Writings

So with his danda he banged on my hand

This is a report from Caitanya Prema prabhu, who has been with me in East Siberia on and off for the last few weeks.

Dear devotees,

Please accept my most humble obeisance.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

All glories to Guru Maharaj!

We have just finished the 3rd festival in Angarsk, which already became a traditional one. This happened again near one place in Eastern Siberia, named Irkutsk. Devotees from Irkustk and Angarsk tried their best to arrange everything in the very perfect way to satisfy devotees. They started their preparation works about half a year before the beginning of the festival. But then a surprising thing happened. Just two days before the actual start of the festival the administration requested devotees to leave the camp for the sake of some other people and so the devotees had to find some suitable place in extremely short terms. What to do?

We could not just give up the whole idea – so many devotees already made their plan to come. So, therefore devotees responsible had to mobilize all their energy to redo everything. On the other hand the administration voluntarily offered another place to us to hold the festival. In this way devotees were given only about two days (and nights!) to replace all facilities to the new place and fix them there. Of course it was not an easy task to do but they did it in spite of all difficulties.

As the chief person in organizational committee Krsna Smaranam prabhu admitted later, this place was even better than the original one and all devotees could feel very comfortably in the new camp among other devotees. In this way, you never can know what Krsna’s plan is beforehand but it is definitely much better than ours.

Guru Maharaj arrived at the place on August, 25th in the morning after visiting Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude. In this way this month Siberia was sanctified by spiritual atmosphere by the grace of our dear spiritual master and other very elevated sons of Srila Prabhupada. This time we expected to have about 500 devotees to come. As a tradition we were looking forward to seeing here Guru Maharaj, H.H.Devamrita Maharaj, H.H. Prabhavisnu Maharaj, H.H.Bhaktivaibhava Maharaj and H.G. Caitanya Candra Caran Prabhu.

Unfortunately Devamrita Maharaj was meant to be in some other place busy with something. The same was with Bhaktivaibhava Maharaj and Caitanya Candra Caran prabhu. The organizational committee of the festival also tried to invite H.H. Indradyumna Swami and he gave us some hope that he’d be there saying that if he is free by the time he would definitely come. However we all know how busy Maharaj usually is with his festival programs in Poland and in Baltic region. And this time he failed to find some free time.

However one other powerful preacher from Western Siberia was invited. His name is Carudesna prabhu and he is the regional secretary in Western Siberia region. He is quite well-known to devotees in our country with his very deep understanding of sastras and a very nice and logical ways to present them to the audience. He is a scientist in physics and was teaching in Novosibirsk University for some years. Then he came to understanding that the science is lacking something very essential. It could not give full picture of life and the way it is designed. He met Bhagavad Gita and read it in three days.

There was no other way to go. He met devotees and started his way to God. So nowadays he is preaching intensively in his region and also participating in the matters of management of Russian ISKCON and, as his “colleagues” say, always giving some very wise decisions of how to address this or that problem. This time he conducted his seminar, titled “The true and false attitude towards the world”. Devotees say that this was the third time he read this seminar. First he gave it in Novosibirsk University in terms of scientific knowledge. His listeners were students of higher mathematics.

After a while of his speaking they realized the thing was to much for their understanding. Carudesna prabhu simplified his seminar a little and for the second time gave it to devotees. It was assimilated quite all right. Now this time the seminar assumed even more simplified form which allowed even more range and number of people to be able to get the whole idea of the seminar and everyone listened to him with great attention.

Guru Maharaj though prepared another series of lectures for devotees named Lessons from the pastimes of Lord Ramacandra but as Guru Maharaj himself said: “Up to now there are still more pastimes than the lessons”.

Anyway, since the opening ceremony of the festival and thus its factual start was to be on August, 26th, Guru Maharaj had almost a full day of rest, walking up and down the valleys and chanting his japa seemingly enjoying the sunny weather. This place was in the very heart of mixed pine and birch forest with a lot of fresh air. The only thing which seemed to trouble Guru Maharaj a little was very unstable cellular communications. He and one his disciple had spent some time in order to find a place where the connection was relevantly ok. And they found it under the roof of some sort of opened summer café. In reality the thing was just an iron skeleton covered with tent. Afterwards this place got the name of “internet café”.

On the evening of 25th Guru Maharaj started his seminar about the lessons from the pastimes of Lord Ramacandra. But we will tell about that a bit later when we’ll be discussing the theme of the seminar.

