Saturday, June 04, 2011

Travel Journal#7.10: London and Birmingham Kirtana

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 7, No. 10
By Krishna-kripa das
(May 2011, part two)
London, Birmingham
(Sent from Belfast on June 3, 2011)

Where I Went and What I Did

After the Nrsimha festival at Simhachalam, I flew to London, where I did harinama and many lectures for just over a week. Almost the entire brahmacari ashram was attending the weekend Nrsimha festival and Sivarama Swami Vyasa Puja ceremony at the New Vraja farm in Hungary, so Kasinatha Prabhu, the temple commander, invited me to London to help out in their absence. Although so many regulars were absent, we still had between three and six people on harinama every day on Oxford Street. On Saturday, I attended the Weekend Warriors, a book distribution and harinama program, at Lewisham, a London suburb they had not visited for some time. A good number of people were attracted to hear, take invitations, and visit our book table. I also taught a bhakti-sastri course for three hours on Sunday. It was the first time I recall doing a three hour lecture, but it covered two verses and there were plenty of notes to discuss, so it went smoothly. I did the Sunday feast lecture also, and then three hours of questions after that, so I definitely felt fully engaged in London. In fact, Thursday, the day after I arrived, I gave three lectures and went on two harinamas!

As last year, I attended the Birmingham twenty-four-hour kirtana, regularly attended by Sacinandana Swami and Madhava Prabhu, and this year also with Bhakti Visrambha Madhava Swami and Kadamda Kanana Swami. I describe that briefly and then share some great notes from senior devotees about the chanting of the holy name.

In the “Insights from Lectures” I include notes from Srila Prabhupada’s lectures, some by Kadamba Kanana Swami from the Friday program at Kings Cross, some  from Vaiyasaki Prabhu, and the rest from the local London devotees. 


Belfast: June 4–June 12
London: June 12
Travel with Janananda Swami in UK: June 14
Crawley Ratha-yatra: June 19
Stonehenge solstice festival: June 21
Empowerment and the Sacred conference, Leeds: June 24–26
Leeds: June 28
Sheffield: June 29
Preston: June 30
Manchester: June 1
Newcastle: July 2
Scandinavian Ratha-yatras: July 8–16
Prague Ratha-yatra?: July 17
Croatian Harinama Tour: July 18–31
Poland Woodstock: August 1–6
Berlin: August 7–10
Polish tour: August 11–17
Trutnov Open Air Festival (Czech Woodstock): August 18–21
Leipzig, Czech or Slovakia: August 22–23 (Janmastami, Vyasa Puja)
Kirtana-mela, Leipzig: August 29–September 4
Lvov, Ukraine: September 6
Kharkov, Ukraine: September 7–beginning of Ukraine Festival
Ukraine Festival: September 9
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

Weekend Warriors

Almost every weekend London devotees go with books, invitations, and a harinama to some nearby region outside central London. The program is called Weekend Warriors, and Sacin, one of the leaders, remembering my participation last year, invited to come out when I came through London for just one day in April, but I could not make it till May. This time the devotees were going to a place they do not usually go. It is always nice to make arrangements for new people to come in touch with Krishna consciousness. It was a young party, except for me, and Sacin was the main mrdanga player and I was the harmonium player.

We chanted from the temple to the train station, and from the train station to Lewisham market.

There we set up a book table and chanted for two hours, and curious visitors came by, until the authorities said we could not have a table or sing in one place, despite our getting permission previously.

So we did harinama a few times around the market.

Then we did harinama to the train station.

There we posed for a group photo.

Once we got to London, we chanted from the train station to the temple. So altogether we must have chanted about five hours that day! 

Thanks to Mother Ambika, in the purple sari, and her assisting photographers, for the photos.

