Saturday, October 17, 2015

Travel Journal#11.19: New York City Harinam

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 11, No. 19
By Krishna-kripa das
(October 2015, part one
New York City
(Sent from Brooklyn, New York, on October 17, 2015)

Where I Went and What I Did

In the first half of October, I stayed with the Brooklyn Harinama Ashram, run by Abhiram and Rama Raya Prabhus, and I chanted six hours a day, seven days a week, mostly in Union Square, sometimes leading the chanting, sometimes dancing and distributing invitations and pamphlets, and sometimes working the book table. During this period we were visited by Jayadvaita Swami and Janananda Goswami. I also gave lectures at Atmanivedana Prabhu’s program one Saturday evening at 26 Second Avenue, and the next Saturday at the ISKCON program in Queens. I am rememorizing chapter one of Bhagavad-gita this month and learning a new beat on the drum from Ananta Gauranga Prabhu. After a virtual absence of about six months, I am back to answering questions on Live Help again. I am very happy to have caught up on this journal, so I can write about the present instead of the past.

I share excerpts from the online journal of Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami. I share notes on lectures at the Harinama Ashram by Jayadvaita Swami, Abhiram Prabhu, Rama Raya Prabhu, Madhavendra Puri Prabhu, Bhakta Avatar Prabhu, Babhru Prabhu, and Acarya-nistha Prabhu. I share notes on a Srila Prabhupada remembrances videos featuring Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, Jayapataka Swami, Gargamuni Prabhu, Guru-kripa Prabhu, Narayani Devi Dasi, and Rupa Vilas Prabhu.

I would like to thank Atmanivedana Prabhu for his kind donation and also the Bhakta Lawrence, who regular serves at the Brooklyn temple and attends the program in Queens.


September 28–November 12: New York City Harinama
November 13: Philadelphia
November 14–17: Washington, D.C., Harinama
November 18: Jacksonville, FL
November 19: Tampa
November 20: Orlando
November 21–December 15: Krishna House (except 5 days in Tallahassee)
December 16–January 3: New York City Harinama

Mostly we chanted in Union Square Park, except for a few rainy days where we went underground.

At Union Square, we were visited by Janananda Goswami, who is originally from the UK and my authority there in The North of England in the summer.

Janananda Goswami greatly praised the work of Rama Raya Prabhu in establishing this six-hour daily harinama program in New York City. He reminded us that in the 1970s, before book distribution became popular, Hare Krishna devotees often chanted eight or ten hours a day in the streets. Now this harinama program in New York City is unique. Janananda Goswami promised to join us for a week next year as next October is the fiftieth anniversary of the public chanting of Hare Krishna in the West, which was established at Tompkins Square Park on October 9, 1966.

This time he stayed with us about two hours, leading the chanting for about forty minutes and listening to Garrison sing and talking with devotees the rest of the time. His visit, although brief, was an inspiration for me. Here he is leading the chanting (

One little girl, who played the shakers briefly with us, wanted to have her picture taken with the party.

Later we were visited by Jayadvaita Swami, who sang the tune popularly known as “The Prabhupada Tune” for about an hour. 

In this picture, he is a responding singer. 
Kalyani Devi Dasi danced with one girl while her friend took photos.
The other girl then danced while the first girl took photos. 
Finally they both danced.
A couple danced, the guy with his guitar.

A lady danced with her daughter,

even swinging her around.

And older lady took pictures for a while.

And then burst into an ecstatic dance.

This boy came last October to celebrate his third birthday.

And he came back this October to celebrate his fourth.

Martin from Krakow took pictures of us. He heard that we had Krishna food at the Polish Woodstock but never went. To my surprise, he told me he had been to Mathura and Vrindavan, on his honeymoon, no less. He and his wife were visiting Agra and spent a day in Mathura and Vrindavan on their way back to Delhi.

Recently many book distributors have been joining our party for some days at Union Square. Babhru Prabhu, a brahmacari who you see ecstatically dancing with us in some of the videos, has been with us several weeks.

Here Brajananda Prabhu sold a young lady both a Srimad-Bhagavatam volume 1 and a Science of Self-Realization. Initially she was not interested in getting a book, but somehow he convinced her to take Science of Self-Realization, and she gave five dollars. He told her if she threw in another five, he would give her the Bhagavatam, and so she did.

