Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Travel Journal#6.18: Ukraine, London, Philly, Stuyvesant (NY)

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No. 18
By Krishna-kripa das
(September 2010, part two)
Ukraine, London, Philadelphia, Stuyvesant (NY)
(Sent from Tucson, Arizona, on November 10, 2010)

Where I Went and What I Did

After the Ukraine festival, I went to Kharkov, Ukraine, where we did some nice harinamas on Saturday and Sunday nights. I got to give a class on Bhaktivinoda Thakura on his appearance day, which Sahasra Jit Prabhu, the temple president liked, and along with other devotees, so I put it on to share it with you (Russian translation included):
Then I went on to Lvov (Lviv), Ukraine, where I did harinama on Wednesday. These Ukrainian harinamas I describe in my blog on World Holy Name Festival harinamas:

I spent a day traveling to Katowice, Poland, where I flew to London, and stayed a half day, doing a morning harinama, before flying to New York, and taking the Chinese bus to Philadelphia for the Ratha-yatra on Saturday. Then I returned to Stuyvestant, New York, with my guru, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, and assisted him and his helper, Baladeva, for a week, mostly waking his deities, reading, and washing dishes. My mother and sister, and Victor, my sister’s friend, all got to meet my guru and have some great spinach and panir cooked by Baladeva, as well as a great apple crisp, and other great preps.

Philadelphia Ratha-yatra
(Saturday, September 25)

Philadelphia Ratha-yatra was one of my favorite ones. I was really anticipating it, as I heard about it while in Europe, and I got a flight to America specifically so I would get there in time for it. Another treat for me was it was the first time in a while I had been to a Ratha-yatra where all the onlookers spoke English.

For me the best part was talking to interested people during the parade and during the festival at the end. I talked to three different parties of people who were neither fulltime Hare Krishna devotees nor congregational members, but just residents of Philadelphia who had developed a liking for Ratha-yatra and in two cases had come twice before and in the other case had come once before. It is inspiring to me that there are many Philly residents who love the festival so much they come every year.

Philadelphia had special treats this year—Haryasva Prabhu’s Panca-tattva deities from Govinda’s riding on a chariot before Lord Jagannath and several swamis visiting, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, Sacinandana Swami, and Giriraja Swami.

During the parade, the sound system was great, and there were at least two amplified kirtanas during the parade, one with Vishnu Gada Prabhu leading, with the musicians on their own cart, between the Pancatattva and the Jagannatha deities, and one just before Lord Jagannatha’s cart as usual.

Special features of the post-parade festival, which was held on the grassy area in front of the art museum, included a tent in which instruction in japa [chanting on beads] was given every hour on the half hour, and the instructors included senior devotees like Giriraja Swami. In addition, there were other workshops on different topics, in addition to the usual stage show withkirtana and traditional Indian dances. The congregation members seemed really cooperative and the free feast serve out seemed very efficient.

I hope I can attend the Philly Ratha-yatra again in future years.

See the official Philly Ratha-yatra slide show:

Visiting Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

I was amazed that my Guru Maharaja, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, decided just the day before to attend the Philadelphia Ratha-yatra, since in his journal he often speaks of satisfaction with his secluded lifestyle of chanting and writing, and often mentions that traveling is problematic for him. His disciple, Sastra Prabhu, pushed him in the parade in a wheelchair. At the festival afterwards, he spent almost three hours signing his books and talking with people, including his godbrother, Giriraja Swami. During the event, Guru Maharaja’s health held up, but a few days afterwards were difficult for him because of the greater than usual exertion.

I rode with Guru Maharaja back to Stuyvesant, New York, and spent a week waking up his Radha Krishna deities and his Srila Prabhupada murti, and washing almost all the dishes, often reading to him at meals, and occasionally going on walks with him. The deity wakeup time was 2:30 a.m., and every single day I came to do the service, Guru Maharaja was sitting in his chair chanting japa. Considering he is seventy years old and has chronic health issues, his dedication to early morning chanting was quite remarkable and inspiring.

I showed him pictures of his Russian disciple, Isani Devi Dasi, her husband, Alexi, and her book table at the Ukraine festival, filled with the many Russian translations she has done of his books. See more pictures at:

I also was given a special service of printing poems from the online San Diego Reader’s poetry page for him to read.

My mother and sister both live within forty minutes of my guru, and because his helper, Baladeva, loves to cook and I just tolerate cooking, they and my sister’s friend, Victor, came over a couple of times for prasadam, and Baladeva made their favorite, spinach and panir.