Harinama on Oxford Street

I was chatting with someone on who had seen devotees chanting on Oxford Street, and he decided to send me a link to a YouTube video someone had posted of such a chanting party. As it turned out, to both my surprise and his, I was the person playing harmonium in the video:

This year several young people from Paris joyously danced on Oxford Street harinama, encouraged by Krishna Vidhi Prabhu, for at least ten minutes. Just to celebrate my final harinama in London this visit, I was singing my favorite harinama tune, although it is tricky to sing and I do not play it well on the harmonium. The dancers were happy to receive from me an invitation to our temple in Paris. I started recording the video myself, but as I was playing the harmonium, I gave the camera to another devotee, which explains its serious discontinuity:

The Twelfth Annual Birmingham Twenty-four Hour Kirtana

After briefly describing my experience at the event, I share realizations by great souls such as Sacinandana Swami, Bhakti Visrambha Madhava Swami, Kadamba Kanana Swami, Padmanabha Goswami, and Aindra Prabhu.

I liked this event so much last year, I decided to time my UK visit to include it. Thirty-one devotees got the chance to lead kirtana in the twenty-eight and a half hour period the kirtana went on. Bhakti Visrambha Madhava Swami asked when I was going to lead, and I said because I was not good enough a singer, I just lead on harinamas. Turns out the next day someone asked where my friend Gopal Hari Prabhu was, and I recalled that he was on the schedule to sing. I described him to the devotee scheduler and added that I would be glad to sing if he did not show up, and so I became the next singer. Before I began I saw the wife of one of Germany’s best bhajana leaders, Gopati Prabhu, and I told her that I got a half hour slot to sing and if she and her husband wanted they could have the last fifteen minutes. She agreed, and I sang the first Hare Krishna tune I ever learned, one from Lokanath Swami’s Eternal Bliss album for 15 minutes. Then Gopati Prabhu sang, playing harmonium, while his wife played drum. It was their first visit to the event, and they were so happy to be able to sing for the devotees. Amala took over, expertly getting another harmonium and continuing the same tune that the German couple began. Later Gopati praised him for the perfect transition, mentioning that he taught bhajana and would instruct his students to do transitions in that way. Both Gopati Prabhu and myself never expected to lead kirtana at the event, and Krishna kindly fulfilled both our desires, and Gopati was grateful for me making the arrangement to facilitate him, a rare selfless move on my part. He is so much a better singer than me, I figured he should have a chance, but I was too attached to also singing to give him my whole half hour.

Because the twenty-four hour kirtana began on Ekadasi, I decided to stay up all night chanting to observe it, to the end of mangala-arati, and then take rest for up to three hours, and then continue chanting. I was still too tired, however, and I also ended up taking a nap for half an hour at 2:30 p.m.

The event is held in the community room of a local Balaji temple, but the beautiful ISKCON Birmingham temple deities, Their Lordships Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra, along with Srila Prabhupada, and Gaura Nitai blessed the stage with their transcendental presence.

A lot of great souls chanted wholeheartedly, and it was wonderful. The only drawbacks were the room was sometimes too packed for me to dance, a painful situation, and sometimes the prasadam line went too slowly. Otherwise it was a great event, and I plan to return next year.

Read the great realizations on chanting below:

Sacinandana Swami:

We struggle for sixty or seventy years and then we are extinguished. There is just a coffin at the end. But those who use their days and nights to chant the holy name of the Lord will not be inconvenienced. This is best achieved by chanting with many others. Krishna tells Narada this, “yatra gayanti mad-bhakta, tatra tishtami narada” [I am where My devotees are chanting about Me]. When we chant together for 24-hours we can offer a group petition to the Lord.

The 24-hour kirtana is an opportunity to remember our relationship with Krishna, being His parts, so bring your hearts to the kirtana.

My secretary Sadanandi asked, “If I die before you, will you write a poem about me and share it with others?” So I agreed. I wrote a poem called “Don’t Cry.” [Sacinandana Swami just quoted one stanza of the poem, but I found it on his web site,, and used a couple translation programs to translate it to English.]

Don’t Cry [Weine Nicht]
By Sacinandana Swami

If you see me on the day of my death
lie with a pale face in a cold coffin,
do not cry.

Do you weep when the shell of an oyster is broken
and the pearl rolls in freedom?

Are you crying when the battle is finally over
and the butterfly leaves the dead cocoon?

