March 17–April 4, 2002
By Indradyumna Swami
Since arriving in America almost three weeks ago, Sri Prahlada and his wife Rukminipriya and I have been on a whirlwind tour of temples.
We have been to New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, San Jose, and Laguna Beach. We are doing virtually two to three preaching engagements a day. I am no longer able to keep track of all the places we have been. One day is beginning to merge into the next, and I am left with a single impression of continuous lecturing, kirtana, and unending feasts. The intense schedule, lack of regulation, and irregular diet are not conducive to good health, but a traveling preacher must be willing to sacrifice in the line of duty.
In an attempt to keep myself healthy, though, I have been trying to swim in public pools wherever I go. I usually find a temple devotee who belongs to a local gym with a pool, who allows me to accompany him as a guest. Rarely am I able to complete my desired forty-lap regimen, however. Inevitably, someone at the pool wants to speak to me about Krishna consciousness.
For example, when I was swimming at the university’s pool near the Philadelphia temple, two students, who were also swimming, tapped me on the shoulder. I was reluctant to speak to them, but couldn’t really refuse. While other swimmers raced back and forth, and us standing waist-deep in the pool, we had a twenty-minute discussion on karma and reincarnation. Their curiosity satisfied, I began my laps, only to be stopped five minutes later by two professors who wanted to know the difference between the teachings of Sankara and Caitanya. I spent the rest of my exercise time on the side of the pool discussing acintya bheda abheda tattva, Lord Caitanya’s sublime concept of the living entities’ simultaneous oneness and difference with God.
Despite the inconvenience of constant travel, I am happy to always be sharing with others the good fortune I received from my spiritual master. However, after losing my dear god-brother Tamal Krishna Maharaja and my disciple Vrindavanesvari two weeks ago, I have been having difficulty addressing the sadness I feel. Memorial observances marking their sudden departures have ended, and the numerous condolences from devotees around the world have stopped pouring in, but as life goes on, those of us who were close to these devotees find that each new day brings fresh reminders that they are gone. Although I try to accept that the Lord showed us His higher plan, I can help but feel bereft of the association of a true friend and loving disciple. This experience has made Srila Narottama dasa Thakura’s words enter deeper into my heart:
sesaba sangira sange je kaila vilasa sesanga na paiya kande narottama dasa
“Being unable to obtain the association of Lord Gauranga, accompanied by all of these devotees in whose association He performed His pastimes, Narottama dasa simply weeps.” (“Sapashadabhagavad Virahajanitavilapa,” from Prarthana)
Nothing can replace the warmth and love of a genuine friend or the service of a genuine disciple.
‘du˙khamadhye kona du˙kha haya gurutara?’ ‘Krsnabhaktaviraha vina du˙kha nahi dekhi para’
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked, “Of all kinds of distress, what is the most painful?”
Sri Ramananda Raya replied, “Apart from separation from the devotee of Krsna, I know of no unbearable unhappiness.” (Cc. Madhya 8.248)
As we travel and preach, trying to simultaneously raise funds for our Polish festival tour and share Krishna consciousness with the devotees, news arrives constantly from the Polish home front where the other tour devotees are performing a marathon to organize the festival. It is scheduled to begin in May. The day we finished our final program last year, Nandini dasi and Radhasakhivrinda began preparations for this year’s tour. As usual, our opposition has been close on their heels.
Months ago, Nandini and Radhasakhivrinda learned that due to the Catholic Church’s continuous pressure, all the schools along Poland’s Baltic seacoast refused to rent their facilities to us during this year’s summer vacation. Each summer, our group of three hundred devotees bases ourselves in the schools, sleeping in the classrooms, showering in the gym facilities, and holding our morning programs in the gymnasiums themselves. Each year we stay in three different schools along the five hundred kilometer coastline, holding festivals in the towns and resorts along the way. That not one school agreed to receive us this year was a major blow.
However, two weeks ago Nandini phoned me to say that after intense negotiation, one school has agreed to rent us its facilities. It will be difficult to cover the entire coastline from one base, but at least we have a facility.
In preparation for the great Woodstock Festival, scheduled for August 2 and 3 in southern Poland, Nandini and Radhasakhivrinda went to Zary, the town that hosts the annual event. They wanted to rent the same three schools we have previously used to accommodate the four hundred devotees who participate in our Krsna’s Village of Peace. By Krsna’s grace, they were received well in the first two schools. They wrote:
At the first school, the headmistress was excited that we will be guests at her school again. She was praising our cleanliness and tolerance of the austere conditions. Smiling, she said that our devotees made an impressive impact on the whole town last year. In the second school, the headmistress had tears in her eyes, recounting how she was allowed to swing Krishna on His birthday. [We celebrated Janmashtami last year in our tent at Woodstock, which included a swing festival for our Radha-Krishna Deities.] The headmistress said, “I’ve had such good luck since swinging your Krsna.”