However, on August, 26th there was the official opening ceremony of the festival. First spoke Prabhavisnu Maharaj. He thanked devotees for their association and then made a very unexpected statement. Actually it was a question and because Maharaj spoke in Russian his words sounded very strong.

He asked: “Why have you all come here?” Devotees seemed a little surprised with such a question but still started giving their versions of the reason why they had come to the festival. Some said: “To listen”, some said: “To serve”. However Prabhavisnu Maharaj interrupted them saying: “Perhaps to enjoy? Is it forbidden to enjoy in Krsna Consciousness? Srila Prabhupada said, people want to enjoy nice food, to dance and sing and to associate with friends. And actually we can do that in Krsna consciousness. We can sing and dance for hours; we can eat nice food together with our friends.

This is the beauty of Krsna consciousness”. Then Maharaj mentioned that impersonalists are deprived of such an opportunity and that was their bad fortune. He therefore suggested that we enjoy chanting the holy names together at the festival. Maharaj concluded his speech saying that he wishes everyone success in their spiritual life. He said everyone would be able to go back to Godhead at the end of their lives granted they strictly follow the process of devotional service. “Actually”, he added, “this is already spiritual world since we are having nice kirtans here together”.

Then Guru Maharaj gave his word. First he joked by saying, he would prefer speaking English if nobody minds. He added that if he spoke Russian the speech would be very short. (Still we should give Guru Maharaj his due because his Russian became much better. He can understand more and can also speak more. He will certainly not get lost finding himself in Russian surroundings.) He talked a little about how he had met Prabhavisnu Maharaj, how he served under him for several years and how much he appreciated his association. He is very fixed in Krsna consciousness, there’s definitely Prabhupada in his heart and there where Srila Prabhupada there is Radha and Krsna. Guru Maharaj said, Prabhavisnu Maharaj was always relishing and was always happy in Krsna consciousness and he is very grateful to him for his association. He then spoke a little about his relationships with His Grace Carudesna prabhu, how he appreciated his dedication to Srila Prabhupada and also the depth of his understanding of Krsna consciousness. Afterwards Guru Maharaj reminded how we should all be grateful for that opportunity to associate with devotees. He mentioned to us how about 13 years ago he visited one of the cities of the region. It was a Sunday program and Guru Maharaj was meant to be a special guest but there were only about 10 of them, including the Deities. : Then Guru Maharaj also recollected one funny story with one devotee. He (that devotee) once approached Srila Prabhupada and asked him that why should all devotees come to Mayapur for the Gaura Purnima festival every year.. He said: “Srila Prabhupada, it costs so much money. Just think how we could spend all these money for preaching.” Srila Prabhupada became very thoughtful for a moment and then replied: “Why don’t we just stop eating. That would save us a lot of money. Just think, what we could do with that money.” The devotee understood the point at once.

At the end Guru Maharaj expressed his big thanks to the organizational committee of the festival (in the person of Krsna Smaranam prabhu) who worked very hard for the devotees to come and very comfortably sit and have nice katha in the association of such a big gathering of devotees.

Then spoke Carudesna prabhu. He did not expect to find himself at that festival. However he met very nice devotees there and saw them to be very serious in their Krsna consciousness. He stressed that we should become like one big family where everyone feels some responsibility for others. He said when Srila Prabhupada was on the planet devotees lived more tightly so to speak, they lived nip and tuck. And that would never let Kali penetrate their family and destroy it. In this way, said Carudesna prabhu, we should try and revive that atmosphere now in our communities. It would be great if devotees at such festivals meditate and try to develop the mood of mutual service and in this way, leaving the festival we could feel spiritually enriched.

The opening ceremony finished with a roaring kirtan and everyone could understand that the festival promised to be ecstatic.

Back to the 25th of August. Guru Maharaj started his seminar with the words that we were usually more accustomed to think that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is necessarily Lord Krsna or Lord Caitanya, although Lord Ramacandra is the Supreme Personality of Godhead too. He is also very important. He is Krsna Himself but appears in a certain context and in order to set certain examples. And many of those examples are very relevant to us.

Of course when we chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, half of the mantra is dedicated to Lord Rama. So we are chanting His holy name half the time. So He must be very important.