This is just one of the evenings in my life.
The sun has set in the west
but somewhere she goes again
and announces the dawn of a new birth.

Maybe I’m even in
the divine dance
on the sandy banks of the Yamuna
in the immortal world.

Bhakti Visrambha Madhava Swami:

Advice for all-night chanting: Don’t stop moving. Don’t stop chanting. Don’t sit down.

The King of Puri used lead one all-night program. The Puri kept a lamp on his head. If you fall asleep, the lamp falls on your lap, and then your wife yells at you, and so you are highly motivated to stay awake!

If you have lectures, end them by 10:30 p.m. Then have kirtana and have the expertise of the performers increase as the night wears on. Count the people you have at 1:00 a.m. for they will stick with you until the end. Leave with the Name on your lips.

Keep on moving and keep on dancing with your friends. Get an experience you can take with you to improve your life.

Aindra Prabhu [from a video]:

When the spark comes close to the fire, the spark glows brighter. The fire is glorified by having many sparks around it.

Sankirtana is dancing in the vicinity of Radha’s love flame.

We become enlightened by association in sankirtana.

What do we get if we do not chant suddha-nama? We do not get bhakti. We just get freedom from material existence which useful, but not much.

Nama descends and Nama dances, making it look like the devotee is chanting.

We should cry for Krishna’s mercy. We can start this crying at any stage. It does not take much intelligence, just enough intelligence to recognize that you are fallen, and thus you should take shelter of the yuga-dharma established by Lord Caitanya. The maha-mantra is the principle mantra for the age of Kali. The other mantras given by the Goswamis can be seen expansions of this principle mantra.

We learn that we are meant to satisfy guru and Krishna from the very beginning. In our chanting of sankirtana, we must remember that we are instruments in the hands of the processor acaryas [spiritual teachers]. Our purpose is to augment bhakti in our hearts and the hearts of others. There should be no other purpose.

Padmanabha Goswami:

Last year I saw this via Internet from Delhi, and my father was here at this event. Now he is in Goloka, from where he is watching us from, and I am here.

Many liquids are there, but they cannot be mixed with everything like water can mix with everything. The maha-mantra is like that, it can go with everyone and everything.

Krishna was asked, “When You were respectfully having your feet massaged while you comfortably resting on Ananta Sesa, how is it You came to Vrndavana? There they call you ‘cowherd boy’ or ‘thief!’ There You are forced to beg butter door-to-door. You have to deal with cow dung. What is it that the gopis have that attracts you?”
Krishna replied, “They are always chanting my holy name. They have such love for my holy name that I am attracted!

Kadamba Kanana Swami:

Goloka prema-dhana harinama-sankirtana. Everything in Vrndavana is meant to please Krishna. This Vrndavana is coming in the holy name. Unfortunately, we are subjected to the stream of our endless, useless thoughts so we cannot experience Vrndavana.

As a result of this twenty-four-hour kirtana, we have been permanently transformed by the holy name. This is meant to bring us to the point of realizing that this chanting is so nice, why do we do anything else?

Amazing Outreach Opportunity:

The National Trust, a UK Charity, a 99% white middle class group, has renovated the former devotee property at Croome Court, once know as Caitanya College, and is willing to use the facility for a three-day yearly Hare Krishna festival, this year August 27–29, which they will pay for and advertise to their 250,000 member mailing list. We hope the festival will bring the devotees and the general public together. If you can help, let us know.


Sacinandana Swami invites us to experience five days of twelve hours kirtana, August 29 to September 4, near Leipzig, Germany. Each singer will share five minutes of realizations before singing about how to do kirtana in the best way and more inspiring way. See for more details.

Insight from Lectures

Srila Prabhupada:

Lecture on SB 1.10.5, Mayapur, June 20, 1974:

In the Bible, it is said the animals are given under the control of human beings, man. Is it not? They have taken it. And because the animals are given under the control of man, therefore man should open slaughterhouse and eat them? Suppose if somebody gives his son, “Sir, will you take my son? Keep him under your control.” Does it mean I shall eat him? These rascals interpret in that way. Because the animals are given under the control of man, therefore there should be slaughterhouse, the animals will be killed, and they will eat. This is their interpretation of the Bible, is it not?

