Sunday, March 19, 2017

Travel Journal#13.5: North Florida

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 13, No. 5
By Krishna-kripa das
(March 2017, part one)
North Florida
(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, on March 19, 2017)

Where I Went and What I Did

March got off to a great start with two harinamas the first day, one at Krishna Lunch in Gainesville during the day and the other at the Jacksonville Art Walk in the evening. The next day I chanted at Krishna Lunch, and the following day I went to Tallahassee to chant at First Friday. I stayed there, chanting at Lake Ella on the weekends and Florida State University during the week until Gaura Purnima, when I went to our festival in Alachua. That evening I went to Jacksonville to chant at University of North Florida through the middle of the March.

I share notes on classes by Mother Nanda, Sesa Prabhu, Madhava Prabhu, and Hanan Prabhu. I share notes on a group reading of Radhanath Swami’s The Journey Within, along with comments by the other listeners. I include wisdom from a conversation with Nama Kirtan Prabhu, from an introduction to a kirtana by Tulasirani Devi Dasi, and from a sign in front of a Tallahassee church.

I would like to thank Navina Shyam Prabhu for his kind donation. Thanks to Britt and all the other people who kindly gave donations on harinama in Tallahassee. Thanks to Race Smith of Florida State University for the photo of himself and me on Landis Green.

Itinerary

March 12–April 7: North and Central Florida campuses
April 8: St. Augustine Ratha-yatra
April 9–11: Washington, D.C., harinama
April 11: Philadelphia Bhakti Garden Tuesday program
April 12: Albany
April 13: New York City
April 14–19: Ireland
April 20–24: Newcastle
April 26: Radhadesh
April 27: King’s Day, Amsterdam
April 28: Rotterdam
April 29–30: Birmingham 24-Hour Kirtana
May 1–5: Newcastle
May 6: York
May 7–August 7: Europe
August 8­–16: Ottawa Vaishnava Sanga Retreat and Janmastami and Vyasa-puja
August 17–September 5: Europe
September 5–November ?: New York City
November ?– December 1: Florida
December: New York City

Chanting Hare Krishna at Krishna Lunch

We were fortunate that our Gainesville Krishna House temple president, Kalakantha Prabhu, led the Hare Krishna chant at Krishna Lunch one day. Hari Priya played the drum for him (https://youtu.be/i3qsvnuMWJw):


Then Hari Priya led the Hare Krishna chant at Krishna Lunch, and Kalakantha Prabhu played the drum for her (https://youtu.be/dC8z9BOUtPw):


When it rains, Krishna Lunch moves to a walkway in front of University of Florida’s Library West, which is protected from the precipitation. When our chanting party is too loud there, we get in trouble with the library staff, thus we used the tambourine instead of the karatalas, which can easily become too loud.

Krishna Nama Prabhu leads the Hare Krishna chant at Krishna Lunch at our rainy day venue, and Abhimanyu Prabhu plays the drum for him (https://youtu.be/YG4cVOLDpqA):


Kishor Prabhu leads the Hare Krishna chant at Krishna Lunch, and Dhameshvar Mahaprabhu das Prabhu plays the drum for him (https://youtu.be/OdRx6FtZr0Y):


Tulasirani Devi Dasi leads the chanting of Hare Krishna, Ekayani Devi Dasi plays drum for her, and Bhakta Jorge dances with alacrity (https://youtu.be/JG9HWlvPHUI):


Chanting Hare Krishna at the Jacksonville Art Walk

After getting kicked out of the Jacksonville Art Walk several times in previous months, we became proactive and asked for a place where we could perform our group chanting of Hare Krishna. The staff granted us a place in the park, not on the street, but still a place getting significant pedestrian traffic. We chanted for 2½ hours.

Here Hare Krishna devotees from Gainesville’s Krishna House chant at the monthly Jacksonville Art Walk and different passersby, including some dressed as animals, interacted with the party (https://youtu.be/wlASiVKPi5Y):


Savanah, who happened to see me and Dorian chanting at the Art Walk back in January, was happy to sing and dance with us again. Turns out she will be moving to Gainesville for massage school in a couple of months, so she can meet the Krishna House devotees again there.

Bay talked to some really sweet people and got their contact information.

Chanting Hare Krishna at First Friday in Tallahassee


It is always nicer when the Gainesville Krishna House devotees come and chant at First Friday, but we kept the program going with Melanie and Nama Kirtan Prabhu chanting with me for part of the three hours I was there. We met people who knew the devotees for years and who were happy to encounter us again, and we met new people who were also happy to hear our chanting. 

