July 18, 2017: “That Special Song”
Indradyumna Swami awoke at 3:30 a.m. as the first rays of Eastern Europe’s summer sun peeked through his window. He was confused. Where was he? Nothing in the room seemed familiar. Since his travels take him to a new town and country every few days, this happens often when he first wakes up. Getting up, Maharaja looked outside the window to get his bearings.
“Oh, right,” he said softly, as he watched devotees arriving with their luggage to their base for the summer festival tour. “I’m back on the Baltic Sea coast in Poland.”
Excited to begin, Indradyumna Swami showered quickly, dressed, and stepped out into the cool morning air. Chanting his japa, he found himself distracted by worries of how this tour would unfold. They were short of funding, several trucks were broken down, the electrical system on their massive stage was malfunctioning, and worst of all, local farmers were predicting a cold, wet summer.
The Swami decided not to waste his time in worry. “Krishna’s the supreme controller,” he reminded himself. “He can fix all these obstacles on a moments notice. He’s done it for us many times before in the last 28 years.”
And it’s a fact. While preaching and spreading the holy names, a devotee can sometimes easily perceive the Lord’s intervention in difficult situations. One such case had already happened! Nandini dasi told Indradyumna Swami, upon his arrival at their new school base, that they were unable to rent the school they had previously used for many years in another town because they were planning to renovate it. She had looked high and low for another school to meet their needs of accommodation for 300 devotees with kitchen included. Not finding anything suitable and with time running out, she approached a school they had stayed in 13 years ago during another summer tour. However, the price was now astronomical – way beyond their means. Nandini bargained with them for days, finally renting the school for half the original price. The next day all 300 of them moved in.
After the agreement was signed, she discovered the whole town had been rooting for them. A lady told her, “Many years ago, when you people were staying here, you used to sing daily on the streets of our town. Everyone remembers those colorful and joyful processions. We miss them! Promise us you’ll find the time to sing that special song you sing over and over and over in our town again while you’re here.”
Later in the morning they held a meeting for the devotees. Indradyumna Swami impressed upon them that they have inherited a great responsibility from the previous acarayas. For generations, Vaisnavas in India had been developing and organizing Krishna consciousness in such a way that it would one day spread all over the world.
In the 19th Century, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur wrote, “When will that day come when the fair-skinned foreigners will come to Sri Mayapur-dhama and join with the Bengali Vaisnavas to chant ‘Jaya Sacinandana, Jaya Sacinandana!’
“Very soon the chanting of Harinam sankirtana will be spread all over the world. Oh, when will that day come when people from America, England, France, Germany and Russia will take up kartalas and mridangas and chant Hare Krishna in their towns?” [ From Sajjana-toshani ]
Indradyumna Swami impressed upon the devotees that the time had arrived for them to uphold the tradition and to spread it to every town and village. It is simultaneously a grave and joyful responsibility, but the devotees are especially fortunate as their contribution is a particularly attractive one: holding Krishna conscious festivals throughout the summer in the beach towns along the Baltic Sea coast.
The next day they went on harinam to advertise their first festival. Soon they were chanting on the boardwalk in great ecstasy with their drums, cymbals, banners, flags and trumpets. Their beautiful, colorful, joyful and exuberant kirtan party was in stark contrast to the unseasonably cold and wet weather, with gray clouds hanging ominously above them in the sky. Devotees moved systematically through the crowds handing out their informative, beautifully designed invitations. The invitations included a quote from the Indian Ambassador to Poland, encouraging people to visit the festival, which in his words “embodied the spirit of India’s culture.” As they proceeded along, suddenly a young boy around 12 years of age ran up to Indradyumna Swami, his eyes wide open in amazement.
“Indradyuma Swami,” he said excitedly. “Do you remember me?”
Maharaja wasn’t sure how to reply. He meets thousands of young men his age each year, so he couldn’t remember him. But he didn’t want to disappoint him. So Maharaja paused for a moment hoping he would refresh his memory.
“I first met you when I was 6 months old,” he continued.
The Swami really didn’t know what to say at that point.
“Here’s a picture of me in my Mom’s arms at your festival 12 years ago.”
Maharaja glanced at the picture and sure enough there was a baby in his mother’s arms standing next to him on our festival grounds.
“Very nice.” Indradyumna Swami said.
Then he pulled out another photo.
“Here I am with you at the festival when I was 5.” He said.
Looking closer Indradyumna Swami saw that he was indeed older and so was Maharaja.
Producing a slew of photos he said, “And here we are together when I was 7, 8, 9 and 10!”
“Well, our association is certainly well documented,” The Swami smiled.
