Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 7, No. 14
By Krishna-kripa das
(July 2011, part two)
Croatian Harinama Tour
(Sent from Govindadvipa, Northern Ireland, on August 16, 2011)
Where I Went and What I Did
The entire end of July I spent on the Croatian harinama tour organized by devotees from Karlovac, Croatia, headed by Mohan and Adbhuta Dhatri Prabhus (the temple president and his wife), and Dasaratha and Syama Rasa Prabhus. We would chant an hour and a half each morning and from one and a half to two and a half hours in the evening. Often as many as one hundred people would watch the evening chanting, some staying for the entire time. The towns were mostly tourist towns, and I was able to give out invitations to attracted people for their local temples in London, Belgium, and Holland. This was my third year on the tour, and I hope to go next year, hopefully to the southern part of Croatia or the other countries to the south. They go to eight countries altogether. I play a role on the tour as the chief male dancer. To learn more about the Karlovac devotees and their tour, check out their web page, www.avadhuta.hr, or visit their page on Facebook, “Mediterranean Meets India”.
There were not many classes on the tour to take notes on, but I include some letters that Lokanath and Sacinandana Swamis sent to the tour members on the topic of distributing the holy name.
Belfast: August 17–18
Trutnov Open Air Festival (Czech Woodstock): August 18–21
Czech Republic?: August 22–23 (Janmastami, Vyasa Puja)
Polish tour: August 24–28
Kirtana-mela, Leipzig: August 29–September 3
Katowice, Poland?: September 4
Lvov, Ukraine?: September 5
Kharkov, Ukraine?: September 6–8
Ukraine Festival: September 9–15
Boston Ratha-yatra and Prabhupada festival: September 18
New York: September 19–23?
Philadelphia Ratha-yatra: September 24–25
Albany: September 26–30?
Arizona, Nevada, Florida: October–December
Mediterranean Meets India—The Croatian Harinama Tour
About ten devotees went out twice a day on harinama, getting rained out on just one day of the twelve I spent on the tour. I invited Ali Krishna, a friend from Gainesville, to come for a few days after the Serbian Summer Camp, and she helped out by leading kirtana, playing mrdanga, dancing, and cooking lunch. Later one couple joined us in which the lady was a beautiful singer and the man was an expert photographer. We went to a different town almost every day, and I will describe the ones that were special for me in some way.
A young London man said, “I like everything, especially the dancing. I will come to your restaurant in London. I like supporting vegetarianism.” That day Ali Krishna and I were the main dancers.
Syama Rasa Prabhu sang one of my favorite Hare Krishna tunes. Four little girls danced and did gymnastics in front of our party, at one point dancing in a circle with the male dancers. Several tourists from Israel danced with the devotee ladies. A crowd of perhaps a hundred people enjoyed watching the festival. One Israeli lady told Ali Krishna, “All you people look so beautiful, I could cry!” Later, looking again at the videos of it, I felt the same way. Each night Mohan asked Ali Krishna if she was happy. Each night she said she was happy seeing so many happy people. It reminded me that a great soul is distressed to see others’ distress and is happy to see others’ happiness.
Even as we set up, a crowd of a hundred people gathered. Some stayed the whole hour and a half.
We set up in a square away from the sea and thought too few people would attend, but we had a good crowd, some people staying the entire time. The employees at the nearby restaurant facilitated us in different ways and were happy we were there. I played the harmonium and sang for the people still around while we were packing up, and people appreciated it. I used the bathroom at the restaurant at the end of the evening, and the employees were in great anxiety when the van of devotees drove off without me, not knowing that I was riding in another car. It was striking to see their concern for someone they did not even know.
After Senj, we stayed in a devotee's house overnight. He had cows, and we got fresh milk.
He also had prickly pear cactuses in his garden, and Anamsa dd from Mexico, cooked them up for breakfast in two different ways, something I had never experienced before. They were a little sour, but I liked them.
As we were bringing our equipment to set up, some people in a boat saw me and shouted, “Hare Hare!” Soon after another devotee in our party saw a sailor with a uniform sporting the name “Vrindavan” in the Indianized style of writing with the bar across the top of the letters.
It turned out he was the captain of the yacht named “Vrindavan” that was moored just next to where we set up. One of the owners of the boat is a Jew from England with a great interest in Hindu culture, and so he named his two million euro yacht, “Vrindavan”. After our performance, we all had our picture taken on the boat along with its crew members.
One Polish lady on the crew was very much attracted by the devotees happiness and process for attaining it. During our performance that night, three girls from Slovenia danced with Prema Gopi dd, and a few people in the crowd imitated my dancing from a distance.
More people danced with us at the end of the evening. I gave all those dancers prasadam.
Zadar was a new city for me and was best of all because I felt I connected with a lot of people.
Two Belgian high school girls danced with us five times in one evening with great delight. I gave them the invitations for Radhadesh and Antwerp temples.
One young lady from London came up to our table after our performance to ask Mohan a single question but ended up talking for over ten minutes. I gave her a card for our Soho Street center and told her about the lunch program, Sunday feast program, and Govinda's vegetarian restaurant. A couple overhearing our conversation remarked that they studied English at the Mayfair School on Soho Street and had many times seen the devotees chanting there as they headed to and from Oxford Street.
