Sunday, August 08, 2010

Travel Journal#6.12b: English Festivals and Netherlands Padayatra

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No.12b
By Krishna-kripa das
(June 2010, part two, section two)

English Festivals and Netherlands Padayatra

(Sent from Hamburg, Germany, on August 8, 2010)


Borehamwood Ratha-yatra

London Ratha-yatra

Stonehenge Solstice Festival

Netherlands Padayatra

Insights from Srila Prabhupada, Jayapataka Swami,

Candramauli Swami, Jayadvaita Swami,

Janananda Swami, Bhakti Nrsimha Swami, and Others

Where I Went and What I Did

During the brahmacari convention at the Manor, I went with the other brahmacaris to the London Ratha-yatra, but I also skipped out to do a couple of additional festivals, the Borehamwood Ratha-yatra and Stonehenge Solstice Festival. After the convention I hoped to go to the famous Glastonbury Festival, where the devotees distribute prasadam and perform kirtana for a crowd of tens of thousands of people, but tickets were limited, and I did not have enough influence to get one. It made me grateful to Indradyumna Swami and Punya Palaka Prabhu that at least I am allowed to go to festivals like the Polish and Czech Woodstock. Instead of Glastonbury, I stayed with the Soho Street devotees and did harinama in Central London. Monday morning, before leaving for Radhadesh to join the Netherlands Padayatra devotees, we had a final harinama in London. Originally only three devotees wanted to go out, but when Maha-Visnu Swami decided to come, the number swelled to about twelve, and he enlivened them all by his enthusiasm, devotion, and his accordion playing. I felt happy that he was willing to come on my request and inspire many others to come out, and he was also happy that he came.

Borehamwood Ratha-yatra

One Saturday each year, the community of Borehamwood, not far from Bhaktivedanta Manor, has a parade about two hours long in which the devotees, headed by Parasurama Prabhu, have a cart bearing Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai. Devotee kids dressed as peacocks this year. One motorized vehicle pulling the cart was decorated like an elephant. One devotee played a full drum set on another vehicle. Govinda Prabhu was there to play accordion and sing. One young lady named Debra, who has some attraction to the Hare Krishna devotees and who likes their festivals, took some video of our procession. She travels different places with her teddy bear, Bearsac, and shares her experiences.

London Ratha-yatra

It was my first London Ratha-yatra, and I was impressed with many features. Miraculously it started and ended with five minutes of the scheduled times. Police threats of a 10,000 British Pound fine for taking too much time may have been a factor. In the parade alone, I talked to people from Venezuela, Lebanon, and the U.S.A, just hinting at the international outreach done by a festival in London. Their feast wins my award for the best mass distribution curd sabji and srikhand I have had within memory. I did not experience the wonderful kirtanas held before Lord Baladeva and Lady Subhadra, as I promised to dance for Lord Jagannatha the whole time. It was a great event, and I hope I can come each year.

Stonehenge Solstice Festival

I learned of a new festival that the Hare Krishna devotees attend that I had never heard of before—the Stonehenge Solstice Festival. Apparently about 28,000 people gather in the wee hours of the morning on the longest day of the year to watch the sunrise at Stonehenge in England.

I made one video on it which I posted on Youtube:

Parasurama Prabhu, of Hare Krishna Food for All, takes advantage of the gathering to distribute vegetarian spiritual food and chant Hare Krishna kirtana. This year it was a special austerity for the devotees to perform because it was early in the morning after London Ratha-yatra, itself a festival of full engagement. We had to get up around midnight to drive to the event, and Parasurama Prabhu and his team had to cook in advance.

I was also impressed with Mahavishnu Swami, who led kirtana for over four hours, playing on his accordion. He did that the day after fully participating the London Ratha-yatra, and the day after undergoing the calamity of having someone break into a car and steal all his belongings.

Many people listened to the Hare Krishna kirtana, some I recall seeing smiling and moving with the music for as long as two hours. One girl from Malaga, who loved dancing with us for over an hour, told me she had never been to our temple there, but she knew about it because her mother often attends.

I suggested that she might come to as she enjoyed dancing with us so much.

Some people learned the mantra and enjoyed both the chanting and the dancing.

The crowd for the solstice event is very much an alternative crowd, and people are open to new ideas. At least a couple festival goers had a great time playing their African djembes with us for quite a while. One middle-aged lady, who had her own sound system, let us use it for half an hour or so.