Here Acarya-nistha Prabhu, holding several books under his arm, plays the drum of a passerby.

The evening kirtanas at Union Square are generally the most lively. Here is one with Ananta Gauranga Prabhu leading (

Here are two with lead singer Rama Raya Prabhu, whose intensity in kirtana is reminiscent of his inspiration, Aindra Prabhu ( and

You can watch the New York City Harinama live every day online at

Chanting in Union Square Subway Station

When rain would occur in the middle of our session, we would descend into the Union Square subway station. Sometimes the chanting there would be quite lively. Here is a video of Rama Raya Prabhu chanting there (

Chanting in Jackson Heights / Roosevelt Avenue Subway Station

On completely rainy days we would sing in different subway stations such as Jackson Heights / Roosevelt Avenue. There are many Indian people and many Hispanic people who use the Jackson Heights / Roosevelt Avenue subway station, and a higher percentage of them than average appreciates our activities. Also compared to the other subway stations, more devotees and onlookers participate in the dancing there.

Here is a video of Tulasi Das Prabhu singing there (

And here is one of Brajaraja Prabhu singing there (

To see the pictures I did not include in this journal, click on the link below:


Jayapataka Swami:

From a Srila Prabhupada remembrance video:

Srila Prabhupada’s guru told him to preach in the West and he did that successfully, but he saw how India was becoming degraded and losing its culture, and thought, “How can I stand by and let this happen?”

Comment by Brahmananda Prabhu: The Deity Dvarakadhisa in Los Angeles spoke to Prabhupada, telling him to go back to India.

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami:

From “Poem for October 5”:

Prabhupada said haribol was “a shortcut for the Hare Krishna mantra.”

From Prabhupada Remembrances #46:

He impressed me like the Buddha, sitting cross-legged and his chest bare. I was interested in Eastern thought.

They had straw mats. Prabhupada also had a straw mat.

He started the kirtana very slowly.

I was impressed with the kirtana and with him.

He was the first Indian teacher I met.

His gravity and grandfatherlyness I liked very much.

My first question was “Is there freedom from miseries?”
He said, “No, you can break your arm, go to the hospital, and get it fixed, and then you can break another bone. Then it continues next life. Only by getting liberation does misery end.”

I asked in his room alone with him “Is there a level of advancement which you do not fall down from?”
He answered, “Yes.”

From the first night I met him all my bad habits went away by themselves.

I did not go to the first initiation but I did do some typing for him which I brought the next day. He asked why I missed the initiation. I said I did some typing and gave it to him.
He said, “I will love you if you love me.” I looked within my self for reasons that I might not love him and I kicked it all out.

Srila Prabhupada had Dr. Radhakrishnan’s Bhagavad-gita and some of the other boys also got them. He said, “Don’t read the purport at all. It is contaminating.”

I asked about if at initiation is the karma removed. He answered with the fan analogy. Initiation is like unplugging the fan on your karma, which gradually stops.

I did not have a problem that my parents rejected me. I accepted Srila Prabhupada was my father.

Tamal Krishna Goswami wondered if it was alright to write his mother regularly when he took sannyasa. Srila Prabhupada asked, “Do you wish to make your mother a special object of your mercy?” Tamal Krishna Goswami decided that he should not write his mother quite so often but to occasionally write her.

Prabhupada would make the point that everyone has to bow down. You have to bow down to “old age.”

Once he wanted me to go to a bank in Calcutta and get something done. They would not do it. I returned. Prabhupada said I should have got in writing the reason for the refusal, and that would have been progressive, but that I had failed to accomplish anything.

He said I was a perfect gentlemen but I could not manage.

Jayadvaita Swami:

Kirtana is chanting the names or the glories of Krishna. Both are krishna-kirtana.

Anything short of pure devotional service has some sin mixed in with it.

People are attracted by the bright faces of the devotees chanting on sankirtana. Their bright faces are the mercy of Lord Caitanya. Imagine how people would be attracted by seeing Lord Caitanya’s own wonderful form!

