Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Travel Journal#9.10: Ireland, The North of England, London

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 9, No. 10
By Krishna-kripa das
(May 2013, part two
Ireland, The North of England, London
(Sent from Newcastle upon Tyne on June 25, 2013)

Where I Went and What I Did

Ananta Nitai Prabhu and I did our usual program in Dublin of a twelve-hour harinama on Saturday and a twelve-hour kirtana in the temple on Monday. I also participated in the kirtana following the Sunday feast, new since my last year’s visit there, which lasted an hour and forty minutes, and the two-hour Tuesday kirtana program. Then I returned to Newcastle for their Wednesday kirtana program, Nrsimha Caturdasi harinama, and the Sunday feast. Every day in Newcastle I went on harinama, almost always for three-hours. On the final day, I went to Sunderland with Satya Medha Gouranga and his kid, Bhana, and we chanted there for almost two hours, and I share his account of that. Then I went to Sheffield for a well-attended nama-hatta program that is getting new attendees and a two-hour birthday kirtana program in Preston. Then I went to London to take my sister to Govinda’s Restaurant during her brief stopover from New York to South Africa.

I share many quotes from writings of Srila Prabhupada and some excerpts from the unpublished second volume of The Story of My Life, the autobiography of Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami.

Our Third Twelve-Hour Harinama in Dublin

On Saturday, May 18, we chanted Hare Krishna on the streets of Dublin from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. In the beginning it was just the organizers, Ananta Nitai Prabhu and myself, and we did a walking harinama around the city for the first two or three hours. Then others joined us, and we chanted on the sidewalk by the intersection of Middle Abbey Street and O’Connell Street, less than half a block from the temple. The weather was good for Ireland, not too cold, windy, or rainy.

The brightest side of this twelve-hour harinama was the participation of Premarnava Prabhu, which dramatically increased since last year from five to nine hours. At one point, he chanted for four and a half hours straight! He is playing harmonium in the picture below accompanied by Ananta Nitai Prabhu on the drum.

Some onlookers enjoyed interacting with the devotees in different ways.

There are always unusual things that happen on harinama.

One lady, who regularly comes to the temple, helped by playing the karatalas, while carrying her pet dog in a knapsack on her back the whole time.

Two guys with horse heads who passed by us four times, dancing every time. Somehow I never got my camera out in time to photograph them.

An orange tiger danced with us, clapping his hands as well, and one brahmacari suggested we have a tiger with us as a regular feature to attract attention to the chanting!

Speaking of tigers, Tyger Lillie, who is from Gainesville but studying in Dublin for Summer A, recognized me from Krishna Lunch and Krishna House. I told her about our Sunday feast program and three Govinda's restaurants in Dublin and gave her a maha-prasadam cookie from Radha-Madhava in Belfast, and she was very happy about that. I hope she can take advantage of our opportunities for connecting with Krishna in Dublin.

Because of the cold and wind, because I had taken small meals for breakfast and lunch, and because I was tired from standing up for so many hours, during the last hour of the twelve-hour harinama I found myself looking at the clock every five minutes. I realized I had do to something about this ridiculous situation. I decided to control my mind with my intelligence, and just focus on two things, chanting Hare Krishna and hearing Hare Krishna. Then the time sped by.

Except for the twelve-hour kirtan day, we did harinama every day in Dublin. Again, as had happened during our twelve-hour harinama, others, sometimes wearing costumes, would briefly join the harinama party in a jolly mood!

Photo (c) 2013 David Gray, another friendly soul in Ireland, who kindly emailed his wonderful photograph to me at my request.

Twelve-Hour Kirtan in the Dublin Temple

Monday, two days after our twelve-hour harinama, we had a twelve-hour kirtan at the temple, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The most striking thing for me was the interest of people who were newly introduced to Krishna consciousness. One Iranian man, who had been coming to the temple programs for at most a week, having received a book by Golukendra Prabhu on the streets, amazed me by participating for over ten hours in our kirtana event. A girl from Brazil, who had only been coming for two weeks, spent five hours in the kirtana, blissfully listening to the transcendental sound vibration. A couple young ladies from the yoga scene, spend several hours in the kirtana. Premarnava told me they had come to a twelve-hour kirtan the Dublin devotees did on Christmas, and just a week before this once in May, they had asked him if there was going to be another one, and so they learned of it and came.

