Travel Journal#6.6: Gainesville, St. Augustine, Tallahassee
Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No. 6
By Krishna-kripa das
(March 2010, part two)
Gainesville, St. Augustine, and Tallahassee
(Sent from New York on April 19, 2010)
Highlights from the St. Augustine Ratha-yatra
Highlights from the Tallahassee Ratha-yatra
Inspiring the Kids on Harinama
Notes from a Harinama Gathering
Insights from Varsana Swami, Bhakti Vasudeva Swami,
Kalakantha Prabhu, Nanda Prabhu, Ranjit Prabhu,
Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, Sesa Prabhu, and Others
Where I Am and What I’m Doing
I spent the last two weeks in March in Gainesville, chanting on the campus daily during the prasadam serve out. Often students come by to take pictures of us for a class project.
At our Krishna House, I covered one chapter of Bhagavad-gita per class in a one-hour class, three days a week. Usually between three and six people attended. Akshay did a great job of memorizing one verse per chapter. I tried to stress the relevance of Bhagavad-gita in our lives and to create an interest in studying it.
By the hard work of Sagar, our bhakti-yoga club president, we had Festival of India on the campus, and I enjoyed talking to some students about our philosophy. At the vegetarian display, I talked to a couple people who were interested in Andres’s vegetarian cooking classes.
One reporter wrote an article with the erroneous statement that I sing Bhagavad-gita every morning for three hours. It reminded me of how I previously would offer to proofread the students’ articles before they are printed to avoid the errors that inevitably appear in them.
In North Florida, we had two Ratha-yatras in the second half of March, one in St. Augustine on March 20, and the other in Tallahassee on March 27. I’ll describe the highlights of both.
About two hundred devotees, mostly from Alachua, came to participate in the St. Augustine Ratha-yatra, on one of the first beautiful spring days this year. Because there were so many devotees, I had to be careful to avoid getting stuck in the middle with little room to dance for Lord Jagannath. For me it was nice seeing people like Stephania, who just began coming around this time last year, happily dancing in the Lord’s Ratha-yatra.
Because St. Augustine is a resort area with many tourists, doing Ratha-yatra there reaches people from many places. I met one old couple who was very eager to try the free prasadam lunch. The devotees cooked for 250 people, but the devotees numbered 200. The pujaris gave curious people prasadam when they looked at the cart where the Deities waited at the end of the parade.
Bada Hari, Purusartha, Ekendra, Tulasi Priya and Gaura Shakti Prabhus played bhajanas on the stage in the middle of the park at the end of St. George’s St. during and after the parade. Later Ganga and her sister, Yamuna, also with some of the other Vaishnava youth girls, did an Orissan dance to the song Jagannathastakam, which was a nice addition.
Later many devotees went to the beach. Tim said his group of friends did some chanting there, and at one point, ten girls joyfully danced along.
One thing I like about Tallahassee Ratha-yatra is that you get the best of both kinds of Ratha-yatras. Let me explain. Sometimes, as in Tallahassee, Gainesville, and Washington, D.C., our Ratha-yatra cart is part of a larger parade, and so we get much greater exposure than we could get with our own festival. But in Tallahassee, there is also street fair, on each side of Monroe Street, the street the parade follows, in the middle of its route. So, after the parade ends, we do harinama at that street fair which covers about seven blocks is attended by thousands of people, and thus the kirtana can continue longer, we can pass out flyers and books, and we can more closely interact with the people than in the parade. Because the street fair is not a simple circle, we had to go through twice, probably for nearly an hour, to make sure everyone got a chance to hear. Many people were happy to see us. Three Florida State University girls who were majoring in theatre took great pleasure dancing with us when the kirtana was especially lively. Daru Brahma served a tasty feast full of variety in a park near the Turlington Education building, around the end of the parade. The apple crisp, a favorite from my youth, which does not exist in abundance in the Hare Krishna movement was very good, and I had thirds. Kelly wrote an article about her experience. I can’t believe she didn’t mention the apple crisp! Afterwards, some of the Gainesville devotees wanted to visit the temple in Tallahassee for the first time. We have beautiful neem wood deities of Gaura-Nitai there. Ali Krishna Prabhu kindly encouraged us to help her godbrother, Daru Brahma clean up the feast before we went to the temple and once we arrived there, which we very well might have been too lazy to do on our own, after the long day—a 2.5 hour drive from Gainesville, the parade, the harinama, and the feast. While at the temple, we found the Jagannathastakam song sheets we printed after last year’s Ratha-yatra and sang that beautiful prayer that really adds a lot to the celebration of Ratha-yatra, at least for me.
