Dear disciples and friends,
Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I am writing to you after a little longer time than usual. Actually Mahaprabhu Kripa das was meant to write a report about my visit to the Volga region from July 14-27, as he was with me during that time, but somehow he hasn’t done that, and I can’t get hold of him to chase it up. So here is something from my own recollections.
I flew into Domodedovo airport, Moscow, on the 14th early afternoon after flying from Johannesburg via Frankfurt. It had been a grueling flight, and I was looking forward to reaching the destination, Nabereshnie Chelny. Mahaprabhu Kripa met me in the airport with 1000 copies of the Radhakunda DVD in Russian, which he had manufactured and wanted to distribute himself.
We flew later that afternoon and were met at the airport by Atmarama prabhu, a disciple of Bhakti Vijnana Maharaja who is the leader in that town, and he took us to his house where we would stay and hold our programmes.
The Russian summer had officially started, and the temperatures were around 30 degrees Celsius, which was very nice for me. We had programmes morning and evening, and about 20 or so devotees attended.
As usually I had to register with the authorities, but here in Nabereshnie Chelny they were very difficult. My original invitation to enter Russia was from ISKCON St Petersburg, and the people in Nabereshnie Chelny insisted on seeing my registration from there, which I had thrown away the last time I left the country. The devotees told them to look in their computer system, as I had definitely registered in St Petersburg, and it must be recorded there. However they told them that they have no national computer system, and that all these things are done locally, so they needed to see my registration.
We couldn’t produce it so they refused. However when we went on the 17th to Kazan, the devotees went to the local Post Office up the road from the temple, and they immediately registered me without saying a word. Russian bureaucracy is crazy.
If one doesn’t get registration then one can have great trouble when passing through airports, as that is about the only place the police check your documentation. Once when I flew from Kazan without proper registration a policeman refused to let me get on the plane unless Mahaprabhu Kripa gave him 500 Rubles (about $15). You must know that whenever you see a Russian policeman you are looking at someone who is first and foremost a private businessman. It is completely chronic!
When I arrive in Kazan Bhakti Vikash Maharaja was already there. He has many disciples in the Tatarstan region, which is northern Volga area, and every year they have a major festival together. When I arrived they had already started.
I gave class every morning about The Demons in Krishna’s Vrindavana Lila, and The Anarthas They Represent. In the Altai festival I had added the extra twist of having devotees spontaneously act out the stories as I narrated them, and I decided to do it again here. The devotees loved it. First was the story of Dhenukasura. My narration was based of course on Srimad Bhagavatam, but with embellishments from Garga Samhita, an authentic Vedic literature appreciated very much by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. It describes:
“Dhenukasura was having a midday nap when Krsna and Balarama and all the cowherd boys came into the forest. Dhenukasura attacked Balarama and hit Him with his rear legs. Then Balarama threw him 8 miles. This hurt his head badly and he fell unconscious, but then he got up again and attacked the cowherd boys in a terrible four horned form.
“Sridama hit him with a stick, Subala punched him. Stoka Krsna whipped him with a rope. Arjuna and Amsu threw him. Visala and Rsabha kicked him. Tejasvi tried to strangle him. Devaprastha slapped him. Varuthapa hit him with a ball.
“Then Krsna threw him onto Govardhana Hill and he was unconscious for one hour. Then the demon assumed his normal form and grabbed Krsna with his horns and flew into the sky 800,000 miles, but Krsna threw him to the ground and knocked him unconscious, but then he got up again.
“Then Dhenukasura uprooted Govardhana Hill and threw it at Krsna. Krsna caught it and threw it back. Dhenuka caught it and threw back again, and so did Krsna. Then he attacked Balarama again and the Lord killed him.”
Our actors played their parts expertly, and the devotee audience was completely absorbed in the transcendental excitement of the pastime. We will do this again in different places when the time is right.
We moved on to Samara on the 21st and stayed there till the 24th, and then went to Saratov. All through the trip Mahaprabhu Kripa had been doing his best to distribute my DVDs – the Radhakunda and Russian Tour 2009 – both in Russian, plus some of my new bhajana CD, and by the time we finished he had distributed more than 300 and was very enthusiastic about it all.
From Saratov I flew out through Moscow to Riga and then on to the Baltics Summer Festival. We’ll send you a report of what happened there shortly.
Hoping this meets you well.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami