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of a Traveling Preacher, Chapter 18
Moscow temple, located near the center of the city, has served a steadily
growing community of devotees since 1991. There are currently more than
1000 initiated devotees in Moscow and probably twice as many aspiring
devotees. The temple is the nerve center of ISKCON Russia, brimming with
offices housing ISKCON Communications, sankirtan, a big bhakta program, a
Vaisnava University, and a Deity department. Well managed by Syama dasa,
it is also the base for Vaidyanath dasa, the local GBC representative. The
temple is always busy, with many devotees coming and going on their
various duties. Each week a number of school groups visit the temple room,
watch a fire yajna, hear a talk and take prasadam. Recently, however, city
officials informed the devotees that they will have to move, because a
highway is planned through the area where the temple is situated. At the
moment, Vaidyanath and the other leaders are doing their utmost to find
won't be easy. Moscow is no longer the impoverished capital of communism I
first came to in 1989. Although much of Russia is still struggling with
the economic reforms initiated by the transition to democracy 10 years
ago, Moscow seems to be booming. I can hardly recognize the city, compared
with what I saw then. New buildings have sprung up all over the downtown
area, with many businesses and organizations within. Men and women in
suits and chic clothing walk busily throughout the city. Shops are
brimming with clothes, appliances, furniture and food. Billboards
advertise everywhere and bright neon signs pulsate from the buildings.
the new buildings and bright lights are only a facade, because behind them
all so many sinful activities are going on. With the freedom of democracy
have come also the sins of western society and Moscow, like all big cities
in Kali Yuga, is now paying a heavy price for the prostitution, drugs, and
gambling that goes on. Crime is rampant and corruption is common at the
stranger asked a brahmana, "Tell me, who in this city is great?"
brahmana replied, "The cluster of thorny palmyra trees are
traveller then asked, "Who is the most charitable person?"
brahmana answered, "The washerman who takes the clothes in the
morning and gives them back in the evening is the most charitable."
then asked, "Who is the ablest man?"
brahmana answered, "Everyone is expert in robbing others of their
wives and wealth."
man then asked the brahmana, "How do you manage to live in such a
brahmana replied, "As a worm survives while even in a filthy place so
do I survive here!" [ Canakya Pandit - Niti Sastra Chapter 12, Text 9
devotees of the Lord, however, are not averse to living in such
conditions. I remember while traveling on samkirtan in my earlier days,
whenever we would drive into a big, polluted materialist city for the
first time, we would jump with joy. We didn't notice the tall buildings,
the shops, the lights and the sinful activities, we only saw thousands of
conditioned souls about to get Lord Caitanya's mercy!
deva munayah sva-vimukti kama
dear Lord Nrsimhadeva, I see that there are many saintly persons indeed,
but they are interested only in their own deliverance. Not caring for the
big cities and towns, they go to the Himalayas or the forest to meditate
with vows of silence [mauna-vrata]. They are not interested in delivering
others. As for me, however, I do not wish to be liberated alone, leaving
aside all these poor fools and rascals. I know that without Krishna
consciousness, without taking shelter of Your lotus feet, one cannot be
happy. Therefore I wish to bring them back to shelter at Your lotus
wants to purchase land on which to construct a temple in Moscow. Liaising
with the Indian Embassy and the Indian congregation, he's working on the
angle of a Center of Indian Culture. Shooting for the rhinoceros, he has
met Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee twice - in New York at a
United Nations Summit of Religions, and in New Delhi. Under Vaidyanath's
direction, Russian devotee Madana Mohan met Russian President Vladimir
Putin on his recent visit to New Delhi. Madana Mohan informed him of
ISKCON's desire to obtain land in Moscow to build a center in cooperation
with the Indian community.
devotees say that President Putin is well informed about our movement. I'm
sure there is no reason to doubt that. He was formerly head of the KBG,
the Russian Secret Service. Devotees say that he was recently at an
important function when someone offered him a glass of champagne. When he
refused, the person said, "Mr President, do you not drink?"
Putin replied, "Of course not. I'm a Hare Krishna!"
Prahlad gave class at the temple this morning. The devotees were as happy
to see him as they are to see me. He spoke nicely and devotees were more
than satisfied. This afternoon I went to the temple to address the 20
regional secretaries of ISKCON Russia, who were concluding a four-day
meeting. When they asked for advice on leadership, I said the most
important quality of a leader is purity. His essential duty is to inspire
his followers in Krishna consciousness, and therefore his leadership
begins by attending the full morning program. I also quoted Srila
Prabhupada's advice to Giriraja Swami. When Srila Prabhupada was
departing, he called Giriraja Swami to his side and asked him if he
thought the movement would continue in his absence. Giriraja Swami replied
with confidence that it would if devotees remained strict in chanting
their rounds and following the regulative principles. Srila Prabhupada
nodded, and asking Maharaja to come closer whispered in his ear,
"Intelligence and organization."
