Dear devotees and friends,

Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I’m sitting here on a ship, about to make the crossing from Helsinki in Finland to Tallinn in Estonia. As I sit here, in front of me are some people eating some type of meat sandwiches, and a question flashed into my mind.
Should I try to stop them, or leave them to their karma. I remember being in a similar situation with my mother in New Zealand, and lecturing for some time on the subject of vegetarianism and it’s value, and the negative implications of meat eating…

She sat there quietly, and when I came back a little later she was eating some meat! So I took that as a sign, and since then I’ve let her be, although when I cook and offer prasadam at her place she is always waiting for a little plate, and makes excited little exclamations of “mm!” as she eats it. I guess the indirect approach is more effective.

As I sit here on the boat I am remembering Indradyumna Maharaja’s latest installment of “Diary of a Travelling Preacher.” He told a rather unpleasant story there of an experience he had while traveling in devotee clothes: “I heard some laughter and looked up to see five young white men in their late teens approaching me.
Before I had a chance to stand up they were directly in front of me. One of them, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and looking slightly intoxicated, started talking. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘I always wanted to find a Hare Krishna alone and beat the hell out of him.’

Maharaja continued: “At first I thought he was making a sick joke, but when he began rubbing his knuckles I understood he was serious. He took a step forward. ‘First I’m gonna smash in your teeth,’ he said. One of the other boys looked around nervously. ‘Do it quick before somebody comes, Tony,’ he said.”

By Krishna’s mercy Maharaja was saved, as a policeman then came by, but still it was quite unsettling to read, and I considered my own situation.
I’ve been traveling for so many years now in all parts of the world, almost always in devotee clothes other than when I go through certain very sensitive parts of the world like the Middle East. But despite all this I’ve never been attacked or threatened even.

I remember the first time I went to India, in 1976, with a group of devotees from the London temple, and we flew on Iraqi Airways, stopping for some hours in Baghdad. There were some young Muslim men standing around the airport, and if looks could have killed we would have died on the spot. But still nothing happened.

There was only one time when I was really attacked, and that was extremely minor. I was on a harinama with devotees in Manchester, and some young louts attacked us, and somehow focused on me. One of them butted me in the chin, which didn’t hurt at all, but the other devotees took extreme offence to this and laid into the young boys.

There were only about 4 of the boys and about 20 devotees, so the boys didn’t stand a chance. One of the devotees was wielding his karatalas most effectively. He was holding one karatala and spinning the other on the end of the strap and then he let a boy have it, full force, on the head. There was blood everywhere, and soon the boys were begging for mercy.

But since then it has been remarkably peaceful.

I have been in Helsinki for about 4 days, doing a seminar on Tattva Sandarbha. Helsinki is a very exemplary temple, with about 15 devotees resident, and all them very fired up about spreading Krishna consciousness.
My disciple Avadhutacandra is the sankirtana leader, under the guidance of the Temple President Tattvavada prabhu, who is a brilliant leader.

But the thing that particularly struck me during this visit was a devotee named Caitanyananda. He used to be the sankirtana leader, but then in December he was diagnosed to have full fledged melanoma, or skin cancer, the same form of the disease which took Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja from us. Despite having a one kilogram tumor cut out of his shoulder, Caitanyananda is continuing on, fully engaged in devotional service and not lamenting or complaining at all. Tumours have appeared in his lungs and liver, but he doesn’t let it slow him down, hardly at all. Of course he can’t go out on book distribution now, but he’s practically the life of the temple, always attending the morning programmes and encouraging the devotees in their devotional service. May we all have such a consciousness when our times come.

I know I haven’t written for a long time. I’m sorry about that. I’ve been busy producing the Vraja Mandala Parikrama DVD set, and as soon as I finished that I had to do the Cape Town Rathayatra DVD, and then the Durban Rathayatra DVD set, and they have demanded all my time. But now I’m on the road again, without major DVD projects to do, so I hope to be in touch more often.

Hoping this meets you well.

Your ever well wisher,
Bhakti Caitanya Swami

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