Two Dutch high school graduates watched us, smiling for probably an hour and moving along with the music. I waved to them as they left. Later they returned, and I gave them invitations to our Den Haag temple, the nearest to their home, and also gave them the Amsterdam card with the mantra on it. Prema Gopi dd from Slovenia invited them to dance, and although they had to go soon, they stayed and enjoyed the dancing, and their father recorded it on video.
We had a great location by the walkway by the sea, and there was a steady stream of people walking past us, many of whom stopped, at least for some time.
We took prasadam at a devotee's house one Saturday near Zadar. On the way to the house, we saw an abandoned tank and buildings with parts of the walls and roofs blown out. This was from the war with Serbia. The devotee whose house we ate at said all that was left of his house was the four walls that now comprise the temple room. He fought in the war, but escaped to Zagreb after a twenty days or so. It wakes me up to the reality of war in the material world to see and hear these things which are not a part of our experience in America.
As usual it was a pleasure to be part of a team so dedicated to sharing the Hare Krishna mantra with others as the team from Karlovac. I like the fact that Mohan encourages the people to listen carefully to the mantra to practically experience its powerful effect. Many people stay and listen for a while, freeing themselves from karma and awakening their devotion for the Lord, knowingly or unknowingly.
On the bus from Knin to Zagreb to meet up with the devotees traveling to the Polish Woodstock, I met a girl from Brooklyn who had seen the New York Ratha-yatra and festival several times and the Los Angeles Ratha-yatra once. One older lady introduced herself as a resident of Watford and asked if I had been to the Hare Krishna temple there. I told her I was just there on July 6. She told me she has been meaning to come to the Bhaktivedanta Manor Open House, and she knew of the Manor's connection with George Harrison. You never know who you will meet when you travel nor what their connection to Krishna may be.
In Zagreb I chanted in front of Avenue Mall for an hour or so, while waiting for the Woodstock bus. A few curious people looked and gave me 7.5 kunas or 1 euro in donations. I slept so poorly last year on the bus, this year I decided to lay down on the floor of the bus, and I was more successful. The ride was two hours shorter this year, just 17 hours, another relief. I was happy to see my friends again in Kostrzyn where would do the Woodstock sacrifice again, this year being my eleventh.
Insight from Lectures
Lokanath Swami [from a letter to the Croatian harinama devotees]:
I heard the statement of Bhaktivinoda Thakur saying, ‘I would accompany the devotee who goes for the first time to a new territory to chant the holy name.’ So the whole parampara is with you. You are doing this on behalf of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the previous acaryas. They are all pleased with this endeavor. They will shower flowers of mercy on you all who are making
inroads into new territories. You are conquering those lands. You are cutting a channel from Mayapur, from where the original love of Godhead has spread. You are tributing to distributing love of Godhead. All glories to all you spiritual heroes.
Sacinandana Swami [from a letter to the Croatian harinama devotees]:
It is so nice for me to hear how you have dedicated your life to spreading the holy name. Really, I’m so inspired that I even considered to leave everything and go with you on that tour.
Let us never forget that in order to become real servants of the holy name, we should work on our spiritual life in sincerity.
Please know that by chanting the holy name all anarthas will be removed. When our heart is cleansed from all this anartha dust, the form, qualities and pastimes of the Lord will automatically manifest themselves on the clear mirror of the purified heart. All this will be understood clearly when the coverings are removed from our heart. But it is important that you make special effort to avoid the offenses so that the holy name can come through purely and gives you all the perfections.
Anyone who chants the holy name will by and by, depending on the sincerity, become free from false ego, which involves the gross and subtle bodily conception of life. Once this false ego with all its byproducts is taken away, one will clearly realize one’s constitutional position or original spiritual form. It is only to such a person who is in his own spiritual form that the transcendental form of Lord Krishna becomes visible. Material eyes cannot see the Lord, only spiritual eyes which are part of the spiritual body can. It is only by the mercy of the holy name that the jiva can realize her constitutional position and then become totally attracted to the form of Krishna. So please have full faith that nama seva or serving the holy name is the essence of all of one's activities, because it provides everything that is required. By praying for the desire for serving the holy name with your body, mind and words, we become stronger and stronger and illuminate the innermost chamber of your heart.
If you have parallel lines, make a special endeavor to know Krishna better by regularily reading the pages of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, then you will certainly become more able to truly connect with Krishna and chant with what is called sambhanda—chanting with pure connection.
Maya can do only one thing—break our determination to be Krishna conscious.
Other people tried doing Croatian harinama tours, but they made the mistake of trying to do something big from the beginning. We were successful because we started small and gradually increased.
anandambudhi-vardhanam prati-padam purnamrtasvadanam
sarvatma-snapanam param vijayate sri-krishna-sankirtanam
“Glory to the Sri Krishna sankirtana, which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and extinguishes the fire of conditional life, of repeated birth and death. This sankirtana movement is the prime benediction for humanity at large because it spreads the rays of the benediction moon. It is the life of all transcendental knowledge. It increases the ocean of transcendental bliss, and it enables us to fully taste the nectar for which we are always anxious.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita Antya 20.12)