Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Travel Journal#6.21: Tucson

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No. 21
By Krishna-kripa das
(November 2010, part one)
Tucson, Arizona
(Sent from Tallahassee, Florida, on January 5, 2011)

Where I Was and What I Did

   Except for a day trip to Phoenix to do harinama in yet another town, I stayed in Tucson, Arizona, USA, the first half of November, chanting three hours daily with my book table at the University of Arizona. It was an eventful time with a Diwali Festival, a meeting with the U of A Skeptics Club, Ratha-yatra in the All Souls Procession, and a program at Pima, the local community college. During that time, I took notes on some lectures by Srila Prabhupada, Mother Sandamini's report on her trip to Vrindavana, the Following Prabhupada DVD #9 (including Srutakirti Prabhu), a class on Govardhan Puja by Jaya Nitai Prabhu, and a few other classes. I also gave a lecture on "Scientific Evidence Supporting Krishna Consciousness" at the Sunday feast which you can hear online by clicking the above link.

Upcoming Itinerary (If Krishna is Willing)

Tallahassee, FL: January 4–9
Gainesville, FL: January 10–31
Tallahassee, FL: February 1–6
Gainesville, FL: February 6–14
Ocala Rainbow Gathering: February 13
Tucson, AZ: February 15–March 15 (tentative)
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

Diwali Festival in Tucson

   While visiting Tucson to increase our outreach at the university, I attended the Diwali festival at our Hare Krishna temple there. When I was a new devotee, Diwali festivals were not common. Thus I tend to think they are not so much a part of our practice of Krishna bhakti as given by Srila Prabhupada and his predecessors but something tacked on to it to please the Indian congregations, and for that reason, I am not so inclined to them. Still, they are an opportunity for people to engage in devotional service in different ways so I enthusiastically promoted the Diwali festival at the university, as well as our restaurant, Sunday feast, and my Gita seminar.

   The devotees did a good job organizing the festival, transforming the temple parking lot into an outdoor auditorium and making arrangements for prasadam, a book display, a cooking demonstration, and the chance to offer lights to the deity. It was exciting to see all the people coming, many for the first time. And many of the first timers were genuinely happy they had come. One high school history teacher told her students about it, and many came, some delighting in the face painting as well as the prasadam. A community college Asian religions professor also informed her students about our program, and many of them came as well. Students from both classes promised to give my contact information to their teachers, so they could invite me to speak and the students were very excited about that. Some neighbors came to the Diwali festival as well. Our book table did really well, with several people buying more than one book.

   The stage show consisted of Sruti, a local group that has been playing Indian music and Indian instruments for 25 years. Their music was relaxing and put one in a good mood. Then the Urvasi Dance Troupe, with girls of various ages, performed five different Indian dances. Finally Michelle of Elemental Artistry, with some of her friends, performed different dances with illuminated hoops and some very exciting dances with fire. Inside the temple, was a gloriously decorated altar, with the offering of lamps to the deity, and one college student said for her, that was the best part.

   A couple of university students told me they had a wonderful time and were very happy to have come. I took down their contact information in hopes they would be willing to help staff our club on the campus. Another young man later came to my Gita seminar, saying that he heard about it at the Diwali festival.

   Rather than wait in line for prasadam, some friends and I played bhajanas at the book booth as the line dwindled. Fortunately there was enough prasadam for everyone to get something.

   As a result of the festival, I could see how quite a variety of people came to the temple for the first time and had a good experience, so I felt very good about being part of it. I felt indebted to the Tucson devotees, headed by Mother Sandamini, for having put on such an effective festival for the spiritual benefit of the people in general.

Tucson Ratha-Yatra
(Lord Jagannath Blesses the All Souls Parade)

   I never saw so many people dressed as skeletons as in Tucson’s All Souls Procession, an annual event, which in 2010 was on November 7. Even dogs were dressed as skeletons, either wearing a black coat sporting bones on their backs or having the bones drawn on their backs with white chalk. We Hare Krishnas actually had a cart with small deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladev, and Lady Subhadra, so it could be called a Ratha-yatra. Our cart was steered from the back, a challenging design making it difficult to go straight. Before the parade got moving, many people took pictures of the deities, their cart, and the lively chanting and dancing of the devotees. I think the scene was a new one for them, and they were eager to capture it on camera. Devotees distributed packets containing literature, spiritualized lollipops, and invitations to our Govinda’s Restaurant. Bhakta Geno was the most enthusiastic at making sure every kid got a lollipop. Different devotees sang, and some of the time I played along on my portable harmonium. Unfortunately the event was at the same time as our Sunday feast, and not only that, but the same time as our celebration of Govardhan Puja, so it was not largely attended, but we may have had ten devotees altogether. Some old friends of the devotees were glad to come in contact with them again.

