Thursday, January 13, 2011

Travel Journal#6.23: Tallahassee and Gainesville

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No. 23
By Krishna-kripa das
(December 2010, part one)
Tallahassee, Gainesville
(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, on January 13, 2011)

Where I Was and What I Did

Encouraged by GBC Tamohara Prabhu and temple president Ramiya Prabhu, I spent twelve days at our Hare Krishna center in Tallahassee, where we have a shortage of devotees. My usual program there is to chant three hours a day each weekday on the Florida State University campus, and advertise our weekday vegetarian lunch program, Wednesday Bhagavad-gita class, and Sunday feast program, as well as distribute spiritual sweets and literature. On the weekends I chant at Lake Ella, or if alone, in front of the FSU library, and on the first Friday evening of the month, we chant at an art walk at Railroad Square.

The next week I spent in the Gainesville area, chanting at the University of Florida campus during finals and at the Christmas parades in Alachua and High Springs.

Bhaktimarga Swami gave a great initiation lecture in Gainesville. I share some nice pieces of ISKCON history from Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami's videos and blog. Prabhupada disciples from Alachua, like Mother Nanda, and Sesa, Sunanda, Tamohara Prabhus, share some valuable realizations, both in Alachua and at our Gainesville center, as do some of the newer devotees.

Upcoming Itinerary (If Krishna is Willing)

Gainesville, FL: January 13-30
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

Experiences Chanting in Tallahassee

I met some people who had recently become vegetarian. There were some people who did not know we had a vegetarian lunch program on the campus but were happy to find out. One boy went to the lunch the very day he met me, and came back thanking me and telling me how much he liked it. A few days later, he came by, on the way to the Krishna lunch, with his girlfriend who he was introducing to it. Several people asked for the recipe for my carob coconut sweet, and I sent it to them. One Sunday when I chanted on the grass in front of the FSU library, a boy who played the melodica with us for a few minutes at First Friday went to get his melodica and have his friend film us playing together.

On the final day, I met a very sincere Christian lady who asked questions about our philosophy. She told me about group of Christians and skeptics who meet weekly to discuss ultimate truth, and she invited me to come. It was started by two friends, one a Christian and the other a skeptics. People from both views come to the meetings, sometimes more Christians, and sometimes more skeptics. She also said she would like to discuss more with me about the Hare Krishna philosophy. I think I will pursue it.

At First Friday in December at one point we had seven devotees singing together. Other high points were having someone play a flute along with us twice, our doing a little walking harinama around Railroad Square when the traffic at our prasadam stand trailed off, and our meeting a older man who went to a festival at New Vrindavan many years ago and had “the most spiritually powerful experience” of his life.

One Saturday we chanted a Lake Ella with Nama-kirtana Prabhu and three uninitiated devotees and everyone took turns singing, and distributing the sweets and invitations, and I was pleased to see their participation. Nama-kirtana met a high school girl who was really attracted by our chanting party.

Chanting at the Alachua and High Springs Christmas Parades

Both Christmas parades were on the same beautiful day, December 11, which was sunny and warm. Many devotees, perhaps even a hundred, attended the afternoon parade in the Alachua. Many spectators were very happy to see the devotees and take the prasadam and literature they were distributing. Many onlookers smiled and moved with the music. We had a cart in which many children rode. The announcer mentioned that the Hare Krishnas have steadily attended the parade every year since coming there. A group of us chanted the opposite way down the parade route after the parade to return to our cars, encountering other onlookers also gradually returning home.

The High Springs parade is in the evening, and we had only twenty or thirty devotees. It is more of an austerity as it is dark and cooler. Kesava Prabhu suggested I lead the dancing of the men. The dancing looks more organized when the devotees follow a leader, so that was an improvement. At the end of the parade, the chanting became very ecstatic and a lot of the onlookers were really enlivened by it. I was especially happy that my Gainesville friends, who I encouraged to come, were a nice addition to the High Springs parade which was less attended. After the parade, we chanted in our parade cart though High Springs to Mother Vaishnavi's school for autistic children where she had refreshments for us. We chanted there for an hour. After returning to Gainesville, eight friends and I squeezed into Tim's car and drove to downtown, where we did harinama for an hour that night so it was a great day, with six kirtanas, including five public chanting sessions: the Alachua parade, the harinama back to the cars, the High Springs parade, the harinama to Mother Vaishnavi's school, and the final harinama in Gainesville. Now that's the real way to celebrate Christmas!

