Writings

A report from Caitanya Prema das from Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, in Russia

Dear devotees,

Please accept my humble obeisances.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

All glories to Guru Maharaj!

Guru Maharaj arrived in Krasnoyarsk in the morning of May, 16th. For the local devotees this is always a very big event, since here in Siberia we are not spoilt with frequent association of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples. They only visit us once or maximum twice a year. Therefore everyone was looking forward to meeting Guru Maharaj after a long period of time.

An interesting thing is that here we have just moved in the new temple building. Literally we did it just a few days ago and the foyer was full of boxes, and other different things. Guru Maharaj already saw the building and its interior several times. But this time he would actually have to reside in the temple in the room specially designed for him during his visit.

When Guru Maharaj entered the temple, first thing which the authorities asked him to do is to give a short arrival speech. He entered the temple room and sat on Vyasasana. Starting with Hare Krsna mantra he greeted the assembled devotees. Then he said something which apparently sounded very pleasing for the local devotees. He said: “Every year I look forward very much to coming out here, because there are so many nice devotees here. So much nice preaching going on. So I always feel very happy to be in Krasnoyarsk”. Then Guru Maharaj talked about how we all have the mercy of our Dieties Sri Sri Nitay Nimay Sundara. He referred to a purport of Srila Prabhupada where he’d explained that Krsna arranges to place the devotees under His shelter in the form of different Deities in different places.

“So, – said Guru Maharaj, – it is specific arrangement of the Lord that you are all under the shelter of the Deities here. It is not coincidence. And now, after so many years of working hard in different ways, They have moved into Their new home. And we have a good fortune to come and be able to render service to Them. So we should really look after Them very nicely and spread Their glories all over Krasnoyarsk”.

Guru Maharaj then delighted every one by speaking a little in Russian. We should admit, he is constantly making some progress in it. This time he told that on his way to Krasnoyarsk he flew with a nice big Russian man whom he talked to a little in Russian ’cause the man did not speak any English. Guru Maharaj told him, he spoke Russian a little. He said: “Previous year I spoke Russian very very bad, but this year I speak it very bad, better than previous year”. In Russian Guru Maharaj sounded: “??? ????? ? ??????? ??-?????? ?????-????? ?????. ?? ?????? ? ?????? ????? ?????, ?????, ??? ???
?????”. The man appreciated that. No less did the devotees. Not once did he use Russian in his classes. And he also spoke it often at darsans for devotees. As he explained it to me, that was necessary for his practice. Sometimes I didn’t even have to translate what devotees were saying ’cause Guru Maharaj was getting the basic idea quite easily.

Once Guru Maharaj mentioned that he was reading Krsna book in Russian and found it very difficult to follow. Honestly, I always feel enlivened to help Guru Maharaj in his Russian studies. I thought maybe I could help him read the book; it could be so ecstatic. However on my question how I can help him in that, he replied that he would need a table of Russian noun-endings of all cases. That I did quite easily and besides made one table with adjectives. That is the thing that Guru Maharaj always appreciates.

Finishing his short arrival speech he saw in the doorway Subal das, his disciple, who was escorting Guru Maharaj to the temple from the airport and was evidently said that there was some maha-prasad from London’s Deities needed to be distributed to the local devotees. So Guru Maharaj asked Subal to fetch the maha from his room. While Subal was busy doing the task, Guru Maharaj told us: “Yesterday I was in Bhaktivedanta Manor, London. And our Deities here sent a message to the Deities there. They said: “There are so many nice devotees here, in Krasnoyarsk, send them some of your
maha-prasadam”. So, Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda sent some mangala-arati sweets. This is very high maha-prasad. If you have some, you have to be careful: your life may never be the same again. You may become mad in love of God. If you want to stay normal and remain attached in this material world – don’t take any of this maha-prasadam. These sweets were cooked by one disciple of Srila Prabhupad, Mother Kulangana. She joined the temple maybe in 1971, and since that time she’s simply been cooking for the Deities there. When someone does the same service for 35 years, then you must know
they are very serious”.

Devotees got a piece of maha and happily accompanied Guru Maharaj to his room.

