Saturday, February 25, 2017

Travel Journal#13.3: North Florida

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 13, No. 3
By Krishna-kripa das
(February 2017, part one)
North Florida
(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, on February 25, 2017)

Where I Went and What I Did

I spent the first week of February in Tallahassee, chanting at Florida State University during the week and at Lake Ella on the weekend. About nine devotees from Gainesville’s Krishna House came up to Tallahassee for First Friday, an art walk where Nama Kirtan Prabhu distributes a Krishna Dinner, and it was great to be chanting with a lot of devotees again. February 8 was Nityananda Prabhu’s Appearance Day, and my sister, Karen, and her partner, Victor, came to visit me in Gainesville and Alachua, and they got lots of prasadam and met some nice devotees. We went to Ichetucknee Springs the next day as they like the outdoors. Friday I chanted at Krishna Lunch midday and with the Alachua devotees in the afternoon.

Then I gave a talk called “Blissful Traveling” for the Friday night program at Krishna House, showing harinama videos from different parts of the world. 
On Sunday, devotees from Gainesville’s Krishna House and Jacksonville’s Bhakti House chanted in Ocala National Forest at the Ocala Regional Rainbow Gathering for six hours, also distributing prasadam and books. The next three days I chanted with Krishna Club students at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. I also attended the Monday evening program at the Jacksonville Bhakti House, and I chanted with Youssef and Richie at the Jacksonville Beach Art Walk on Tuesday.

I have a nice quote by Srila Prabhupada about the importance of the association of spiritually minded people. I share an excerpt from Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name. I share notes on lectures by Mother Madhumati, Caitanya Carana Prabhu, Ekayani Devi Dasi, Abhimanyu Prabhu, and Bhakta Hanan.

Thanks to Nama Kirtan Prabhu of ISKCON Tallahassee for donating to my travel expenses there. Thanks to Lovelesh Prabhu of Jacksonville for his kind donation.

Thanks to Victor for the nice picture of Karen with Radharani’s garland. Appreciating Radharani’s mercy on my sister, over ninety of my Facebook friends liked that picture. My posts are rarely so popular!


February 25: Sacred Sounds @ USF, Tampa
February 26–28: Gainesville Krishna House
March 1: Jacksonville Art Walk
March 2: USF, Tampa
March 3: First Friday, Tallahassee
March 4–April 8: North and Central Florida campuses
April 9–11: Washington, D.C.
April 12: Albany
April 13: New York City
April 14–September 5: Europe

Harinamas at Florida State University

I chanted on the Landis Green behind the main Florida State University library for three hours each day, distributing free vegan, gluten-free cookies, and trying to interest people in Srila Prabhupada’s books, our Krishna Lunch program at FSU, and our local temple programs.

One young lady said she really enjoys hearing my singing whenever she passes by Landis Green, and she said that she should stop and ask what it is about when she has free time. I gave her a flyer for the Krishna Lunch and the Sunday Feast. Although I almost never do so, I said, “My name is Krishna-kripa. What is yours?”
She said, “My name is Reema. I teach Arabic here.”

After taking a gluten-free vegan oatmeal cookie from my table, one young lady returned three minutes later saying, “I just had to come back and tell you how good that cookie was!” 

I always try to use the best ingredients, and I pray to Radharani to empower me to make cookies that please Her beloved Krishna. Another person said the cookies were “awesome!”

A couple ladies stopped by at different times and said they had often seen me singing on the green and they wondered what it was all about. That just reminded me about how important it is that devotees go out in public and represent Krishna in order to create an interest in Him.

