used on the mantra page of Back to Godhead. Thus I often ask when I do not have a camera or see any devotees with a camera.
I like to do three hours of harinama a day, but Janmastami Prabhu was so enthusiastic we stayed out another hour.
The devotees in Amsterdam headed by temple president, Dhananjaya Prabhu, go on harinama in the crowded area between the Amsterdam Centraal railway station and Dam Square, each Thursday and Saturday. One devotee couple, Sandor and Laksmi, comes from Rotterdam each week to join. Sandor likes to take videos of the party. So here we have the Thursday harinama led by Dhananjaya Prabhu:
And the Saturday harinama led by me:
For unscheduled harinamas on Friday and Tuesday, we took the bike with its box on the front, filled with instruments, books, and one time, prasadam. On Friday, Bhaktas Alexander and Ric joined me. A group of girls visited our book table, and one of them convinced her friends to buy two books, because she liked them herself. One homeless guy joined and played the tambourine for half an hour. Later a man came by with a stringed instrument that you pluck, and played with us for twenty minutes quite happily. On Tuesday, I made some fried potato balls with ingredients left over from the Sunday feast, which we served with chutney, also from the feast. One lady offered to sell us a new unused harmonium for 130 euros. One young man, who had several books, wanted aBhagavad-gita, but the devotee in charge of bringing books only had Srimad-Bhagavatams. I hope he learned from the incident that one should always bring out Bhagavad-gita. If I had brought the books out, I would have included the Gita because it is our main book for the general populace. It is also the most famous of our books.
I was hoping to give the Sunday Feast lecture in Amsterdam, but I lost track of the temple president’s email address and couldn’t inform him of my visit in time, and so he advertised another speaker and did not want to change. I am familiar with the idea of not wanting to change an advertised speaker, as I generally feel the same way. Since Bhakta Ric was very familiar with Den Hagg, having lived there, and was even asked to give the lecture himself, I asked if he could arrange that I speak there. So he did, and we both went to Den Haag for the Sunday feast. I had given a lecture in Amsterdam and Rotterdam but never Den Haag, so I saw it as a good opportunity. I gave different references from Bhagavad-gita about the existence of a higher transcendental pleasure. I explained the difference between material consciousness and spiritual consciousness and between material pleasure and spiritual pleasure and told how to attain spiritual pleasure through c connecting the Lord by practicing bhakti-yoga. After the class, I mentioned I would like to go on harinama the next day. By the end of the evening, six devotees told me they wanted to go on the harinama. We settled on Delft, a small city nearby, where one of the devotees lived. Except for me, all the devotees were relatively new, and I was impressed to see their enthusiasm. One couple, Tim and Rose, even stayed after the Sunday feast to do more chanting for forty minutes, and then when I suggested we do a harinama around the block, Rose joyfully and immediately agreed, and so we did.
Delft is a pretty town with lots of historic buildings and some waterways. The cobblestone streets reminded me of Albany, NY, where I lived in my youth, also originally founded by the Dutch. All six devotees who promised they would come on harinama did, which was itself rare. Beyond that even Sandor and Laksmi from Rotterdam came as well.
Many of us took turns leading the chanting, and we all were in a joyful mood, although we did not experience many especially positive interactions with people. One young man I talked was not at all interested in religion; he just liked to see people singing in the streets. Nonetheless, one devotee, Jeanette, talked to several people and ended up selling a book. We chanted a little over two hours, and I encouraged the devotees to do harinama more regularly in the Den Haag/Delft area. Although Amsterdam has two days of harinama each week and Rotterdam has one, the Den Haag devotees do not have a regular weekly harinama despite the fact that many of them love to chant.
On top of reciprocating my desire to harinama in a very exemplary way, a couple devotees gave me enough money to cover the costs of coming to the Netherlands during my European trip, and I feel grateful the devotees there for both kinds of assistance. So my visit to Den Haag, and then to Delft, with a feast lecture, feast kirtana, post-feast bhajanas, and two harinamas, all within 26 hours, was an unexpected success, a smiling glance from Krishna on me.
Insights from Lectures
Here we find a glorification of old age. This is rare. Why is this? It is an impetus for spiritual life.