We were amazed to know that Guru Maharaj had recently started to worship Govardhan sila. So he told me that every day he would need some incense, a flower, tulasi leaves and some bhoga to offer to the sila. During his visit Guru Maharaj would perform a short puja immediately after his class in SB. And after that he would take his morning prasadam. The cooks here are always trying to please Guru Maharaj with variety of palatable foodstuffs, but this time they were a little disappointed ’cause Guru Maharaj told them, he would only need maybe 4 or 5 items and besides they should be low-fat. That definitely limited cooks’ chances to delight Guru Maharaj, but still he was always satisfied with the quality of Prasadam and would ask me to thank the cooks from him.

On the first day Guru Maharaj did not have big program on the schedule that was made by local authorities for him. He could have sufficient rest until the evening time when he was meant to deliver Bhagavad-gita class (9.1). I asked him whether he needed me anyhow till that time and he replied he wouldn’t. He said he would use the time to finish his rounds and answer his e-mail. I suggested that he should lie down for a while in order to regain his strength. During the arrival speech Guru Maharaj mentioned that the man he was flying with was very big and was not fitting in his seat. Therefore
he needed more room for his body and naturally Guru Maharaj had to spend all night in a very uncomfortable position leaning on one side. That position was incompatible with sleep therefore Guru Maharaj just chanted his rounds and in this activity he spent all night. Naturally he needed to have rest. So I asked him would he lie down for a while. He said he wouldn’t because once at the festival near Barnaul in Western Siberia he tried that and later in the night could not sleep a wink. I asked him had he been in the habit of sleeping during the daytime when he was a brahmacari and his reply was:
“No!” Guru Maharaj seems to never like that kind of stuff.

In the evening we had a roaring kirtan with Guru Maharaj leading it. As usual every one chanted and jumped like mad while Guru Maharaj putting aside the karatalas would run back and forth with all the devotees sliding on the slippery floor. Then Guru Maharaj gave a class on BG (9.1). The text said:

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I will impart to you this most confidential knowledge and realization, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence”.

Srila Prabhupada starts his purport with the following words: “As a devotee hears more and more about the Supreme Lord, he becomes enlightened. This hearing process is recommended in the Srimad Bhagavatam. And Guru Maharaj continues the theme of the importance of hearing:

“Prabhupada raised the question: “What is the easiest way to wake up a person, who is sleeping, if there is some distance between him and you?” Through sound vibration you can do it. So this principle applies when we come to waking up our dormant Krsna consciousness. Our spiritual senses should be stimulated by spiritual sound vibration.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati one time met with a big American scholar, who was visiting India. He was not very spiritually minded, but their discussion was recorded, and Srila Pabhupada gave a very elaborate, complex description of the Dashavataras, the ten main incarnations of Vishnu. As they say, the scholar was thrown in the deep end of a swimming pool. And then Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati asked the man, who was sitting and looking a little dizzy: “How do you find this description I’ve given to you?” This man did not know what to say, and he said: “I will have to think about it”, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta told him: “No. Don’t think about it too much, but hear about it from a devotee”. If someone has material consciousness and with this conception he will try to think about transcendental subjects, then he will just come up with different material conceptions”.

Then Guru Maharaj turned to the theme of confidentiality of the knowledge given to Arjuna in different chapters of BG. He gave an interesting explanation of Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan and how They differentiate from Each other:

“So then Srila Prabhupada goes on to talk about different degrees of confidentiality of knowledge, as presented in Bhagavad-Gita. He says in the second and third chapters the knowledge is called confidential. And in the seventh and eighth chapters it is called more confidential. And this ninth chapter is dealing with most confidential knowledge about unalloyed devotional service. So that confidential knowledge described in 2nd and 3rd chapters is knowledge of Brahman. Srila Jiva Goswami explains in Paramatma-Sandarbha: “What is Brahman? You are realizing Krsna. And Brahman is Krsna minus His form and minus His personality”. So, now, if you have Krsna and you take away His personality, but His form is there, you have Paramatma now. Paramatma does not have this personality, which Krsna displays in His pastimes. Paramatma does not steal butter. And on Goloka Vrndavana Krsna, as Bhagavan, shows His form and His amazing personality. Krsna is a great joker. A Supersoul is not a great joker”.

