Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Travel Journal#6.14: Prague Ratha-yatra, Croatian Harinama Tour, and the Polish Woodstock

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No.14

By Krishna-kripa das

(July 2010, part two)

Prague Ratha-yatra, Croatian Harinamas, Polish Woodstock

(Sent from London on September 8, 2010)


Prague Ratha-yatra

Croatian Harinama Tour

Polish Woodstock

Insights from Srila Prabhupada, Radhanatha Swami,

Janananda Goswami, and Kadamba Kanana Swami

Prague Ratha-yatra

The Prague Ratha-yatra was a great experience for me because Prague is such a tourist city that an event held there reaches people all over the world. I talked to four or five people from Norway and Turkey, at least three from Spain, a couple of people from Brazil, some from America, and many more mostly from Europe.

I distributed descriptions of the Ratha-yatra in English on one side and Czech on the other, and a few small books. Several people took books because of the natural curiosity created by the festival.

Many people were very attracted to the distribution of fruit, flowers, and garlands from the Ratha-yatra after the parade, as if they knew intuitively of the transcendental significance.

As last year, some devotees did a harinama around the town during the less exciting parts of stage show. We invited interested people we saw to our festival at Old Town Square.

The height of the festival for many of us was the final kirtana led by Kadamba Kanana Swami. Many guests danced along with the devotees in the kirtana, and it was great to see.

Croatian Harinama Tour

The first evening we went to Crikvenica, where for two and a half hours from fifteen to thirty-five people watched our chanting party of about fifteen devotees.

Mohan Prabhu, the leader of the party, plays the big karatalas.

For two days we did Novi Vinodolski.

And the day in between them, we did Opatija, a famous elite town, that has a walkway of fame, glorifying national movie heros, where even more people watched our chanting party.

There two teenage girls were curious about we were doing, and I explained it briefly, and invited them to take part. To my surprise they sat down on the back row of the mat with the other devotees and chanted for twenty minutes or so.

Also later, a couple of older men had a great time dancing with the devotees in front of our chanting party. There also a couple who was very friendly and curious talked to me afterwards. They were from Antwerp, Belgium and I give them an invitation to our Antwerp temple. Thus for me, Opatija was the liveliest place for our evening kirtanas.

For more pictures from the Croatian Harinama Tours, visit the gallery on the web site of the Karlovac devotees:


I like the Croatian harinama party of the Karlovac devotees so much it was hard to leave after just three and a half days, but I am so addicted to going to the Poland Woodstock festival, this year for the tenth time. We took the bus with the devotees from Zagreb and Ljubljana, which somehow or other took 18 hours to reach Kostrzyn going through Slovenia, Austria, and Germany. Some of the devotees at my instigation chanting congregationally for two and a half hours while waiting for the bus in Zagreb.

Polish Woodstock

On the first Woodstock harinama several kids joined our chanting party, smiling and dancing, some entering the middle of our party and others tagging along at the end. One man smiled broadly as we chanted past and approached to greet me. “Pamientasz?”, he said. [Do you remember?] As usual I couldn’t, and he said something about short hair, and I smiled. Often people remember us from previous years. It is striking to go to a festival attended by 300,000 people in a foreign country and have people remember you. That man was the first of several who remembered me from previous years.

The Polish tour and the Woodstock are so famous always new devotees are coming. Laksmi-Nrsimha Prabhu, Kapilasva Prabhu, and Satyanarayana Prabhu came this year, I think all for the first time.

Even a couple of Narayana Maharaja sannyasis showed up unexpectedly, and a Gaudiya alternative, Radha’s Village of Love appeared, apparently a small group of about seven people with a tent, who participated in our kirtana when we went by.

It is exciting seeing old friends here. Govinda Prabhu, from Scotland, and I go over verses during meal and breaks, and I was happy that I could remember 90% of the one he taught me last year, and he remembered the one we learned together perfectly. At the Woodstock and on the tour, so many devotees are fixed in their respective services it is inspiring.

Izabela, who lives near Kostrzyn I met a couple times at our site. She is going to college now in Wroclaw and said she could come to our Ratha-yatra there.

