Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Travel Journal#12.16: Czech Woodstock, Prague, Newcastle, Chester, Edinburgh

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 12, No. 16
By Krishna-kripa das
(August 2016, part two)
Czech Woodstock, Prague, Newcastle, Chester, Edinburgh
(Sent from Brooklyn, New York, on September 21, 2016)

Where I Went and What I Did

I traveled from the Baltic Coast to northern Czech Republic for the Trutnov Open Air Music Festival (Czech Woodstock), where Hare Krishna devotees share Krishna food, music, and wisdom with hundreds of people at a rock concert for three and a half days. Then I did harinama in Prague for one day. The next day I was held up uselessly at Gatwick Airport by immigration officials and missed the London harinama. I did salvage the day by going to Southall and getting my harmonium repaired for just the cost of the new reeds. The next three days I did harinama in Newcastle by myself, as well as attending the Wednesday evening kirtana and the Janmastami and Vyasa-puja ceremonies. I include inspiring notes on the Vyasa-puja offerings of the Newcastle devotees as well as some we read that day from the international Vyasa-puja book. I spent the weekend with Karsna Prabhu, Mother Aharada, and their son, Mark, doing harinama in Chester and attending their semimonthly program, which was also attended by two new people who came because of the harinama. The next week I finished out August, chanting in Newcastle on Monday and Wednesday, and going to Edinburgh Tuesday for harinama and our Tuesday evening program there.

The last half of August I was staying at many venues with no regular Bhagavatam classes, so I have notes on a recorded lecture by Srila Prabhupada and Bhakti Charu Swami. I have also an excerpt from the online journal of Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami and one of his books, and a couple quotes from Sadaputa Prabhu from his Mysteries of the Sacred Universe, which I proofread recently for its reprinting and which will soon be available from

I would like to thank the Newcastle temple for their generous donation. Thanks to Karsna Prabhu and the Chester nama-hatta for their donation to cover my travel expenses from Newcastle to Chester and Lukas and the Gauranga Mantra Centre for their donation to cover my travel expenses from Newcastle to Edinburgh. Thanks to Rama Prasada Prabhu, Lotus, and Malini Devi Dasi of the Edinburgh congregation for their donations and Emma of the Chester nama-hatta for her donation. Thanks to Punya Palaka Prabhu for contributing to my travel to Trutnov for the Czech Woodstock. Thanks to the Indian tourist for his donation on Prague harinama. Thanks to JAS Musicals of Southall, who repaired my harmonium for only the cost of the three reeds that needed to be replaced. They also invited me to chant and play their harmonium as they repaired mine, and a Indian man played drum to accompany me. Thanks to Chand, Mark, and other devotees of the Chester nama-hatta for their pictures of our harinama there.


September 13–21: New York City Harinam
September 22–25: Philadelphia Harinamas and Ratha-yatra
September 25–mid November: New York City Harinama
Three days in mid November: Washington, D.C., Harinama
last two weeks November: North Florida
December: New York City Harinam

Trutnov Open Air Music Festival (Czech Woodstock) 2016

Like at the Polish Woodstock, Hare Krishna devotees are friends with the organizer of the Trutnov Open Air Music Festival (Czech Woodstock), and we have our own camp and our own stage, where we distribute Krishna prasadam (spiritual food) and Krishna kirtana (spiritual music). 

On our first harinama, we passed a vendor of flower crowns, and the devotees tried them on.

Here is our kirtana leader Nrsimha Caitanya Prabhu so decorated.

Also on our harinama was Ananta Gauranga Prabhu, who I know from his childhood in Alachua, his youth at Krishna House, and most recently from New York City Harinam, where he sang beautifully and played mrdanga for Rama Raya Prabhu’s harinama party.

The first night I was surprised to see one girl chanting and dancing in our tent named Eliska (in the center of the above picture), who I remembered from 2009. She and some high school friends really enjoyed chanting and dancing in the kirtana so much back then (

She had traveled to different parts of the world, attending the festival only once since then. She is a regular attender at Baladeva’s, Trutnov’s Hare Krishna restaurant. I told her to look out for the kirtana programs we have there during the year.

