Thursday, July 22, 2010

Travel Journal#6.11: The North of England and the Midlands

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No.11
By Krishna-kripa das
(June 2010, part one)
The North of England and the Midlands
(Sent from Karlovac, Croatia, on July 23, 2010)


Birmingham 24-Hour Kirtana
Manchester Harinamas
Liverpool Harinama
Nama-hattas in the Manchester Area
Newcastle Harinamas
Thoughts on Spiritual Guidance by Akrura Prabhu
A Little Humor
Insights from Srila Prabhupada, Bhakti Bhusana Swami,
Indradyumna Swami
, Sacinandana Swami,
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, and Others

Where I Was and What I Did

While in Munich, I saw on the Mayapuri’s web site that the Birmingham 24-hour kirtana was happening on June 5 and 6, and since Kadamba Kanana Swami told me to preach in England and Scotland and my friends Gaura Krishna and Bhakti Rasa Prabhus, had invited me to visit them in Manchester and Newcastle, I decided to go to England straightaway. I was happy to attend that 24-hour kirtana and am thinking seriously of attending it each year. Gaura Krishna Prabhu arranged for me to speak on science and religion almost every night at the nama-hatta programs within an hour of Manchester, a great opportunity for me. Bhakti Rasa arranged for harinama every day for the three days I was there in Newcastle. He also arranged that a couple other disciples of Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami come at the same time, and Caitanya Candrodaya Prabhu scheduled a meeting with our Guru Maharaja via Internet. There were also were a couple home programs.

Birmingham 24-Hour Kirtana

For the third time in the last month, I got the association of Sacinandana Swami, who is very inspired in kirtana. Krishna Ksetra Prabhu, another faithful sadhu was present as well. Also my friends, the Mayapuris, Visvambara and Kisore, performed some lively kirtana.

There was ashama space above the kirtana hall and after Visvambhara sang a Hare Krishna tune I really liked at 12:30 a.m. I took rest. When I awoke around 2:00 a.m., I heard someone singing another tune I really liked to dance to so, I got up and chanted and danced for half an hour and returned to sleep for another hour and a half. The kirtana was so much amplified it was difficult to find a place where I could just focus on my japa. I would take half hour naps when people played tunes that were difficult to follow, in order to keep going. There was plenty of prasadam but you had to wait in long lines for it.

The president of the Balaji temple, where we had the event for the second year in a row, happily said he felt the presence of Vrndavana on the grounds of his temple during the twenty-four hour kirtana. Furthermore, he said that is that it was no great thing to construct a temple, because people are always demanding it, but the genuine devotion to the glorification of the Lord which we had, demonstrated by this festival of 24-hour chanting of the maha-mantra, was the most important thing.

The Balaji temple vice president urged the devotees to come back again next year, as he had done last year.

Manchester Harinamas

In Manchester near the city bus station they have grassy area called Piccadilly Garden with a fountain in it which is full of people on the sunny days, and a great place for chanting in public. I went out one day for two and a half hours and had some positive interactions with people. One high school girl excitedly came up to me telling how she had just met the Hare Krishna at a festival in Somerset the previous weekend. Her parents are favorable to alternative ideas, and I gave her invitations to the temple. Other high school girls came up and a couple wanted to chant along briefly, for the experience. One time I chanted there and a Pakistani Moslem named Ali came by and inquired what I was doing, and I explained. He went to sit by the fountain for sometime with his girl friend, but then they both returned because he liked the music. When I had to leave for an evening program, he expressed some disappointment. In Manchester, as in Munich, I would met Indian people who did not know we had a Hare Krishna center in their city, and I would help them get connected.

I also went out with the monthly harinama party there. They were led by a very committed devotee, Vrajendra Lal Prabhu, who also runs the weekly nama-hatta in Bolton. They were enthusiastic and had a nice relationship with the people there. The only thing is they should increase because harinama is so important it should happen more than once a month.

Liverpool Harinama

Once a month the Liverpool nama-hatta meets and before that the devotees do harinama in that city. The Beatles have a connection with that city, and the people have an attraction to music and are more open than most. Many people danced with us, had their picture taken with us, and were glad to see us chanting there. One guy with a bear costume took pleasure singing with us and joined us for fifteen minutes.

