April 29-May 15, 2005
By Indradyumna Swami
I arrived back in Warsaw on May 8, after an absence of nearly six months. My travels had taken me to the far corners of the earth, to such places as Australia, Russia, the United States, and South Africa. People in those prominent countries often consider Poland, tucked away in eastern Europe and off the beaten track, as a place of less importance.
In fact, as I was leaving the United States, one of my Godbrothers hinted as much. “Maharaja,” he said, “maybe it’s time to move on from Poland. What major effect have your festivals really had there?” his remark was partly in jest, so I didn’t bother answering, but his question crossed my mind several times during the flight across the Atlantic to London. The Lord, however, quickly sent an answer. I was in London’s Heathrow Airport, accompanied by several disciples who had come to see me. As I was walking to my connecting flight to Warsaw, I suddenly noticed two cleaning men wheeling portable garbage bins, brooms in hand. They were walking quickly toward me, almost running, with big smiles on their faces.
One of them started speaking excitedly in Polish. “Bylismy na Waszym Festiwalu,” he said.
Gaurangi dasi, a woman disciple from Poland, translated for me: “He says they’ve been to your festivals in Poland.”
“Czy mozesz zaspiewac nam hare Kryszna tu na lotnisku,” the man continued. “To nasza ukochana piosenka.”
Gaurangi laughed. “he wants us to sing hare Krsna right now, here in the airport,” she said. “he says they love our song.”
That surprise encounter was enough reason for me to continue the festivals in Poland, now and forever. Srila Prabhupada once said that by testing a single grain of rice, one can tell whether the whole pot is cooked. That these two men showed such appreciation for the holy names of Krsna surely meant that there were others in Poland as well.
And in case I had any more doubts, the lord gave me another signal at the airport in Warsaw, when I handed my passport to the immigration officer, a woman. She took it and smiled a big smile. Then she spoke to me in English. “Hare Krsna,” she said. “Welcome to Poland.”
But unfortunately, successful preaching often brings the wrath of the envious.
sthane hrsikesa tava prakirtya
jagat prahrsyaty anurajyate ca
raksami bhutani diso dravanti
sarve namasyanti ca siddha sanghat
Arjuna said: O master of the senses, the world becomes joyful upon hearing your name, and thus everyone becomes attached to you. Although the perfected beings offer you their respectful homage, the demons are afraid, and they flee here and there. All this is rightly done.”
[Bhagavad Gita 11.36]
That evening, we held our first Tour Council meeting, and I told the story of my encounter with the Polish men in Heathrow airport.
Nandini dasi spoke. “Srila gurudeva,” she said, “while you were away, we made all the arrangements for our spring festival tour in the northeast of Poland in June. Four towns are eagerly looking forward to our coming. The region is very beautiful, with many forests, rivers, and lakes.”
Radha Sakhi vrinda dasi knew that Nandini was priming me for something else. “you’d better get to the point, Nandini,” she said. “Gurudeva doesn’t have much time.”
Nandini paused for a moment and then looked up at me with a serious expression. “But,” she said, “one of the towns is the headquarters for Civitas Christiana, the biggest anti-cult group in the country.”
I pretended not to be concerned. “But the anti-cult issue has died down over the last few years,” I said.
“Died down, yes,” Radha Sakhi vrinda said, “but not dead. Civitas Christiana are still seething that we won a major court case against them several years ago.”
Nandini continued. “I’m more concerned that the political situation in Poland is changing rapidly,” she said, “and may soon be unfavorable for us. It’s almost certain that one of two right-wing parties will win the next election, in early autumn. you remember the problems we had last time a conservative party was in power.”
“One especially fanatic party has been sending hate mail to Nandini,” Radha Sakhi vrinda said.
Nandini looked at Radha Sakhi vrinda with a frown. “Don’t worry, Gurudeva,” she said.
“He should know how serious the situation is,” Radha Sakhi Vrinda said.
Nandini gave in. “Srila Gurudeva,” she said, “I’ve been receiving terrible e-mail messages from the group we believe were behind the violent attack on our festival in Tomaszow four years ago, and even worse e-mails from individuals of other right-wing political parties. The threats they make against our festivals are so horrible I won’t repeat them.”