“Yes, you’re my hero,” he said. “I’ve never been to a Hare Krishna Temple and I’ve only read one small book about Krishna. But I want to be just like you when I grow up. And guess what? I stopped eating meat a long time ago and I don’t smoke either. My friends think I’m crazy, but I don’t care.”
“I’m happy I can be an example for you,” Maharaja replied. “Will you be coming to the festival tonight?”
“Of course,” he said. “And my Mom’s bringing her camera!”
As the harinam wound it’s way through the town many people smiled and waved. Indradyumna Swami could only conclude that they knew the devotees from having been to the festival before, just like the young man who’d approached him.
“Our festivals changed the antagonistic opinion people had about us some years ago.” Maharaja thought. “There was a time when the Catholic Church was openly saying that we were a dangerous sect. Now they wouldn’t dare say such a thing because so many millions of people have passed through our festival programs and know us well. We average 5,000 people a day, for the months of July and August. Multiply that by 40 festivals a summer for 28 years and it’s an astounding number of people who have come in contact with us in a most positive way.”
Smiling, Indradyumna Swami thought, “It was the church who bravely brought down Communism in this country, but they couldn’t take us down.” He remembered a verse from Bhagavad Gita:
“Wherever there is Krishna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality.” [Bhagavad-gita 18.78]
Although spoken 5,000 years ago, the Lord’s words in Bhagavad Gita come alive even in modern times if applied properly. Absolute Truth is relevant for all time – past, present and future.
Hour’s later, tired but fully satisfied, the devotees proceeded to the festival site near the beach. The festival was just beginning and all 300 seats in front of the stage were full. Many other hundreds of people were walking around the festival taking in the various attractions: the restaurant, magic show, puppet show, yoga lessons, face painting, cooking demonstrations, question and answers tent, etc. Everything was first class – looking attractive and professional. The harinam devotees quickly took their positions on stage, in the tents and restaurant. All 300 devotees were actively engaged.
As Indradyumna Swami walked around surveying the scene, he picked up pieces of paper, old cloth and other oddities and put them in garbage cans. Soon after, the first of the theatrical productions, a revised edition of their previous theater, “Krishna in Vrindavan,” began. Devotees had worked for months on the production and their hard work paid off as the crowd gave a thunderous applause at the end.
When it came time for his lecture, Indradyumna Swami walked up the steps of the stage reflecting on the fact that he’d given introductory lectures on the summer stage for 28 years. He thought about the challenge of giving an introductory lecture to people who return year after year – trying to keep it interesting and fresh.
As he began his talk he saw 4 young men, likely in their early 20’s, showing no interest in what he was saying. At one point, they began making fun of Indradyumna Swami, imitating his movements and joking about what he said. It was a distraction, so he did what he often does in such circumstances – he fixed his attention on someone in the audience who was attentive and appeared interested. Occasionally the Swami would glance at the disruptive boys. Seeing their ongoing antics only increased his resolve to present the sublime truths of the Gita using convincing examples, analogies and verses. Then something quite amazing happened. Halfway through his lecture he looked over and saw the boys were listening with rapt attention. He thought it might be part of their antics, but as time went on he saw them nodding their heads in approval of what he was saying. At the end of the talk they applauded along with the rest of the crowd.
“Powerful philosophy,” Maharaja thought to himself as he descended the stairs to sign copies of the Bhagavad Gita that he had encouraged people to buy during his talk.
An elderly man was one of those waiting in line for Indradyumna Swami, a new Bhagavad Gita in his hand. He was also holding a smaller edition of Bhagavad Gita translated and commented on by the Swami’s godbrother, Ranchor dasa, from England. Simple and easy to read, the devotees give his Polish edition along with Srila Prabhupada’s translation of Bhagavad Gita, encouraging people to read it first, so they will better understand Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita As It Is.
“Could you please sign my books?” he said.
As Indradyumna Swami began signing the books the man said, “I want to thank you for your talk. In all my 80 years I have never heard spiritual knowledge explained so clearly and logically as you did today.”
“Thank you,” Maharaja said. “I learned everything from my spiritual teacher who translated and wrote the comments in the larger book you have in your hands. Spiritual life is logical as well.”
Clutching the book tightly he said, “Yes, and I am eagerly looking forward to reading it.”
Noting his distinguished appearance Maharaja asked what his profession was.
“I’m retired” was his only reply.
“But what did you do as a profession during your working years?”
“I was a politician” he replied quite reluctantly.
“Oh, what was that like?” Indradyumna Swami asked, hoping to get into a discussion where he could somehow introduce Krishna consciousness.
“You wouldn’t want to know,” he replied. “Let’s not get into that. You people just keep doing what you are doing. You’re capable of making the world a better place. And I mean that.”
As he walked away the Swami saw people in the line talking excitedly.
“Do you know who that man is?” said the next person who came forward for a signature.
