Saturday, November 27, 2010

Travel Journal#6.19: New York and Philadelphia Harinamas

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No.19
By Krishna-kripa das
(October 2010, part one)
New York, Philadelphia, Albany, Gainesville
(Sent from Tallahassee, Florida, on November 27, 2010)

Where I Went and What I Did

I started out the beginning of October doing a couple of holy name events, the twelve-hour kirtana in Manhattan and harinama at Tompkins Square Park, which I described previously at:

I did few more harinamas in Manhattan, and then a few in Philadelphia, including one by invitation of the Mt. Airy Democratic Party office. On the way back to Albany to visit my relatives, my niece and I checked out some nice prasadam venues in Manhattan.

I share insights from Srila Prabhupada, Dhanurdhara Swami, Sacinandana Swami, Candrasekhara Prabhu, Mother Laksmimani, Mother Nanda, Sesa Prabhu, Vallabha Sena Prabhu, Mother Ali Krishna, Doyal Gauranga Prabhu, Gauranga Kisora Prabhu, Nanda Kumar Prabhu, Sanatana Goswami Prabhu, Yajna Purusa Prabhu, and myself.

My Itinerary

Tallahassee, FL:Nov. 27-Dec. 11
Gainesville, FL: Dec. 12-16
Philadelphia, PA: Dec. 18-19 (tentative)
Boston, MA: Dec. 20-22 (tentative)
Tallahassee, FL:Jan. 5-9
Gainesville, FL: Jan. 9-Feb. 4
Tallahassee, FL:Feb. 4-Feb. 10
Gainesville, FL: Feb. 11-16
Ocala Rainbow: Feb. 13

Harinamas in Manhattan

I was very happy to meet one devotee, Bhakta Dan, who was willing to go out each day on harinama. On the rainy days we did inside the subway stations. About twenty people or so appreciated our presentation enough to give a donation, and we gave them books accordingly. According to Bhakta Dan, that was less than usual, sometimes they had collected as much as eighty. Bhaktin Michaelle was also enthusiastic about harinama and came whenever she was not otherwise engaged. During good weather, we chanted at Union Square. Once Candrasekhara Prabhu came with us and had a nice encounter which he later described:

“On harinama at Union Square yesterday, one man came up to me and said, ‘Whenever I hear the sound your drum I become intoxicated!’ He explained his mother used to bring him to the market when he was a kid, and the devotees would be chanting there. He loved the chanting and wanted to become a devotee. I embraced him, and he was very happy. He also said other nice things.”

Harinamas in Philadelphia

The day I arrived in Philadelphia, Bhagavatananda Prabhu and I went out on harinama in Chestnut Hill, nearby our temple, but the place was completely dead. As we walked toward the temple, we found one place to stay and chant for some time. One middle-aged lady, stopped her car, and told us she was going to a party of the opening of the Democratic Party office in Mt. Airy, and she invited us to sing at the event. It was not clear to us where it was, so we asked if she could give us a ride, as it would bring us closer to the temple. We checked out the place, but the party was not till later in the day, so we decided to sit on the steps of the Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church, and chant until Bhagavatananda Prabhu had to leave to wake the deities in the afternoon. We chanted for a while when a lady come out, curious about what we were doing. She said someone heard us playing a drum, and so she came out to see. She introduced herself as the pastor of the church, and I was worried we were going to get in trouble, but she was happy we were there. Bhagavatananda Prabhu talked to an older man, who had some previous connection with the Hare Krishnas. The man told how he resided at 55th St. for a couple of months, and I think around that time Srila Prabhupada departed, so he was there to hear the news . . . then he shared some reflections about how it all impacted upon him. Later, after Bhagavatananda Prabhu’s evening deity service, we came out to chant at the Democratic Party office, but much of the party was over. Still we distributed all maha-prasadam sweets I had brought, and some of the other prasadam. We chanted about half an hour in front of the office, and one videographer took some footage of us. I invited her to the temple. We learned from the Democrats that U.S. President Obama was coming to Philadelphia that Sunday and found out what was required to attend the event, hoping to do harinama there.

