2nd of August
Gurudev and His God-brother, Dhirasanta Prabhu, came from Vilnius to Moscow and spent a couple of hours at the flat of Doyal Caitanya Prabhu and Kamala Lochana mataji. Then they departed to Murmansk, the northern most ISKCON temple in the world.
Devotees in Murmansk started to prepare for Guru-maharaja’s arrival far in advance. These preparations also affected the temple building (devotees in Murmansk have been using for many years, a two story wooden building donated by local authorities, as a temple); the temple got a brand new entrance with nice stairs and solid roof; just outside the temple three flowerbeds were installed; two rooms on the second floor were renovated so that Gurudev and Dhirasanta Prabhu could comfortably stay there; also devotees renovated
pujari room and organized permanent hot water supply to the temple.
The regional secretary, Vanamali Kaviraja Prabhu also came to Murmansk a couple of days in advance in order to ensure that everything goes fine during Gurudev’s visit.
At 9 pm devotees set off to the airport in several cars, but on the way we got news that the flight was delayed for one hour. But this notice was too late and we decided to proceed to the airport and wait there. The long waiting time was used for kirtan outside the airport building led by Vanamali Kaviraja prabhu. All the passengers arrived with other flights were attracted by the kirtan.
Finally the treasured plane landed. Yatra president, Paramananda prabhu together with his wife, Srimati, and some disciples of H.H. Srila Bhakti Caitanya Swami left the kirtan and went to the airport building to meet the guests.
Devotees immediately recognized Gurudev and Dhirasanta Prabhu in the crowd of people, even though it was unusual to see them in karmi clothes – the thing is that this year it was not possible to provide Gurudev with a religious visa, and he had to use a so-called “cultural” visa, whereas Dhirasanta Prabhu came as tourist. So due to these facts it was decided that it would be better to travel in karmi clothes.
Having greeted the guests with garlands and retrieved the luggage, everyone started off to the temple. The main group of the devotees were able to get to the temple before Gurudeva’s car and thus were able to meet Him and Dhirasanta Prabhu with a nice kirtan right by the new temple entrance. Then there was abhishek and soon after the guests took rest after the long day spent in airports, planes and cars.
During the abhishek, Gurudev had us pay our attention to His toe on the right leg which was not OK, as the big bag hit it at Moscow airport. Strange enough, neither I nor other servants to H.H. Bhakti Caitanya
Swami got the idea that Gurudev needed professional medical help. Thus it happened only in Saint Petersburg where mother Yamuna examined the toe and provided simple, but necessary treatment. She was able to do so, as she is practicing therapist.
3rd of August
H.H. Srila Bhakti Caitanya Swami gave S.B. class – we read a couple of verses from the 10th chapter where it is described how Krishna delivered Manigriva and Nalakuvara during the Damodara lila. Gurudev was talking about the imperfection of our ability to perceive the reality and that it is impossible to understand Krishna with the help of our senses. He also talked about our personal relations with Krishna, about practice of devotional service which won’t take effect if performed mechanically.
The initiation ceremony was planned for 12.00. It was meant for six devotees from Murmasnk city and region should get initiated. Bhakta Ilya and Paramananda Prabhu did great job to invite mass media for this event and thus there were a lot of reporters. Many of them came just for the initiation ceremony, whereas some of them arrived earlier to have an interview with Guru-maharaja. There were questions about His impression of Russia, Murmansk and His friendship with George Harrison from The Beatles.
The yajna was performed by Paramananda Prabhu with assistance of Vanamali Kaviraja Prabhu. Instead of six candidates there were only five as Alexey Prabhu from Kovdor had to leave for fighting with forest fires as he is working at the 911 service. As a result the devotees lost 5 well-known people and got to know Doyal Govinda das, Mahasinga das, Krishna Carana das, Nikunja Vilasini devi dasi and Sakhi Carana devi dasi.
H.H. Bhakti Caitanya Swami gave short lecture before the initiation where He talked mainly about the ten offences following the tradition of Srila Prabhupada.