Chanting Hare Krishna at Lake Ella in Tallahassee

On the weekends I am in Tallahassee, I chant at Lake Ella. One black girl, perhaps age 9, asked if she could play an instrument. I showed her some karatalas and demonstrated the standard one-two-three beat, and she got it right the first time. Two of her sisters came, and I showed them the beat. For a while, all three would play the karatalas in perfect time, and then someone would go off, and I would stop singing, and we would start again, and then they would all be in time for a while once again. I wished I brought my video camera to film it, but as I had too few people to sing with me that day I did not bring it. Because of that incident, I decided to always bring my camera, even when I go chanting alone. The next time I went out to Lake Ella I met a little girl who was also willing to learn the standard karatala beat (https://youtu.be/e9_vio38UgI):


I also met a guy who liked playing on the drum (https://youtu.be/7GpanoBKON8):


On the Saturday which was the day before Gaura Purnima, I spent almost eight hours at Lake Ella. Half the time I chanted japa and read Srila Prabhupada’s books on my blanket with the books, invitations, and vegan cookies on display. The other four hours I did the congregational chanting of Hare Krishna with Brahma Haridas Prabhu joining me for a little over an hour and a half and Melanie joining me for a little over an hour. At least four people gave donations just because they liked the chanting or liked what we were doing.

One young lady, who was in Tallahassee briefly to visit relatives, chanted the entire Hare Krishna mantra perfectly as she passed by me. Turns out she lives in Oakland and attends our Berkeley temple. Her father, she herself, and also her brothers and sisters are devotees. I encouraged her to sing with us, and she did (https://youtu.be/zjljDUMBCxs):


We also encouraged her relatives to take part, and while we sang a little girl, hearing the music, danced in the background (https://youtu.be/EAA0xwM9dPU):


I reminded the young devotee lady that tomorrow was Gaura Purnima, and I recommended she attend the temple when she returns to the San Francisco area the next day.

One young man whose father was a Prabhupada disciple came by. He had lived in New Vrindaban for a couple years, and he had lived in Tallahassee when Rupa Vilasa Prabhu was around, and he befriended Rupa Vilasa Prabhu’s son. He got an Isopanisad and a Higher Taste, and he wanted to get some japa beads for the girl who was with himI invited them to the temple on Gaura Purnima.

One middle-aged lady named Britt, with a jolly mood, was very happy to encounter me chanting there. She asked, “Is it true that the master appears when the disciple is ready?” I said yes, because Srila Prabhupada indicated that to be the case. She said she actually wanted to get a Bhagavad-gita and was worried she’d have to go to India to find one. I taught her the Hare Krishna mantra, and she chanted it along with me several times as I played the harmonium. She was very grateful that she was healing from cancer with chemotherapy and said she had not expected to be alive. I told her about our temple in Tallahassee, and I explained briefly who Lord Caitanya was and that many of us were going to Alachua for a big festival in honor of His appearance day the next day, and she expressed some interest in going. Wanting the Bhagavad-gita, she placed a folded bill in my hand as a donation. I looked at it, and it was a $100 bill. I gave her one copy of each of the books I had on display, a hardbound Bhagavad-gita, Science of Self-Realization, and The Nectar of Instruction. I gave her my card, and told her to write if she had questions about the books. That is only the third time in thirty years someone donated $100 on harinama. I hope she reads the books and visits the temple and finds the joy of the soul she is seeking.

Chanting Hare Krishna at Florida State University

This Florida State University student wanted to play my harmonium as he is an accordion player. After he did that we talked, and then he chanted a few Hare Krishna mantras responsively as I played harmonium. He concluded he and his girlfriend have not been meditating enough lately, and he is going to read her Bhagavad-gita over spring break.

One girl from Tampa named Christina, who got books from Adikarta Prabhu the last week in February, came by and talked to me for an hour. Adikarta told her about the Hare Krishna mantra and gave her some beads. She said she was chanting the mantra every day. I invited her to a mantra meditation class I was doing the next day, and she and a friend of hers came and chanted ten minutes of kirtana and ten minutes of japa with meNama Kirtan Prabhu talked to Christina at Krishna Lunch and invited her to the Gaura Purnima festival in Alachua. I told her I had friends from our club at University of South Florida coming from Tampa for Gaura Purnima in Alachua, and I could find her a ride to Tampa with them after the festival for the upcoming spring break. She decided to go to Gaura Purnima with us and had a great time. 

