Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Travel Journal#11.14: Munich & Prague Ratha-yatras, Polish Woodstock & More

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 11, No. 14
By Krishna-kripa das
(July 2015, part two)
Prague, Munich, Warsaw, Stuyvesant Falls, Polish Woodstock
(Sent from Newcastle upon Tyne on August 25, 2015)

Where I Went and What I Did

On Thursday, July 16, I flew to Prague to go to the Ratha-yatra the following Sunday. Friday I did harinama in Prague with both the Harinama Ruci party and the Prague devotees. After I had purchased the ticket to Prague, I found that on Saturday there was Ratha-yatra in Munich, so I took the train to and from Munich that day to attend the Munich Ratha-yatra, although I had no time to stay for the stage show. That day I learned that my guru, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, wanted me to come to Stuyvesant Falls, New York, and proofread his yearly book, and so on Monday after the Prague Ratha-yatra and after taking an overnight bus to Warsaw, I flew to New York, instead of taking a bus to Lithuania for the Baltic Summer Festival as I was planning to do. In Stuyvesant Falls, all I did for six days was eat, sleep, chant japa, and proofread the book, Looking Back, Volume 1. I did not finish, and I had to continue on the train to New York, on the plane to Warsaw, and on the train to Kostrzyn, Poland, home of the Polish Woodstock festival since 2004. I took a 75-minute break from my proofreading marathon to chant with about ten devotees during their Food for Life program in downtown Warsaw and found it inspiring. Then for the next five days I participated in Ratha-yatras and kirtanas at the Polish Woodstock festival, and I share lots of wonderful stories, photos and videos of that below.

I share notes on a Srila Prabhupada lecture, and an excerpt from a book of and from the online journal of Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, and I share notes on a lecture by Bhaktivaibhava Swami in Prague and a lecture of Trivikrama Swami in Warsaw. I share a comment by Indradyumna Swami to the young people of Poland and a comment of a Russian disciple on Krishna consciousness in his region of Russia.

Thanks to Baladeva Vidyabhusana Prabhu and GN Press for their kind donation for my proofreading Looking Back, Volume 1. Thanks to Martin of Leipzig for his kind donation. Thanks to Krishna Kirtan Prabhu and another Warsaw devotee for Polish coins to take the bus to the airport and to the train station. I would like to thank the person who dropped 200 Czech koruns (about $8) on the street in Prague and which I donated to the Czech farm devotees, in exchange for Czech chips and cookies for my travels, and to the Prague Ratha-yatra.

Thanks to Food for Life Warszawa [Warsaw]  ISKCON for their photos.


August 25–26: Newcastle
August 27: Blackpool and Preston
August 28: Southport and Liverpool
August 29: Manchester
August 30: Leeds
August 31–September 1: Newcastle
September 2–3: Sheffield
September 4–7: Ireland
September 8–18: New York City Harinama
September 19–21?: Boston
September 22–25: New York City Harinama
September 26–27: Albany
September 28–November 15: New York City Harinama
November 16–18: Washington, D.C., Harinama
November 19: Jacksonville
November 20–December 16: Krishna House (except 5 days in Tallahassee)
December 17: Jacksonville?
December 18–January 3: New York City Harinama

Chanting Hare Krishna in Prague

As I was taking Lokanath Swami on a tour of the grounds at the Polish Woodstock in 2004, I asked him where was the best place in the world to do harinama, and he replied, “Prague.” Although I had no prior plan, I ended up doing harinama in Prague that very summer, after the Polish Festival tour. Now I go there almost every year.

