Writings

Bet you’re surprised to see me here, right?

Dear disciples and friends,

Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I am writing to you from an airplane, flying from Bali to Kuala Lumpur. The
last time I wrote I was in Auckland, New Zealand, visiting my mother, which
is certainly not a very exciting programme, although it has one very good
side to it, and that is that I’m able to get some rest, which is otherwise
often extremely difficult.

From New Zealand I flew to Singapore and stayed for two nights with Radha
Gopala prabhu and his family. Radha Gopala is a disciple of Lokanatha
Maharaja, but unfortunately Maharaja is not allowed to enter Singapore any
longer. The Singapore government is extremely conservative, and will not
allow devotees to enter in devotee dress. The last time Maharaja tried to
enter, perhaps five years ago, he was in sannyasa clothes, although he
didn’t have tilaka on, and he was hoping they would not think he was a
devotee.

But as soon as he passed through the immigration, he went into the toilets
and one of the officials followed him. The official said “Hare Krishna!” to
him, and Maharaja assumed he was a devotee or just a nice favourable person,
so he said “Hare Krishna!” back, but then the man took him by the arm and
escorted him back to the immigration area, and he was sent back to India on
the next flight that evening.

So whenever I enter Singapore I’m very careful to disguise the fact that I’m
a member of ISKCON. I have to wear nondevotee clothes and a hat to cover my
sikha, and I button the shirt up to the top so they don’t see my neckbeads.
So far I haven’t had any trouble, and I pray that it continues like that.

On the 12th evening I did a programme at the flat of Bhadra Govinda prabhu,
a local Singaporean devotee who does preaching programmes in different
places around the small island country. He told me that now he is doing a
programme every Sunday evening in a large Hindu temple, and between 350 and
400 people are coming every Sunday. So despite the government’s attitude,
Krishna consciousness is still alive and well in Singapore.

On the 13th I flew to Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia, and stayed with my
disciples Gauracandra das and Radhe Syama devi dasi. They are from Sindhi
backgrounds, from Singapore, but now Gauracandra’s business has brought him
to Malaysia. I did a programme at the Kuala Lumpur temple that evening,
which was the Appearance Day of Sri Advaita Acarya. I read from
Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi Lila Chapter 6, beginning with verses 14 and 15.

maya yaiche dui amsa-‘nimitta’, ‘upadana’
maya-‘nimitta’-hetu, upadana-‘pradhana’

purusa isvara aiche dvi-murti ha-iya
visva-srsti kare ‘nimitta’ ‘upadana’ lana

“Just as the external energy consists of two parts-the efficient cause
[nimitta] and the material cause [upadana], maya being the efficient cause
and pradhana the material cause-so Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of
Godhead, assumes two forms to create the material world with the efficient
and material causes.”

I then read verses 16 and 17:

apane purusa-visvera ‘nimitta’-karana
advaita-rupe ‘upadana’ hana narayana

‘nimittamse’ kare tenho mayate iksana
‘upadana’ advaita karena brahmanda-srjana

“Lord Visnu Himself is the efficient [nimitta] cause of the material world,
and Narayana in the form of Sri Advaita is the material cause [upadana].
Lord Vishnu, in His efficient aspect, glances over the material energy, and
Sri Advaita, as the material cause, creates the material world.”

So the point is that Maha Vishnu has two aspects – the efficient aspect,
which glances over the unmanifest material nature at the beginning of the
creative process, and the material aspect, who then takes the creation
further by putting together all the material elements when they manifest out
of the pradhana, following the Lord’s glance.

Before the Lord glances the material nature is more or less in the form of a
soup, in which all the ingredients have merged with each other, so one
cannot see one ingredient from another. But when Maha Vishnu glances over
that soup, known as pradhana, then the different elements, like earth, water
and fire etc, start to separate from each other.

At that point the aspect of Maha Vishnu known as Advaita continues the
process of material creation and after some time manifests Garbhodakasayi
Vishnu within each universe. This Advaita is Advaita Acarya, from the Panca
Tattva.