One devotee youth danced with child of an Indian lady during the transcendental music. Both of them, and the child’s mother as well, were present for several hours of the kirtana.

One girl from Slovakia, who spent a lot of time in the twelve-hour kirtana, came out on harinama for the first time the next day and distributed invitations. On the harinama she talked to someone who appeared to really like the chanting, and the girl told how she had danced with us on Saturday, during our twelve-hour harinama.

We took turns leading the chanting during the day.

Nanda Kumar Prabhu and his wife sing sweet kirtan.

Manu Prabhu played the accordion at the end, getting lots of people dancing.

I was pleased to see the great interest in the twelve-hour kirtana event, and the Dublin devotees, also inspired by the participation, spoke of planning another one for the next Ekadasi.

Nrsimha Caturdasi Harinama in Newcastle

Despite temperatures in the forties (below 10 C), with 29 mph (47 kph) winds from the northeast and intermittent rain, a party of seven devotees chanted in downtown Newcastle upon Tyne, for three hours to celebrate Nrsimha Caturdasi. Although daily public congregational chanting was demonstrated in the life of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, often we do not make it part of our celebration of our festivals, although I personally think it adds a lot. Once thing it does is engage the public in the celebration of the holy day, even unknowingly, to their great spiritual credit. Also the chanting seems to have a more powerful effect on the holy days. Thus I was very happy that leading devotees like Bhakta Rasa and his wife, Kirtida, were supportive of the idea of celebrating Lord Nrsimha’s appearance with three hours of harinama.

Kirtida dd, in the pink sari, led a fired up kirtana, dancing as she played the harmonium. The two young women with her must have danced with us for half an hour, continuing even after it started to rain. They appeared to be so happy dancing with the Hare Krishnas, like it was the most fun they had in a long time. Originally those two girls and two more friends were sitting on a bench and watching us. Then two of them gave donations, and I gave them books and invitations, which they looked at. Then after some time, they came to join the dancing.

Despite the cruel climate, Bhanu, the child of Satya Medha Gauranga Prabhu, who took the photos, was peaceful in his stroller (buggy) the whole time except later when he moved his legs with the music so much one shoe fell off.

On the next Sunday feast, we talked about and also had a puppet show about Lord Nrsimha. After the whole feast program, Diya and her friends, were so fired up they had an extra kirtan in the gift shop:

Sunderland Harinama

Satya Medha Gouranga Prabhu writes of our Sunderland harinama, and in his account I include in square brackets additional details of my own, “There was a very sweet harinama in Sunderland (or ‘Shyama-sunderland’ as His Holiness Janananda Gosvami Maharaja calls this place!)

There were lots of people on the street. An elderly gentleman came to give a donation [as we were walking to our harinama site], and then Krishna-kripa Prabhu approached him to give a book. He said with a smile: ‘For many, many years I have seen the Hare Krishna people on the street. It’s really nice to see you all again.’

Later on a lady stopped by and mentioned about George Harrison. It’s really great to see how so many people appreciate the harinama.

After a while a group of [four] teenagers [who had walked past previously] came and stood nearby. They were listening to harinama. Then they started swinging gently with the beautiful tune of maha-mantra and gradually started dancing. They kept on dancing and smiling. It looked so natural for them. Krishna-kripa Prabhu took out few leaflets of maha-mantra from his bag and gave them to the teenagers [pointing out to them the words to the song].

Now each of them was holding the maha-mantra in her hand, and they started reading word for word and singing to it. Practically each of them was singing as they were reading out the maha-mantra.

It was a wonderful scene—suddenly so many voices singing maha-mantra, the people on the street were amazed to see this.

After the harinama Krishna-kripa Prabhu was preaching to the group of young people
and invited them to come to temple programs.

As they were leaving they looked so bright, happy and blissful.”

One of the group had taken a video of her friends singing and dancing with us, and asked her to send me a link to the video, but as is mostly the case, she did not. The young people joined in the kirtana for fifteen minutes, and because they had come just as we were going to finish, we ended up staying out an extra fifteen minutes just because of them!