Ewa, one nice Polish young lady, was very much attracted to hearing the chanting and staying in our camp. Her friends would always take her other places, but she would always come back, and she expressed frustration that her friends wanted to go elsewhere. She felt she was on the verge of a change in her life. She took a Krishna—Reservoir of Pleasure, and her friend, Miroslav, from Berlin did too. She goes to school in Wroclaw and promised to meet me at the Ratha-yatra there, and he lives in Berlin and promised to go to the Ratha-yatra there.

Two girls just graduated from high school expressed great happiness with the prasadam and the chanting and dancing. They had been coming for four years. I gave them the nama-hatta web page address so they could see if there is a nama-hatta program in there area and told them about the Ratha-yatra.

Sometimes to try to make an impression on their people’s minds, I would explain to them that I have come to this Polish Woodstock all the way from America for last 10 years because it is so enjoyable to share this spiritual knowledge and culture with them.

One regular attender, Wojtek, remembered me as far back as the festival in Zary in 2002. He took some pictures and speculated the stylized figure of a dancer on the mantra yoga tent was based on me.

The girl with the gold-glittering dress and dredlocks danced for Jagannatha, as she has done the last two years, and she came to our final kirtana. I could tell from her use of “Haribol!” and other devotee lingo, she has been spending time with the devotees. Last year she told me she was from Wroclaw, so I gave her invitation to the Wroclaw Ratha-yatra. She was happy and promised to be there. One devotee said he saw her then.

I was impressed to see some mothers with their kids at kirtana tent, both watching and participating in the dancing. Apparently the reputation of the devotees is improved in Poland to the extent that mothers think that Hare Krishna is a positive thing for their children to experience.

Some of the devotee girls were very enthusiastic about inviting onlookers to dance, and who ever did had a great time. You can see from the video how happy the people were to dance with us.

Madhava Prabhu, from Zurich, was an especially nice addition to the kirtana tent lineup, and his very absorbing kirtanas attracted devotees and onlookers as well. Many danced to his tunes.

I passed out mantra cards to almost everyone who came in the kirtana tent or who watched the kirtana for any length of time. You could tell from the smiles, exclamations of “Text!” and other expressions of joy that the people were happy to get them.

The day after the Woodstock, returning from library where I used the internet, I met one Katowice girl who identified herself as a Hare Krishna and to whom I gave the number of our local nama-hatta contact. I also met a Berlin man I told about our Ratha-yatra there the next Saturday. In addition, one Wroclaw girl came up to me and said, “Hare Krishna, I love you guys.” I gave her an invitation to the Wroclaw Ratha-yatra. I was pleased to have so many pleasant interactions during the-ten minute walk back to the school that was our base.

Jayatam Prabhu engaged me in serving lunch even through I had not had breakfast. It was a little challenging for my false ego, but I wanted to help because except for kirtana I did not do so many practical services. It was nice to serve the devotees who had done so much service at the Woodstock.

Our chanting at the train station the day after the Woodstock was the best ever. More devotees came out than before. Govinda Prabhu from Scotland played the accordion the whole time. Four devotees in the chanting party, myself included, were enroute to Berlin.

When we boarded our train, the others continued chanting on the platform.

Other people waiting on the platform, including rail officials, looked at us with curiosity and smiles, but no one restricted us. One man standing at the door of another train raised his arms as our train pulled out. It was a nice way to end the Woodstock festival for me.

Insights from Lectures

Srila Prabhupada:

Spiritual advancement is never checked by any material condition.

God is in your heart, and when your heart is purified by the process of hearing and chanting, you will be able to see God.

Quoted by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami’s journal Viraha Bhavan, #18, Commenting on a guru-puja in Paris: “The guru-puja singing is important and should be attended.”

Radhanatha Swami:

If we think, “I have served so nicely,” we neutralize the effect of our service, but if we are humble and think ourselves unworthy of the opportunity to serve but are deeply thankful for that opportunity, our love for Krishna will grow.

