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of a Traveling Preacher Volume 3 Chapter 34
By Indradyumna Swami
23-May 12, 2001
the flight from New York to London on April 23, my heart was full of mixed
feelings. On one hand I was happy because my tour of the temples in America had
gone well. A number of devotees had expressed gratitude that I had taken the
time and energy to visit there. But I knew it wasn't just me . . . it was me and
Sri Prahlad. The trip was successful because we did together what we've done for
the past 10 years: we shared the entire effort - the classes, the kirtans, and
the interactions with all the devotees.
I was also sad knowing that the trip to America was our last combined effort to
enliven and associate with devotees in different parts of the world. In autumn,
after this year's Polish tour, Sri Prahlad and Rukmini Priya planned to settle
in Australia. Each time I thought of their departure an empty feeling filled my
stomach. Sri Prahlad is more than a simple servant or assistant - after many
years of service, his friendship is my most valued possession. As I thought of
all we'd done in America, the hope of somehow staying together once again
entered my mind, as it had a thousand times since he announced his imminent
can take care of itself, but to get the full value of joy you must have somebody
to divide it with. " [ Mark Twain ]
our flight touched down in London, I turned to Sri Prahald and said that I felt
that rather than separate completely, we should try to find a means to serve
together which would satisfy his needs as a grhasta and mine as a traveling
preacher. Even as I said it, I knew such a proposal was fraught with
complications. A householder means just that - owning an immovable house where
one serves the Lord with wife and children. A sannyasi means always on the move,
with no home and few possessions. Later we spoke for hours . . . but with no
solution. As a last resort we decided to visit and seek the advice of my
god-brother, Tamal Krishna Maharaja, who lives outside of London. To my
amazement, after a long discussion Maharaja suggested a plan that satisfied
everyone's needs: Sri Prahlad and Rukmini Priya will live in Mayapur for six
months of the year - September through February - where they'll assist Bhakti
Vidya Purna Maharaja in his development of a new school for higher education; in
March-April, Prahlad and I will travel and preach; and in India's hot and
monsoon seasons, May-August, Prahlad and Rukmini Priya will join the Polish
Festival tour. We all agreed on the plan, and left feeling indebted to Tamal
a man discovered gold and fame Another flew the stormy seas; Another set an
unarmed world aflame, One found the germ of a disease. But what high fates my
path attend . . . For I - today - I found friend. [Helen Barker Parker]
a three-day rest in England, Sri Prahlad and I flew to Dinamorsk in southern
Russia to participate in a grand festival honoring the appearance of Lord
Nrsimhadeva. More than 2000 devotees from all over Russia attended the
celebration, which was highlighted by the visits of Niranjana Maharaja and
Prabhavisnu Maharaja. The festival was simply one kirtan after another for three
May 7 we flew to Warsaw, Poland, to begin preparations for the spring festival
tour. As our plane circled over the city waiting for clearance to land, my
thoughts focused on the tour preparations. Although during the past eight months
I had traveled far and wide in my preaching, the 2001 tour in Poland had always
been the focus of my meditation. Just as a paramour thinks of her lover in a
distant place while performing her daily affairs, my mind was always meditating
on the unparalleled preaching opportunity ahead of us. Last year more than 750,
000 people had walked through the gates of our festival program and participated
in one way or another in the variegated spiritual activities. No wonder the
Catholic Church in Poland is so worried about our activities and so intent on
stopping us. Of course, the honorable thing would be to accept us as brothers in
the service of God, but with few exceptions history has shown that religion is
often the most dividing factor in human society. As our plane descended on to
the runway, I braced myself for the landing - and for the struggle ahead.
I emerged from Customs, my apprehensions were confirmed. On the way to the car I
asked Nandini dasi to give me a briefing on her and Radha Sakhi Vrnda dasi's
efforts to organize the festival programs. She replied, "Srila Gurudeva, do
you want the good news or the bad news first?"
replied, "OK, give me the bad news first. "
said: "The anti-cult groups, under the auspices of the Church, are
beginning their annual spring media campaign against us. They know we'll soon be
starting our spring tour in Loch and will be along the Baltic Sea coast in the
summer. A barrage of negative newspaper articles about us are coming out, as
well as several horrific television broadcasts, all with false propaganda.
booklet warning of the dangers of cults has been distributed to every teacher in
every school in the country. We are the main focus. They accuse us of mind
control, breaking up families, and a number of criminal activities.
a result of the constant barrage of misinformation, a recent survey revealed
that 65 percent of the population favor closing down the 'cults' in Poland.
We're No. 1 on the list. "
how can they say we are a cult?" I said. "We've been registered as an
official religion in this country since 1991. "
replied with the infamous quote, "If you tell the people a lie for long
enough, they'll eventually believe it. "
give me the good news,” I said.