These two girls appeared so joyful to be chanting and dancing to the Hare Krishna kirtana.

The prasadam was wonderful as usual.

The samosas were very tasty.

They also had rice and sabji, raita, pasta salad, halava, and coconuts balls in three flavors.

As part of our scheduled program there was a question and answer session with a senior devotee who could not make it that day. I had figured they would just ask another senior devotee to do it, but they announced they would just continue chanting. I had already left the stage, thinking the chanting was over, so I decided to use the bathroom before returning for more kirtana. Before I could return to the stage one couple asked if I would answer some questions for them. They asked the meaning of Hare, Rama, and Krishna, and about the relationship between Hinduism and Hare Krishna. I explained the three names mean the spiritual energy of God, God, who is the source of all pleasure, and God, who is all-attractive, respectively. I explained we are a group within Hinduism that stresses the worship of Krishna. Although many gods are worshiped within Hinduism, the Bhagavad-gita stresses the worship of the Supreme Lord, Krishna, alone. I explained Srila Prabhupada’s analogy that you do not have to give money to the different ministers in the government for defense, education, health, etc. You simply pay your tax to the central government, and it is all distributed. In the same way, we do not need to worship the sun god, the moon god, the rain god, etc. We just have to worship the Supreme Lord. They recognized I had been coming for many years. I explained there is a lot of joy in the chanting, and we like to share it with others. As they were from Prague, I gave them an invitation to our temple and restaurant there, which they were happy to receive. I was glad to answer their questions, especially as I thought the question and answers session was a good idea, and it should not have been skipped. 

I talked to a lady who had an interest in meditation. She has taught local Czech politics at a university in Prague for nine years. I explained that the chanting we do is a kind of meditation, and that if she liked it, she could attend our Wednesday programs at our Govinda’s restaurant in Prague. She danced to our kirtanas on at least a couple of occasions, looking very joyful.

I have many video clips of people chanting Hare Krishna and dancing with the devotees. Although these people are not yet serious about completely dedicating their lives to spiritual advancement, whatever chanting and hearing of the holy name of the Lord they do is very good for them. While viewing these videos keep in mind that Srimad-Bhagavatam (6.2.14) states, “One who chants the holy name of the Lord is immediately freed from the reactions of unlimited sins, even if he chants indirectly [to indicate something else], jokingly, for musical entertainment, or even neglectfully. This is accepted by all the learned scholars of the scriptures.” So these people are becoming more and more pious and gradually becoming eligible to perform devotional service to the Supreme Lord with determination in the future and attain love for God, the goal of life. 

The first two days of the four-day festival, the Harinama Ruci traveling sankirtana party chanted in town of Trutnov (both on the streets and outside, and even inside, the bars and restaurants), from the town to the festival site, and at the festival site itself. We often tried to encourage the people we met to chant the Hare Krishna one word at a time, and sometimes we were very successful and sometimes less so

Because of a change in the price structure, fewer people came to the festival this year, about 6,000 instead of 18,000. Thus Harinama Ruci left early to chant in Prague on the final day. Although it would have been fun to go with them, I wanted to participate in our program at Trutnov.

There are many people who visit our Krishna tent at Trutnov every day to experience our Krishna food and Krishna music. For most of them, it is their only contact with Krishna consciousness the whole year, and it is an important part of the festival for them. Although their level of commitment is not comparable to those who adopt more of the spiritual practices we follow, still they need to be encouraged in whatever they can do, and we play a role there in encouraging them.

In different parts of the world we have festivals where devotees can go, like the Sadhu Sanga festival in America or the Bhakti Sangam festival in Ukraine, and become inspired. Our Krishna Camp at Trutnov is for these people with a just little initial attraction to Krishna, their Sadhu Sanga festival, and it is important we provide it to give them an opportunity for spiritual association. Otherwise all there is at these concerts is sex, drugs, and rock and roll, from which even those successful at them say, you “can’t get no satisfaction.”