Nama Hattas Around Manchester

Gaura Krishna Prabhu, who I met while studying in Mayapur with MIHET, arranged that I speak on science and religion at several nama-hattas within an hour of Manchester, such as Preston, Sheffield, Leeds, and Liverpool. I put together a Powerpoint presentation centered about some material from the Forbidden Archeology book that reveals hypocrisy in the field of archeology. It ends by looking at other explanations other than those given by science. I also made the point that if we look at revealed knowledge given in the Vedic tradition we find a lot of explanations for things science cannot explanation, and that there is empirical support for key ideas in the Vedic paradigm, such as the eternal soul, its transmigration, and the all knowing, all powerful, omnipresent Supreme Lord. I found many people were attracted by the presentation, and especially in Liverpool, there were a lot of comments and questions afterwards. I think that I could polish the presentation and give it at other places I travel to.

I also did a little program on Hanuman’s appearance day at an Indian congregational member’s home, whose birthday coincided with that day. I learned on the Internet that Hanuman’s appearance day is celebrated on different days in different parts of India, and because in Andra Pradesh it is celebrated on one dasami in the month of Vaisakha, I was able to guess our host’s place of origin. Every time I study for things like that, I learn more about the great personalities involved. We had a kirtana at the end, and Gaura Krishna encouraged the young children to dance in it to their full potential and because the children were getting into it, the parents danced more than usual which was interesting to see. It is something to keep in mind in the future to increase participation.

Newcastle Harinamas

I was very grateful that Bhakti Rasa arranged for harinama on each of three days I was in Newcastle. He also arranged two other godbrothers to visit at the same time so we had more people. There is also a couple, disciples of Janananda Swami, who do as much harinama as possible there on his order. The downtown of that city has a busy pedestrian area, which is just suitable for chanting parties. Even better than Newcastle was Durham, a picturesque university town where lots of people appreciated our chanting party.

Thoughts on Spiritual Guidance by Akrura Prabhu

We are not the mind. We have heard it many times, but we don’t apply it.

In a letter to Kirtiraja Prabhu, Srila Prabhupada explains how do deal with sex desire. There are three stages of action, (1) thinking, (2) feeling, and (3) willing. One must stop it at stage of thinking, otherwise it can get out of hand.

I asked one of the top book distributors in Slovenia how he sells the books. He explains to the people that Bhagavad-gita is the ultimate motivational book. It motivates you on such a deep level that you do not become unmotivated. People are attracted and buy the book.

When devotees come to me for counseling, I asked them how a devotee would deal with their present situation. The devotee has become so overwhelmed, he has forgotten how a devotee would deal with his situation, although at heart he knows.

If we can just change the way we speak, our lives will change and our relationships will improve.

Wives make a big mistake thinking it is their sacred duty to chastise their husbands. They do not know that if they are just nice, their husbands will do anything. They do not even have to be nice, just smile, and refrain from speaking harshly.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that one who thinks the world needs to be reformed needs to be reformed himself.

I gave whole class in Croatia on answering the phone. The first thing is to pick it up. Do not let it ring and ring. When you pick it up, “Say, ‘Center for Vedic Studies, Can I help you?’” Not “Who is it?” That scares them. Then when they tell you want they need, take the trouble to actually get them what the need.

The most important thing in devotee care is how we speak and how we listen to them.

Danavir Maharaja related how he encouraged the bhaktas by positive reinforcement and then the others who did not get the positive treatment automatically improved their condition realizing they must be doing something wrong.

We have to talk to ourselves positively.

When you say “How are you today?” Be ready to listen for two hours.

We can improve by using our talents in Krishna’s service.

Most our stress is self-imposed. We are responsible for our health. We are responsible for our minds.

If you start giving, you will see people start giving to you.

Start every day with ten appreciations.

What we desire is of utmost importance because desire motivates activities.

People are dreaming about love, about meeting the perfect partner in this world. But it is not to be. There is a perfect partner in the spiritual world, but we do not believe it.

To controlling the mind, we first have to understand who “we” are. Then we can focus the mind on spiritual things.

You should not hate yourself. You should strive to engage your mind.

How do you advance every day? Always choose Krishna and never Maya. Use Bhagavad-gita to discriminate between them. We have enough power to say “No.” Krishna gives us that power.

Let’s say I am addicted to sweets. Try chanting the maha-mantra to the sweet, at least one round (108 times). You will find you become detached.

In Montenegro, they found two skeletons embracing each other. I think that is the perfection of love in the material world.

We have been taking from God and from others so much for so long, we should dedicate this life to service God and others.