Traveling with the Scottish Brahmacaris

Raghunatha Bhatta and Caitanya Vallabha Prabhu, in addition to distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books in Scotland and The North of England, also help organize and maintain the nama-hatta programs in the Manchester area. The end of this month, I joined them as a lecturer and kirtana leader for their programs in Sheffield and Preston. It was nice to spend a couple of days with a brahmacari party so focused on their spiritual program and their outreach. Three weeks before, I had done the Sheffield program and it was austere to do the public chanting alone. Thus I was so happy to be with three other enthusiastic brahmacaris. The harinama makes more visible impact the more devotees you have. As you can see in this video of our Sheffield harinama, when you have a lively group, people are more inclined to join in:

Later at the program in Sheffield, I was happy to see lots of guests, new and old, and the prasadam consisted of a whole dinner, not just a snack.

In Preston we participated in a special birthday program. Caitanya Vallabha explained:

Vidyagati Devi Dasi invited all her friends and relatives to come for a two-hour kirtana at her home followed by prasadam for her birthday. We find it is difficult to get people to come to our nama-hatta programs but easy to get them to come to birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Last year one devotee rented a hall for a celebration in honor of his child’s first birthday, and we did kirtana, a drama, and prasadam. It was very successful. And so more and more we are taking advantage of these kinds of events to spread awareness of Krishna consciousness to those who would otherwise might never come to a Hare Krishna program.”

My Sister Visits London

Karen, my sister, who works as a counselor and teaches mindfulness in Albany, New York, had a ten-hour layover in London, flying from New York to South Africa. So I went to London to take her to Govinda’s Restaurant on Soho Street. She has been vegetarian for over forty years, seven years longer than me. I also gave her some maha-prasadam from Radha-Londonisvara for her to share with her daughter Fern and Fern’s boyfriend, Oliver, in South Africa. She got the large thali at Govinda’s and ate practically everything. Coincidentally at Govinda’s, we met London temple president, Jai Nitai Prabhu, also from America, and had a very nice visit with him. As my sister wanted to visit a park to rejuvenate between flights, we went to Regents Park, where Srila Prabhupada liked to take his morning walk and which some London devotees told us he said was like Vaikuntha, the spiritual world.

Seeing the beauty of the gardens, the waterfall, and the birds, you could get a clue why he might have said that.

Later on one web site, I read that Prabhupada disciple, Svati devi dasi recalled:
One morning some of Srila Prabhupada’s students were walking with him in London’s Regents Park. All kinds of flowers grew there, and I was remembering that each day we offered lovely flowers like these to the Krishna Deity back at the temple.

Before long I asked Srila Prabhupada, ‘When we offer flowers to Krishna, do their spirit souls go back to the spiritual world?’
Srila Prabhupada remained silent awhile and then answered, ‘Yes. But factually they are already in the kingdom of God.’ He stopped, waved his cane over the cranes, ducks, people, and flowers in the park, and said, ‘They are all in the kingdom of God.’
Starting to see from his point of view, I said, ‘Yes, Srila Prabhupada, but they are not aware that they are in the kingdom of God.’
He replied, ‘That is the duty of a spiritual master to make them aware.’” [Copied from web site: http://backtogodhead.in/some-personal-recollections-by-his-disciples/]
One of Karen’s favorite desserts is cheese cake and one of mine is srikhand, both of which were mango flavored at Govinda’s that day, so after our walking in the park, we got one of each and shared it.

And off Karen went back to the airport, and I did harinama with a friend to King Cross, to do the evening lecture at Matchless Gifts there. Then after the program, a group of four of us did harinama back to the temple, so although spending a few hours with my sister in the afternoon, I was still able to participate in four harinamas, though one quite briefly, on that last day of May.


Srila Prabhupada:

from a lecture on Bhagavad-gita 2.21–22, given in London, on August 26, 1973:

Spiritual service means every moment new. If you find it hackneyed, then you must know that you are not serving spiritually. It is not formality or stereotype. But if you feel newer and newer energy, then you know that you are serving spiritually. The test is within our hand. If during mangala-arati we feel laziness, that means I’m not yet spiritually advanced; and if one feels enthused, ‘Now it is time for mangala-arati, let me stand up!’ Then it is spiritual. Anyone can test.”

from The Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 2:

The recommendation of Rupa Gosvami for reviving our original Krishna consciousness is that somehow or other we should apply our minds to Krishna very seriously and thus also become fearless of death. After death we do not know our destination, because we are completely under the control of the laws of nature. Only Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is controller over the laws of nature. Therefore, if we take shelter of Krishna seriously, there will be no fear of being thrown back into the cycle of so many species of life. A sincere devotee will surely be transferred to the abode of Krishna, as affirmed in Bhagavad-gita.

