September 23, 2015: Touching the Feet of the Gods
Time passes quickly when you are doing something you love, and since the devotees love spreading Krsna consciousness, the summer flew by. The schedule was intense—a festival every day—but the reward of seeing people smile and dance with the devotees was enough to keep them all going. And they got this reward every day.
One evening during harinam on the beach before the evening festival, an elderly woman came up to Indradyumna Swami. “I just love the way you people sing,” she said. “I can’t wait for the festival tonight.” They stood watching the devotees as they danced. The woman smiled a little smile. “I have a big desire in my heart,” she said. “I wish that all the people on this beach would jump up and start singing and dancing with you. Do you ever feel like that?”
“All the time,” The Swami said.
“I have been watching you for many years,” she said. “I once read a book that explained that you are singing the names of God. Your singing is like a spiritual first-aid kit. People get cured of their awful ways.”
Farther on the beach another woman came running toward Indradyumna Swami and the woman. “It’s you!” she said, out of breath. “The Hare Krsnas! I found you!” She bent over to catch her breath, and then looked up with a smile. “No, actually you found me.”
“What do you mean?” Maharaja asked.
“I was trying to decide where to go on vacation this summer,” she said, still out of breath, “but my co-workers told me not to go overseas. They said the weather in Poland was supposed be good this summer and that I should just come to the Baltic Sea coast. They said if I was lucky I might even run into the Hare Krsnas and be invited to your festival. Many of them have been to your festivals and they just raved about it. Are you having a festival here?”
“We sure are,” Indradyumna Swami said, handing her an invitation.
“Will there be samosas?” she asked.
“Oh? You already know about samosas?”
“Well, I’ve never actually had one,” she said. “But they are one of the things my friends told me about. They said I had to try one if I found you, and they asked me to bring some back to the office.”
“Well, yes,” Indradyumna Swami said. “We’ll have plenty of samosas. We make six hundred for every festival. We have a restaurant tent, and you’ll find them there.”
On the way back to the festival site the devotees passed through the town. A man called out to the Swami from a restaurant, “Hey Guru! Come here! I want to talk to you!”
Indradyumna Swami took the chance and walked over to the restaurant. The man took his hand and shook it vigorously. “Thank you,” he said. “My wife here said that if you shake hands with a guru you get lots of blessings. Thank you so much!”
“Um… no problem,” Maharaja said. “We’re having a festival this evening. Please come if you can. You’ll get lots of blessings there too.”
Indradyumna Swami was jogging to catch up with the harinama party when a woman rushed out of a store and ran up to him. “Stop!” she shouted. “Can you just stop for a minute! I want an answer from you, and I want it now. Why do you people only sing in this part of town? Why only here, huh?”
“This part of town?” Maharaja asked. “What do you mean?”
“Oh don’t act like you don’t know,” she said, looking him in the eye, her clenched hands pushing on her hips. “Years ago you used to come and sing in the other part of town where my store is. We used to look forward to it all summer. Don’t you care about us on the other side of town anymore?”
The Swami didn’t know what to say.
“Answer me!” she demanded. “Why should the people in this part of town be the only ones who get to hear your singing?”
“Well,” Indradyumna Swami began, “we came here to chant because…”
“Look,” she said, cutting him off, “if you don’t turn around right now and come to my part of town, I’m going to tell all my friends and neighbors not to go to your festival.”
Maharaja called out to the kirtan party and waved for them to come back.
“You lead the way,” Maharaja said to her. The devotees chanted behind her as she led them to her part of town, and they stayed for an hour, chanting and dancing. She waved to them from the doorway of her store as they left. “See you tonight!” she shouted with a huge smile.
The detour had made them late for prasada. The devotees ate a hurried meal and began preparing for the festival. Half an hour or so before the festival was to begin, Indradyumna Swami saw a man, a woman and their young daughter sitting in the front row of benches.
He walked up to them. “It will be a little while before things get going,” he said.
“That’s OK,” the man said. “We could use a little break. We just drove up from Warsaw. Our daughter was adamant that we come.”
“Oh, I see,” Maharaja said. “So is this your first time with us?”
“No, no,” the woman replied. “We were at another one of your festivals earlier in the summer. But when we got home our seven-year-old daughter couldn’t stop talking about it. She loved everything: the singing, the dancing, the puppet shows, the make-up tent, the food. Everything. And day and night she insisted on wearing the sari she had won at the dance competition.”
“She was pestering us constantly to come back,” the man said. “She just wouldn’t stop. It was driving us crazy. So in the end I asked my boss for another week’s vacation. Fortunately he understood the situation. He had been to one of your festivals himself, so he agreed. I had to take money from my pension fund to pay for the trip.”
“So here we are,” the woman said with a laugh. “And we’ll be at every one of your events over the next week.”
Forty five minutes later as Bada Haridas began the first bhajan on the stage, a woman walked up to Indradyumna Swami. “I just wanted to thank you for all you’re doing,” she said. “I know you have very high principles.”
“Thank you,” Maharaja said. “You must have read some of our books then.”
“No, not yet,” she replied. “I was speaking with my neighbor about you last summer. Her son had become interested in your movement and was thinking of joining. My neighbor was concerned and went to our local priest for advice, but the priest told her not to worry. He said her son probably wouldn’t stay long because your principles are so high and your discipline is so strict. Then he said that if her son did decide to stay it would be all the better for him.”