In order to illustrate this sense of humor which is there in Krsna in His Bhagavan feature he recollected a story of Jayananda:

“We were told a story of one famous devotee named Jayananda. He was temple president in San-Francisco temple. And there was one devotee; he was doing weekly preaching programs like nama-hatta program in the prison. So he asked Jayananda: “I would like to make some prasadam and take and give it to the prisoners”. Jayananda said: “No problem, we will make some first-class strawberry halava and some first-class ladu”. So they made a big pot of halava and few trays of ladu, and all the devotees from the temple, maybe ten devotees, they jumped in the van with the prasadam to go to the prison program. They were driving along, and one devotee said to Jayananda: “I think we have to test the halava to see if it is ok”. So Jayananda said “Right, good idea”. So they made generous helpings for each of the devotees. And they all ate it andi ohi it was so nice! That devotee said to Jayananda: “You know, it was very good, I think, we should have a little more”. So, again, second generous helping for each person. And they finished that, and the devotee said: “You know, that’s very good halava, I think we should have a little more”. So, third time generous helpings! By the time they got to the prison, there was no more halava and ladu finished. And they are thinking: “What are we gonna do? We told the devotee we would bring prasadam for the prisoners, but we finished it all?” So they came to the front gate of the prison. And guardian said: “OK, we’re gonna search the van”. So he looked inside and saw these big pots. He said: “Oh! Is that food!? You can’t bring food into the prison!” So then they went inside and went to the program, and Jayananda told the devotee there who was running the program: “You know, they wouldn’t let us bring the prasadam”. So this is Krsna’s sense of humor”.

After the class Guru Maharaj stayed in the temple room to chant a little on his beads as he usually does here. Many devotees joined him in spite of the fact it was already quite late in the evening. Actually Guru Maharaj is one of the few senior devotees who let us chant our rounds in his association. That is very beneficial and every time when Guru Maharaj is doing like that I feel that he is like our real father trying to help and encourage his good-for-nothing children. It is true, he is the one who knows almost all local devotees by their names and when coming here always asks how things are going on. This kindness and concern of his has won all hearts of the devotees. I’ll tell you, in Krasnoyarsk there must be the biggest number of Guru Maharaja’s disciples throughout Russia.

When I was unmaking his bed Guru Maharaj shared with me that he was so much tired that he had nearly “collapsed” in the temple room while chanting his rounds in the afternoon. I wished him good night and left. He told me I should wake him up at 3.45 am in case he doesn’t hear his alarm-clock.

In the morning I was at his door and a little before the marked time in the narrow aperture beneath the door I saw light switched on. In a few minutes Guru Maharaj went out and entered the temple room. He led Gurvastakam and Tulasi puja. Afterwards devotees read Siksastakam and read 10 offences of the holy name. Guru Maharaj sat on a thin pillow and chanted his Gayatri. Finishing it he beckoned me to come up and when I approached him he inquired about the pillow he had used when visiting us. That was a nice soft silk square pillow. I told Guru Maharaj that it would take some time to find it
’cause when moving to the new building so many things got lost for a while. I don’t know whether people say so in the West but in Russia there’s a popular saying that resettlement is worse than conflagration. Fortunately in a little while I found it and gave to Guru Maharaj. He slightly smiled and uttered: “That’s it”.

At 7.15 we had Guru Puja to Srila Prabhupada and then SB class (4.7.40) I asked Guru Maharaj about the thing that worried many devotees lately. The point is that we have Srila Prabhupada’s altar right opposite the main altar of the Deities. In this way when we sing Guru puja we have to stand facing Srila Prabhupada but with our backs towards the Deities and vice versa. Guru Maharaj set my mind at rest saying that first, this is the same in many temples around the world, like in Durban, London, Bombay etc. and second, that we can just stand not directly facing the Deities or Srila Prabhupada but at some angle and make obeisances in the same way. That will be all right.