Skeptics Invite the Hare Krishnas

   Ananta Dev Prabhu said one of the members of the University of Arizona Skeptics Club told him they would like us to speak sometime as they are familiar with the Judeo-Christian tradition, but not Hare Krishna, so I decided to schedule a meeting with the club. Hanumat Preseka Swami was in town the night of the meeting, and he gave a entertaining and thought provoking lecture. Many students asked more serious questions than one usually hears. Then we chanted and distributed spiritual food. Some students took seconds on the coconut sweets. We found the skeptics were more serious thinkers than your average student group, and both we and them were pleased with the gathering. Bhakta Sean had previously joined the club with the plan of bringing prasadam to the meetings and engaging the skeptics in devotional service unknowingly, an innovative strategy, and I am sure that helped facilitate the positive reception.

Program at Pima Community College

   Holly, a student of Asian religions, showed up at our Diwali festival all decked out in a sari. Learning from her that her teacher encouraged her Asian religions class to come to our temple, I offered to speak in her class, and her teacher invited me on the final day of my stay in Tucson. I made a traditional Indian coconut sweet for the occasion. Ananta Dev Prabhu and two bhaktas who are starting a center in Flagstaff, Tyler and Alex, also came, and Bhakta Geno took pictures. The teacher asked me to speak about our practice and how it differed from Christianity. I mentioned about how all living creatures, including plants and animals, are eternal souls living in temporary material bodies, and that we human beings can realize our identity as souls by the universally accepted process of chanting the holy name of the Lord, especially in congregation with other faithful people. Among other things, I explained that Krishna teaches in Bhagavad-gita that devotion is the only way to attain the Lord and because Christ was preaching devotion to God, we can accept that he was teaching the only way. In the Vedic tradition, however, there have been many empowered preachers like Jesus Christ, who could heal the sick, forgive sins, conquer over death themselves, and instill faith in God in others, so we do not see him as uniquely empowered as many Christians do. The reverence for and worship of the saints, the repetition of prayers on beads, and the use of incense in worship which is found in Catholicism is also there in Hare Krishna practice. Many Psalms glorify the power of the holy name of the Lord to deliver one, and the Hare Krishna also have that understanding of the power of the holy name to deliver one from a materialistic way of life. Different devotees shared how they became attracted to Krishna consciousness, and their stories were interesting for the students. In talking with the teacher, I learned she remembered seeing the devotees chanting in Greenwich Village in her youth. I told her I had chanted the previous month at the Hare Krishna tree in Tompkins Square Park, where Srila Prabhupada had chanted in 1966 when he began his international society, and I sent her a picture of the tree and the plaque describing its significance, for which she was grateful. At the end of the program, we chanted and distributed spiritual food. Almost all the students took the coconut sweets and a couple students stayed at least half an hour to talk more with us. In fact, the teacher later told us, “Everyone in my class really enjoyed your visit. . . . I hope you will be able to speak to my Asian Religions class in February when you come back to Tucson. Maybe you can discuss the Gita. I’m sure the students would love it.”

Insights from Lectures

Srila Prabhupada:

   Although in America we have all material facility, because we are not also taking care of the soul, there is no balance, and thus we are not happy.

   The soul is different from the body and has a different need. We need to make the soul comfortable.

   One who is free from hankering can taste the Bhagavatam, holy name, or anything else in relation to the Lord.

   “Bhava” means become. The repetition of birth and death is called “bhava” because we are always “becoming” something else.

   “Atyantika-duhkha-nivrtti” means ultimate relief from suffering.

   “It does not matter how fallen a man is. If he follows our instruction, he can be turned.”

   People say Krishna comes for this purpose or the that purpose, but actually

   He comes for the benefit of the devotees.

   Even scientists turn to God in danger, but when there is no danger, they defy God. Therefore danger has to be there to teach these rascals.

   There are natural divisions in nature, like crows and swans. Crows do not associate with swans, and swans do not associate with crows. Krishna consciousness can transform the crow class man into the swan class man.

   from his article in the January 2011 Back to Godhead I was proofreading:

   “If the government has the right to exact income tax from you, has not Krishna the right to exact income tax? He is supplying you so many things. What is the government supplying?”