Prasadam in Manhattan

I decided to introduce my eighteen-year-old niece, Fern, a lifelong vegetarian, to prasadam in New York. We went to the Doughnut Plant, an incredibly popular doughnut shop at 379 Grand St. in the Lower East Side. Only half customers in the queue to purchase doughnuts could fit in the shop, the others extending onto the sidewalk. I counted 33 people in the line, about a half hour’s wait, when we visited, just before noon on a Saturday. I got the peanut butter and jelly doughnuts which those next to us in the line said the Doughnut Plant is famous for and got glazed chocolate for Gwen and her husband, Matt, two other relatives. Then we went to the Bhakti Café at 25 1st Avenue on the first floor of the Bhakti Center. There Fern, Gwen, Matt, and I all liked what we ordered. Fern said they had the best pesto she ever had encountered in a restaurant. I could not resist getting a side order of vegan Canadian bacon, and was surprised it tasted like the real thing, or at least as far I could remember after forty years. On the whole, it was a nice experience introducing my relatives to prasadam venues near them.

Insight from Lectures

Srila Prabhupada:

If one’s father is a high court judge does that mean his son will automatically become a high court judge? No sane man will accept this idea. This idea that one’s social position is determined by birth has crippled Vedic civilization. It is clearly said in Bhagavad-gita, guna-karma-vibhagasah, society is divided by qualities and work.

In the beginning, Maya will test you to see how much you are serious to serve Krishna and not disturb Krishna. It we are very steady in our practice, we will succeed.

One who knows Krishna is the center of all activities, not just theoretically, but practically, is a paramahamsa.

We do not have a very strong desire to go back to Godhead. We are very stubborn. We do not wish.

No kind of material prosperity will satisfy the soul.

It is the duty of every Krishna devotee to enlighten everyone in human society with Krishna consciousness.

Although the living entity is the son of the most opulent Supreme Lord, he has created this bread problem. Even if he goes to the church, he prays for bread. If we know our father is the richest man, we have no economic problem. Krishna is purnam, complete. His stock is never depleted. You simply become sincere servant of Krishna, and there will be no want.

In the spiritual world, the gopis are dancing with Krishna. There is no limit to the sense gratification there, but it is not the same as this third-class happiness of the material world.

The Bhagavata saptaha (seven-day recitation) is a concotion. The scripture says nityam bhagavata sevayaone should always hear the Bhagavatam.

Dhanurdhara Swami:

The tracks of the train of bhakti are association of devotees. Bhakti is independent of other paths, but the other paths are dependent on bhakti.

The tracks of the train of jnana are vairagya.

When Srila Prabhupada noticed some of his disciples were getting married, he decided that to create rural communities for them would be the best way to keep them focused on devotional service.

Srila Prabhupada described this age surcharged with opposition to spiritual life.

Some people tend to think that material enjoyment will make them happy. Others tend to realize no amount of material enjoyment will make them happy.

When people ask me if there is one thing they can do to improve their spiritual life, I tell them that is sadhu-sanga, association with devotees.

Good association means three things: (1) one who is more advanced spiritually, (2) likeminded (svajatiya, with one in the same spiritual family), and (3) sneha (relationship of affection).

There are two kinds of samkaras, impressions in the mind, klista and aklista. [torturous and nontorturous].

Hridayananda Goswami describes austerity as “Despite the irrational impulses of our mind and senses, we keep ourselves steady in our service.”

By jnana or vairagya you cannot avoid the allurement of sex desire, but by bhakti, it is possible. We have the strong objective, the goal of love of Godhead, which keeps our attention fixed. Even in the beginning, we have sraddha, which is the appreciation of the goal of love of God, and that just grows as our practice progresses.

One who has faith in love of God and can communicate that faith to others, can really save one’s spiritual life.

Q: When is tapasya [austerity] good? Sometimes it is said to be good, and other times it is said to be bad.

A: When the austerity comes naturally in the course of performing devotional service, to accept it is good.