“No, I don’t,” the Swami replied.
He mentioned some name with reverence and was a bit surprised by Indradyumna Swami’s lack of response, as Maharaja had never heard the name before. Nevertheless, the Swami took great satisfaction that a man of political importance had bought a Bhagavad Gita.
There were around 12 people in line with Bhagavad Gitas in their hands. Sitting down, Indradyumna Swami signed one after the other, hardly looking up. When the last person came forward, Maharaja stood up and looked at him to ask if he was enjoying the show. Suddenly he realized he was one of the boys who had been making fun of him during his talk. Looking at the Swami with his head bent down a little he said softly, “Sorry.”
“No problem,” Indradyumna Swami said. “Give me your book. I’ll be happy to sign it.” As he was leaving Maharaja shook his hand firmly and asked him to come back the next day.
“Sure” he replied. “What time will you be speaking?”
Maharaja smiled and replied, “Same time, same place.”
After signing the books, Indradyumna Swami walked over to sit down on one of the last benches in front of the stage. Very quickly a woman in her early 40’s approached him.
“May I speak to you for a moment?” she said. “I don’t want to take much of your time.”
“Of course,” Maharaja said.
“I just wanted to thank you for your talk. It literally saved my life.”
“Saved your life?” He said, thinking that perhaps she was speaking metaphorically.
“Yes,” she said. “Two years ago my only child, my 16 year old son, was killed in a head-on car collision. I was devastated and as a result my relationship with my husband deteriorated quickly. We began quarreling and fighting and eventually separated. Six months ago we divorced. Because I was so distraught I couldn’t focus at work, and several months ago I lost my job. My friends were unable to cope with me, and one by one they abandoned me. I couldn’t make sense of it all. I kept asking, ‘why is all this happening to me?’”
She paused and then said: “There seemed to be no reason to keep living. So I came up here to the coast last week with the intention of ending my life.”
“I’m sorry to hear all this,” Indradyumna Swami said in sympathy.
“But today I was walking on the boardwalk past your festival at the moment you came on the stage to give your talk. I could sense this was a spiritual event and decided to sit and listen to you, hoping to find some solace in my misery. But besides the solace I also found the answer to my question of why my life was so suddenly turned upside down. Your clear and logical explanation of karma – receiving the results of our past actions – made sense to me. But most important you offered an alternative to my misery. Your explanation of the spiritual world was convincing, and I realized then and there that returning there was the real solution to my problems. So I’m going to go and purchase the Bhagavad Gita now. I just request that I can keep in touch with you.”
Then she paused and concluded: “Thank you for saving my life – and more important – for giving me new life.”
It was a humbling experience, but Indradyumna Swami silently thanked Srila Prabhupada for saving them all.
In the next moment, the head of their security team rushed up to the Swami exclaiming, “Srila Gurudeva, be on your guard! There’s a big, burley man walking around the festival grounds asking for ‘the guru.’ He has approached several of my men. He’s looking in the tents now. Don’t worry, we’re here if you need us.”
Suddenly ten meters away, a large, muscular man, dressed in shorts and t-shirt called out “Maharaja!” with a big smile and came running toward Indradyumna Swami. Before security could intervene, he picked the Swami up and swung him around saying, “I’ve missed you so much!”
Putting Maharaja down he continued, “Do you remember me? Woodstock, 1997, in Zary, Poland. I lent my truck to you to transport your equipment around the site.”
Maharaja remembered. “Yes!” Indradyumna Swami said, “We spent many hours talking about life during that event.”
“Everyone in my town misses you guys,” he said in a quieter tone. “You know, people still talk about the singing parties you all had in the town market day after day. They were magical!”
“Yes,” the Swami repeated, “Magical.”
“I’m up here on the coast for vacation and I got an invitation to your event on the beach this morning.” He continued. “I was thinking, ‘maybe Maharaja will be there’ and here you are! I’m so happy to see you again.”
“And I’m happy to see you,” Indradyumna Swami said, taking his hand.
Then he paused and said, “Seriously, Maharaja, when will you and your team come back to Zary and sing that special song in the market place? It would make us all so happy.”
tri bhuvana kamaniye gaura candre vatirne
patita yavana murkhah sarvatha sphotayantah
iha jagati samasta nama sankirtanarta
vayam api ca krtarthah Krishna namasrayad bhoh
“When Lord Gauracandra, the most attractive personality within the three worlds advented in this universe, all the fallen souls began to wave their arms in the air excited by the congregational chanting of the holy names. We also were completely fulfilled because of our taking shelter of those same names of Lord Krishna. O my Lord!”
[ Srila Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Susloka-Satakam – One Hundred Beautiful Verses Composed In Glorification Of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu – verse 44 ]