Krishna-priya Prabhu, who would occasionally come out on some of my extra Saturday harinamas in her youth, as well as weekly with the other Vaishnava Academy girls, invited me to give a class to inspire the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in the New Raman Reti School to come on a harinama she was organizing for them later in the week. It was an enjoyable experience for me. I explained why we go out. Lord Caitanya did harinama, and so did Srila Prabhupada, and in the beginning of the movement devotees would go out for hours a day. The chanting of the holy name frees people from karma, plants a seed of devotion in their hearts, and waters their existing creepers of devotion. I showed of video of harinama at Jacksonville Beach, Budapest, Trutnov (CZ), Prague, and Zagreb, Croatia, with Sacinandana Swami on Radhastami, pausing it from time to time to make points.
The singer at Jacksonville, Krishnaa, was the aunt of some of the kids in the school, and was a devotee youth herself. In the Zagreb harinama, all the sixty or seventy devotees were happily dancing in time, by the inspiration of Sacinandana Swami and in the festive spirit of celebrating Radhastami. [Vedanta-sutra Prabhu videoed the Jacksonville Beach harinama, and I did the others.] I also explained that sometimes we are afraid to go on harinama, and worry what people think of us but after just a few minutes we come to the spiritual platform and that goes away, and we are completely happy. At the end of the class, when Krishna-priya asked the students how many wanted to come on harinama, thirteen students eagerly raised their hands. I felt very victorious.
In Alachua, every Thursday, a group of devotees, mostly consisting of those born in devotee families, gets together at a different member’s house and discusses the holy name, has kirtana, and some light prasadam.
From Sacinandana Swami: We should always think, “Have I pleased Lord Krishna today?”
My husband, Manu, offered this prayer as daily meditation: “My dear Lord Krishna, although I have forgotten You for so many long years in the material world, today I am surrendering unto You. I am Your sincere and serious servant. Please engage me in Your service.” (CC Madhya 22.33)
Abhaya: Only the pure name removes more sins that we can commit.
To rectify commission of the 5th and 6th offenses, admit your fault to an assembly of Vaishnavas, and ask them for enlightenment about the true position of the holy name.
There is a scientific study on “intentional chocolate”—chocolate some Buddhist monks prayed for—which showed its beneficial psychological effects. You can buy it online.
Mrkanda: Three things that block pure chanting: residual reactions of karma, offenses, and pride in our own bhakti.
Bada Hari: We have to remember the holy name is a person, who we do not want to offend.
First we have to recognize we are making an offense to surpass it.
Abhaya: According to Jaiva Dharma, we should just “chant with the conception of the holy name given by the guru.” In this way we can defeat the offensive conceptions of exaggeration and mundane interpretation.
Navina Shyama: Our position approaching the holy name seems to me like as if we had a falling out with a person and then had amnesia, and now we are coming back to them, but they have not forgotten what happened.
Others: But Krishna’s mentality is more like a parent with a child. Although the parent remembers the child’s neglect, the parent does not hold it against the child, because of love.
Bada Hari: I think we have to have children to realize what Krishna is going through [having all these children who do not always behave as He wishes].
