Monday, April 04, 2011

Travel Journal#7.5: Tucson and Flagstaff

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 7, No. 5

By Krishna-kripa das

(March 2011, part one)

Tucson and Flagstaff

(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, on April 4, 2011)

Where I Was and What I Did

In the beginning of March I continued chanting kirtana for three hours and trying to promote the study of Bhagavad-gita on the campus of the University of Arizona. Two students who came to the programs last semester came again this semester, and five new students came, two of them coming more than once. Both of the new students who came twice this semester had a serious interest in religion, a boy who was majoring in religion and a girl who was getting a minor in religion. In each class, after speaking on topics from Bhagavad-gita, I did five minutes each of both japa, chanting as a personal meditation, and kirtana, chanting with others, accompanied by instruments. The lectures were titled “The Philosophy of Yoga and Meditation,” “Self-Realization,” and “Is There an ‘Only Way’?” and I uploaded my lectures to, in case anyone wants to hear them. While at the campus, I became involved in a humorous video done by videographers working for the Arizona Daily Wildcat, and displayed on the newpaper’s web site. I also got to do another program at Pima Community College for the Asian religion class. My trip to Arizona culminated in a three-day visit to The Bhakti Vine in Flagstaff, where Bhaktas Alex and Justin joined me for three hours of harinama each day.

Humorous Video

I often saw students wandering around the campus at Univ. of Arizona with video cameras. One girl was actively recruiting people for her video, and I asked what it was about. She said she was interviewing people but asking only a single question. I asked her the question, but she would not tell me until I agreed to be interviewed on video. I thought this was an opportunity to share the Hare Krishna view on some topic, so I agreed. I was caught off guard upon hearing the question, “What is your favorite dance step?” I thought for a second and then did my favorite Hare Krishna dance. What follows is the video. I am from 0:47 to 1:16 minutes from the start. Because I like to share the chanting, I felt a little bad they covered over my chanting with other music, but that is a standard technique that is often done to make a production more artistic. At least the music for my dance was more in the mode of goodness than the rest of the music as you may notice.

Caroline, the interviewer, said her friends liked my dance the best of all. I invited her to dance at the Sunday program at the local Krishna temple. She said she would come, but not until I return in October.

Pima College Program

I did another program at Professor Darlene Martin’s class on Asian Religion. This time all but two of the students chanted along with the fifteen-minute kirtana. Because I had already spoken on Bhagavad-gita and summarized our philosophy to them, I decided to focus on the some things about Hindu religion that are confusing to westerners. I talked about why the cow was sacred, not that she is worshiped as God, but she is respected for all her gifts, especially milk and all its products, many of which are required in religious ceremonies. Furthermore, the bull serves humankind by plowing the fields, as I have personally seen in rural Bengal. Only one devoid of the spiritual quality of gratitude would take the life of such selfless servants of humanity. I also explained that the caste system was not meant to be based on birth, but as Bhagavad-gita says, based on qualification and activities. The Gita lists the qualifications of the brahmanas [priests and intellectuals] and ksatriyas [administrators] and the activities of the vaisyas [farmers and merchants] and sudras [laborers and artisans]. It is as foolish to assign someone to a social division by birth as it is to allow the untrained son of a surgeon to practice surgery merely because his father did so. Both the students and the teacher liked the class and the prasadam we distributed afterwards.

Flagstaff: The Bhakti Vine

I met Bhakta Alex in his senior year at Florida State University in Tallahassee two years ago. He had gotten a Bhagavad-gita from brahmacari book distributor, Ananda Vidya Prabhu, taken an interest in Krishna consciousness, and begun to come to the Tallahassee temple. He was enthusiastic to attend some harinamas with me then. After graduating, he traveled with Kalakantha Prabhu to Saranagati, and then got trained up at the brahmacari ashram in San Diego. I was happy to meet him again in Tucson last autumn, and he told me he was starting a small center, The Bhakti Vine, in Flagstaff, a college town where Northern Arizona University is prominent. I decided to visit Flagstaff at the end of my Arizona visit to encourage him in his service.