Some say reason comes with old age, but for some, old age comes by itself.
As new devotees we thought we were transcendental, so we did not worry what we ate or how much we ate. Then at age forty, we realized the importance of our body, and we started taking care of our health, and for some, it became a fulltime service.
On the way back from a doctor’s appointment, Srila Prabhupada saw a movie theatre with a film entitled, “Is There Sex After Death?” Srila Prabhupada spoke about it in his morning class. “Tell them they do not have to worry. There is sex in 8,400,000 species of life. If they know that, they would not have to worry.”
Researchers fed rats a breakfast cereal to test its nutrition value. The rats, however, ate the box and not the cereal.
People are eating, sleeping, mating, and defending, and in the past, they were eating, sleeping, mating, and defending, and I can predict, as an ISKCON astrologer, that in five billion years, people will be eating, sleeping, mating, and defending.
Srila Prabhupada said, “Do you see that tree?” I said, “Yes.” Srila Prabhupada replied, “Do you see the bird in the tree?” I didn’t, but I took his word for it. He then continued, “The bird knows tomorrow there will be worms to eat, and he has his female bird, so he has no anxiety. He knows everything will be taken care of. Why then are you in anxiety?”
Old age makes us more serious.
Srila Prabhupada said that there is a television in our heart whereby we can see the activities of the spiritual world. But unfortunately it is broken. Our movement is a transcendental TV repair movement.
Q (by Sacinandana Swami): I am intrigued by how Srila Prabhupada says the bird was carefree. I find as I age, I have more anxiety. Tell me about how the devotee is free from anxiety.
A: We are confident that we are going back to Godhead, so for us there is no anxiety. Without that transcendental realization, we can try to be peaceful, but that will not be substantial.
One vending machine, which accepts credit cards, located in a seven star hotel in a Gulf state sells bars of gold. American Express has a black card above the platinum card, which you can use to buy an airplane or a yacht. But the heavenly planets offer thousands of times the sense enjoyment than the rich people on earth can experience. Still all this is a phantasmagoria for the liberated souls.
When someone gave Srila Prabhupada a piece of clothing as a gift, Srila Prabhupada would give some of his clothing to that person.
My name means winner of wealth. Srila Prabhupada said better than wealth is devotees, and he assigned me the task of making devotees the day after my initiation.
When I was in London we gave Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, maha garlands from Radha-Londonesvara in Great Children’s Party in Hyde Park in 1979. We also engaged one young girl named Yamuna, who was dressed up as Krishna to be in a play, to give a garland to Margaret Thatcher, the first lady prime minister.
Srila Prabhupada said objects like comets, asteroids, and meteor were debris from the fights between the demons and demigods. The metallic meteorites were debris from objects like Salva’s amazing flying city of iron, which had many paranormal abilities.
Maha-Vishnu Goswami told us in Vrndavana that one must study each verse of the Bhagavatam in light of its catur-sloki (SB 2.9.33–36), the four verses that summarize the text. Similarly, one must study each verse of the Bhagavad-gita in light of its catur-sloki (Bg. 10.8–11).
From the point of view of Krishna, all his energies are spiritual. Material does not exist for Him. For us, the material vision exists in our consciousness when we see things separately from Krishna, and we imagine things being for our own enjoyment.
Krishna explains to Uddhava that the liberated soul sees the material world as a dream.
The Buddhists say everything is zero, the Sankarites say everything is one, and then Madhvacarya said everything is two. Lord Caitanya later explained how we and our Lord are one and two simultaneously.
This knowledge of sambandha removes the covering of our consciousness in the form of lust, greed, and anger, the doors to hell, which led to degradation of the soul.
Krishna is the embodiment of rasa, or happiness, but we are looking to enjoy the rasa of the material world.
We are doing guru puja. That is the most important part of the morning program because by the mercy of the guru one gets Krishna.
If we have a slump in our spiritual life, it is due lack of hearing properly. Either we do not hear, or we do not hear with attention.
During the British rule in India, two Britishers had an argument, and one brahmana witnessed the whole thing and so he was brought before the judge. He did not know English, so he had to have a translator. The judge asked if he had heard the argument, and he replied that he heard every word. The judge found it hard to believe because the brahmana did not know English, so he asked thebrahmana to speak what he heard. The brahmana recited both side of the argument that he had heard. That is hearing with attention!
