Monday, January 10, 2011

Travel Journal#6-22: North Florida

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No. 22
By Krishna-kripa das
(November 2010, part two)
North Florida
(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, on January 10, 2011)

Where I Was and What I Did

I flew from Tucson back to Jacksonville and chanted at University of North Florida for a couple days before returning to Gainesville. At UNF I met a math professor who loved the Krishna lunch they served once a week at UCSD when she was a graduate student there, and she took my sweet and expressed eagerness for Krishna food opportunities in Jacksonville. In Gainesville, I was happy to encounter Dravida Prabhu, who is enthusiasm in devotional service personified, and who was visiting from San Diego. I heard his classes and learned an excellent verse about Krishna's sweetness (see the quote at the end). I was happy to learn of the the twenty-four hour kirtana in Alachua, which I enjoyed going to just part of, as it unfortunately overlapped our traditional harinamas in Jacksonville at the Christmas tree lighting festival and Tallahassee at the Gators/Seminoles game.

Upcoming Itinerary (If Krishna is Willing)

Gainesville, FL: January 10-30
Tallahassee, FL: January 30-February 6
Gainesville, FL: February 7-14
Ocala Rainbow Gathering: February 13
Tucson, AZ: February 15-March 16
Gainesville, FL: March 25-March 29
Tallahassee, FL: March 30-April 3
Northeast USA: April 5-April 26
London, UK: April 27
Radhadesh: April 28-29
Amsterdam: April 30
UK: June
Scandinavian Ratha-yatras: beginning of July
Poland Woodstock: last week of July, beginning of August
Croatian Harinama Tour: rest of August
Ukraine Festival: second week of September

Harinama at the Jacksonville Christmas Lighting Tree Ceremony

The most impressive part for me of the harinama at the Jacksonville Christmas lighting ceremony was the high percentage of the general public that took the On Chanting Hare Krishna pamphlet we were distributing, perhaps as many as two out of three. Also we chanted in the same place for over two hours, right in front of Jacksonville Landing, a place where in previous years police officers had kicked us out. This year, however, the officers just let us be. About fifteen devotees came out for the event which we have been doing perhaps as long as a decade there in Jacksonville.

Harinama at the Gators/Seminoles Game in Tallahassee

Each second year we chant at the Gators/Seminoles Game in Tallahassee as events and beaches are the places to find the crowds in Florida. This year we really did not advertise the event well enough in Tallahassee to get local devotee participation, and the temple devotees were gone for Thanksgiving weekend. Furthermore, because of the twenty-four kirtana in Alachua, it was difficult to get people to come from there. Thus four of us from Alachua chanted for a couple hours at the stadium. The best parts were a few people voluntarily coming up to us asking for our promotional literature, and people who remembered from us Gainesville and who were glad to see us. The most visibly enthusiastic of these was a girl who jumped up and down, waving her arms and shouting, “Krishna! Krishna!” as she passed our party.

Twenty-four Hour Kirtana in Alachua

This year I attended twelve-hour kirtanas in Manhattan in April and October, and a twenty-four hour kirtana in Birmingham, England. I am happy to see ISKCON taking the congregational chanting of the holy name more seriously as time goes on. Tamal Krishna Goswami was stressing the congregational chanting by having kirtanas in his room each night during his final Mayapur festival as well as praising its unifying power. More recently, Aindra Prabhu wrote a book strongly advocating we increase our congregational chanting. When I was at the forty year anniversary festival in London in 2009, the devotees described how they daily walked the distance between Bury Place and Marble Arch eight times with their harinama sankirtana parties (a total of almost thirteen miles). They said during that time many people were attracted to join the movement from seeing the blissful devotees. Thus I am happy to see this increasing interest in kirtana within the Hare Krishna movement.

A few days before the Alachua Twenty-Four Hour Kirtana, I turned around after guru-puja, and who should I see but Madhava Prabhu, the world renown kirtaneer. After seeing him at Simhacalam Nrisimha festival, the Birmingham Twenty-four Hour Kirtana, the Polish Woodstock, Janmastami at Bhaktivedanta Manor, and the Ukraine festival, here he was in my former home town of Alachua! I especially like his mood of focusing everyone's attention on the holy names in meditation, and I was really grateful that he and many of the other chanters did programs, some with as many as four hours of kirtana, for the several evenings before the Twenty-four Hour Kirtana started (click to hear audio). I could see all these events really increased the devotional service of the community. Even some of the Gainesville devotees would drive out to Alachua almost nightly to attend them. I saw one college student, who really just began to develop an interest in Krishna consciousness this year, dance for two hours straight in these kirtanas.