I came out of the room one of my disciples approached me and requested I
meet his parents, who had just arrived at the temple. I was exhausted from
meeting the regional secretaries and I hadn't taken prasadam all day.
Trying to get out of it, I suggested I could meet them the next day, but
he insisted and I reluctantly agreed. However, instead of doing the proper
thing and sitting with them in the guest room, I said I would meet them on
my way to the car.
I neared the shoe room, my disciple's parents came forward and warmly
shook my hand, thanking me for all the help I have given their son. They
were nicely dressed and spoke articulately. I immediately realized my
mistake, but it was too late to backtrack. I did my best to cover for my
foolishness by chatting with them; but the time and place were
uncomfortable - we were surrounded by shoes and socks. After a few minutes
they graciously went with their son into the guest room. As I proceeded to
the car, Syama approached me and asked if I knew who the father of my
disciple was. When I said I didn't he replied, "He's the chief
engineer in the biggest nuclear plant in Russia. Even big American
scientists come to consult with him."
Prabhupada, when will this coarse fool ever be the gentleman you wanted me
evening I met Suddha dasa and other leaders from southern Russia. We made
plans for the big festival we'll be holding in Divnomorsk, near Krasnodar,
in May, honoring the appearance of Lord Nrsimhadeva. We expect that more
than 2000 devotees will attend. At the meeting, Suddha told me how the
Deity of Lord Nrsimhadeva in Krasnodar was recently stolen and eventually
years ago the Krasnodar devotees installed a large Nrsimhadeva murti
sitting in a lotus posture. Yoga Nrsimha has become well known in the
region - even non-devotees come to see His beautiful, but ferocious form.
December 9, an intruder entered the temple unnoticed when most devotees
were out on sankirtan. The person grabbed the Deity off the altar and
quickly disappeared. When the devotees discovered the theft several hours
later they were devastated and heartbroken. They called the police, who
said that with no evidence little could be done. Local television, radio
and newspapers covered the event, showing pictures of a bare altar.
devotees contacted the local underworld, and several gangsters suggested
the culprit could be part of a Russian Mafia which specializes in stealing
relics from churches and mosques and then selling them back to the
followers. They hinted that the Mafia may approach devotees in another
city and try to sell them the Deity. Suddha sent an e-mail warning all
Russian temples to be alert for anyone selling the murti.
enough, six days later a man approached some devotees in St Petersburg
with the Deity of Lord Nrsimhadeva. The devotees had not been informed of
Suddha's letter - nor even suspected the Deity might be stolen. With
enthusiasm, they collected enough money to purchase the Deity and made the
transaction at their apartment. Just after the man left to catch a train
south, the devotees went on COM where they discovered Suddha's e-mail.
Though fuming, there was little they could do - the man had disappeared
into the night. Suddenly there was a knock on the door, and when the
devotees opened it there stood the man! He explained that he had missed
his train and wanted to know if he could stay the night. Keeping their
cool, the devotees agreed and made a comfortable arrangement for him. When
he was sound asleep, they called the police who immediately came and
arrested the man. He faces a minimum five-year prison sentence if
devotees had a huge festival welcoming the Lord home. Suddha said it was
like the residents of Dwarka welcoming Lord Krishna back to His city. When
the car carrying the Deity approached the Krasnodar temple, devotees burst
into tears and offered obeisances from all directions. As they carried
Lord Nrsimhadeva back to His altar, hundreds of devotees clamored to get a
view of Him, unable to believe that their ista deva, their worshipful
Lord, had actually returned. A big abhiseka ceremony was held and the
devotees lovingly bathed the Lord, more with their tears than with water.
At the conclusion, the whole temple community chanted and danced in
ecstasy in front of the same television, radio and newspaper reporters who
had originally covered the theft. The next day Lord Nrsimhadeva was the
talk of Krasnodar. Many people came to see the Lord who was stolen, but in
the end Himself stole the hearts of His loving devotees!
'py anugra evayam
very ferocious, the lioness is very kind to her cubs. Similarly, although
very ferocious to non-devotees like Hiranyakasipu, Lord Nrsimhadeva is
very, very soft and kind to devotees like Prahlada Maharaja." [Srila
© CHAKRA 19 May 2001
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