We are promoting love of Godhead, so we have to have people who are attaining it.

I know one person who did many different austerities for personal purification during the month of Karttika over the course of many years. Once he asked me to suggest a new austerity, and I said, “Why don’t you preach?” He took it to heart, and for a Karttika vow went into Sarajevo during the war, when people in general were trying to leave, and assisted the devotees who were doing food relief and other outreach programs in such a perilous circumstance, just to get the mercy.

Sacinandana Swami:

Fifteen years ago I made an unexpected and amazing discovery. I went to the Himalayas with the desire to get free of all kinds of unwanted things, including getting disturbed with relationships. I was with a Swiss surgeon, an Italian free thinker, and a Indian organizer. We nearly lost the Swiss surgeon who fell in an abyss, and was caught by a yogi using his mystic power. I prayed to the Ganga that the members of my group lose there disagreements. Soon after that I got a real sense of my eternality and the spiritual reality by the grace of Ganga Devi and that never left me.

I have seen people in New York walking around and talking to themselves, and I think it is because the pace is so fast they have difficulty processing it all.

The Chandogya Upanisad describes the body as town which has nine gates. The most valuable building in the town of the body is the heart. In the heart is a room that houses the individual soul and God, and one who finds this room is never again disturbed by that which is temporary. Whatever one desires in this room comes to pass. Everyone has an unconscious experience of this when they have a dreamless sleep, but because they are not conscious of God they do not remember it.

Kierkagaard writes that living entity is attached to living in the basement and becomes indignant if invited to move the vacant space on an upper floor that is waiting for him.

Every human being needs to find this inner space.

In Puri, when the Lord had not yet appeared for Ratha-yatra some time after He was scheduled, I asked some official when the Lord would come out. I was given the answer “when He wants.” I felt a little embarrassed about my lack of faith. I entered my inner space and prayed for the Lord to be visible to me, and just then I heard the banging of gongs, and the doors flew open and Lord Jagannatha appeared.

How to find this inner space? By whole-hearted prayer. By chanting. By association of the enlightened and their blessings. By finding a suitable inner and outer environment.

We have learn to yearn for a direction in our inside life. We have to aspire for a relationship with Krishna above other things.

In modern times people lose themselves in external world, going out of their body, out of their heart, and out of their sacred space.

Each day, for many years, I have prayed, “I am an eternal soul. I live in the house of the heart. With me lives the Lord. I want to serve You, O Lord, and serve others. I am praying that You lift me up from the ocean of birth and death.” As a result, I find my desires are being fulfilled without any self-help literature or therapists.

Kirtana is a way of losing your false self and finding your real self, losing your false voice and finding your real voice.

In a holy place, the outer place can enter you and help manifest your inner space.

Always ask the question, “How do I ask the sacred space today?” Then you find roads will open up. Krishna, who is in that sacred space, will whisper to you, “Go in this direction.”

Like no one can eat or breathe for you, similarly no one can find your sacred space for you.

Krishna blessed Brahma that his four heads could manifest as four hills surrounding Varshana so he would be blessed by the dust from the feet of His beloved Radharani and thus become empowered to create the universe.

Radha claimed that only because Krishna had stolen the gopis butter did he have the strength to lift Govardhan Hill.

The ungrateful disciple who tries to steal spiritual secrets from his guru is compared to a monkey, who is never satisfied.

Candrasekara Prabhu [of the prison ministry]:

I did traffic lights. I hated lights. We would collect donations and give whoever gave something a book. On Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s appearance day, I told the people, “Today is Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s appearance day, and we are asking everyone to pitch in.” It was my biggest day. I did over $300.

Mother Laksmimani:

By listening to the qualities of great souls in Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Srimad-Bhagavatam we learn to discriminate right from wrong.

Lord Rama was given Indra’s chariot along with Matali, Indra’s chariot driver. He began to instruct Matali how to drive the chariot. Then he considered, actually this is Indra’s driver, how can I instruct him.

Children are blank slate and what you write is what you see. So children should hear about the pastimes of the Lord, and in a very detailed way. Not Lord Rama’s pastimes one day, Cinderella, the next day, and the Wizard the Oz the day after.