Q: In our neophyte state we have impure feelings in relationship with Lord, can these be engaged in His service?

A: Kubja became lusty to enjoy with Krishna because He is an attractive boy. However, when she touched His lotus feet, she became free of her lust. So it is alright to approach Krishna with impurities. He will purify us.

Sometimes people who not serious about spiritual life leave Krishna consciousness and find another religion where they can commit sinful activities and still be respected.

We have everything in our movement, but we do not properly care for our members. That we are beginning to develop.

There was a meeting on outreach, but it split into two groups. One group doubted whether we should do outreach when we do not sufficiently take care of the people we have.

I propose you put on your business card “bhakti yoga teacher.”

Sacinandana Swami has created a five part program to improve people’s lives.

Sattva (acting in the mode of goodness—a balanced life), dharma (an occupational duty according to your nature), atma (your own self), Paramatma (the Lord), and bhakti (love for the Lord and everyone else).

People are more important than things. People are more important than tasks. People are more important than projects. People are more important than anything, because without people you cannot have projects, tasks, etc.

How do you care for people? You ask people how they are, you give them gifts, you listen to them. It may seem artificial at first, but you will come to like it.

Preaching is the greatest security, even for a grhastha. It is not that preaching is only for others. It is for you too. You have to preach to go back to Godhead. Preaching is the highest pleasure. If you preach, your taste will for holy name will increase.

If you have a problem, think if you were a world expert, what would you to do solve it?

Every problem is an opportunity, but what is it an opportunity for?

Prithu Maharaja taught what to ask for. People ask God for so many things, but he only wanted to hear the glories of the Lord from the lips of His pure devotees.

Time shows who is devoted and who is not.

We fear that if we surrender to the Lord, we will be missing something, but that is not a fact. We will have whatever we need and also have a relationship with the Lord.

Some people worry how they can have relationships with other people if they love only the Lord, but in reality, because all people connected with the Lord, we actually become connected with everyone.

If you say you have love for someone, but you do not have time for that person, then I do not believe you.

Faith that by this process [of devotional service] one will attain perfection is essential.

Srila Prabhupada mentions, when commenting on Bhisma’s instructions, that to conquer anger, one must learn how to forgive. That implies that we do not know how to forgive, we have to learn how to forgive.

What we do in devotional service is for our benefit. Krishna has nothing to gain and nothing to lose.

One reason people are not interested in Krishna consciousness is they are afraid of joining an institution. If we can present it as universal knowledge, they can appreciate.

When you advertise your self as a spiritual mentor, it is not self promotion, but promotion of the service.

A spiritual guide means for me, four things: (1) exemplary personal conduct, (2) support (like celebrating the students’ successes), (3) knowledge of the scriptures (so you can guide them), and then when the relationship develops, (4) challenging them to increase.

Srila Prabhupada said that leaders should create an atmosphere of fresh challenge.

If we do not offer to guide people, then someone else will. That someone else will be someone who is not connected to Srila Prabhupada [who can bring them to Krishna].

In London, we created a mission statement: “Our mission is to spread Krishna consciousness in the world, from Central London, by joyfully chanting Hare Krishna, distributing books, and prasadam, and by teaching others strictly according the teachings of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.”

When you are a spiritual guide, you are not attached to being “the one who helps them,” you just want to offer help, and you want them to advance spiritually. If someone else can help them better in the future, that is fine with you.

A Little Humor: An Italian Poem on Sleeping

Hare Krishna Das Prabhu, who attended the Munich Ratha-yatra last month and who chants kirtana and plays accordion up to five or six hours a day on the Slovenian padayatra, told me he can’t sleep more than three or four hours at night. I was envious and told him I wish I was able to be satisfied sleeping so little at night [because I often stay up too late at night doing things I had hoped to finish that day]. He quoted one poem, “Filastrocca delle ore di Sonno,” which when translated from his native Italian goes like this:

One hour sleeps the rooster,
Two the horses,
Three the traveler,
Four the farmer,
Five the soldier,
Six the judge,
Seven the students,
Eight all the people,
Nine the aristocracy,
Ten the lazy,
Eleven the pigs.

Insights from Lectures

Srila Prabhupada:

From a lecture on SB 1.9.40:

Just as if you love someone, you do not care what he is, if he is rich or poor, etc., similarly the gopis of Vrndavana did not care whether Krishna was God, they just loved Him.