Chanting at UF After Classes Ended

Devotees in Gainesville still serve their Krishna Lunch to people after classes end and during finals, but at their Krishna House instead of the campus. During that period, for four days, we went to Turlington, a popular campus crossroads, and chanted, with a book table, advertising our programs and reminding people they could still get Krishna lunch at our place. I was inspired by the fact that several devotees, all young people, would happily come out with me each day and share the holy name with others. One day the police told us someone complained, and suggested we relocate to the plaza, our usual place of serving the lunch. There we ended up selling a Gita to an Indian student, so it was a blessing.

Notes on UF Krishna Lunch Christmas Dinner

Hanan, manager of Krishna Lunch for many years:

By serving others we get empowered ourselves.

Sacinandana Swami tells a story about a king who was looking for a successor. He called the senior persons in the kingdom. He said he would serve them a feast, but they had to eat it with their arms straight. If they bent their arms, his servant would cut them off, as they were unqualified. The main leaders could not figure it out and made a mess of themselves. But one of the servants figured it out. You have to feed each other. Thus the king found him to be most qualified.

Gopala Dasa said the secret of his serving for over fifteen years at Krishna Lunch by chopping vegetables is he does not take his service for granted. He always thinks he could lose his service, so he must do it carefully.

People appreciate how Vallabha Sena and Caitanya Prabhus enjoy being devotees and become inspired.

Stacy, who is famous on the campus as “the blond from Krishna lunch,” from serving prasadam for years, was at the bar with a friend, just after the Festival of India came through. One guy said to her, “Hey! Aren’t you the blond from Krishna lunch.” She said, “Yes, I am the blond from Krishna Lunch!” And the guy started singing, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.” And the entire bar sang along.

Sagar shared a poem with a line that really struck me, “Srila Prabhupada, you are our ultimate spiritual doctor.”

Insights from Lectures

Bhaktimarga Swami (initiation lecture):

We have had many lives and made many commitments. Initiation means making a commitment of this one life to Krishna. It is a strong commitment like a marriage. Initiation means making a commitment to ISKCON and its seven purposes. We also commit to chant sixteen rounds. The mantra can be interpreted to mean I am sorry. I am sorry I am in this material world. I am sorry I have no love for you. It also can mean I am thankful. I am thankful for the association. I am thankful for the appearance of the deity form of the Lord.

While traveling someone asked me, “Can you pray for me?” I said, “Why? Is something wrong?” “No,” he replied, “Just in case something does happen.”

At initiation, we make a commitment to Srila Prabhupada and Krishna, as well as our initiating guru. I am here to help. I am your servant. If I can help anyone in Krishna consciousness, I am willing to do so. The commitment of initiation is binding. I say this since people in this age do not take their promises seriously. But why not make a commitment of the rest of this life? We have made so many commitments in our previous lives. If we just follow our mind, we will simply get ourselves in hot water sooner or later.

Mostly in Krishna consciousness, we are engaged according to our propensity.

Of course, life in this world is a mixture of happiness and distress, but we aspire to become transcendental to this material nature.

Srila Prabhupada wanted us to be perfect ladies and gentleman. “If you cannot be a sadhu, at least be a gentleman,” he would say.

If you want to sum up Krishna consciousness in one word, that word could be kindness. Kindness to others. Kindness to the guru.

Stop flirting with the material energy. Wrap it up.

We have to be nice to people if you expect to go back to Krishna. It cannot be just you and Krishna.

In additional to the four rules, I would like to you to give up gossiping. I know it is hard, even for devotees.

