Diary of a Traveling Preacher
The flight to Moscow yesterday afternoon was uneventful. I kept my eye open for something to comment on in the diary, but there's not always material available. After all, this is the material world and things aren't generally very exciting. Krsna consciousness is the only source of interest. I read a statistic recently that said people are happy only five percent of the time, miserable five percent of the time, and bored 90 percent of the time!
Srila Prabhupada once said, "I've been everywhere and seen everything. My advice to you all is take sannyasa."
We were met at Moscow Airport by a group of disciples, including Raja Rama das who came to pick me up in his car. Raja Rama and his wife, Janaka Nandini dasi, are the kind of disciples the spiritual master thinks Krsna has sent to help him. In fact, when I reflect on their service to me I often remember a letter Srila Prabhupada wrote to a god-brother of mine in South Africa, wherein he says that when he remembers that particular disciple's service his "chest swells with pride." I have a number of disciples I think of in that way, and Raja Rama and Janaka Nandini are certainly two of them.
Successful in business (in Russia!) they generously support my preaching programs throughout the year. I can honestly say that without their help the Polish tour would not exist. Everyone knows that it's not easy to make money (and even more difficult to give it away), but by their own desire this couple give more to my preaching than they keep for themselves. I have instructed them to maintain a proper standard of life for themselves and to put laksmi aside for their future, but their donations increase because they simply expand their business efforts in order to continue serving their spiritual master's mission.
Their dedication reminds me of the surrender of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's householder disciples. Srila Bhaktisiddanta Saraswati had a policy that householder couples give ALL their monthly earnings to the temple, and he would return to them whatever they needed to "keep body and soul together." The greater part of their earnings were thus used in his preaching mission. His householder disciples were pleased to serve their spiritual master in this way and play an active role in his preaching.
Raja Rama and Janaka Nandini have that kind of dedication because they have faith in the programs we are doing. They also come to Poland often to participate in the tour. Their faith is fueled by the fact that they regularly hear from their spiritual master. Each day they listen to lectures from my Russian Tape Ministry. I always emphasize to my disciples the importance of hearing from the spiritual master. Hearing is the main connection we have with our guru. The results can easily be seen in the service of this ideal householder couple, who despite offering so much remain humble in their characters.
One reason that Raja Rama is successful in his service is because of his effervescent personality. He's always bright and cheerful. Combined with his happiness as a devotee, he sometimes comes across as almost intoxicated. On the ride from the airport to our apartment, Jananivasa das told me that a few days ago a policeman stopped Raja Rama while he was driving through Moscow. Seeing Raja Rama's big smile, the policeman was convinced that he was under the influence of alcohol. He made him get out of the car and take a breath analyzer test. The policeman was shocked when the result was negative! He stood there dumbfounded as Raja Rama got back in the car and drove away wishing him all happiness, leaving him with a clue to his bliss by shouting: "Chant the holy names and your life will be sublime!"
Krsna consciousness is not without its serious and sober moods, however. As we neared the apartment, one of the local devotees accompanying us informed me that one of my Russian disciples, Vidya Vilasa dasi, had passed away of cancer a few days before. I didn't know Vidya Vilasa that well. Like many disciples, my association with her was somewhat limited due to my responsibilities in many parts of the world. But in the transcendental sense, that does not affect my concern and love for her as my eternal disciple. Even though I am only one insignificant disciple of Srila Prabhupada, I feel the support and love he gives me, though I have been serving him in separation for 24 years. Actually there is no question of separation from the spiritual master if we are meditating on him constantly by serving his instructions. Srila Prabhupada concludes his commentary on Caitanya-caritamrta by emphasizing this most important point. He says of his own guru maharaja: "He lives forever by his divine instructions - and the follower lives with him."
When I heard of Vidya Vilasa's departure I felt remorse. I thought to myself that with the departure of any Vaisnava, the world becomes a little less fortunate. Devotees are the only source of auspiciousness in this world of birth and death, and the masses are dependent upon them for any blessings in life. So as not to let the seriousness of the moment pass, and to fulfill my eternal responsibilities to Vidya Vilasa as her well-wisher and guide, I closed my eyes before getting out of the car and prayed to Srila Prabhupada to take her soul to his lotus feet. That is the best blessing I (myself still a child in spiritual life) can offer my beloved disciples.