From lecture on SB 5.5.2 in Hyderabad:

Our business is to keep friendship with Krishna. Arjuna was ksatriya and grhastha not brahmana and not sannyasi, but he was friend of Krishna. One who understands Krishna is guru.

Arjuna, because he is Vaishnava, did not want to fight and kill, but he agreed to become an instrument in Krishna’s service.

The pure devotee is not interested in anything else. He just wants to serve Krishna as He desires.

Krishna is very expert and can understand if you want to serve him with a motive or without a motive.

The devotee is not interested in advancing materially because he realizes his destiny is fixed.

In your material life, you will never make everyone happy.

If someone thinks Krishna is contradicting Himself, he has not understood.

From a lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.1 in Caracus on February 20, 1975:

The most intelligent accept Krishna immediately. Serious researchers of the truth who are intelligent, because they are seeking the truth, but who are less intelligent, cannot accept this immediately. They have to research for many births, and then they will come to the same conclusion. Gold is gold whether you accept it on faith or by chemical examination. One who accepts the gold because of the statements of the authority saves time, and so it is with accepting God.

Bhakti Bhusana Swami:

How the Lord was detained because of affection for His devotee cannot be understood by materialistic persons.

On the appearance day of the great devotee Lord Jesus Christ known as Christmas, children come to their parents with lists of material desires to be fulfilled and if they do not get everything they want, they become angry. This is a very unfortunate situation. We are meant to serve the Lord for His pleasure and not ours.

We noticed in Srila Prabhupada how detached he was. When he came to Paris, some devotees were crying to see him, but Srila Prabhupada walked by them without being affected.

Once the devotees were chanting in front of a department store chanting and one woman came out of the store and collapsed on the spot. People called for an ambulance, but the devotees just kept chanting because they that was best thing for the lady. Other people, however, were annoyed and wanted them to go away.

When people saw Lord Caitanya’s ecstatic chanting and dancing, they did not call the police. Rather they also chanted the holy name of the Lord and danced.

Indradyumna Swami [from a lecture on Lord Nityananda’s appearance day]:

Lord Krishna’s pastimes are more a less like a stage performance to attract the conditioned souls, but you cannot jump up on the stage and enter into them. But as Lord Caitanya, the Lord gets off the stage and goes into the crowd and gets people to participate.

When the sannyasi begged little Nitai from his parents, his mother Padmavati was filled with lamentation. Seeing this the sannyasi gave her a deity of Krishna from his bag, blessing her than she would see the face of her son in the deity, and so she did.

Lord Nityananda met Laksmipati Tirtha, the spiritual master of Madhvendra Puri, took initiation from him, and immediately became absorbed in love of God. You can chant the holy name and become purified from sins, but to get Krishna-prema you have to take initiation from the sampradaya.

Lord Nityananda went door-to-door to distribute Krishna consciousness—if it is good enough for God, it is good enough for us.

Lord Nityananda broke Lord Caitanya’s danda rod into three parts. In His mind, this was to punish the rod for its arrogance of riding on His Lord’s shoulder.

Acaryas (the great spiritual teachers) say Lord Caitanya wanted Lord Nityananda to become a married man because many of His other followers were in the renounced order, and He wanted to show that it is possible to attain perfection is a householder.

Sacinandana Swami [at the Birmington 24-hour kirtana]:

According to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, namabhasa, the clearing stage of the chanting is the best we can hope to achieve if we chant without understanding we have a relationship with Krishna.

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami [from a Skype class with devotees at Newcastle]:

We should pray to Krishna for faith in Him and His representative.

Regarding Srila Prabhupada’s association, “I took it like a hungry man takes food.” I asked, “Swamiji, is there a stage of spiritual life that you do not fall down from?”

Faithful hearing is solidified by sadhu-sanga, association with saints.

Without the spiritual master, we do not have the link to Krishna. . . . Do not see the guru with your eyes, but with your ears. . . . If you are serious, you want the next step, the guru.

The fire of knowledge set by the guru destroys our anarthas. We can be perfect by surrendering to Krishna, but we have so many doubts that we have to dissipate by studying the sastra.

When I doubted about Krishna’s sixteen thousand wives, Prabhupada explained that the Lord is in everyone’s hearts and if he wants to come out of the heart and play the husband of a few especially qualified souls who have affection for him like that, what is the difficulty for Him?

At nistha we do not abandon our guru because he is not physically present and seek another.

Clinging to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada is the only way I can attain the higher states of Krishna consciousness.