Evening BG class was given by His Grace Dhirasanta Prabhu. We were reading from the tenth chapter, verse thirty. After the lecture, an Indian dance studio did a nice performance and then the devotees showed us a drama which was prepared under Pritha d.d.’s supervision. The drama was about the pastime of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda where they save Jaghai and Madhai. The very same days when Bhakti Caitanya Swami and Dhirasanta Prabhu were there, devotees were also celebrating the 15th anniversary of the
installation os Sri Sri Doyal Nitai Gaurasundara. So, the devotees decided to put on this drama for the pleasure of Sri Sri Doyal Nitai Gaurasundara. Before the performance Pritha d.d. explained that they chose this particular pastime as the Deities have saved many Jaghais and Madhais in Murmansk for these 15 years and continue doing so. The drama was warmly welcomed by all the devotees gathered. And then there was a feast!
4th of August
Morning SB class was given by Dhirasanta Prabhu and after that devotees started to prepare for harinam with participation of Sri Sri Dayal Nitay Gaurasundar, Sri Sri Prahlad Nrisimha and Srila Prabhupada. Meanwhile several devotees and disciples of Gurudev came for His darsan. Dhirasanta Prabhu was also having nice association with one little girl who was running around the temple the whole morning as her mom was assisting the devotes and there was nobody who could play with her. The girl glimpsed couple of times into Dhirasanta Prahu’s room and when he proposed her to show some magic, she eagerly agreed.
The girl was amazed – she chanted maha-mantra loudly and saw how the pin disappeared from the chair; how napkin got lost in a hat, how animals appear on blank pages of the book; After this magic show this girl has been running after me the whole day trying to change the color of my dhoti from white to orange via magic. Having failed in her attempts she approached Dhirasanta Prabhu and complained about that. He replied that Krishna probably thinks that I am not ready yet for having orange dhoti ))
When H.H. Bhakti Caitanya Swami and Dhirasanta Prabhu arrived at Theater Boulevard, the place where the Harinam was meant to start, the Deities in nice palanquin, devotees and reporters from local news papers, radio and TV companies were already there. After a couple of interviews Gurudev started the Harinam and it continued through the whole main city street and back. Sometimes Gurudev would hand over the microphone to Dhirasanta Prabhu who also nicely led the Harinam and Paramananda Prabhu accompanied them with
This year it was the first harinam in Murmansk and all the devotees enjoyed it a lot. Later this day Vanamali Kaviraja Prabhu was inspiring the devotees for having Harinams every week (and to my knowledge the next weekend there was second harinam in Murmansk). Dhirasanta Prabhu also noted that devotees take only few karatals for Harinam, which is not enough – “the more karatals we have, the better” he said.
Having returned to the temple Gurudev and Dhirasanta sat together to take lunch and behind the door, we could hear that they had an enlivened discussion with each other. When the Deities and devotees also returned to the Temple, abhishek started – all the devotees dressed in clean vaishnava clothes bathed the Deities. A bit later Gurudev also came down for abhishek and after bathing the Deities, He led the kirtan which was very much supported by Ishvara Puri Prabhu who played the mridanga that evening. Guru Maharaja gave Bhagavad Gita class and couple of darshans. Then maha-feast started finalized the celebration of 15th anniversary of the installation. Prasadam was very nice and there was plenty of it.
I’d also like to note that during the Harinam two young ladies got garland from Dhirasanta Prabhu and followed the devotees the whole harinam and then to the temple. Having participated through the whole program they also asked if possible “to meet the teacher who gave them the garland”. Dhirasanta Prabhu agreed to receive them and during the one hour talk he was answering all sorts of questions these two ladies had. At the end of the discussion they promised to chant the maha mantra on beads and to come to the Temple for Sunday programs. They also got a new devotee friend – mother Sakhi Carana d.d. who got initiated the previous day.
5th of August
The devotees set off to the airport with two cars. At Pulkovo-1 airport in Saint-Petersburg we were met by Bal Gopal Prabhu who put garlands both on Gurudev and Dhirasanta Prabhu. A bit later Adikarta Prabhu came and drove us to the new flat which was bought and renovated by one mataji just to provide accommodation to arriving senior devotees and gurus. Devotees headed by Achyutatma Prabhu were waiting for the guests at the flat. Abhishek was accompanied by melodic singing of Nama Ruci Prabhu and than devotees left Gurudev and Dhirasanta Prabhu in their room, so they could have some rest.