Anga can mean “limb”. We refer to someone’s “right-hand man”. Thus “anga” can refer to the devotees with whom Lord Caitanya performs His pastimes.

Speculative knowledge is knowledge that does not lead to devotional service.

If we become proud of our devotional knowledge that becomes an impediment to our devotional service.

If you are devotee, but you are not learned, better to say you do not know rather than make something up, and then consult someone who actually knows.

Srila Prabhupada explained that realized knowledge means you can apply it.

Even those who do not believe in a divinity must accept the existence of a superior power.

Maya does not just have one arrow in her quiver.

We cannot overcome maya, unless we surrender to Krishna.

The more we try to conquer maya the more we are defeated. Nuclear power was originally advertised as clean power. Now even to analyze the options for dealing with the waste from these power plants is a multi-million dollar, multi-year task.

Q: With the sankirtana going on how is it there is a five-year drought in California?
A: How much sankirtana is going on and how much sinful activity is going on? San Francisco alone is enough to sink California.

There is a kirtana rabbi in New York City with a harmonium who sings Jewish prayers.

From a talk on his book, Vanity Karma, at the Bhakti Center:

Q: Cynics decry religions promising a better after life if you renounce sense enjoyment.
A: Even in this life, if you go all out to experience sense enjoyment, you will find yourself in misery.

Koheleth takes a very empirical approach to life yet he accepts God without question. He wonders why the good appear to be punished and the evil to be rewarded, and thus he doubts.

Q: What is your personal take away from the experience of writing this book?
A: I have a deeper appreciation of Ecclesiastes from reading the scholars commentaries on it. I also have a deeper appreciation of Srila Prabhupada, and his Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the knowledge they give. Even just to explain what we see, the Vedic literature is valuable, what to speak of explaining what is beyond.

Abhiram Prabhu:

It took centuries of fighting to convince Gajendra that his situation was hopeless and death was near and take he should take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

There are people who feel their lives are so empty they play their television 24 hours a day so they feel that something is happening. But what is a television show but patterns of light on a screen?

People are waiting for the apocalypse to take Srila Prabhupada’s instructions to implement varnasrama seriously, but the apocalypse is now. One in three people will die of cancer. The embryo is not even safe in the womb of his mother. Worst of all, there is no spiritual knowledge, so in frustration one cannot even turn to God.

The purpose of Srila Prabhupada coming on the boat across the ocean was to present this knowledge in a variety of ways for our enlightenment.

I was sitting with Srila Prabhupada in his last days. As I was massaging Srila Prabhupada I heard this conversation:
Srila Prabhupada: I do have one lamentation.
Brahmananda: Because you did not finish Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada?
Srila Prabhupada: No, that I did not establish varnasrama.

Another time I recall this conversation:

Srila Prabhupada: I will teach you varnasrama.
Abhiram Prabhu: How will you do that?
Srila Prabhupada: I will go to Gitanagari, I will sit down, and I will show you how to live off the land.

In India you will see the mother cow will be lying down and even monkeys and dogs will take milk from her, and she does not complain.

Srila Prabhupada felt the suffering of the people in general, and he wanted to help them.

Death never announces itself. It just comes and takes us.

Q: What is the importance of going to Vrindavan?
A: It is part of Srila Prabhupada proscription for us, to come yearly, if possible to Vrindavan and see where Krishna performed his pastimes.

We can be more in Vrindavan by chanting in Union Square than wondering around Vrindavan looking for a pizza.

In New York City if you are not Krishna consciousness, you will be seriously in maya, and that can motivate you to be very serious. But in the holy dhama, if you are not careful, you can drift along without getting serious about Krishna consciousness.

Unfortunately egalitarianism does not bring us to respect everyone but to respect no one.

Gargamuni Prabhu:

From a Srila Prabhupada remembrance video:

Srila Prabhupada wanted three cars, one each for his main ISKCON centers in India. The foreign cars could not handle the India roads, so he wanted me to get cars from Birla. At that time, there was a waiting list of 7,000 people to get a car, but Prabhupada wanted the cars immediately, so I talked to Mr. Birla personally and obtained them.

