Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 7, No. 7
By Krishna-kripa das
(April 2011, part one)
Tallahassee, Upstate New York, New York City
(Sent from Amsterdam on May 4, 2011)
I went to Tallahassee to attend the Gita class, the Ratha-yatra, a prison program, and a Sunday Feast. I think their Ratha-yatra was better than last year. Then, after a day in Gainesville, and a few words of farewell, I went to Albany, New York, via New York City, to make kofta balls, pakoras, and mango lassi for my sister’s fiftieth birthday, and then to Stuvyesant to see and serve Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami for a couple days. Then in New York City, I did harinamas, three hours a day, almost every day. While in the Bhakti Center in Manhattan, I took notes on inspiring lectures by Srila Prabhupada, Radhanath Swami, and some of the enthusiastic senior and junior devotees of the Bhakti Center, and I think you find a lot of great realizations among them.
Where I Was and What I Did
Amsterdam: April 30–May 6
Rotterdam: May 6–8
Antwerp: May 8–11
Cologne: May 12–13?
Munich: May 14–15
Simhacalam: May 16
Munich or Simhachalam: May 17
London: May 18–May 27
Birmingham: May 27–30
Belfast: May 30–June 12
London: June 12
Stonehenge: June 21
Scandinavian Ratha-yatras: July 8–16
Prague Ratha-yatra?: mid July
Lithuanian Festival?: last week in July
Czech Padayatra?: usually 4th week in July
Poland Woodstock: August 1–6
Croatian Harinama Tour: rest of August
Kirtana-mela, Leipzig: August 29–September 4
Kharkov, Ukraine: September 6–beginning of Ukraine Festival
Ukraine Festival: second full week of September
Boston Ratha-yatra and Prabhupada festival: September 17–18
New York: September 19–23?
Philadelphia Ratha-yatra: September 24–25
Albany: September 26–30?
Florida, Arizona, Nevada: October–December
In Tallahassee our Ratha-yatra is our participation in the Springtime Tallahassee parade. This year I surrendered a little more than usual by chopping potatoes for the feast and printing invitations to our lunch program and Bhagavad-gita class, if only at the last minute, so we would have them for the Ratha-yatra and the harinama afterwards. I took a city bus most of the way from the copy shop to the start of the parade, fearing I would be late, but I still got there in plenty of time. The great thing about Tallahassee is that the Ratha-yatra is just half the event. The rest is a harinama through a very crowded street festival. There were many policemen at that street festival, and although any one of them could have stopped our chanting party, none of them did. I felt that Lord Caitanya was really protecting us. After the parade, was the wonderful feast cooked by Daru Brahma Prabhu with help from Nama Kirtan Prabhu. I am always impressed by the taste, variety, and reliable of the prasadam at the event.
Both the Ratha-yatra and harinama were better this year because Kaliyaphani Prabhu made sure the devotees stayed in lines and danced in an organized pattern. Just a little bit of organization goes a long way to making a better presentation.
I felt Garuda Prabhu’s hand painted pictures of Krishna enhanced the beauty of the cart, but others felt they were too unorthodox. The funny thing for me was I just read the Ratha-yatra pastime in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrita that very morning, and amazingly enough, I happened to remember that pictures were one of the items decorating the original Ratha-yatra carts in Puri: “Everyone was astonished to see the decorations on the Ratha car. The car appeared to be newly made of gold, and it was as high as Mount Sumeru. The decorations included bright mirrors and hundreds and hundreds of camaras [white whisks made of yak tails]. On top of the car were a neat and clean canopy and a very beautiful flag. The car was also decorated with silken cloth and various pictures. Many brass bells, gongs and ankle bells rang.” (Cc. Madhya 13.19–21) One could argue that perhaps the pictures in Puri were smaller, relative to the size of the cart, and that we might adjust for next year, but the idea of pictures as decorations appears authorized according to Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami.
I was surprised that some of the Florida State University students did not even know about Springtime Tallahassee, probably the largest parade in their city, until hearing about it from me. One such student was a girl who had come to my table and began attending our lunch program, having learned about it from me. She came to the parade, enjoyed watching it, and even joined with the devotee girls and danced in the harinama afterward, later telling me she had a great time. I sent her some videos of devotees dancing on harinama which she also liked. Although we, as devotees, know many varieties of naturally enjoyable devotional activities, so few people take up our invitations to try them. I felt happy that on my last visit to Tallahassee this spring, at least one student accepted my invitation to participate in our Ratha-yatra and thus got to taste another level of transcendental happiness.