Lecture on SB 6.1.15:

If we hold on to our animal propensities, we will remain like animal.

If one does not take advantage of a university education, he remains a fool. So it is with spiritual education.

Human life is for going back to Godhead.

The most intelligent seek that which is not obtainable in this material world by going back to Godhead and having a relationship with Krishna.

Learn Bhagavad-gita very carefully, everything is there.

A sputnik is not required. By worshiping the demigods, one can attain their planets. (Bg. 9.25)

Death is an artificial imposition on me because of my desire for sense enjoyment.

The bhakti is for the first class. Not all can accept it.

Kevalya means without any motive,

So many empires are finished, so also your estate. Take advantage and use it for Krishna. If you can sacrifice for Krishna, that is good,

Rupa and Sanatana could understand their ministerial posts were insignificant, and thus joined Lord Caitanya. Why? They were compassionate. Their business and ours is to spread this sankirtana movement for the benefit of these rascals who are working hard day and night, not knowing the aim of life.

By living simply and dressing simply you are following in the footsteps of the Six Goswamis.

In India they are imitating American technology and giving up their own culture.

Don’t adopt artificially a life of renunciation. That will not stay. The Goswamis were not artificial because they were absorbed in the mood of the gopis. Lord Caitanya said there is no more wonderful way of worshiping Krishna than that conceived by the gopis.

As a sannyasi one should be very strict.

In the Vaikuntha, the women are very attractive, but the devotees are so much absorbed in glorifying the Lord, there is not sex attraction. If you have higher taste, you can give up the lower taste. The devotees there have the potency for sex life, but they are not interested.

Kadamba Kanana Swami [at a Friday night program at Kings Cross]:

Krishna is unlimitedly kind in that he is making many arrangements to have a transcendental exchange with each living being. He is always making such arrangements. It difficult to wholeheartedly surrender because of the deep tendency to act independently. Time is very short.

Something went wrong in the last life, and we blew it, so we are here. What was the quality the blocked us? If we look within, we can see.

To carry the weight of austerity for a long time is difficult. Thus we must get a higher taste.

Duty is a word I was allergic to before becoming a devotee. Thus I would argue the Krishna consciousness is su-sukham-kartum avyayam, joyfully performed. The problem is we are absorbed in looking for the taste from things other than Krishna has given us.

Transcendental knowledge shows us a way out. All my life I was forced to do things I that I never chose, and there was no way out. But Krishna consciousness is actually the way out. Previously I thought that the problem was other people and how they arranged society, but by the association of devotees, we understand that is the nature of the material world to be problematic. The meager enjoyment of the material world can never fulfill us. We see it doesn’t work.

Faith in Krishna becomes strong when we give up faith in the material world. We may be attached from past experience, but we should not have faith that material enjoyment will make us happy. The problem is one may still have an undying hope that material pleasure may be possible.

We need mercy. How else can we hope to follow? Krishna is merciful. And Lord Caitanya is even more merciful. Beyond even that is Srila Prabhupada’s mercy.

Hari Bhakti Vilasa says that if you eat anything on Ekadasi, you become a hog in your next life.

Sometimes devotees performed more austerities than Srila Prabhupada recommended, but they did not impress him as much as those who increased their arrangements to share spiritual knowledge with others.

To stop being so self-centered and to care more for others is what spiritual life is all about.

It is like in the beginning of spiritual life we are given a little cup to gather nectar. But when we begin to give out nectar to others, our cup grows and we find that we can both enjoy more nectar and give more nectar out.

Because of his great service, Srila Prabhupada has endeared himself so much to Krishna that if he desires our welfare then Krishna must fulfill his desire. This gives us hope.

If we use the holy name from material purposes, we will not get the taste from spiritual life, then we will not be able to avoid sinful activities, and then we will come up with some philosophical justification for our sense enjoyment, and then we will become sahajiyas.