In the afternoon, persons willing to hear and dance with our chanting were fewer and far between, but the devotees were still enthusiastic (

Our special guest this year was Bhakti Gauravani Goswami, originally Vedavyasa Prabhu, a German BBT translator, who has taken sannyasa and is preaching in Spain recently. Here he led kirtana the first evening (

Evening kirtanas with Nrsimha Caitanya Prabhu (

Evening kirtanas with Dhruva Maharaja Prabhu from Slovakia (

I took some pictures in the evenings with my phone, which has a light, to illuminate some of the enthusiastic dancers to our kirtanas.

Nrsimha Caitanya Prabhu began leading our first evening kirtanas on the first day of the Czech Woodstock (

The second evening we had the most participants dancing to our kirtana (

Here is a kirtana on the final evening, to a smaller, but still enthusiastic crowd (

Thanks to all the devotees whose cooperation made it possible to share Krishna music and Krishna food with hundreds of people at Trutnov, the Czech Woodstock.

Janmastami in Newcastle

At the Newcastle Janmastami festival, I was not doing so well because of the fast, and tiredness from travel, and thus it was hard to appreciate. I was also frustrated that no one wanted to chant with me in public due to unfortunate circumstances. There was dance, drama, and kirtana as usual. Bhakti Rasa Prabhu spoke nicely.

Vasheel led a lively late night Janmastami kirtana at ISKCON Newcastle, getting the devotees dancing (

I was satisfied with the feast.

Notes on the Vyasa Puja Offerings in the Vyasa-puja Book

In our Newcastle Vyasa-puja service we read a few offerings from favorite senior devotees from the international Vyasa-puja book.

Bhakti Caitanya Swami:

Srila Prabhupada taught that association with the pure devotee is not as valuable as service to the pure devotee. By serving Srila Prabhupada we attain love for Krishna.

Jayapataka Swami:

Lord Caitanya delivered people in India but engaged His commander-in-chief devotee, Srila Prabhupada, in delivering people in remote places.

Notes on Vyasa Puja Offerings in Newcastle

Several devotees mentioned they especially like Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja because they get to hear the inspiring realizations of their friends about Srila Prabhupada’s mercy.

Kirtida Devi Dasi:

I am glad to be here and reflect on my relationship with you and to hear the appreciations of the other devotees.

ISKCON is a vehicle through which you expressed your devotion to your guru, the line of teachers, and Krishna.

ISKCON is the people who make it up.

Please help me to be a solution to any problems I may find in ISKCON and not add to them.

Bhakti Rasa Prabhu:

ISKCON is your Krishna’s mercy distribution network.

Markandeya Prabhu spoke at a program attended by Mahakrama Prabhu, who suffering from throat cancer. Turns out Markandeya Prabhu had recovered from that kind of cancer and was very sympathetic to Mahakrama Prabhu’s condition. Although the odds were against it, in your ISKCON society, such a meeting was possible.

Vrinda Devi Dasi:

I think by your mercy, everything that is not possible will become possible for us.

When I thought of all you have done for us, I tried again to distribute a book on sankirtana although previously I was unsuccessful, and I succeeded.


Thank you for being there for all us fallen souls.

I appreciate your simplicity. To someone who said, “I am God,” you once said, “You are dog.” Later the man thanked you.

Madhuri Devi Dasi:

Just because I have not met you personally does not mean I cannot have a personal relationship with you, so I decided to start with this offering.

Traveling in American recently, I was away from home, and I was thinking about how you were away from home all alone there in New York City.

In that foreign place what was most familiar to me was the devotees, who I am connected with because of you.

Let this movement of Krishna bhakti spread through my heart.

Gauridas Pandit Prabhu:

I visited Sweden. In a country with a different culture I felt out of place until entered the Stockholm temple. There everything was familiar to me. The devotees were so kind. It was like I was going from one home to another.

Radha Shyam Prabhu:

Your conversation with Bob Cohen [in Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers] struck many chords with me.

Although I am not reading your books at present, they have permanently changed my life.

It is rare to find anyone with a passion for anything, what to speak of a passion for benefiting humanity with spiritual enlightenment.


Hearing from your disciples about their interactions with you, I felt bad I missed your association, but then I considered at least I had the association of those who had your association.


