“Everyone has a Right to Live Here and Worship God”
Volume 1, Chapter 8
Thursday May 25, 1995
We put on a Harinama and program in the center of Rostov. The police escorted our Harinama the whole way. I didn’t bother asking Acaryanidhi why, because I remember this was where the Cossacks had threatened to beat us up on our Harinama last year. Today, when Govinda Maharaja was asking for questions after his lecture, a man stood up and defiantly challenged him.
“Why have you come to the land of the Cossacks?” he asked.
At the back of the hall a number of men began moving towards the stage, and we braced ourselves for a fight. But Maharaja began answering his question calmly, emphasizing that this is God’s land and everyone has a right to live here and worship God as he sees fit. The audience applauded his answer, and the atmosphere calmed down. But I felt they wanted blood and that we would meet them again. The rest of the program went without incident.
When we returned to the temple this evening, a group of fifteen devotees, many of them my disciples, approached me with complaints about the temple president and local management. I listened carefully because I’ve learned from many years of leadership to always hear both sides of the issue. But from the beginning I had my doubts about their complaints. I knew Acaryanidhi and his men quite well, and they are competent managers.
After hearing from the devotees, I called for Acaryanidhi and the other managers and heard their side of the story. Then I called both groups in and had them discuss the issues between themselves in front of me. The whole procedure, which was intense, went until 2:00 AM.
Then I gave my verdict. I felt that the complaints were not of a serious nature, most of them stemming from rumors. Other complaints— that the devotees couldn’t always get laksmi for personal needs, that the temple president once called someone a bad name, that he wasn’t personal enough, etc—didn’t warrant the revolution that was brewing.
On the other hand I told the temple managers that they had to have more communication with the devotees. I told them Srila Prabhupada introduced ista-gosthi (temple meetings) so that temple managers could keep in touch with the feelings and needs of devotees. I also reminded them that although some devotees are able to work harder and do more service than others, all devotees are important and should feel protected and cared for.