Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kirtan Weekend in Florida

Florida- Thursday Nov. 24
"The trees look very thin. Their mother must not be feeding them properly"
"What did Samyu say?"
His mother repeated for all in the van to hear.
After a good laugh, we looked at the trees as we sped by.
In Florida, large stands of pine trees are grown in rows for chipping into pulp for paper.
They quickly grow tall and thin.
A four year old boy has a different way of viewing things.
"You should keep a journal of these things" I advised. "Let him laugh when he is old enough to understand how funny they are"

An hour later we arrive at the Alachua Hare Krishna Community. http://alachuatemple.com/
Over 600 devotee families live in the area. There are several schools, lots of musicians and a beautiful temple. A weekend of Kirtan had been organized, drawing devotees from near and far for the extended weekend. There is no talk of 'Black Friday' shopping, or football games here.
A schedule had been posted showing who would lead the kirtan at which time.
I was given 10 AM Saturday, and requested that the drums be very quiet so we can hear the strings and voices.
"Sure, we can announce that on the website and enforce it for you when you start"
The coordinators are all 'Kids'. Many of them were Samyu's age when I first met them.
These 'Kids' are everywhere, taking on responsibility for everything including raising their own batch of kids. The kitchen is full of them, cooking for hundreds, three times a day.
Jagannatha Puri Dham cooks for the Krishna Lunch Program in Gaineseville University where 600 to 1100 plates are served every day, a tradition since 1971.

Walking the farm road to our guest quarters, I drop in on Dravinaksha who is preparing to cut and press his sugar cane. He's testing his press and I assist by drinking a few glasses of sugar cane juice. We had cut and pressed sorghum a few weeks ago here in NC, so we compared notes. Sugar cane juice is sweeter than sorghum which has a "dark" molasses flavor. "I'll come by tomorrow after my kirtan slot to help with your harvest.", I promised, " It will be nice to get the experience, something to add on my resume."

My son Narayan tells me there is a joke going around,'How many Prabhupada Village kids does it take to screw in a light bulb? Only one, and he won't need a ladder". All kids from our village are well over 6 feet. "It must be something in the water", claims Narayan,"Anyone want some?" as he holds up a water jug, a couple of young ladies take his offer.

The Mayapuris are performing in the kirtan tent. It's difficult to hold a conversation or do anything but take part. Their rhythms are so compelling, the melodies, the flute all combine to draw your mind away from whatever you're doing. The crowd in the tent swells, the internet audience grows. All this is streaming live on the temple website.

Madhava is on next. Well known for his meditative yet energetic kirtan style, the tent fills further. Madhava is famous here and around the world. His name has drawn many to this event. I've heard recordings of him, but never seen him in person.
I hear the familiar voice through the speakers and work my way into the tent to get a look and experience the magic first hand.

A sign reads, "Sleeping Children" The floor of a tent is covered with bundles of cloth in the darkness. Samyu is stretched out among them. It's 11 PM, Madhava is still singing and no one wants to leave. He's been slowly, carefully building the tempo, creating a mood of devotion. Some disco lights go on, and everyone cheers. It seems appropriate somehow, rather than distract, it creates a deeper focus on the mantra. Everyone is up, dancing gently to the beat and singing loudly.
Here is a clip from last year;

Audio clips from last year, this year's are not posted yet.

Next day, as promised, I am in the sugar cane field, stripping leaves from the stalk. I am followed by two other devotees with machetes who cut the canes and load them into the trailer. When it's full I return to the kirtan with a liter bottle of cane juice to share.
This is the fourth kirtan festival I've attended this year, all of them inspired and organized by Hare Krishna kids, each one seems to be sweeter than the last, like sugar cane juice.
There are plans for another event in Hillsboro next month.

Driving back to North Carolina, looking at the skinny Florida trees, I wonder what nice things Samyu will bring about in his life.
I wish you a long duration of life to witness it.