There was one devotee in this community, Raghunatha, who already carried around a deity of Hanuman and talked about Rama-lila. His parents encouraged him. Now he dresses the Deities and teaches in our schools.

We should remember the essential truths of the holy days not just get involved in the details of the festival.

Formerly in communities every evening there would be talk of the Lord and His pastimes.

We see in the Lord’s pastimes that His devotees took their duties and their services seriously.

Q: How can we encourage children but avoid forcing them?

A: If you have a good community of likeminded people that practice what they speak, that is the best situation for children.

Comment [by Premananda Gaura Prabhu]: When my children were young, I asked Kalakantha Prabhu how to teach my children that this material world is miserable but that Krishna consciousness is wonderful. He replied, “Children do not hear what we say, they see what we do.” So I tried to follow that. [His children, now in their twenties, are really into kirtana, Kishora being one of the Mayapuris.]

Mother Nanda:

Rasayana has an Ayurvedic meaning–herbs mixed with honey and ghee as a preservative. Similarly bhakti preserves progressive spiritual qualities.

It is Dhruva’s amazing quality that despite his great anger, he immediately stopped killing the Yaksas upon hearing from Manu.

When we start devotional service, we may not be free material desires. That is why the story of Dhruva is so encouraging. In the beginning his motivation was completely material, but because he strictly followed Narada Muni’s instruction, he attained the state of pure devotional service.

Lord Caitanya’s whole life was the perfection of manifesting the eagerness to chant and hear about the Lord.

If we are alive in devotional service, we will inherit a place in the kingdom of God, just a son inherits his father’s property if he simply remains alive.

Sesa Prabhu:

As a king, it not that Prthu personally did the puja [worship], but he arranged for it, and thus is considered the example of attaining perfection by arcana [worship].

What Krishna is saying in Bg. 7.14, is that we have a relationship with Him, and for conditioned souls, it is through His material energy. Maya does not mean we have no relationship with Krishna, but rather that we have an inferior relationship with Krishna.

As we surrender to Krishna, by accepting our relationship with him, we become free from the material energy.

In yogamaya whatever we do for Krishna becomes greatly magnified. If we take one step toward Krishna, He takes ten steps toward us.

Krishna is always reciprocating with us, even if we do not want to reciprocate with Him. He does not change that reciprocal attitude in the face of our indifference.

Our difficulty is that we are not serious, not that Krishna is not reciprocal.

Surrender means accepting what Krishna gives you, when He gives it to you.

In the Damodara lila, Krishna did not want to be bound because He had his own desire to play (sankalpa-sakti). But Mother Yasoda wanted to teach Him a lesson so He would not longer misbehave. Krishna appreciated His mother’s pure maternal love, thus He became merciful and allowed Yasoda to tie Him. Thus, it is can be analyzed that His kripa-sakti defeated His sankalpa-sakti.

Vallabha Sena Prabhu [on Jagannatha Ratha-yatra]:

From Pankajangrhi Prabhu’s description of the history of Lord Jagannatha:

The Lord explained that He assumed the form of Lord Jagannatha to confirm the statement of the Vedas, “Without legs I move, and without hands I accept the offerings of My devotees.”

The explanation the forms of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra, as manifestations of ecstatic transformations of love of God, is described by Lord Caitanya in a book by Sikhi Mahiti.

Utkala-khanda of Skanda Purana describes the whole pastime of Lord Jagannatha.

The Ratha-yatra began during the reign of the second Manu, and it will continue under the end of Lord Brahma’s life.

Mother Ali Krishna:

The essence of the Bhagavad-gita, or pure devotional service, is described in the middle six chapters. The essence of the middle six chapters is chapter nine, and the essence of chapter nine is its final verse, thirty-four, “Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.”

Doyal Gauranga Prabhu:

Srila Prabhupada was successful because he prayed to Rupa Goswami and the other acharyas [previous spiritual teachers] for their mercy, and we can learn from him how to become empowered.