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, from a recent video:

I did not feel I was delayed not going to India until I was a devotee for seven years. I had Srila Prabhupada’s personal association many times in 1966, 1967, 1970, 1972, etc., and that was better than going to India. When I went to India, I was also in Srila Prabhupada’s association, and the India trip was just like a cherry on top.

I found the devotees already living in the dhama of Mayapur were very friendly and made my stay in the dhama as nice as possible.

On the library party, I found the scholars knew of the Caitanya-caritamrita and the significance of it being translated from Bengali, and they were happy to order it. Still they considered it belonged to a sect, and I told Srila Prabhupada. He said, “It is a sect. But it is a sect of the Absolute Truth.”

I would say Srila Prabhupada did not preach more about Lord Caitanya in Mayapur or more Krishna-lila in Vrindavana. He spoke the Srimad-Bhagavatam and its purports.

Q: What is the mentality of one coming to visit his guru?
A: One should be jolly, come with a report of one’s activities, and come to serve him while there.

Both in personal service and service in separation, intimacy must be earned by service.

Srila Prabhupada spontaneously told his disciple some pastimes from his childhood during a conversation about his biography, indicating he wanted them in the biography. He did not give detailed instructions about how he wanted the biography done. I just prayed to him and prayed to Krishna, and I think it has come out alright. Many people say they have come to Krishna consciousness from reading the biography.

from Viraha Bhavan, #165

“One woman spoke up and said she was seven years old and standing on a queue at the Lenin mausoleum when Prabhupada was there. She said he looked very old. Everyone on the line turned and looked at him, and she did too. She remembers it. She is now a disciple of Indradyumna Swami. How wonderful! I was thrilled to hear it.”

Mother Nanda:

The best hearer of Srimad-Bhagavatam is the fishlike hearer, who hears without blinking his eyes.

Sesa Prabhu:

It is significant Rama came as a human as humans are subject to dharma. Because Rama did dharma perfectly His capital city Ayodhya was full of opulence.

Because Krishna is fatherly, he is happy to provide for his children as just a father does not resent his young children's inability to reciprocate.

Sunanda Prabhu:

from a lecture in Alachua:

It is a wonder that even the incarnations of Lord Krishna, although also God, take pleasure in serving Krishna.

Other religious systems worship God in the mood of reverence where as in the Gaudiya Vaishnava system we learn that you can joke with the Lord.

The devotees of the Lord act for the purpose of pleasing the Lord and distribute the Lord’s mercy in the mood of humbleness.

There are the three kinds of prasadam: prasadam, maha-prasadam, and maha-maha prasdam. Simply by touching the maha-maha-prasadam thrown by Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Acarya felt himself purified.

The goal of the devotee is to appreciate the pastimes of the Lord and to ultimately enter into them.

The practice of Krishna consciousness is for the purification of the conditioned souls.

There is a special taste in distributing Krishna prasadam. Sometimes when Indradyumna Swami visits our Krishna Lunch program, he takes pleasure in distributing prasadam to the students. Some of the students also volunteer to distribute prasadam because they enjoy it. Even Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself used to distribute prasadam to the devotees.

Mother Sukhada said, “One student was lamenting his girlfriend broke up with him but then reflected, 'I don’t need a girlfriend I have Krishna Lunch!'”

In one case, the prisoners did not want to leave the prison because they were getting prasadam and other prisoners want to transferred to that prison.

from a lecture in Gainesville:

In Krishna consciousness, even authorities consult authorities.

In this age, although people do accept the process of hearing from authority, they do not think there are absolute authorities.

In Krishna consciousness, we are experimenting on our own consciousness, not the external world, as in other sciences.

While we are chanting Hare Krishna, we are entering into the pastimes of the Lord, for the form, qualities, and pastimes are contained within the holy name.

Evil is the misuse of Krishna’s energy.

If we perform devotional service with knowledge and attention, we will attain success faster.

There is an idea, that is becoming popular now, that being connected to the ground enhances your life.

Tamohara Prabhu:

According to a Dec. 2008 Gallup Poll in the USA, 38% of the people describe themselves as thriving while 58% say they are struggling, and 4% consider they are suffering.