To start off with Guru Maharaj read a verse from the chapter in Srimad Bhagavatam which describes various incarnations of the Lord. The verse

nara-devatvam apannah
sura-karya-cikirsaya
samudra nigrahadini
cakre viryany atah param

“In the eighteenth incarnation the Lord appeared as king Rama in order to perform some pleasing work for the demigods. He exhibited superhuman powers by controlling the Indian Ocean and then killing the atheist king Ravana who was on the other side of the sea”.

Guru Maharaj discussed some difference between the three Lords: Lord Krsna, Lord Caitanya and Lord Ramacandra.

We know that the Hare Krsna maha-mantra is special because it is addressing Krsna and through chanting it we can achieve Krsna Himself. But we should also understand that Lord Rama is Krsna. Guru Maharaj mentioned that even though Lord Ramacandra appeared such a long period of time ago He still remains an immensely popular person. Extremely popular remains Ramayana where Lord Rama’s pastimes and qualities are described. Ramanavami, the appearance day of Lord Rama is celebrated very grandly by millions of people. Even today, millions of years later He is loved and worshipped by millions of people.

So amongst the forms of the Supreme Personality of Godhead certain forms are more important to us. Krsna is the most important. Lord Caitanya is also the most important. And Lord Ram is the next important. To confirm this statement Guru Maharaj said that so much of our time we are focusing on Lord Ram and it is nice to try and appreciate Him a little more. Besides there’s the form of Lord Nrisimha who is also very important. Rupa Goswami states that these four forms are Krsna Himself. Lord Nrisimha and Lord Rama are not just Vusnu avataras. They are all the complete supreme personalities of Godhead. But there are also differences in Their Personalities. Henceforward there are differences in Their pastimes. Krsna sometimes is known as Lila-Purusottama. That means the supreme person who’s exhibiting the most wonderful pastimes. Then Lord Caitanya is sometimes known as Prema-Purusottama, the supreme personality of Godhead who is exhibiting the highest level of love. And Lord Ramacandra is known as Maryada-Purusottama.

Maryada means the rules and regulations. That is the particular nature of Lord Rama – that He likes to do everything right. Sometimes Krsna bends the rules. Sometimes He breaks the rules. There are a lot of examples where Krsna does so but Lord Ramacandra never does like this. He’s got only one wife. Guru Maharaj says that if read Ramayana thoroughly we will find lots of places where Lord Ramacandra speak one and the same verse: only one wife, for His enemies – only one arrow (that is He never misses). When He says something – only one word. So Lord Rama is known for this – His strict adherence to duty. Like for example His dedication to Sita. In the 9th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam the relationships between Lord Rama and Mother Sita are described as perfect relationships of husband and wife. In his purport Srila Prabhupada writes that Lord Rama could have manifested another Sita. He could have manifested even hundreds and thousands of Sitas or at least He could have freed Her with His mystical power. But no!! He went through all this big military campaign. Millions of people died and that is all just to rescue Sita. Lord Rama could have just switched off the switcher in the heart of Ravana as the Super soul. By His mystical powers He could have reached over to Lanka with His hand and picked Sita up and brought Her back.

In one second it could have all been done. So why did Lord Rama go through all this difficulty? Just to rescue one Sita. And it is not because He had to, not because it was the only way or the best way to do it. The answer is because He wanted to show us how much He was prepared to do for Sita, how much Sita meant to Him. No price was too high. The lesson is this is what devotee means to the Lord. And this is a very good example for our husbands.

We need husbands like that – no “married today, divorced tomorrow”.

At the end Guru Maharaj concluded that in that way Lord Rama showed absolute adherence to duty, His duty to Sita, as a king, as a son. So that is the nature of Lord Rama as Maryada-Purusottama. That was a very wonderful example for us because we sometimes become weak in execution of our duties and learning more about the qualities and the pastimes of Lord Rama we can take some example.

On the second day of the seminar Guru Maharaj concentrated our attention on the relationships between Lord Rama and Mother Sita, how They uphold very high standards in relationships between each other. The verse which Guru Maharaj chose to site for the class described how Mandodhari, the chief wife of Ravana was speaking to the dead body of Ravana just after he’s been killed by the Lord.

“O greatly fortunate one, you came under the influence of the lusty desires and therefore you could not understand the influence of Mother Sita. Now, because of Her curse you’ve been reduced to this state having been killed by Lord Ramacandra”.