I was happy to join Harinama Ruci for their harinama the Friday before the Ratha-yatra. Here are some highlights (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGerEnGdI0xKWWOOVi1yjrinxrgayPape):

After an hour and a half we joined the weekly Friday night Prague harinama party led by Vidya Vacaspati Prabhu. Here are some high points, including the participation of some street performers (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGerEnGdI0xKKgkCdqWtyXPztvfOr5_7z):

Chanting at the Munich Ratha-yatra

I discovered that I could take the train from Prague to Munich and back the same day for under 40 euros, and thus attend the Munich Ratha-yatra. Because I love Ratha-yatra, dancing before Lord Jagannatha, and attempting to inspire others to take an interest in Krishna consciousness and because I have many friends in the German yatra, it was worth it to me. Some of my friends who were also in Prague made the same journey by car, but they had no space, and another friend took the bus.

As I climbed the stairs at Karlsplatz U-bahn station, after seven hours of travel, and I heard the Hare Krishna kirtana, I felt joy within my heart. They had just broken the coconuts, and it was time for the procession to begin.

Munich Ratha-yatra is one of the longest in Europe, and I am sure it was a good four hours. I just had time to hear half of Kadamba Kanana Swami's kirtana at the beginning of stage show as I waited in line for prasadam, before my return journey to Prague.

Krishna Ksetra Swami and Kadamba Kanana Swami were special guests. Sometimes the procession passed through crowded areas and sometimes more vacant ones.

Nice features I recall about the Munich Ratha-yatra were many people took photos of it.

We would pass outdoor cafes, and almost everyone would be attracted by the procession.

Devotees offered fruit to Lord Jagannatha and distributed it to people in the crowd, and onlookers and devotees both appreciated that.

Some people danced with us.

One couple took great pleasure dancing to our Hare Krishna music

Then the husband took a picture of his wife dancing with a devotee lady.
Others also enjoyed dancing.

At the end of my playlist of video clips you can see different people at Karlsplatz joined in the dancing at the end of the procession (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGerEnGdI0xKOzgvsV1jOqAJ6HCPrHUNS):

The first class compartment on the train home had WiFi, but the signal extended to the area between the first and second class carriages, and I would sit on on the floor and connect. In my email, I got an urgent letter from my guru telling me to come to his place in New York and proofread his lastest book. I checked prices on roundtrip tickets from Prague, Warsaw, and Berlin, to New York City, and found it was $200 cheaper to travel from Warsaw, where I was traveling to by bus the next evening after the Prague Ratha-yatra. I sent his servant the details, and I learned the next day I had a midday flight on Monday to NYC.

Prague Ratha-yatra

By contrast to Munich, the Prague Ratha-yatra is very short, about an hour and a half. It is in a busy tourist section, but the stage show was a bit off to the side.

Bhaktivaibhava Swami, Danavira Goswami, and Kadamba Kanana Swami were special guests. Titiksu Prabhu and the London cart came to Prague, as well as to Paris and Budapest for their Ratha-yatras.

Harinama Ruci posted a wonderful movie of the Prague Ratha-yatra on Facebook, and it got over 135,000 views:

I was amazed by the fascination of some Oriental girls, who smilingly took all kinds of pictures of the event.
We also distributed fruit offered to Lord Jagannatha in that Ratha-yatra.
One photographer even continued taking photos while holding the fruit in this hand!

Harinama Ruci likes the chanting in the streets so much that during the stage show, usually during the Indian dance, we go chanting around the tourist section of the city. This time, probably because Janananda Goswami came with us, we had thirty devotees instead of just ten. A lot of onlookers participated in dancing with us.

Devotee ladies would dance, swinging ladies from the crowd.

Also both the devotees and newcomers would enjoy dancing in a circle together.

You can see some of the dancing in this series of video clips (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGerEnGdI0xKIfdoP2NNtAfCKjDeCZN0h):

At the end of the stage show there was a very lively kirtana led by Kadamba Kanana Swami. You could see onlookers who came to visit our festival and those in the nearby cafe were attracted. Maharaja invited me to come up on the stage, but I indicated I had to go. Ironically, just as I left his Munich Ratha-yatra stage show kirtana the day before to catch a train to Prague, I had to leave his Prague stage show kirtana to catch a bus to Warsaw. Before I left I took this video clip (https://youtu.be/mnZFZA6XP28):

Flying to New York City

I forgot to book a fruit plate as my meal on my Air France flight from Warsaw to New York City via Paris. So in flight, I asked the steward if he had any fruit. 
Later he brought me some cut fruit consisting of blueberries, kiwi fruit, mango, and more. 

