Dear devotees and friends,
Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I wrote some days ago with an update about my health and programme, up till the end of February, when I did a tour of parts of South Africa with Arjunacarya prabhu. More and more during that time I felt the need to get into exercise, and tried different programmes from the internet. Some exercises called McKenzie exercises helped noticeably, and I felt somewhat encouraged.
When we got back from our tour we visited a biokineticist in Durban, a Hindu woman who was quite high power and very modern, but it became apparent that it would be better to see a man, and she referred us to a very pleasant young biokintecist who is the chairperson of their society in the Durban area.
Biokineticists are exercise specialists, and our new man, Donovan Pillai, was pretty good. He gave me some sets of exercises and I put them into effect, and sure enough some improvement started to manifest. As a result now I feel about 80% to 90% back to normal physically. The only real problem now is that I can’t sit cross legged at all, and I’m forced to use chairs when giving classes, but that is not so bad.
In the meantime we also had some more CT scans done of my head, and found that the blood clot was reducing in size. When we had the second scan done, in February, the clot had reduced in size by 60%, and then when we went in in March, around Gaura Purnima time, it had disappeared completely, by Lord Caitanya’s unlimited mercy, so any direct danger to my life was now gone.
Now I can more or less walk as normal, and I can sit as normal, so it’s really very encouraging.
As a result of all this my new assistant, Saci Kumar prabhu, and I have now started travelling internationally. We spent a week in Cape Town doing preaching programmes particularly among the students there, and then left for Moscow on May 8th. It was a bit of a difficult trip, with 3 flights, including an overnight stop in Doha, Qatar, in the Middle East.
I have a New Zealand passport and so I was able to enter Qatar without a visa. The girl on the passport counter was a full scale Muslim with all black robes completely covering her except for her face, but when I looked at her I was surprised to see she was extremely heavily made up. She had no eyebrows at all, but just painted eye brows will multi coloured paint over her eyes and her face completely covered in some type of skin coloured paint. I asked her a question but it seemed that the only English she spoke was “no English” so I left it like that and entered the country at about midnight.
I was met by Shahadev prabhu from South Africa who works there as a property manager, and he kindly took me to one of the apartment towers he manages and I was able to take rest there in great comfort. Some of the local devotees were there, and had made some of the best idli I had ever had. They were Indian people working locally, and in the morning we visited one of their flats on the way to the airport.
Shahadev explained to me that the government in Qatar is one of the strictest Muslim governments in the Middle East, and in 2008 they cracked down on all religious organizations other than Muslim ones, and ISKCON was also affected by it. Police came and raided programmes of devotees and then deported some of the main devotees there, even though they were working in important jobs, and had done nothing wrong other than hold Krishna conscious programmes. Christian and other groups were also affected.
So now the devotees have to do everything completely underground, in small groups. They can’t hold any major gatherings at all.
So the next morning, the 9th, we continued on to Moscow, and were met at the airport by Jai Sacinandana prabhu, a disciple of mine who is one of the best known and most successful DJs in the whole Russian speaking world. He took us to the house that he and his wife, Irena, are renting, which was a massive 3 floor Elizabethan style house outside Moscow.
Irena is a famous television personality in Russia. Last year I was waiting in one of the lounges at the airport in Novosibirsk, waiting to fly back to Moscow, and the television was on there. Sure enough Irena was on,
presenting the news. At the end she closed her presentation with “Hare Krishna everyone!”
So now the two of them and their new child Seraphim, or Saci Dulal, are living in this gigantic house in an affluent area, and we stayed with them for two nights before flying off to Kazan in Tatarstan, about a 90 minute flight to the south. We were met there by Mahaprabhu Kripa prabhu, a disciple from the area who speaks good English, and we went to the very nice temple the devotees have built there. Each day we did programmes morning and evening, and Saci Kumar helped greatly by leading most of the kirtanas. Previously I would have to do that, plus give two classes a day and meet a number of devotees in between, and as a result I would often come close to losing my voice. So now Saci Kumar is the official kirtana leader, and he
sings very nicely, so everyone is happy.
On the Saturday we drove to Cheboksara, a smaller city about 2 hours drive away and did a programme with the local devotees there, and then on Sunday the 15th we celebrated Lord Nrsingadeva’s appearance day in Kazan.
I was reminded of a programme I attended some years ago on the same day in Novosibirsk in Siberia. The devotees put on a drama of the appearance of Lord Nrsinga, which turned out to be hilarious. Lord Nrsingadeva was played by an elderly mataji, and she seemed to become a little stunned as she came out of the pillar made of cardboard cartons after Hiranyakasipu struck it, and she just stood there.
Hiranyakasipu was shouting “what do you want?! What do you want?!” but Lord Nrsingadeva was speechless and motionless. Hiranyakasipu then shouted out “I know what you want!!” He then directed Lord Nrsingadeva over to his throne and sat Him down there very courteously, and then with great flair and flamboyance threw himself across His lap, waving his arms and legs wildly before collapsing dead on the ground with intestines pouring out on all sides. Prahlada Maharaja then came forward to offer prayers to the Lord, but the whole scene was so funny that in the middle of the prayers Prahlada became too overwhelmed with laughter to say anything.
Anyway, such are ISKCON plays sometimes.
On Monday we drove on to Nabareshnie Chelny, about 3 hours away, and did a programme for Lord Nrsinga that evening with about 60 or so local devotees, and then on Tuesday the 17th we flew to Moscow and yesterday, the 18th we flew to Murmansk in the north, in the Arctic Circle.
It is the northernmost ISKCON temple in the world, and as we were coming in to land we saw that there was snow everywhere, despite it being the beginning of summer.
We’ll write again shortly.
Hoping this meets you well.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami