Dear devotees and friends,
Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I last wrote from Moscow on the way back to the Phoenix Rathayatra at the beginning of this month.
I arrived in Johannesburg early in the morning of July 3rd and went to the usual airport lounge I use there in between flights for bathing etc. Unfortunately I found that lounge is now closed, so I had to go and check in
for my flight to Durban in the clothes I had been wearing all the previous day, and it was only about 11am that I got to shower and change.
Sometimes when we’re traveling we have to go through austerities like these.
I finally landed in Durban and was picked up from the airport by a group of devotees and taken to the Sri Sri Radha Radhanatha temple in Chatsworth. I was one of the group of devotees who raised the laksmi to build this temple from 1982 till mid-1985, so naturally I tend to identify with it and take an interest in it more than other temples. It’s also my “home” where I keep my clothes and books and technical things for DVD making and so on, so I have to go there from time to time.
I finally arrived at the temple around 2pm and met Nitai, my main assistant in Durban, and we worked out my programme for the following 10 days. That evening I had to go to the Phoenix temple to take part in an evening programme there to launch the Rathayatra, and along with Vaiyasaki prabhu I spoke about the background of Rathayatra, and the feelings of Lord Jagannatha when He takes part in the festival.
Caitanya-caritamrita explains: “After taking His seat, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted to hear about a particular mellow of devotional service; therefore, mildly smiling, He began to question Svarupa Damodara: ‘Although Lord Jagannatha enjoys His pastimes at Dvaraka-dhama and naturally manifests sublime liberality there, still, once a year He becomes unlimitedly eager to see Vrndavana.’
In this context Dvaraka-dhama means the Jagannatha temple. Lord Jagannatha every year wants to leave the temple and go to Gundica, nearby, which is said to be Vrindavana.
Pointing out the neighboring gardens, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “All these gardens exactly resemble Vrndavana; therefore Lord Jagannatha is very eager to see them again. Externally He gives the excuse that He wants to participate in the Ratha-yatra festival, but actually He wants to leave Jagannatha Puri to go to Sundaracala, the Gundica temple, a replica of Vrndavana. The Lord enjoys His pastimes day and night in various flower gardens there. But why does He not take Laksmidevi, the goddess of fortune, with Him?”
Svarupa Damodara replied, “My dear Lord, please hear the reason for this. Laksmidevi, the goddess of fortune, cannot be admitted to the pastimes of Vrndavana. In the pastimes of Vrndavana, the only assistants are the gopis. But for the gopis, no one can attract the mind of Krsna.”
Then the Lord and Svarupa Damodara discussed how, while Lord Jagannatha is in Gundica after the initial Rathayatra procession, the goddess of fortune comes with her associates and attacks Him and His followers and demands He return to the temple. He agrees to come immediately, and then only comes a couple of days later. While the Lord was discussing like this, devotees dressed as the goddess of fortune and her followers came and performed this lila, and Lord Caitanya was very happy.
Perhaps some time we will be able to include this in our Rathayatras in Durban. It is called the Hera Pancami festival.
The Rathayatra was quite nice as usual, and there was quite a lot of preaching to do. One downside was that the temple managers had organized a great number of Bollywood dancers to come and perform on the main stage to film music, and many devotees complained to me and other older devotees there. Hopefully it won’t happen again.
On the following Wednesday I went to Tongaat, a nearby town, to take part in their annual Tent Campaign. For four evenings we had programmes in a large tent with 200-500 people attending every night. This is a programme we’ve been doing for about 30 years in South Africa, and I has brought thousands of people to Krishna consciousness.
Sometimes devotees ask me how I can keep up my health with all this traveling, and constant activity, and often I answer them honestly that I don’t actually know. Somehow Krishna keeps me going without any major health crises, but at the same time I see some of my Godbrothers having very hard times with their physical conditions. You all know what has happened with Jayapataka Maharaja. I was there in Bombay when it happened during the GBC meetings in October last year, and despite his making a truly miraculous
partial recover, it’s very unlikely his health will be anything like normal again in this lifetime.
While I was in Durban and Tongaat I heard about the ongoing health difficulties of Partha Sarathi Maharaja, who, like me, has been based in Durban for a long time. He has just had two operations to correct “chronic
inflammation of the maxillary nerve” whatever that is, and then to deal with the post operation stress cancelled all his preaching activities for some time, including giving initiations.
Then Niranjana Maharaja wrote to me: “I have to closely monitor the situation with my spine from one day to the next in consultation with the doctor here in Budapest. If symptoms similar to those which I had on Friday
appear again, it may be an indication that I have 48 hours to get on the operating table. I won’t bother to mention the possible consequences. But needless to say, it is too risky to travel.”
Please pray for these great devotees, and also for me if you don’t mind. Somehow we have to carry on in Srila Prabhupada’s service for as long as possible.
Then on the 13th I flew out of South Africa to Moscow, and then on to Nabereshnie Chelny in the Volga region, south of Moscow. My disciple Mahaprabhu Kripa is with me here, translating and doing other things for me, and he will write a report of this tour shortly.
Hoping this meets you well.
Your ever well wisher,
Bhakti Caitanya Swami