Dear devotees and friends,
Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
While in Siberia I received information that my material mother had passed away, and they were delaying the funeral till I came. Of course it would have been much easier if they had just carried on without me, but they were pressing me a little, so I decided to go.
In the meantime I returned to South Africa for Janmastami in Durban, which was a very wonderful festival, and then left for New Zealand on the morning of Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa Puja. It was the first time I’ve ever missed this festival, and I regret it very much. Srila Prabhupada is my real parent. In Prabhupada Lilamrita there is a passage: “One of the girls asked, ‘Prabhupada, will you be our father eternally? Will you always be our spiritual master, eternally?’ Prabhupada said, ‘Yes, I think so.’ Then he quoted a verse, cakhudana dilo yei janme janme prabhu sei, but he said, ‘janme janme pita sei. The one who has opened my eyes-he is my father life after life.”
My parents from this lifetime are something else. Actually my father was sometimes quite favourable to Krishna consciousness, although sometimes not, and the same with my mother. But one way or the other they are temporary
relationships, as Srila Prabhupada describes: “As water passes down a river, many straws and grasses are carried from the shore. These straws and grasses come together in the river’s current, but when the waves toss this way and that, they are separated and carried somewhere else. Similarly, the innumerable living entities within this material world are being carried by the waves of material nature. Sometimes the waves bring them together, and they form friendships and relate to one another on a bodily basis of family, community or nationality. Eventually they are thrown out of association by the waves of material nature. This process has been going on since the creation of material nature.”
I stopped for the day in Kuala Lumpur and stayed with Gauracandra prabhu, which was very nice. We went and visited some of my disciples there, and spent the day in a happy mood, before continuing on on the 4th night to Auckland. On arrival I met with my brother and then went to the temple to stay.
I was there till the 10th, and during that time the main thing was the funeral itself. There were about 50 or 60 relatives and friends of the family present for it, and afterwards we met together for an hour or two and talked. It was quite amazing, as all of them came up to me, one by one, and spoke very nicely, and a number of them asked about Krishna consciousness, which surprised me greatly as they were all what would generally be described as very respectable and well placed people in society in Auckland. All in all they seemed very favourable and even in some cases appreciative
of Krishna consciousness.
Then I flew back to Kuala Lumpur on the 10th, to spend the day there on the 11th, and do two preaching programmes with my disciples, and then returned to Johannesburg, South Africa on the 12th morning, Sunday. We left Kuala
Lumpur at 2 in the morning, their time, and at about 6 in the morning the same day I walked off the plane and into Krishna Smaranam prabhu’s new car, and we immediately drove off to Ermelo for Rathayatra, which was taking place the same morning.
We got there around 10 and the procession began shortly afterwards. I was quite exhausted from the travelling, so I stayed on the chariot and threw sweets to the local children till we reached the Ermelo Town Hall around midday or so.
ISKCON in Ermelo is headed up by Prabhupada Priya das, a disciple of mine, and his family. Various of his other relatives have been devotees for some time, but he never really seemed so interested, but then suddenly he transformed into a first class, fully dedicated devotee, practically overnight. It was quite amazing.
Now he has stopped working, extended his house to include a full size temple room, and has installed Deities in his house, including a full size Deity of Srila Prabhupada, and he holds Sunday programmes there and goes out around the region dong preaching programmes regularly.
The next morning I flew to Durban for Radhastami. There we have Sri Sri Radha Radhanatha, the presiding Deities of ISKCON in South Africa, and every year the Radhastami festival is something very special. Even though it is usually held on a week day (this year was Wednesday) hundreds of devotees take the day off and spend the whole day at the temple, taking part in the different programmes.
This year I had to give four classes, for a total of about six hours, about Srimati Radharani and matter related to Her, which was really quite amazing, even though it was tiring. Srimati Radharani is very merciful if we try to serve Her and Her beloved Lord Sri Krishna.
The next day Arjunacarya prabhu and I drove to Newcastle, about 4 hours away, and did a programme with the devotees there, and then the next morning we set off on the 5 hour drive to Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State. It used to be one of the great capitols of apartheid in South Africa, but now Rupa Raghunatha prabhu has established an ISKCON centre there and the preaching is going nicely.
The following day we drove for about 4 hours to Johannesburg to take part in the South African National Council meeting there, and the following day, Sunday the 19th, we took part in the Soweto Rathayatra. Soweto used to be the main African area in South Africa, and even though there is no apartheid now, still it is an almost exclusively African area, with probably 2 million people living there.
The leader is Mahaprabhu das, an African bodied disciple of Giriraja Maharaja. Mahaprabhu has been a devotee about 25 years, and is completely dedicated to preaching full time in Soweto, despite having to maintain his wife and two children. The festival was an amazing success, with hundreds of Sowetans taking part and dancing and chanting very happily.
I stayed on for a few days in Pretoria, which is right next to Johannesburg, and did some programmes there, before returning to Durban on Thursday the 23rd.
Now I’m sitting in Johannesburg airport, waiting to fly out to Moscow and then to the Black Sea for the Russian annual summer festival. I’ll write again shortly after that.
Hoping this meets you well.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami