Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Travel Journal#7.15: Polish Woodstock, Berlin and Irish Harnamas

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 7, No. 15
By Krishna-kripa das
(August 2011, part one)
Polish Woodstock, Berlin, and Irish Harinamas
(Sent from Berlin on September 7, 2011)

Where I Went and What I Did

The beginning of August I went on the Polish Woodstock for the eleventh time. It gets better each year, and this year I was happy that several friends from Alachua got to come and experience it themselves. So many thousands of people have positive experiences of the chanting of Hare Krishna, dancing, and eating spiritual food that we are happy just to be part of it. The day after the Woodstock several of us did harinama for the hundreds at the train station on their way home. Next I went on to Berlin, where I did harinama for three days, and then flew to Ireland where we did harinama, both in Belfast in Northern Ireland and Cavan in the Republic of Ireland, for almost a week. While in Belfast, on the weekend of Lord Balarama's appearance, we had a twenty-four hour kirtana, the second one there this year.

I have not so many class notes again this time, as there were either no classes or classes by me, which I do not take notes on. There are some valuable contributions by Prithu Prabhu and Caitanya Candrodaya Prabhu.

Thanks to Govinda, Gaura Hari, and Gopa Kumar Prabhus from the Woodstock, Varaha Murti, Nikunja, and Krishna Caitanya Prabhus from Berlin, and Gauranga Prabhu and the senior brahmacari who does the evening deity service on Wednesdays, both from Belfast, for their kind support of my travels.



Dresden: September 8
Ukraine Festival: September 9–15
London: September 16
Boston Ratha-yatra and Prabhupada festival: September 18
New York: September 19–23?
Philadelphia Ratha-yatra: September 24–25
Albany: September 26–30
Florida: October–December

Polish Woodstock 2011

Woodstock: The Day Before

After arriving by 15-hour bus ride with the Croatian and Slovenian devotees, I took some kitchri prasadam, and chanted and danced with devotees playing guitar and singing on the school lawn. Then we did two harinamas at the site, instead of the usual one, and passed out invitations to our Krishna camp, Pokojowa Wioska Kryszny (Krishna's Village of Peace). Because we did two harinamas instead of one, we got three times as many people for prasadam on the first day! By the time the festival was over, devotees would distribute 135,000 plates in the four and a half days, a new record for the Woodstock festival.

During one harinama Indradyumna Swami greeted Polish Woodstock organizer, Jurek Owsiak.

Woodstock Day 1

Taking advantage of the fact the bands are not playing on Woodstock main stage our the first day of our festival, Indradyumna Swami organized a second Ratha-yatra in the afternoon. A couple girls liked the morning Ratha-yatra so much they came back for the afternoon one and later joined our mantra yoga kirtana tent in the evening and chanted and danced there.

A small group of people sitting 30 feet outside our kirtana tent joking imitated my dancing. Then they called me over to dance in the center of them, and they also joined in singing along with me. Madhava Prabhu was singing a nice tune at that time, and they enjoyed the chanting and dancing.

I explained to one boy that Hare Krishna was both a philosophy and a practice, and he could practice the chanting and see if he felt it was beneficial. He said with a smile that he was already chanting in our tent, and he liked it a lot. He then excused himself to go back to chanting and dancing.

Woodstock Days 2 to 4

For me Woodstock is so engaging, there is only time write about it in reflection after the fact. I told Jayatam Jaya Sila Prabhu, who along with his wife, Mother Nandini, work tirelessly to organize the festival tour for Indradyumna Swami, that I thought it was the best Woodstock ever, and he agreed. Some of my translator friends from previous years said the same. I tried to identify people who seemed to have an attachment for the chanting and tell them about temples and local gatherings in their area. I felt more successful at this than in previous years.

I met a girl from Poznan who loved to dance in our Mantra Yoga tent, but I found my list of Krishna gatherings in Poland did not include one in that city. The next morning I missed our bus from the school to the field for the Ratha-yatra as I was busy proofreading my guru's web page. I caught a ride with some devotee in his vehicle. I asked him where he was from, and he said he was from Poznan, so I asked him for the contact information for the Poznan gathering, so I could pass it on to the Poznan girl and he supplied it, being the organizer of the program himself. Immediately after the Ratha-yatra I met another girl from Poznan, who was also interested in knowing about the local gatherings. Later in the afternoon as I walked across our village, one lady just in front of me was taking a photo of our food distribution, and I jokingly posed in front of her camera, smiling with my arms raised. After she took my picture, I asked what she thought of the Krishna village, and she said she liked it and has been coming for five years. I asked where she was from and she replied, “Poznan.” I told her we had monthly programs there, and she took the contact information for them. I wonder how many other people at the Woodstock are so interested in more frequent Krishna experiences, but we do not know because we do not stop to talk to them.