Mother Sandamini [report on her trip to Vrindavana]:

   Her notes on Bhurijana Prabhu’s Japa book:

   Causes of lack of taste:

  1. lack of spiritual depth leading to false ego

  2. desire for temporary things
  3. desire for fame
  4. committing offenses

Problems resulting from inattentive chanting:

  1. crookedness
  2. faithlessness
  3. slackness
  4. pride in devotional achievements

   Solution to inattentive chanting: Give the mind the simple task of hearing one mantra with attention.

   When the ashes of deceased persons touch the Ganges River, the souls become free from all their karma.

   They have a laser gun with a red beam that you can get to scare the monkeys.

   Rupa Raghunatha Prabhu has two amazing schools and a hospital, which are greatly benefit the poor children in Vrindavana.

   Mother Sandamini’s notes from a class by Vaisesika Prabhu in Vrindavana:

  1. Voltaire said, “If you appreciate someone you imbibe their qualities.”
  2. It is hard to stop people on book distribution because they have no time. They are too busy taking care of their “time-saving” devices.
  3. In an airport, I met a man who bought a book from a devotee in San Francisco 35 years ago. “That could have been me,” I said. He had just taken the book off the shelf and was appreciating it, so he was happy to see me.

Notes on Srila Prabhupad DVD #9:

   Vasudeva Prabhu, an Indian businessman, had a butcher shop in his grocery store. The devotees were surprised and asked if they should tell him to close it. Srila Prabhupada said not for now, that would come. Later most of Vasudeva’s family ended up also becoming devotees.

   They say Kaliya lives in a secluded lake in the mountains of Fiji. Persons who go there either never come back or come back insane. One devotee got a guide and tried to go there but a typhoon made it impossible. Because of that story about Kaliya the devotees started Kaliya Krishna temple in Fiji.

   One devotee recalled Srila Prabhupada coming to Los Angeles. When I saw him, I bowed down, and my eyes will filled with tears. The most amazing thing was that the eyes of two businessman who watched the devotees’ reception of Srila Prabhupada were also filled with tears.

Srutakirti Prabhu:

   When we came to Fiji, our hosts served a meal at 1:30 a.m. and took rest at 2:30 a.m. but Srila Prabhupada was ready for his morning walk at sunrise. Jet lag did not exist for him. We hoped he would take a nap after breakfast, which he did, but only 15 minutes. We were all completely out, and he called us in and reprimanded us for sleeping.

   We simply follow the predecessor’s instructions. That is all. We do not have to invent.

   Srila Prabhupada said in Los Angeles, “If you will print my books in all the languages of the world and distribute them, this Krishna consciousness movement will automatically spread.”

   Srila Prabhupada was reading the Krishna book and told me, ‘If you read just this one book [the Krishna book] you can become Krishna conscious. You do not even have to read the whole book, just one chapter, and you can become Krishna consciousness. You do not even have to read the whole chapter, just one page, and you can become Krishna consciousness. You do not even have to read a whole page, you can just read one line. You do not even have to read a whole line. If you read just one word you can become Krishna conscious.’ He said that about three books over the course of a year, Nectar of Devotion, Bhagavad-gita, and the Krishna book.”

   One someone gave Srila Prabhupada a gold watch, and he gave his old watch away. Then someone else gave him a gold Rolex watch, and he gave the other gold watch away, that gold Rolex must have been worth $3,500, then someone gave him a $100 Seiko watch, and he gave the gold Rolex away. He did not keep it for himself.

   Badrinarayana Prabhu explained that Srila Prabhupada was teaching the devotees mantras from Isopanisad but few of them took it seriously enough to memorize them. Srila Prabhupada could see this and told us, “I am writing these books for you.”

Jai Nitai Prabhu from Tucson on Govardhan Puja:

   It is said Krishna looked within His heart and found the essence of love, and it manifested as a seed which grew into Govardhan Hill.

   In Upadesamrita, Rupa Goswami explains that Govardhan Hill is more sacred than Vrindavana itself.

   Nanda Maharaja surrendered to Krishna and abandoned the Indra sacrifice, not in the sense of surrendering to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but by agreeing to execute the will of his son who would not have it any other way.

   The residents of Vrindavana were satisfied by performing the sacrifice for Govardhan because they had served Krishna.

   Krishna lifted Govardhan so its top was above the clouds and so the animals on it were given shelter by Krishna in this way.