Although I spent one day in Gainesville in April, I think I should say a few words of appreciation for Kalakantha Prabhu and the devotees there. Gainesville is my official home, and I stayed there about two months this cold season. Just since December at least five new devotees have begun chanting japa and regularly attending programs, and it is just so very inspiring to see. Almost everyone has a really great service attitude, and there is a lot of attraction to kirtana. One day the last week I was there 28 devotees came to their mangala-arati [morning service], and another day I counted 15 devotees at the evening chanting. I remember, perhaps eight years ago, when only two or three attended the morning program, and I could not convince anyone to chant with me in the evening. I want to thank Kalakantha Prabhu, his wife, Mother Jitamrita, the director of the lunch program, Hanan, and the director of the academic program, Mother Ali Krishna, and the many assisting devotees, for all the work they have done to maintain and expand the program in recent years. As last year, several devotees from the Krishna House program took initiation this April. It is so inspiring to see Krishna consciousness expanding in America. Keep up the good work.
New York HarinamasAlmost every day we did three hours of harinama in New York City. For a period of three consecutive days we had six devotees chanting each day. One of those days was extra special. One devotee said it reminded him of his days as a brahmacari [celibate monk doing fulltime service]. One lady said it was the best sound she had heard in a while. She gave a $5 donation and then another $5 when I gave her a Gita. She works as a DJ and wanted to get some of our music to play. One man who was listening for some time said that he regularly came to our restaurant on 55th Street back in 1980, and mentioned he had not seen us around recently. Many people stopped and took pictures.
Bhakta Dan Bellen is one of the most enthusiastic devotees I know as far as harinama is concerned. He is almost always ready to go out. I found out that he returned to New York from Vrindavana, after five months in Aindra Prabhu’s 24-hour kirtana party, on the very same day I returned to New York from wintering in Florida and Arizona. I suggested we do a harinama at 7:30 p.m., a good two and a half hours afterward his flight arrived, to give him time to take prasadam and have a nap, but he was delayed and arrived from the airport at 7:30 p.m. He was so enthusiastic about harinama that he went out with me and a couple others on harinama for an hour and a half, after a 16-hour flight spanning ten and a half time zones, without having a bite to eat or a nap. That really blew my mind! It is rare to see such dedication to harinama!
I noticed that there is a possibility that if we do harinama leaving the Bhakti Center after their Sunday feast program, there is a chance of getting their congregational members, who do not often have opportunities to do harinama, to come join us. The first week we had sixteen devotees and then the second week, ten devotees, on that Sunday afternoon harinama program, and I am hoping they can maintain it in my absence.
Visiting Satsvarupa Das Goswami
During my two-day stay I found Satsvarupa Das Goswami to be in much stronger health than after his December bout with pneumonia, but not quite as strong as before that. He used to walk three laps around the neighbor’s backyard and now just does two and is quite tired afterwards.
He is very excited about his present writing project, an autobiography. He told me he took inspiration from Mark Twain’s biography, which had just recently come out, since his will stipulated it be published one hundred years after his death. Mark Twain had difficulty with the standard cradle to grave telling of one’s life and had thus developed another strategy: write what you feel inspired to say about your life, and when that inspiration wanes, write about something else, and beyond that, also include some material from the present, interspersed throughout the whole work. Thus Satsvarupa Maharaja is writing his autobiography a little each day, in the way Mark Twain suggested.
Narayana Kavaca Prabhu, who is on the sannyasa list, feels I should also be on the sannyasa list, since my lifestyle resembles that of a sannyasi to a certain extent, and thus he asked Satsvarupa Das Goswami what he thought about that. He said that he thought it was a good idea. I am planning to write a couple of my siksa gurus about that, but I have procrastinated doing that so far. In at least a couple ways, I do not think I am mature enough to be a sannyasi. And not even considering those ways, I am sure sannyasa would be a mixed blessing, like everything else in the material world. Bhakti Rasamrita Swami made the point at the European brahmacari conference that sannyasa is more something that is conferred upon one and not sought after. Srila Prabhupada’s example was not to rush into sannyasa [although he was supremely qualified], even when his guru appeared several times in dreams. Narayana Kavaca Prabhu kindly also made sure had appropriate luggage for traveling and a camera, as my previous one died.
When I visit Satsvarupa Das Goswami, his servant Baladeva Prabhu cooks, and I do the dishes, which suits both of us just fine. I also get to serve Maharaja his meals and read to him while he eats, and go on with him on his walks.