Later this day Guru-maharage gave several darshans to His disciples and in the afternoon there was group darshan for senior devotees. Mother Yamuna examined the toe nail on the right leg of Gurudeva and she
instructed me how to look after the nail on daily basis. The following days I tried to follow her instructions.
Bal Gopal Prabhu was staying at the flat together with Gurudev and Dhirasanta Prabhu. It was also him and mother Vrindavaneshvari who cooked while we were in Saint-Petersburg.
6th of August
After morning japa we walked down the street to café “Gauranga” where Dhirasanta Prabhu gave morning Srimad-Bhagavatam class. There were several darshans during the day and then we came to the program
at the cultural house Zheleznodorozhnikov. Gurudev led the kirtan accompanied by Nama Ruci Prabhu and other expert musicians of Saint-Petersburg yatra and than there was Bhagavaad Gita class.
7th of August
It was the last day of our stay in Saint-Petersburg. As usual, Gurudev allowed His disciples to come and chant japa with Him in the morning and then He had breakfast with Dhirasanta Prabhu and gave a couple of darshans. Meanwhile, Dhirasanta Prabhu left for Harinam leaded by Vidagdha Siromani Prabhu.
All the devotees were very much inspired when they got to know that Dhirasanta Prabhu will join the Harinam. He said that he just has to go, as last year he had left his heart on this Harinam and now he should at least check how it is doing here.
Later this afternoon Dhirasanta Prabhu told me that it was one of the longest and the fastest Harinams he ever had. “I don’t know where these guys are getting so much energy from!” he said.
Before coming to the weekly Sunday program (which here takes place on Saturdays due to some managerial issues) Gurudev accepted the invitation of Marina, the owner of vegetarian café “Botanique”, and visited her café right in the city centre. Having talked with her for a while and walked around the hall and the kitchen (which has little altar for bhoga offering) we departed for the Saturday program.
Dhirasanta Prabhu was already leading an ecstatic kirtan when H.H. Bhakti Caitanya Swami arrived at the cultural house Zheleznodorozhnikov where the program was taking place. Dhirasanta Prabhu asked for permission to not attend the lecture and went to the next hall where he gathered all the children who came to the program. This program was really special for the children, as there were constantly happy voices and chanting coming from the next hall, though I do not know what exactly Dhirasanta Prabhu organized for the children.
8th of August
Right after morning japa we were taken by Adikarta Prabhu to the airport. However there was also another car with devotees who followed us to the airport and all of us had an opportunity to relish nice sandwiches prepared by Bal Gopal Prabhu (first eaten Gurudev and Dhirasanta Prabhu and then all the devotees) while we were waiting for check in to begin. By the way, Guru-maharaja liked very much the bread made by local devotes. “This is the best bread in the world” – He said.
In one and a half hours our plane landed in Archangelsk. Devotees from Archangelsk and Severodvinsk (which is about 40 kilometers away from Archangelsk) headed by Aravindaksha Prabhu and Narottam Vilas Prabhu greeted us with kirtan right at the entrance to the airport.
From there we drove to the flat provided by Alexander Prabhu and all the time in Archangelsk we had Ruchya Prabhu as our driver who comes to Archangelsk every year from middle Russia to have close service to H.H.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami. Right after abhishek the prasadam was served and then we joined devotees on Harinam which was taking place on the central city embankment.
Later local devotees explained to me that usually devotees both from Archangelsk and Severodvinsk join for Harinams regardless whether it takes place in Archangelsk or Severodvinsk. That was also the case today – many devotees, nicely dressed matajis and prabhus took part in the Harinam. Ruchya Pabhu was distributing books and of course H.H. Bhakti Caitanya Swami and Dhirasanta Prabhu nicely led the kirtan. Devotees got the permission for Harinam from local authorities and thus couple of police officers also joined us.
At 18.00 the public program started on the ground floor of a two-storied building rented by devotes in one of the city districts called Solobola. Guru-maharaja liked the premises as they were newly renovated and had
air-conditioning. The fact that there was air-conditioning was very important as during our stay in Archangelsk the temperature during the day time went up to 32 degrees and didn’t go below 25 at night!
