Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Travel Journal#7.19: Albany and New York City

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 7, No. 19
By Krishna-kripa das
(October 2011, part one)
Albany and New York City
(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, on December 7, 2011)

To help me go on the Vaishnava Youth Bus Tour to Mexico on Dec. 15, click here.

Where I Went and What I Did

After leaving Philadelphia I went to Albany for a few days to visit my mother, sister, and Victor, my sister’s boyfriend. Then I spent a day visiting and serving my spiritual master, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, in Stuyvesant Falls. I went to New York City, and did an experimental harinama on the High Line and went to the Doughnut Plant, the Hare Krishna doughnut shop with my nieces, Fern and Gwen. Then I did a harinama and Saturday feast program in Queens, and harinama for several days in Manhattan while living at the Bhakti Center, including a harinama at Occupy Wall Street. I include videos of several of these harinamas. At the end of the second week of October, I left for the New Vrndavan 24-hour kirtan on my way to my winter residence at Gainesville’s Krishna House.

Upstate New York Visit to My Family
And Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

I shared prasadam sweets at my mom’s Quaker meeting as usual, and I cooked lots of meals for the family. I also brought them some great maha-prasadam burfi from Philadelphia. I chanted a little japa at my mom’s peace vigil after helping her unload the signs and park the car. For decades, every Wednesday for an hour at noon in front of the New York State Capitol in Albany she and her friends have stood with signs and banners protesting the U.S. Involvement in the latest demoniac war. My mother is in the center of the picture below.

The vigil is described in this article from the local paper:

I spent a day with my diksa-guru (initiating spiritual master) Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, going with him on his walk, reading to him, and cooking lunch so his servant had time to arrange a lamp for their tulasi plant. It was nice to see him fixed in his daily chanting and writing about Krishna. My Godbrother Narayana Kavaca Prabhu kindly gave me different practical gifts and a donation to help me with my travels.

Chanting in New York

I was incredibly fortunate to have the association of Ekalavya Prabhu, a very sweet brahmacari who loves to chant and to share the chanting with others. He was in the New York area as his mother had cancer and was soon to pass away. We chanted at Union Square, Adi Purusa Prabhu’s food distribution program in Tompkins Square Park, and at the Wall Street occupation. Uttamasloka Prabhu, a disciple of Indradyumna Swami, who also has a fondness for kirtana and encouraging people to chant also joined us. One nice Vaisnava youth girl, Prema Bhakti, daughter of Ranjit Prabhu, came once and played the drum with us as Adi Purusa Prabhu and his employees and volunteers distributed food. It is good to see the youth contributing to the sankirtana mission. Vani Dasi contributed by playing the karatalas for an hour, also at the food distribution.

In this video you will see a Brooklyn Sunday feast kirtan, a Queens harinama, a Tompkins Square Park harinama, a First Avenue harinama, and a Union Square harinama, the last two with devotee musician Ekalavya Prabhu leading:

Once at Union Square, chanting with Uttamasloka and Bhakta Jason, I had the best day in recent memory as far as book distribution and collections during a harinama were concerned. We sold one Bhagavad-gita, three Perfection of Yogas and two On Chanting Hare Krishnas. Because of the hundred dollar donation of a former Mumbai resident, now living in Oman but in New York to visit his daughter, the total collection was $118.70 for the three-hour experience. The last time someone gave me one hundred dollars on harinama was in San Diego in 1988. In both cases, I gave the money to the temple, as I was maintained by the temple and was representing the temple.

Once a vendor of photos, who also sells candles, gave us in charity a photo she was selling of Yajna Purusa Prabhu, Ghanasyama Prabhu, and Gauranga Kisora Prabhu chanting at Union Square.

When I was in Albany my sister told me that a former elevated railway line in Manhattan, known as the High Line, had been converted to a park which runs from 20th Street to 30th Street along 10th Avenue. As she described its pleasant atmosphere, I developed the idea of doing harinama there. While in New York City I failed to convince anyone else to go there with me on harinama, but the day I arrived from Upstate, I had some free time and chanted there myself. There are many people. I would say mostly middle class and tourists, and it was a pleasant surrounding. No one, including the patrolmen, were disturbed by my chanting and occasionally someone took pictures. I hope someday to do harinama there with many devotees. I think if it is tastefully done it will be accepted and appreciated.