Insight from Lectures
Chand Kazi in Lord Caitanya’s pastimes was Kamsa in Krishna’s pastimes. That is why Lord Caitanya mentioned he had a nephew-uncle relationship with the Kazi. The Nawab Hussian Shah corresponds to Jarasandha in Krishna’s pastimes.
If someone says controlling the mind is easy, that means he is not a practitioner. Krishna does not reject Arjuna’s analysis that controlling the mind is difficult, “[He doesn’t say:] What do you mean Arjuna? Controlling the mind is a piece of cake!” Krishna admits it is difficult, but it is possible by practice and detachment.
One Boston devotee gave a Harvard professor a BTG, and the man didn’t accept the gift, saying, “Don’t you know I am a Harvard professor.”
Bhakti Vasudeva Swami [Bg. 18.26]:
In Alachua, mostly all the cows are male, but the devotees nicely take care of them without getting any result. This is a great example of action in mode of goodness that Krishna recommends in the Gita. Not only do we serve the deities without expectation of result, but we also serve all members of the Vaishnava community without expectation. If we take care of the deities, but not those who are part and parcel of the deities, this is not good. We will not be happy, the devotees will not be happy and the Lord will not be happy.
If we have different sophisticated ideas of how to serve the Lord, but we do not get together in the temple daily to glorify the Lord together, we are missing the point. This sankirtana is important. It is what Lord Caitanya brought all the way from the spiritual world. Innovation is great, but we must be should make sure we are following what Srila Prabhupada taught first. We have to be willing to use our intelligence to free the members of our community from bondage. A Vaishnava does not care for himself.
Association is always there. In the spiritual world, you are not going to be alone with Krishna. You will be either with Krishna and His cowherd boys or Krishna and His cowherd girls.
We need to counsel our children about the stages of life they go through, both materially and spiritually, otherwise their minds can drive them to do things that we will regret.
Mother Earth gives and gives and we take and take. She is so compassionate!
I invited all the other chaplains at UF to come to share about their religion at our morning class. One asked, “What time is the class?” I replied, “7:30 a.m.” They all were stunned in disbelief and indicated it was not possible for them.
There is one sure fire way to increase your attachment to the association of devotees, and that is to leave it for a period of time.
In an emergency, when there is no policeman around, if a citizen acts to interfere with a crime or make an arrest, he is not at fault. Similarly, in Vedic culture, in emergency condition one can temporarily assume the duty of another.
In sales, they say to keep talking about the benefits about the product and not to push people to buy it. When people hear the benefits of the product enough, then they will choose to buy it. Therefore, we should always be talking about how we have benefited from the practices of Krishna consciousness, and people will naturally be attracted.
Leadership means to delegate to others that which you could do better yourself. In leadership, it becomes your service to let others do their duties imperfectly, although you could do them perfectly.
Srila Prabhupada told the GBC they should be like the US motto “e pluribus unum” (unity in diversity).
Those using security cameras try to observe without being seen and thus try to imitate God in that way, but they cannot know what people are thinking as the Lord as the Supersoul can. Krishna as Supersoul also knows everything that we have done to bring us to the point where we are.
It is a great advantage to have a friend in a high place, so all living beings are fortunate because God is a friend to all.
Ben Franklin said, “Any fool, can complain, criticize, and condemn, and most fools do.
It hurts ourselves when we blame others.
You can answer the most difficult of all questions by responding with a question. There are many advantages to this. One is you get to see how much the person knows. Another is you can avoid unnecessarily accusing others.
Although Maharaja Pariksit was a pure devotee of the Lord, he still sought advice from the sages to show the proper example.
Srila Prabhupada often made the point that one moment of time cannot be bought with any amount of gold.
Cleanliness is both internal and external, and we must chant Hare Krishna to purify our mind as well as shower to cleanse the body.
Simply by becoming vegetarian, your whole consciousness changes within a week or two. For me it was a significant turning point because at that time, I realized that so many things this society teaches are actually completely wrong, and I gave up my faith in them.