In those days there was no quality control, and we took the cars apart and rebuilt them to make sure they were in order.

Srila Prabhupada was doing everything through us and thus he deserves the credit, but he would give us the credit. When I got the LA temple, in the prema dhvani, he said, “Jaya Gargamuni!” but I knew it was his doing.

Srila Prabhupada never made you feel bad. If he had to correct someone, he would say something positive to you after.

Srila Prabhupada would make you feel important as a servant of Krishna.

Guru-kripa Prabhu:

From a Srila Prabhupada remembrance video:

A devotee appreciates Krishna in everything whereas the demon cannot.

Narayani Devi Dasi:

From a Srila Prabhupada remembrance video:

In my initation letter, Srila Prabhupada told me to do six things. These included:
chant 16 rounds
study all our books
go on sankirtana
do deity worship
engage 24 hours in devotional service

In another letter, Prabhupada stressed being enthusiastic, sincere and cooperating with the devotees.

In Calcutta, literally I was in rags. I tried to cover up the holes in my sari when I offered obeisances to Srila Prabhupada but he must have noticed because four days later one of our richest life members took me shopping to three or four sari shops for saris. And I never had any lack of saris the rest of my life.

Rupa Vilasa Prabhu:

From a Srila Prabhupada remembrance video:

I asked Srila Prabhupada, “It is so difficult for us to get the gurukula kids to do what we want. How can we do it?”
He replied, “Point to a student who is doing nicely and tell the others to act like him and that they will be happy if they do so.”

Rama Raya Prabhu:

Attachment to our own mental speculation is a great impediment to attaining pure Krishna consciousness.

It is our mission to facilitate everyone achieving ecstatic love of Krishna.

Mirabhai decided that no mortal man would touch her body. In other words, she was meant for Krishna alone. Her family was greatly opposed to her devotion to Krishna. Her envious brother sent her a basket with a cobra in it telling her it was a beautiful salagram-sila form of Krishna for her to worship. His plan was she would open the basket and be killed by the cobra. When she opened the basket, however, she found a beautiful salagram-sila. That salagram-sila exists in a temple in Vrindavan.

Our mission is to bring people back to Godhead, and the mission of the MTA [the New York City transit company] is to bring people from point A to point B. They are sympathetic to our mission as long as we do not impede their mission.

I will be true to you forever.” Sounds like a mundane love song. It is a nice sentiment, but terribly misplaced.

Srila Prabhupada showed how by remaining true to the disciplic succession one can do amazing service to the Lord.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura says a Vaishnava can be gauged by how many devotees he has made in his life.

Srila Prabhupada said that when kirtana is performed before Gaura Nitai, the center becomes all perfect.

Lord Caitanya takes great pleasure in the distribution of love of God with His associates.

When you see the lila of the Lord you come to realize there is a vacancy in the lila and that is your part to fill.

None of the other demigods came to rescue Gajendra because they could tell his prayers were meant for the Supreme Lord Himself.

The cheating religionists say things like, “You just believe in this and do this little ritual, and you are good to go.”

There is no greater leader of the Hare Krishna movement than Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He personally went out on nagara-sankirtana with His followers every day. He did not stay back, pushing pencils, and send other people out. He had a real taste for it.

If someone congratulates you for stopping your car at a red light, what is that? You are just doing what you are supposed to. So if someone glorifies us for doing the congregational chanting of the holy name in public, what is that? It is the dharma. It is what we are supposed to do.

Rather than worrying about entering our rasa with Krishna, better aspire to enter Srila Prabhupada’s mood in “Markine Bhagavat Dharma,” feeling sorry seeing the suffering of the people and praying “I wish that You may deliver them.”

If Srila Prabhupada had not been committed to following the order of his spiritual master, where would we be now?

Abhiram Prabhu, who is a scholar of history, says that no religious movement that has radically changed society has started in the parlors but in the streets.

Srila Prabhupada wants to empower us. Sometimes his disciples would do offensive things, but he still would not want them to leave.

Gajendra has come to the point of realizing that he has no alternative but to surrender Krishna.