Janananda Goswami:

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura says there is nothing in the world that needs be changed but our own vision. No one can change this world by the breadth of a hair.

False ego means we are seeing things in relationship to me—seeing ourselves in the center.

When we chant but our mind is elsewhere, we do not get the full effect of the chanting. The holy name is here, but due to the false ego, we are seeking light elsewhere.

I cannot think of a single country that I have been to where there are not Russian devotees in the temple doing service.

True ego is to see everything in relationship to Krishna. Because we are so absorbed in the bodily conception of life, we have to engage the senses, the mind, and intelligence all in Krishna. The idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Therefore we must think of Krishna and service to Krishna, and our consciousness will be cleansed of material contamination.

Identification with this world is very deep: attachment to the land of our birth, our level of education, etc. To give these up immediately is more difficult than engaging them in Krishna consciousness.

When the Lord is present in the heart in the form of Krishna katha, He cleans our heart.

Imagining oneself to be the doer of the activities is a common and prominent difficulty.

You may be considered beautiful by a few people, a very few, but you can lose it in a moment.

If you attain the body of a dog, it is very difficult to engage in devotional service. Practically speaking only if a human being engages you in Krishna consciousness, can you do it as an animal.

We do not know when we will lose our facilities, so we should use them while we can.

There was a poster the devotees had in the early days of the movement with a picture of a cemetery and skeletons with the words “Chant while you can.”

Harinama sankirtana reminds so many people of Krishna, and Srila Prabhupada’s books give the people the knowledge they need to make more progress.

Chanting of the holy name is more important and should accompany our other activities of devotional service.

Q: If am becoming tired while chanting, what should I do?

A: If you have to understand whether you are genuinely tired or if you are just lazy. If you have had enough sleep, it would be better to stand up, go for a walk, or squirt water on your face to stay awake and keep going. You might have to change your diet to eat lighter food.

One time a devotee was standing up during class in order to stay awake. He was situated behind the speaker. That devotee was so tired he fell asleep while standing, and he fell on top of the speaker.

Kadamba Kanana Swami:

Karma-kanda sacrifices provide all kinds of material gain. Jnana-marga, the path of looking for liberation, is considered higher. The karma-kanda mentality is that the material is a nice place. There are just a few problems, and these can be counteracted by sacrifice. However, the jnanis realize that no matter however we adjust it, the material world is not a place of happiness.

Badrinarayana Prabhu was telling that he met his father who is his eighties, and how he wished that his father might live another twenty years, and his father expressed reluctance. “Why?” Badrinarayana Prabhu asked. His father listed all the things wrong with his body. He had to take a pill to digest, a pill to go to the bathroom, a pill to stop going to the bathroom, a pill to slow down the heart, a pill to speed up the heart, etc. This is the miserable nature of inevitable old age.

Green Peace says there are more chemicals in one meal than in twenty aspirins.

Still liberation is minimized compared to the unlimited ocean of happiness of Krishna consciousness.

The karmi loves the material world, the jnani hates the material world, and the devotee loves the spiritual world and its Lord.

No position in the material world is a good position, and so the material world does not interest us except for the devotional service going on here and except for engaging the items of the material world in the Lord’s service.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta said, “If you try to do something, someone will criticize you. Do it anyway. If you are building something up, you can be sure, someone will try to break it. But in the end, who cares what all these people say anyway, because we did not do it for them anyway. We did it for God.” I thought that is a nice mood—the mood of the devotee.

There is no neutral situation. Every situation is meant to be engaged in Krishna’s service. If we have nothing to do, we can always chant Hare Krishna. It takes time to build this up mentality. It is called avyartha-kalatvam. It is a symptom of bhava—to not waste time, but to use it for Krishna.

Srila Prabhupada suggest they call the O Hare Airport, the O Hare Krishna Airport. One devotee was sent to the director of the O Hare Airport to suggest that since we have distributed so many books at your airport, that it should be called O Hare Krishna Airport. The director became so angry he practically foamed at the mouth.