Descartes said, “I think therefore I am,” but he got it backwards. In reality, “because I am, therefore I think.”
We see stories of floods and kings killing innocent children found in the Vedic scriptures also show up in the Bible.
A devotee, who is firm in his faith, has no fear of enemies because he is assured of the Lord’s protection.
The proper devotional attitude is a solution to all the problems of life.
Lord Ramacandra’s brothers could have just had an easy life living in the palace, but Ramacandra engaged them in conquering the world on his behalf.
Srila Prabhupada describes that the most residents of Ayodhya were kanistha [materialistic, neophyte] devotees, but they attained the abode of the Lord.
The door to the spiritual world is unlocked with devotion.
It is hard to take control of material nature if someone is already at the control panel, thus the scientists assume no one is there.
Although Lord Caitanya rejected Kala-krishna dasa, the devotees gave him some service and so he continued to receive mercy from the Lord in this way. In this way, the devotees sometimes show more mercy than the Lord by His grace.
Lord Ramacandra is sometimes called lila-purusottama because He showed the qualities of an ideal man.
The Lord’s quality of svarat, or not being in need of anything, makes him able to happily accept everyone’s offering of love, regardless of how small it appears.
If you are a lawyer, you do not want to call a devotee as a witness. They do not make very good witnesses [as we can see from Dharma who speaks in such a philosophical way, considering so many points, it is difficult to understand what he ultimately means].
Q [by Kelly]: If we understand everything is God’s will, we may be in danger of accepting something that is not ultimately good for us. How can we avoid this?
A: We have to be very careful not to use the philosophy that everything is God’s will to avoid personal responsibility.
Madhava Prabhu: Bharata, because of his love for Lord Rama, did not want to have anything to do with his mother who had schemed to banish Rama to the forest and did not want to fulfill her desire that he rule instead of Rama.
Ali Krishna Prabhu: Abundance is so much a law of nature. One tree produces so many seeds. In this way we can see Krishna’s completeness.
Bhakta Nic: I find at UF a false shelter. So much it is promised that one will attain all happiness by going to college, but I see practically it is a false shelter.
[In his class, Ross chose to enumerate some of the anomalies of Kali-yuga.] Half the pregnancies are unwanted, and half of them end in abortion, of 22% of all pregnancies. Children spend more time in front of the TV and the computer than with their parents. In my high school of 800, four students committed suicide.
Comments During Different Classes and Kirtanas:
Brahma Tirtha Prabhu: Politicians have no idea of how introduce God in a nonsectarian way so they leave God out of the picture. Our contribution is to give real spiritual philosophy. After we are all dead and gone, and everyone who knows us is dead and gone, what Srila Prabhupada will be known for is his philosophy.
Gadi Prabhu: If we serve the Lord in a pure way, then we will automatically serve the devotees purely.
Ganga-Narayana Prabhu: Before Rama, there had not been the intimate relationships like that between Him and his brothers or emotions like the feelings of separation in His relationship with Sita. Then, of course, with Krishna, this was developed still more.
Ali Krishna Prabhu: Environmentalists tend to criticize religion has being too human centered and without concern with the other living beings and the environment, and thus they make the environment the center. Transcendental to this is the reality in which God is the center. This theocentricism is the proper conception, because then all beings will be respected in relationship with God.
Aiden: The Tao-de-zing says there is nothing missing and nothing extraneous. In this way, it is like the description of the complete whole in the Isopanisad invocation.
I heard in Chowpatty one speaker joked, “I used to be an atheist until I realized I was God.”
Lord Rama had an army of many millions of monkeys. This is evidence of his divinity, since an ordinary man cannot even engage five monkeys in a positive way!
I never met a more diverse group of people in my entire life than the Hare Krishnas, all kinds of colors, all kinds of mental capacities, etc.
I heard in one class that “obedience is humility in action.”
Marco: Bhakti will conquer.
sa vai pumsam paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhoksaje
“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)