The day I left for Flagstaff was special for me because I chanted for two hours at University of Arizona in Tucson, for forty minutes at the Greyhound bus station in Phoenix and then for an hour with Bhaktas Alex and Justin in downtown Flagstaff. This was more places and more time than I usually did, and I felt victorious. We got an interesting experience of the divine and demonic nature while Justin was distributing cookies on harinama. In one case, after accepting a cookie, a person later threw it back at our party, and it shattered on the ground, the pieces still contained in the plastic bag enclosing it. In another case, a woman, perhaps in her 30s or 40s embraced Justin in gratitude after he gave her a cookie. In our outreach work, we always meet people who love us and people who hate us, but usually the range of emotions is not expressed so vividly in the same harinama.

In the places I go, I try to encourage the local devotees to come out and chant with me for three hours a day, but I am not always successful. If I am too unsuccessful, I am not eager to return to such places, but Alex and Justin were so enthusiastic, I was very happy to have come there and chant three hours daily in public with them, and I look forward to returning. One of the nice features of chanting in Flagstaff was that every single day we met someone who wanted us to teach them the mantra so they could chant along with us. It is rare to encounter that amount of interest.

One day we brought the extra prasadam to the Food Not Bombs distribution program, and we chanted at least an hour there. One young lady from Morocco danced with us, sang the mantra, and played a one-headed drum. One man also played on another one-headed drum, and another four people danced along. They organizers of the event were grateful for the prasadam and the kirtana.

Recently Bhakta Alex was blessed with a week-long visit of Ganapati Swami who distributed books on the campus and convinced an additional ten people to come to the Friday program there.

It was spring break week when I visited Flagstaff and The Bhakti Vine had been opened a mere month, but still two people attended one program and three attended another. Their programs are scheduled for Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday.

Here is a video of a Sunday program:

I can see in the brief time Alex has been there, he has made many friends who are willing to help out in different ways. Alex also is interested in doing some agriculture and has found others who are similarly interested.

I think there are many college towns in America and other youthful and ambitious young devotees might consider establishing centers to spread Lord Caitanya’s message there. I bet they would find people interested in their message and willing to help as Bhakta Alex did.

All glories to the spreading of Lord Caitanya’s auspicious movement of chanting and dancing to every town and village.

Notes on Srila Prabhupada Memories Video#51

One devotee was chanting with his japa beads around his neck. Srila Prabhupada inquired if he had a bead bag. The devotee said it was in the wash. Srila Prabhupada had his servant get him a bead bag and give it to the devotee, explaining that we should have two bead bags, so we have a spare when one is in the wash.

Bhakti Vikasa Swami:

One devotee came to the room where Srila Prabhupada was giving audience to his disciples with prasadam [spiritual food] to distribute, but the room was so full he could not enter. The devotee proposed that he give the disciples the prasadam when they left. Srila Prabhupada said, “They will never leave.” All the followers of Srila Prabhupada, exclaimed, “Jaya Prabhupada!” I considered that he was blessing us to never leave his association.

Laksmi-Nrsimha Prabhu:

Srila Prabhupada stopped one devotee who was a little proud of his chanting on the very first line of the Guru Puja song. Seeing this, whenever I lead kirtana, before I start I pray to Lord Nrsimha that He might destroy my Hiranyakasipu-like pride so I can sing with a pure heart.

Once Srila Prabhupada was highly praising brahmacari life to a group of enthusiastic young brahmacaris, but understanding the difficulty of maintaining a lifetime vow of celibacy, Srila Prabhupada concluded, “If you cannot be an honest brahmacari, be an honest grhastha [householder].

Mother Laksmimoni:

Srila Prabhupada said that Maya is in back of Krishna. We do not have to look for Maya. When we forget Krishna, Maya is there.

In Mayapur, Srila Prabhupada had a whole tent set up for pregnant ladies and ladies with children which had special cooking facilities so they could eat properly.

Mother Urmila:

Srila Prabhupada once said to me, “You are loving Krishna by chanting and dancing.”

After visiting Srila Prabhupada, my father said to me, “Now I understand why you joined this movement. He is a genuine holy man.”

Insight from Lectures

Radhapada Prabhu:

Srila Prabhupada saw that the state leadership was going from one party to another, and thus serving the interest of the party was the concern of the leaders and not serving the interests of the people.