But despite His greatness, Advaita Acarya is in the mood of a devotee. I
read on from verse 40:

madhavendra-purira inho sisya, ei jnane
acarya-gosanire prabhu guru kari’ mane

“Thinking ‘He [Sri Advaita Acarya] is a disciple of Sri Madhavendra Puri,’
Lord Caitanya obeys Him, respecting Him as His spiritual master.

laukika-lilate dharma-maryada-raksana
stuti-bhaktye karena tanra carana vandana

“To maintain the proper etiquette for the principles of religion, Lord
Caitanya bows down at the lotus feet of Sri Advaita Acarya with reverential
prayers and devotion.

caitanya-gosanike acarya kare ‘prabhu’-jnana
apanake karena tanra ‘dasa’-abhimana

“Sri Advaita Acarya, however, considers Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu His master,
and He thinks of Himself as a servant of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

sei abhimana-sukhe apana pasare
‘krsna-dasa’ hao-jive upadesa kare

“He forgets Himself in the joy of that conception and teaches all living
entities, ‘You are servants of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.’

krsna-dasa-abhimane ye ananda-sindhu
koti-brahma-sukha nahe tara eka bindu

“The conception of servitude to Sri Krsna generates such an ocean of joy in
the soul that even the joy of oneness with the Absolute, if multiplied ten
million times, could not compare to a drop of it.

muni ye caitanya-dasa ara nityananda
dasa-bhava-sama nahe anyatra ananda

“He says, ‘Nityananda and I are servants of Lord Caitanya.’ Nowhere else is
there such joy as that which is tasted in this emotion of servitude.

The next day Gauracandra, Radhe Syama and their son Ashvin, plus Bhaktin
Sarasvati, an aspiring disciple of mine, also from Kuala Lumpur, flew to
Bali. As some of you may know, the authorities in most of the world’s
airports are now very strict about allowing passengers to take liquids and
gels onto planes in their hand luggage, but Radhe Syama had decided she was
going to take a 2 litre bottle of water plus various medications and things
with her.

As she went through the security people on the x-ray machine immediately
picked up all her things, and said she had to throw them all away. She and
Gauracandra tried to speak to them and get them to allow us to take the
things, but they weren’t interested. However, there was a big queue of
people waiting to come through the security point, and the workers had to go
back to their job of checking everyone. In the meantime they lost interest
in us, and we were able to just walk away with the 2 litre bottle of water
and everything else!

The flight to Denpasar in Bali was 3 hours, so we just sat and chanted on
the plane until we landed. We were met by the Temple President Sundarananda
prabhu and his wife Prema Manjari, and a number of other devotees, and they
took us to the temple a few kilometers outside the city. Despite being part
of Indonesia, which is officially a Muslim country, Bali is almost entirely
strictly Hindu, although their version of Hunduism appears on the surface to
be very different from Hinduism anywhere else in the world.

They worship the impersonal Brahman as the Absolute Truth, although they
also worship demigods, and in the temples there are altars for them, but
there are no Deities. They do a lot of animal sacrifice, including killing
cows, which they eat, so it really is very different. I have included some
photos of their home altars with this article.

They offer food and different items regularly on these altars, which are all
over the place, overlooking the house or field which the particular Deity is
protecting.

One very attractive feature of their form of Hinduism is the magnificent
statues they have in public places of personalities from Mahabharata and
Ramayana. I have also included some photos of them, so please look at them
and you will be quite astonished. The first statue one sees as one comes out
of the airport is Ghatotkaca, a son of Bhima by a demoness, fighting Karna
in the Battle of Kuruksetra. It is truly amazing.

Every night we did programmes in the different ISKCON temples around Bali.
Even though very few of the devotees spoke English, still their hearts were
very warm, and we felt completely at home wherever we went.

Today, the 20th, we flew out of Denpasar, back to Kuala Lumpur. I was
walking through the airport, on the way to the boarding gate to get on the
plane when I saw someone I thought I recognized. I looked closer and who was
it? It was Niranjana Maharaja! We embraced and he said to me “Bet you’re
surprised to see me here, right?!”

I was completely astonished as this was about the last place I expected to
see Maharaja in. He explained that he, Sivarama Maharaja, Indradyumna
Maharaja and Govinda Maharaja had been staying there for two weeks, trying
to take a break and recover their healths after the intense preaching
programmes they all have. Actually Niranjana Maharaja’s programme had been
so intense for so many years that he underwent what was practically a total
physical breakdown more than a year ago, and he was forced to take a leave
of absence from his GBC duties, and stop traveling almost completely.

But Maharaja told me that he is now feeling a lot better, and now he is
going to start doing a little traveling again, and see how he manages it. He
told me that if all goes well he’ll come and participate in the Lithuanian
summer festival at the end of July, which was very good news.

So after that unexpected meeting our group of devotees and I got on the
plane and now we’re flying over Indonesia, on our way to Kuala Lumpur. I’ll
be doing a programme tonight at a devotee’s house, and then tomorrow I’ll
fly to Singapore and do a programme there in the evening, and then on the
22nd I’ll fly to Calcutta, and from there make my way to Mayapur for the GBC
meetings.

It’s a little unlikely that I’ll have time to write to you again till after
the meetings, which finish on March 5th, so please don’t be disappointed if
you don’t hear from me till a little after that.

Hoping this meets you well.

Your ever well wisher,

Bhakti Caitanya Swami

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