Diary of a Traveling Preacher
After only a few hours of rest, we awoke at 5am to prepare to do a program in a hall in downtown Barnaul. I had trouble sleeping last night because my body seemed to be still moving; an uncanny feeling which no doubt came from spending the previous day on a moving train.
However, I had an interesting dream. I dreamt I was walking along the Kali Gandhaki River in Nepal looking for salagram silas with my god-brother, Bimala Prasad das. I often dream that I am either on my way to the Kali Gandhaki or am along its banks. In fact, the dreams are so intense that I can attribute them only to the fact that I have actually traveled in the mountains of Nepal several times in this life. Or could it be that I was there in a previous life? In a purport in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.29.64), Srila Prabhupada confirms this possibility. He writes: "In dreams we sometimes see things that we have never experienced in the present body. Sometimes in dreams we think that we are flying in the sky, although we have no experience of flying. This means that once in a previous life, either as a demigod or astronaut, we flew in the sky. The impression is there in the stockpile of the mind, and it suddenly expresses itself. It is like fermentation taking place in the depths of water, which sometimes manifests itself in bubbles on the water's surface."
Two weeks ago I had an unusually spiritual dream. I dreamt that after a long time I was returning to New Mayapur, in France. In the dream I was surprised to see that everything was overgrown and falling apart. But from within the temple I heard a conch shell blowing and sounds indicating the altar curtain was about to open. I rushed in and sat for a few moments before the curtain, eager for darsan of Sri Sri Radha Govinda Madhava. Suddenly, the curtain opened and everything on the altar was shining beautifully like the sun. It was very clean and nicely decorated. My eyes searched for Sri Sri Radha Govinda Madhava, and when I saw Them I started crying. The more I looked at Them, the more I wept. When I awoke that morning, I found my pillow wet with tears. I got up from bed and looked in the mirror. My eyes were red from crying. I said to myself in the mirror, "You rascal! Why can't you cry for Krsna like that in real life!" But inside I was happy, knowing that somewhere in my hard, stone-like heart, there might even be a little glimmer of love for Sri Sri Radha Govinda Madhava.
Unfortunately, my dreams are not often so transcendental. Because of the unusual places I travel and preach, and because of the anxieties I have from many responsibilities, I often dream of war or trying to escape from unknown enemies.
After taking bath, myself, Sri Prahlad, Rukmini Priya and Visnu Tattva prabhu left the apartment building to go to the program. When we stepped outside I was shocked! In the few hours we had slept, a huge storm had blanketed everything with snow. Visnu Tattva told me that Siberia has had more snow this winter than any in the past 25 years. We were seeing the cold face of Siberia at its worst. We struggled to get to our car, and slipping and sliding through the roads of the city in our vehicle we somehow managed to get to the hall for the morning program. I couldn't imagine there would be many devotees there because passage through the city was so difficult, but as is typical in Russian ISKCON, when we entered the hall there were more than 200 blissful Vaisnavas eager for Krsna katha and kirtan.
As no book was available, I spoke about the importance of devotee association. I based my class on a verse from Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya Lila 22.128:
sadhu-sanga, name-kirtana, bhagavata-sravana
mathura-vasa, sri-murtira sraddhaya sevana
"One should associate with devotees, chant the holy name of the Lord, hear Srimad-Bhagavatam, reside at Mathura and worship the Deity with faith and veneration."
Rupa Goswami states in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu that these processes are so potent that just a small attachment for any one of these five items can arouse devotional ecstasy even in a neophyte.
After class we returned to our apartment, worshipped our Deities and took prasadam. I then conversed with a group of disciples. I must say it was quite an intense meeting. Because many of these disciples had not seen me in two or even three years, they were absorbed each second, watching my every move and listening to every word. I was tired and had a headache coming on, but I forced myself to ignore these conditions and sat up straight, attempting to be the proper representative of Srila Prabhupada I should be.
By speaking philosophy and quoting appropriate verses from the
Bhagavad-gita, I inspired the devotees - but as soon as they left I collapsed in bed for a half-hour rest before the evening program.
When we arrived at the hall there were twice as many devotees as were there in the morning - more than 400. They had come from numerous surrounding towns and villages. There were also many guests. The atmosphere was electric, in anticipation of class and kirtan. The mood somehow reminded me of Poland 12 years ago when I started preaching there. There were many teenagers in the audience exhibiting a type of innocence, which I attributed to the fact that Siberia remains to this day somewhat isolated from the materialism that is rampant in eastern Europe and western Russia. Later in the evening, all these young people stood and chanted and danced without abandon. It left me with a sense of nostalgia.
More than 50 devotees participated in a wonderful drama about the appearance of Lord Caitanya. It was so well done that I imagined it took weeks of preparation. That they had gone to so much trouble and expense for me touched my heart, and when it came time for me to speak to the devotees and guests, I gave an impassioned lecture about the purpose of life, which I think was well appreciated. After the talk, Sri Prahlad led a wonderful kirtan. To conclude the evening, the devotees brought a huge cake on to the stage, which I distributed piece by piece to the now 500-strong congregation.
The numbers in the hall had swelled, because after our program the hall was to turn into a disco. As our program was finishing, many young people started showing up for the disco, standing on the perimeter of our festival and watching in amazement. Many were pulled into the kirtan by the devotees and guests and many came forward for a piece of cake. Overwhelmed by the ecstatic mood, a number of them showed signs of respect as they approached me for the prasadam, bowing their heads or folding their hands in namskara as they saw the devotees do. It was an unusual experience for me, as young ladies in short dresses and heavy make-up and tough-looking boys in designer clothing came respectfully forward for the Lord's mercy. All glories to Sri Krsna sankirtan!