King Nimi did not want to regain his material body, although the demigods offered him the chance. He had experienced the unpalatable dealings of the material world, even in relationship to his own guru, and thus he was not eager to return here.

Krishna is purna-purusottama, the complete personality of Godhead.

In Nepal there is the town Janakapur, where Janaka, Sita’s faither appeared, and where there is now a large temple of Sita.

We imagine, “This government minister makes so much money, he must be so happy.” In reality, however, he is suffers from the three-fold miseries just like everyone else. Thus Sanatana Goswami inquired from Lord Caitanya, “Why I am suffering the three-fold miseries?”

We should not be attached to this world where everything is temporary. We should finish our business and get out, just as one finishes his business in the bathroom and gets out.

Just as the children always want to play and avoid doing homework, we tend to do all things of temporary benefit and ignore acts of devotion to the Lord.

The famous verse, harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam, which states the holy name is the only way, was spoken Lord Brahma to Narada, when Narada inquired from him about how to progress spiritually in this age of Kali.

The famous heavenly society girl, Urvasi, was manifest from the thigh of the Lord in his incarnation as Nara-Narayana Rsi, when Indra sent Menaka and other heavenly beauties to disturb His meditation. The word “Urvasi” comes from two words “uru” which means “thigh” and “vasi” which means “one who controls.” By her beauty she controls.

Narada travels everywhere, and before answering a person’s inquiries, he glorifies the Supreme Lord Narayana. Once Narada was describing the glories of Pururava, and Urvasi become attracted. Devotees describe everything material or spiritual so nicely that people are attracted.

The devotees are aware of everything going on in the material world in the way of sense enjoyment, but they have no taste for it.

Jaya Kesava Prabhu:

Krishna and His devotees, although seen by the people in general, cannot be perceived as they really are.

According to Jiva Goswami, one can stay in Gokula Vrndavana [the replica of the spiritual abode within this world] for many births if one is not completely pure.

The gradual progression of thinking, feeling, and willing, are there both materially and spiritually.

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says about Bhagavad-gita 2.40 that there is no loss if one performs devotional service because Krishna is very grateful.

You have to be careful because you can misuse a leadership position to gain service for yourself. You can misuse kirtana for your own popularity rather than for making Krishna popular. By acting according to Krishna’s direction, we can avoid this.

Gangeya Prabhu:

The happier we are when the good things happen, the more we will suffer when the inevitable bad things happen.

I had a friend who would become so angry when the sports team he was rooting for would lose that he had to chop wood for half an hour to cool down. Another friend laughed at the absurdity saying, “The team members do not even know you exist, so why are you getting so upset about their loss?”

Even peace can be drab. When you are in stress, peace is attractive, but after you have been peaceful for some time you want more.

Just as sponge gives less water with each squeeze, the more we try to squeeze sense pleasure from the body, the less we get.

Krishna’s beauty is confidential and cannot be accessed by everyone.

Heavenly sense pleasure is dismissed by Prabodhananda Sarasvati for it ultimately cannot be grasped of any length of time.

Jai Nitai Prabhu:

Once Bhaktivinoda Thakura was attacked by a fever while visiting the holy land of Vrndavana. He prayed to Krishna that he be freed from the fever during his stay in that holy land, and that if He liked, He could continue his purification through illness later. The fever vanished.

Lord Caitanya’s birthplace was ascertained in 1888.

Jagannatha Dasa Babaji was given a rupee by a wealthy man. After some time he told his servant to find the man and return the money. Babaji Maharaja said to the man, “I could not bear the weight of even one rupee. How can you tolerate the burden of so many?”

A wealthy landowner asked if Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja could show him a miracle. The babaji immediately began beating the ground with a stick, and the landowner was worried he was angered. He replied, “No, I was chasing away a goat that was attacking a tulasi plant at Lokanatha Goswami’s place at Radha Kund. The landowner found out via telegram that a goat had indeed attacked a tulasi plant at Lokanatha Goswami’s place at Radha Kund, and the so the babaji became very famous.


sa vai pumsam paro dharmo

yato bhaktir adhoksaje

ahaituki apratiyata

yayatma suprasidati

“The supreme occupational duty [dharma] for all of mankind is that by which one can attain loving service to the transcendent Lord. Such service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted in order to completely satisfy the self. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.6)