Guru Maharaj started his class mentioning that Srila Prabhupada wrote in his commentary that chaste women should follow in the footsteps of Sita, Mandodhari and Draupadi and men should follow after the example of Lord Brahma, Narada Muni and Lord Ramacandra. Although those moral principles are very high and may be quite difficult for us to follow we should still try and make efforts to do so. Then Guru Maharaj gave a very nice example of very high moral principles demonstrated by Lord Ramacandra’s brother Laksman. Although he spent so much time in the association of Mother Sita He still did not know how she looked like and could not say that to Hanuman.

The only way He could help Hanuman is by giving a detailed description of Mother Sita’s lotus feet.

Guru Maharaj repeated that we might have problems trying to follow those high principles which were shown by the Lord and His consort but anyway we should at least recognize them so and apply at least some of them which we can and it would certainly help us in our Krsna consciousness or rather in our Rama consciousness, as Guru Maharaj said.

Because of Her chastity and absolute devotion to Lord Rama Mother Sita obtained supernatural power. Guru Maharaj said: “We don’t mean here big muscles. We are not speaking about female vaisnavi body building, weight lifting club. We don’t mean that power”. Actually Mother Sita did not do anything; She was just sitting in Asoka grove. But by Her influence millions and millions of people and eventually Ravana himself died. Then Guru Maharaj mentioned that in Kali Yuga though women are prone to be more emancipated and try to attract men to their bodies. He warned that that was not a standard for devotees, especially for vaisnavis. Instead such qualities as chastity and faithfulness are very important for women and developing those qualities would help them to have spiritual power which in its turn would help them to go back home, back to Godhead.

So when Lord Ramacandra was said He was banished to the forest for fourteen years Mother Sita did not even say: “All right I’ll go with You”. What she really said was: “All right, when do we go?” That meant, there was no question of Her staying at home and being separated from Her beloved husband. What she said was:

“Father, mother, brother, son and daughter-in-law enjoy their particular good fortune according to their pious activities. But the wife alone achieves the same fortune as her husband. Therefore, as You have been banished to the forest, I also am ordered to reside in the forest. For a married woman, neither her father, her own body, her mother, nor her girlfriends is ever her shelter in this world or in death, only her husband is.

“If You leave for the impenetrable wilderness today, O descendant of Raghu, I will walk ahead of You crushing the sharp thorns and blades of kusha grass with My bare feet, in this way sparing Your feet from any pain. I will walk before You scouting for danger and will only eat the remnants of Your food.

Casting away Your envy at My courage and Your anger at My disobedience to stay in Ayodhya, take Me with You without any hesitation, as one drinks the remaining water left in a cup. There is no sin in Me for which I should be left behind. In all circumstances, shelter in the shade of the feet of one’s husband is better than residence in a palace, in an aircraft or travel through outer space. I do not need any instruction at this time regarding how I should act. Not taking any servants, I shall enter the jungle, which is teeming with many different wild beasts and frequented by packs of tigers. Disregarding sovereignty over the three worlds and thinking only of My vow to My husband, I shall reside as happily in the wilderness as I would in My father’s palace. I will no doubt accompany You to the forest today. I cannot be stopped, O most fortunate one. I shall undoubtedly eat fruits and roots every day and will not trouble You while living with You. Furthermore, I wish to fearlessly see the mountains, ponds and lakes, being protected by You, My wise lord. I shall happily live thousands of years or hundreds of thousands of years with You in that way, what to speak of fourteen years.

Indeed, if residence in heaven were available without You, I would not accept it, O tiger among men. With You I will today proceed to the impenetrable jungle inhabited by wild beasts, monkeys and elephants.

Clinging to Your feet and being loved by You, I shall live in that wilderness as if in My father’s house. O please grant My request and take Me along. I am exclusively devoted to You and My mind is attached to You; without You I would certainly die.

“Why are You despondent? What are You afraid of that You are prepared to abandon Me, who is completely devoted to You? Know that I am as devoted to You as the chaste Savitri was to Satyavan, the son of Dyumatsena. In my life I have never even mentally looked at another man, as do woman who disgrace their families.”

So, as Mother Sita was dedicated to Lord Rama, so Lord Rama was dedicated to Mother Sita. Before Guru Maharaj already mentioned that in order to rescue Sita Lord Rama underwent such great endeavors. In this way we can at least get some idea of how much a pure devotee means to Krsna. Nothing is too difficult for the Lord. He will do anything for His devotee.

Below Guru Maharah refers to some description of how much Lord Ram lamented in separation with Mother Sita:

“The austere Sita has been abducted, killed or eaten! Her virtue did not protect Her from being carried away into the wilderness. Since Sita has been devoured or abducted, even the demigods cannot do anything worse to Me.

