Friday, June 22, 2012

Hare Krishna Youth Bus Tour 2011

My son Narayan decided he wants to go on the bus tour this year. The tour has been described by many of my younger friends as a "turning point " in their own lives, a defining event that shaped their future, created opportunities and clarified their intention in life to act as a devotee of Krishna.

 The tour begins in Alachua Florida, home of North America's largest Hare Krishna Community.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

24 Hour Kirtan Event in West Virginia

The following was written by RadhaGovinda dasi.
Her family hosted our visit to Panama last winter.
She attended the 24 hour kirtan in New Vrndavan, West Virginia last week and took the time to write of her experience. I think you'll enjoy it,especially if you go to this link
and play number 07 Madhava while reading.

"Using our 14th Wedding Anniversary as an excuse, we traveled to New Vrindavan for the Annual 24 hour kirtan. Before even setting out we were tested as Prahlad vomited throughout the night and 4:30 in the morning we had to take him to the hospital. I'm always nervous about anything that involves being on time, a trait inherited from my Dad. We had to reach at the airport for 7 so I was in complete anxiety for both things. 
We did make it but I left with a very heavy heart. Sometimes I feel selfish that I leave them for attending kirtans but I convince my myself that they are taken care of so nicely  by my mother in law and Yolie. Prahlad was so cute that morning showing total dependence on us. My heart was melting and I got a realization. "Just like when a child becomes totally dependent on the parents their hearts melt, so if we become totally dependent on Lord Krishna his heart will melt for us!"
My heart was divided, wanting to be in the kirtan and longing to be with Prahlad. 
I'm now in the airplane flying towards Pittsburg. From the window below me are majestic mountains and untouched lands surrounding. Every minute passed I feel closer to attending the kirtan and somehow I'm thinking about just seeing everyone's smiling faces and feeling inspired. I feel as if I'm a part of a big happening. In my rush in the morning after returning from the hospital I forgot to take blessings from Lord Jagannatha. I mentally bow to him and beg him to let me get totally absorbed and take full advantage of the kirtan. 
11.00- Arriving at the temple we felt the mood saturated with happiness and we immediately snapped into it. I was not eager for meeting people as I felt that I didn't come for socializing but to try to get the full benefit of the kirtan. I reasoned that we spent so much money, left the kids, left the shop and came so better to take full advantage of what we went for. So when I saw some devotees taking a Mauna Vrata (vow of silence) I understood that I was not the only one thinking about full advantage. I didn't take a Mauna Vrata though as I didn't feel ready. 
Opening the kirtan is Madhava Prabhu. Just hearing the first chords of the harmonium I knew this was going to be special. The temple room is packed and I feel like an outsider, like a sinner not deserving enough to be among everyone. He is singing. Each devotee's expression is unique as I look at them I feel inspired to get into the mood like them and try to experience a drop of what they're feeling. A mother and daughter is hugging and singing. I see kids maybe as young as 4 chanting, I see old ladies pouring out their hearts chanting, I see from the highest rank devotee to the lowest (me) chanting. I close my eyes and try to feel Krishna's presence. I feel like a pretender but slowly I feel myself getting purified. The mrdanga beat and my heart beat becomes one. The kirtan starts off with a sense of yearning or longing then it builds up and the feeling of achieving comes, as if Krishna is going to appear any moment, and ends with a sense of yearning and longing again. My whole body and senses has become very alert and I'm aware of everything around me ... The touch of the kartals, each mrdanga beat, each chord strummed in the guitar, each note played on the harmonium and I'm totally absorbed in trying to think of Krishna. Then the unexpected happens to me, I start crying. I start missing Krishna, feeling as if I know him and want to be with him. I understand this has to be the devotees mercy around me because for myself I'm a hard hearted being and this is only because of the devotion surrounding me. I feel grateful for this experience and vowed to keep it etched in my mind for a long time. 