My Sister Karen’s Fiftieth Birthday Party
I decided to make whatever my sister liked for her fiftieth birthday, and she chose kofta balls, eggplant and broccoli pakoras, and mango lassi. When I cook I always play the Badahari CDs which I gave her because she likes mellow music. I also included in the meal some spinach and panir [fresh cheese] which I know she likes and which I engaged Baladeva Prabhu, my guru’s cook, in making. Cooking at my relatives is always a test of my patience. You have to worry about cats jumping on the table and snuggling against your leg, and you always have to warn your helpers not to taste anything before it is offered, even though after twenty-nine years you think they should know by now. Karen, a mental health counselor, had clients the whole day and did not return till almost 8:30 p.m. She was happy dinner was ready on time, perhaps the first time ever. I suggested that if dinnertime was always 8:30 p.m. then dinner would probably be on time more often. People liked everything, but Baladeva Prabhu’s spinach dish was clearly superior. I am just not so expert in spicing everything that it comes out first-class. Sweets are the only thing I am good at.
My family appreciated my meal and my coming home, and I always appreciate sharing prasadam, one of Srila Prabhupada’s most accessible gifts to humanity.
Insights from Lectures
Second birth is from the spiritual master who is the father and the Vedic knowledge who is the mother.
Brahmanas do not charge anything for teaching, but they can accept charity. Similarly we do not charge anything. Students would beg door-to-door and give the result to the guru.
If one does not understand Krishna, one’s education is useless.
Scientists are all sudras, and therefore they accept one teaching for sometime, and then they realize it is useless, discard it, and accept something else.
Everything is there in Bhagavad-gita. We just have to accept it as it is, and then this world will become like Vaikuntha, the spiritual world.
Without cow’s milk there is no civilization. You will not have the thinking capacity for having higher knowledge. Just a pound [two cups] or even half a pound [one cup] of milk is sufficient.
Now they are interested in dog protection. They are willing to spend millions of dollars for dog protection, but they have no interest in cow protection.
Lord Caitanya wanted everyone to become guru—a real guru, not a false guru. We require many millions of gurus to enlighten the masses of people. There is no need for education. We just repeat what Krishna has said. The instruction is already there. We just have to speak it.
Radhanatha Swami [from a recorded lecture to ashram brahmacaris]:
Srila Prabhupada would always tell us that no external force can stop the sankirtana movement. But when there is disunity among the devotees within the movement, that is the greatest disturbance and the only impediment. The most important thing is to strive for purification by following the four rules and chanting Hare Krishna daily. Without this, even if we are very nice to each other, there will be no spiritual potency. We must follow Lord Caitanya’s teachings, headed by humility and tolerence. If one has these qualities, then will there be arguments over selfish details, which are 99% of all arguments? In this age of Kali, there is quarrel over the most trifling occurrence. Lord Caitanya, as the avatar for the age, has come to bring unity, purity, and love in place of quarrel and hypocrisy. To the degree that we want respect, we will become quarrelsome. And we will create enmity with others. The two greatest enemies are (1) not following the principles and chanting and (2) demanding respect. We should know each day maya will send us reasons to be proud and reasons to disrespect others. We must be ready to fight this. We should understand our spiritual relationships are much, much deeper than any superficial disagreements and thus we should not take such disagreements very seriously. If someone is treating us unfairly, we should consider it the mercy of God, and respond with love and respect. Thus Krishnadasa Kaviraja says we should wear this verse about humility and tolerance around our necks, strung by the thread of the holy name, and if we do that, the influence of the material energy can never overcome us, because the holy name brings us to the transcendental plane. The string keeps the necklace with you, and thus it is most important. Generally most quarrels are based on misunderstanding. The advanced devotee knows this verse is the key to our success in chanting the holy name. If no one disrespected us we would not have the opportunity to practice humility. If no one causes us affliction, we would not have the opportunity to practice tolerance. Thus we should be grateful for such opportunities to practice Lord Caitanya’s most sacred instruction. When we come together to chant the glories of the Lord, we forget all our insignificant differences. The unity in the kirtana exposes our disunities as insignificant. Maya can thus make us more strong and empowered if we take shelter of this instruction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Do you understand how sacred our relationships are? We should not allow other things to separate us. Our serving our guru together and chanting together are so important they render all else as insignificant.
If we neglect to practice this instruction, we do not only cheat ourselves of our own purification, but we cheat humanity of the opportunity to encounter the real spirituality that their lives require and which there are missing.
We must address each other as Prabhu and not use nicknames to minimize each other.
