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of a Traveling Preacher, Volume 3, Chapter 41
By Indradyumna Swami
20-July 1, 2001
final festival of our spring tour in Konskie was the best of all. After Lodz we
had planned to move north to our summer base but at the last minute decided to
do one more town, just 45 minutes away. Although close, it was in another
province of Poland and was different to any other town in the area. Konskie is
situated at the base of the southern mountains and the people there are often
referred to as mountain folk. Simple in their ways and rooted in tradition, they
are often made fun of by Poles in other regions.
first day we went on samkirtan to advertise our festival in Konskie people
stared at us in disbelief. As we chanted through the streets some people shut
their doors and pulled the curtains across their windows as we passed by. But
after the second time around town we broke the ice and people began smiling and
accepting our invitations to the upcoming festival.
festival site itself was in a small park in the center of town. I was confident
that we'd get a good crowd and sure enough by the time the festival opened there
were thousands of curious people swarming into the park. There was a reserved
mood in the beginning, as the simple people gawked at the exotic festival
paraphernalia of exhibits, tents and devotees, but after a lively bhajan by the
devotees on stage they relaxed and started to enjoy themselves.
few minutes into the festival, Vara-nayaka directed my attention to the security
group we had hired for the festival. I was a bit surprised seeing them; instead
of the tough young men in black uniforms we had been using, these gentlemen were
all in their mid-forties, dressed in light blue uniforms with ties. Most had pot
bellies and sported handlebar moustaches. I said to Vara-nayaka, "Those are
our security men?" They looked more like the Keystone Cops out of a 1930's
his reply made sense. He said, "We were obliged to hire a security group
from this area. One condition in the contract with the town council here was
that we employ these men because they the know the mentality and language of the
local people. "
the two days of the festival over 7000 people attended. Although the devotees
had endured many austerities during the spring tour, they seemed to forget about
them during the relaxed and festive atmosphere in Konskie. As Shakespeare wrote,
"All's well that ends well. "
after the attack in Tomaszow, I was apprehensive if the devotees, many of whom
are young and new to Krishna consciousness, could persevere. But they did, and
in looking back I can see that the single most important factor in their
determination to go on was the support of a worldwide community of Vaisnavas.
Almost daily we received either a letter of encouragement or a donation towards
our security. We regularly announced whatever help had come to the assembled
devotees. It often reminded me of "mail call" when I was in the
military. Every day we'd stand at attention and our platoon leader, holding a
pile of letters, would call out the names of the soldiers who had received mail.
Upon hearing his name, a soldier would call out loudly, "Sir! Yes,
Sir!" and run forward to receive his letter. It meant a lot to get a
message from home, and even the toughest men's eyes would well up with tears on
the day when they didn't receive a letter.
a similar fashion we daily read letters that came in from devotees around the
world to Lord Caitnaya's soldiers on the tour. At "mail call" they
would listen with fixed attention, sometimes nodding when the writer stressed
the importance of preaching and often bowing their heads when glorified. It was
the show of support from devotees around the world that kept these men and women
going, despite the constant threat of aggression. I offer my respects to all the
Vaisnavas who encouraged these devotees from afar. By their mercy I have finally
come to realize a verse I had been repeating for years, simply out of habit:
carana sebi bhakta sane bas janame janame hoy ei abhilas
is my desire, that birth after birth I may live with those devotees who serve
the lotus feet of the Six Goswamis. " [Narottama dasa Thakur - Nama
letter in particular, which arrived the day we left our base, amazed us all. It
was from the head priest of the Sri Rangam temple in south India. He is a
descendent from the family in which Gopal Batta Goswami and Prabodhananda
Sarasvati took birth. Although it was directed to me, I took it that those
glorious saints were sending their abhay mudras (blessings of fearlessness) to
all the members of the tour:
holy "Diary of a Traveling Preacher" distributed by you is very great.
It makes us to pray always for the author, when we read the thrilling
experiences and the Himalayan difficulties he is facing with the 'anti-cult'
Shri Krishna will always be with him for his determination. I sincerely pray to
the Divine Couple of Srirangam to give him enough strength, courage and
everything he needs to fulfil his ambition.
our trucks, buses and cars started north towards the Baltic Sea coast for the
summer tour, I sensed that the devotees faith and dependence on the Lord had
deepened significantly because of the events of the spring tour. That was
evident in the mood of devotion in which they chanted the Nrsimha Prayers as we
drove off: They were chanting from the heart, with feeling. I was reminded of
Queen Kunti's supplication to the Lord:
santu tah sasvat tatra tatra jagad-guro bhavato darsanam yat syad apunar
wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see
You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated
births and deaths. " [ SB 1. 8. 25 ]
the end of the day, as we approached our summer base in Swierzno, 30km from the
seaside, I called Nandini dasi and inquired about the mood in Trzebiatow, where
we would be holding our ninth annual summer program in two days. Nandini simply
laughed and said. "They're waiting for you. "
for us?" I said.
she replied, "They all know what happened in Tomaszow. Word of the attack
on our festival spread throughout the country. They seem eager to receive us
to receive us?" I thought. "That probably means they'll send a
representative from the town council to the festival. " What I never
expected was the "homecoming" that we received from those kind people
the next day we visited their town.
