September 2007

I took another walk down the Liffey – this time in the other direction. The harbour area is a symbol of Irish economic development. As one bystander remarked, ‘It’s all sprung up in the last four years. It was all old warehouses before.’ Growing up in Johannesburg, I measure the economy of a city by the number of cranes I see. Dublin is a city of cranes. Wittgenstein calls this phenomenon the “scaffolding of the world.” Always building, building, building. My step was light, however, having been inspired by H.H Radhanatha Maharaja’s wonderful Bhagavatam class in Abbey Street, Dublin.

I walked down to Sir Rogerson’s Quay. The whole area was desolate, except for executive-types walking with expensive suites and flashy ties. Outside “O2”, a cell-phone company, I met a nice guy named Owen. He said he would be back soon, ‘I’m just going to the supermarket.’ He had been to India, liked the books, was grateful, and gave a 20 euro donation. I gave him a Gita, Isopanisad and Science of Self-realization. It’s all good, bru. I then saw two super-executive-looking men intensely engaged in conversation on the Quay. I stopped them with a joke, ‘Are you two high-powered billionaires brokering a deal?’ Much to my surprise, they were also super-friendly and we got into a conversation. They were lawyers and they were discussing an intense legal case with each other. The one guy asked me where I was from. I replied, ‘Cape Town, South Africa.’ He said, ‘I’ve been to South Africa several times. I’ve met your ex-President.’ We spoke a little about Nelson Mandela and then I presented the books to him. Much to my surprise, he had both the books – Isopanisad and Bhagavad-gita. Amazing!

Nothing much else to write home about. One Polish boy, with a strong Irish accent, took an Isopanisad. I took satisfaction in this because he told me that he was an atheist. I said that I believed in God, but the book was very scientific and philosophical. It spoke about karma and reincarnation and made sense even if you were not religious.

That’s all for today. Book distribution is nectar and I am grateful to be engaged in the service.

Book Distribution in Dublin

riverrun past eve’s and adam’s bringing us, from bend of bay to swerve of shore, through a commodius vicus of recirculation, past Howth Castle and environs… (James Joyce, Finnegans Wake)

Today I took a stroll along the Liffey river. This reminded me of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. O Tell me all about Anna Livia Plurabelle. I want to know all about her. O, you’ll die when you hear. I was into avant-garde literature when I was at school, so the walk made me think of the Liffey and Joyce’s descriptions of her. Then I thought about rivers being personalities and the Liffey certainly has a very Irish kind of personality. Well, that is my opinion…

My walk along the Liffey was more peaceful than the hard struggle for existence of O’Connell and Henry streets. The first person I stopped was a young man from Palestine. He took an Isopanisad in his hand and looked at it curiously. I realized he was muslim and said, salaam alekom.  I then had a brief, but fruitless, conversation with him.  He was a nice guy. Then I was stopped by John, a big Irish boy, who asked me if I had a book on the life of Hare Krishna. I did not. I persuaded him, however, to take a Bhagavad-gita – which he did, along with an Isopanisad. He gave 15 euros for the book. I walked down to the James Joyce bridge, stared into the brown-green waters of the Liffey, and crossed the river. On the other side of the Liffey, I met a music student called Krona (meaning ‘grace’ in gaelic). She took a Gita for 8 euros. I took a left into Capel Street and continued walking. I met a friendly boy called Paul. He had a spiky Dublin kind of haircut. He liked the books and took a Gita and an Isopanisad. I asked him where he was working. He replied, ‘Utopia.’ I said, ”U’ means ‘no’ and ‘topos’ means ‘place’. ‘Utopia’ means ‘no place’.’ He gave a weird kind of chuckle when I said that. As I walked down the street, I looked to my left to see if I could see “Utopia.” To my surprise, it was a sex shop. I moved on, but was grateful that Krishna had allowed me to distribute a book to the boy.

Today I met Spaniards, Romanians, Poles, Americans, Palestinians, Congolese and the usual melt of Dublin people. I struggled a little on Henry Street, although I met Lenka, a Slovakian, who wants to take books later in the week. All in all, it was a good day and I was happy to have rendered a little service to Gaura-Nitai and Sri Sri Radha-Govinda.

