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Diary of a
Volume 4, Chapter 22
By Indradyumna Swami
July 17–August 9, 2002
Amid the intensity of our daily festivals along the Baltic coast, while simultaneously looking for land as a future base for our tour, we prepared for the Woodstock festival by sending a crew to the site, 550 km to the south in Zary, one week early. Woodstock is the stuff dreams are made of — a golden opportunity to present Krsna consciousness in a gigantic way to thousands of people. Jurek Owsiak, voted the most popular man in Poland two years in a row, hosts 350,000 young people in a gala rock festival that is the biggest annual musical event in Europe.
The two-day festival is a tribute to the many young people who help him raise funds for disabled children, set to a theme of no drugs and no violence. To help project this image, each year he calls on our festival tour to participate by sharing our philosophy and lifestyle with the kids. We set up a village of tents displaying various aspects of Vedic culture, and our stage engages the kids throughout the day and night with a variety of devotional entertainment.
Our success at Woodstock is well known in Poland, as each year thousands of kids participate in our programs. Such success intimidates the Catholic Church, which this year raised funds throughout the country to have it's own tent and programs at Woodstock. I welcomed the Church’s presence, knowing that "Imitation is the highest form of flattery."
Before the rest of us left for Woodstock, Krsna sent us some special mercy — Jurek and his wife paid us a surprise visit to our last festival in Kolobrzeg. Jurek's wife had been on vacation for two weeks in Kolobrzeg, and he had driven 500km from Warsaw to collect her. They chanced upon our festival near the boardwalk, and fulfilled a long-cherished dream of mine. Jurek had never seen our summer festivals, and his visit gave us the chance to show him what we do outside of Woodstock. As we took him around our festival site he expressed his appreciation and enjoyed taking prasadam in a tent we quickly erected for that purpose. We spent three hours discussing our activities and the forthcoming Woodstock event.
The next day we packed up our festival and headed south. That evening I sat in the empty field at Woodstock watching a tent company erecting our big tent (it took them six days), when suddenly a man on a bicycle rode up, shook my hand. His face was familiar, but I didn't immediately recognize him until he identified himself as the chief of the fire department.
"The people of Zary have been waiting all year for you to come," he said. "They look forward to Krsna's Village of Peace."
Then he smiled and said, "Do you remember last year when you visited our fire department and gave me a Bhagavad-gita?"
Reflecting for a moment, I replied, "Yes, I remember."
"I've been reading it all year, almost every day. It became particularly relevant for me last month when one of my colleagues died fighting a house fire. From that book I understood that the soul is eternal."
Later in the evening, my driver, Radhe Syama, retuned from Berlin where he had been shopping for spices for the festival. When he arrived at the field, he jumped excitedly out of the van saying, "Srila Gurudeva, when I was crossing the border from Germany into Poland the border guards saw the big bags of spices I had purchased for the festival. One of them asked me for what purpose I had the spices. I replied that we are distributing food at the Woodstock festival. He smiled and said, 'You aren't giving the food away, you charge something. I ate in your village last year at Woodstock. The food was delicious!' They then let me go without asking for any duty on the spices."
After ten days of preparations, we were ready for the great event. Our ranks had swelled to over 540 devotees, most coming from different countries in Europe. Traditionally our village and our stage programs begin a day before Woodstock. On August 1 at 12 pm we opened the village with a big kirtan on our stage and simultaneously began distributing prasadam from our big prasadam tent.
On our stage we had build a beautiful replica of an Indian temple complete with little arched lattice windows and spiraling domes. We had a professional lighting company illuminate the scene. It appeared as from a fairy-tale book, and fast became the talk of the festival. We had continuous stage programs from noon until 2 am the next day. The tent was packed throughout.
That afternoon we held the inaugural Ratha-yatra festival in Poland on the Woodstock field. We had the London Ratha-yatra cart brought over for the parade, which was advertised as a major event at Woodstock. Hundreds of people crowded around the cart as the Mayor of Zary and a local member of Parliament (the former mayor) opened the chariot parade by giving speeches, cutting a ribbon in front of the cart, and breaking coconuts on the ground. More kids than devotees pulled the cart through the festival grounds for two hours as a light rain fell. Tens of thousands of kids watched in amazement. In the mood of Woodstock many kids danced in the mud puddles as the Ratha cart passed by — to the pleasure of the television crews who filmed the procession for that evening's national news. It was more than we had hoped for.
The three days went by swiftly as most of the 350,000 people at Woodstock passed through our village at one time or another. Upon visiting our village some never left.
The day after Woodstock, we received a message from the mayor that he wanted to see us at his office at 3pm. Vara-nayaka, Nandini, Radha Sakhi Vrnda, and I arrived a few minutes early, and the mayor's secretary had us wait in the reception room. Suddenly a television crew from TVN 24 (the Polish version of CNN) burst into the room. The lady interviewer apologized to the secretary for being late.
"I'll say you are late," the secretary said. "You were supposed to be here one hour ago!"
A few seconds later the mayor opened his door and saw two sets of visitors waiting. Smiling he said, "I'll see the Hare Krsnas first — they're more important."
He opened the door wider and we walked in. Closing it, he asked us to sit down. Two seconds later, the door was flung open again and the television crew entered with cameras at the ready.
Turning on a big light, the interviewer said to the mayor, "You don't mind if we film your meeting with the Hare Krsnas, do you? It will make a great story!"
Calm and collected, the mayor said, "Not at all," and he began glorifying our participation in the Woodstock Festival.
"The members of the Hare Krsna Movement have brought a wonderful culture to the Woodstock Festival," he said. "We were proud to have them in our town. They have an important message for the young people of our country. And just see how they are always so happy."
After a few minutes, the interviewer asked to speak to the mayor alone, and we left the room. Just as we were going out, she asked that we wait outside the building. She wanted to ask some more questions.
A few minutes later she came out with the cameraman. Setting up in front of the town hall she said, "This will be on the national news. Here's your chance." As the camera began filming, I stood under the Polish national flag and spoke to the nation:
"As members of the Hare Krsna movement we are very happy to be participants in this great event of Woodstock. Jurek Owsiak invites us every year because we truly imbibe the two themes of this event: non-violence and working to help young people overcome drug abuse. Our formula is very simple: we chant names of God: Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare."
And we distribute vegetarian food offered to God. These simple activities can purify anyone's heart."
To conclude, she asked me, "How many plates of food were you actually able to distribute? Was it several thousand?"
To her amazement, I replied with a smile, looking directly into the camera, "No, not several thousand. We distributed 92,463 plates. We cooked 34 tons of food."
That afternoon, as we drove out of Zary to finish our summer festival tour on the Baltic, Sri Prahlad said to me, "Srila Gurudeva, you must be satisfied. It was the biggest preaching ever for us at Woodstock."
I replied, "Yes, that's true. The only problem is that it's addictive. I'm already thinking of next year's Woodstock festival."
Sri Prahlad laughed and said, "For now you'll have to be content with another two weeks of festivals along the coast. Don't forget, they're also very blissful."
"Yes, I know," I said. "Mahaprabhu's mercy is flooding this land from all directions."
antar dhvanta cayam samasta jagatam
"Uprooting the dense darkness in the hearts of the entire world, making the nectar ocean of the bliss of pure love of Krsna overflow it's shores without limit, and cooling this universe tormented by the threefold miseries, may the splendid moonlight of the moon of Lord Caitanyacandra eternally shine within your hearts."
[Srila Prabodhananda Saravati: Sri Caitanya-candramrta, Chapter 3, verse 17]
© CHAKRA 14 August 2002
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