“If the spiritual master is displeased by our actions, they are not spiritual.” (Cc. Antya 14, purport)

Srila Prabhupada said that love is attention to details.

I was very late for the raja bhoga offering for many days and one devotee finally said to me, “How do you know that Krishna accepted your offering? You could be serving bhoga to all devotees!”

If we decorate the deity so people will praise us for our decorating abilities, then we are not actually decorating the deity but decorating our false ego!

All people can offer their hearts to the Lord for no one is better than anyone else in His eyes.

Gauranga Kisora Prabhu:

It was commonly understood in the Vedic culture that human existence is simply meant to reconnect with the Divine.

Tolstoy had the idea that we have thousands of lives until we attain our eternal life with God.

Everyone cannot live at the same standard of living found in America, which is based on the idea that possessions will make up happy. There are just not enough resources.

Nanda Kumar Prabhu:

Main arguments of Arjuna for not fighting:

1) it is sinful to kill relatives

2) the men will die, their wives will be unprotected, and unwanted children will be produced.

3) Offerings to the forefathers will not be done.

Comparing Lord Krishna’s strategy to Lord Caitanya’s strategy, it is as if Krishna is inviting people to come to Krishna Lunch while Lord Caitanya is giving them a plate of prasadam.

Sanatana Goswami Prabhu [on Facebook]:

Srila BhaktivinodeThakur states the effects of different types of preachers. Prema-bhakta can uplift anyone to prema; bhava-bhakta lifts devotee to bhava and nondevotee to ruci; sadhana-bhakta can bring faith to faithless. All just by association, therefore it behooves us to ensure we are both boiling the milk and distributing it.”

Yajna Purusa Prabhu:

At a japa retreat when I was chanting 64 rounds, one devotee was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Krishna that really captivated my mind. Sacinandana Swami had been talking about chanting in relationship with Krishna, and I chanted the second, third, and fourth sets of sixteen rounds while looking at that picture, and it was the best 64 rounds I ever chanted.

The beauty of Krishna and the sound of Krishna can captivate us so we will not be bewildered by the beauty and sounds of this material world.

Krishna-kripa das:

Bg. 15.7: All beings are part of Krishna.

Because we are part of Krishna, when we please Krishna, we are automatically pleased.

Yatha taror mula” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.31.14): Just as watering the root of the tree nourishes the whole tree and putting food in the body nourishes all the senses, by worshiping the Lord we satisfy all living beings including ourselves.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.22 confirms this: Since time immemorial sage have been doing devotional service because it is satisfying to the self.

We must understand only pure devotional service can ever satisfy the soul:

“The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.6)

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami appreciated this lila of Vyasadeva not being satisfied until he directly glorified Lord Krishna and so was inspired, as an author, to write 140 books about Krishna.

We may have a similar problem as Vyasa if we avoid glorifying Krishna in the course of our attempting devotional service.

From a class on Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.22.16:

1) Kardama Muni wanted to marry according to scripture
a. scripture is a manual for the material world
scripture is meant for human beings, one who doesn’t follow is animal
c. SP says in Bg. 16, one may believe in God, but if he ignores scripture he is demoniac.
d. Bg. 16.23: “He who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination.”

2) Need for marriage.
There in all scriptures.
Animal propensities: eating, sleeping, mating, and defense must be regulated so as not to impede self-realization. Illicit sex increases bodily identification.
c. Wedding ceremony helps the couple take seriously the vows.
So good children are produced there is marriage which makes for:
a stable family
good role models
mothers having time for children
as in other ashrams based on duty

3) Dowry
consists of
because daughters do not inherit

4) Raksasa marriage is not an option.
Not recommended in this age, we have to take scriptures in the right way.

5) Varnasrama duties regulate human society to save time and to create a peaceful mind for self-realization.


ato vai kavayo nityaḿ
́ paramayā mudā

“Certainly, therefore, since time immemorial, all transcendentalists have been rendering devotional service to Lord Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, with great delight, because such devotional service is enlivening to the self.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.22)