The Bhagavad Gita lecture was started by Gurudeva and Dhirasanta Prabhu continued the discussion. After the class there was nice drama performance based on the story where Narada muni tries to take one brahmana back to Goloka, but he refuses and every time tells Narada muni to come in 20 years time. Guru Maharaja watched and listened the performance without translation, but still understood all the details. Translation for Dhirasanta Prabhu was organized, so that he could also dive into the action going on in front of him. After the performance both Gurudev and Dhirasanta Prabhu noted that the performance was really in Krishna Conscious mood. It was also important that children liked the performance too. Tired though satisfied, we departed to our flat.
9th of August
This day we planned to go to Severodvinsk to perform an initiation and evening program for local devotees. It is worthy to note that the number of local devotees in the city of Severodvinsk doubled over the last year due to the efforts of Narottam Vilas Prabhu and other devotees involved in the bhakti-vriksha program.
Straight after morning japa and short SB class we departed to Severodvinsk. On our way we made one stop at a picturesque military memorial on the bank of the White sea. It seemed that Gurudev liked the walk there and he was asking devotees about different events commemorated by the memorials. Soon after this walk at the White Sea we arrived at the flat where our guests had prasadam and a little rest.
The devotees were disturbed as this very day the elevator broke, and the guests had to walk up to the 8th floor! Gurudev walked fast and said that this little exercise helped him to get proper appetite before the lunch.
The initiation ceremony took place in the open air at a nice sandy field close to the sea. The devotees headed by Aravindaksha Prabhu made a nice tent so that the sun would not disturb the guests and the devotees. In the lecture Gurudeva found several similarities between this place and the Holy Dham. One of them was that the sand was as small and had the same color as the sand at Govardhan hill.
During the ceremony itself there were many devotees present and also some ordinary people walking by the side joined us to see the ceremony. Among them was one young couple (Russian lady and Latin-American boy)-they were with us the whole program including kirtan and then came to Guru Maharaja for darshan!
This day three matajis and one prabhu got initiation from H.H. Bhakti Caitanya Swami. The new names they got are: Syam Prasad das, Syam Dulari devi dasi, Lilamai devi dasi and Sulochani devi dasi. After the lecture, initiation ceremony, fire sacrifice and kirtan, Gurudeva and Dhirasanta Prabhu gave several darshans and then left to the flat where evening program was about to start.
Bhagavad Gita class was very practical – Gurudev and Dhirasanta Prabhu were talking about sufferings in this material world and about Lord Caitanya’s mercy in this age. Of course, there were referrals to unusually hot weather in Archangelsk region this summer. After the lecture maha-watermelon and maha sweet balls were distributed to all the devotees gathered. Everyone came out on the street to say goodbye to the guests and we departed back to Archangelsk. It was very nice that Ruchya Prabhu had good air-conditioning system in his car. I am not sure about Guru Maharaja and Dhirasanta Prabhu, but as soon as I cooled down, I fell asleep and opened my eyes only when we were approaching our residence in Archangelsk!
Although this intense day is already over, I still would like to say some words about today’s trip to Severodvinsk, as it all started as if we were heroes to James Bond movie; The thing is that the city of Severodvinsk was one of those so-called “closed cities” during Soviet Union time (due to marine ship-building industry). Nowadays it doesn’t have this status anymore, but still there must be official permission from Federal Security Service (“FSB”, ex-“KGB”) if a foreigner wants to come in. The devotees organized such permissions both for Gurudeva and Dhirasanta Prabhu and thus expected that FSB would somehow evaluate on the visit and control it. So right from the morning the devotees gave me two official permissions with signatures and stamps from FSB, they also told that all of us should be dressed in karmi clothes while traveling to Severodvinsk (just in case).
Several times devotees approached me with instructions on what to do if the car is stopped, or if police ask us who are we and what are we doing here, even in case if we have to sign a protocol! To be true I was quite scared and even thought that it might be not such a bad idea not to go to this Severodvinsk, and I can imagine how Gurudeva was disturbed, though he didn’t even say a word. Just to be on the safe side I prayed to Krishna for success of our trip and most likely I was not alone in these prayers, as everything went fine.