Inis Ratha, Ireland, Radhastami Celebration

Sri Rupa prabhu requested I give Bhagavatam class this morning.  I really wanted to hear from him.  After all, that is why I came to Inis Ratha – for Vaishnava association.  Sri Rupa prabhu, however, got his way.  Dear friends and readers, please accept this imperfect summary of my presentation from this morning.

I introduced the class by describing Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s beautiful song Radha Madhava.  Srila Prabhupada told Mother Yamuna and his early disciples at John Lennon’s country home, Tittenhurst Estate, in 1969, that this song is so powerful, it is just like a bolt of lightning in the dark.  It has the power to destroy the darkness within the heart.  Krsna surya-sama maya hy andhakara/ yahan krsna tahan nahi mayadhikara.  Krishna is like the sun.  Maya is like the darkness.  Where there is Krisha there can be no jurisdiction of Maya.  Where there is sunlight there can be no darkness. 

I briefly described how this prayer is just four lines and 18 words, yet it sums up the entire Spiritual World.  Krishna is Madhava, the lover of the Goddess of Fortune.  Krishna is the lover of Radha.  I embellished my explanation of this song a little.  I mentioned how Bhaktivinoda Thakur is describing Goloka Vrindavan and the love of the residents of Vrindavan for Krishna and vice-versa here.

We then spoke on Dadhici Muni and how he gave up his body in charity so that Indra could vanquish Vrtrasura (Srimad Bhagavatam 6.10.10).  This body can be destroyed at any moment.  Why not give it up for a noble cause?  In his purport, Prabhupada calls this para-upakara or ‘helping others.’  The main point of Prabhupada’s purport is that the best use of our resources, including our own body, is for the welfare of others. 

What are real welfare activities?  These are beneficial activities executed in relation to Krishna.  I cited Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as prime example of this, since he is the inaugurator of the Sankirtan Movement.  When Lord Caitanya was a little baby He would cry and cry and cry.  The women of Navadvipa would try to pacify child Nimai in so many different ways.  When they chanted, ‘Haribol! Haribol’, He stopped crying.  Little Nimai offered the townsfolk sandesh (milk sweets) if they chanted Hare Krishna.  The Lord was playing out His pastime of being a perfect devotee.  The symptom of a first-class devotee is that anyone who sees Him chants the Holy Names.

This is the Sankirtan Movement of Lord Caitanya.  The heart is compared to a mirror.  Ceto-darpanam-marjanam.  In Lord Caitanya’s Siksastakam prayers He says that the mirror of the heart has been covered by ‘dust’ for so many lifetimes.  The chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord, however, cleanses the heart of the dust.  You cannot see your reflection in a dusty mirror.  When the mirror is clean, however, you can see your reflection clearly.  When the heart is cleansed of the dust of material desires, we can understand our true identity as eternal servant of Krishna.  We will also be able to see Krishna within our heart. 

The Caitanya Caritamrta explains how Srimati Radharani’s heart is like a mirror, darpana, that perfectly reflects Her love for Lord Krishna.  She is the Queen of devotion, Radhika-rani.  She epitomizes and personifies love of Krishna to the highest degree.  When Lord Krishna sees His own reflection in a pillar in Dwaraka, He sees what Srimati Radharani sees in Her heart.  He wonders to Himself, ‘Who is that beautiful person?’  Then He realizes it is Himself!  Krishna is bewildered by His own beauty.  Krishna appears as Caitanya Mahaprabhu, therefore, to understand what it is like to love Him and to feel the happiness on tasting the sweetness that love.  Sri krishna-caitanya radha-krishna nahi anya.  Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is none other than Radha and Krishna.  Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna with the sentiment (bhava) and complexion (dyuti) of Srimati Radharani.  Radha-bhava-dyuti-suvalitam naumi krsna-svarupam.  Mahaprabhu is also called Gauranga or ‘golden-limbed.’  Srimati Radharani is Gaurangi.  She is golden in complexion.  These are the confidential reasons for Mahaprabhu’s appearance.  And the rest of the Caitanya Caritamrta illustrates these reasons through the life of Lord Caitanya.  Careful study, therefore, of the Caitanya Caritamrita will certainly help us to understand Srimati Radharani.