I offered it to Krishna by chanting the mantras, and it tasted so good. When the stewards saw I liked it they brought me another bowl of it. As I deplaned I thanked the man who got me the fruit telling it was the best food I ever had on a plane, and he replied, “That is because it is our food.”

Stuyvesant Falls

It was a real marathon for me proofreading my guru's, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami's, latest book, Looking Back, Volume 1, in which he revisits some of the books he wrote and tells what was going on in his life when he wrote them, what inspired him to write them and to include certain things in them, and what parts were especially important to him. The excerpts were dictated and the typists generally did not check their typing with the books the excerpts were taken from so there were many discrepancies. I initially began, for the sake of strictness, to compare the text of the new book with original sources in every case, but I could see by doing that I would not finish in the six days I had allotted, even if I worked twelve hours a day at it, which I tried to do. Then I just decided that I would check the originals only when I encountered something that did not make sense. That difficulty with that came with some parts that were “free writing”. There are fewer rules in that spontaneous style of writing and it was hard to understand whether it was supposed to read the way it did or the unusual sequence of words indicated a mistake, so you had to check it anyway. For some of the typists, English was a second language, and sometimes they would miss idioms, or type something that sounded right but had no meaning. I wanted to finish up so I could go to the Polish Woodstock festival and share kirtana with thousands of people, and so it was a tremendous challenge for me, a challenge I rarely have.

Food for Life in Warsaw

For the last six months or so, devotees in Warsaw, headed by Sasabindu Prabhu, have been distributing prasadam every Monday afternoon for an hour and a half in a busy region between the metro and the central train station. They invited me to chant with them the day I flew to New York City, but it was not possible, so I decided to go out with them the day I returned. Behind our chanting party, you can see people lined up for prasadam.
The devotee playing the drum, Sasabindu Prabhu, organizes and cooks for the party.
His halava was full of fruit and it tasted so, so good!

After just proofreading and no harinama for a week, you can see I was happy to be dancing in the kirtana again!

Altogether, there were about ten devotees chanting, serving food, distributing books, and giving out invitations to the temple. It was nice to see a cooperative team working on an outreach program.

While in the Warsaw temple, I met a Polish lady who became a Muslim while working in the Middle East, not being satisfied with the Christianity she was presented with as she grew up in Poland. Somehow or other, her twelve-year-old daughter developed an interest in Hare Krishna, so lady herself has been studying our philosophy and appreciating the universal truths. She wants to encourage her daughter's spiritual exploration. The young girl, who is named Myriem (in the green dress in the first picture above), very enthusiastically played the kalatalas and helped out in different ways on the food distribution outing, and it was very inspiring. What a remarkable story!

Food for Life Warsaw posted a video on their YouTube channel on the Food for Life event (https://youtu.be/8Gh_v2FkopY):

The Polish Woodstock

For the fifteenth year in a row, I attended the Polish Woodstock festival. It is really an amazing opportunity to share kirtana and prasadam with tens of thousands of people.

One guy, who talked to me two or three years ago, commenting our kirtana yoga tent one night, said, “Most of these people are not Hare Krishnas, but they are singing, dancing, and smiling, and are completely happy. In the ordinary world, that would never happen!” I smiled, and said, “Yes I know. That is why I have been coming here for fifteen years. Anyone can be happy by chanting Hare Krishna, but at the Polish Woodstock, they are willing to try it, and so they get that experience.”

Originally this event was attended only by Polish people, and gradually more and more Germans would come. In recent years it has become more international. This year I talked to people from France, Norway, Estonia, Bulgaria, Mozambique, Mexico, Brazil, and Bolivia as well!
Gabriel from Brazil came up to me in the kirtana tent and reminded me that I talked to him last month at the Stonehenge Solstice Festival. At Woodstock he danced with with us every day, sometimes more than one, and he brought his friends as well. In one of the videos I took, you can see he really got into it.