Lord Nityananda’s Appearance Day

Several devotees who do not sing every day at Krishna Lunch, came out especially to sing in celebratation of Lord Nityananda’s Appearance Day:

Here Purusartha Prabhu chants (

Here Radha Govinda Prabhu chants (

Here Tulasirani Devi Dasi chants (

My sister, Karen, and her partner, Victor, on a Florida vacation from the New York winter, came to visit on Nityananda’s Appearance Day. I suggested that would be a good day because it always seems there is extra mercy for everyone on the festival days. While eating Krishna Lunch spaghetti with the devotees, they got to hear Tulasirani Devi Dasi tell the amazing story of Lord Nityananda’s delivering Jagai and Madhai from their lives as debauchees. Victor was reading a novel about a Jewish saint, and as Tulasirani was from a Jewish background she was interested to hear about it. Tulasirani gave Victor a copy of The Journey Home by her guru, Radhanath Swami, and before Victor left the next day he gave Tulasirani the book about the Jewish saint, although he hadn’t finished reading it. Karen and Victor also visited our harinama at the Farmers Market and attended the festival for Lord Nityananda in Alachua. They met lots of nice devotees, including Sukhada Devi, who had met Karen when she visited seventeen years ago. 

Sukhada gave her the garland worn by Radharani on Nityananda’s Appearance Day.

Here Tulasirani Devi Dasi leads the Krishna House devotees in chanting Hare Krishna at the Gainesville Farmers Market on Lord Nityananda’s Appearance Day (

The Nityananda feast was wonderful, and Karen, Victor, and I all liked it. I was happy there was plenty of sweet rice.

Ichetucknee Springs

Ichetucknee Springs is a popular spring to visit for the Hare Krishna devotees in Alachua. I had thought of visiting Paynes Prairie State Park, which was more on our way, as Karen and Victor, as well as myself, were southbound the day after the Nityananda festival, but when Karen and Victor had heard from Sukhada Devi that her son had seen manatees at Ichetucknee, they developed a desire to go there. Sukhada’s son, Ramananda Raya, was our guide, and he was very knowledgable about the springs, and he got on well with Victor. They went for a swim together, while Karen and I floated down the river in our kayaks, wondering where they were. I had hoped to visit the springs in the morning and go to Tampa with Ramiya Prabhu in the afternoon, but I realized at the pace we were moving that would be impossible, and the frustration of my desire to chant at University of South Florida colored the rest of the day for me. 

Still the springs was very beautiful and peaceful. 

We used Ramananda Raya’s three inflatable kayaks and rented one more. 

I saw more turtles than I ever have had before. They apparently take great pleasure in sunning themselves on the logs that fall into the river. Everybody besides me enjoyed a swim.

Here Karen swims at one of the deeper springs that feed the Ichetucknee River, which is said to be 72° F (about 22° C) all year.

Govinda’s in Gainesville

Karen, Victor, and I all went to Govinda’s in Gainesville for dinner. We all got the buffet, and we were satisfied with it. There was plenty of variety, and everything was good, especially the soup. Thus my relatives got plenty of prasadam during their visit, something that Srila Prabhupada considered essential.

Chanting at the Ocala Regional Rainbow Gathering

Devotees from Alachua and Gainesville have been visiting the Ocala Regional Rainbow Gathering in Ocala National Forest for decades. At least once in the mid-1990s, New Vrindaban devotees also came. At least a couple of people from that Rainbow Gathering have become Hare Krishna devotees. Now there are more alcholics and druggies than spiritual seekers, and some people do not go there anymore for that reason. Still we find people happy to encounter Krishna music, Krishna food, and Krishna literature both for the first time and once again. This year was better than last as we had more devotees, and we had more positive interactions. Altogether, we had nine devotees from Krishna House, six devotees from Jacksonville, and one former Krishna House resident who was traveling through.

Coconut, here talking with Tulasirani Devi Dasi, participated in the chanting for over 3½ hours, though never having encountered it before!

 Tulasirani Devi Dasi really has a taste for talking with people.

 We served sabji, halava, and salad.

This person, after having gotten some prasadam, chose some spiritual literature.

Megan, holding her son, was happy to encounter the devotees again. She told me that once Adikarta Prabhu did a program at her house, and she said, “I owe that man my life!”
One girl wanted to take a picture of her stuffed monkey with the Hare Krishnas, so Abhimanyu Prabhu put it on our drum, and we posed for this picture.

One vehicle we passed on harinama had many slogans on its rear door. One my mother used to always say prompted me to take the photo, “Were all in this together.” Many are consistent with Hare Krishna philosophy or practice like “LOVE>FEAR” and “PLANT SEEDS & SING SONGS.” 