Hearing from Srila Prabhupada personally, Prahladananda Swami realized that what Srila Prabhupada spoke and what he wrote in his books is the same.
In the beginning of spiritual life, we must reject our identity with the mind. We are an eternal part of Krishna. That is our identity. Because of our conditioning, this is hard to understand.
Once a reporter asked Srila Prabhupada to summarize his philosophy, and Srila Prabhupada explained that a human being without religion is an animal, and our mission is to bring everyone to the human platform.
This sounds like strong language, but when we analyze we can see the animal is simply concerned his sense gratification, and therefore a human being who has that same mentality is not better than an animal. We can explain spiritual ideas to an animal very nicely, but it is of no use, for the animal cannot understand.
Chanting on the daily harinama is important because it gives people a chance to hear the holy name and thus be purified.
Here old age (jara) is called Kalakanya, the daughter (kanya) of time (kala).
Krishna identifies Himself with time at least three places in Bhagavad-gita:
10.30 kalah kalayatam aham–Of subduers I am time.
10.33 aham evaksayah kala–I am inexhaustible time.
11.32 kalo ’smi …–Time, I am, …
I see the influence of time and old age in my life. Since 2000, I knew one devotee who left his or her body each year, four in 2007, and five in 2008. So many, Gopa-gopisvara Prabhu, Sunita Prabhu, Param Brahma Prabhu, Tapana Misra HDG Prabhu, even Nirguna Prabhu, who taught yoga, and Sadaputa Prabhu, who I worked with for seventeen years. When you are young your friends are young and rarely die. So now I see all these people ten years older than me leaving their bodies one after another.
I see symptoms of old age in my own body. I saw when I ran up the library stairs, two at a time, after two flights, I felt like I would have a heart attack, so I had to add an exercise program to my life. I couldn’t see a combination on lock at night without getting bifocals. My hair is become gray. I can’t eat so much. In Lvov, Ukraine, while running to catch a train, I blacked out and hit my head on the steps of the train station.
What should to do? Increase my bhakti (devotion) so I am sure to attain Krishna at the end of life.
When asked by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami about how to take spiritual life more seriously, Srila Prabhupada told him to keep death in front in his mind. It is our final exam.
Sacinandana Swami told us he increased by chanting one more round each year. Each year, I chant one more on each Ekadasi.
Before we find out about Krishna consciousness, we are doing 0% devotional service and 100% material activities, and now our goal is 100% devotional service and 0% material activities, and so we must always be increasing our devotional service and decreasing our material activities.
In chapter eight of Bhagavad-gita, when Krishna talks about remembering Him at the time of death in the verse, Srila Prabhupada writes in the purport to chant Hare Krishna. In the purport to verse five, he puts the entire Hare Krishna mantra twice just, emphasize it.
Vasudeva KKS Prabhu:
By service, our knowledge matures from theoretical knowledge to realized knowledge.
When we go to the morning program and try our best to pay attention, even if it is difficult, we feel pleased because Krishna is pleased with our austerity.
Unless we read Srila Prabhupada’s books regularly, we will not have the vision to motivate us to perform the austerities that will purify us from the material conception of life.
In Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.28–29, Srila Prabhupada says in the purport that both the workers in the prison and the prisoners are controlled by the laws of the king, but if the king enters the prison he is not subjected to any such control. Krishna’s position is like that.
We can only really preach if we are absorbed in devotional service, just like Srila Prabhupada’s analogy of the iron rod in the fire. If the iron rod is steadily in the fire, it will become burning hot, and other things can become hot by its association.
The Dutch have a saying, “Mopping while the tap is open.” It refers to the same kind of foolishness as “starting a fire while pouring water on it.”
keha gadagadi yaya, keha ta’ hunkara
dekhi’ anandita hana hase malakara
“When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the great gardener [of the tree of love of God], sees that people are chanting, dancing and laughing and that some of them are rolling on the floor and some are making loud humming sounds, He smiles with great pleasure.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila 9.50)