After taking a shower this morning, I sat down to read about the glories of Lord Nityananda from Caitanya-caritamrta. It is His appearance day, and although Sivarama Swami is also visiting Moscow, I was asked to give the morning class. Before leaving for the temple I contacted Maharaja, and offered that he could give the class. That is the proper etiquette, for he is my sannyasa guru. I received the sannyasa mantra from him when the person who originally gave me sannyasa fell away. Maharaja humbly declined, however, and said I should speak.
The temple room was packed with hundreds of devotees. In fact, there wasn't a single inch of space in the entire room. Because of the winter cold the windows and doors were all closed, and soon the room became like a sauna. I requested a devotee to open a window, remembering Srila Prabhupada's instruction to us in Geneva, Switzerland, in June 1974. Before a Srimad-Bhagavatam class he looked up and said to us, "Open a window. Whenever there are a number of men in a room, a window must always be open."
Such a simple, but practical instruction. If there's not proper ventilation in a room, devotees easily nod off to sleep in class. I began my lecture by describing the glories of the Panca Tattva and Lord Nityananda's role therein. During Krsna's pastimes on this earth 5000 years ago, He demonstrated his Vrindavan-lila - but didn't share it with others. Thus Lord Balarama, the embodiment of mercy, didn't have a chance to give it either.
But in His incarnation as Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Lord brought that treasure chest of Vraja-prema, and Lord Balarama, as Nityananda, was the chief distributor of that special love.
After the class I performed another marriage ceremony, this time for five couples including Moscow temple president Syama das and his wife, Gaurangi dasi, both disciples of Radhanath Maharaja. Having performed five such marriages in my travels throughout Russia, I can practically do them with my eyes closed, which is almost what happened this morning because I was so tired! The ceremony went well and was especially auspicious because it was filmed by a national television crew. In Kali-yuga, auspiciousness is judged by the degree that preaching goes on. Marriages are always a wonderful opportunity for preaching Krsna consciousness to the public, because they are very cultural. We take advantage of this in Poland each year at the Woodstock festival, where we hold a wedding in our big tent hosting more than 10,000 guests.
This afternoon I chanted my rounds, took prasadam, and spent a few precious moments with Sivarama Swami before he left for the airport to catch a plane to India. He told me of his plans to build two major temples in Hungary. He said that during his 50s he wants to construct a temple in Budapest, and another at the New Vraja Dhama community during his 60s. I was impressed by his extended vision and goals. For the second time in a year we discussed bringing the Polish tour to Hungary. The idea is there, if only because such an alliance could prove successful. Under Maharaja's direction, the Hungarian yatra is well structured and developing nicely. However, they have no festival program to promote public relations and make devotees. Although my tour is going well in Poland, it lacks support and we face stiff opposition from the Catholic Church and Polish government. Perhaps an alliance with the Hungarian yatra would prove more beneficial. I can only wait and look for signs from the Lord as to what He desires.
We concluded the auspicious day of Lord Nityananda's appearance with a big festival in a hall in downtown Moscow. Although I gave another talk to the 500 devotees present, I kept it short in order to leave several hours for another of Sri Prahlad's wonderful kirtans. As he'll be leaving with his wife in a few months to reside in Australia, I want to relish every opportunity to chant and dance with him. As Sivarama Swami said upon hearing that Sri Prahlad was moving on, "It will be the end of an era."
What does the Lord have in store for me in the next era? Where will I be and with whom will I serve? I can only pray that I may always swim in the nectarian ocean of Sri Krsna sankirtan, chanting the holy names in the association of loving devotees.
samsara sarpa darsanam
murcitalam kalau yuge
asadham bhagavan nama
srimad vaisnava sevanam
"In the age of Kali, persons who have been bitten by the serpent of samsara, shall get relief by the medicinal herb of chanting the holy names of the Lord and menial service to the lotus feet of Vaisnavas." [Sri Sarvabhauma Battacarya]