By the mercy of my gurus worse rascals than me have attained Krishna.

Sadaputa Prabhu [from his lectures on the Origins magazine]:

Psychologists say you can understand consciousness in terms of biology. Biologists think you can explain life in terms of chemistry. Chemists think you can understand chemistry in terms of physics. Some of the latest physicists say that you need to understand consciousness to completely understand matter, and so you have a complete circle.

Trying to figure out everything with our minds, we can come to realize that we cannot do so. We can come to realize that there is a God, and by surrendering to God we can actually understand. That is the meaning of Bg. 7.19.

No artificially produced fruit flies made by mutations can survive in the wild. They have not produced a mutation that can compete with the natural ones. They all die out.

Acaryavan Prabhu:

The Middle East conflict between Palestine and Israel is about land, land that was created before both groups came into being. The land belongs to neither the Palestinian nor the Isreali. Arafat was fighting for something he cannot take. When we are born, we do not bring anything and when we die, we do not take anything with us.

Peace will come from knowledge coming from God. If there was a true spiritual leader in that region, people could be saved.

That “God is very merciful and compassionate” is there in Islam.

Comment by Zoary [wife of Mohammed]: Both sides in the conflict are killing for no reason but selfishness.

Comment by Mohammed: Both sides have religious values and strict practices so it is not that they do not have guidance. We have students who are Israeli and Lebanese who have great religious values and behavior, but when it comes to that land in Palestine. They both claim it is sacred to their tradition.

Acaryavan Prabhu (continuing): But still, neither can truly a claim proprietorship of the land. We are all children of the one God.

I lived in Morocco, then I lived in France 26 years, and then I lived in England for 16 years. I do not see it makes a difference.

Comment by Mohammed [a Iranian congregational devotee in Newcastle area]:

Islam is against music because love for music could separate us from love of God. The dervishes, on the other hand, consider how can such beautiful music come from an inert material instrument played by the material body of some being. It is God who plays makes the music appear.

Q (by me): Are the dervishes a branch of Islam?
A: No but they converted themselves to become one as it was safer that way.

Gaura Krishna Prabhu:

Birth is not a misery just for the baby but also for the mother.

Kali-yuga is so precarious that one is not even safe in the womb of one’s mother. Some abortions are performed by inserting a sharp instrument into the womb and literally stabbing the embryo. One Dr. Patel, formerly an abortion doctor who performed 30,000 abortions himself, became a devotee and to discourage others from performing abortion he would show a video showing how the embryo was moving away from the sharp object, desiring to escape.

Instead of seeking an anesthetist to become from free from the pain of the many arrows shot through his body, Bhismadeva wanted to be fully conscious at the time of death, so he could fix his mind on Krishna.

Q (by me): Even though we know Krishna is in their hearts, it is hard to feel good about the drunks we see on the street [who tend to harass us.] What to do?
A: We can consider we are also mercy cases and could easily be in that situation if it was not for Srila Prabhupada’s mercy. We can consider they are suffering. We can consider that love of God is everyone’s heart.

Bhakti-rasa Prabhu:

Kripamoya Prabhu said that Srila Prabhupada told the early British devotees how he was previously a chemist and the druggists in those days would have bottles of colored water in the windows of their stores. They would not have actual medicine in them but just colored water to attract people. He explained to the devotees that they should not be show bottle, just appearing be to devotees, but not completely following.

Caitanya-candrodaya Prabhu:

Three stages in prayer: (1) appreciation of the Lord, (2) dainya-bodhika, presenting yourself to the Lord as being very fallen, in a very humble way, begging for mercy. (3) siddha-lalasa, aspiring for a stage of perfection.

You have to present yourself as very fallen in order to attract mercy. If you are very proud and think you deserve the mercy, you are in trouble.

The biggest problem is not materialism, but materialistic religion, because it gives people a false idea of what religion is actually about.

Caitanya Vallabha Prabhu [to a nama-hatta audience]:

Tonight we are not cooking a feast. We just put the ingredients in the kitchen and throw in a Mozeltov cocktail. If we do not get a feast the first time, will keep trying, and we hope before the end of the evening we will.


nadiya-godrume nityananda mahajana
patiyache nama-hatta jivera karana

Nityananda Mahajana so mercifully opened a marketplace in Nadiya-Godruma for the welfare of the suffering souls. In that mar­ket place only the Holy Name is traded.