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of a Travelling Preacher, Chapter 6
in the morning we arrived at the train station in Krasnoyarsk to catch our
train to Irkutsk, a 24-hour journey further east into Siberia. The black
night and freezing temperatures combined with the lack of lights on the
platform to make for an eerie atmosphere. As we stood there old speakers
blared out passionate instructions to passengers waiting for their train.
People moved quickly through the cold air. No one smiled and few talked.
The station was old, nothing having changed much since it was constructed.
It could have easily been a scene from the 1940s. After a while our
antiquated train lumbered into the station and we boarded.
devotees had again kindly reserved us first-class compartments. They were
OK, but mine had first-class fleas who enjoyed my company immensely. We
shared a common interest, my body, and as the day wore on they outnumbered
me and became the actual proprietors.
the early morning into the evening I worked on my correspondence. By a
stroke of fate, my compartment had an electrical output that worked and I
was able to plug my computer in. I worked diligently answering the 132
letters in my inbox. By 11pm I had succeeded in answering all of them. I
considered it a great achievement; as I had been working on those letters
asleep I had another interesting dream. I overheard the conversation of
some thieves as to where they had hidden a valuable treasure chest of
jewels. The next day I ventured into a forest with several devotees to
find it. There was myself, Vara-nayaka and Gaurangi dasi. We came across
an abandoned house and went inside. I pried up the floorboards and found a
huge chest of jewels. The dream was in full color. We lifted the jewels
out and were amazed by the strands of pearls, emeralds and rubies.
Gaurangi was saying that we would never have to worry about collecting
funds for the Polish tour again and that we should run with the treasure
chest. But Vara-nayaka said that it was dangerous - that perhaps the
thieves would find us. To Gaurangi's astonishment, I closed the treasure
chest and said, "Let's not take the risk." Then I woke up.
the train rolled through the Siberian countryside, I lay on my bunk
thinking about the dream. Perhaps I had it because of the pressure I am
under to bring in enough funds to run the Polish tour for five months a
year. There is only myself and one sole disciple, Rasamayi dasi,
collecting. It's another responsibility, on top of being a traveling
arrived at Irkutsk at 2am. A group of devotees were waiting on the
platform to receive us. I didn't have to speculate why they weren't
chanting - the neon sign outside read 32 degrees below zero! The men
entered the compartment, collected our baggage and helped us off the
we drove to a house outside the city, I asked the local devotees what
Irkutsk was famous for? They smiled and said in unison, "Cold
weather!" They told me that a few days ago it was 54 degrees below. I
asked them what it was like to be in such cold weather? They replied that
it's so extreme that people have to take special precautions. When walking
outside, one has to be especially careful with one's eyes, they can be
easily damaged by the severe cold. Exposed skin starts to bleed. One even
has to be careful while walking in the forest, because at those
temperatures tree branches explode! The people here have learned the art
of survival. There are three planes of glass on all windows in the houses
and many homes have underground tunnels to a neighbor or friends' houses
to avoid the extreme cold. When it gets that cold the whole city closes
down, public transportation doesn't function, people don't go to work and
kids don't go to school.
are only 200km from Mongolia. Because that's one place I have never been,
I inquired from the men if it would be possible to visit there and preach.
They replied that it was possible, but a special visa is required. They
said that Laksmi Narayana prabhu, the regional secretary in Siberia, had
recently been there and had made several devotees.
arrived at Bhakta Andre's home, a beautiful house just outside the city.
He's a successful businessman and an active member of the local yatra.
When we entered the house I sat and discussed with some of the devotees,
although it was 4am. At one point they eagerly brought forth my disciple,
Guna Avatar dasa, who had recently won the Christmas Marathon. They were
obviously proud of him, and rightly so for he had distributed over 500 big
books on the streets of Irkutsk in the wintry conditions. I thanked him
for his service and talked with the boys about the glories of book
distribution. I mentioned that I had distributed books for almost 10
years, and that if I had the opportunity I would gladly return to that
service full time.
Avatar seems to be of Eskimo origin. We are getting closer to the east
coast of Russia, near Japan. Northwards is where the Eskimo tribes live.
They have perfected the art of living in these cold lands. Their ice-huts
are well known throughout the world. Later in the evening, Uttamasloka
told me that one of Prabhavisnu Maharaja's disciples, Vicitravirya dasa,
comes from the Eskimo tribes. His local tribe had selected him as the best
candidate to send to the big city to educate with the aim of one day
returning and helping the tribe. They collected funds for years and when
he was 18 they sent him to Vladivostok to attend the university. He was
the pride and joy and the future hope for the tribe. But soon after
arriving in Vladivostok he met the devotees and joined the movement. He
eventually returned to visit his village in dhoti and tilak. It was quite
a surprise for his people, but through his preaching they appreciated his
took rest at 5am and rose at 8am to perform our sadhana. We took some
extra rest in the day and at 3pm went to do a hall program in Irkutsk with
the local devotees.
into the city from Bhakta Andre's we passed by Lake Baikal, the Pearl of
Siberia. With a depth of almost 10km, it's the deepest freshwater lake in
the world. It is a tourist spot here in Siberia, but I didn't have a clue
as to what attracts people. All we could see was frozen water covered with
meters of snow! One thing that did catch my attention was a number of cars
on the lake! The weather is so cold here that the lake freezes to the
point that you can park a car on it. People drive out, drill a hole in the
ice and fish through it. The devotees told me that every year in the
spring, several cars sink through the melting ice with the fishermen
inside. That's what I would call instant karma.
the city we passed several areas with wooden houses more than 200 years
old. Many have intricate woodwork carvings on the fronts, an opulence that
is rarely seen in Russia. During the communist era, when many of the
present buildings were built, the rule was to make everything as modest as
we arrived at the hall I was once again taken aback by the large number of
devotees waiting for us. More than 400 devotees had assembled, a number of
them journeying 1200km for the program.
Jananivasa had previously noted these hall programs consist of many
intellectuals, I decided to speak on the scientific basis of Krishna
consciousness. One by one, I brought up Srila Prabhupada's arguments on
the existence of the soul, emphasizing that life comes from life. I also
spoke on the existence of God and the origin of the universe. The ideas
came easily and sastric verses flowed forth. Establishing Krishna as the
source of everything, I said that we, as His parts and parcels, are
duty-bound to serve Him. I concluded the class in my favorite way, by
glorifying the holy names as the easiest and most sublime method of
understanding the Supreme Creator, God. At the end of the class, the
by hearing the glories of the holy name, Sri Prahlad led one of the best
kirtans I've ever heard him perform. He started out slowly, gradually
bringing in his beautiful melodies and developing the kirtan to an
ecstatic crescendo. The devotees were in bliss. In particular, I noticed a
10-year-old girl dressed in blue chanting very enthusiastically. She had
initially caught my attention because she had sat throughout my entire
lecture without moving, listening to every word.
the kirtan started, she closed her eyes and chanted attentively. Each time
I looked over at her she was fully absorbed in the kirtan. After half an
hour, I was startled to see tears rolling down her cheeks, as she chanted
with obvious feeling. I thought to myself, "Perhaps she's just a
sentimental kid." But I began to doubt my judgment, as she remained
there for the whole two-hour kirtan chanting from her heart. When the
kirtan reached its peak her arms were raised, her teary eyes looked
upward, and she chanted with abandon. At the end I thought to myself,
"Who is this young girl. A demigoddess from a higher planet?"
girl in blue
I saw you from
the very start
can't I cry when I chant too?
seeing the tears streaming down your face
girl in blue
© CHAKRA 18 April 2001
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