I had been to the Ganges. I had drunk the water of the Ganges. I had chanted mantras like “Jaya Rama, Sri Rama, Jaya Jaya Rama.” But encountering Srila Prabhupada’s books was different, because Srila Prabhupada was always challenging us to surrender to Krishna. He presented it in such a way that one will conclude that unless he surrenders he is not actually sincere, and therefore, if one wants to consider himself sincere, he must surrender.

Imagine, if each devotee gave it the best he could, how wonderful it would be.

We must do something wonderful. We must do something very extraordinary. We have this conception that “I am an ordinary person, but I am trying to be Krishna consciousness.” But to be Krishna consciousness is not an ordinary thing.

In Bhagavad-gita Arjuna is not so much fighting with arrows as much as he fighting with his self. And when we fight with others, we are more enthusiastic than when we fight with ourselves.

We must have a positive attitude to Krishna, His paraphernalia, and His devotees, and a positive attitude for connecting things with Krishna. Srila Prabhupada was very appreciative of how nicely Krishna has arranged everything.

When we come in touch with Krishna, we learn how to properly utilize things.

Bhismadeva says if you want to save money, give up the association of women, because they are always buying clothes. Of course, this can be engaged in devotional service. They can buy so many saris. [Although their husbands may not agree.]

Suppose you have a four-year-old brother, and your mom tells you have look after him. That is like the situation with our mind.

The fight with the mind is difficult for those who struggle on their own, but easy for those who take shelter of Krishna. Those reluctant to take shelter of Krishna get trained in the school of hard knocks.

By being busy in Krishna’s service, we have no time for the service of the mind and senses.

Sometimes we lament that we have too much service, but that service is our saving grace.

Cultural Program in Prague the day before Ratha-yatra:

Krishna wanted to return to Vrindavana, but he always had to kill a few more demons. Vasudeva arranged a huge sacrifice at Kurukshetra to counteract the inauspiciousness of the solar eclipse. Some details of this are described in Gopal Campu of Jiva Goswami. Others came from Sacinandana Swami, who did not specify his source. Vasudeva had invited people from all over the universe. Narada was asked to go to Vrindavana to invite the residents of Vrindavana and to not invite the residents of Vrindavana. He explained that there going to be this sacrifice of Vasudeva that everyone in the universe was invited to except for the residents of Vrindavana. Nanda said, “If Krishna, is going to be there, then we are coming.” And so they did. There were several gates at the venue. The cows arrived at the western gate. The cowherd boys arrived at the eastern gate. When asked by the guards for their invitations, they replied that they were Krishna’s friends. The gopis arrived from the north and were perhaps the most difficult for the guards to restrain. Nanda and Yasoda came from the south. When they told the guards, they were Krishna’s parents. The guards did not believe them, saying, “Everyone knows that Vasudeva and Devaki are Krishna’s parents.” Then Yasoda saw Krishna from behind, and spontaneously cried out, “Gopal!!!” Krishna ran toward her, assuming his cowherd boy form in the process, and she grasped Him, and set Him on her lap. Then all the others came there from their different gates. They had one question, “When are you returning to Vrindavana?” Krishna resumed His princely form, and replied, “As soon he killed a few more demons.” That more than they could bear. They put Balarama, Subhadra, and Krishna on chariots and the gopis were pulling the chariots toward Vrindavana. We are not like the gopis for they never forget Krishna, but we sometimes do. But by pulling the cart, by pulling Krishna toward Vrindavana, we are pulling ourselves to Vrindavana.

Sivananda Sena was apparently jailed for not paying some fee, along with the other members of his pilgrimage party, and he was later brought before the minister who wished to ask him some questions. The minister said, “Who is more powerful? Lord Jagannatha or your Lord Caitanya?” Sivananda Sena said, “That is easy. Lord Caitanya.” The minister replied, “I thought so. After you were jailed, Lord Caitanya appeared to me in a dream, and He ordered me to release you and all your men or he would destroy me, saying, ‘Let see if your Lord Jagannatha can protect you.’”

