My first initiation

At festival I was going to ask for initiation from my spiritual master Bhakti Chaitanya Swami, but at the same time some strange voice inside spoke me: ” do not be in a hurry ! You will not manage! You are not  ready!  You are too weak!”.

Sometimes it sounded loud, but sometimes it calmed down. My Godbrother Acharyaratna told me: ” we can wait for 10 years and see if we become more pure, but it may not happen! Only by Guru’s mercy we are capable to get rid from anarthas, therefore it is necessary to take shelter! ”

My mind calmed down a bit, but not too much. However I  had a dream in a train with Maharaja! There was to be a programme at a school, and we were waiting for Maharaja to arrive. Finally He came! We were pleased to meet him, and I for some reason found myself sitting near by Gurudev. Then the dream broke, but i felt more convinced, and I decided to ask Gurudev for initiation.

Then I wrote this poem.

Bhakti Caitanya Swami

4.30am, I rise from bed,
And the sun from my window can’t be seen.
Therefore I pray: “Srimate
Bhakti Caitanya Swamin iti namine!”

My Gurudev – He serves Prabhupada by
Speeches, business, in reality, in dream.
Therefore I bow: “Srimate
Bhakti Caitanya Swamin iti namine !”

And if maya comes crawling inopportunely,
and the intelligence flashes with sensual fire
Therefore I pray: “Srimate
Bhakti Caitanya Swamin iti namine!”

He is like a  doctor in a saffron gown!
He is Gauranga-soldier on a horse!
With great respect I pray: “Srimate
Bhakti Caitanya Swamin ite namine!”

Words are simple. But the instructions are sufficient:
To settlement, city, village and the country.
And I speak through my heart: “Srimate
Bhakti Caytanya Swamin ite namine!”

I am a rascal and have spent my life.
Pretence, envy, anger sit in me.
One rescue is japa and: ” Srimate
Bhakti Catanya Swamin ite namine! ”

When we have arrived at the festival, I understood that the most important thing that I want at this festival, it is to be near to the spiritual master, and to serve him. I asked Krishna about it. I prayed to the Deities Sri Sri Nitai Gaura Hari who had with us from the apartment of Acaryaratna.

When Maharaja arrived he was met by about 25 desciples and well-wishers. He has flown into Anapa and then he was brought to Кrinitsa, to the hotel “Seagull” where all the senior devotees were staying. It was quite cold, but nevertheless Gurudeva lived there for the whole festival and was available there for darshans

The first darshan.

Even before the first lecture, in conversation with the president of our yatra, Rasabihari prabhu, Maharaja agreed to initiate me, along with Tatyana, Acaryaratna’s wife. During darshan I asked Maharaja, how to develop my spiritual life after initiation. Gurudeva explained:

It is necessary to wake up early and chant early in the morning. If we rise early and we chant our rounds, we will naturally progress in our spiritual lives, but if we rise late and we chant rounds late, our spiritual
lives in due course will deteriorate and come to an end!

I told Maharaja that I already heard him say that in lectures.

– Yes, – he smiles. – I speak all the time about it! Do you chant your
rounds in the morning?

– In part, – I am confused.

– How many?

– Something like half in the morning, the others I chant during day –

Surprisingly, even though my English has remained at a school child’s level, still I managed to understand most of what Maharaja spoke, without a translator. If someone else were to speak  I would practically understand nothing, but my guru speaks as though specially for me! And language barriers start to be erased.

Morning japa.

Bhakti Caitanya Swami  has a wonderful spiritual tradition at the festival – to chant japa in the mornings with his disciples (although actually some others come also). During the festival I came three times for japa  with Maharaja, and I chanted inattentively all three times.

Please try to imagine the situation, that for the whole year did not see the spiritual master, and then meet him! Naturally all your attention will be concentrated on him.

During japa time I always sat near to Maharaja and started to chant the holy names, and even if I managed to concentrate firstly on a sound vibration then gradually all my attention passed to the guru and I started to think of him.

I tried to pull my mind back, and it was possible for me for some time, but then it was again switched to the guru. This was always happening.

The second darsana was in the form of interview for our yatra newsletter. I asked: “Why did Vidura not try to help Draupadi when she was being undressed in the assembly? “, “Why did Bhishma fight on the side of the Kurus? ” “Where does Paramatma go when the soul goes to spiritual world?” Gurudeva patiently answered these and other questions.

Gurudeva’s lectures were held in a small tent. They began at 10.30. First we together with Gurudeva sang a bhajan, then there was a seminar, and then we synchronously chanted one round of japa. In general at this festival it was possible to plunge into Ocean of the holy names in the association of Bhakti Caitanya Swami!

In the second lecture, at the end, Maharaja explained:

– We should chant attentively. One symptom of inattentive chanting is the wrong pronunciation of the holy names. One devotee chanted mantra on beads near Prabhupada. He chanted so quickly that it sounded like: “Snick, snick, snick! Prabhupada heard him and said: ” Be careful! Otherwise at the end of this life you may go to Snick-loka! “.