   We can learn from the Govardhan pastime that Krishna is always ready to forgive His repentant devotee, even if he made a big mistake.

   Q (by me): We may say or think something bad about a devotee, and we understand that is very bad for our spiritual life, but here Indra had a program to wipe out Krishna’s closest associates in Vrndavana. Could you say something about the magnitude of that offense?
A: (1) Demigods [like Indra] do things on a larger scale.
(2) The pastime shows just how merciful Krishna is.

Krishna-kripa das:

   Srila Prabhupada created these Hare Krishna centers just to give people the chance to hear about Krishna. He said, “If I sit under a tree, who will come to hear? Therefore I have built this big, big temple in Mayapur.”

   Simply hearing about Krishna is very powerful as these scriptural references indicate:

   Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.14.3: “Those who, even while remaining situated in their established social positions, throw away the process of speculative knowledge and with their body, words and mind offer all respects to descriptions of Your personality and activities, dedicating their lives to these narrations, which are vibrated by You personally and by Your pure devotees, certainly conquer Your Lordship, although You are otherwise unconquerable by anyone within the three worlds.”

   Krishna to Rukmini: “My dear honored wife, although I have thousands of wives, I do not think that any one of them can love Me more than you. The practical proof of your extraordinary position is that you had never seen Me before our marriage; you had simply heard about Me from a third person, and still your faith in Me was so fixed that even in the presence of many qualified, rich and beautiful men of the royal order, you did not select any one of them as your husband, but insisted on having Me.”

   Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.17: “Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [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.”

Radhapada Prabhu:

   Ambarisa showed the whole world how to engage completely in devotional service. We have many duties to do in the world, but we must not forget that it is also our duty to remember the Lord.

   Like the director in a play tells each player how do his part, Krishna tells living entities what to do.

   Durvasa Muni is so named because (1) he lived a long time, (2) he was difficult to live with, and (3) he lived a difficult of austerity subsisting on durva grass.

   Whenever any trouble comes, the devotee remembers Krishna. That is devotee.

   Ambarisa was not disturbed by the demon created Durvasa Muni because he knew that if Krishna wanted to protect him, no one could kill him, and if Krishna wanted to kill him, no one could protect him.

   Krishna could have easily killed Durvasa Muni immediately with his Sudarsana cakra, but He wanted to teach Durvasa Muni about the greatness of His devotee.

   The Lord says makes arrangements to break his devotee’s attachment to family and relatives, but that is only necessary when those relationships are impediments to his devotional service.

   In Ramayana, one squirrel got caught up in the enthusiasm to assist Lord Rama in building the bridge to Lanka. He could not carry anything substantial, so he rolled in the sand to collect some on his body, and then shook it off on the developing bridge. Lord Rama was very pleased to accept his small service.

Gangeya Prabhu:

   Material life appears very attractive on one level but is ultimately disappointing.

   American people use two-thirds of the illegal drugs in the world because their society of consumerism and unrestricted sense gratification does not satisfy their souls.

   Vijaya Prabhu says he uses the interest of people in peace, personal and collective, to sell Srila Prabhupada’s books.

Ananta Dev Prabhu:

   Our situation is like that of a duck who has just lived on a farm and never been exposed to water. Although the water environment is natural for him, he will take time to get used to living in pond again because of his conditioning.

Bhakta Geno:

   Envy, evangelist, and equality have the same root, meaning a sense of leveling the ground.

   To deny the Personality of Godhead is to deny your own unique relationship with Him.

   Materialistic people look for others to serve them, but Krishna takes pleasure in serving His devotees, like on the battlefield, when He drove Arjuna’s chariot.

   All time engaged in Krishna consciousness is gain. All time engaged in a material activities is a loss.

   The Lord is more eager to see His son than the son is to see the father. When my foster child was in jail he was ashamed to see me, but I was eager to see him, thus I could see how that is true.

   It is not so much that we clean ourselves, but that we are cleaned by the Lord.

   Even when a small animal is killed by a man, God is disturbed, because that animal is also dear to him.

   Comment by Sandamini dd: Even modern psychology recognizes that negative emotions like envy have a self-destructive effect.


āpannaḥ saḿsṛtiḿ ghorāḿ
yan-nāma vivaśo gṛṇan
tataḥ sadyo vimucyeta
yad bibheti svayaḿ bhayam

“Living beings who are entangled in the complicated meshes of birth and death can be freed immediately by even unconsciously chanting the holy name of Krishna, which is feared by fear personified.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.14)