Although chanting from 2:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. at an event two hours from the temple certainly disturbs our regulated lifestyle, it was worth it to share the maha-mantra with the people.

Netherlands Padayatra

The Netherlands Padayatra was organized by Parama Karuna and Gaura Vani Devi Dasi, who are based in Radhadesh but originally from Czech Republic. They invited the Czech Padayatra team to assist them, and in many ways, the experience reminded me of the Czech Padayatra I attended last year, with the same leader, Muni Priya Prabhu, the same cart, the same bulls, and the same Bharata-Natyam dancer. I have selected photos, many with informative captions, in a Picasa web album and a video of the event on Youtube:

Several young people, whose parents were devotees, came from Radhadesh where they lived or studied, and they enjoyed engaging their talents for music, dance, and drama in Krishna’s service on the padayatra, along with their friends. Cook Maha-laksmi impressed me by sacrificing going on every single padayatra walk, except the final harinama, to make an excellent lunch for the devotees. The breakfast by Kumari and her friends was also nice. Some devotees performed the sacrifice of camping out with the oxen and the cart at the site where we ended in the evening, while the rest performed the sacrifice of taking a bucket shower on the roof of the warehouse in the city that was our base, although one renounced bhaktin actually liked it.

One of the days we went by a school where all the kids were in the schoolyard for recess, and many were attracted to see our chanting party and to interact with the devotees. A couple young men came to all three days of our evening program, in the towns of Valkenburg, Gulpen, and Vijlen. They appear in the dance contest segment of the video, dancing next to each other. These evening programs, well organized by Muni Priya Prabhu, included bhajana, Indian dance, drama, and a dance contest which engaged the public and in which every participant won something. The first day one family came who took lots of pictures and gave them to me on a CD at the end of the evening. On the last day, Vaishnava youth, Kumari, injured her foot and was hobbling around before the our final stage show, but the event was so ecstatic she ended up dancing during the stage show and engaging guests in dancing as well. In fact, the last stage show was so nice, after we announced it was over, a couple devotees chanted more bhajanas and many of the guests stayed. Mother Isani, possibly the only native of the Netherlands in our party of about twenty-five devotees, talked to many of the guests both along the padayatra route and at the evening programs. From time to time when there were a number of people gathered nearby, our procession would stop and a devotee would give a brief explanation of our mission.

There was a lot of cooperation among the devotees and because of that the mood was very sweet. Living and serving together we got to know and appreciate each other. One devotee said at home she sleeps ten hours and was surprised to find on the padayatra because of the spiritual energy she needed a lot less sleep. Bhakta Richard who had previously distributed three or four books on his best day found that the padayatra created such interest in the people’s minds that he was able to sell 24 books in one day! Also notable were Bhaktin Suzanna from Spain and Bhakta Noy from Israel, both of whom distributed many books daily, despite not knowing the Dutch language. The total for the three-day event was 352 books distributed.

Gaura Vani was very enthusiastic and told me she has plans to do padayatra in Belgium, Spain, and Italy, in addition to the Netherlands. I wish her all success in her endeavor, and I hope I can attend some of the padayatras.

Insights from Lectures

Srila Prabhupada:

on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.28:

We say that we trust in God. But if we really trust in God we have to be equal to all living beings like Krishna is.

When demons are killed by the Lord, their demoniac are activities are ended, and thus they become saints and attain liberation.

The Absolute Truth is the all-pervading Brahman, localized Paramatma, and the Supreme Personality. How we appreciate Him is up to us. We have to prepare ourselves to understand Krishna.

The devotees meet, talk with, and serve the Personality of Godhead.

Those advanced in intelligence concentrate on Krishna. Devotees do not have to control their senses. By engaging in Lord Krishna’s service we automatically control our senses. Our spiritual senses should be engaged in the service of Lord. As soon as we engage our senses in the service of Lord, we are immediately liberated.

Krishna has no past, present, and future because He does not change His body, and therefore, He is eternal.

Matter cannot develop by itself. The spiritual energy of the Lord must touch it. There are so many machines but unless a person touches, it does not develop.

From a lecture in Caracus, Venezuela, on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.1:

If Krishna has expanded everywhere, why does He not cease to exist? Although His impersonal feature expands everywhere, He is in one place. It is like a father has kids but still remains.

Vasudeva is everywhere, but everything is not Vasudeva. The car is Ford, but Ford is not the car. The microphone is God, but we do not worship the microphone.