48% have a major mental illness in their lifetime while 24% have a mental illness in a year.

In 2005 college students described themselves in this way:
45% depressed enough to impede functioning
94% overwhelmed by everything that they had to do

Association between income and happiness tapers off once people have enough for basic needs.

Americans can now buy three times as much stuff as 50 years ago, but their happiness has not changed.

Happiness in careers is unrelated to income. Clergyman have the highest happiness (67%), much higher than other occupations.

What about faith and happiness? The National Opinion Research Center found 23% of those never attending religious services to be happy, but 47% of those at least weekly attending a religious service to be happy.

The Positive Psychology movement found six virtues valued in all cultures:
Wisdom, Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Transcendence.
All these fit nicely with the divine qualities described in Bhagavad-gita.

Even from research, we can understand happiness is based on a change in consciousness.

The true path of happiness is thus:

  1. One is the indestructible soul.

  2. Identification with the body and mind causes suffering.
  3. Situation in the spiritual position fixes us in spiritual happiness.

God may sanction the suffering in the material world, but He does not want it.

Comment: Caffeine is a stimulant for the body but a depressant for the mind.

Krishna-kripa das:

Bg. 2.14: Tolerance

1. To discharge duties properly one must tolerate happiness and distress.
a. There are duties in human life.
i. Bg. 16.23: Without following scripture, there is no happiness, perfection, or attainment of the supreme destination.
ii. Sva-dharma and Sanatana dharma (material and spiritual duties)
b. In descriptions of the mode of goodness, which leads to liberation, tolerance is always mentioned.
i. Bg. 18.23 That action which is regulated and which is performed without attachment, without love or hatred, and without desire for fruitive results is said to be in the mode of goodness.
ii. Bg. 18.8 Anyone who gives up prescribed duties as troublesome because of fear of bodily discomfort is said to have renounced in the mode of passion.—Thus intolerance is not a symptom of goodness or knowledge.

2. Examples of tolerance.
a. Haridas Thakura
b. Prahlad Maharaja
c. Maharaja Ambarisa
d. Srila Prabhupada
e. Can you think of more?
f. Can you give an example of tolerance in your own life?

3. “One has to follow the prescribed rules and regulations of religious principles to rise up to the platform of knowledge, because by knowledge and devotion only can one liberate himself from the clutches of maya (illusion).”
a. Without tolerance we cannot realize we are not the body.
b. Without tolerance we cannot realize we are servants of Krishna.
c. This verse appears directly after the verse telling how we transmigration from one body to another even in this life.
d. Thus Lord Caitanya also stressed tolerance.

4. Tolerance may be practiced.
a. If we sometimes fail, that is no reason to become despondent.
b. By practice we improve.
c. By tolerance we can become transcendentally situated and always happy serving Krishna.

Madhava Prabhu:

Not only are the hearers of the Bhagavatam purified, but the speaker is purified as well.

Braja Hari Prabhu:

Hearing from an authority is the best way to attain knowledge. But we should not go to lawyer for medical advice.

Our seeing is imperfect in that a very small range of the entire electromagnetic spectrum is visible. We cannot see gamma rays, X-rays, radar, TV, FM, or AM waves. Seeing the visual representation of this is impressive:

There is a great visual illusion of a small black cross in the middle of a circle which is surrounded by pink disks positioned in a circle, one of which disappears, and then reappears, with the next one clockwise disappearing and then reappearing. If one stares at the black cross, all the pink disks disappear and are replaced with a green disk moving clockwise around the black cross. You can see this at different web sites such as:

Can the scientists give us perfect knowledge? Consider this statement by Steven Hawking: “Either we have failed to see 99% of the universe, or we are wrong about how the universe begins.”

Srila Prabhupada says that our sincerity of purpose in desiring to go back to Godhead is the cause of Krishna sending us a bona fide guru. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.19.36)

Comment by me: The loud chanting of the holy name increases faith.