But they met resistance at the third and largest school:
When we arrived, the headmaster screamed at us, saying that we were a dangerous cult and that all the people in Zary hated us. “Last year I fell under your influence and rented you the school,” he said. “I couldn’t resist you. You two girls were too powerful for me! But this year I will not come under the sway of your smiling faces and your food!”
But after two hours of discussion (and four or five samosas), as well as a phone call from our friend, the Mayor of Zary, the headmaster signed the agreement for renting us the school on the condition that you, Gurudeva, will not reside there! He said, “You have to promise me that your guru will not live in my school. He’s the main problem here. I saw how all of you were serving him. Why are you people so submissive toward him? I have never seen a man command so much respect. Because of him, the whole town of Zary came to know of your Krsna!”
When we came out of his office we were exhausted, but we went immediately to the mayor’s office to thank him for his phone call to the headmaster. When we entered, he laughed and said, “The battle has only begun, but I am with you all the way!”
I have no doubt that this year’s four-month festival will be as much of a battle as it has always been. As we make our plans, so too does our opposition, the Church and many members of the government. As our festivals become more successful, they become more determined to stop us. Despite the fact that they have all the resources necessary to impede us, however, including the money to mount defamation campaigns in the media and the power to maneuver around the law, we have continued to succeed. If we stick to our principles and preaching determination, Krishna will help us. Srila Prabhupada writes:
If one wants to benefit the entire world, he will certainly find persons who will naturally put forth many impediments. This is natural. But if a devotee seeks shelter at the lotus feet of the Six Gosvamis, the merciful Gosvamis will certainly give the Lord’s servitor all protection. It is not astonishing that impediments are placed before those who are spreading the Krishna conscious movement all over the world. Nevertheless, if we adhere to the lotus feet of the Six Gosvamis and pray for their mercy, all impediments will be annihilated, and the transcendental devotional desire to serve the Supreme Lord will be fulfilled.
—Cc. Antya 1.34, purport
Such protection can be understood in various ways. The Lord always protects His surrendered devotees from the illusions of the material world, but such protection doesn’t necessarily mean a devotee will not face persecution or injury. We saw that when our festival was attacked by ruffians with iron bars last year and many devotees were hurt. Such violence was certainly unjust, but it reflected the glory of a devotee’s surrender to the Lord:
“Following the orders of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, one who preaches the glories of the Lord all over the world or all over the universe should be humbler than grass and more tolerant than a tree because a preacher cannot live an easygoing life. Indeed, a preacher must face many impediments. Not only is he sometimes cursed, but sometimes he must also suffer personal injury. For example, when Nityananda Prabhu went to preach Krishna consciousness to the two roguish brothers Jagai and Madhai, they injured Him and made His head bleed, but nevertheless, He tolerantly delivered the two rogues, who became perfect Vaishnavas. This is the duty of a preacher. Lord Jesus Christ even tolerated crucifixion.” (Bhag. 6.5.44, purport)
To forestall any attacks on our festivals this year, we plan to set up a surveillance system consisting of four cameras to monitor the festival area. Behind the main stage, we’ll have two televisions, so we can see what is going on at all times. We will also be hiring a professional security team to guard the events, and requesting local police forces to maintain a constant presence at the festival sites.
Personally, I am willing to take extra measures for my own safety. Several god-brothers who are competent astrologers have warned me to be careful. One wrote, “Your Venus is presently conjoined with Mercury in the seventh house. This is a maraca, a death inflicting house. In your chart, both Mercury and Venus have the power to cause great damage. Furthermore, you are in a double malefic period, Ketu Rahu, and violent Mars, in his own fiery sign of Aries, has become entangled by the Ketu Rahu axis. You can definitely expect violence during this juncture. Take personal precautions against serious attack or accident. Scorpio is in the tenth house [career] to your natal moon, so you will have to walk the razor’s edge as forces will be working hard to bring you down.”
Astrology can give us helpful foresight. Of course, we depend ultimately upon Krishna when an inauspicious period is indicated, but even as dependents we must use our intelligence and exercise precautions when the stars are unfavorable.
Seeing the danger ahead of me, another astrologers went so far as to recommend I cancel this year’s tour. “Your chart indicates that you are going into the belly of the beast. This period lasts until February 4, 2003. Would it be out of the way to suggest you visit holy places in India during this juncture?”
But I cannot cancel the tour. If anything, the festivals will create auspiciousness for me and everyone else. Even at risk to my life, Lord Krsna’s message must be given out to the masses. We will therefore focus on the Lord’s desire that we broadcast the holy name in every town and village and leave it up to Him whether we live or die.
vidikshu dikshürdhvam adha˙ samantad
antar bahir bhagavan narasiµha˙
prahapayal lokabhayaµ svanena
“Prahlada Maharaja loudly chanted the holy name of Lord Narasimhadeva. May Lord Narasimhadeva, roaring for His devotee Prahlada Maharaja, protect us from all fear of dangers created by stalwart leaders in all directions through poison, weapons, water, fire, air and so on. May the Lord cover their influence by His own transcendental influence. May Narasimhadeva protect us in all directions and in all corners, above, below, within and without.” (Bhag. 6.8.34)