Maharaja also said that some devotees, if they’re chanting inattentively, may miss beads or chant two mantras on one bead. When we were all about to sart chanting in unison Gurudev said that at the end of the round we would check to see if we had all finished simultaneously or if someone still had a bead or two to chant on.

We started to chant. I was nervous. I tried to concentrate, but it was very difficult for me. I was afraid: what if I don’t finish the round on the same bead as Maharaja? Anyway, we chanted like this after every class, but then on the second to last day, when Maharaja finished his round, I still had three extra beads!

The third darshan.

One day prior to it I had a conversation with Rasabihari prabhu . Doubts had again started to overcome me, concerning, about whether I can undertake such responsibility as initiation, whether I can strictly follow the vows so that I serve Gurudeva up to the end of my life without offences. I left the building feeling gloomy. I then met Rasabihari prabhu, who with a severe look said to me: “you think carefully! It is a serious step! You  cannot break principles any more! It will be necessary to tolerate your mind and senses! ” And when I heard the word “tolerate” in my consciousness a gloomy future appeared, a certain grey life: there will be  temptations from maya, kicks, impacts, and similar things, but I must tolerate them!

I felt bad for some reason. And if it were not for the third darshan I do not know, whether I would be able to get out of this condition or not.

At the darsana Maharaja accepted me with pleasure .

– If Maharaja has smth to do  I am ready to come later, – I speak to translator.

– My  only business now is to answer your questions, – smiles Maharaja.

– Well it will occupy some time, – I answer, remembering that it is third darshan, and it is possible there are some disciples who did not see Maharaja.

-For  how  long time? Up to the end of festival ? – Jokes Gurudev, and here I understand, that everything is all right.

We talk about my life, about obstacles in a way of devotional service.

– If one breaks principles after initiation – very big reactions will come – explains Maharaja.

I speak about the excitements before initiation. I ask for instructions  on the future.

Gurudeva responds:

– I think, that you should go to the temple a number of times every week for the morning program!

Maharaja also gives blessings for developing Food for life in my town, Kazan.

“It is necessary to apply intellegence!” And ” Try to double number of those you feed! ” – these phrases I remember better than others.

I vaguely remember the first meeting with Gurudev. It was in 1994  during his first visit to Kazan, when I was a child. When I was 12, I again met him when I interviewed him for our newspaper. Gurudev warmly accepted me and answered all my questions. And when I was going to leave, Maharaja stopped me and started to ask about my life. It touched me deeply. Why was Maharaja was interested in me? Who am I?

I asked myself these questions for a long time after that meeting. And  so this evening, in Krinitsa Maharaja also warmly accepted me and dispelled all my doubts.

The fourth darshan appeared unplanned and took place in the evening, on the eve of the initiation. I helped Gurudev to sort documents for the Russian GBC meeting, and when I was going to leave, he stopped me.

– What’s your actual name?
– Denis
– And who has named you Dravida?
– Prabhavishnu Swami?
– Are you attached to this name? Do you want to leave it?
– Yes I am attached, but I want that you give me a new name.
– No problem.
– And with what and with whom this name should be connected  ?

I had not think about with whom this name should be connected.

– With Lord Nityananda!
– Oh! It’s not so simple to find a name connected with Lord Nityananda
beginning with the letter D.
– Let it will be with another letter!

That was my last conversation with Gurudev before initiation.


I sit in the tent. The beginning is delayed. First comes Govinda Maharaja, then Rohinisuta prabhu, then Gurudeva! Then Bhakti Vaibhava Maharaja and Lokanatha Swami.

Each of the spiritual masters delivers a speech about importance of acceptance of initiation. Bhakti Caitanya Swami concentrates his attention on the 10 offences against the holy name. Lokanath Swami then said that
initiation means taking a new birth. He sang the English song: “Happy Birthday to you!”

– I wish you happy birthday! I wish, that you will not born in a material world again!

After the important  words  the most important part starts – taking vows and giving  names. First a disciple of Lokanatha Maharaja named Vitaly receives the spiritual name Vitalla. There is a Deity of Krishna with such name in india. Actually this Deity was in Ancient Russia.

The turn reaches our Guru Maharaja and up to me in particular. I promise to follow four principles, to chant at least 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra every day.

Gurudev looks straight into my eyes. He is very glad also. He supports me with through his eyes, as if he is saying: “Say the vows more confidently, do not be afraid, I am here! ”

– Your name will be connected with Lord Nityananda, – with a smile  says Maharaja.
– Lord Nityananda is very merciful! From now on you will be known as Doyal Nitay das ! Hari Bol!

– Haribol, – I shout in full ecstasy and I bow. I do not need anything else. Frankly speaking  I had thought of this name on the eve opf the initiation, but it somehow just passed fleetingly through my head. But when Maharaja pronounced it, it was real mercy, from him and Lord Nityananda!

Tatyana, wife of Acharja Ratna also takes the vows.

– Your name is the name of one of the gopis, – says Maharaja. – From now on you will be known as  Taravali devi dasi.! Haribol!

Such were some of the pastimes of Bhakti Caitanya Swami at the Krinitsa Festival in Russia.

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