July 5 – 12, 2008
By Indradyumna Swami
The devotees were in high spirits after our resounding success with the festival on the beachfront. The next day we drove to Mrzezyno, the site of our next program. Several devotees asked me whether we could go out chanting earlier than usual.
I smiled. “Conserve your energy,” I said. “We’ve got 43 more festivals to go.”
At no other time of the year do we all work so hard for such an extended period. We put on a major event every day of the week, except Monday, for nearly two months. In other places, devotees may take days to recover from Ratha-yatra or Gaura-purnima, but on the tour, each day is a major festival with another the next day.
How do the devotees do it? By enjoying each other’s company and sharing their good fortune with those who are not yet devotees. It’s not surprising. It’s been going on for hundreds of years.
Sri Narahari Chakravarti Thakura writes: “News of how countless persons were being converted to Vaisnavism spread throughout the land. All of the devotees became enlivened because of this. Harinama das and Ramakrishna das happily engaged themselves in performing sankirtan. As a result, they became completely indifferent towards materialistic life after gaining the most valuable wealth of devotional service to the Lord. Having become devotees, they began to stay with Balarama Kaviraja so that they could always be engaged in hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord.”
[Narottama-vilasa, 10th vilasa]
That morning, our Harinam party chanted down the beach giving out invitations and telling people of the coming event in the evening. The devotees didn’t have to wait long to see the effect of their sincere efforts. As we passed a family sitting in deckchairs on the sand, the man called me and one of my disciples over.
“We’re thrilled that you’re having your festival while we’re on vacation here,” he said. “We came last year and really enjoyed it. In fact, we can’t forget you even for a day. Our four-year-old daughter is your biggest fan. All year long, every day, she sings your song, even in her sleep.”
“Which song, Sir?” I asked.
“Marta,” the father said, “sing the song.”
Little Marta stood up with a big smile and bright face. She began singing:
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
She sang the verse not once, but repeatedly. We excused ourselves and ran to catch up with the kirtan party, which had moved farther down the beach.
A little later, as we came off the beach onto the boardwalk, we saw a 10-year-old boy doing yoga with a collection box in front of him. I was impressed. His limbs were so subtle that he was easily performing yogic asanas that only an accomplished yogi might tackle.
“Where did you learn this?” a devotee asked him.
“I didn’t learn it from anyone,” the boy replied. “It came naturally. I just knew how to do it from when I was very young. I try to teach yoga at my school, but most of the kids aren’t interested. They’re just into football or chasing after girls all day. Some of them even take drugs. They’re so stupid. I’m alone most of the time. I’m trying to collect money here so one day I can go to India and learn yoga from a guru in the Himalayas.”
As we walked away, two verses from Bhagavad-gita came to my mind:
“The unsuccessful yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.”
“On taking such a birth, he again revives the divine consciousness of his previous life, and he tries to make further progress in order to achieve complete success, O son of Kuru.”
After four hours, I brought the Harinam party back to the festival site. Our prasadam van had just arrived, and the devotees ate with gusto. They then took a few minutes to rest on the grass before going on to their festival services. I marveled at their stamina: after four hours of Harinam they were beginning five hours of festival duties with only a short break.
As I walked close to the stage Bhakta Dominik approached me with disturbing news.
“Two nuns were just here, walking around and appreciating the festival site,” he said. “But when they were told that we are Hare Krsna devotees they suddenly became outraged and began cursing us. ‘You’re a dangerous sect!’ one of them screamed. ‘You’ve brought the Devil to our town!’
“The other nun yelled, ‘God will personally smite you down! He’ll punish you and everyone who comes to this festival! We curse you! We curse you that your event will be destroyed even before it begins!’
“Then they went away. A number of people were watching and some left with them. It was very unpleasant.”
I walked around the festival site to be sure all the tents were open and the devotees in their places. Guests were flooding in, and the opening bhajan onstage was just beginning. The sweet music permeated the entire area, creating a wonderful atmosphere.
Suddenly the sound and lights onstage went dead. Our three-ton generator had ground to a halt. Dominik and three boys from the maintenance crew ran backstage and began working frantically.
I was at a loss to understand how a practically new generator could break down. After 20 anxious minutes the audience was becoming restless. Then Dominik came over and told me they couldn’t find the problem.
“Dominik,” I said, “we’ve got five hundred people in front of that stage. They’ll leave unless we can continue.”