The chanting at Wall Street was a great experience. Many people were glad we were there. Ekalavya Prabhu, an expert musician, chanted kirtana to the beating of the many drums at the occupation site. Uttamasloka Prabhu distributed almost all my mantra cards, giving personal instruction in the Hare Krishna mantra to several people who actually began to chant with us and who did so for some time. When Uttamasloka was leading kirtana, sometimes he let others take the lead for one mantra, and it was wonderful to see the new people take part in this. One jovial, chubby man with Buddhist sign did a particularly good job. See these videos, one taken by me of my friends and another taken of me and my friends:

I went to New Vrindavan for the Karttika 24-hour kirtana, but Ekalavya Prabhu and devotees in New York City chanted at Occupy Wall Street the following weekend. One man from the audience was so impressed he took two videos and uploaded them to YouTube along with his appreciation of the experience:

“I've never seen the Hare Krishna sing the mantra in person before. I was particularly intrigued having just watched the documentary ‘George Harrison: Living In The Material World’ on HBO. George spoke of how he could repeat mantras for hours & hours. I see what he meant. I got lost in it for a half hour easy.”

Here are the two videos, totaling 18:27 minutes! The second begins with some awesome dancing! It is like the sixties all over again.

Insight from Lectures

Candrasekhara Swami [Brooklyn Sunday Feast]:

Chanting Hare Krishna is the most effective way to cleanse our consciousness.

If we had a deep, all-consuming love of God, we would find that everything else is adjusted automatically.

Without this love, we find we act in a very superficial way, and the only recourse is to gradually try to develop our love for God in the recommended way.

If you are actually spiritually advanced, then you think that you are not spiritually advanced, and if you think you are spiritually advanced then you most likely are not spiritually advanced. It is of course possible to think that you are not spiritually advanced and to be not spiritually advanced.

Most people do not understand love of God is the goal of life. We are not taught about it in grade school.

It does not matter your occupation is as long as you try to purify your consciousness by chanting Hare Krishna.

Lord Caitanya was that kind of person that upon meeting Him one would want to give up everything and follow Him. In most cases, He did not encourage the people to act like that.

Sometimes people who appear to be very devoted to God within their hearts want to merge into God’s existence or to become God.

If your heart is in the mood of serving, it does not matter if the Lord is present or not.

Srimad-Bhagavatam is the supreme scripture because it does not beat around the bush but stresses that human life is meant for developing love of God, and it tells how to do so.

Tattva-sandarbha [translation and commentary by Gopiparanadhana Prabhu]:

From the glossary:

bhasya. A first commentary on a sastra text or other major scripture. A bhasya is usually written by the founder of a sampradaya [spiritual lineage].

Itihasas. Epic histories, including the Mahabharata and Ramayana. In contrast to the more encyclopedic Puranas, each Itihasa usually tells one heroic story.

When Krishna descended to earth, Yogamaya appeared as His sister, Subhadra. Mahamaya, the material energy of illusion, is her partial expansion.

Uttamasloka Prabhu [from Russia, at Bhakti Center]:

When you present Krishna consciousness it immediately polarizes people. Those with godly qualities are attracted while those who are demoniac want it stopped.

When I was becoming interested in Krishna consciousness in Russia, the person who showed Bhagavad-gita to me would not sell it to me although I offered to pay any price because he was afraid of punishment. At those times, possession of a Bhagavad-gita got you a minimum of three years in jail.

In 1989 when Soviet authorities in the transitional government did not allow distribution of the newly printed Russian books, the leaders of the Hare Krishna in the Soviet states got together and organized harinama [public chanting] for at least eight hours a day for several days in protest. One day the police watched the devotees, and the next they tried to arrest them, but the devotees nonviolently resisted in many creative ways like smashing the whompers [cymbals] in their faces and taking their hats and throwing them. The crowd protested about the unfair arresting of the devotees. The police desisted and sent riot police who used rubber clubs and eventually arrested half the devotees. The devotees who went through that experience consider that although externally those were the worst times, because they brought the devotees together in one big family, they were actually the best times, and they can understand how Queen Kunti could pray to Krishna for calamities.