Because I am mild-mannered, engaged in the welfare of the world, disciplined and compassionate, surely the demigods think that I am unmanly.

“Just see how My attainment of these virtues has turned them into faults.

But now, shunning all those virtues, My power will now manifest for the destruction of all living beings, including the rakshasas, as the heat of the sun takes away the coolness of moonbeams! Neither yakshas, gandharvas, goblins, rakshasas, kinnaras or men will be able to find any happiness.

Watch as I fill the sky with missiles and arrows, O Lakshmana! Now I will prevent the movement of the living beings in all three worlds. I shall bring the three worlds to ruination by stopping the movement of the planets, veiling the moon, destroying fire and wind, blocking the light of the sun, smashing mountain peaks, drying up all sources of fresh water, destroying trees, bushes and vines, and emptying the oceans. If the demigods in charge of this world do not return Sita to Me, in a short time they will see My prowess, O Lakshmana! Because of the continuous network of arrows released from My bow string, no creatures will be able to fly through the sky. See how My steel arrows destroy the world, creating confusion and breaking the bonds of propriety, with all the beasts and birds devestated or fled away.

Shooting with full force arrows that cannot be counteracted by any living beings, I shall rid the world of goblins and rakshasas on account of Sita!

Today the demigods will see the strength of the arrows I shoot, impelled by anger, and which can strike at a great distance.

“When My anger flares up against the three worlds, there will no longer be any demigods, demons, goblins or rakshasas. Torn to pieces by the flood of My arrows, the worlds of the demigods, demons and yakshas, as well as of the rakshasas, will cease to exist. If the controlling demigods do not return Sita to Me, regardless of whether She has been abducted or is dead, I shall this very day with My arrows dissolve all the boundaries of these worlds. If they do not return My beloved to Me in Her original condition, I shall destroy all the three worlds of moving and nonmoving beings.”

After saying this, Rama’s eyes became as red as copper and He gripped His bow tightly. Then Rama, the conqueror of enemy strongholds, lifted His bow, took a ferocious blazing arrow like a poisonous snake and fixed it on the bow. Manifesting anger like the universal fire at the end of the world, He said: “As much as none of the living entities are capable of warding off old age, death, time or destiny, it is entirely impossible to counteract Me when I am angry. If they do not immediately return My faultless Sita, as She was previously, then I shall overturn this world with its demidemigods, gandharvas, men, serpents and mountains.”

Thus we could see some of the points of what were the standards of Sita and Rama and the transcendental depth of Their relationships.

On the other day Guru Maharaj gave a morning class on Srimad Bhagavatam about the qualities of Mother Kunti. That was 1.8.25:

vipadah santu tah sasvat
tatra tatra jagad-guro
bhavato darsanam yat syad
apunar bhava-darsanam

“I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again, so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we’ll no longer see repeated births and deaths”.

The main idea is quite clear here that if one becomes too much absorbed in some material business and thus seems to derive happiness out of that s/he is prone to forget Krsna. When a person comes across some tangible problems in his life he will approach God much easier. That is very natural. But still for a materialistic person who sees things just on the surface it is difficult to understand why should one ask calamities from the One who can give enjoyment. Therefore in material sense these words of Kunti may sound crazy and “smell” slightly of some sadism and masochism. Those are some very strange perverted form of enjoyment.

Guru Maharaj mentioned that even in Catholic Church there was a thing like this: when one feels himself such a sinful person that he sees no other way to repay, other than to take some reaction for that. He would say: “Please come and bit me. I deserve this for all my sins”.

In Krsna consciousness though we don’t accept that but still Mother Kunti expressed that idea here but not in that perverted way.

Guru Maharaj remembered how His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj would respond to his problems: “Whenever I see some test coming my way, I think there comes Krsna in the form of the test”. He was practically celebrating his leaving of the body.