There was one devotee who cried for Krishna for years in Vrindavan. He cried so much he went blind, but he did not care because he considered eyes that could not see the Divine Couple to be useless. Radha and Krishna decided to be merciful to him. Radha touched one eye and Krishna touched the other eye, thus restoring his sight, and his first object of vision was the Divine Couple Themselves.

We can only be happy in relationship with that person who is beyond everything.

The more we can give our heart to Krishna, the more we can understand Krishna.

Because Krishna never leaves Vrindavan, you cannot describe Krishna’s activities in and out of Vrindavan in one volume. Thus Rupa Goswami was requested to divide his drama into two parts.

Q: Is is alright to become a doctor and help people?
A: What about becoming doctors of the soul that can give Krishna prema to people?
Q: What about doing both?
A: The track record for doing both is not very good.

Madhavendra Puri Prabhu:

The impersonalists and materialists fail to understand the Lord has His own primordial personality beyond this cosmic manifestation which He is the source of.

The devotees in England noticed that when walking around Titttenhurst Srila Prabhupada, in his Wellington boots, was not pushing down the grass as the other devotees were.

Comment by Rama Raya Prabhu:

The devotees in England asked, “How is it that your feet are not making any impression in the ground?”
And Srila Prabhupada replied, “For that you will have to advance in devotional service.”

Although Krishna has a spiritual body, when Bhimsa shot Him with arrows Krishna manifested blood on this body for the pleasure of Bhimsa who had a chivalrous relationship with Him. Similarly when Lord Caitanya experienced transcendental ecstasy, blood came through his pores, although His body is also spiritual.

When Lord Caitanya saw anything even remotely related to Vrindavan, he at once remembered Vrindavan and Krishna..

Acinya-bheda-abheda tattva is Lord Caitanya unification of the philosophy of the four Vaishnava sampradayas (spiritual lineages).

Krishna is so absorbed in His emotional relationships with His devotees, He actually forgets Himself.

Comment by Rama Raya Prabhu:
Srila Prabhupada told Govinda Dasi, “Just come to my classes, and all your problems will be solved.”

She found that hard to believe, but she came to the classes, and found her problems were solved, and she developed a great taste for hearing his classes.
Bhakta Avatar Prabhu:

Lord Caitanya was always seeking Radha Krishna and Their associates, and Srila Prabhupada, by arranging for Radha-Madhava asta-sakhi-vrinda to appear on the altar in Mayapur, fulfilled His desire.

If all the gods were equal then why would Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva worship Lord Vishnu?

Srila Prabhupada did not take a day off and play volleyball or go to the movies.

In Krishna consciousness eating, sleeping, and mating are all spiritualized.

We see that the kids brought up in Krishna consciousness are special.

Krishna consciousness is always increasing. Srila Prabhupada started alone with no money and a box of cereal and a few books.

I was talking to someone on harinama who stops by every day and listens to the harinama.

Comment by me: That is his sadhana [daily spiritual practice].

People have never heard anything like the chanting.

Comments by Rama Raya:
We are serving Krishna directly by serving the holy name. Instead of trying to see Krishna in a bush in Vrindavan, see Krishna in the spreading of the holy name.

Eight million people come to Manhattan every day to work for Maya. Why can’t 10,000 people come to Manhattan to chant Hare Krishna?

By thinking big for our spiritual master, we conquer over petty material desires.
Q: How did your son Vrindavan become such a nice devotee?
A: I just kept my son Vrindavan away from bad association. I took him to all the temples and all the festivals. Only for one year did he go to a karmi school. He was living with my father. The school was just across the street. My father would take him to school in the morning, pick him up for lunch, give him some vegetarian food, and take him back and pick him up at the end of the day, and thus he could not pick up the materialistic habits of the other kids.
One’s peer group is very important for kids. It is important to have other devotee kids to associate with.
More important than giving up bad association is attaining good association. My son spent nine years with Aindra Prabhu, beginning when he was thirteen.

Comments by Rama Raya Prabhu:
Aindra Prabhu told one gurukula kid, whatever you do, do not stop doing kirtana.

Yamuna Devi was very concerned that the youth understand Srila Prabhupada’s love.

Only two things are going on on harinama: inclination toward Krishna and disinclination toward Krishna.