10th of August
It was our last day in Arachangelsk. As usual, there was morning japa and Srimad Bhagavatam class and many devotees came for darshans from Guru Maharaja and Dhirasanta Prabhu straight after breakfast. It was very nice that we had two interpreters with us (mother Jaya Radhika and I) – in this way the devotees could relish the association with Gurudeva (His darshans were interpreted by Jaya Radhika) and Dhirasanta Prabhu to the maximum extent.
We departed for the airport straight after lunch. As we entered the airport building a few minutes later heavy rain started (everybody was looking forward to it already for several days) and devotees took it as good sign.
As there were no direct flights from Archangelsk to Syktyvkar we had to fly via Moscow. Thus most of this day we spent in the waiting areas, various queues and checkpoints. However Gurudev tried not to waste even a minute of His valuable time: apart from chanting on the beads hanging over His neck in beautiful bid-bag with Srimati Radharani on it, He associated with Dhirasanta Prabhu, answering e-mails and even took part in a Skype conference!
I was amazed at Gurudeva’s enthusiasm. Although Dhirasanta Prabhu was also suffering from extreme heat at Vnukovo airport, he was studying “Srila Prabhupad’s favorite slokas” book and learning slokas.
We landed in Syktyvkar at half past eleven and quite a group of devotees headed by Dharani Dhara Prabhu met us at the arrival hall. There were also Vanamali Kaviraja Prabhu, Paramananda Prabhu and mother Srimati who came here from Murmansk to serve the guests and local devotees of Komi republic. Having got our luggage we went to the flat which we also used the last year. This flat belongs to one friend of devotees who this year left with her children to Bulgaria and left the key to the devotees, so that they could
provide more or less proper reception for the guests. After a quick abhishek the guests went to bed. The devotees also went home to prepare for coming days of association with H.H. Bhakti Caitanya Swami and
11th of August
The day started with a Deity installation ceremony. The Deities were brought by Sergey and Alona from the city of Varkuta. Gurudeva named the Deities Sri Sri Doyal Nitai Mayapur Candra. The ceremony itself was headed by Paramananda Prabhu and Dhirasanta Prabhu sang very melodic kirtan. Then there was a lecture on importance of Deity worship in the process of devotional service, in particular Gurudeva was stressing the fact that it helps us to reduce our bodily conception of life. Among the questions to the lecture there was one from a devotee who worships Sri Sri Lakshmi Nrisimha. Having studied the standard of worship applied, Guru Maharaja said that this devotee is lucky that he is still alive and that he should not lower the
standards under any condition.
I’d also like to mention that today’s lunch was prepared by mother Srimati and Marina as after the lunch Bhakti Caitanya Swami came out to the kitchen and personally thanked the cooks for nice prasadam. It happened for the first time during our trip, as usually when I ask Him about the lunch, and He would say
“It was fine”.
Many devotees came for darshan during the day and as there was no second interpreter, Dhirasanta Prabhu could have some extra rest for couple of hours while the devotees in the next room were relishing the nectar of association with H.H. Bhakti Caitanya Swami. In the evening we went to a public program in the conference room to “Syktyvkar” hotel. After a short kirtan Guru Maharaja continued the morning topic and explained in details why we are not this body, and who we in fact are. There were many examples in the lecture which were given by Srila Prabhupada. The lecture was concluded by Dhirasanta Prabhu and he shared with us his realizations with regards to ways of receiving knowledge of this world.
12th of August
This day started early in the morning and having fulfilled His morning duties and having performed puja for Giriraja, Gurudeva and Dhirasanta Prabhu arrived at six o’clock at the house used by devotees as a temple.
During japa time the atmosphere was wonderful: Sri Sri Doyal Nitay Mayapur Candra, Sri Giriraja and Sri Sri Lakshmi Nrisimha were on the altar, devotees were all around, beautiful and huge pure red sun was rising and out on the street there were cows and cowherd people doing their business; What to say – to me it was Vrindavan!
Dhirasanta Prabhu led guru-puja and also gave Srimad Bhagavatam class. The preparations for the initiation ceremony started while the guests were having breakfast. The major challenge for devotees was to decide whether to hold the ceremony outside or inside the house. Those who were saying that outside is better were stressing the fact that the house is made of wood and it would be quite dangerous in terms of fire. On the other hand other devotees were saying that outside is more dangerous as the weather had been quite hot the recent days and there is a lot of dry grass around which could turn easily into fire. In addition the issue of the neighbor’s attitude was discussed. At the end Dharani Dhara Prabhu (yatra president) took the
decision to perform everything inside.