See Krishna House devotees chanting Hare Krishna and distributing spiritual literature and food at the Ocala Regional Rainbow Gathering (

Armed with musical instruments, a box of books, and a bucket of halava, Hare Krishna devotees from Gainesville’s Krishna House walk through the woods and by a lake sharing Krishna music, literature, and food with attendees (

Here Amrita Keli Devi Dasi, Hare Krishna chaplain at the University of North Florida, leads the chanting of Hare Krishna, as devotees from Gainesville and Jacksonville share Krishna consciousness with attendees at the Ocala Regional Rainbow Gathering (

Jacksonville Bhakti House Monday Evening Program

Every Monday at the Jacksonville Bhakti House is a evening program with prasadam, kirtana, and a spiritual discussion.

Realizations of attendees on prayer and deity worship:

Laura: Prayer even works if you do not believe in it.

Kira: Through prayer I find I refine my desires until I focus on what I really want.

Amrita Keli Devi Dasi: When I was first attending Krishna House in Gainesville, for six months I did not even notice the altar. As I began chanting and developed devotion, it became noticeable to me.

I worried when I began the deity bathing, “Oh, this is going to take hours!” But when I am done, I feel blissful, and if I was feeling sick, I feel better.

In junior high school, I was a vehement atheist, but I wanted to find the truth. I prayed to God, “If You exist, I am willing to admit I am wrong. If You exist, I want You to come into my life.” After that I immediately felt there was a presence around me as I was walking down the street.

Richie: I realize the deities set the atmosphere for the whole house. People like the atmosphere here, and I tell them, “It’s the deities.”

Youssef: I agree you do not have to believe in God to start making prayers. I started making prayers before I really believed in God. Can you really improve yourself the way you want by yourself? Prayer is really special, whether you believe in God or not. It can really help your self-improvement.

Jarel: Although I consider myself an agnostic, I enjoyed making the halava, and I liked to participate in the ritual of making the offering.

Krishna-kripa das: I found although I had no attraction to deity worship, when I did it out of a sense of duty, I noticed when I went on vacation and left it behind, when I returned, I was eager to get back on the altar with the deities. Just as we all have become attached to kirtana and prasadam, the spiritual chanting and food, although we formerly knew nothing about them, in the same way you can find yourself becoming attached to deity worship because all these devotional activities are natural for the soul, and we are all souls.

My favorite prayer, which I have offered regularly every day for some segments of my life and which I still offer frequently is: “My Lord, I know that young girls have natural affection for young boys, and that young boys have natural affection for young girls. I am praying at Your lotus feet that my mind may become attracted unto You in the same spontaneous way.” (Padma Purana, quoted in The Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 9)

Although we had two kirtanas before discussing prayer and deity worship and having prasadam, the youthful attendees were excited to have two more afterward, and most of the people stayed for them. What was striking for me is to see the expressions of absorption on the faces of the chanters.

Here Laura chants Hare Krishna at the Jacksonville Bhakti House Monday evening program (

Here Amrita Keli Devi Dasi chants Hare Krishna at the Jacksonville Bhakti House Monday evening program (

I am sorry the video is so dark. My camera does not work well in the dim light, and in many places, unfortunately for me, devotees like to chant kirtana in dim light, and I did not want to disturb them by turning on the light.

Harinamas at University of North Florida in Jacksonville

I felt grateful that Youssef was willing to chant with me the whole three hours on Monday, Amrita Keli chanted with me on Tuesday, and Kira on Wednesday, so I had someone to chant with each day at University of North Florida in the grassy area between the Student Union and the lake. In addition, Richie came part of the time on Monday, and Youssef came part of the time on Tuesday and Wednesday. As usual we saw old friends and made new ones.