I also hooked up a couple of people from Bydgoszcz with the local programs. One girl was so serious when I saw her on other occasions she reminded me twice about my promise to send her the contact information. In addition, I gave out four or five invitations to our Warsaw temple and at least a couple to our Wroclaw temple.

Many more people came from Germany than ever before, and from a greater distance. I gave two persons invitations to our temple in Munich, two or three persons invitations to our temple in Leipzig, and about five people invitations to our temple in Berlin. I told the Leipzig people about our Ratha-yatra there on September 3, and one of them said he hoped to meet me there. I also met a group of people who came from Frankfort, several hours away. Beyond Germany, I encountered a couple from Amsterdam and a guy from England.

I talked to boy and girl who both came to the Woodstock for the first time, getting to know each other there. They both liked our Krishna village very much. The girl was from Warsaw and the boy was from Leipzig, and I gave them invitations to our temples in their respective cities. They promised to visit the temples and encouraged each other to do so. Furthermore, I told the boy about the Ratha-yatra in Leipzig on September 3, and he was excited about going. Because of their interest I mentioned that we had books in Polish, English, and German at our book tent, and they enthusiastically went to see them.

Michal, one young Polish man who we met in a parking lot in Norway in July, came to the Woodstock the first time and to our Krishna's Village of Peace. He lives just 40 km away but never came before. He brought the girl he is marrying and another friend, and they had a good time.

I also met a young man who remembers first seeing me at the Woodstock in 2003 in Zary, and then many times since. During the Ratha-yatra he drove by wearing a T-shirt from that very year.

Also Izabela, who we met in Kolobrzeg years ago and who lives in Kostrzyn, brought her friends to Krishna's Village of Peace. She told me she has remodeled the attic in her home to facilitate all the people who come to visit her for the Woodstock, and she always brings them to our village.

I always miss some of the ecstatic events of the Ratha-yatra as I am distributing invitations. My friend Gaura Hari Prabhu told me one couple chanted Hare Krishna into our microphone during the Ratha-yatra for some time, reading it from our mantra cards, and he shared this picture.

Indradyumna Swami took this funny picture of me taking a break from the distribution of invitations to take video of the kirtana party. I smiled because my plan was to take a picture of others, but instead Indradyumna Swami was taking a picture of me! It reminds me of my two roles on the Ratha-yatras, filming and distributing invitations.

There are always humorous scenes at Woodstock that you do not see other places. Here one girl pulls the Ratha while holding a small dog in her other hand.

Lord Krishna and His avatars Kapila and Rsabhadeva talk about how attraction to the opposite sex is a cause of material bondage. Kapila talks about how the sensually controlled man is like a dancing dog in the hand of a woman. Thus when I saw this scene of a girl dragging a boy around by a chain, I could not help but smile and ask if I could take a picture of them.

Woodstock: The Day After

As I have for the last few years, I organized a small harinama at the train station the day after Woodstock. My friend, Govinda Prabhu from Scotland, who plays accordion and sings, is a great asset to my party, and he convinced his friend, Gopa Kumar Prabhu, to come to. Vishnu Prabhu, who is an organizer of harinamas on the tour came and played the drum. Two more devotees joined us so we had six altogether. Fortunately one devotee spoke Polish, and he spent a lot of time answering people's inquiries. This time we chanted for two and a half hours (from 13:10 to 15:40) to a much larger crowd than usual. We encountered five different groups of devotees in the course of our harinama, some out shopping, some leaving by train, and others accompanying their friends to the train station. Some of the Alachua bharat-natyam dancers chanted briefly with us as we walked around the crowded streets near the train station. At least half the time we sat down and chanted near the train station, where several hundred people could hear us.

At one point, three people played African djembe drums of a variety of sizes along with us, and five people from the crowd danced with us.

One young girl, dressed like a hippie, loved to sing and dance, and continued walking with our party as we walked around in front of the train station before we left. I recognized her from our Krishna's Village of Peace, where she also danced. She must have danced at least an hour on the harinama, and she was very happy to receive an invitation to the Sunday feast at our Warsaw temple, the nearest large city to her. Many people also took mantra cards in the course of the harinama, and one young lady who lived near Wroclaw took an invitation for our center there. Even though it sprinkled on and off much of the time, all the devotees who went out found it a joyful experience. On the way back to our base, one guy who was drinking beer and loitering near our party kept demanding mantra cards from me so he could also pass them out to the people. We returned to the school that was our base just in time for the post-Woodstock feast which included panir and spinach, a curd vegetable preparation, sweet rice, and laddus, as well as some savories. I left Kostrzyn that evening to do harinama in Berlin. As I approached the train station dressed in my dhoti, many people said “Hare Krishna,” “Hare Rama,” or “Hare Hare.” I smiled and waved but could not stop as I had to catch my own train.