Mother Kunti is an eternal associate of the Lord who comes always whenever and wherever Krsna appears. Therefore it seems that being on such a high level she could be quite relaxed. However she says: “I am in danger in this material world. Please protect me from all those material attractions, otherwise I may fall down. So please, my Lord make these sufferings come again and again. They will force me to accept Your shelter”. It is not that she feels as a great devotee and an eternal associate of the Lord. No, she thinks she is in danger. In this connection Guru Maharaj told us a story about Sridhara Maharaj. Once Srila Prabhupada asked him, could he know what was the difference between him and Srila Prabhupada. The disciple replied he didn’t know that. Srila Prabhupada said: “you may fall down at any moment, but I will never fall down”. Next day Maharaj was with Prabhuapad on the morning arati and he noticed that Prabhupada was softly speaking something as if praying to the Deities. Later Maharaj asked what Srila Prabhupada was praying about. Prabhupada replied, he was praying: “Oh my Lord, please protect me from falling down”. On that Maharaj surprisingly asked: “But Srila Prabhupada, didn’t you tell me yesterday that you’d never fall down?”

Srila Prabhupada replied: “Yes, I will never fall down and this is because I am always praying about that”.

In this way, explained Guru Maharaj, pure devotees are never so self-assured and confident that they can defend Maya. But some devotees think that they can do so. Guru Maharaj jokingly mentioned that once he had seen a sign on a t-shirt: Declare war on Maya. Of course, factually devotees do fight with Maya but they don’t have that false sense of pride and self-confidence.

Then Guru Maharaj gave an example of Sudama, the brahmana, who on returning home found he had forgotten to ask Krsna about money. But still he thought he had been right to forget about this, otherwise, having so much luxuries he might have become bewildered.

Kunti says, she is ready to take any suffering to only always remember Krsna. But what to speak of any calamities, she is ready to take death because happiness of being with Krsna is much stronger than even death.

Actually devotees who are on such a high level of Krsna consciousness may not even notice death. Later they may realize: “Oh, where is my material body? It must have died”.

So having shelter of Krsna may help anyone overcome any sufferings. Even we, said Guru Maharaj, without prema and things like that, should strive for that level and try to get higher taste in Krsna consciousness. That will definitely help us to defend any problems.

And the last thing that Guru Maharaj said was that he warned us not to try and imitate Mother Kunti in her prayers. We have our own problems and up to now and we should have enough of them. Otherwise, if we ask Krsna for some extra sufferings we may feel regret.

On one of the other days we had a nice celebration of appearance day of Lord Balarama in this world. We had to fast till midday but it was not at all difficult ’cause when you fully engaged in devotional service you usually tend to forget about external situation. In the morning Guru Maharaj gave a class on one of the verses of Srimad Bhagavatam (10.8.22). It said:

tav anghri-yugmam anukrsya saeisrpantau
ghosa-praghosa-ruciram vraja-kardamesu
tan-nada-hrsta- manasav anusrtya lokam
mugdha-prabhitavad upeyatur anti matroh

“When Krsna and Balarama, with the strength of Their legs, crawled in the muddy places created in Vraja by cow dung and cow urine, Their crawling resembled the crawling of serpents, and the sound of Their ankle bells was very charming. Very much pleased by the sound of other people’s ankle bells, They used to follow these people as if going to Their mothers, but when They saw that these were other people, They became afraid and returned to Their real mothers, Yasoda and Rohini”

Actually, as Guru Maharaj laughed a little later when he was trying to connect to the internet in the “internet café”, he had forgotten to read the verse. He talked about the glories of Lord Balaram, about His outstanding superhuman qualities. That was a very nice spiritual discussion which gave us a lot of deep knowledge about the Supreme Lord. Guru Maharaj showed us different facets of Lord Balarama and His relationships with Lord Krsna.

You will have a nice chance to go through the whole lecture which Guru Maharaj gave that day as he wanted to place it in the site.

After midnight we had feast which, as devotees admitted was very sumptuous and they had not had anything like that for a very long time already. As we all know on the day of appearance of Lord Balarama the important preparation is varuni. And this time it was very tough. One devotee even felt intoxicated and was a little afraid of that because he, as a translator, was just about to translate an evening class by Prabhavisnu Swami. When I told Guru Maharaj about it he asked if he had been given any of the varuni for the lunch. I said, no, he wasn’t. Then he requested: “May I have some of it now, if there is some?” I rushed to the kitchen and fortunately found it.

Guru Maharaj tasted it and uttered something which I could not get exactly but s it sounded like: “M-m, it’s really tough”. Then he added that it was 90% honey. I then asked him what the original varuni tasted like and he replied there were many versions.

