August 9-September 21, 2002
By Indradyumna Swami
After the Woodstock Festival at Zary in the south of Poland, we returned to the Baltic Sea coast in the north and concluded the summer with eight more highly successful festivals in small towns and villages. To the very end I cautiously awaited the predictions of the astrologers, who had warned me in May that I was in a double-malific period and could expect violence and even death throughout the whole festival tour. They wrote that I would be “walking the razor’s edge,” as forces would be trying hard to bring me down.
But throughout the entire four months of the tour we experienced not one single act of aggression or violence. And what happened to the forces that were meant to bring us down? We experienced only one victory after another, as day after day thousands of people poured into our festivals, thousands of books were distributed and hundreds of thousands of people took prasadam. Were the astroglogers wrong? Was I to conclude that their profession is no longer valid in this age of Kali? No, to the contrary they have often given me good advice. The answer could be the guardian angels above:
bhutani visnoh sura pujitani
durdarsa lingani mahadbutani
raksanti tad bhaktimatah parebhyo
mattas ca martyan atha sarvatas ca
“The order carriers of Lord Visnu, who are worshiped even by the demigods, possess wonderful bodily features exactly like those of Visnu and are very rarely seen. The Visnudutas protect the devotees of the Lord from the hands of enemies, from envious persons and even from my jurisdiction, as well as from natural disturbances.”
[ Yamaraj to the Yamadutas: Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.3.18]
On August 23, our tour officially ended for the year. Who can describe the great feelings of separation as we said goodbye to our comrades in arms? Soldiers in Lord Caitanya’s army, we had preached vigorously together for months, giving every ounce of our energy to employing the weapon of the holy name in melting the hearts of disenchanted souls. Such intense service, often for 18 hours a day, forged close bonds of friendship among the devotees. Daily witnessing the miracle of Lord Caitanya’s mercy, our faith was strong in the holy names, the instructions of our spiritual master and each other. Grown men cried and woman fell into each others arms as the three buses carrying the main group of devotees left in different directions. After their departure, I remained behind at the base attending to final matters – but spent most of the time in my room lamenting that, for now, the great yajna was over.
“When golden Lord Hari appeared in this world, His glory flooded the world with the nectar of pure love of Krsna, and there was tumultuous chanting of the holy names of Lord Hari. O, will that sweet time ever come again?”
[Srila Prabodhananda Saraswati: Caitanya-candramrta, Chapter 12, verse 32]
After a few days I pulled myself together, and along with Sri Prahlad, his wife, Rukmini Priya, and several other devotees, drove 18 hours south to Hungary to attend the Janmastami celebrations at New Vraja Dhama, the Hungarian devotee community. It was a sweet, well-organized festival, with plenty of kirtan and prasadam. Such festivals are essential for the enthusiasm of devotees, and no doubt the 500 devotees in attendence gained spiritual strength to return to their various duties in devotional service. But my mind kept wandering back to the Polish seaside and our festivals, where we had given so many conditioned souls their first rememberances of the Lord after millions of lives of forgetfulness. I live only for those moments when crowds of people, dressed in their best clothes, stream into our festival grounds, their eyes lighting up as they see the great event before them. At New Vraja Dhama I honestly missed those fallen souls with the same intensity as I did the wonderful devotees of our tour! O Lord Caitanya, please allow me to always dance in your eternal festival of the holy names!
After a week at New Vraja Dhama, I headed east towards Ukraine and yet another devotee festival on the coast at Odessa. Two thousand devotees descended on the shores of the Black Sea for days of chanting, dancing and feasting. For one week I drowned in the affection of loving disciples, friends and well wishers, most notably my dearest and closest friend, Bhakti Brnga Govinda Maharaja. It had been two long years since we had been together, and our warm embrace upon seeing each other confirmed how much we had missed each other. Who didn’t note the appreciation we showed each other as we sat and shared our moments of victory and defeat in pushing on the mission of our spiritual master. And how could the so-called love in this material world possibly compare with the feelings of friendship we exchanged while reminiscing on our devotional service together through the years? One night, as Niranjana Maharaja led kirtan, I saw a tear in Bhakti Brnga Govinda Maharaja’s eye. He was appreciating Maharaja’s sweet devotional singing. I felt fortunate to have him as my friend.
“By remembering Lord Hari, the devotees’ hearts become overwhelmed with bliss, their bodily hairs stand erect, and their eyes become filled with tears of joy. O earth, these devotees are the best of men. Please carefully maintain them for as long as the sun and the moon shine in the sky. What is the use of Your carefully maintaining those other burdensome persons who are simply intent on coming and going to and from the house of Yamaraja?”
[ Srila Rupa Goswami: Padyavali, verse 55 ]
From Ukraine, I flew to Kazakstan and Bhakti Brnga Govinda Maharaja’s community, Sri Vrindavan Dhama, on the outskirts of Almaty at the base of the Himalayan mountains. No doubt Maharaja already has his service awaiting him in the realm of liberated souls for this project, which has risen from the desert of this strict Muslim country, boarded on four sides by Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Kirgistan. Maharaja came here five years ago and began making devotees with his powerful kirtans and enchanting lectures. At that time there were only a few devotees in a small temple. As I stepped out of the car upon arriving at Sri Vrindavan Dhama, I was greeted by hundreds of devotees, their slightly slanting oriental eyes shining with bliss in the midst of a big kirtan. I had visited briefly two years ago, and was now amazed at the progress: a house expanded to accommodate a large temple room, big gardens with numerous pathways, many new houses, and most notably a big painted sign with designs for a Vedic temple, goshala, devotee residences and shops. As we stopped and admired the plans, I asked Maharaja from whence the capital will come for such an ambitious project. Looking up at the sky, he replied, “I have no idea, but He knows. It will manifest in due course of time.” Over the next week we had a festival Bhakti Bringa Govinda Maharaja style: three hours of kirtan in the morning, seminars throughout the day, and four hours of kirtan at night in a big pandal.
Soon I will turn my attention from the blissful festivals to several months of purifying bhajan in the holy land of Vrindavan. Next week I leave Sri Vrindavan Dhama for the original Vrindavan Dhama over the mountains in India. There, at the base of Govardhana Hill in Bhaktivedanta Ashram, I’ll rest and recuperate from the fatigue of the festival tour, and attempt to delve into the glories of Vrindavan in hope of purifying myself for the challenge of next year’s preaching.
“Meditating on the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha-Murli-Manohara, placing myself in the dust of Lord Caitanya’s feet, and respectfully offering obeisances to the great devotees of the Lord, who are so many oceans of transcendental virtue, I shall now happily begin to praise the transcendental opulences of Sri Vrindavan.”
[Srila Prabodhanada Saraswati: Vrindavan-mahimamrta, Chapter 1, Text 1]