following morning, after setting up our base in Swierzno we went on harinam in
Trzebiatow to advertise the festival. To the amazement of all the devotees, as
we drove into town we passed under a bright orange and green banner proudly
advertising the upcoming, "Festival of India. " As we descended from
the bus in the center of town several office windows opened and we all heard one
lady call out to her co-workers, "They're here!"
we started chanting down the street, children suddenly began appearing from
everywhere, running towards us from all directions, calling out, "Hare
Krishna! Hare Krishna!" Young girls joined the ladies part of the harinam
and quickly and easily took up the synchronized dance steps they had learned in
the festivals during the past nine years. At one point they even took over and
led a dance step that the devotee ladies had forgotten years ago!
boys grabbed karatalas from the brahmacaris hands and twisting the karatala
strings around their fingers like veterans played in perfect tempo with the
kirtan. I saw one new brahmacari hand a group of boys an invitation with the
maha mantra written on it, as an encouragement for them to chant with us. The
boys just laughed and without looking at the card loudly chanted the entire maha
mantra in unison, much to the amazement of that brahmacari.
we wound our way down the streets shop owners and their customers came out of
shops to greet us as we passed by. Waving and smiling they shouted out
"Bravo!" Bravo!" On one street, every single shop had a little
cluster of people cheering us on. From the apartments above the shops, windows
opened up and parents and kids smiled at us as we went by. As we paused at one
apartment a lady threw flowers down upon us.
one intersection I nodded to an old man sitting and drinking beer at an outside
cafe. In acknowledgement he stood up and tipped his hat to me in respect. At one
point we took a detour into a complex of apartments. There was a lawn in the
middle of four buildings set like a square and we stopped there and had a
rousing kirtan. The holy names echoing off all the buildings created a
tumultuous noise. I thought to myself that it might be too loud, but its effect
drew even more kids out of the apartment blocks. Soon we had 60 children dancing
in a circle with us all holding hands and singing Hare Krishna. Each and every
one of them knew the maha mantra. One girl came running up to the kirtan party
and called out, "Where is Syamalaki? Where is Sri Radhkia?" - two
matajis who led the ladies dancing on harinama in previous years.
in the blissful scene I jumped when a chorus of young voices just behind me
called out, "Maharaja! Welcome back!" I turned around and saw a group
of seven 8-year-old girls - all smiles - with their hands behind their backs.
One by one they came forward and gave me presents in old cardboard boxes with
used ribbon around them. One box contained Mickey Mouse, another Goofey, and in
another I found Pluto. I also received two lions, one rabbit with a carrot, and
a black dog that barked when squeezed. Then the girls jumped into the kirtan and
began dancing. One devotee offered to take the toys from me and dispose of them,
and was a bit taken aback when I responded by saying I was going to keep them.
are you going to do with them?" he said.
put them on the dashboard of my van,” I replied. "Srila Prabhupada once
said that a gift from a Vaisnava is a very special thing. It is an expression of
he said with an astonished look, "They're just karmi kids!"
not karmis any more,” I replied with a smile, "For one who chants the
holy names even one time becomes qualified for liberation":
uccaritam yena harir ity aksara-dvayam baddha-parikaras tena moksaya gamanam
person who chants the holy name of the Lord, consisting of the two syllables ha-ri,
even once, guarantees his path to liberation. " [Skanda Purana]
the time we took our kirtan party back into the center of town we had an army of
kids with us. I was a little nervous for their safety, as we were going down
narrow pathways and crossing intersections, so I asked two devotees to monitor
them as we went on. Enlivened by the response to our kirtan, devotees chanted
with great enthusiasm. At one point, when we stopped to chant on a street
corner, I crossed to the other side to watch the amazing scene from a distance.
A group of drivers, waiting at the red light at the intersection, honked the
horns of their cars in appreciation of the kirtan. Then when the light turned
green they didn't move, but simply sat enjoying the blissful scene.
continued shouting and waving from their windows and the kids in the kirtan
party, chanting and dancing so jubilantly, seemed intoxicated with the holy
names. I sat down on a bench with some older people who were clapping in
appreciation of the kirtan. Watching the devotees chanting and the people of
Trzebiatow reciprocating in so many ways I thought to myself, "You boys and
girls have merited this "homecoming". You're fighting the real war
against the material energy and the forces of Kali-yuga. You've born insult and
injury to spread the message of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and you deserve every
gesture of affection from these people. Just see! Not only devotees from around
the world have shown you support - but the ordinary folk of Trzebiatow are
treating you like hometown heros. I take the dust of your lotus feet upon my
head. All glories to your services!"
renunciation be multiplied millions of times! Let millions of virtues, beginning
with peacefulness, sense control, tolerance and friendliness be multiplied
millions of times! Let there be millions of meditations on the words 'tat tvam
asi'! Let there be devotion to Lord Visnu multiplied millions of times! All this
taken together does not equal even one millionth part of the multitude of
perfect transcendental qualities possessed by the great souls who find
transcendental bliss in the splendor of the toenails of the dear devotees of
Sriman Caitanyacandra. " [Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati - Sri Caitanya-candramrta,
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