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Diary of a
Volume 4, Chapter 12
By Indradyumna Swami
March 17 - April 4, 2002
Since arriving in America almost three weeks ago, I, Sri Prahlad,and his wife, Rukmini Priya dasi, have been on a whirlwind tour of temples, including New York, Washington DC, Boston, Philadelphia, San Jose, and Laguna Beach. With virtually two to three preaching engagements a day, I am unable to keep track of all the places we visit. One day merges into another, and I am left with a single impression of continuous lecturing, kirtans, 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 make sacrifices in the line of duty.
In an attempt to keep myself healthy, I have been trying to swim in public pools wherever I go. Usually I find a temple devotee who belongs to a local gym with a pool, and I accompany him as a guest. But rarely am I able to complete my desired regimen of forty laps, because inevitably someone in the pool wants to speak to me about Krsna consciousness.
In a university pool near the temple in Philadelphia, I had just begun my laps when two students, who were also swimming, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Can we speak to you?"
Somewhat reluctantly, I replied, "Yes, of course."
While other swimmers raced back and forth, we had a 20-minute discussion about karma and reincarnation waist deep in the pool. Their curiosity satisfied, I began my laps again, only to be stopped five minutes later by two swimming professors who wanted to know the "difference between the teachings of Sankara and Caitanya." I spent the rest of my exercise time sitting with them on the side of the pool discussing "acintya-bhedabheda- 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 be always sharing with others the good fortune I received from my spiritual master. However, since the loss two weeks ago of my dear Godbrother, Tamal Krsna Maharaja, and my disciple, Vrindavanesvari dasi, I am having difficulty dealing with the sadness within my heart. Memorial observances marking their sudden departures have ended, as have the messages of condolence from numerous devotees, but as life goes on, I and others who were close to them find that each new day brings the reminder that they are indeed gone. Though I try to accept the Lord's higher plan, being bereft of the association of a true friend and a loving disciple has made the words of Srila Narottam das Thakur enter deeper into my heart:
Se saba sangira sange je koilo bilas Se sanga na paiya kande narottama das
"Being unable to obtain the association of Lord Gauranga, accompanied by all of these devotees in whose association He performed His pastimes, Narottam das simply weeps." [Srila Narottam das Thakur: Prarthana]
Nothing can replace the warmth and love of a genuine friend or the service of a genuine disciple.
'duhkha madhye kona duhkha haya gurutara?' 'krsna bhakta viraha vina duhkha 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." [Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, 8.248]
As we travel and preach, simultaneously trying to raise funds for our Polish festival tour, news continuously arrives from the home front in Poland where other tour devotees are on a marathon to organize the tour, designated to begin in May. The very day we finished our final program last year, Nandini dasi and Radha Sakhi Vrinda dasi began preparations for this year's tour. And, as usual, our opposition has been close on their heels.
Months ago, Nandini and Radha Sakhi Vrinda learned that due to continuous pressure from the Catholic Church, all schools along Poland's Baltic Sea coast refused to rent their facilities to us during this year's summer vacation. Each summer, our group of 300 devotees base ourselves in the schools, sleeping in the classrooms, showering in the gym facilities and having our morning programs in the gyms themselves. Each year we stay in three different schools along the 500km 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 negotiations a 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 that.
In preparation for the great Woodstock Festival, scheduled for August 2 and 3 in southern Poland, last week, Nandini and Radha Sakhi Vrinda went to Zary, the town that hosts the annual event. They wanted to arrange to rent the same three schools we have previously used to accommodate the 400 devotees who participate in our Krsna's Village of Peace at Woodstock. By Krsna's grace, they were received well in the first two schools. They wrote to me:
"At the first school, the headmistress was very 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 a very 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 Krsna on His birthday. [Note: We had Janmastami celebrations last year in our tent at Woodstock which included a swing for our Radha-Krsna Deities.] 'I've had such good luck since swinging your Krsna,' she said."
But at the third and largest school they met stiff resistance.
"When we arrived the headmaster began screaming at us, saying that we were a dangerous cult and that all 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, he signed the agreement for renting us the school, on one condition: that you, Srila Gurudeva, will not reside there.
" 'You have to promise me that your guru will not live in my school,' he told us. 'He's the main problem here. I saw how all of you were serving him. Why are you people so submissive towards 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 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!' "
No doubt this year's four-month festival tour will be a battle, as it has been for the past twelve years. As we are making our plans, so too must our opposition— the Church and many members of the government. As our festivals become more successful, they become more determined to stop us. But despite the fact that they have everything at their disposal to impede us, such as defamation campaigns in the media and legislative maneuvers in government, we have managed to succeed each year. If we stick to our principles and determination to preach, Krsna 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 Goswamis, the merciful Goswamis will certainly give the Lord's servitor all protection. It is not astonishing that impediments are placed before those who are spreading the Krsna conscious movement all over the world. Nevertheless, if we adhere to the lotus feet of the Six Goswamis and pray for their mercy, all impediments will be annihilated, and the transcendental devotional desire to serve the Supreme Lord will be fulfilled." [Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila, 1.3-4, purport]
But such protection can be understood in various ways. The Lord always protects His surrendered devotees from the illusion of the material world. But sometimes a devotee may have to experience persecution, or even injury, as when our festival was attacked by ruffians with iron bars last year and many devotees were hurt. Such violence is certainly an injustice, but at the same time reflects the glory of the 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 Krsna 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 Vaisnavas. This is the duty of a preacher. Lord Jesus Christ even tolerated crucifixion." [Srimad-Bhagavatam, 6.5.44, purport]
To deter any attacks on our festivals this year, we will be installing a surveillance system with four cameras covering the entire festival area. A monitoring station with two televisions will be behind our main stage. We will also be hiring professional security teams to guard the events and requesting local police forces to maintain a constant presence at the festival sites.
Personally, I will take extra measures for my 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 maraka or 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 the violent Mars in his own fiery sign of Aries has gotten entangled in the Rahu-Ketu axis. Violence can definitely be expected 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 trying very hard to bring you down."
Astrology is helpful in seeing the situation that may appear further down the road. Of course, ultimately we depend on Krsna when there is an indication of an inauspicious period, but such dependence also takes the form of using our intelligence to exercise precautions when the stars are unfavorable.
Seeing the danger ahead for me, one of the astrologers went so far as to recommend I cancel the tour this year. He said, "Your chart indicates that you are going into the belly of the beast."
He concluded: "This period lasts until February 4, 2003. Would it be out of the way to suggest that you visit holy places in India during this juncture?"
But we cannot cancel the tour. If anything, the festivals will create auspiciousness for devotees and the people in general. And even at risk to ourselves, the message of Lord Krsna must go out to the masses. We will focus on the Lord's desire that the holy name be broadcast in every town and village. We will leave it to Him if we live or die.
vidiksu diksurdhvam adhah samantad antar bahir bhagavan narasimhah prahapayal loka bhayam svanena sva tejasa grasta samasta tejah
"Prahlad Maharaja loudly chanted the holy name of Lord Nrsimhadeva. May Lord Nrsimhadeva, roaring for His devotee Prahlad 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 Nrsimhadeva protect us in all directions and in all corners, above, below, within and without." [Srimad-Bhagavatam, 6.8.34]
© CHAKRA 9 April 2002
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