Living in an ashram is difficult because you always have to remember that you are the servant of the servant. If you are living alone, you can have any state of consciousness you want, but not if you live in an ashram. Thus for those who take is seriously, it is a great boon to live in the ashram.
The programs are not ours. We are just assisting with them. Even if we are the leader, we are just assisting by playing the role of the leader.
If people offer us respect, we should see that because I am serving my spiritual master, I getting respect. I am just collecting respect on his behalf.
When go out the people may respect us as God’s respresentative, but when return to the ashram we are just another brahmacari. We clean the floor and toilet like everyone else, and sit on the floor like everyone else. This is good for us. Through this practice of humility and tolerance, we become empowered to preach.
Comments by Dauji Prabhu:
Radhanatha Swami always makes that point that when people see that we are united, then they will be inspired to change their lives.
The real challenge is to tolerate being falsely accused.
Comment by Vasudeva Prabhu:
When we quarrel, we become implicated in hypocrisy, because we are teaching people how to live a godly life, but not acting that way.
Bhakta who wished to remain anonymous:
Tolerating does not mean keeping something bottled up, but to talk about the problem with someone so you can get past it.
Radha Vallabha Prabhu:
I never heard a satisfying explanation of Sita’s banishment to the forest at the end of Ramayama until I heard one given by Bhakti Tirtha Swami toward the end of his life. Bhakti Tirtha Swami explained that Lord Ramacandra was so intent on teaching ideal leadership that he was willing to give up that which was most to him [Sita] to show how the leader being willing to sacrifice everything to benefit the citizens, even the most lowly among them [who had criticized Rama for accepting Sita back after she stayed with Ravana].
After we have a revelation of our own insignificance that inspires us in devotional service, our false ego does everything to make us forget it.
Lord Ramacandra is very much concerned about establishing dharma but Krishna appears not to be so much so, because he was showing the extent of His pastimes as the independent Supreme Lord.
I remember a kirtana in 1997 with Lokanatha Swami that was so wonderful we all left as changed people.
There was another kirtana with Sacinandana Swami in Boston that was so intoxicating that Maharaja had to take a break in the middle during which he appeared like an inebriated man. Although I was a visitor and did not know anyone in the temple I felt I connected with people in a deeper way than I do with 90% of people.
War arises from the polluted consciousness of individuals, and therefore purifying our own consciousness will help us reduce war, and the purer our own consciousness, the more we can help others.
If we could actually see how we suffered in our many previous lives, then we would take the path of liberation more seriously.
The alternative to taking direction from the spiritual master, the saints, and the scriptures, is to rely on our own minds, which have shown themselves to be fallible in the past, and are thus a bad bet.
Preaching means giving people the opportunity encounter Krishna’s instructions. Krishna gives people this opportunity through His devotees.
The whole plan of the Lord is that He wants to engage in loving relationships with the individual souls.
Gaura Govinda Maharaja asked his listeners why they came there to hear about Krishna while others did not. Many devotees proposed different answers, and then Maharaja explained the answer, simplicity. A simple person can understand he does not know the truth, and when someone speaks the truth, therefore, he is willing to hear. Maharaja was asked the source of that simplicity, and he explained it is a natural quality of the soul. The opposite of that simplicity is not complexity but duplicity.
“But for one who takes pleasure in the self, whose human life is one of self-realization, and who is satisfied in the self only, fully satiated — for him there is no duty.” (Bg. 3.17) This is the qualification for one who is able to perform jnana-yoga. The difficulty is that many people in the beginning of spiritual life think they are on this platform when in reality they are not.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains that one who is not advanced and who takes to this process has renunciation like that of a monkey. The monkey eats very simply, has no residence, wears no clothes and so appears to be very renounced but at the same time has relationships with many female monkeys.
Karma-yoga is better than jnana-yoga because we are accustomed to performing so many activities before coming to spiritual life it is difficult to stop this all of a sudden.
According to Baladeva Vidyabhusana, the karma-yoga in Chapter 5 of Bhagavad-gita is niskama-karma-yoga [without selfish desires].
The foundation of Krishna consciousness is to understand that we are the servant of the servant of the Lord. If we do not understand this, then even though we may appear to be a great leader, we will come crashing down, and the sound will be heard all over the world. Then we will not stay around the devotees anymore because we will be too embarrassed.
The great souls, Bhaktisiddhana Sarasvati Thakura and Srila Prabhupada, although playing the role of gurus, saw themselves as serving their disciples by giving them knowledge.
In material life we try to control others more and more, and in spiritual life we try to serve others more and more.