Since harinama sankirtana is very dear to the devotees of the Lord, we are pleasing countless devotees past, present, and future by our chanting.

Within eight miles of salagrama-sila is considered a place of pilgrimage.
Mathuraprana Krishna Das Prabhu:

The devotees were asking Srila Prabhupada about whether it was alright to chant this mantra or that mantra. Because they were all bona fide mantras, Srila Prabhupada accepted them, but after each he said mostly to chant the Hare Krishna mantra.

Comment by Rama Raya Prabhu:

Devotees do not think they are doing anything special because they are just doing what they are supposed to be doing, serving the mission of Lord Caitanya.

In Srila Prabhupada’s books the most quoted verse is “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna . . . ” The second most is “Harer nama harer mana harinamaiva kelavam . . .

Why should we make Krishna wait? He wants us to go back home back to Godhead now.

Babhru Prabhu:

God reveals Himself to His devotee.

Madhavendra Puri Prabhu says it is practically impossible to understand God through science because Krishna has made it that way.

One should accept a guru who has the qualities of an advanced devotee that are described in the revealed literatures.

It is important to understand where we are at spiritually. Five people told me yesterday while distributing books on harinama that they had pure love for God.

Spiritual advancement can be gradual or fast. It is up to us.

If we are in the mood of giving up everything to understand Krishna, then it will be possible to understand Him.

I feel Krishna book is the most important book Srila Prabhupada gave us. Krishna book is full of Srila Prabhupada’s mercy.

Reading the biographies of the great spiritual masters in our line can give us faith that there is a state of love of God, and that it can be attained by following them.

We should pray for the mercy of the spiritual masters in our line. We should cry for such mercy.

By reading Srila Prabhupada’s writings and those of others in the line we can be more and more inspired.

Everything is revealed by the holy name. If we do not have a taste for the holy name, we should serve more.

If we offend a devotee, we should surrender to that devotee, be forgiven and make up for it.

Comment by Bhakta Avatar Prabhu:
As a new devotee I was asked to clean the bathroom. I thought, “I am a great personality. I have not cleaned a bathroom since I was a kid.” But I surrendered to it, and it was the most ecstatic experience.
Acarya-nistha Prabhu:

When we give in to the whims of the mind and the senses we lose the chance to remember to Krishna.

We have to practice seeing that people are not their bodies.

We have to staunchly execute devotional service in order to not be affected by the material influences and to please Krishna by our service.

If we are on the platform of the soul, we will not be disturbed by the material dualities.

To follow the injunctions of the revealed scriptures will always be a challenge for one attached to sense gratification.

It is a special opportunity to act on behalf of the Lord. Not every one has this opportunity. One who takes the opportunity comes to realize how Krishna reciprocates with his devotees.

Comment by Rama Raya Prabhu:
Sometimes people get attracted to reading the books of the previous acaryas [the spiritual teachers] and lose track of the task at hand, the preaching mission. It can actually be a trick of maya to distract us from the preaching.
The main lack in society is a lack of Krishna prema, love of God.

Unless we control our minds and senses, we will equate advance rasas [intimate spiritual relationships with the Lord] with mundane experience.

The more we enjoy in youth, the more we suffer in old age and in the next life.

We do not know what to desire, and if we do not desire to assist our spiritual master, you can be sure that maya will give us something to desire.

If you are preaching Krishna consciousness in a committed way, you are already back to Godhead.

Comment by John:
Abhiram Prabhu always quotes Srila Prabhupada as saying, “Take some trouble for Krishna. You will not be the loser.”
Natabara Gauranga Prabhu:

From a kitchen conversation:

Prasadam does not really go bad. Our consciousness goes bad. 

Brajananda Prabhu:

From a dinner conversation:

Get out of the drama, and into the Rama.


Can one attain perfection in this life? The answer is YES!

iha yasya harer dasye
na manasa gira
nikhilasv apy avasthasu
jivan-muktah sa ucyate

A person acting in Krishna consciousness (or, in other words, in the service of Krishna) with his body, mind, intelligence and words is a liberated person even within the material world, although he may be engaged in many so-called material activities.” (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.187, quoted in Bhagavad-gita As It Is, verse 5.11, purport)