Hungry from the day’s activities, Indradyumna Swami decided to go to the devotees’ restaurant. Inside the tent, a young teenage girl carrying a plate of prasada came up to him. “I’ve always wanted to thank you for how you changed my life,” she said.
“Five years ago I came with my parents to your festival. I put on a sari in the fashion tent, and when I came out you were standing there. You said I looked like an angel. I was just a child then, but I was touched by your words, and I decided I should actually become like an angel. I started going to church more, and every night I prayed to God.
“Then last year I found a Bhagavad-gita in our house. My parents had bought it at your festival. I started reading it and found many instructions about how I could become the angel you saw in me. I even became a vegetarian and I started learning English so that if I ever met you again I could thank you and learn more about your way of life.”
“I… I hardly know what to say,” Indradyumna Swami replied. “I am so moved by your story. Let’s sit and talk for a while.”
We had been talking for about twenty minutes when a young man interrupted us. “Are you the leader here?” he asked. “Someone told me you’re in charge of the show.”
“Yes,” Maharaja said. “I do help manage things.”
“I have a question about the big chariot that you have parked in the middle of the field out there. Man, that thing is gigantic! One of your people told me that it gets pulled through the streets with long ropes on special days.”
“Yes, it does,” Maharaja said.
“Well, my question is this: Where do you keep the slaves who pull it?”
“Uh… Did you say ‘slaves’?” the Swami asked.
“Yeah. I figure it must take between fifty and a hundred slaves to pull that massive cart down the street. Do you keep them locked up somewhere?”
Indradyumna Swami had to try hard to keep from laughing. “Actually we don’t use slaves,” he said. “We pull the chariot ourselves. It’s said that by pulling that chariot one makes spiritual advancement. Everyone is eager to pull the ropes.”
“So there aren’t any slaves?” he said.
“Nope,” Maharaja said. “No slaves.” He shook his head and wandered off into the theater tent to wait with the others for the show to start.
As he left, another man came up to the Swami. “Can you sign this Bhagavad-gita?” he asked. “I just bought it.”
“Sure,” Maharaja said.
“I’ve been attending your festivals each summer for fifteen years,” he said as Indradyumna Swami began writing. “But this time something just clicked, and I decided it was high time that I bought a book and went deeper into your philosophy. Sorry it took me so long.”
Maharaja smiled. “Better late than never,” he said and handed the book back to him.
Then he saw a man dressed in a suit, wearing old-fashioned glasses and carrying a small briefcase. He looked like an old professor, and the Swami could see that he wanted to talk to him. Maharaja excused himself from the young woman he had been talking to, and stood up to receive him.
“May I have a brief word with you?” he asked.
“Of course, sir,” Indradyumna Swami said. “I am at your service.”
“It’s only a quick question,” he said. “I just want to know when you will begin your lecture.”
Maharaja looked at his watch. “In about thirty-five minutes,” he said, “when the theater is over.”
“Very good,” he said. He turned to leave, but the Swami called after him.
“Excuse me sir,” Maharaja said. “Is this your first time with us?”
“Oh no,” he said. “I have been attending your event for many years, as far back as I can remember. It’s been going on for twenty-eight years now, hasn’t it?”
A smile broke out on Indradyumna Swami’s face. “You have a great memory, sir,” Maharaja said. “Yes, it’s been exactly twenty-eight years.”
“Each time, though, I only come for one hour,” he said. “I come just to hear you speak. I write your words of wisdom down and try to imbibe them in my life throughout the year.” He opened his briefcase and showed Maharaja a notepad and pen. “I have become a much better person through the years and have gotten closer to the goal of life.”
“What do you mean when you say ‘the goal of life’?” Indradyumna Swami asked.
“You know very well what that means,” he said with a smile.
When the Swami was giving his talk from the stage that evening, Maharaja saw him on the last bench furiously writing. At the end of the lecture, Maharaja made his way over to where he had been sitting, but he had gone.
As he walked back toward his van, Indradyumna Swami saw a woman carrying an especially large plate of samosas. It was the woman he had met on the beach whose co-workers had told her to visit the festival.
“Hey!” Indradyumna Swami called out. “I see you got your samosas!”
She turned toward him. “I can’t thank you enough!” she shouted back. “I love your festival! And my friends were right. These samosas are fantastic!”
“Everything about this festival is auspicious,” Maharaja thought. “I feel so fortunate to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord, delivering His message in such an attractive way.”
The last kirtan of the evening went on for about an hour. Everybody was dancing—children, parents, everybody. Afterwards, a middle-aged man came up to Indradyumna Swami, his eyes welling with tears, a gentle smile on his face. He stopped for a minute and took a deep breath. “Hearing you people sing,” he said, “is like touching the feet of the gods.”
“The people had fallen into the sinful life of this age of quarrel, being overwhelmed by grief and delusion, disturbed by anxiety to acquire money for family and relatives. Considering the situation, the Golden Lord took birth in order to protect them. Being very merciful, He made manifest His delightful form as the giver of His holy names.”
[Srila Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Susloka-Satakam, text 4]