May 28, 1995
By Indradyumna Swami
For the past week I have been having bad dreams. It often happens to me after initiation ceremonies.
Srila Prabhupada writes, “A devotee sometimes accepts a sinful person as his disciple, and to counteract the sinful reactions he accepts from the disciple, he has to see a bad dream. Nonetheless, the spiritual master is so kind that in spite of having bad dreams due to the sinful disciples, he accepts this troublesome business for the deliverance of the victims of Kali-yuga. After initiation therefore, a disciple should be extremely careful not to commit again any sinful act that might cause difficulty for himself and the spiritual master. Before the Deity, before the fire, before the spiritual master and before the Vaisnavas, the honest disciple promises to refrain from all sinful activity. Therefore he must not commit sinful acts and thus create a troublesome situation.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 8.4.15)
But last night I had an interesting dream. I dreamt that three beautiful Gandharvas (angels) with golden wings appeared in my room, emanating a brilliant effulgence around themselves. I was in distress for some reason, but with benevolent faces and gestures they told me that everything will turn out all right. They said they will protect me and that I have nothing to worry about. I awoke this morning completely peaceful. Although it was only a dream, it somehow gave me strength and encouragement.
This morning I spoke by telephone with Niranjana Maharaja, who had been allowed into Russia at the Moscow Airport. He had good and bad news regarding the rumored strike by the government. We learned that during a recent visit to Moscow, American President Bill Clinton had warned President Yeltsin not to sign the “new religions” bill. On the other hand, the head of the public relations department of the FSK, Alexander Mikhailov, appeared on national television and said that the FSK had begun an investigation of all new religious movements in Russia. As well as ISKCON, this means the Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Scientists, and many others. Maharaja said that people in the government favorable to us have warned us to keep a low profile during the next few months, so the devotees in Moscow have decided to cancel this summer’s Ratha-yatra.
After class I took a walk alone in the garden of the Krasnodar temple. It was a beautiful, warm spring morning with fragrant ﬂowers blooming abundantly. Bees were humming, and butterﬂies were ﬂying everywhere. The whole atmosphere was enchanting.
I found a bench under a ﬂowering apple tree and sat there to chant my rounds. I suddenly realized it was the first time that I had been alone in years. As a traveling preacher, my life is public twenty four hours a day. I began savoring those few moments. It was a new world for me. I remembered a book I had read as a boy, All Quiet on the Western Front. It was about the life of a soldier in the trenches of France in World War I. During a lull in a battle he notices a butterﬂy, the beauty of which sharply contrasts with the death and destruction around him. In an effort to reach out to something beautiful and full of life, he stands up in the trench to touch the butterﬂy and is immediately shot dead by the unseen enemy.
I thought of myself as being in the lull of a battle. Of course, a preacher’s fight is not among death and destruction, but he does see the reality of birth and death, disease and old age constantly in his travels. And here in Russia the living standards are so low as people struggle to maintain themselves. So I identified with that soldier in the book as I observed the quiet and peaceful scene around me.
Suddenly Govinda Maharaja appeared on the path under the tree. “Maharaja,” he said, “what are you doing here?”
“Oh, just enjoying a few minutes of peace,” I said.
He laughed. “That’s not like you,” he said. “Come on, it’s time to go to Novorossisk. There’ll be no peace for you in this lifetime. We have a lot of preaching to do. Let’s go. The devotees are waiting. You can rest in the next life.”
I left my little daydream in the garden and walked with Maharaja to the car.
After saying goodbye to a tearful Nadya, who left us today to rejoin her mother, we drove to Novorossisk, a city to the south on the Black Sea. The devotees from there had sent one of their congregation members to drive us in his 1989 Audi. It was a comfortable and pleasant journey through beautiful countryside down to the ocean.
The congregation member, Serge, turned out to be an interesting man. He was a captain in the Novorossisk Police and a member of an elite counter-terrorist team in the region. He was a well-built and handsome man in his late thirties with a pleasant disposition and quiet nature. I discussed a number of subjects with him: the importance of chanting sixteen rounds, how to make one’s home into a temple, and (I couldn’t help it) counter-terrorist operations, commando training, and state-of-the-art weaponry.
As we were driving I kept thinking, “Every time we drive somewhere in Russia we seem to get pulled over by the police for checks. I hope it happens this time. All Serge would have to do is pull out his police badge and counter-terrorist unit card and the police would apologize, salute us, and let us go on our way.”
Two minutes later a police car, siren blaring, pulled us over to the side. I was in ecstasy. Everything went almost exactly according to my daydream. The police officer approached our car, and speaking in an official tone demanded to see Serge’s identification papers. You should have seen the look on his face when Serge presented his documents.
He immediately backed off. “Of course you may go, sir,” he said. I exchanged a big smile with Serge as we drove off.
When we arrived at our Novorossisk apartment, we showered and immediately went to a public program arranged by the local devotees. Govinda Maharaja asked me to speak, so I talked for an hour and then asked for questions.
A Christian man stood up. He began asking challenging questions and proclaiming that only Christians went to heaven. Usually I don’t bother speaking to such people because they won’t hear or accept what we say, but I debated with this man for almost an hour. I wanted to teach the local devotees the philosophical arguments we use in such situations.
On the way back to our apartment, I noticed a big statue of Lenin. You still see these statues throughout Russia, along with other communist memorabilia, although it has been years since democracy replaced communism.
“Why doesn’t someone pull these statues down?” I asked a local devotee.
“It costs money to pull them down,” he said, “and people don’t have money here.”
It sounded logical, but still it seems strange to see the hammer and sickle and the busts and statues of Lenin everywhere.