Jagannath Puri Prabhu:

We have bodies composed of ignorance, passion, and goodness. But in this age, the goodness is like a little twist of lemon garnishing the top of a preparation.

Most people remember Krishna when they stub their toes, but the rest of the time they think only about themselves.

By studying Srimad-Bhagavatam we realize we are lacking, but it should not stop there. We must decide what we are going to do about it.

It is not necessarily that practice makes perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect.

Whatever the variegated circumstances we are in, as long as we are engaged in devotional service, we are being purified at every moment. We can either accept it or not accept it.

Comment by Brahma-tirtha Prabhu: Srila Prabhupada both encourages the mode of goodness and warns of becoming self-satisfied by it and neglecting to progress spiritually.

Amrita-keli dd (Report on Her India Trip):

My experience was that I couldn’t even begin to appreciate Vrindavan dhama without Prabhupada’s books and the association advanced devotees.

I saw people with long dredlocks and backpacks who did not know about Krishna, who were chanting Hare Krishna when they left. Vrindavan has that effect.

When the river Yamuna flooded during the monsoons of 2010, the Kaliya tree that Krishna jumped off was in the Yamuna making the pastime more realistic.

At the Indian Ratha-yatras you can go up on the carts and see the deities, and the priests give you lots of maha-prasadam, and you can go up again and again.

Jaya Sita dd got to offer flowers on Lord Jagannath from a helicopter at a Ratha-yatra organized by a rich Hindu family.

There was a temporary bridge used to build the permanent bridge over the river Yamuna, but the Vrajavasi’s hated it and dismantled it.

Our tour guide said, “In Vrindavan, there is sweetness and mercy, but sweetness is prominent. In Mayapur, there is sweetness and mercy, but mercy is prominent.”


Inspired by remembering the mercy of Mayapur and Navadvipa-dhama, I share these words of Bhaktivinoda Thakura:

“As Sri Gauracandra [Lord Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu] appeared in Navadvipa, it is therefore the crest jewel of all holy places. Offenders are the object of punishment at other holy pilgrimage places, but in Navadvipa-dhama they are purified. The example is the two brothers Jagai and Madhai, who committed great offenses yet still received Nitai and Gaura. What to speak of other places, at Vrindavan the offenders are punished. But a person who has committed hundreds of offenses can easily receive the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu and overcome those offenses in Navadvipa-dhama. For this reason, sages endlessly praise Navadvipa of Gaura-mandala.

“He who lives in Navadvipa-dhama is very fortunate, for he achieves attraction for Krishna. He who happens to go there becomes freed from all offenses. What one attains by traveling to all the holy places is attained just by remembering Navadvipa. In this way the scriptures sing. He who sees Navadvipa-dhama gets ecstatic love of Krsna birth after birth. Even one who goes to Navadvipa desiring to gain material comforts through pious activities will not take another birth. The Sastras say that one who walks around Navadvipa attains the fruit of millions of asvamedha yajnas at every step. And one who lives in Navadvipa and chants mantras obtains the sound of Caitanya as his mantra and easily gets free from maya. What yogis obtain after ten years at other tirthas [holy places] is obtained in three nights at Navadvipa.

“That liberation attained by Brahman realization at other holy places is obtained simply by bathing in the Ganges at Navadvipa. Thus, all types of liberation—salokya, sarupya, sarsti, samipya, and nirvana can be obtained in Navadvipa without speculative practice. Falling at the feet of the pure devotees in Navadvipa, Bhukti and Mukti (personified material enjoyment and liberation) remain there as obedient servants. Not caring for their blessings, the devotees kick them away, but still they do not leave the devotee's feet. The fruits obtained by staying one hundred years at the seven holy cities can be attained by staying one night in Navadvipa-dhama.

“In conclusion, Navadvipa is the topmost tirtha. Taking shelter of it, the living entities can cross over Kali-yuga. At this place, taraka, the name of Rama, which gives liberation, and paraka, the name of Krishna, which gives prema [love of God], always serve the residents of the dhama.” (Sri Navadvipa Mahatmya)