12:00 Kirtan by Bada Haridas Prabhu, 

His voice has a kind of melancholy sweetness, its simple but makes you feel as if you're floating in the sky. I look at his face when he sings and every one of his wrinkles join together and create a blissful face. He's also climbing the ladder gradually of longing, achieving and again longing. I entered the temple room more conscious about people around and feeling myself full of ego. However by his chanting I feel myself getting cleaner. I'm now focused of what's going on inside of me and I'm trying to savor every moment holding on to it. I don't want to be surrounded by goodness and get influenced by my spaced out mind. I'm surrounded by the best musicians, the best singers, the gorgeous deities, the beautiful ladies and the kids and my mind is battling to let it all enter at once. Prabhu has reached its peak in the kirtan  and the heights is a kind of un-explainable phenomena. Everyone is calling out to Krishna in loud voices and I'm thinking today has to expand himself to hear each one of his devotee's cries.

 3:00 - Heavy lunch so my mind is struggling to get into the mood again. Jagannatha Kirtan is singing one of my favorite tunes. I look at the devotees faces and try to catch some drops of influence from them. I realize I am so fallen and I feel myself getting purified just by being around everyone. Since the crowd is getting less (lunch) I gather my courage and put myself closer to the inner circle. I don't know if its a natural division but in the inner circle is sitting all the best musicians with their wives or girlfriends, the second circle one after that comes people who know them and aspire to get in the inner circle, the 3rd is the people who want to get as close as possible and the 4th are the Indian ladies and kids. I sat at the 4th as I didn't feel pushy now just for the moment :-) and seeing how expert the devotee musicians are I feel like an insignificant fly kirtaniya. So I backed out humble as I am... LOL.
You can listen to the entire 24 hours of kirtan at this site;

4:00 Kishori Yatra - 
Young kids have that attractive innocence and their combined singing sounds beautiful. I can see some are nervous to get in front of the microphone but they are being encouraged. I can see that this is Iskcon's future for sure. The mother's are all very proud seeing their kids singing and especially one Mom is almost flipping out in bliss seeing her daughter sing. 

4:30 - 
I did get a bit pushy so I asked if I could do some back up singing. I don't know what it is but being closer to the kirtan just feels right. As a kirtan leader I don't feel part of the whole thing if I'm not directly doing something. Alright so some devotees are doing japa ! I'm wondering if they're not sure if we're all singing Krishna's names. It shouldn't be bugging me but it is :-). I'm surrounded by loud kirtan but sleep is overcoming me. I'm looking at a mother putting her baby to sleep on her lap and I'm wishing that was me. I shake my body and try to focus.

6:30 Gaura Mani. 
She is one of my favorites. Her kirtan is like the rain falling and soaking us in bliss. When she sings, only beautiful thoughts can come to mind. She starts like the gradual opening of a lotus. Each petal is delicately opened and getting ready to offer to the Lord. Finally the summit when the lotus is ready to offer she blows our mind with Hare Krsna Kolaveri style. Super cool! I throw away my umbrella of false ego and feel the sky open and I get totally soaked by mercy. 

Kirtan classical style. The back up singer voice is out of this world! Each note she sings is nothing less than perfect. 

8:00 : Radhanatha Maharaj.
The temple room is jam packed and Maharaj floats his way through the crowd. He's singing a very mellow tune and the response is roaring. There's a group of devotees in black (Men in Black) obviously all Maharaj's disciples are all joined in hand in hand and dancing. Somehow the Indian crowd is going mad by Maharaj's singing. The ladies are dancing gracefully and with lots of devotion. After some time Maharaj encourages everyone to get up to dance so we're all shoulder to shoulder sweating and dancing. The atmosphere is full of energy and then he sings "Hare Hare" "Radhe Radhe" to which the crowd goes loco. Everyone abandons all reservations and starts shouting. Then I get carried away by the waves and I'm shouting, screaming, jumping. I'm feeling full of life and I'm giving myself fully to experience every moment. Maharaj has raised the kirtan to another level. There are 500 hundred people shouting and I'm trying to hear myself shouting so I'm really shouting Radhe Radhe and then obviously my voice gets sore. 

9:00 - Agnideva Das
I always marvel at his effortless singing. His voice sounds same on c.d and same in live. 

10:00- Gaura Vani 
His each and every note is faultless and after the jamming kirtan of Radhanatha M Gaura vani is doing it sweet and tranquil. 