I sat watching the crowd. Another 20 minutes passed and people started to leave. Suddenly a big puff of white smoke belched from the generator. Dominik, his body half inside the machine, turned and gave me a thumbs-up. Electricity returned to the stage.
“Start the show,” I hollered to the stage crew. Within seconds the bhajan began, but moments later the lights failed again.
One of the boys from the stage crew called out to me. “Maharaja,” he shouted, “should we stop the show?”
“No,” I shouted. “The sound is working. Continue without the lights.”
It was overcast, making it difficult to see what was happening on the stage, but we had no choice. Dominik and his crew were now under the stage working on the lighting system. Fifteen minutes later the lights came on again. But again the generator stopped, along with the program. Having seen at least part of the show, the crowd was graciously patient as the boys worked furiously to fix the generator. Ten minutes later, it started up again.
“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” I thought. I looked at the thousands of people milling around our festival site, and I prayed that this was the end of our difficulties.
The very next moment Dominik came running up. “Maharaja,” he said, “I inexplicably left all the CDs for the stage performances back at the base. I sent someone to get them, but it will take two hours.”
I was dumbstruck. We had no choice but to play CDs from last year. With a capacity crowd the problems that kept appearing were more than disappointing. I decided not to dwell on them and headed to the restaurant.
On the way, I saw a man sitting down, leaning against a trash can. From his torn clothes, unshaved face, and sad appearance, I could tell he was a homeless person. Coming closer, I was surprised to see him drawing a beautiful picture of the festival with colored pencils.
“You’re very talented,” I said to him.
He looked up. “Thank you,” he said. “I draw only the beautiful things of the world. That way I maintain some hope in my miserable life.”
“Where did you learn to draw like that?” I asked.
“It’s always been a hobby,” he said. “I’m an accountant by profession. I was once wealthy with a prestigious job, a beautiful wife, children, and my own house, but I lost everything.”
“But surely a gifted and intelligent man like you can pick himself up again,” I said.
“Not if it’s my destiny to remain like this,” he said. “I hope to have better luck in my next life.”
“Do you believe in reincarnation?” I asked.
“Yes, I do,” he said. “Every day I read the Bhagavad-gita. It’s my only possession. Many years ago I bought it from someone who was distributing books on the street. It had the original Sanskrit, translations, and purports by Swami Prabhupada. I wasn’t really that interested, but I kept it at home. It’s the only thing I took with me when everything fell apart. It’s in my backpack in the forest, under a tree.”
“That’s amazing,” I said. “Did you know this festival is based upon the teachings of Bhagavad-gita?”
“I can see that,” he said.
I excused myself and continued walking to the restaurant. Two hours later the same man approached me as I was watching our now fully functional stage show from a distance.
“Excuse me,” he said. “Someone told me you’re the guru.”
“Yes,” I said, “I am the spiritual master for some of these devotees.”
“Thank you for taking the time to speak to me,” he said. “I didn’t realize who you were.”
“I’m no one special,” I said. “I’m just fortunate to have met the person who translated the Bhagavad-gita you are reading.”
“I do feel fortunate to have met you,” he said. “I’d like to ask you several questions but I have to leave now. Is it possible we could meet at the next festival in three days? I know the location.”
“It’s a long way,” I said.
“I’ll manage,” he said. “It’s that important to me.”
“Then I’ll see you there,” I said.
That evening a devotee asked a question. “Guru Maharaja,” he said, “some of the devotees are saying that we had so many problems at the beginning of the festival because the nuns cursed us. Do you think that’s true?”
“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “Devotees are always protected by the Lord. What’s more, this festival is just like Vaikuntha, the spiritual world. One obtains only good fortune here. Curses are ineffective.”
Srila Prabhupada writes:
“Because of the curse of Daksa, Narada is never allowed to live continuously in one place. Sridhara Swami, however, has pointed out, na tasyam sapadeh prabhavah: in Dwarka there is no influence of curses or other such evils, because Dwarka is the abode of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is always protected by His arms, as shown by the word govinda-bhuja-guptayam. The conditioned souls are struggling within the kingdom of maya against the cruel laws of material nature, such as birth, death, old age and disease, but if such conditioned souls have the good fortune to enter the city of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whether Dwarka, Mathura or Vrindavana, and live there under the direct protection of the omnipotent arms of the Supreme Lord, Krsna, they will experience the unlimited transcendental bliss of real life, which is eternal and meant to be lived in the personal company of God.”
[Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.1, purport]