I met people from all over Poland, from Gdansk, from near the border with Belarus, from near Wroclaw and near Katowice near Krakow, and of course, Warsaw. I gave out at least a couple invitation to our Wroclaw temple and several to our Warsaw temple.
Martin, the organizer of the Trutnoff Open Air Music Festival, also called the Czech Woodstock, came there to promote his event. I know him from a kirtana program we did in Trutnov's Balaram restaurant one year.

At the Polish Woodstock, we do Ratha-yatra every day for about three hours.
We had a saxophonist on Ratha-yatra, which does not happen every year.

I, along with others, distribute flyers. 
Sometimes people have no free hands.

Many of the young people there joyfully participate by pulling the cart.

Others participate by dancing.

Some continue dancing after our procession ends.

Some read the mantra from our cards.

As at the Munich and Prague Ratha-yatra, at Woodstock we distribute prasadam from the cart.
Here Indradyumna Swami tastes the nectar of distribution.

Here is a video clip when Indradyumna Swami was leading the kirtana (https://youtu.be/2ebx0HYgiTw):

Here is a segment with Mahatma Prabhu, who came for the first time this year, leading the singing (https://youtu.be/mq3sl9BVXbI):

One time he kept the kirtana going for quite a while after the Ratha-yatra, and many people danced (https://youtu.be/OTobXxUkRv8):

Mahatma Prabhu, who loves kirtana and sharing it with others, was very happy he came this year for the first time.

Bhagavat Asraya Prabhu, a Prabhupada disciple from the UK, also came for the first time. He also loved the event and wants to come on the whole tour next year. He spent a lot of time in questions and answers, and his interpreter was impressed with the expert way he answered the questions.

It is always a pleasure for me when devotees I know from other places come to the Polish Woodstock and have a wonderful time.

Arjuna Krishna Prabhu from Russia also led a lot of kirtana on Ratha-yata, and this kirtana at the end of one Ratha-yatra was particularly festive with lots of dancing (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGerEnGdI0xKnG0RrelYPsft3x0p7D-TO):

After one Ratha-yatra, I talked briefly to one college student from Mexico. I mentioned we had a couple of Mexican girls on our staff, and I went to get one of the them for her to talk to. Apparently this student had been attending our temple in Mexico City and was studying now in Leipzig. She had come to the Polish Woodstock by chance, not knowing of the great Hare Krishna presence there. I took her card, and promised to tell her the details of the Leipzig Ratha-yatra on August 29. She wrote me after I did so saying she would definitely go.

At the end of the Ratha-yatra kirtana the last two days, I grabbed the microphone and told the people of other Krishna music opportunities. The first day I told them we also had this Ratha-yatra the next day from 11:00 to 14:00 and that we had more Krishna music in the Kirtan Yoga tent from 17:00 to 2:00. The final day I told them that this was the final Ratha-yatra but we did have music in our Kirtan Yoga tent from 17:00 to 4:00. I translated each phrase in Polish as I made the announcements, since I had learned the words for everything I wanted to say by coming for so many years. Dominik (now initiated as Dvija Vara Prabhu), who has done lots of organization and practical work for the Krishna village at Woodstock for years, heard my announcement. He came up to me afterward, thanking me very much, and complimenting me on my Polish translation. I was happy to please such an important leader in Indradyumna Swami's organization. I told him how it is important that when we have a favorable crowd gathered, that we take advantage of it and tell them of our events. One of the things that inspires me about Indradyumna Swami is his realization of the importance of promotion. He will will have devotees do three hours of harinama and distribute 7,000 flyers for three days to advertise his festivals.
Standing at the opening of the mantra yoga tent, I offer mantra cards to those who show some attraction to the kirtana. In Polish, the short “i” is spelled with “y”, the sound “sh” is spelled “sz”, and the “y” sound is spelled with “j”.