Q: There is maya [material illusion] in the temple.

A: Show me a place where there is no maya, and I will go there. You are in maya, so you are thinking there is maya in the temple.

One priest appreciated that previously the young people did not care for the Lord, but now they are mad after God.

Jayapataka Swami [on the Panihati chipped rice festival]:

Raghunatha Dasa Goswami’s uncle had no children, so Raghunatha Dasa inherited all his wealth.

In some traditional Vaishnava families, the children have to take initiation before they get married.

Lord Nityananda told Raghunatha Dasa that he was a thief, and he was going to punish him. If someone is going to punish you, how do you respond? Raghunatha Dasa remained laying at the Lord’s lotus feet. The Lord stroked his neck, and explained that as punishment he would have to arrange a festival and feed everyone chipped rice in yogurt. Thus, one of the names of this festival is Danda-mahotsava, the festival of punishment. Raghunatha Dasa Goswami’s offense was that he tried to approach Lord Caitanya without first approaching Lord Nityananda. We must approach the Lord through the parampara, the line of spiritual teachers.

Srila Prabhupada wanted the devotees to spread Krishna consciousness on a boat along the Ganges River. When they tried to buy a boat, because they were foreigners, the local boat dealers overcharged them. There was one man who was so old he could not see I was a foreigner, and because I was speaking in Bengali, he charged me the actual price. Later, the boat dealer found out we were foreigners, but because he was a brahmana he kept his promised price.

At Panihati, we set up across from the tree, and served 50,000 and 100,000 people flat rice. No one advertises the festival but hundreds of thousands of people come.

At Atlanta (New Panihati), we celebrate the chipped rice festival. We do eighteen flavors at New Panihati. Six yogurt, six condensed milk, and six salads. Both Indian fruits and Western fruits. Italian salads, Mexican salads, etc. Traditional North Indian mix and traditional South Indian mix. Once in Italy, I did twelve flavors. Four of each of the above.

This Panihati festival is very important. It is known to all the Vaishnavas.

Your Bhaktivedanta Manor strawberry festival is famous. At immigration, the lady told Gaura Nama, “Your strawberry festival is coming up, and I am going to be there.”

Q: How does one stay grateful?

A: We are always thinking that we are getting less punishment than we deserve. Thank Krishna I have memory of the lilas (pastimes) and instructions. In 1967 Srila Prabhupada was paralyzed from the waist down. I am suffering much less than I deserve, and Krishna is revealing how this world is a miserable place. We do not want to stay here. We want to return to Krishna.

Q: How to get the mercy of Nityananda?

A: Caitanya-caritamrita says just by saying “Jaya Nitai” one becomes ecstatic. You can pray to Lord Nityananda Prabhu, “Ha ha Prabhu Nityananda,” and you can get His mercy by doing congregational preaching, for such groups are under His shelter.

Candramauli Swami:

One who cannot control his mind and senses cannot be happy, even if he can conquer the universe.

Once Hiranyakasipu went to the forest to perform austerities to gain power to conquer the universe. Narada assumed the form of a dove and flew around Hiranyakasipu, chanting the holy name of the Lord to distract him so he could not perform his austerities. Hiranyakasipu chased the bird with such anger, the bird flew away. Hiranyakasipu was so angry about the whole experience he could not meditate, so he returned home, and thus Narada’s plan was successful. Right after that, Hiranyakasipu had sex with his wife, and because his mind was purified by hearing Narada Muni chanting Hare Krishna, the child conceived was the pure devotee, Prahlada.

The senses are imperfect, and therefore we become illusioned, and we make mistakes. To cover up for our mistakes, we cheat. That is the progression.

The idea is to bring people up to the standard not to lower the standard so people will meet it.

The best way to preach is present what Srila Prabhupada said, according to time and place.

Jayadvaita Swami:

The upper planetary systems of the demigods are not real in the sense that they come and go, not that they are mythological.

Sat means real or permanent while asat means unreal or temporary.

An ordinary pickpocket gets you looking somewhere else while he is picking your pocket. The scientists get people looking at the moon while they are picking their pockets on earth to the tune of billions of dollars. This is truly grand theft.

Pleasure is so constructed in the material that it is always connected to pain. (Bg. 5.22)

Even if someone could be found who just enjoys, he will have to get another material body which experiences suffering.