The Twenty-four Hour Kirtana was divided into two days of twelve hours each. After attending the Birmingham kirtana which was twenty-four hours straight, I could see the wisdom in Alachua spliting it up. Otherwise, unless you are maha-bhagavata (the highest level of devotee), the tiredness of the body gets in the way of appreciating the chanting.

I only attended the first few hours of the first day of twelve hours as we had a harinama in Jacksonville in the evening. It was difficult to leave the kirtana program because I am completely happy just chanting and dancing in the kirtana, but I do not like to reduce my participation in the chanting programs that reach out to new people as we have so few of them. Thus I missed half the first day and almost all of the second day, chanting in Jacksonville, and then in Tallahassee. It was inspiring to hear the chanting and see the enthusiasm of all the devotees there in Alachua. I hope the next time they do twenty-four hour kirtana in Alachua, I have no conflicting harinamas, and I can fully participate in them.

Insights from Lectures

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, Vihara Bhajan#137, “Praise of Lord Krishna, While Feeling Nausea”:

The poor body 
is a temple of illness.”

Dravida Prabhu:

The chanting of the holy name is the engine of this movement.

The holy name will ultimately conquer because He is Krishna Himself.

We have the Prabhupada murti and guru puja so we can become attached to Srila Prabhupada for such spiritual attachment counteracts material attachment.

How can we be a friend to all? We can start by being a friend to the person next to us, and encourage them in their Krishna consciousness.

Dravida Prabhu shared some of his poems with us, like this rendition of the Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.20 praise of association with devotees:

Mundane affection keeps us tied
To birth and death infernal,
But love for sadhus opens wide
The doors to life eternal.”

And this beautiful description of Krishna entering the Vrindavan forest from Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.21.2, 5.

Vrindavan’s rivers, lakes, and hills
Ring out with charming hums and trills
As flocks of birds and maddened bees
Rejoice among the flow’ring trees.

To those idyllic woods and glens
Repairs Govinda with His friends,
Sri Rama and the cowherd boys,
To taste the most exquisite joys.

And as they walk along the way,
Absorbed in herding and in play,
Sri Krishna, beauty absolute,
Begins to blow His mystic flute.

With peacock plume upon His head
And fragrant flower on each ear,
He enters Vraja’s woods with tread
Sublime—a dancer without peer.

His golden-yellow raiment glows,
His garland reaches to His knees,
And from His lips the nectar flows
And fills His flute with melodies.

As Krishna thus begins His day
With friends who sing His glories sweet,
He beautifies the forest way
With fine impressions of His feet.

Samadhi culminates in this:
To always see this scene of bliss
Within your heart and outside too.
May Krishna give this boon to you.”

The first two verses of the “Venu-gita” chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam are about both Krishna and Balarama because the gopis are afraid of their superiors hearing them talking about Krishna alone.

The whole world has become infected with greed and materialism because of the example of the United States.

Dina Sharana Prabhu:

To be proud of different capabilities of our bodies is a mistake. All attributes are borrowed plumes only.

Considering we are independent of supreme control is gross ignorance.

Just a little faith in God can elevate one so much.

Although Vaishnavas are beyond material desires and material conceptions, they act in such a way that people with material conceptions will not be disturbed.

There is such a drive for equality, but we are already equal on the spiritual platform. Demanding some facility in the name of equality can be evidence of a spiritual lacking.

Q (by me): Can you think of examples of devotees nowadays altering their behavior to set a good example for society?
A (by Dina Sarana Prabhu): For renunciates to carefully avoid associating with the opposite sex. For householders to avoid prematurely renunciation.
A (by Puskara Prabhu): Even now we should avoid forcing our way into the Puri temple although Srila Prabhupada protested against the restrictions.


madhuram madhuram vapur asya vibhor
madhuram madhuram vadanam madhuram
madhu gandhi mrdu smitam etad aho
madhuram madhuram madhuram madhuram

Sweet, sweet is my dear Lord’s form, sweeter still His face, so fair,
But His honey-scented gentle smile is sweet beyond compare.”
—(Krishna-karnamrta, 92) [poetic expression by Dravida Prabhu]