Sakhi Vrnda said, "A lot people like us. Wherever we go, we meet people
who've been to one or two of our festivals since 1990. They're always willing to
preaching is having its effect. In another survey, 52 percent of Polish people
say they believe in reincarnation. We feel that all the book distribution,
festivals and media programs we've done have surely contributed to that belief.
supporter, the Mayor of Zary (where the annual Woodstock festival is held), has
just been added to a group of advisors to the Polish president. Also, the
president's personal secretary (who is also the Minister of Home Affairs) spoke
at the opening of ISKCON's exhibition on Vedic Culture at the Warsaw Museum.
for the Woodstock Festival are continuing without any opposition. The main
organizer, Jurek Owsiak, told us he is counting on the Hare Krishna Village of
Peace being there. He said to tell you he wants our presence to be even bigger
and more colorful than last time. "
that possible?" I said. "The tent we rented from Germany was bigger
than an American football field. It held 10, 000 kids for four days!"
the temple we went into more details. The office looked like the headquarters of
a military operation. There were several devotees pouring over maps, considering
when and where we would hold festivals in the area we had chosen for the spring
tour, just south of Warsaw. Phones were ringing and faxes were coming in and
going out buzzing with all kinds of information: where we would purchase the 22
tons of food we needed for distribution at Woodstock, details of the arrival of
130 devotees from eastern Europe and Russia, details of the rent contract for
the three buses we'll be using for the next three months, insurance policies for
devotees and guests, security requirements at the festivals, and so on.
met briefly with our public relations group, ICP, and asked if they had any
information as to what steps the anti-cult groups would take.
whole art of war consists of guessing at what is on the other side of the hill.
" [Duke of Wellington]
my surprise the devotees told me that Actinya dasi had recently gone to a
meeting of some of the biggest anti-cult groups in Poland. More than 100 people
were present. There were the usual speeches about the dangers of the cults, and
several times our movement was mentioned. One speaker warned that the Hare
Krishna movement has made inroads in the public schools. To the horror of the
audience she told the story of a schoolteacher who mentioned to her students in
class that the Hare Krishna movement is actually not a cult, but an ancient
spiritual tradition that has been practiced in India for thousands of years. One
of her students spoke against her and an argument ensued, during which the
teacher defeated the student. When the other students applauded the teacher, the
student who had objected walked out in frustration.
more and more speakers began vilifying the Krishna conscious movement in
particular, Actinya dasi gathered her courage and stood up. She boldly declared
herself the head of ISKCON Poland's communications office. As soon as she
identified herself there was silence and all eyes were upon her. With a captive
audience she began defeating one by one the accusations made against our
movement. At the end of her presentation, she fielded questions for two hours,
the meeting finishing only when the main organizer realized that his objective
of scandalizing our movement was unsuccessful.
next day I gave class in the Warsaw temple. I had just begun my lecture, and was
going deeply into the philosophy of acintya beda beda tattva - the inconceivable
and simultaneous oneness and difference between God and the living entity, when
suddenly a well-dressed woman came into the temple room and sat down at the back
unnoticed by the devotees, except for the temple president. He leaned forward
and said to me, "She's a well-known reporter from a big newspaper. It's
only her second time here. "
it as an opportunity to gain the favor of an important and influential person, I
suddenly switched from my topic to the ABCs of "we are not the body. "
The journalist's eyes lit up as I went point by point through my explanation -
but the devotees were completely dumbfounded. Not knowing the reporter was in
the temple room, they couldn't make head nor tail of what was going on. I wound
up my lecture with a short explanation of the maha mantra and the four
regulative principles. The reporter was stunned . . . and so were the devotees!
After the class the journalist thanked me for the talk, saying it was one of the
most interesting things she had ever heard. She also asked if we had any books
next day I left for the base of our spring tour. When I arrived 75 devotees
greeted me with a small reception. I thanked them and then spoke on the
importance of the work we had ahead of us. I mentioned that in the next three
months we would do more than 50 major festivals - not including Woodstock, the
biggest of all, at the end. I explained how our opposition was making plans
against us, but that we should take courage in that we had the blessings of many
great devotees - Narada Muni in particular. That morning I had been reading the
Srimad-Bhagavatam Mahatmaya and had concluded that Narada Muni is the
"patron saint" of our festival program. Therein it is described that
once Narada Muni was traversing the earth planet at the beginning of Kali-yuga
when he came upon Bhakti Devi, devotion to the Lord personified. She was
lamenting that her two sons, Jnana (knowledge) and Vairagya (renunciation), were
lying powerless on the ground because of the evil influence of the age of Kali.
Approaching her, Narada offered words of hope and inspiration:
beautiful-faced one, there is no other age like Kali-yuga because you will be
established in every house as well as in the heart of every person. Hear my vow.
If I do not preach your message, subdue all materialistic religions and make
devotional festivals predominant then I shall not be considered the servant of
Lord Hari. " [Narada Muni to Bhakti Devi, Srimad-Bhagavatam Mahatmaya 1.
pray that by the grace of Narada Muni our attempts to preach Krishna
consciousness through the medium of colorful festivals in the next three months
will be successful and that the people of Poland will get a little taste of the
spiritual world, where all walking is dancing, all talking is singing . . . and
there's a festival every day!
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