11:00- Vish and Vrinda
Vish is  my favorite all time singer. I feel that he has perfected like we hear the description of the spiritual world of every word being a song. He's already there. His mood is always correct and one cannot help but appreciate the beautiful couple they make. Every time I see them I feel like blessing them to remain together forever! 

12:00 - Slept till 3.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mr. Enthusiasm

Hare Krishna Youth Bus Tour 2011 in L.A.
The day before last year's Los Angeles Ratha Yatra festival, the temple neighborhood was buzzing with activity. The kitchen had been cooking for thousands, vanloads of flowers were being delivered to be strung into garlands to decorate the carts in the parade. Happy reunions were celebrated with hugs, visitors wandered in amazement. In the midst of all this, our two busloads of Krishna teenagers enjoyed the excitement and the opportunity for the boy's bus to mix with the girl's.
Vaisesika approached such a mixed group,"I've got a challenge for you, an assignment. Are you up for it?"
"What is it? What do you want us to do?" Teenage giggling, boys trying to look cool...
"Well, I can't tell you unless you agree first that you will do it and try your best."
He had captured their interest, their curiosity and sense of adventure.
"What is it?"
"I can't tell you, it's against the rules."
They looked at each other, smiled, laughed. They were here for fun. If helping is fun then we might as well."OK"
"Great ! Welcome to team potato racket ! Put your hands in."
They made a circle, putting their right hands in. In that huddle Vaisesika gave their running orders as if they were in a spy movie," We need you to locate appropriate boxes from the recycling bin for all the potato rackets in the kitchen."
They don't know where the kitchen is, the recycling bin or even what a potato racket is, but the presentation is so much fun, they all laugh, ready to go.
"Now the record for this was set last year at exactly...", Vaisesika glances at his watch,"..47 minutes and 14 seconds. Do you think you can beat that ?"
They run at full speed, gathering the boxes and filling them with crunchy potato rackets, a snack item to be served at the next
day's festival. 

An hour later I see Vaisesika organizing several devotees to make packets of books to be given away. "This is the No Book Left Behind program established by our president."

  Wherever he goes Vaisesika infuses the situation with his contagious enthusiasm. Because of this, a crowd gathers around like clouds around a tall mountain. I've never seen them appear disappointed, he never fails to deliver.

Vaisesika will be in Hillsborough for a brief visit. The purpose of this visit is to inspire us to present spiritual books to complete strangers.Even if you have no intention of following through in this adventure, you are welcome to this seminar and get the opportunity to meet him face to face.


Friday, June 29 - Sunday, July 1 2012
We are excited to announce that Vaisesika Dasa will be visiting North Carolina to train devotees in the fun and glorious art of book distribution. He will not only conduct seminars and give practical tips about book distribution, but he will also give devotees a chance to taste the sweetness of distributing transcendental literature through direct experience. He has been described as a "spiritual sonic boom" and "book distribution incarnate." Srila Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, states that "Book distribution is the greatest welfare activity to this world". People are eternally benefitted by these books, both the distributor and the receiver. Don't miss this opportunity to relish the nectar and spiritual benefit of giving Krishna to others!

We are building a team and taking down names of people who would like to join the Monthly Sankirtan Festival on an ongoing basis, beginning with initial training by HG Vaisesika Dasa. If you are interested in joining or would just like to know a little more about it, please contact Lila-sakti Devi Dasi at or 919.448.5178 cell/919.883.2204 hp.  

Vaisesika Prabhu is a disciple of ISKCON Founder-Acarya His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. For thirty-six years Vaisesika Prabhu has been traveling, lecturing, counseling and inspiring devotees and other serious aspirants of spiritual life throughout the world. Vaisesika Dasa is founder and inspiration of many projects including the National Sankirtan Team, Sankirtan Strategies Foundation, Motel Gita, Monthly Sankirtan Festival, Weekend Warriors, and many more. http://v

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rainbow Gathering Pennsyslvania 2010

 I love to be in the forest, in natural surroundings, while at the same time, I also love places like New YorkCity where I meet so many interesting people.
The Rainbow Gathering is the best of both worlds. I would estimate 10 to 20 thousand people were there,with campsites scattered throughout the hills.There were no sidewalks,no vehicle traffic,no industrial sounds or amplified music, simply people walking around , sitting under trees sharing food , music and conversations.