Padma Purana recommends that one always fix his mind on the form of Vishnu by meditation and not forget Him at any moment. And this state of consciousness is called samadhi, or trance. We should always try to mold the activities of our lives in such a way that we will constantly remember Vishnu, or Krishna. That is Krishna

It doesn’t matter whether one is a beginner—a brahmacari—or is very advanced—a sannyasi. The principle of remembering the Supreme Personality of Godhead constantly and not forgetting Him at any moment is meant to be followed by everyone without fail.”

According to Vedic injunctions, when a brahmana eats it is to be understood that the Personality of Godhead is eating through him. It is not, however, that the brahmana should simply eat on behalf of the Lord and not preach the message of Bhagavad-gita to the world. Actually, one who preaches the message of the Gita is very dear to Krishna, as is confirmed in the Gita itself. Such a preacher is factually a brahmana, and thus by feeding him one feeds the Supreme Lord directly.”

from The Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 3:

Lord Krishna says in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Eleventh Canto, Twentieth Chapter, verse 8, ‘My dear Uddhava, only by exceptional fortune does someone become attracted to Me. And even if one is not completely detached from fruitive activities, or is not completely attached to devotional service, such service is quickly effective.’”

Devotional service and the happiness due to its execution are not possible as long as one is materially affected. . . . anyone who has any desire or aspiration for satisfying his senses by becoming more and more important, either in the material sense or in the
spiritual sense, cannot actually relish the really sweet taste of devotional service. Srila Rupa Gosvami has therefore compared possessing these bhukti (material) and mukti (liberation) desires with being influenced by the black art of a witch: in both cases one is in trouble. Bhukti means material enjoyment, and mukti means to become freed
from material anxiety and to become one with the Lord. These desires are compared to being haunted by ghosts and witches, because while these aspirations for material enjoyment or spiritual oneness with the Supreme remain, no one can relish the actual transcendental taste of devotional service.”

The attention of a pure devotee is so much attracted to glorification of the Lord’s pastimes, name, qualities, forms, etc., that the devotee does not care for mukti. Sri Bilvamangala Thakura has said, ‘If I am engaged in devotional service unto You, my dear Lord, then very easily can I perceive Your presence everywhere. And as far as liberation is concerned, I think liberation stands at my door with folded hands, waiting to serve me.’”

from Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.42:

King Malayadhvaja could thus observe that the Supersoul was sitting by his side, and that he, as the individual soul, was sitting by the side of the Supersoul. Since both were together, there was no need for separate interests; thus he ceased from such activities.”

from Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya 1.63, purport:

There is no need to be unhappy over not being able to enter a certain temple. Such dogmatic prohibitions were not approved by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Those who were thought unfit to enter the Jagannatha temple [Srila Haridasa Thakura, Srila Rupa Goswami, and Srila Sanatana Goswami, who had previous intimate connections with Muslims] were daily visited by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and this indicates that Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not approve of the prohibitions.”

from the The Story of My Life, Volume 2, to be published in December 2013:

I wrote to Prabhupada that sometimes I like to wash the dishes. He wrote back approving and said we should always be engaged in Krishna consciousness, and Krishna will give us the intelligence what to do at a particular time such as when to do the dishes.

Practicing writing regularly calms the mind, not because you write about nice things, but because your fears, anxieties, your troubled thoughts, know they will have a place and time to express themselves.

Actually, a premature understanding can hinder our progress and even delay us. It has been said that if we think ourselves female servants in our eternal form without becoming free from mundane bodily identification, we could be forced to take a female body next time aroundin the material world.

If a headache comes, I’d like to see it not as a defeat but as a purification, similar to extra chanting.

Got desk lamp, scrounged memories, heard dogs bark, free wrote in sacred land protected by amenities, prayed,Krishna make me truthfulbut not too painfully.”
Krishna-Balarama, Radha-Syama, and Gaura-Nitai stand in transcendence. They are not marble statues, although I am a statue before them, cold in heart and cold in body.”
Reading Prabhupada’s books is like a medicine we constantly need to ingest, but it goes beyond that. It’s a nourishing and tasty food. Why ever stop? It’s a shame if we abandon such nourishing and become disgusted with it and start to crave novelty for its own sake. Prabhupada does say thatVariety is the mother of enjoyment,” but we can find it in his books.”