Gadadhara Pandit Prabhu [Bhakti Center, Manhattan]:

Karttika is Krishna’s favorite month.

Radhika is the presiding deity of the month of Karttika.

There is a famous story in the Skanda Purana about a mouse who accidentally tried to eat a burning ghee wick. Lord Vishnu accepted the mouse’s dancing in pain with the ghee wick in His mouth as an offering of arati (worship) and so mouse ultimately attained the spiritual world.

When we do outreach, we must remember that we do not need to get anything from the people we contact for we are already getting the topmost benefit by pleasing Krishna by sharing His knowledge with others.

To allow Yasoda to do service for Him, Krishna allowed Yasoda to tie Him up.

We are a mercy based movement.

Nic Prabhu [Bhakti Center, Manhattan]:

My father was Jewish and my mother was Catholic, so I did not know what to think. We just celebrated Hanukah and Christmas, and both of them were about getting presents.

The first time I remember praying to God was when I got into an argument with my parents, and I was was crying so much I could not sleep. I felt relieved as a result.

I read a book about spiritualizing your life which had forty chapters, and you were supposed to read a chapter a day. I got to about day sixteen, and there was a powerful prayer of dedication of one’s life to Christ. I said that prayer, and it made me cry which I guess was a spiritual experience.

I did not maintain that interest and took religion more seriously again only when I had a girlfriend who brought me to church with her family. When I broke up with her for two weeks, I stopped going to church, and then recommenced when we got together again. Then when finally broke up for good, I stopped for a while. But after some time, I went to church with my ex-girlfriend’s family, even though she had stopped going. Then I was more serious about religion as it was my own choice.

Prabhupada considers praying to God in distress as foolish because God already knows our problems.

Father Joseph [Ukrainian Orthodox priest, from a conversation]:

I showed up to do my service of food distribution with Adi [Purusa Prabhu] once when I was dressed as an Eastern Orthodox priest. The people who saw me were confused seeing a Eastern Orthodox priest helping a Hare Krishna with food distribution. I explained that we may have our differences in the theology, but helping hungry people is something we can all appreciate.

Dauji Prabhu [Bhakti Center, Manhattan]:

We cannot surrender to someone who cannot maintain us, thus Krishna explains how He is maintaining everyone.

If we see we get angry in the course of devotional service, we should introspect and see what is wrong.

Krishna says to offer leaves and flowers to him. It sounds simple, but it is not as simple as you think. One devotee who is now initiated, previously for many years would offer marijuana to Krishna and enjoy the remnants.

Sometimes the actions of pure devotees are bewildering. According to Rupa Goswami, devotional service must be favorable to Krishna, but Bhisma was fighting against Krishna on the battlefield. Why did he fight Krishna? Krishna wanted to show that even if you are the greatest warrior in the world, if you fight against the Lord and his pure devotees, you will lose.

If you act according to the line of spiritual teachers, you are protected from sinful reactions.

Anonymous lecturer:

There is one saint to prays to Krishna in a humorous mood. “Why should I deal with You? You are so troublesome. Simply I will chant Your holy name, and I will attain all satisfaction.”

Chris Fici Prabhu [NYU Cooking Class]:

Processed meats are too dangerous for human consumption, increasing risks of colon cancer.

While medical researchers find meat to be a health risk, President Obama posed for pictures with guests he was entertaining eating meat. An official from responsible medicine advises the President to lead America in a healthy diet.


ataeva saba phala deha’ yare tare
khaiya ha-uk loka ajara amare

jagat vyapiya mora habe punya khyati
sukhi ha-iya loka mora gahibeka kirti

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “Distribute this Krishna consciousness movement all over the world. Let people eat these fruits and ultimately become free from old age and death. If the fruits are distributed all over the world, My reputation as a pious man will be known everywhere, and thus all people will glorify My name with great pleasure. (Caitanya-caritamrita Adi 9.39–40)