All Glories to the Devotees of the Baku Yatra!
Volume 1, Chapter 17
S a t u r d a y J u n e 3
This morning I gave class on a verse from the third canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam about the glories of the brahminical, or priestly, order. I was emphasizing the point that by becoming a devotee of the Lord (a Vaisnava), one naturally develops the good qualities of a brahmana. I then gave the example that Haridasa Thakura was born in a low-class family as a Muslim.
Immediately upon saying this I felt uncomfortable, because almost all the guests were Muslims. It wasn’t the proper choice of words according to time and circumstance. I immediately tried to adjust the mistake by quoting the verse from Bhagavad-gita that states that those of low birth can approach the supreme destination;
mam hi patha vyapasrita
ye ‘pi syuh papa-yonayah
striyo vaisyas tatha sudra
te ‘pi yanti param gatim
“O son of Prtha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth—women, vaisyas [merchants] and sudras [workers]— can attain the supreme destination.” (Bhagavad-gita 9.32)
But of course, the verse doesn’t mention Muslims, so I didn’t completely succeed in adjusting the awkward moment. A preacher must become expert at preaching according to time and circumstance so as not to offend anyone and inspire his audience towards devotional service.
Later this morning, Sri Prahlada and I, with one other devotee, went into Baku to fiind a park to chant our rounds. While driving around we came across a beautiful mosque that was under construction. We stopped and got out to look.
We were surprised to see that it was being built entirely from solid pieces of rock and marble, like buildings of previous centuries. The small crew of men working on the construction at the front section of the mosque were chipping away at a piece of flat stone that appeared to be for an intricate window frame. They approached us and asked where we were from and what religion we were practicing. After some discussion about the Koran and Bhagavad-gita they invited us to come inside the mosque. At fiirst I hesitated, because I feared that if any militant Muslims saw us in the mosque, we might have a problem.
Several years ago when there was agitation in India over the Hindus tearing down a mosque in Ayodhya, local Muslims in Baku surrounded our temple and threatened to burn it to the ground. The devotees called the temple in Moscow, where they immediately went on COM appealing for international help. A few hours later a flood of protests swamped the Azerbaijan Government from devotees and well-wishers throughout the world, and soon the Baku police came and dispersed the mob that was surrounding the temple.
At the insistence of the workers, we went inside, and they took us all the way to the top of the mosque by way of the stairs in one of the turrets. At the top we had a bird’s-eye view of the entire city. At one point Sri Prahlada turned to me and said he was also feeling nervous being in the mosque, due to a few people gathering and watching us from the street. So we thanked our hosts and descended the stairs back to our car.
This evening we held our fiinal program in the Baku Temple. At the end of the last kirtana I gave a little talk thanking the devotees for their wonderful association and encouraging them in their preaching. I told them Srila Prabhupada must be very proud of them for their determined preaching in this part of the world. Srila Prabhupada once said he would take the dust of the feet of any devotee who preached in the Muslim countries. As I looked out at the Baku devotees, tears streaming down their faces, I could understand that many of them must have been placed there by Lord Caitanya to fulfiill His desires for spreading the glories of the holy names in every town and village. All glories to the devotees of the Baku Yatra! May they be blessed with the full mercy of Haridasa Thakura!