One lady took two mantra cards and gave one to her husband. At first he did not understand what it was, and she explained, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare . . .” He smiled, and kissed the card, and said, “I love you.”

I gave one young lady a mantra card, and she was going to embrace me. I showed her the pranam mudra, showing respect by joining palms, and she did that back to me. I explained as a monk, I am not supposed to embrace the girls, but that I appreciated her affection. She replied with a smile, saying of her experience in kirtana yoga, “I love it!”

One guy embraced me, happy to get the mantra card, and several girls tried to embrace me. I was a bit put off by it at first. Then I reflected that I enjoyed the first Woodstock festival I went to in 2001 so much that afterward I embraced Sri Prahlada, one of our main singers. I am not one who ever embraces anyone, but I was so happy with the joyous kirtanas that touched people's hearts that I spontaneously embraced him. Similarly a lot of people who came to our Krishna kirtana tent felt a lot of joy, and they wanted to express their gratitude to someone who was part of the team making it happen by embracing him.

I met a lady from the UK who lives near York, and I gave her my card and promised to tell her of the programs there.

I saw one guy who originally met me in Zary at the Woodstock in 2003 and comes by to say “hello” every year.

Trisama Prabhu introduced me to a German man who was seriously curious about the philosophy, which I described in brief to him. I gave him a booklet listing all the German temples as he spends half the time in Berlin and Munich, and I gave him my card, in case he had questions.

I recall giving out contact information for our Berlin and Munich temples. I had talked to the lady from Berlin a previous year, and she seemed more serious now.

One lady from Gdynia, 400 km away, said she comes to the Woodstock festival to see us Hare Krishnas only.

One man had come to Woodstock ten years before and recalled that Hare Krishna was the most memorable part.

So many people felt positive energy in the kirtana tent.

One young lady said she could not relate to anything that was going on at the Woodstock, and she was so grateful she could come to our Krishna village and escape the craziness of it.

I share some videos of the devotees and onlookers dancing to several kirtanas, including those by Indradyumna Swami, Badahari Prabhu and Mahatma Prabhu (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGerEnGdI0xL4CQyHya_bUISZlzZDYi1L):

[Acyuta Gopi and Madhava also led wonderful kirtanas but so late at night my limited camera could not record the awesome dancing it because it was too dark.]

Harinama at the Train Station

I was a little disappointed that I could not get a harinama party together to the train station the day after Woodstock, but it is such a great opportunity to share the holy name that I chanted by myself there for an hour. I had to buy a ticket anyway, so I brought my harmonium, my amplifier, mantra cards, and invitations to our centers in Warsaw and Wroclaw to the train station and chanted while waiting in line for a ticket and 45 minutes afterward.

One young lady enthusiastically chanted Hare Krishna as soon as I came near her. She was from near Warsaw and happy to get an invitation to our center there where she could continue her interest in Hare Krishna.

I continued walking through the crowd of hundreds of people at the train station, giving mantra cards to anyone who smiled or said “Hare Krishna.”

Another girl from near Warsaw was happy to hear my brief description of Krishna consciousness, finding it to be interesting, and she also took an invitation to the temple.

One guy who was familiar with a tradition where they vibrate sounds of certain pitches for their beneficial effects, suggested that we chant a Hare Krishna melody incorporating these sounds. I suggested he making a recording of himself chanting Hare Krishna in that way and send it to me, and that I would share it with my friends. 

To see the photos I did not include in the blog, click on this link below:


Srila Prabhupada:

from a lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.1 in Bombay on December 25, 1976:

This is the difficulty: we take leadership of human society although we remain in the bodily conception of life. Because they also have that conception, the leaders are no better than us, and in that conception we are no better than animals.

God is always God. He neither becomes God nor does He fall down.

There is no question of overpopulation. Because the people are godless, God is restricting the supply.