Because we have not collected so much mercy, we cannot give out very much.

The real fun is in the giving.

It is good to love all the living beings. With love them by giving them Krishna.

Vaiyasaki Prabhu:

From a personal conversation:

Devotional service cannot be done mechanically. We have to have a sense of what Krishna wants us to do at each moment, otherwise it is all theoretical.

In 1992, I decided I had to go on to the next level in my devotional service. I prayed to Krishna, “From now on I do not want to make my own arrangements, I just want to surrender to you and act according to your will.” After that I saw my devotional opportunities expand in many ways. At one point, because it is difficult to know Krishna’s will, I prayed to Krishna that if a devotee asked me to do something, I would take that as His will. In this way, I have been traveling around the world and chanting at different places for six years. If devotees invited me, but could not fund my travel, I explained that I could not afford to stop preaching to make money to pay for travel. Whatever places the devotees want us to go we go. We have a place in Vrndavana, if ever we run out of engagements, but we have not had the chance to stay there yet.

From Bhagavatam class:

The great saints see both the spiritual and material and deliver knowledge of the spiritual to human society, but most of humanity rejects this simply because they cannot perceive it with their senses.

The more love we offer to Krishna the more He raises us up and puts us in a superior position.

Service for others perfects our life.

When you take a biology or chemistry class, you divide up into groups and perform the experiment. Perhaps one group gets it right the first time. And one group usually never gets it right.

It takes the same amount of time and energy to do devotional service wrong as it does to do it to do it right, but you do not get the good result if you do it wrong.

Srila Prabhupada said in Los Angeles in 1975, “Don’t be Krishna unconscious. First become conscious. Then become Krishna conscious.”

When you chant japa, do you ever get to the end of round and not remember how you got there? You then have a choice. Count it as one round chanted or chant it again. What you should do is chant it again.

The process of devotional service is transcendental, but we are not always in a transcendental position when we do it.

The purpose of bhakti-yoga is to attract the attention of Krishna. The descending path is I put myself in such an attractive position of devotion and service that I attract the attention of Krishna. This is the feminine approach. The ascending path is a masculine approach. Because we are prakrti, the feminine approach is more appropriate.

Would Krishna be attracted by our knowledge, our prowess, or our beauty? Of course not. We have no other recourse than to please Him by our devotion.

We do not only have to attract Krishna, but we have to attract the gopis to assist us in attaining Him.

The practice of bhakti-yoga is experiential.

Only we know what we are doing wrong. Therefore we must become introspective. Everyone is different. Everyone has to come up with his own program for controlling the mind.

Q: What does it mean to chant with humility?
A: I chant to please guru and Krishna, and to become empowered to help others spiritually.

When you met people, they look at you, they hear what you have to say, they see your body language, and they think, “Do I really want to become like this person?”

Before you begin a round, make a prayer to Krishna, saying that you want to offer him an offenseless mantra. And then just chant the first mantra of the round attentively. Then at least you will have 16 attentive mantras each day. Then after a week, try chanting the first two, and then you will have 32 attentive mantras. Increase one more each week.

After you finish sixteen rounds, instead of just throwing down the beads for the day and going on with the rest of your life, apologize to Krishna for not being able to chant as many as sixty-four rounds, but tell Him you will try to serve Him throughout the day, and you hope He will accept it.

If you mind becomes a devotee, won’t your path back to Godhead be a lot easier?

Doing puja (worship) with the mind (known as manasa puja) is more powerful than just doing puja with your body. Moreover if you do this manasa puja your whole life, then at the end, when your body becomes dysfunctional, you can easily continue doing puja in your mind.

From a talk at Mind Body Spirit, London 2011:

Yoga is not meant to be practiced merely for one’s own benefit, but ultimately it is to benefit others.

To sing from the heart in glorification of God is kirtana.

God has given us so many things, but we have never said, “Thank you.” Kirtana is a way of saying, “Thank you” to God for all the gifts He has given us.

