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Tours: Nigeria 2
By Kavicandra Swami
Translation: Kirata, Huna, Andhra, Pulinda, Pulkasa, Abhira, Sumbha, Yavana, members of the Khasa races and even others addicted to sinful acts can be purified by taking shelter of the devotees of the Lord, due to His being the supreme power. I beg to offer my respectful obeisances unto Him. (Srimad Bhagavatam 2.4.18)
I previously wrote a little about my arrival in Nigeria. Lagos is a very large city and very few tourists venture there. We have two temples and many devotees. They live what most of us would consider very austere lives. The roads are very bad, and in all of Lagos there are only two traffic signal lights, both of which were broken on the day of their installation. The traffic situation must be experienced to believe it. The buses are unbelievably crowed and have as many dents as there are waves on the sea. No temple has running water, and electricity comes and goes.
After a few days we drove to another city, Benin, where our biggest temple is. There we had a national festival and about two hundred devotees attended. It was very nicely organized and in spite of many inconveniences, like running out of water and waiting for the water truck to come, everyone remained blissful.
I find the African children to be especially nice. They are very polite and respectful and extremely spontaneous for chanting and dancing in the kirtan, which are often very long. They organized some very nice dance shows and a drama of Brgumuni’s research to find the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
I gave some seminars on Attitude and Gratitude, and everyone was very attentive. In fact, the danger there is that the devotees are so respectful and anxious to honor guests that it is easy to become bewildered and think oneself to be actually worthy of it.
We did some radio and television shows. The hosts were very appreciative of Krsna Conscious philosophy and it was quite gratifying. Africans are by nature quite spiritually inclined and at the moment are very interested to hear genuine philosophy. The radio show had callback, and many expressed great interest in the philosophy of Krsna Consciousness.
From there we drove back to Lagos. The exhaust from most of the trucks and buses there is very black and there are many brush fires, so even on the highway the pollution is quite intense. I called my friend Charlyboy and he said to come right over. It is hard to describe him in a few words, but he is surely the most popular and well-known personality in Nigeria. His father is a very much loved supreme court justice and Charlyboy, after returning from Harvard, became a rebel. He is a very popular musician and has two TV shows. He is very outspoken about the defects in the government and young people love him. He actually is concerned to do something to help the people,
The first time he saw me, he came over and said, "You must be the leader of the Hare Krsnas and I want you on my TV show." So I went. Now he has become more popular and is on All Africa Tv. When we got there he chastised the devotees for not telling him that I was coming and for not visiting him. When we got there he called up someone and told them he was bringing a "very important person, the leader of the Hare Krsnas" and to be ready. He drove me in his car. He stops traffic. So many people turn their heads and call his name. We came to one newspaper office, and he marched us into the board meeting. We said, "Hare Krsna," and one of them said "Hare Rama." They did a very nice interview and gave a two-page article.
He then took me to the capital city, Abuja. The government offices are there, and it is quite well organized and not at all like Lagos. It is a planned city modeled after Candighar, India.
There we met his father, who greeted us with Namaskar and said how he admired Mahatma Gandhi. He is a devout Roman Catholic and actually philosophically very astute. He spoke long on the real meaning of forgiveness and the importance of being Christlike rather than simply knowing about Christ. He liked my tilak.
Charlyboy was very busy meeting with government leaders. He wants Bhakti Tirtha Swami and me to come at the same time so he can take us around to all the government. He calls himself the general of the people’s army and has billboards all over the country. I am reminded of Srila Prabhupada’s purports. "The politicians of the world may remain in their respective positions because the pure devotees of the Lord are not interested in political leadership or diplomatic implications. The devotees are interested only in seeing that the people in general are not misguided by political propaganda and in seeing that the valuable life of a human being is not spoiled in following a type of civilization which is ultimately doomed. If the politicians, therefore, would be guided by the good counsel of the devotees, then certainly there would be a great change in the world situation by the purifying propaganda of the devotees, as shown by Lord Caitanya. As Sukadeva Gosvami began his prayer by discussing the word yat-kirtanam, so also Lord Caitanya recommended that simply by glorifying the Lord’s holy name, a tremendous change of heart can take place by which the complete misunderstanding between the human nations created by politicians can at once be extinguished. And after the extinction of the fire of misunderstanding, other profits will follow. (Srimad Bhagavatam 2.4.18)
I asked him what he thought when he first saw devotees in Boston, and he said, " I wanted to join them." So now he is thinking about how to help us. His wife is from South Carolina and could easily be thought to be Oprah Winfrey. I am suggesting the he give her a TV show and try to show people who are doing or at least trying to do good.
On the plane back to Lagos, one elderly gentleman sat next to me. I figured that he was interested since there were many empty seats. I saw that he was reading Supreme Court Decisions, and I asked if he was a judge. He was a retired justice of the appeals court. He asked me about my faith and I said "Hare Krsna," which I thought was obvious. He said that his cousin is a Hare Krsna. She is Madhilate, who is our most active Bhakta Vrksa preacher.
He said that was embarrassed because she had given him a book and he had not read it. He promised that because of meeting me he would read it. There were many other incidents, but in general we find that Srila Prabhupada’s influence is spreading everywhere and seeds are sprouting and growing at their own pace. I pray that I may have strength to continue trying to plant and cultivate them and see the Holy Name spreading everywhere. Srila Prabhupada said there are 400,000 species of humans, but on earth maybe only 100. But as I travel and try to preach to various types of humans, I can see that Lord Caitanya does not discriminate, but gives us mercy freely.
© CHAKRA 14 March 2002
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