When I first took LSD it was a little frightening, but it became glorious. Now I can analyze and know it was a hallucination. But at the time I felt my consciousness expanding, and I broke through the doors of my perception. I could see the world in vivid detail and it seemed beautiful. When I was first introduced to Krishna consciousness and the experience of chanting, I was willing to try it partly because of my broad mindedness resulting from LSD. I had to stop LSD to actually practice Krishna consciousness, but it was an initial help. I took LSD about fifty times, and some of my trips were negative and one almost killed me. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

I’m thankful for the life of Krishna consciousness that Prabhupada has given me. There was never a dull moment. It was filled with so many adventures and challenges and duties. Rewarding moments spent in association with the pure devotee and his disciples, the family of Krishna conscious Vaisnavas. Vast affection for His Divine Grace. He has given us japa, kirtana, his books, prasadam, association of devotees. He had given us the heavy order to preach, and we are thankful for that although we don’t measure up to it fully. He has given us the great opportunity to snap the cycle of birth and death. If we act on it we can make it relatively soon. Thankful for him giving us the transcendental life. Talk about yourself going through life with real purpose.

There are different kinds of people, and they may or may not be receptive to Krishna consciousness. Hippies who weren’t social activists and who were just enjoying themselves and renouncing material success would be more open to Krishna consciousness, but those who were committed social activists would see us as not responding properly to the ills of the world. For the hardcore activists that is their religion, and it replaces Krishna consciousness.

Devotees pray for permission before they do anything. I would like to enact that on a personal level. Just be simple. Don’t try for big endeavors. In whatever you do, try to do it for Krishna, and speak to Him in your own words all the time. Say, “My dear Lord, I’m about to eat now. Let it be in Your service.” If we do this, then we will not let ourselves do something that obviously has no service connection with Krishna. How can we ask Him personal permission if it’s not something He likes?

The psychiatrists are always advising us to relax and enjoy and achieve, etc. Or they are telling us to do nothing. Space out. But they never conceive that each and every act should be done to please Krishna and that you can consult Him and ask His permission.
Notes for today’s meeting with disciples: First I’ll mention that some devotees said they would not attend these meetings because they hated crowds and big social scenes. I can empathize with this feeling. I also want to say that meeting like these are valid happenings. Sure it’s a performance, but that in itself is not a bad thing. Musicians also perform before audiences, but they actually make their peak expressions at that time, even better than when they play alone.

I also like to think of myself as avant-garde, writer, semi-retired, detached sannyasi. But I want to think of myself as making a contribution to ISKCON. This is my offering and don’t push it off the altar.

from a lecture:

Although Arjuna was a married man and a military man, Krishna was inclined to Him because he was a devotee and a friend of Krishna. That is the actual qualification.

Tulasi Priya Prabhu of Dublin:

We do not want to imitate the great spiritual teachers, but we do want to attain their realizations.

Ananta Nitai Prabhu:

When I first got Bhagavad-gita I could not understand it, but five years later, after I stopped eating meat and drinking alcohol for economic reasons, I read it straight through.

Due to the materialistic contamination in this age of Kali, the brahmanas [intellectual class] look down on the ksatriyas [administrative class], the ksatriyas look down on the vaishyas [the productive class], and the vaishyas look down on the sudras [labor class].

Although it is not wise to offend saintly persons, saints are so kind often those who offend them are ultimately benefited in ways they never would have been otherwise.

The more we do the congregational chanting, the more it will seem natural to do it, and the more it will spread out to others.

from a conversation:

Ireland is just a rock in the middle of the Atlantic. What is all the fighting about?


ceto-darpana-marjanam bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam
sreyah-kairava-candrika-vitaranam vidya-vadhu-jivanam
anandambudhi-vardhanam prati-padam purnamritasvadanam
sarvatma-snapanam param vijayate sri-krishna-sankirtanam

Let there be all victory for the chanting of the holy name of Lord Krishna, which can cleanse the mirror of the heart and stop the miseries of the blazing fire of material existence. That chanting is the waxing moon that spreads the white lotus of good fortune for all living entities. It is the life and soul of all education. The chanting of the holy name of Krishna expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step.” (Siksastaka 1, quoted in Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Antya 20.12)