After the class Guru Maharaj returned to his room and immediately asked to arrange everything for his puja. I quickly ran down to the kitchen which is on the basement floor and fetched necessary paraphernalia. One mataji here in Krasnoyarsk worships Govardhan Sila and she attended a darsan of Guru Maharaj and asked him about his standard of worship. He replied that his standard was simple because his Sila is traveling. He said that in the morning he takes off the eyes, tilak and mouth, then bathes the sila, performs a short puja and put everything back. Usually it takes him 10-15 minutes all in all. Mother Syamasakhi asked him what she should do in case she makes up her mind to visit holy dham. She has no one to leave the Deity with but to travel with the sila and perform puja simultaneously is quite problematic for her because of her respected age. Guru Maharaj asked her about the time that was required for the puja she said that about an hour. Guru Maharaj said” “Wow! Mine takes only 10-15 minutes”. So Guru Maharaj suggested that while in India she could make her standard a little simpler but after returning home she should immediately regain it.

When Guru Maharaj finished with his breakfast he said he would have to work with his e-mail and then, at about 11.00 am he would be ready to accept devotees at the darsan. That is our usual practice here. When Guru Maharaj arrives devotees sign up in a queue to get to the darsan. It usually goes on for the whole visit of Guru Maharaj. It is not an easy thing, even for me, although I only serve as a translator. Just to seat in a room for several hours and listen to different people speaking and trying to help them in their Krsna consciousness. And naturally not always his disciples please their spiritual master with their progress in devotional service. Some come with problems.

For example this time Guru Maharaj was visited by one disciple and his wife, who made up his mind to turn to Gaudiya math to Narayana Maharaj. He thanked Guru Maharaj that he’d initiated him, installed Deities at his place and had been so kind to him all the time buti “I decided to join Narayana Maharaj, please let me go”. That was quite a surprise even for me, although I knew that devotee quite all right. Yes, he had some difficulties for some time: he closed his nama-hatta, stopped worshiping the Deities in the temple and was rarely seen in the temple but no one knew about his decision. He kept it in complete secret. Guru Maharaj started explaining things to him. He asked him not to commit such a mistake, since it was really a serious mistake and no matter how far he had gone in that direction there was still a chance to turn back and regain proper position in devotional service under the shelter of Srila Prabhupada. Honestly, I thought the devotee would not accept his Guru Maharaja’s admonition, ’cause I saw some people like him – they are usually very stubborn and nothing can be done in their case once they decided to go. However hearing Guru Maharaj speaking the disciple’s heart started to melt more and more; he cried bitterly and, robbing his eyes to wipe the tears away, finally said: “You’re such a good man!!” Guru Maharaj replied: “I’m just trying to help you. ‘Cause if you go, it will make you no good”.

The devotee agreed to return to the right path and first asked if he could at least keep the books by Narayana Maharaj. Guru Maharaj told him that it would tempt him to save the connection and that it is the best to break the whole thing once and forever. At the end the disciple expressed his gratitude to Guru Maharaj for he took care of him and said that a stone sort of fell off him. Guru Maharaj recommended him to write to him at least once a month, absorb in Srila Prabhupada’ books and try to return his service in nama-hatta.

There was also another episode which did not end up so successfully. When on one of the days Guru Maharaj led kirtan in the temple room there came another his disciple who had rejected him some months before and first joined to Murali Krsna and, being frustrated with him, went to Narayana Maharaj. Temple commander wanted to make him go and even tried to physically drag him out the room but he would not obey and insisted on a short conversation with Guru Maharaj. After the kirtan he approached him and Guru Maharaj talked to him a little. But the whole idea of the young man was that he wanted Guru Maharaj to show him where NM offended Srila Prabhupada. Guru Maharaj said that there had been many occasions and that there was no sense to go into this; he told him that if he wanted to come back there will always be some ways to handle the situation but up to the moment they should just keep separated. The man did not stop and kept asking where NM had offended Srila Prabhupada. Finally he made Guru Maharaj angry and he just gave up hopeless and left the ne’er-do-well disciple. Later in his room I told Guru Maharaj that the temple commander was “killed” by the incident and
was completely depressed. Guru Maharaj agreed, saying that the person was like a blood-sucker, who bereaved enthusiasm.

