Vol 7: Chapter 12: No Ordinary Festival

| august 2 – 7, 2006 |


After Woodstock, we moved our operation back to the Baltic coast. It wasn’t easy. Our 250 devotees were tired from the 18 festivals in July, not to mention Woodstock. Only their determination to serve guru and Gauranga enabled us to set up a festival in the town of Dzwirzyno after a break of only three days.

We held Harinama in the morning to advertise the program, and more than 5,000 people came that afternoon. Certainly the demigods helped: it was sunny while we did Harinama on the beach, but by late afternoon the sky had become overcast and most people left the beach and came straight to our event.

devan bhavayatanena

te deva bhavayantu vah

parasparam bhavayanta

sreyah param avapsyatha

“The demigods, being pleased by sacrifices, will also please you, and thus, by cooperation between men and demigods, prosperity will reign for all.”

[Bhagavad-gita 3.11]

After the grandeur and majesty of Krsna’s Village of Peace at Woodstock, the festival seemed small, but that didn’t diminish the quality of those who attended. I went into the Book tent and saw people photographing our beautiful Deities, Sri Sri Gandarvika-Giridhari on Their altar, while others browsed through Srila Prabhupada’s books.

As a young girl and her mother left the tent, Radha Caran das approached me. “Guru Maharaja,” he said, “that 11-year-old girl was one of the most amazing children I have ever met. She came in with her mother and went straight to the altar. She stood there with folded hands gazing at the Deities for a long time.

“Her mother told me this was the first time they had met us, but her daughter was displaying an amazing amount of devotion for everything we do. She said, ‘Since my daughter was a small child, she was always saying Hare Krsna. I don’t know where she learned it. I never taught her. I knew nothing about you.

“ ‘One day, she asked me to buy her a sari. Can you imagine? Where was I going to buy a sari in a small Polish village? Two years ago she shocked the priest and the congregation at mass when she refused the wafer. She told the priest she was Krsna’s devotee.

“ ‘This year in religion class she told her teacher that all reli-gions are good, but only in India do people know who is God. She became defiant when challenged that Hindus are crazy for not eating meat, saying that the killers of animals will suffer for many births. My little daughter, preaching reincarnation!

“ ‘When she saw you people singing on the beach this morning her face lit up like never before, and she insisted on going to your festival. When we saw you singing on the stage she announced that this is the best way to pray, and now I can’t get her away from your altar. Just look. She’s staring at the statues as if she were in love.’ ”

Radha Caran stood there, beaming. “What do you think of that Guru Maharaja?” he said.

“You know,” I said, “I think there are many devotees taking birth all over the planet who will continue the work that Srila Prabhupada started.”

purvabhyasena tenaiva

hriyate hy avaso ‘pi sah

jijnasur api yogasya


“By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he automatically becomes attracted to the yogic principles – even without seeking them. Such an inquisitive transcendentalist stands always above the ritualistic principles of the scriptures.”

[Bhagavad-gita 6.44]

As I left the Book tent I saw the head of the security company that guards our festivals. He was part of a team of four security men protecting the festivals during the month leading up to Woodstock. Another group from the company has since replaced them, but he was in uniform and appeared to be on duty.

“What a surprise!” I said. “I thought you had gone home for a vacation.”

He laughed. “Yes,” he said, “I am on vacation, on your tour. When I got home I missed the festivals so much I decided to come back with my family. They’re watching the stage show, and I’m guarding the event.”

“Really?” I said. “You mean you’re working during your vacation?”

“I don’t consider it work,” he said. “It’s pleasure.”

“He’s truly on his way back to Godhead,” I thought. “He’s rendering devotional service with no thought of material reward.”

As I approached the restaurant I saw a man I had noticed earlier on Harinama. As our chanting party stepped on to the soft sands of the beach that morning, most devotees took off their shoes. One devotee was in charge of putting them all in a large plastic bag to carry over his shoulder behind us, in case any devotees needed their shoes again.

As soon as we started down the beach a man got up from sunbathing and asked if he could carry the bag. At first I thought he was joking, but then he took the bag and followed us for an hour, all the way down the beach and back. I had the impression he might be mentally impaired, but when I saw him at the festival – dressed in fine clothes, with his equally well-dressed wife and two children – I understood that he was a professional person.

“Amazing,” I thought. “Such a high-class person inspired to perform such a humble service for the devotees.”

Just then I saw Nandini dasi speaking to a man and woman at a table next to the restaurant. She motioned for me to come over and introduced them as father and daughter. The man was the baker in the town where we have our summer base.

“His wife died recently,” Nandini said.

The young woman turned to me. “Nandini has been so kind in helping us come to terms with my mother’s death,” she said. “Your philosophy makes so much sense. My mother is gone, but I know she is living elsewhere, continuing on her path back to God. Previously I was attracted to the cultural aspect of your festival – the music, dance, and theater, but now I realize it has much more to offer. Your philosophy gives a sense of purpose and higher meaning to life.”

Another woman at the same table spoke up.

“Excuse me,” she said, “I hope I’m not being rude by interrupting.”

“Not at all,” Nandini said.

“I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation with this young lady,” the woman continued. “I must say I am also impressed with your philosophy. This is the second time I have come to one of your festivals. Last year I was so skeptical I wouldn’t even speak to any of you. I simply looked around. In fact, I don’t know what brought me back again this year. But after hearing what this lady has to say about her mother I’ve changed my opinion. The solutions you propose to the problems of life are truly remarkable.”

“May I ask who you are?” said Nandini.

The woman smiled. “I’m a lawyer from Warsaw,” she said. Nandini turned to the woman’s husband. “And what do you do?” she said.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” he said.

“He’s one of the most prominent politicians in Poland,” his wife said.

Just at that moment I received a signal from the stage manager that I was due to give my lecture in five minutes.

I excused myself. “We’ll be listening to learn more,” the husband said.

As I walked up the steps of the stage I reflected on the hundreds of lectures I give on the tour. “I must always remember how important they are,” I thought. “For some, like the father and daughter I just met, the knowledge we give relieves them from the miseries of material existence.”

From the stage I looked out at the audience and saw among the crowd the mother and her 11-year-old daughter, the head of the security company, the man who carried the bag of shoes, the baker and his daughter, and the lawyer and the politician – all eager to hear.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” I began, “I thank you for being present today and participating in this great event. As many of you have already experienced, this is no ordinary festival: it presents a spiritual culture that elevates us to the transcendental platform. We encourage you to stay with us this evening and experience the wonderful world of Krsna consciousness, a world far beyond the dualities of material life, a world of eternity, knowledge, and bliss.”

As I spoke, all the special people I had met that evening nodded their heads in appreciation. What could be more satisfying for a servant of the Lord?

“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally traveled to different regions of India to spread the bhakti cult throughout the country. By His personal behavior He has given an example for devotees to follow. That is, one should broadcast the cult of devotional service. A Vaisnava is especially interested in para-upakara, doing good to others. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also wanted His mission spread all over the world. Following in His footsteps, we are trying to broadcast His message. By His mercy, people are taking this movement very seriously.”

[Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 25.264, purport]