Shakti Pati and I chose a shady spot near the "Main Circle",spread a tarp on the ground and decorated the area with pictures of Krishna,a few books and incense.
Shakti Pati opened a bucket of Halava and offered spoonfuls to passersby.
There was constant foot traffic.
Occasionally someone would ask me to play the Mitratar.
When I would comply,the foot traffic would stop and we would soon have a large crowd watching and listening.
(If you haven't seen my home made instrument,the Mitratar, here is a video I recorded a few months ago.)

This would often lead to a question about one of the books on display, whereupon I would invite them to sit and read or discuss for as long as they like.
Some people would request a kirtan, which would again draw a crowd who would sometimes sit for a very long time as this cycle of music, discussion and kirtan would repeat again and again until 1 AM when we would walk to our campsite with only flashlights to help us find the way.

Bear Attack !
The first night we noticed our campsite very different from the way we had left it. Apparently a bear had gotten into our things.We learned that the bears in Pennsylvania have no appreciation for Mangoes.The bear also paid no attention to the Karela (bitter melon) and left them on the ground after tearing the bag open.
We were let off pretty easy with no real damage.Our only loss was a bag of cookies my wife made for us and the two apples.
As we zipped up the tent and laid down on our sleeping bags,we wondered if the bear would return that night.
"You can't outrun a bear.",Shakti Pati said.
I remembered an old joke,"Shakti Pati, I don't need to outrun the bear, I only need to outrun you"
"Mitra,if a bear turns up, there is no way anyone is going to outrun me."
We had a good laugh and slept well without another thought of the bear. We woke the next morning to a nice breakfast of mangoes after cleaning them and cutting out the portions that had been pierced by the bear's claws.It looked like a pencil had been driven through them,I considered what damage such claws could have on my skinny body.
From that day on , we hung our food supplies high in trees and had no more visits.

Roots Acoustic Kirtan 
Nada,from Dallas,invited us to his campsite for kirtans.
We went the first couple of nights and made a lot of friends there.
It's comforting to see how so many varieties of people have incorporated kirtan into their life.

Ovens built on site
Lovin' Ovens is one of the public kitchens.The photo shows four ovens made of 50 gallon drums built into a clay and mud foundation.The cans on top function as chimneys.Fires are built below the drums,in back of the oven. They make rolls and pizzas all day giving them to whoever shows up. They also bring a large supply to serve at the main circle for the evening meal.
This is the first time there was no Krishna Kitchen, I had numerous inquiries where we were set up,as we have a reputation for the best food at the Rainbow Gathering.The devotees who normally do this had been caught up with several other festivals this year.Somehow this one slipped by them.They were certainly missed by all.

Bumper Sticker Wisdom

Leaving was difficult.We had developed a schedule, a routine, and fallen in love with it.The constant cycle of music,discussion and kirtan for hours and hours kept us going with very little need for sleep or food,hiking up and down the steep trail carrying heavy loads of books and halavah(the next week I felt it though).
I learned a lot from the questions of these sincere people.Some had sat for hours patiently waiting their turn to ask a question such as,"What is the nature of reality?"or,"Is it absolutely necessary to have a guru?"
As we drove down the unpaved road I noticed a bumper sticker that read"If things can go really well, they will"
"That's the opposite of Murphy's law. I like it"
"Who's law?"
"Murphy's law.You've never heard that one?'If anything can go wrong it will' "
"This one sounds a bit more positive"
"Yeah, these hippies have to protest against everything."
"Well let's see if they're right.Let's see if we can find our way out of here"
The roads were mostly unmarked,we had had a very difficult time finding our way in.
The directions to get us out proved to be entirely inaccurate and we found ourselves somewhere very different from where we were supposed to be.
"Don't forget, 'If something can go really well, it will'"
"I don't know if that applies here.We're lost"
We found someone on the roadside who was able to show us on the map how we were on the best path home.Somehow the imperfect directions had given us the most direct route.
"I guess that proves it"
"Proves what?"
"If something can go really well,it will"
"Yeah,let's keep that in mind"