The demons instead of grasping for the substance, the lotus feet of Krishna, grasp for the illusion. (Bg. 16.10)

The scientists believe in what they see. One might ask them, “May I see your intelligence.” “No.” “Then what is the proof you have intelligence?”

NASA lost the films of the Apollo moon landings. Did you hear? NASA spaced out. The original Apollo footage is lost. That footage cost American taxpayers billions of dollars, and they lost it.

Unless one achieves self-realization, life is a failure. The scientists think that going to the moon is a success. Hiranyakasipu considered conquering heaven to be success, but actually his success was that he was ripped apart by Lord Nrsimha.

Q (by Tattva-vit Prabhu): The Pracetas meditated under water for 10,000 years. That is hard to believe.

A: Hard to believe means “you do not know how to do it.” Even Houdini could do things like that, and he was just a magician. Yogis can do things like that.

Q: A Buddhist inquired, “Everything around us is temporary. What is the need for anything that is permanent?”

A: Krishna is permanent, and we are part of Krishna, so we are permanent. What is need for anything that is temporary? All things temporary things are so complicatedly arranged. Why is that? It is there to keep the living entity bewildered. He has turned away from the truth, so now the illusion is working on him. Why else is there a need for such a complicated illusion?

If you are chanting Hare Krishna and being happy, what can maya do?

Q: What about hoaxes or conspiracies, like 9/11, etc. How should we see them?

A: We can see them as symptomatic of the material world. We do not need to get into the politics of it. Cheating is a symptom of the conditioned soul. The people who are “trying to get to the bottom of it” are also cheated, because they waste their lives trying to do that and forget about self-realization. There are many ways to see things in relation to Krishna, and the devotees see them in one of these ways.

Q: We find that we are always asking Krishna for things rather than serving Him. It is hard giving to Krishna.

A: We can ask, “Please me serve you.” Or as in Siksastaka 4. We can ask the Lord, “Give me strength to serve You. Please give me intelligence to serve you.”

Janananda Swami:

Bhaktivinoda Thakura at Nrsimha Pali asked Lord Nrsimha for love for Radha Krishna, showing by his example that worshiping Nrsimhadeva is consistent with developing love for Radha Krishna.

Material benedictions are short-lived, mixed with distress and do not guarantee one will be happy.

There was one Indian man who wanted to marry a very attractive young Indian woman, but he was not very high up her list of prospects. He performed all kinds of austerities, with the help of a priest, and eventually married the lady. Sometimes attractive women take advantage of their husbands’ attachment for them and demand more than is usually expected of a husband, and so it was for this lady. The man had to work extra jobs, and the priest told him he had to continue with the extra austerities if he wanted to keep the lady. The last I knew the man was in great distress and did not find the happiness he desired.

One man was gradually becoming serious about Krishna consciousness, chanting regularly and attending the temple. But at one point, he abruptly stopped coming. The next time I saw him, I asked him what happened. He explained that his wife left him, he totaled his car, he had to declare bankruptcy, he became sick, and his friends left him. It turned out that one day he had prayed to Radha-Londonisvara, “Please take away everything that is an impediment to my devotional service to You.” Apparently the Lord took his request very seriously. Usually it is not so dramatic.

If we are conscious that material things will not satisfy us, and we chant just aspiring for devotional service, then we will progress nicely by the Lord’s mercy.

Srila Prabhupada advised to pray, “Please give me the strength to serve You.” Other prayers will not be fruitful. Elsewhere Srila Prabhupada said that our only prayer should be that the Lord enable us to serve Him birth after birth. Even if I am sent to hell, please let me remember to chant Hare Krishna.

The prayers of great personality are valuable to study. We should not pass over the prayers of Sri Prahlada, thinking that the real thing is the battle between Lord Nrsimha and Hiranyakasipu.

The prayers of King Kulaksekhara, although he was in aisvarya-bhava, (worshiping Laksmi-Narayana in opulence), are completely relevant to us, and Srila Prabhupada would frequently quote them.

The only austerity is to follow the instructions of the spiritual master, desiring to please him. We do not have to dream up artificial austerities.

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura explains that after the killing of Aghasura, that Brahma thought, “Let me do something that will cause Krishna to do something even more wonderful.”

Q: Does a sincere devotee actually have to pray to become free from anarthas or will it just happen?

A: Once Srila Prabhupada was praying for protection. A disciple expressed bewilderment why that was necessary for a maha-bhagavata. Srila Prabhupada explained that was the qualification of a maha-bhagavata. Actually our whole life is prayer.