Gurudeva gave a short lecture on the importance of chanting the Holy Name and then gave sanctified chanting beads to His disciples who got the names: Sri Hari das, Amrita Keli devi dasi, Lokeshvari devi dasi and Manjari Prya devi dasi. At the same time Aryadharma Pala Prabhu got brahminical initiation. Paramananda Prabhu was the chief priest for the sacrifice and Vanamali Kaviraja Prabhu assisted him. Everything went fine, however at the end of the sacrifice the devotes put their bananas into the fire and a lot of smoke came out. There was so much smoke that it filled up the whole second floor of the house and most of the devotees came outside to get some fresh air. Only few remained and had parikram and kirtan with tears on their eyes.
Guru Maharaja decided to wait outside and after some time came in to give several darshans.
We were back at the flat on time to have lunch, but the lunch was not ready at all – mother Srimati at that point didn’t even start to cook as she couldn’t get into the flat – I had the only set of keys and forgot to hand them over to her!
So, as soon as all of us entered the flat, prasadam marathon started! I still do not understand how Srimati managed in two hours time to serve Guru Maharaja and Dhirasanta Prabhu such a big and tasty lunch! For lunch there were two types of sabjis, soup, salad, baked potatos, shak with panir, chilly mashed potatoes with cheese, pizza, apple chutney, rise, halava, burfi, apple cake and drink. Gurudev was amazed that she managed to prepare all these in such a short time! Probably her secret was that she regularly appealed to
Krishna – “Krishna, help!” Devotees should really always rely on Krishna.
After little rest we went on Harinam. H.H. Bhakti Caitanya Swami and Dhirasanta Prabhu led the ecstatic kirtan in shifts, devotees were dancing and singing and tried their best to accompany the leaders with various
instruments (they even had an accordion!). Some devotees were also distributing books and later on Gurudeva appreciated this fact very much.
Couple of reporters from local news-papers approached us after the Harinam. One of them asked many questions basically on our relations with other religions and civil authorities. Amazing, how expertly Gurudeva explained the core of our philosophy answered quite boring questions for this man! Evening program started straight after Harinam in the very same place as yesterday. The most confidential knowledge was discussed – the knowledge about ourselves and temporary nature of this body.
13th of August
This day started even earlier than the day before as we had to be at the airport at five in the morning to register for flight Syktyvkar-Moscow. Dhirasanta Prabhu promised the local devotees that he will come back also during winter time if he “wouldn’t cool down from this trip”. Of course Vanamali Kaviraja Prabhu inspired him to say so.
Gurudeva and Dhirasanta Prabhu sat together in the plane and discussed something quite intense, sometimes pulling out their computers. On my side I can say that I don’t even remember how the plane took off as I
fell asleep and woke up only when we were approaching Moscow. Finally we landed with 40 min delay as all the lines to Vnukovo airport were busy and we had to fly around for half an hour waiting for our turn to land.
We were a little bit distressed with this delay as Dhirasanta Prabhu had connection flight in less than two hours and if there were any troubles with the luggage than he could possibly miss the flight. But we breathed a sigh of relief when we got the luggage, got to registration desk for his flight to Vilnus and an got SMS from Syamananda Prabhu that devotees will meet Dhirasanta Prabhu at the airport.
Jay Sacinandana Prabhu was meeting us in the airport and kindly brought Gurudeva to the flat of Doyal Caitanya Prabhu and Kamala Lochana mataji where He spent the whole day working on the computer, taking prasadam and having rest. In the evening Doyal Caitanya Prabhu drove Guru Maharaja to Vnukovo airport
where He straight away got registered for His flight to Novosibirsk
This is how the two most wonderful weeks in my life came to an end. These 12 days gave me the unique opportunity to drink the nectar of personal association and service to H.H. Srila Bhakti Caitanya Swami Guru Maharaja and His Grace Dhirasanta Prabhu.
Krishna Carana das