Guru Maharaja even took some time out of his life to socialize with them, out of his great liberality and despite his health. It turns out that both he and my sister have an interest in painting, She appreciated his work, and they discussed merits of different painting techniques.

While living at Vihara Bhavan, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami’s place, I celebrated my 51st birthday by making walnut burfi for my guru’s lunch, and sharing it with the other devotees in the neighborhood and with my relatives. I also bought and shared some maple walnut cupcakes from Kaulini, Saci Suta Prabhu’s thirteen-year-old daughter who has a cupcake business, “Love Cakes.” I asked if she offered them to Krishna, and she replied in an interesting way: “No, when I make them for the devotees, I let them offer the cupcakes, but when I make them for others, I offer them.” I gave them to Guru Maharaja’s for his meal so they got offered to his Radha-Krishna.

In his journal he mentioned the activism he observed in my family:
“Krishna-kripa’s mother is a Quaker peace activist and stands at vigils at the state capital several times a week protesting some action of the government. In her youth, Krishna-kripa’s sister spent 100 days in prison for civil disobedience in connection with the peace movement, and Krishna-kripa travels around the world going out on harinama with devotees in different countries.” I am not used to being listed among the activists in my family, so it was humorous to me.

I was glad I went to spend time with Guru Maharaja. It is, of course, the duty of the disciple to personally serve the guru. It was nice to witness the steadiness of his sadhana and his dedication to his daily writing. Sometimes he would push me and Baladeva to make sure his journals came out in a timely way. I hope I can regularly spend some time there every year.

Insights from Lectures

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami [from his journal and a conversation]:

Prabhupada used to say that if a salesman has a good location, he can make more money staying in one place than by traveling.

Line by a disciple selling her guru’s books: “Krishna is in your heart. Krishna is in your wallet. Give what you can.”

Murali Manohara Prabhu [London]:

We may make requests of the Lord, and He is inclined to His devotees, but ultimately He is supremely independent, and He has His own reasons for His actions, which we cannot always understand.

Srila Prabhupada very much wanted to finish translating Srimad-Bhagavatam, but the Lord wanted to take him back before he finished.

Tamal Krishna Goswami, Bhakti Tirtha Swami, Sridhara Swami, and others were great assets to this Hare Krishna movement, but for His own reasons, Lord Krishna took them back to Him.

If there is a slight challenging spirit, one will not understand. This is an important point.

Hearing must be submissive. Once a western hippy demanded a microphone to speak at one of Srila Prabhupada’s Cross Maidan pandals. Srila Prabhupada gave him a chance to speak. He inquired about the age of Bhagavad-gita. Srila Prabhupada said it was five thousand years ago. The man began to argue with Srila Prabhupada about the age of the Bhagavad-gita. Srila Prabhupada made the point that he should inquire submissively to understand, but he stubbornly argued, and so Srila Prabhupada argued back. Some people could not understand, but the devotees understood Srila Prabhupada was making important spiritual point.

Why are the devotees dancing? Because they are free from the material miseries. The devotees are willing to give up so many material things and are willing to bow down to the Lord’s representative, and thus they get so many revelations. One may eulogize the scientists for dedicating their life to pursue truth, but if you analyze it, you will see the devotees are willing to sacrifice more for the truth and thus they get so many revelations.

We should not accept initiation until are willing to do whatever the guru says. We should wait until our faith increases to that point.

Yajna Purusa Prabhu [Manhattan]:

Two sentences of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is made me decide to take Krishna consciousness seriously: “By nature’s own way the complete system of material activities is a source of perplexity for everyone. In every step there is perplexity, and therefore it behooves one to approach a bona fide spiritual master who can give one proper guidance for executing the purpose of life.” (Bhagavad-gita 2.7, purport) When I read this, I understood that is what I need. Deep inside I did not have a clue what I was doing, and this verse really spoke to me. We just have a fraction of the story.

We need a deity. We are not given one in this society, so we create false deities.

We cannot score in material life. Sometimes people try to convince us that we have scored, but we do not feel it ourselves.

Everything you want to find is there in Srila Prabhupada’s Bhaktivedanta purports. They are fastest, more profound, and safest way to self-realization.

Srila Prabhupada could push his books so much because they were not his books; they were Krishna’s books.

Our job is to provide a safe environment where people can hear from Srila Prabhupada.

We hear so much, we naturally follow.


śṛṇvatāḿ sva-kathāḥ kṛṣṇaḥ
hṛdy antaḥ stho hy abhadrāṇi
vidhunoti suhṛt satām

“Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramātmā [Supersoul] in everyone's heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.17)