You came on a boat to America with nothing but your own love for Krishna and your desire to spread Lord Caitanya’s message.

Jagannathesvari Devi Dasi:

“All glories to the moons, who are devotees of the principal moon, Lord Caitanyacandra! Their bright moonshine illuminates the entire universe.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila 13.5) This verse always reminds me of you. 

Ramai Prabhu:

The whole world is indebted to you for teaching the purpose to life.

Those who have taken up the chanting can realize the depth of it.

It is a miracle that you have spread this chanting to so many parts of this world.

You have freely given a way of life so that everyone can be happy.

Ram Rao’s wife, Indira:

Everything you have given is for my heart’s content. Please accept my gratitude.


Thank you for giving us ISKCON. I think this is my real family.


In 1973 or 1974 was in Gujarat and looking for a job at the time. I saw devotees setting up for a program. I helped Srila Prabhupada spread a carpet on the stage for it. More devotees came. I chanted with them. Soon after that my life improved. I got good employment. Whenever I feel lonely, I think of the experience with Srila Prabhupada, and I feel ananda [spiritual pleasure]. Ananda has no opposite.

Krishna-kripa Das:

Srila Prabhupada wrote in a letter to Sudama, December 23, 1972:

“Yes, from the very beginning I went to New York because I thought that Krishna Consciousness is the most important idea in the world, so let me go to that place, New York, which is the most important city in the world, and if I am able to do anything for Krishna and my Spiritual Master, even I am at the fag-end of my life, at least let me try for it there. So my dreams have all come true, and all of you nice boys and girls are getting the credit. When I was alone in your New York, I was thinking, who will listen to me in this horrible, sinful place? All right, I shall stay little longer, at least I can distribute a few of my books, that is something. But Krishna was all along preparing something I could not see, and He brought you to me one by one, sincere American boys and girls, to be trained-up for doing the work of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Now I can see that it is a miracle. Otherwise, your city of New York, one single old man, with only a few books to sell for barely getting eatables, how he can survive, what to speak of introducing God-consciousness movement for saving the humankind? That is Krishna’s miracle. Now I can see it.”

Srila Prabhupada was successful because of his amazing faith, and what was that faith?

Faith in his guru and his guru’s order:
(1) preach in the West
(2) if you get money, print books
(3) cooperate

Faith in parampara, the lineage of spiritual teachers:
(1) faith in their message
(2) faith in their desire to spread the chanting all over the world

Faith in the holy name:
(1) Simply by chanting 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra on beads and giving up the four sinful acts in one life anyone, no matter their background, can become pure enough to go back to the spiritual world.

Newcastle Harinamas

I saw two women of the same age walking together, one pushing an old lady in a wheelchair and the other pushing a young kid in a stroller. It reminded me of how at both the beginning and the end of our lives, we are helpless and have to take the help of others. Such are the limitations of our temporary material bodies. If I was not busy chanting, I would have taken a picture of that striking image.

After our Vyasa-puja program in Newcastle I took a nap and went on harinama from 8–10 p.m. Following the advice of a sanitation worker I encountered on the way downtown, I sat on the sidewalk between the parking lots and The Gate, which claims to be “Newcastle’s premier leisure and entertainment centre.” As I watched the people walk past, it occurred to me that the difference between me and them was Srila Prabhupada's mercy. Over seven people said Hare Krishna to me, four danced, one had a picture taken with me, an Indian couple who went to our Juhu temple I encouraged to visit our place in Newcastle, one guy, who gave a donation, chose Beyond Birth and Death when I offered him a book, and another guy happily told me he was already up to page 70 in Nectar of Instruction. Pointing to his beer can, he said was not fully enlightened yet, but he was on the path. I told him to read every day and his life would be transformed. He believed it. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Harinama in Chester

On my way to Chester, I stopped at the ticket office at Manchester Piccadilly. I did not have the debit card I used to book my ticket from Edinburgh to Newcastle, so I could not pick up my ticket from the automatic ticket machines but had to go to the counter. In the course of my conversation with the man behind the counter, he asked if I was a Hare Krishna. I said I was.
Then he said, “Gaur . . . and be happy.”
I said, “Oh, Gauranga!”
“What does that mean?” he asked, “Something about being happy?”
“Oh, Gauranga is a name of God,” I replied. “He is a special incarnation of God who came to give the highest spiritual ecstasy to the most unqualified people, and that is a cause of happiness!”
I asked how he knew about the name Gauranga, and he explained that when he was in high school many years ago a Hare Krishna devotee sold him some books.