The queens of King Prataparuda viewed the snana-yatra of Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra from a special platform. One year the king arranged to let Lord Caitanya’s associates watch from that spot, and the queens had to stand in back on their tiptoes. That year the water bathing the Lord was minimized by the water emanating from the body of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

“Nilacala” literally means “blue hill,” but there is no such hill to be found in Puri. Bhaktivinoda Thakura comments that 800 years old the previous Jagannatha temple was made of blue stone, and from a distance in the sea, it appeared as a blue mountain, thus the name, Nilacala [nila—blue, acala—mountain].

We tend to collect knowledge from different places and come up with our own personalized process of self-realization. The instructions given by Krishna Himself about self-realization, however, are superior to our concocted process for serving Him. This is received from a spiritual master.

Once we understand that Krishna is everything, we can adjust our lifestyle to make it favorable for realizing Krishna.

Srila Prabhupada liked the sentence, “It’s not required.” Devotees would ask, “But is it forbidden?” Srila Prabhupada would smile, and then repeat, “It’s not required.” But if everyone tells us not to do something, and we do it anyway, then we must make that situation as Krishna conscious as we can.

Not by wearing saffron clothes, not by restricting food or fasting or other kinds of sense control, not by discussing philosophy, and not by observing a vow of silence, but only by the beginning of devotion to the lotus feet of Govinda, who performs pastimes on the banks on the Yamuna’s shore can one conquer cupid (lust).

Devotional service would be easy, if it would not be for lust. Although Visvanatha Cakravati Thakura says even if one has lust still he can engage on the devotional path, still people on the devotional path are sometimes seriously affected by lust.

We must be under the shelter of the Vaishnava at every step of the way.

We can give up the activities of lust by the guru’s order, but can we completely give it up? Yes. But we have to be completely dedicated to the guru’s mission. We cannot have a conception of “my life” with all kinds of activities in it that have no connection to our guru and his mission. If we start thinking “my life” soon we will be thinking “my wife.”

Dhruva was extraordinary devotee for his great maturity at such a young age. Gajendra was amazing in that he had transcendental knowledge as an animal. Still they could not attract Krishna by service. The service attitude is essential.

If we find we experience lust increasing, we may notice that our service attitude is decreasing, and we must rectify this.

We should find a service that we can absorb our mind in. That will protect us.

We can make arrangement our own spiritual life or we can make arrangements for the spiritual lives of many. Just like there are maha-rathis, ati-rathis, eka-rathis, and ardha-rathis. The maha-rathis can fight with many thousands of men. The ati-rathi can fight with a thousand people. The eka-rathis can fight with one man, and the ardha-rathi can fight with half a man.

If we just do a little bit extra, we can reach more people. Just like the last kirtana at the Prague Ratha-yatra stage show. I had enough kirtana for myself. I didn’t need that extra kirtana. But I knew if I led a really rocking kirtana, I knew everyone would dance, and they did.

If we just had to make the neighbors Krishna conscious, that would be a lifetime mission. But when we move, they will never forget us. You may even find they will visit you at the new place.

There is so much to do. And if we meditate on that, then we have no time for lust.

If we do not become agents of mercy, we will come to the state where we will come to a crossroads where there are four roads, all saying “No entry”—the roads to gambling, illicit sex, meat eating, and intoxication, and we will be feel frustrated.

Q: We hear that if the family engages in deity worship they can forget all kinds of sense gratification. But many new devotees are not so qualified. Is it good for them to do deity worship anyway?

A: Yes. But we should have a serious standard. Tarun Kanti Ghosh started a political party, and his platform was kirtana. He did kirtana all over Bengal and got elected to office. Srila Prabhupada said he was the highest placed Vaishnava in India. We knew him. We heard he joined the Raj Dhani train one night, so we decided to find him. We located him and greeted him, “Hare Krishna!” He said, “Shhh! I am doing my puja.” He had a box with puja paraphernalia and pictures of his deities. Then he asked us why we were not chanting our rounds! So like that, we should not put the deities in a box, but always worship Them, even if we travel.

Even the deity in the shop should not be treated as a statue. It is not good we buy deities and keep them in storage for years, or if we just worship Lord Jagannatha for Ratha-yatra and return Him to the closet.