If you love everyone, they will love you, but unless you can see everyone’s relationship with Krishna, you cannot love everyone.
Why do we think that we are the doer? Because we are thinking we are the body.
Our ignorance is so deep rooted that although we hear repeatedly that we are not the body, we still foolishly identify with the body. We must practice yoga the whole life to be successful.
Karma-yoga means you do activities that you like to do, but because of developing transcendental knowledge, you give the results to Krishna.
When I was teaching mathematics, I would come to the temple and give regular donations, and I felt so purified and relieved when I did so.
When we are doing service for our own personal enjoyment we will not enjoy such peace of mind as we do when we do services for Krishna.
Our time is a precious thing which we cannot get back. Therefore we should not work hard for material gain at the expense of our spiritual life.
You have been spending hours working on a garden, carefully tending to all the plants, but one elephant can destroy all your work in a moment. In the same way, an offense to a great soul, one who has taken shelter of Krishna, can destroy all the benefit of many hours, days, or even years of spiritual practice.
If we do a spiritual activity, and we do not feel the benefit of it, then we are doing it mechanically.
If you have a child, you will have to spend 24 hours a day just to serve the child.
In the Ramanuja sampradaya the married men would spend the week in the temple and the weekend with their wives and children. One man skipped going home on the weekend. The mother-in-law complained to Ramanujacarya, so Ramanujacarya told the man to do his duty and spend the weekend at home. When he went home, he chanted the whole day and even at night when he was laying down with his wife. He was unable to engage in the act of procreation. His mother-in-law again complained to Ramanujacarya. Ramanujacarya inquired from the man who explained that he felt uncomfortable engaging in the act of procreation because he felt the Supreme Lord Narayana was present. Hearing this, Ramanujacarya told the man it was time for him to enter the next ashram, vanaprastha, retirement from household life.
Do your work but in a spirit of devotion, is the message of Bhagavad-gita.
You may appear to be doing really well externally, and then all of a sudden you go away. Nobody sees you anymore. This is because something else was going on in your mind other than just devotional service. Therefore, it most important to be honest with yourself, and it is not so important what other people think of you.
“I want to do every to elevate all the people around me”: This is the mentality of one who has grasped the understanding that he is a servant of the servant of the Lord.
Hari Prasada Prabhu:
It is the trickery and the humility of Lord Caitanya that He presented Himself as a jiva soul [like us] and protested being called God Himself.
When Lord Caitanya was praised for His tears of ecstasy, He claimed it was just imitation. If He really had love for Krishna, how could He live apart from Him in this material world?
We get a glimpse of selfless love in this world, but it is temporary whereas love for God is eternal.
If we really absorb ourselves in devotional service, then at the very least, we will learn a lot about ourselves.
If you are running from your problems, you may be running, but you are carrying a heavy burden.
Even if people go away, they cannot escape the fact they have experienced something beyond the ordinary, and Krishna likes to remind them of that.
Q: Can you explain hope against hope?
A: The mountain I am trying to climb is insurmountable, but I am completely confident that Krishna is making arrangements for my success, and therefore I will be successful.
I always knew there was a God, and when I became burned out on material life, I naturally began to search for God.
I was talking to someone yesterday whose house burned down. He was sitting on the steps wondering what to do. We are so fortunate, if something happened to our ashram, God forbid, we have many centers in this world we could move to.
If you feel bummed out, you can always come and see the deities, and you can pray to them and get inspiration.
You can clean the temple, listen to a lecture, and see the deities, and you become calm and peaceful.
When I first tasted prasadam I was stunned. Whenever I came to the temple, I thought about the taste of the prasadam.
If I have a question, I find I hear a lecture or read a passage that answers it.
Q: You can say if you are bummed out you can see the deities, but someone else get a beer or a shot of heroin. What do you say to that?
A: From those things there is only a temporary happiness.
Comment by Adi Purusa Prabhu: In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is a story that a goat herd boy prayed to God, “I would like to fix Your broken shoes and remove the lice from Your hair.” Moses reprimanded him, “God does not have broken shoes and lice in His hair.” The Lord then corrected Moses, saying He was pleased by the boy’s desire to serve Him.
yathā taror mūla-niṣecanena
prāṇopahārāc ca yathendriyāṇāḿ
tathaiva sarvārhaṇam acyutejyā
“By giving water to the root of a tree one satisfies its branches, twigs and leaves, and by supplying food to the stomach one satisfies all the senses of the body. Similarly, by engaging in the transcendental service of the Supreme Lord one automatically satisfies all the demigods and all other living entities.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.31.14)