Karsna Prabhu, Aharada Devi Dasi, and Mark of Chester are my favorite harinama family. It is not so often that both parents and the kids go on harinama. 

In Chester there are many people on the streets, and although there is often too much competition with other musicians, it was not so bad this time.

We chanted on Saturday for three hours in downtown Chester, accompanied by Alan, the main leader of our Liverpool nama-hatta and Kamalaksi Devi Dasi, the nice Indian lady who cooks for that program. 

The next day we chanted for two and a half hours with Chand and his wife (not in picture), daughter, and son. The second day two older ladies came by independently of each other, and both were attracted enough to attend our semiweekly program that night. One had a serious interest in yoga and different religions, and I would not be surprised if we see her again.   

After the Chester program, on my way home to Newcastle I chanted outside Liverpool Lime Street train station for half an hour. While there a guy came up to me and showed me a 20 pence coin saying, “I will give you this if you promise to be quiet for 30 seconds while I walk past.” I smiled, said “OK,” and accepted the coin. It seemed inauspicious to abandon chanting altogether just to please a demonic living entity, so I chanted my mind for 30 seconds before continuing out loud with my harmonium and amplifier after the man had passed. That had never happened before.

Harinama in Edinburgh

Although I had done five times as many books and collected five times as much in Newcastle the previous day, in Edinburgh my presence made a difference in the life of one high school graduate, who was half way through reading Easy Journey to Other Planets. He wanted another book. I recommended Sri Isopanisad as two days before Alan of Liverpool had told me he had become convinced by reading it, and therefore, I was reminded of how nice it was. The young man decided to choose Chant and Be Happy instead because he was a musician and he had a love for George Harrison. He took down the details of our Edinburgh Gauranga Mantra Centre and said he would try to come next Tuesday.

The Edinburgh nama-hatta attenders are participatory, cooperative, and charitable, and there are often some new people at the meetings. I am always encouraged to go there, and I look forward to returning next year, God willing.

An Odd Picture

After chanting downtown for 2 hours in the evening on Vyasa-puja day, I was walking up the hill to the Newcastle temple, and I saw this sign. I felt I had to take a picture of it.

Balaji in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, is one of the most famous and popular deities of Lord Krishna in India, and certainly one of those receiving the greatest contributions.

Here in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, however, the glorious transcendental name of Balaji is associated with beers and spirits, and “off-licence.” 

If you are non-British, you may wonder, as I did, what does “off-licence” mean? Apple’s dictionary says, “A store selling alcoholic beverages for consumption elsewhere.” Such is the degradation of this age!

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


Srila Prabhupada:

From a class on Srimad-Bhagavatam  1.8.41 in Mayapur on October 21, 1974:

Traditionally sannyasa is meant for the brahmanas. We agree, but for those who are brahmana by qualities, not by birth.

We do not claim the position of Vaishnava but rather we wish to remain the servant of the Vaishnava.

There are four divisions of sannyasa, kuticaka, when one lives outside the village but receives food from home, bahudaka, when one begs door to door, parivrajakacarya, when one preaches from country to country, and paramahamsa, when one sits in one place absorbed in Krishna consciousness.

The whole process is detachment from family, community, etc.

We do not approve of nationalism, but instead we are creating internationalism.

Just as we cannot create our own laws but have to follow the laws given by the state, we have to follow the laws given by God and not act according to our own whims. Dharma is that law given by God, but we have created so many dharmas.

Gold is gold. There are not different kinds of gold. There is 14-karat gold, and 20-karat gold, but pure gold is one. In the same way, we are preaching pure religion, not religion adulterated by so many other things.

We have no other business than to follow the laws of God.

God is real, and anything in connection with God is real, otherwise it is all imitation.

