Dear disciples and friends,
Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I last wrote to you while on the way to the Cape Town Rathayatra, which took place on December 26th and 27th. We didn’t really know what it would be like, but the devotees organizing it had made Herculean efforts, and organized wonderful facilities for the event. They were determined that it would be a success.
We woke on the morning of the 26th to find rain falling, and I was wondering what Krishna really had in store for us. After the devotees had made so much effort, would He allow that everything be spoiled by bad weather?
But by the time we got down to the site at Sea Point, everything was clearing up, and we arrived to find the place quite a hive of transcendental activity.
There were a few hundred people around, visiting the different tents, like the multimedia tent, the transcendental clothing tent, the yoga tent and the gopi dots tent. It was amazing! Lord Jagannatha must have been so pleased to see so many people participating in His festival for the first time at this very important place.
The local town councillor, a young man named Jean Pierre Smit, gave a very nice welcoming speech from the chariot, standing right in front of the Jagannatha Deities, and thanked ISKCON for coming to his area and putting on a festival like this. Then Kadamba Kanana Maharaja began the kirtana, and the chariot started moving down the road along the beach front at Sea Point.
By this time there were many hundreds of people gathered in front of the chariot, many of them devotees from the Durban and Johannesburg areas, but also many nondevotee guests. Maharaja led a nice kirtana, gradually building up more and more energy, and the devotees danced and chanted along with him.
After some time Indradyumna Maharaja took over the kirtana, and brought everything to even greater heights, sometimes coming back in front of the chariot and dancing gracefully in front. I was on the chariot at the time, videoing, and as I watched Maharaja I was reminded of the descriptions of Lord Caitanya in the Rathayatra in Jagannatha Puri, as described in
“Wherever Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu stepped while dancing, the whole earth, with its hills and seas, appeared to tilt. When Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu danced and jumped high, roaring like thunder and moving in a circle like a wheel, He appeared like a circling firebrandii..Everyone was astonished by the dancing of Caitanya Mahäprabhu, and even Lord Jagannätha became extremely happy to see Him. The car came to a complete standstill and remained immobile while Lord Jagannätha, with unblinking eyes, watched the dancing of Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu. The goddess of fortune, Subhadrä, and Lord Balaräma both felt great happiness and ecstasy within their hearts.
Indeed, they were seen smiling at the dancing.”
All in all perhaps 5000 attended the festival over the two days. I’m sure that the festival organizers, Jyotirmayi prabhu and his wife Bhaktin Verusha, got extra special mercy from Lord Jagannatha for putting on such a wonderful event.
On the 29th I went back to Durban for a few days, to participate in the annual New Year’s Eve programme in Phoenix. I had been a little reluctant to do the programme again this year, as it has been going on since the millennium several years ago, and I was afraid the devotees might be getting tired of it, as it isn’t really a traditional Vaisnava festival, but rather something we spontaneously adopted for the millennium.
Indradyumna Maharaja was meant to come along also, but he was not feeling well, so I had to go and lead the programme on my own for the whole evening, from about 7.30 till after midnight. We had kirtana classes through the evening, but when the time came for the main harinama through the streets of Phoenix the weather was bad, and rain was pouring outside, so we decided to cancel the harinama and continue the programme in the temple.
By this time there were at least 500 people in the temple room, and we continued with more kirtana. The devotees were dancing and singing very nicely, and I was feeling very happy to participate in such a programme.
Finally, just before the midnight arati, the organizer, Rupanuga prabhu, came to me and told me that the rain had stopped, and maybe we could go on harinama after all.
About 200 of us then went out around Phoenix for about 45 minutes.
Unfortuanately the rain started again, and continued on and off, but the devotees’ spirits were not damped, and we had enthusiastic kirtana the whole way through, till we returned for the midnight arati at about 12.30. The kirtana went on till almost 1.30, and by the time we left I was feeling that it was all worthwhile. So many devotees chanting and dancing is always wonderful, no matter what the event is.
On the first I flew back to Lithuania to continue my Russian lessons there.
On the first weekend in January I went to Minsk in Belarussia to do some preaching in the temple there. We had to go in complete disguise, as the government is sometimes quite opposed to Krishna consciousness, but when we arrived we found a wonderful temple with many devotees.
On the 15th I flew from Lithuania through Frankfurt to Los Angeles to visit Giriraja Maharaja. I spent the night there and met with him the next morning and we had a wonderful discussion about many things in Krishna consciousness, culminating in the subject of how there are different versions of some pastimes, and how they may all be correct, even though they are superficially different. Maharaja told me of discussions he had had with Tamal Krishna Maharaja, in which TKG had offered an opinion that if the tattva is correct (the philosophy) and if the rasa is correct, then it may all be acceptable, as it is a fact that Krishna performs the same pastimes many times, but in different ways. Sometimes he kills Aristasura, but sometimes He tames him and keeps him as a domestic animal. Sometimes he banishes Kaliya, but sometimes He rides on him to Mathura when He leaves Vrindavana.
I’lll be leaving Auckland in a few days and heading to Singapore. I’ll let you know what happens there in a little while.
Hoping this meets you well.
Your ever well wisher,
Bhakti Caitanya Swami