Here is some video of Youssef chanting Hare Krishna with Amrita Keli on Tuesday and with Kira on Wednesday (

While waiting at the campus bus stop near the library, I saw a man, perhaps forty or fifty years old, wearing a spotlessly white dhoti and a blue kurta. He looked just like a Hare Krishna devotee. He saw me wearing yogi pants and a kurta, and he saw my harmonium, but he did not say anything to me. I figured he was from another group, and I thought of a question I could ask him to find out. I decided to say, Are you some kind of spiritual practitioner? He explained that he was a Buddhist and that he was a student. I mentioned I had a friend at the Interfaith Center and asked if dealt with that organization, but he said he was too busy studying. I told him that my sister taught mindfulness, a Buddhist practice, but that I was a Hare Krishna. I could see he was not interested in talking so I left it at that. I never saw a Buddhist student wearing a dhoti before.    

Jacksonville Beach Art Walk

In January when I learned from the Jacksonville devotees about the Jacksonville Beach Art Walk, a new event they chanted at, I immediately developed a desire to attend and tentatively added it to my schedule. That happens the second Tuesday of each month.

One man we met remembered eating prasadam on the University of Florida campus in 1971, the year the Krishna Lunch program began. He recalled that they served a potato salad dish on Monday and that they distributed Bhagavad-gitas. His pleasant Krishna memories inspired him to donate two dollars, but he did not take a book, thinking he already knew about Krishna.

One rather drunk lady who was paired with a fairly sober guy was attracted to interact with the devotees. Richie went through the mantra two words at a time with her, and she tried chanting it for a while. She also did quite a bit of dancing. She wanted us to play while she sang some mundane love songs, but I was not into it. She had a nice voice, and I recommended that she sing devotional songs about God. At one point she was fascinated with the harmonium, leaning too close to the poor brahmacari, who was playing it and who had to smell the alcohol on her breath. Youssef encouraged her to dance, and she left the harmonium player alone. The guy she was with read the entire “On Chanting Hare Krishna” while she was interacting with the kirtana party, and according to Richie, he seemed to understand it. As he goes to University of North Florida, he may well come to the Krishna Club meetings there.

One friendly lady donated a candle for Youssef to use to heat the mrdanga head to improve its sound.

Youssef distributed some books and pamphets while we chanted.


Srila Prabhupada:

From Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.9.11:

“Transcendental devotional service cannot be complete and cannot be relishable without the association of devotees. We have therefore established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Anyone who is trying to be aloof from this Krishna Consciousness Society and yet engage in Krishna consciousness is living in a great hallucination, for this is not possible.”

Satsvarupa dasa Goswami:

From Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name:

“How will it take place that the ordinary, struggling japa will evolve into awareness of Krishna’s presence in His form, qualities, and names? What does Srila Prabhupada say? He says it will happen. There is no doubt about it. Krishna will reveal Himself; Krishna will teach us if we follow the guru’s order with full faith.

“Srila Prabhupada should be confidently accepted as a great authority for faith and realization of the holy name. He did what no one else dared, and what many Vaisnavas hardly dreamed of—brought the chanting of Hare Krishna mantra to mlecchas and yavanas who had never even heard of Krishna before. And Srila Prabhupada convinced us to chant with love, to enjoy kirtana, and to join and work with him in founding the Hare Krishna movement. No one could spread the chanting of the holy name so widely and deeply unless he was empowered by Krishna (krishna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana).

“So let me chant because he told me to. Never doubt. And wait for the day to come when Krishna will appear and say, ‘I am like this.’”

Mother Madhumati:

The yogis sit with half-closed eyes but not completely closed, as we sometimes see in Bhagavatam class.

The Indian answer is yes and no, moving the head sort of like this. [She moves her head in such a way that she indicates neither clearly yes or no.]

All Lord Nityananda is saying is, “Have faith in the holy name and all perfection will be achieved.”

Lord Nityananda is freely giving the holy name. Sometimes when someone gives us something for free, we do not value it.

Just by hearing of the activities of Lord Caitanya’s associates we become purified, what to speak of if we actually follow them.

Next time you clean the temple room at Krishna House, you can meditate on the pastime of Lord Caitanya cleansing the Gundica temple. Actually we should always meditate on Krishna’s pastimes when we do our services.