Our only real fault is that we are not seeing Krishna in the center or not seeing Him at all.

Ravana tried to built a stairway to heaven and failed, but Hiranyakasipu was sitting on the throne of Indra.

Some people criticize Raghunatha Goswami for his diplomacy in negotiating his father’s business affair with the government leaders in his previous asrama. There is nothing wrong with politics. It is just what you do with it. Yudhisthira was a politician. The important thing is to implement God conscious policies.

Raghunatha Goswami stayed far away from Lord Nityananda and Lord Nitayananda Prabhu accused him of staying in the background like a thief. Just like sometime people just stand at the back of the kirtana and do not participate, and you have to push them.

Once a devotee mentioned that sometimes devotees leave ISKCON, but Srila Prabhupada replied, “No. Nobody leaves ISKCON. They may think like that, but I will not let them leave ISKCON.”

Devotees came from all over to Lord Nityananda Prabhu’s chipped rice festival. Just like at Ratha-yatra, you see devotees you have not seen for 30 years. When such people come, don’t think in a negative way, “They only come for the festivals.” That is what the temple is for—to share the mercy we have received from Lord Nityananda. It is the business of the brahmanas to have festivals and invite everyone to take part. It is not our temple or ISKCON’s temple. It is Radha Gokulananda’s temple, and they want everyone to come and see Them and serve Them.

The Lord performs His pastimes for us to remember. Otherwise, what will we remember?

Every day we are having a picnic, taking prasadam with our friends, here at Bhaktivedanta Manor.

Everyone should enter into the drama of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda. We could engage everyone in playing a role in the chipped rice festival pastime, and thus reenact the pastime in a very memorable way. That is the best way to celebrate this day each year.

Bhakti Nrsimha Swami:

The Lord’s internal potency gives knowledge of our relationship with the Lord, but for those who do not accept the variegatedness of the personal feature of the Lord, she just gives knowledge of the impersonal.

Krishna explains in Bg. 7.13, that everyone in this world is covered by the material energy, and in Bg. 7.14 that by surrendering to Krishna one can become free from this control.

When we understand the relationship that Krishna has with everything in this world, everything becomes clear.

There are five levels of consciousness anna-maya (concern with eating), prana-maya (concern with defense), mana-maya (concern for economic development), vijnana-maya (concern with the meaning of life), and ananda-maya (devotion to the Lord).

Gaura Krishna Prabhu:

On the way to the temple on a Saturday morning, one man put his face near mine and roared like a madman. I replied, “Hare Krishna,” and the man and his friends started to jump up and down shouting, “Hare Krishna!”

Lila Suka Prabhu:

Although the chemicals of the body are present after death, the body cannot be revived because the soul is gone.

When we are connected with Krishna, that is called yoga, and in that state, we are beyond the material energy.

Most people are living as if they are going to live forever.

Once in the U.S.A., Srila Prabhupada was given twenty seconds of time on nationwide TV. He was introduced as the founder of the Hare Krishna movement and asked what his message was. In this situation, he explained, “Our movement is meant to make people God consciousness (Krishna consciousness), because without Krishna consciousness, man is like an animal.”

Krishna starts in the Bhagavad-gita by giving the good news that we are eternal. (Bg. 2.12) Then in the next verse, He gives the bad news, the body is always changing, and then one changes the body completely at death.

Krishna explains in many verses one must be sober in the face of bodily changes. (Bg. 2.14, etc.)

You may study Bhagavad-gita, but until you come to the mode of goodness, you will not understand.

Krishna gives intelligence to the people who serve Him with love.

I can see since I have been practicing bhakti-yoga for seventeen years, my consciousness has changed, and I can see this will continue in the future.

Bhakta Praveen:

We take steps to Krishna, and Krishna reciprocates by taking steps to us, but Krishna’s steps, as we can see in the case of Vamanadeva, are much, much bigger.


yatha taror mula-nisecanena

trpyanti tat-skandha-bhujopasakhah

pranopaharac ca yathendriyanam

tathaiva sarvarhanam acyutejya

“As pouring water on the root of a tree energizes the trunk, branches, twigs and everything else, and as supplying food to the stomach enlivens the senses and limbs of the body, simply worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead through devotional service automatically satisfies the demigods, who are parts of that Supreme Personality[, and everyone else].” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.31.14)