A Sure Sign Of Success
Volume 15, Chapter 6
August 14, 2019
They say that time flies by when you are doing something you enjoy. And conversely it moves slowly when you are busy with something you don’t like. I can say with all honesty, that this summer seems to have passed by in a moment’s time. Now, in the twilight of my years, more than ever before, I relish every moment in Krsna consciousness. I am grateful for what I have; all of it being a gift from my ever well-wisher, my eternal spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. One verse from sastra, which I repeat many times each day, epitomizes the good fortune I feel:
nama srestam manum api saci putram atra svarupam
rupam tasya grajam uru purim mathurim gosthavatim
radha kunda giri varam aho radhika madhava sam
prapto yasya pratita krpaya sri gurum tam nato’ smi
“ I bow down to the beautiful lotus feet of my spiritual master, by whose causeless mercy I have obtained the supreme holy name, the divine mantra, the service of the son of Sacimata, the association of Srila Svarupa Damodara, Rupa Goswami and his older brother Sanatan Goswami, the supreme abode of Mathura, the blissful abode of Vrindavan, the divine Radha Kunda and Govardhan Hill and the desire within my heart for the loving service of Sri Radhika and Madhava in Vrindavan.”
[ Srila Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, Sri Mukta Carita ]
Raghunatha Dasa Goswami mentions “the loving service of Sri Radhika and Madhava in Vrindavan.” I have not attained that yet, but I am hopeful one day I will. And just how to attain that most precious of all goals has been made clear to me by another one of our acaryas:
yatha yatha gaura padaravinde
vindeta bhaktim krta punya rasih
tatha tathotsarpati hrdy akasmad
“To the degree that we surrender to Lord Caitanya’s service, to that degree we acquire qualification for service to Radharani’s lotus feet in Vraja.”
[ Sri Caitanya Candramrta, chapter 8, text 88, by Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati ]
With surrender to Mahaprabhu’s service in mind I gave everything I had to the first half of our summer festival tour along the Baltic Sea coast in Poland. As anyone who has been on the tour during the last 30 years knows, it is not for the faint-hearted. With a major festival, entertaining close to 3,000 people every day for two months, one is pushed to the very limit of his or her mental and physical abilities. But for those who contribute, the rewards are great. Not great in any monetary term, but great in seeing so many people awakened to Krsna conscious and the satisfaction and bliss that brings:
For those who give their living breath
Upon their lips the Holy Name
In praise of He who came
To them a store of bliss in known
And hidden worlds to them are shown
[ ‘Hidden Worlds’ from Nature’s Secret, by Michael Cassidy]
On the tour I see that miracle every day. It’s possible in Krsna consciousness, in the movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu:
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
[ Albert Einstein ]
In Miedzyzdroje, where we held our first festival after returning from the Polish Woodstock festival halfway through the summer, I marveled how Krsna consciousness touches so many people’s hearts.
As I was signing a Bhagavad Gita for a woman after my talk from the stage, she confided in me:
“I was very much against any form of yoga before meeting you people. My local pastor told us it is the ‘work of the devil.’ When my son started to attend yoga lessons, I forbade him to continue. But after coming here today and observing you people and hearing the talk you gave, I changed my mind. In fact, I just called my son and gave him permission to attend the yoga classes. It’s his birthday tomorrow and I will give him this book as a present.”
Another man approached later asking if I remembered him. I apologized saying I didn’t.
“You must remember,” he said. “It was 15 years ago on this very spot. After your talk I gave you a ship in a bottle. I had made it myself. I worked on it for two years. I was so impressed with what you shared. You kindly gave me a Bhagavad Gita. I must admit I didn’t read it at first. In fact, it was on the bookshelf for 14 years. Last year I had a heart attack. The doctors said I probably wouldn’t survive. I was terrified. I asked my friends to bring that book to the hospital and they read it to me day and night. Hearing the philosophy I conquered my fear. Somehow, I survived. But I haven’t stopped reading the Bhagavad Gita. I know death will come someday and I want to be prepared.”