[Vaiyasaki Prabhu had some nice conversations with appreciative people after a half hour of chanting there at the Mind Body Spirit event, with some people buying books.]
Bhagavatananda Prabhu:

People are hungry for this knowledge. Only their bad habits are impediments. But if the knowledge is explained nicely, they are attracted.

Rama Charan Prabhu:

We may be very busy for doing so many things but lazy about hearing and chanting about Krishna. Do not just be busy, but be conscious of what you are doing and how you can serve Krishna in this situation.

Gandaki Prabhu:

The goal of the devotee is to be a fit instrument for the Lord’s service. We have to tune in to the Lord’s will.

Srila Prabhupada warned his followers not to hear about Krishna from people who were not devotees. He was very strict about this.

The closer we are to the fire of Krishna consciousness, the sooner we attain success.

Two frogs fell in a pot of milk. Both frogs were struggling to get out. One saw little hope, gave up struggling and drowned. The other continued to struggle, and from his struggling some of the milk became butter, and he was able to climb out. The moral is that we should never stop struggling, and ultimately we will attain success.

Bhutabhavana Prabhu:

The ass demon symbolizes material intelligence and ignorance of spiritual knowledge. In his previous life, he was a son of Bali Maharaja and he was enjoying with ten thousand women, and making so much of a racket, that he disturbed the meditation of Durvasa, who cursed him to become an ass who would be delivered by Balarama in 400,000 years.

According to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the demons killed by Balarama represent the anarthas that we have to remove by our own effort.

The bona fide guru transmits the energy of Balarama.

We are never the only cause of our advancement. We are dependent on the mercy of the devotees.

If you give too much respect to a neophyte devotee, he will conclude he is on the highest platform, and that will be detrimental for him.

The holy name is the sound incarnation and is Krishna Himself, and so the holy name is alive.

If people understand the philosophy of Krishna consciousness with their intelligence then they can be steady in the practice.

If you hear the knowledge, but you do not contemplate it, you will not fully understand it.

Keeping Krishna in the center means having loving Vaishnava relationships as well as discussing Krishna philosophy.

There was one devotee who said he was a brahmana and he did not want to engage sudra work, in particular, cleaning, as he was worried he would fall down from being a brahmana.

Mother Rangavati:

The cowherd boys encourage Krishna to kill Dhenukasura, which after all, is His mission anyway.

Varsana, a six or seven year old girl, told Indradyumna Swami that she had seen Lord Nrsimhadeva. He did not take it too seriously, but then her parents told him the same thing. The story was Varsana dashed across the road when her Mom called for her for lunch. A car that was going 70 miles per hour hit the girl, and she went flying. Her father ran to her aid, but he broke his leg while climbing over a garden fence. They called an ambulance and both father and daughter were taken to the hospital. The doctor had her X-rayed three times because nothing was wrong with her, and he could not believe it. As they were returning from the hospital Varsana described, “I was a rascal because I crossed the street without looking, and I got hit by this car, and as I was flying into the air there was Lord Nrsimhadeva, and He caught me and set me down. He had a golden mane and looked very fierce, but He was very gentle. Nothing happened to me, but when He was leaving hastily to return to Laksmi He accidently scratched me.” There were just a few catlike scratches on her arm.

Now Lord Caitanya is killing the demons within us with the power of the holy names, and he sent Srila Prabhupada to give us this knowledge.

In Caitanya’s time there were demons, like Chand Kazi, who stopped the chanting and broke the drum. Lord Caitanya organized a civil disobedience of the Kazi’s order. When he met the Kazi, the Kazi told him a dream of a lion who threatened to kill him if he tried again to stop the sankirtana movement.

The demons are doing service to Krishna in the sense they give Him an opportunity to show His prowess.

Realization of one bhakta:

I took the Hare Krishna challenge, agreeing to chant one round a day for a week at the request of Sundara Nitai Prabhu. Then I learned the essentials of the devotee life, ABCD (association, books, chanting, and diet), and tried to take them up.


harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha

“For spiritual progress in this Age of Kali, there is no alternative, there is no alternative, there is no alternative to the holy name, the holy name, the holy name of the Lord.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita Adi 7.76)