In the evening there was another class given by H.H.Prabhavisnu Maharaj. He continued talking about the beautiful pastimes of Lord Balaram. He was reading extracts from Krsna Book and sometimes interrupted his readings with commentaries. All in all he went through almost all main pastimes of Lord Balaram which were presented by Srila Prabhupada in Krsna Book and in this way immersed us deeply in Krsna- or rather Balarama-katha for about two hours. What followed was a big roaring kirtan with devotees running back and forth in the huge temple room. Guru maharaj stopped and started the kirtan many times until everyone was completely damp with perspiration. The usual way of leading kirtanas this time was that Guru Maharaj or Prabhavisnu Maharaj would lead it for some time and then a few minutes later they put the mice off the stand and start running together with devotees up to the distance the extension let them.

One more funny little thing I would like to share with you, dear devotees.

On the last day of the festival in the evening I was busy doing transcribing work for it to be put in the site. I had to miss the last kirtan and stay in my room doing the job. Then someone of the senior devotees loudly said:

“Caitanya, Guru Maharaj is finishing the kirtan. Go ahead. The thing is I was usually sort of escorting Guru Maharaj from the temple room to his room.

And I was already about to rush to the temple room as I heard the sounds of “Hari Bol, Hari Bol, Hari Boli” when a thought came into my mind that even if Guru Maharaj is singing Nitai Gaura Hari Bol it doesn’t really mean he is finishing the kirtan at all. We were laughing with devotees when someone said neither it meant at all Guru Maharaj is finishing a kirtan when he is chanting premadhavani mantras. In his previous Vyasa Puja four years ago he very vividly demonstrated it.

One of the days of the festival was dedicated to ISKCON and Srila Prabhupada. In the evening Prabhavisnu Swami and Guru Maharaj spoke about their early days in Krsna Consciousness. For me, it was the most nectarian time when I had to sit and listen. As our Guru Maharaj himself said: “There is nothing I like doing more than just sitting and listening to devotees who knew Prabhupad explain their experiences with him”. Actually I think I’m just gonna put almost the whole of Guru Maharaj’s speech down here for you to relish it as we relished it there.

Personally I didn’t really have much personal association with Srila Prabhupada but I had a little. My first contact with KC was, I suppose in

1969 when the Hare Krsna record was on top of the hit-parade. But we did not know what it meant at all i and George Harrison was into it. So it must be cool. So we accepted it like that. Then a few years later, it was actually April 1972 I was in university in Auckland, NZ. I was studying there only one subject – philosophy ’cause I was trying to figure out life and myself and so on.

So one day i I was walking through the university grounds there and I heard coming from my right hand sight some funny sound. It was like tinkling of a bell or something. So I just looked over to see what is this. And there not more than 20 meters away was Srila Prabhupad. So Prabhupad was the first devotee I saw. It’s a good start. From that on I don’t know, but that was a really good start. So there was Prabhupada walking through the university.

He had these bright saffron silk clothes on and he was walking with his head leaning back, looking down at the material world. And then there were two young girls, who were in their early twenties or so, one on either side of Prabhupad. And they were dancing very rhythmically, very gracefully. And each one had a basket of rose petals and as they were dancing so nicely they were throwing rose petals under Srila Prabhupad’s feet. And it really was a very beautiful scene! And a thought spontaneously came into my mind – this must be like heaven! So there were some other people just behind them i those were the ones who were ringing the bells or playing karatalas. So there were also a couple of other young ladies and maybe 3 or 4 young boys.

They had shaved heads. In those days to have shaved head or to have short hairs was extremely uncool. And I had very long hair. So I saw those boys and I thought: “Oh on, this is no good!” Then Prabhupad was walking up right passed me and in the middle of university there was a little like a temporary stage set up. i So Prabhupada sat there and the devotees gathered around him and Prabhupada led kirtan. So I was listening to Prabhupada’s singing and I figured out what he was singing. He was singing Hare Krsna. A few minutes earlier I could not understand what they were singing. i Then I thought: “Oh yeah, this is Hare Krsna!” And I thought: “Maybe he is Krsna”.

Then Prabhupad gave a talk and somehow it penetrated deep into my heart and a number of my friends became devotees and my life started changing.

At that time I was studying but I was not very interested, I would hang around the city and I found I was just spontaneously doubting the people and their materialistic way of life. “Look at what they are doing! They are just wasting their time!” And I would get into the whole meditation and after a while I would become depressed ’cause I could not really understand there was an alternative.