“That’s right,” said Radha Sakhi Vrinda. “You remember the right-wing political party that forcefully stopped our harinam in Kielce last spring and then tried to cancel our festival there. Well they haven’t forgotten us either. They’re still trying to stir up trouble on their website by saying we attacked them.”
“Srila Gurudeva,” said Jayatam, “some devotees think we should wait till next year to hold the festivals. The political situation will be clearer then.”
“That, we won’t do!” I said in a strong voice.
Everyone was silent. I thought for a moment. “We should take the threats seriously,” I said, “but we won’t be intimidated. We won’t back down. We have to expect opposition. Srila Prabhupada once said, ‘If there’s no opposition, it means there’s no preaching.’ Mahaprabhu himself had to deal with fierce opposition as well, and so did Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and our own spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, in more recent history.”
“We’ll have to double or even triple our security personnel,” I continued. “We can contact the same company we used last year. We should have security on harinam as well.”
As I spoke I tried to remember if I’d ever seen a harinam party anywhere else in the world accompanied by armed guards.
“Will that be enough?” Radha Sakhi Vrinda said. “These groups are well organized and determined, as we’ve already experienced.”
“It will be enough if we have the lord’s protection,” I said, “and we will have it.”
I paused for emphasis. “he’s given his word,” I said, and I quoted Caitanya Bhagavat:
ksaneke uthila prabhu kartya hunkara
sabare balena “kene bhaya kara kara”
The Lord stood up and roared loudly. He said to everyone, “Why are you so afraid?”
ei na sammukhe sudarsana cakre phire
vaisnavera janera niravadhi vighna hare
Can’t you see the Sudarsan cakra escorting us? It always removes the obstacles faced by vaisnavas.
kichu cinta nahi krsna sankirtana tora
ki na dekha hera phire sudarsana
Do not worry. Chant the glories of Krsna! Don’t you see Sudarsana guarding us?
[Caitanya Bhagavat, Antya-khanda 2.139-141]
As we gathered our things to leave, Nandini came up to me. “Srila Gurudeva,” she said, “can I speak with you?”
“Yes, of course” I replied.
“I hate to say it, especially because I know you’re so tired after your travels, but if we’re to double or triple our security this year, we’ll need a lot more funds.”
“I know,” I said. “I thought I’d take a break for a couple of days and then start thinking about it.”
“But we have to start making plans now,” Nandini said. “you remember we had a situation like this last year, and it was hard for me to get an airline reservation for you to fly to another country at the last minute.”
“There are not many places I can go,” I said. “I’ve been pretty much everywhere.”
Nandini was silent for a moment. “except Russia,” she said. I gasped. “Russia?” I said.
“Russia,” she said. “I know that the people there are poorer than in Poland, but ….”
“Not Russia,” I said. “I don’t want to visit Russia just to raise funds. I go there so rarely. It wouldn’t be fair to my disciples.”
“Gurudeva,” said Nandini, “you know how much your Russian disciples love you. They’ll be happy to see you for whatever reason. And you’d be preaching day and night, as always. half the tour devotees on our festival program are Russian anyway. The Russian yatra is already doing so much to help us.”
“That’s true,” I said.
I thought for a moment. “yes,” I said, “but do you think I’ll survive a grueling three-week tour across the length and breadth of russia?”
Nandini didn’t answer, but we both knew she was right. We had no choice. The show had to go on. The festival program is Lord Caitanya’s mercy on the people of Poland, and the lord would give us the strength, the endurance, and the ability to be victorious.
A few days later I prepared myself for my trip to russia. But first I would go to Ukraine, to the city of Dnepropetrovsk to participate in lord Nrsimhadeva’s Appearance Day festival. I planned to beg for his mercy, that we might be successful in raising the funds required for our 16th festival year, and for the protection that we would surely need.
As I was leaving for the airport, Radha Sakhi vrinda came up to my car. “Srila Gurudeva,” she said, “I’m still in anxiety about the hate mail Nandini’s getting and the future politics in our country. I fear for our safety on the spring festivals.”
“Don’t worry,” I said as my driver started to pull away. “The lord will watch over us as he did for his devotees in the past. It’s the same mission and will get the same mercy.”
dattva cakram ca raksartham
na niscinto janardanah
svayam tan nikatam yati
tam drastum raksanaya
Lord Janardana is not content even after engaging Sudarsana to protect his devotees, so he personally goes to see and protect them.
[Narada Pancaratra 1.2.34 ]