Gaura Purnima at New Raman Reti

In addition to Christina, Alex, who rents the room behind the Tallahassee temple, also came to with us to Gaura Purnima in Alachua, as did Melanie’s son, John, and his girlfriend. It was great seeing all these people getting Lord Caitanya’s mercy on His appearance day. Another fortunate soul was the roommate of a regular attender of our University of South Florida program, who had come to our Sacred Sounds event in February and liked it so much she decided to come to Gaura Purnima in Alachua. Thus by Lord Caitanya’s mercy, we see His mission is continuing to expand in America and in the West in general.

When we arrived at the Gaura Purnima festival in Alachua, there was fire sacrifice involving the small Gaura Nitai deities outside the temple and a kirtana by Godruma Prabhu of Jacksonville going on in the temple.

Then Bhadra Prabhu led the Hare Krishna chanting for almost two hours, after singing the Gaura Arati song, and devotees chanted, danced, and played musical instruments in a festive spirit (https://youtu.be/wEYQlD8BJM4):


Having the spinach paneer at the feast on Gaura Purnima is a favorite part of the festival for me. So is going to the Gaura Arati, the evening service, with an amazing kirtana of chanting the holy names after which the feast is usually served. I decided to cut out of Bhadra Prabhu’s ecstatic kirtana after an hour to get the feast, and I was amazed to find that except for the chutney, a little sauce from the Gauranga potatoes that was stuck to the container, and a couple of trays of scraps from the laddus, the entire feast was finished. I had lived in Alachua since 1994 and attended all the Gaura Purnimas except a handful of years when I was in India, and I would always get the feast after the final kirtana, but I do not ever recall ever missing out like this. I subsisted on a couple of cups of tomato chutney and a plate each of Gauranga sauce and laddu scraps. My friend, Nama Kirtan Prabhu, had intellligently brought some khichri from Tallahassee in case there was not enough prasadam. Next time I will have a friend save me a plate, so I can participate in the kirtana without disappointment.

In addition to the local Alachua Hare Krishnas, devotees from Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Tampa stayed for the Hare Krishna bhajans after the feast on Gaura Purnima led by Kirtan Premi Prabhu (https://youtu.be/8vZ4s4efXuk):


Regarding the bhajans, Feren of our Bhakti Yoga Club at the University of South Florida remarked, “Such bliss, it was unreal.”

Chanting at the Jacksonville Bhakti House

The day after Gaura Purnima, we had a record number of devotees at the Jacksonville Bhakti House morning program. In addition to Amrita Keli, Lovelesh, Youssef, Richie, Kira, and myself, there were two Lauras, both regulars at the University of North Florida Krishna Club. Laura, our first Krishna Club president, on spring break from teaching high school science, plays guitar and leads the chanting, while Laura, in the blue sari, who was celebrating her birthday, dances (https://youtu.be/MFfFr0y21rY):


At the end of Monday’s evening program at the Jacksonville Bhakti House, after everyone in the room got a chance to sing each of the three parts of a lively Village of Peace Hare Krishna tune, they all got up and danced ecstatically (https://youtu.be/ZME69idb5Z8):


Here Richie leads another morning kirtana at the Bhakti House and the devotees dance (https://youtu.be/PONJZ7eEoMc):


Chanting at University of North Florida

Dorian has a catchy Hare Krishna tune he likes to sing, and he took a break from his studies to chant with Hare Krishna chaplain, Amrita Keli Devi Dasi, myself and four other students from the University of North Florida Krishna Club in front of the UNF Bookstore on a rainy Monday (https://youtu.be/v_T0kHw_xw4):


I was very happy that three new students came to the University of North Florida Krishna Club weekly meeting from seeing us chanting on the campus during the week. One, a nice chap with an Irish background named Patrick who had seen me chanting on campus twice, also invited a friend. Another, a girl named McKayla, began dancing as soon as the kirtana started. It was a very joyful evening.

Here you can see Tulasirani Devi Dasi leading the Hare Krishna chanting at the Krishna Club meeting (https://youtu.be/W9P1i9JpQNg):


Chanting Hare Krishna at the Jacksonville Beach Art Walk

On a very chilly evening Laura, who is singing, and Richie, who is playing the harmonium, joined me in chanting Hare Krishna at the Jacksonville Beach Art Walk (https://youtu.be/l2yyAWPxjvg):


During the hour we chanted Hare Krishna, two people took “On Chanting Hare Krishna” pamphlets, one man gave a dollar, and his daughter took a cookie. A few people took photos and videos, and a girl danced, as her friends took pictures of her.