I took 111 video clips at Woodstock, totaling just over two hours altogether. I have not the determination to edit them although I have delayed posting ,this, hoping to include the video. I hope when I take a break from traveling, I can focus on it, and I will share it with you then. For now, here are some videos of kirtana from Arkadiusz from Krakow who has over five hundred videos on YouTube.

All glories to Indradyumna Swami and the five hundred devotees from all over the world who give hundreds of thousands of people the chance to eat spiritual food, hear spiritual sound, become free from bad karma, experience transcendental pleasure, and take another step toward attaining the perfection of pure devotion to the Supreme Lord, who is referred as Krishna, in the Sanskrit language, because He is all-attractive. All glories to Srila Prabhupada, who representing Lord Caitanya, has inspired people all over the world to engage in such transcendental missionary world.

Cavan Harinamas

There was a festival of Irish music in Cavan, Ireland, and what is normally a sleepy Irish town became a great venue for devotees to do harinama for several days. Bhagavata Dasi, who you can see playing the accordion in the video, loves to sing Hare Krishna in public in different Irish cities, and she led us in this endeavor.

The first day three devotees and three local kids danced in front our party.

The next day after our four-hour harinama, four girls asked if we were going to continue playing. We said not because there was too much competition with other musicians. We started packing up, and one of them again asked if we were going to continue playing, and I said no because of the competition. They then suggested we find another place. It did not seem practical to find another place as every 10 meters there was another street musician. We told them we would return there the next day, and they were very happy to hear it. It was nice to see Krishna has supporters in Ireland among the youth!

Insights from Devotees

Prithu Prabhu [from a conversation in Berlin]:

During Prabhupada’s time the Frankfort temple lacked life and manpower. I proposed to Prabhupada that we close it. He protested, practically shouting at me, “Even if a child is born deaf and dumb, it does not mean that you kill it!”

ISKCON is like invalid football. Someone has no arms, someone has no legs. Rather than picking on each others’ shortcomings we should capitalize on our strengths.

It is in the mode of ignorance to throw people out. Prabhupada said that only if one is violent toward devotees can he be kicked out, but not otherwise.

Krishna-kripa das:

In the course of talking about Lord Balarama on His appearance day this year, His role as a well-wishing peacemaker I found striking.

When the Kurus unlawfully arrested the youthful Yadu, Samba, a son of Lord Krishna, Lord Balarama discouraged the Yadus from fighting about it, but rather He personally went to Hastinapura to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

When Bhima and Duryodhana were involved in a duel, out of affection for both, he advised them to stop fighting. He argued that since Duryodhana was a better club fighter and Bhima was stronger, it was unlike that either would win a decisive victory and so that it was better to stop the combat. Unfortunately, they were too enraged with mutual animosity to hear the Lord’s wise words.

Caitanya-candrodaya Prabhu:

During Soviet times there were some people whose job description was to persecute the devotees. Some became somewhat purified because they had to study Bhagavad-gita to do their service. Once Bhakti Vijnana Goswami was questioned by the authorities and asked if he would spy on his people. He declined, saying it was against his principles, and the man replied except for your four regulative principles, what principles do you have?

To ask for love of Krishna is our only real prayer.

You can study the Upanisads in the mode of passion like the scholars do, not desiring the brahma jnana (spiritual knowledge) they provide.

The only thing Krishna looks for is the love of His devotee.

Keeping the qualities of goodness in the temple is preaching because it shows people how they can keep their home in the mode of goodness and elevate themselves spiritually.

There is such a good result from chanting Hare Krishna in any circumstance, what to speak if one chants to please his guru or if one chants desiring to awaken one’s love of God.

Comment by Nitai Sacinandana Prabhu: There is a story of a lady who was clinically dead but came back to life. During the time she was considered dead, her hearing was still functioning and she heard her relatives quarreling over her property. She became so disgusted she that disinherited all of them.

Syama-mayi dd [from a conversation]:

Once I stopped in a bowling alley to call my guru's servant and confirm that I would cook for my guru the next day. The building had a bar with really horrible music playing. It was hard for me to hear him on the phone because of the music, and he asked where I was and I explained. I was so disgusted with the place I was praying to Krishna, “Stop this nonsense.” That night I was awakened by a large explosion that shook my residence. We read in the paper the next day that the “Real IRA”, a splinter group that continued bombings after the cease fire, had blown-up up the bowling alley, where I had just been hours before.

Padmanetra Prabhu [from a conversation]:

ISKCON is such an international movement that in my class of 70 students at Radhadesh, 60 different nations were represented.


krishna-mantra haite habe samsara-mocana

krishna-nama haite pabe krishnera carana

[While explaining His chanting of Hare Krishna to the Mayavadi sannyasis, Lord Caitanya quoted His spiritual master, who had instructed Him thus:] “Simply by chanting the holy name of Krishna one can obtain freedom from material existence. Indeed, simply by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra one will be able to see the lotus feet of the Lord.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita Adi-lila 7.73)