“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu washed and cleansed the temple in great jubilation, chanting the holy name of Lord Krishna all the time.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila 12.85) We should also follow Lord Caitanya in always chanting Hare Krishna as we serve.

When you are chanting Hare Krishna and doing service, there is no grudge.

Caitanya Carana Prabhu:

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said:

1.    One who thinks this world is in need of reformation is himself in need of reformation.

2.    We see faults in others because we are honeycombed with faults ourselves.

Seeing the suffering in the material world people conclude God does not exist or God does not care. Because God is omnipotent, if He has not reduced the suffering, they think it means He does not care.

Walking away from a situation is different than running away from a situation.

Ekayani Devi Devi:

We see people in society who appear to have good qualities but they are not steady in these qualities, and when their senses go out of control, they can do things that are not good. Thus, it is said one that who is not devoted to God has no good qualities because he cannot act steadily in a good way.

Krishna steals the butter and the clothes of the gopis. He also stole the parijata tree for Satyabhama.

Krishna is always making arrangements to fulfill everyone’s desires. Kishor was serving Krishna Lunch, and he said he was so bored just lifting the prasadam and putting it on the plates and that he was a more active person. Not more than ten minutes later, a thief ran off with the cash box, and Kishor ran after him.

The brahmanas work best without an authority structure or under anarchy, the ksatriyas thrive in monarchy, the vaisyas work best with capitalism, and sudras prefer communism, where they work and get their necessities. If anyone of these four social structures predominates, some people will not be happy, because all four classes of people exist in society.

Lord Caitanya’s pastimes are the sweetest because they are of Krishna who has come to experience the joy of devotion to Krishna.

Abhimanyu Prabhu:

Even though Suruci, Dhruva’s stepmother, offended Dhruva before he became a pure devotee, she still had to die untimely as a reaction to the offense. Thus we have to take care not to offend someone who may become a pure devotee of God in the future.

The ksatriyas would appreciate the prowess of fighters on the opposing side.

The weapon Lord Narayana has made for us is the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, and it can dissipate so many illusory distractions to our spiritual life.

Q: If the holy name is completely pure why does it matter who is chanting it?
Comment by me: Although the holy name is pure, because the holy name is Krishna Himself, He reciprocates with the surrender of the chanter, and so the demoniac may attain liberation from the holy name, but they do not attain the perfection of love of God that a pure devotee would.

Hanan Prabhu:

The madhya-lila of Lord Caitanya is known as the acarya-lila because He is teaching religious principles by His example especially at this time in His life.

At Krishna Lunch there was a controversy between devotees in which different devotees were criticizing each other. I told them they were ruining their spiritual lives by criticizing each other and they should stop, and I said I would be happy to discuss with them the details later.

It is said that Krishna’s mercy is especially present in Vrindavan in its dust and in the Yamuna River, His mercy is present in Mayapur in the kirtana, and in Jagannatha Puri in the prasada of Lord Jagannatha.

Even if a field is full of stool and there is only one flower, a bumblebee will seek the flower.

I went to take the Bhaktisastri course in New Vrindaban, and it was advertised that Radhanath Swami was going to teach. As it turned out, he was present, but he did not teach. Once Radhanath Swami was coming down the path opposite to us, and he spoke to my wife, who had sometimes cooked for him. He asked how we were doing. I expressed how the flyer had said he was going to be teaching Bhaktisastri, and he said that he was not planning to do that. I said that I was going to tell the devotee lady who had organized it.
Radhanath Swami interjected, “You are not going to tell her anything because she is doing her best.”
I replied, “Yes, Maharaja.”


This is the third verse of the “Siksastaka” of Lord Caitanya in which he reveals the proper mentality in which to chant Hare Krishna. Reflecting on my lack of humility and tolerance, it is no wonder it is not easy for me to chant always. This verse is a reminder of what work I have left to do. Srila Prabhupada said this verse is the formula for attaining krishna-prema, love of God.

trṇad api su-nicena
taror iva sahisnuna
amanina mana-dena
kirtaniyah sada harih

 “[Lord Caitanya said:] ‘One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor but is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.’” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Antya 20.21)