Insights

Radhanath Swami:

From a group recitation of his book, The Journey Within:

Just prior to a temple opening festival in the Gaudiya Math, temple leaders banished one monk, who had become attached to a woman. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was so upset by their action, he refused to conduct the festival until that monk had been found and reinstated. After great difficulty, the devotees found the monk working in a watch maker’s shop. When he heard of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s compassion upon him, he returned, and he later became an important preacher in the Gaudiya Math.

When each member of the family is seen as a beloved child of God, taking care of them becomes a joy.

One should have good spiritually minded friends and invite them to one’s home and accept their invitations.

Focus on our higher purpose.

Even the most degraded person can become a world spiritual teacher by the power of the chanting of the holy name.

Chanting the holy names transcends all sectarian boundaries.

Everything in the material world is made of sound.

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura would have monks that fought sit down facing each other and enumerate the good qualities of each other so they would realize that their good qualities outnumber their supposed faults.

Comments by Amrita Keli Devi Dasi:

I saw a sign that said, “We tend to judge ourselves by our ideals and others by their acts.”

Just being a soul in a material body is very disorienting. We are all in a hospital or in a clinic.

In a spiritual community, we are focusing on the good aspirations of the other people.

Resentment is disempowering. Radhanath Swami says it is like holding a burning coal and waiting to throw it at the person you hate, while in the meantime it is burning you.

I had ideals to benefit others, but I knew that I did not have the potency myself to become the ideal person I wanted to be. I see by the power of the holy name it is possible.

Comment by Misti:

I was interacting with someone, and it was unusually tense. I decided to be grateful and thank the person for all the things I liked about her. The interaction changed dramatically for the positive, and the tension never reappeared.

We have to really practice honesty as this society conditions us in so many ways to present a false image of ourselves.

Comment by Youssef:

I like to share even little things I have issues with. Just to be able to laugh at insignificant things I have difficulties with helps to get past them.

Comment by Laura:

I can trace dissatisfication to my lack of attention to my spiritual practice. But is miraculous just coming to the morning program once so many dissatisfactions are eliminated.

If the relationship is more important, it may be worth it to give up having your way in particular instance. 

Comment by Lovelesh:

The mind needs to be heard. If you can keep a journal where you note down the mind’s voice so it is heard, it will stop annoying you.

There are four kinds of people:
1.    Those who only see the good in others.
2.    Those who only see the bad in others.
3.    Those who see both good and bad in others but who magnify the good. 
4.    Those who see both good and bad in others but who magnify the bad. 

Mother Nanda:

Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that Dhenukasura is the example of material intelligence rooted in the bodily concept of life. Balarama, as the original guru, can shake us up out of the bodily concept of life.

Mother Narayani explains that Bhaktivinoda Thakura indicates that by repeatedly hearing a particular pastime one overcomes the anartha exemplified by the demon in that pastime.

Radhanath Swami explains the fruits from the tal trees symbolize the fruits that we are unable to offer to Krishna because of our bodily concept of life.

Dhenukasura’s plan to was send the tal fruits to Kamsa because he was an associate of Kamsa. 

People in the bodily concept of life carry the burden of their karmic reactions life after life.

Comment by Kalakantha Prabhu:

The Dhenukasura pastime has three special features:
1.    Dhenukasura is killed by Lord Balarama not Lord Krishna.
2.    Dhenukasura is killed outside Vrindavan.
3.    Dhenukasura did not first approach Krishna and Balarama to attack Them.

Comment by me:

Your point that materialists are never satisfied no matter what they attain reminds me of one Bhagavad-gita purport where Srila Prabhupada writes, “In the mode of passion, people become greedy, and their hankering for sense enjoyment has no limit. One can see that even if one has enough money and adequate arrangements for sense gratiļ¬cation, there is neither happiness nor peace of mind. That is not possible, because one is situated in the mode of passion. If one wants happiness at all, his money will not help him; he has to elevate himself to the mode of goodness by practicing Krishna consciousness.” (Bhagavad-gita 14.17, purport)

Sesa Prabhu:

That the Supreme Personality of Godhead is all-lovable is the real glory of Krishna not His majesty.