In the evening Guru Maharaj gave a class on Bhagavad-gita (9.2). He went through all the items mentioned by Krsna in the text, like the knowledge as the king of education, the secret of all secrets, the purest one, realization, perfection of religion, that it is ever-lasting and easily-performed.

On one of the days we had the opening temple ceremony. There was a big list of devotees who took part in construction works and Nityananda das, the temple commander announced the names and spoke a little about each of them. Guru Maharaj would gift special scarves with the names of Radha and Krsna printed on them which were brought from India as souvenirs to the devotees.

On Monday we observed Narasimha Caturdasi. Guru Maharaj gave a Srimad Bhagavatam class (7.3.15-16) in the morning and another class in the afternoon (SB 5.18.8). I asked Guru Maharaj if he is going to fast and the reply was: “Definitely!” Unfortunately since it was a working day there were few devotees present at the classes but when it was time to start the
evening arati, the temple room was full of devotees. Guru Maharaj led a roaring kirtan finishing and starting it on and on, the way he usually does it. The whole program finished with a big feast and Guru Maharaj was offered special preparations. When taking away Guru Maharaja’s plates I asked if I could unmake his bed for him (for it was already about 9 pm) he kindly told me: “It’s all right. You’ll do it later. Now you just carry on with the feast and all”. In half an hour I looked into his room and found him chanting japa. When I did what I was to, he mentioned that he wanted to change the Laxmi which had been donated to him for those several days into euro. There was still another day of his visit and I suggested that we could
borrow money from him the next day for some more might come. He agreed and on that I left wishing him good night.

That day according to the schedule no darsans were meant to be but devotees kept asking me whether Guru Maharaj could receive them and I passed their requests to Guru Maharaj. Senior devotees in charge even started chastising me for I do not give Guru Maharaj enough rest. That was true, and I would even prefer to let him have more rest myself but Guru Maharaj wanted to see devotees and help them, so I could do nothing.

I once asked Guru Maharaj that perhaps we should limit the number of attendees so that he could have more opportunity to work on his computer and rest but he said he liked association of devotees and felt no discomfort. That is his amazing quality – being on such a high level of Krsna consciousness he still feels he needs association of devotees however unadvanced they may be.

However since most of the devotees knew that on Tuesday there will be the final darsan, many gathered on the staircase and argued who would be the first. It all elongated for hours and when the conch blew announcing the beginning of the evening arati I asked Guru Maharaj that it’s time to go to the temple room. Guru Maharaj replied: “No, we will continue. How many devotees are there?” So we kept on and at the end there was no one who could be neglected. Guru Maharaj gave everyone a chance to talk to him and ask their questions. He’s really caring about all of us. Personally I talked to him about an hour, discussing themes that worried me much for perhaps two years already and that I could not solve myself and share with anyone. Guru Maharaj explained things to me and I gave him my understanding of my situation. He basically agreed with what I told him and made me happy saying: “Well, I’m glad that now you understand it right for I worried about you a little”.

The final kirtan was amazing. Everyone was jumping and spinning around. Guru Maharaj usually very likes someone playing harmonium. He says, it makes his voice stronger. And really, every time he was about to sing he asked if there was any one to play harmonium. Honestly, there are very few devotees in Krasnoyarsk who can play music instruments properly. Therefore if a devotee does it somehow it seems to satisfy Guru Maharaj.

Next morning Guru Maharaj was leaving. He was to leave the temple at 6 am in order to be in time for his flight to Ulan-Ude with a change of plane in Irkutsk. At 5 am I came into his room and while he was in the temple room chanting his japa, I packed up some of his luggage. In a minute he appeared and finished with his bags. I asked some devotees to help pulling the luggage down on the first floor and in the car. Guru Maharaj went out; I locked the room and gave the keys to the temple commander. Guru Maharaj went down to the foyer and further to the car waiting for him. Devotees gathered
around him and escorted him till he sat in the car. Ladies threw flower petals under his lotus feet. Guru Maharaj cried out “Hare Krsna, thank you all very much” in Russian and the car drove him to the airport.

We are fortunate to have the association of Guru Maharaj and at the end of August we’ll have another chance to be with him again at the traditional Siberian festival in Angarsk.

The End

Your servant,

Caitanya Prema das

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