Q: What is the fate of the disciple who does not inquire from his guru?

A: Srila Prabhupada says in the Bg. 10.10 purport, the Lord will help such a people. Inquiry from the guru, does not mean just inquiring about all the aspects of the philosophy, but also about what lives in our heart. We must be honest when we approach the guru.

Q (by me): I can do some of the sadhana Srila Prabhupada recommended, so in theory, I should be able to encourage others, but I do not feel that people will accept me as an authority.

A: Maybe you do not make a good authority, but perhaps you make a good friend. Because you know the siddhanta, in that sense, you are an authority. But you may not be the kind of person, who says, “Let’s go!” and everyone follows. That is a matter of karma. You may say, “Let’s go!” and no one moves. [I interjected, “or they may move in the opposite way.”] But you can be a friend. You can be friendly with those much junior to you. I cannot do that. I have to boss them around. So as a friend, you can encourage them.

Gita is sometimes called Gitopanishad, but the Gita goes beyond the Upanishads. It is not strictly a Upanishad, but it has the same format as the Upanishads. The Upanishads establish that everything is spiritual. It is said that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s acintya-bheda-abheda philosophy is based on Lord Kapila’s sankhya philosophy. That everything is spiritual or Brahman is important for us as it can keep us detached (nirapeksa). Everything emanates from Krishna. Krishna appears within the universe and yet the universes are within Krishna. If we cannot understand it philosophically, Krishna demonstrates it in His pastime of showing His Mother many universes in His mouth.

In Australia there have forest fires there and big fireballs are thrown out of the fire as far as 25 kilometers away. I was in Canberra and a fireball landed 500 meters from the temple. On one nearby street, all the houses were burnt down but one. That house even had its garden intact! Somehow the owner had attracted some mercy from the Lord, and his house was saved. We can see Krishna behind everything.

I have a cartoon of two monks walking on the road. And one sees a sign that says, “Sign from God,” and he says to the other, “Look, a sign from God!”

A neophyte sees this movement as being lead by different personalities, but one who is more advanced sees the movement is going on by the grace of Lord Caitanya and is not dependent on any of us. If we start thinking it depends on us, then we get carried away by pride, which Krishna does not like, and so he has to make a situation to teach us. Because the movement depends on Krishna, we can be hopeful of its success. Otherwise, if it is dependent us, we may wonder.

As a parent can sympathize with feelings of the child, the devotees can sympathize with the sufferings of the unenlightened materialists.

The devotees develop their own individuality in the course of engaging in the service of the Lord, where as the impersonalists gradually lose their individuality.

Q: According to the Gita, the impersonalists can become devotees.

A: Yes, but not those Mayavadis who begin to blaspheme the Lord saying His form is material and His service is illusory.

Q: How to understand the whole street of houses except one burning is the will of God?

A: Bhakti Tirtha Swami answered this in his book The Begger. One-third of world’s people died of the bubonic plague. In Rwanda, in a few days millions of people were killed. In one paper, there was a headline 27 people killed in LA. On page four, there was an article about 500,000 killed in a Bangladesh flood. Only those who are convinced of the eternality of the soul can understand it is the will of God, and even they are temporarily bewildered.

There will be no survivors.


“The characteristics of Krishna are understood to be a storehouse of transcendental love. Although that storehouse of love certainly came with Krishna when He was present, it was sealed. But when Sri Caitanyaa Mahaprabhu came with His associates of the Panca-tattva, they broke the seal and plundered the storehouse to taste transcendental love of Krishna. The more they tasted it, the more their thirst for it grew. Sri Panca-tattva themselves danced again and again and thus made it easier to drink nectarean love of Godhead. They danced, cried, laughed and chanted like madmen, and in this way they distributed love of Godhead. In distributing love of Godhead, Sri Caitanyaa Mahaprabhu and His associates did not consider who was a fit candidate and who was not, nor where such distribution should or should not take place. They made no conditions. Wherever they got the opportunity, the members of the Panca-tattva distributed love of Godhead.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila 7.20–23)