So later that year I went to England. I stopped in Australia for a couple of months or so and I was a member of a surfing community, so to speak. And one of the friends i was in the Australian surfing world championship team but he was a devotee. He surfed i with his shaved head and his sikha. So what this fellow did, he made a “simply wonderful”. That big! It was a really serious “simply wonderful”. And he gave it to one of the other boys in the surfing community. And that boy’s name was “spider”. And he went to every surfing house in Sydney with this “simply wonderful” prasadam. And he’d say: “Here, take a bite! Ted Spenser (who was that big famous surfer-devotee) wants everyone to have a bite”. By the time it reached us it had become quite a bit smaller and there were tooth marks all around it. And “spider” came and said: “Here, take a bite! Ted Spenser wants you to take a bite” So I looked at it and I thought: “Oh-h, I don’t know” But he pressed me, so I took a bite. So it also must have had some effect. That was my second contact.

Then I arrived in London in 1972. Right at the end of December I visited the temple. So I visited for a few days and I also bought a set of Krsna Books.

So on the 3rd day I met the temple president Dhananjaya prabhu. We were discussing about ourselves and it turned out we were related. We have the same surname, very obscure Scottish surname. i So I realized, it’s a sign.

It was meant to happen. So he invited me to come and stay as a guest, and I came the next day as a guest. It was Sunday, January, 7th 1973. And I’m still there as a guest. By the mercy of the devotees. Then George Harrison gave Bhaktivedanta Manor to devotees and then Srila Prabhupada came. When Prabhupad arrived we all came to the Manor to meet him. And the devotees made two lines from the helicopter (in which Prabhupada came) into the Manor and Prabhupada walked up thru those lines. So I was one of the new boys and we were at the end of the line, inside of the Bhaktivedanta Manor, at the bottom of the stairs. Prabhupad came thru and he stopped right in front of me and a couple of other boys. Of course we offered our obeisances and Prabhupad stopped there. He was talking to somebody and we were just down and we stayed down offering our obeisances. And the devotee next to me put his hand out, stretched out and touched Prabhupad’s foot. And we were all down, looking from the side watching this happening. And then that devotee down turned to me and went i (guru Maharaj demonstrated how the devotee was pointing his finger at Prabhupad’s foot). So I stuck my hand out but Prabhupada was just slightly further away from me i so I had to really stretch out, out, out. And one devotee, I think, it was Brahmananda Swami saw me doing this. So with his danda he banged on my hand. But I continuedi and I just touched Prabhupada’s foot. Special mercy.

Then the Janmastami came and by that time I was at Bury Place, Central London Temple as the temple commandant. Maharaj (Prabhavisnu Swami) was president. It was, I think, a night before Janmastami. We were all looking forward to going out and having the festival with Prabhupad at the Manor.

But Maharaj told me, (’cause we are basically sort of more or less running the temple) in his usual very, you know Maharaj, ivery firm way: “One of us has to stay! Because, you know, it’s a temple and Radha Krsna Deities. And people coming and there had to be Janmastami program there also”. So you can guess (Guru Maharaj addressing the assembled devotees) which one of us had to stay. But it was very nice and next day I went to Vyasa Puja.

I remember that lecture of Srila Prabhupada. It was very striking.

Prabhupada was talking of being Guru, what it means and the thing which struck me the most, which I remember to this day. Prabhupad said: “Guru is one. There is one Guru”. In other words, in a certain sense, Guru is a principle. Of course in another sense each Guru is an individual with his own personality and so on”.

At that point Guru Maharaj stopped his talk because, as he said, there was so much to say more.<

Prabhavisnu Maharaj also spoke a lot about his coming to the movement, how he joined the temple, how after just a few days he and a couple of other young devotees were sent by Srila Prabhupada to open a centre in another city and so on and so forth.

That day of the festival is supposed to be the most memorized day out of all. We had big kirtan afterwards. It was amazing!

So this is very wonderful that our spiritual masters give us this opportunity to relish at least a little and at least sometimes and at least a part of the spiritual atmosphere. For that we should owe the greatest debt of gratitude to them.

Now the devotees from Irkutsk and Angarsk are already thinking of how to arrange the next festival. Guru Maharaj said he would try to bring H.H.Bhakti Visrambha Madhava Maharaj and maybe some other senior devotees to us next year. So we are all looking forward to having even bigger festival next year.

Guru Maharaj ki-jaya!!
Guru ISKCON ki-jaya!!
Srila Prabhupada ki-jaya!!

Your servant,
Caitanya Prema das.

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