Krishna is not God because He can kill you but because He loves you.

Krishna uses His supreme power to deliver Kaliya and not to kill him.

The different sportive activities which Krishna’s friends performed with Him are called anubhava in The Nectar of Devotion. Dancing is an important one of these.

Kaliya, rather than being a disturbance, actually increased the ecstasy of Krishna’s friends, who observed His sportive activities in play with the serpent.

Krishna was held by Kaliya in his coils for two hours. The fear for Krishna’s safety experienced by the residents of Vrindavana increased their attachment for Him.

Anugraha or compassion is the mood of the devotees in the parental rasa or relationship. The natural reaction of Mother Yashoda was to enter the water to protect Krishna.

By doing the same activities, the one person Krishna was nourishing a variety a different relationships with His different devotees.

If you only want shanti, shanti, shanti [peace, peace, peace], do not come to Krishna consciousness. Krishna likes to churn our emotions.

Krishna’s dancing on the hoods of the serpent was also meant to please the young damsels of Vrindavan, who were beginning to develop love for Him, purva-raga. 

Madhava Prabhu:

The Brahma-vimohana-lila pastime not only has some sweet descriptions of Krishna and His devotees, but there are many very important philosophical points, especially in Brahma’s prayers.

In a lecture Srila Prabhupada praises the poetic genius in Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.14.58:

samasrita ye pada-pallava-plavam
 mahat-padam punya-yaso murareh
bhavambudhir vatsa-padam param padam
 padam padam yad vipadam na tesam

So much beautiful alliteration is there!

You can say that vipadam meaning ‘miseries’ literally means ‘misstep.’

Our real danger is forgetfulness of Krishna.

Nama Kirtan Prabhu:

From a conversation:

In Los Angeles, a book distributor friend would tell me, “Every day is a good day in Krishna consciousness, even it seems like a bad day.”

Tulasirani Devi Dasi:

From an introduction to a kirtana at the University of North Florida Krishna Club:

Mantra meditation is easy and has great potency. It makes your heart lighter and more full. Even if you do not know what the words mean, it will have a powerful effect. Very easily the mind can be be controlled by listening to a sound vibration.

Hanan:

From a class on Sri Caitanya-caritamrita at the Gainesville Krishna House:

Although Raghunath das Goswami was the most renounced of the Goswamis, eating practically nothing, he took on the enormous task of renovating Radha Kund.

I went to Radha Kund with a group of devotees who were cleaning Radha Kund. I felt very satisfied just doing the cleaning work. When we finished, the time had come when no one bathes in Radha Kund, so we could not take bath, but I was so happy from cleaning Radha Kund I did not mind not bathing there.

Jayadvaita Swami said that doing service is the visa for entering a holy place.

People, especially at holy places, will tell us so many things about Krishna, but we can ask them, “Where is that described in the revealed literature?”

Maya is working with Krishna, not against Krishna. She wants to make sure we are making spiritual progress.

The reason we are here in the material world is not Maya and is not Krishna, but fully our use of our free will.

Comments by Tulasirani Devi Dasi:

We can’t blame maya for us being in maya. We are choosing not to be so Krishna conscious at that time.

Much, much worse than being in maya and thinking you are in maya is being in maya and thinking you are really Krishna conscious.

On harinama at a football game, even though surrounded by drunken fans, when I am seeing all the Jagais and Madhais chanting and dancing in the kirtana of Lord Caitanya’s devotees, I feel as if I am in the holy dhama.

Comment by Ekayani Devi Dasi: When I was in school, I had one teacher who made us pray before class. That prayer changed the whole atmosphere.

Lakeview Baptist Church pastor:

The lesson you teach is the life you live.

-----

With the recent holidays of Nityananda Tryodasi and Gaura Purnima, seeing the special mercy newcomers to Krishna bhakti have received on these auspicious appearance days of Lord Nityananda and Lord Caitanya, when I see Their deity forms I think of this first stanza of Locan das Thakura’s song “Sri Sri Gaura Nityanander Daya” and I feel gratitude to Them for Their mercy and Their joyful process of self-realization:

parama koruna, pahu dui jana
nitai gauracandra
saba avatara-sara siromani
kevala ananda-kanda


“Lord Nitai and Lord Gauracandra are very merciful. They are the essence of all incarnations. The specific significance of these incarnations is that They introduced a process of chanting and dancing that is simply joyful.”