We killing the demons by giving them the Hare Krishna mantra, which purifies them, so their demonic activities are stopped.

Whatever is done is done, but we must stop our demonic activities.

Satsvarupa dasa Goswami:

From a “Poem to Radha-Govinda” posted on Facebook on August 24, 2016:

“Radha-Govinda reciprocate with me.
Radha-Govinda taste the sweetness
of conjugal love.  They exchange it in
sidelong glances.
They taste it in
kisses and embraces.
And share it
with Their innumerable devotees.
Anyone can become
Their associate by following
in the footsteps of
the gopis, or accepting
a pure devotee
in disciplic succession
as the spiritual master. 
The spiritual master initiates one
into the Hare Krishna mantra,
which is made up of the names
of Radha and Krishna.
He teaches Bhagavad-gita
and Srimad-Bhagavatam,
and instructs
the disciple on how
to worship the Deity.
Vande guroh sri-

From Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name:

“Srila Rupa Gosvami says in Upadesamrta that although at present we dont taste the sweetness of the holy name due to jaundice (avidya), the holy names are so wonderful that by repeatedly chanting them, the taste will return. This statement is not Rupa Gosvamis imagination. The chanting is very wonderful, it does have a sweet taste, and we will attain it. Therefore, we will show our belief in the statement by acting on the basis of it. We will go on chanting.”
Bhakti Charu Swami:

From a lecture at Croatia Seminar 2016:

“Why did Krishna create this universe?” In that respect we can consider two explanations. One is a prison house, where the criminals are being corrected. A prison house is actually a reform house, meant for correcting our perverted mentality. Our mentality has become perverted, so there is a need to create this prison house. So Krishna has created this prison house, where the criminals are being punished to eventually understand what they should do. Now, sometimes some people find this quite shocking, “This material nature is a prison house? I am a prisoner? What’s wrong with you! I think I am the most decent and honest person.” So if we have some reservation or reluctance in accepting that concept, then let’s consider the other explanation. The child wants to play with his friends in the park. So the child says, “Daddy! Daddy! I want to go to the park.” The father says, “Okay, come,” and he takes the child to the park. And coming to the park, the child is completely lost in the games with his friends. When he is winning in the game, he is happy. When he is losing, he is sad. That’s the game. And he completely forgot about the father. While the child is playing in the park, the father is sitting there on a bench and watching the child. Then the child becomes afraid. All his friends have left, it became dark, so the child calls out, “Daddy, where are you?” So then the father comes, picks him up and says, “Come, let’s go.” So, in a way, our situation is like that. We are a bunch of kids who wanted to play, and coming to the playground, meeting our friends, we are completely immersed in play. In the course of our game some are our friends and some are our enemies. Those who are playing in my favor, they are my friends. Those who are opposing me, they are my enemies. In this way, in this field, we are creating duality. We are so lost that we have no time to think about the Father. But then, at some point, when we turn to the Father and say, “Daddy, where are you?”, then He comes and picks us up and says, “Come, let’s go home.”

Sadaputa Prabhu:

From Mysteries of the Sacred Universe (p. 170):

“According to the Bhagavatam, God simultaneously spans all scales of size from largest to smallest. God also defines space rather than existing within it as an object among other objects. The space thus defined involves unlimited scales and dimensions, and it is not limited to the three-dimensional Euclidian continuum. However, it does include this continuum. Indeed, it contains many three-dimensional continua.”

“This system of thought rules out the kind of comprehensive model of reality that we are familiar with in the West. Rather, it lends itself to multiple models that represent different aspects of an inconceivable total reality.”


The verse reassures us that even if people chant without proper understanding they still benefit greatly from it.

yathagadam viryatamam
 upayuktam yadrcchaya
ajanato ’py atma-guṇam
 kuryan mantro ’py udahrtah

“If a person unaware of the effective potency of a certain medicine takes that medicine or is forced to take it, it will act even without his knowledge because its potency does not depend on the patient’s understanding. Similarly, even though one does not know the value of chanting the holy name of the Lord, if one chants knowingly or unknowingly, the chanting will be very effective.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.2.19)