Satsvarupa dasa Goswami:

By the time
I wrote
Japa Transformations, things were improving.
When I moved to Stuyvesant Falls
japa gradually came
under control. Starting at
midnight in the sanctity of
bhajana kutira I began
to report: 'I was not troubled
by outside thoughts.' The
remaining distraction is
that I think of what to
write in my Japa Report
while I’m chanting.”

From Prabhupada Meditations, Volume 2, Part 3, Number 7:

Srila Prabhupada removed the awkwardness by convincing us that we did not belong to a different religion than he. He referred to the transcendental level at which all things come together. He used to say, 'No one should object and say that they can't chant Hare Krishna because it is a foreign name and it is not one's own religion. This is transcendental sound vibration. We are all spirit souls, parts and parcels of Krishna.' In this way, he established spiritual intimacy.”

Bhaktivaibhava Swami:

Without the mercy of a pure devotee, one cannot attain the Absolute Truth, Sri Krishna.

The many useless commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita are the proof that without the mercy of a pure devotee of Krishna one cannot understand the Absolute Truth.

One should take shelter of a pure devotee and ask for his mercy.

Someone asked Vamsidasa dasa Babaji how one could attain perfection in devotion to Krishna, and he indicated the answer with a single word, “Begging.”

Prahlad Maharaja said, “Unless human society accepts the dust of the lotus feet of a pure devotee of the Lord, mankind cannot turn his attention to the lotus feet of Krishna which alone vanquish the miseries of material life.”

There is no greater embarrassment to a materialist than for his child to become a Vaishnava.

Brahma wanted to take birth as a blade of grass in the Vrindavan area to get such dust of the lotus feet of those so dear to Krishna.

Q: How can you recognize a pure devotee?
A: By his teachings. But, of course, a pure devotee never says “That's me.”

Srila Prabhupada says in a letter, “One who claims he is a advanced Vaishnava is not advanced.”

Getting the mercy of the pure devotee means pleasing the devotee.

Srila Prabhupada is giving his mercy through his teachings, his books, his disciples, etc., but one has to take the mercy.

Trivikrama Swami:

When it is said women are less intelligent, it means they are more given to being carried away by their emotions.

With our intelligence, we are supposed to do everything for the satisifaction Krishna, but we are conditioned by years of acting for ourselves.

If we make a vow, “With this one life I will simply endeavor to make Krishna happy,” we will have wonderful success.

Although Srila Prabhupada is just one person, he was able to convince thousands of people of Krishna consciousness.

There is urgency because we have this advantage of this human form of life.

The problem is we are attached to material things, so we have to get a higher taste. That is why we advocate the kirtana, because it is the easiest way to get a higher taste.

As long as you have material desires, you will have to remain in the material world. The best thing is to pray to Lord Nrsimha to rip out your material desires with His nails.

Indradyumna Swami:

From an address during a Ratha-yatra kirtana:

By chanting Hare Krishna you are becoming happy as you have experienced. Narottama Dasa Thakura has explained why. This chanting of Hare Krishna is imported from the spiritual world.

Arjuna Krishna Prabhu:

From a conversation at the Polish Woodstock festival:

For seven years after Harikesa Swami left, only about ten devotees maintained book distribution, harinama, and prasadam distribution in the Ural region of Russia. Otherwise the whole yatra there was spaced out. But because those enthusiastic devotees maintained those programs, beginning in about 2008, so many new people have begun to join. Now every month there are new devotees joining.


ye lila-amrita vine, khaya yadi anna-pane,
tabe bhaktera durbala jivana
yara eka-bindu-pane, utphullita tanu-mane,
hase, gaya, karaye nartana

Men become strong and stout by eating sufficient grains, but the devotee who simply eats ordinary grains but does not taste the transcendental pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Krishna gradually becomes weak and falls down from the transcendental position. However, if one drinks but a drop of the nectar of Krishna’s pastimes, his body and mind begin to bloom, and he begins to laugh, sing and dance.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita 25.278)