A few minutes later our tour manager, Nandini dasi, came up to me.
“Gurudeva,” she said, “I am meeting so many people today who are expressing their appreciation for our festival.”
“Me too,” I said.
“I just came from the parking lot,” she continued. “After entering I realized I didn’t have any money to put in the parking meter. I must have looked frustrated, as a lady approached me and asked if I was alright. When I told her my dilemma she said, “Don’t worry I’ll pay for your parking. I just came from your festival. The young people in your movement are living such a pure life and setting the highest example for their generation. We should all support you!”
As we stood appreciating the people’s reception of our festival our Ramayana theater began on stage. It has been one of our ‘mainstays’ as we upgrade it into something more spectacular each year.
This year one of the main characters, the evil-minded Ravana, is played by Sundara Caitanya das. To perform the role more effectively Sundara Caitanya worked out in a gym much of the year and he looks like a modern day Hercules. With his large tattooed covered frame and bulging muscles along with his frightening dress his appearance is quite overwhelming. He has become a good actor as well, making him a very scary and formidable demon.
As we watched the theater I could see the audience was becoming deeply engaged as happens in any good theater production. But I wasn’t prepared for the reaction of one man, who upon seeing Ravana kidnap Sita, jump up and rush the stage furiously screaming, “Let her go! Let her go! You filthy man! Have you no decency?”
The man’s wife and a male friend quickly leapt up and chased after him. He was still yelling when they got to him in front of the stage and calmed him down. Coming to his senses he realized his overreaction and sheepishly returned back to the bench they were sitting on. He appeared a gentleman who simply got too involved in the drama. The reaction in the crowd was mixed. Some were laughing at him, while others seemed to understand. I thought to myself, “This is a really good theater!”
At that moment Nandini’s cell phone rang.
“We’ve got a problem Gurudeva,” she said, “One of our devotees just got caught shoplifting.”
“Shoplifting?” I said. “Are they sure it was a devotee?”
“Yes,” I know the owners of the store.“ replied Nandini “We make purchases there every time we come to town. They know me well.”
“Well, go and take care of this immediately.” I said.
An hour later Nandini called me.
“The store owners were shocked,” she said, “They told me, ‘We’ve known your movement for 20 years. You uphold the highest standards and morals. We never expected anything like this.”
“I told them it certainly doesn’t represent us and I apologized profusely. They said they were obliged to call the police, but I asked if it would be enough if we just sent the devotee boy home and they agreed. He’s already on the train back home.”
We were both a little despondent at this misrepresentation of our tour group when Krsna sent two souls to cheer us up. The festival was just finishing when a couple approached us with a Bhagavad Gita in hand.
“Can you please sign our book?” the lady said.
“Sure,” I replied.
As I took the Bhagavad Gita from her hand I asked, “Did you enjoy the festival today?”
“Actually, we arrived one minute ago,” she replied, “Just in time to buy the book.”’
“Oh, I’m sorry you missed the event.” I said.
“It’s Ok,” she said. “I’ve been attending your event every year since I was a child. 20 years to be exact,” she said.
“Wow!” I said.
“I came this year simply to buy the Bhagavad Gita,” she continued. “Sorry it’s taken so long, but I’ve been thinking about what you say in your lectures and have concluded it’s time to get serious and study your philosophy. I’ve seen how it’s changed the lives of so many people I know.”
As Nandini and I joined the devotees walking to our cars and buses to return back to our base I said, “There’s a Sanskrit saying: phalena pariciyate, which means “Judge a thing by its result.” The fact that so many people are inspired to read Srila Prabhupada’s books as a result of our cultural presentation of Krsna consciousness is a sure sign of success. I pray His Divine Grace is looking favorably upon us.”
“Now in your temple you are distributing so many books and this is very, very encouraging to me. It is the perfect form of preaching. Follow the line laid down by Prahlada Maharaja and try to take everyone back home, back to Godhead. And this is done by distributing our literature. I am so much pleased upon each and every one of you for helping me this way to push on this great movement.”
[ Srila Prabhupada letter to disciple December 3, 1972 ]