I went on to describe a little more about Srimati Radharani being the personification of love of Godhead.  I also described how the prayers that we chant during the morning programme are describing the spiritual master’s intimate service to the Divine Couple, tulasi prayers are prayers in the mood of being a maidservant of Srimati Radharani and I explained how the mangalacharan prayers are also invoking Sri Radha’s mercy through disciplic succession.  The devotees appreciated these points.  We may not have realized these yet, but through continual practice of vaidhi-sadhana-bhakti the meanings of these exalted prayers will be revealed to us.  Then, of course, there is the chanting of the maha-mantra.  This is the essence of our all our sadhana.  It is the means and the end.  Pure love of Krishna is within the heart.  We simply have to awaken it through the process of hearing and chanting.  Nitya-siddha krishna-prema sadhya kabhu naya/ sravanadi suddhe-citte karaye udhaya.  By chanting Hare Krishna we are, in fact, calling out to Radharani – O Divine Mother!  O energy of the Lord!  Please engage me in the service of Krishna!  Radharani comes first.  As Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed – gopi bhartur padakamalayor daser-das-anudasa.  I am the servant of the servant of the servant of Lotus-eyed Krishna one hundred times removed.

I finished my presentation by reading from Prabhupada’s purport once again, stressing the futility of living in the material body.  We should live for others.  How do we do this?  Prabhupada describes the preacher in the following way.  He has love for God.  He has love for the devotees.  He is compassionate to the innocent (ie. those who are favourable).  And he avoids the envious or atheistic.  This is basically a description of a madhyama-adhikari or second-class devotee.  When we examine the symptoms of such a devotee, we can see that it is something quite exalted.  We should aspire for this.  We should help others.  In order to do so, however, we have to help ourselves.  We have to develop a taste for hearing and chanting.  How do we develop taste?  By following the programme set for us by Srila Prabhupada in association with his devotees.

Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!!  Srimati Radharani ki jaya!!

Black Rock City, Nevada Desert, “The Burning Man

Here we are now, entertain us.

Hare Krishna’s at The Burning Man!? Brahmacaris at The Burning Man!? ‘If you go to Burning Man, prabhu, you’ll become the Burning Man…’ I took these warnings to heart. Would I cut the grade? Would I take birth in a family of wealthy merchants or a family of pious brahmanas if I spontaneously decombusted? Who knows?

Well, I did not really know quite what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. 40,000 liberal-minded, boundary-stretching artists, new-age types, old-timers, yippees, party-animals and just downright crazy Americans revelling in the sand, letting go of all restraint and convention.

There are pros…and cons.

Rave music, nudity, art constructs, gift-giving, stream of consciousness, portable toilets, camp/glam culture, bicycles, fire-dancers, mock-fighting in the Thunderdome, artistic freedom, yogi wannabees, ethereal types and Californian hedonists…

This is the way…step inside…


But hold on. Snuggled in the midst of all this post- or pre-apocalyptic culture were a band full of hard-working, dedicated devotees sharing what they know best with their fellow Burners – Lord Jagannatha, the maha-mantra, spiritual reverie, Vaishnava hospitality and devotional charity. Sura prabhu was infiltrating the playa (the stretch of desert where the event takes place) with his bhajan group. Harinarayana was dazzling the crowds with his acrobatic feats. And Jagannatha graciously allowed the Burners to pull Him along the playa.


This is Burning Man. Krishna Camp at Burning Man. An oasis. And – for many Burners – a shelter from the extremity of the event.

Perhaps the Burning Man is a manifestation of Babylon. Or is it Dante’s Inferno? Dante’s Paradise? It all depends on how you see things. It is a trip…even if you’re sober. A waking dream. A surreal, live art installation. Burning Man is an opportunity. It is the techno-culture’s answer to the Summer of Love.

As the poet William Blake wrote, ‘The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom.’

Some found their Palace of Wisdom at Krishna Camp.

Jaya Prabhupada! Jaya Jagannatha!

Dear friends,

This is how I have spent my time over the past three weeks.

I flew from Reno to New York City on the morning of the 29 August after a brief introduction to the Burning Man in the Nevada Desert. Quite a cultural experience for someone who has lived in South Africa their whole life! It is, in my humble opinion, the cream of cutting-edge American preaching.

Next afternoon I flew from New York City to London. A little sad to leave Yajna Purusa prabhu and the brahmacaris in Manhattan. They are all very sweet and gracious Vaisnavas. From London I took a bus to Watford where I stayed a couple of nights with Satya Mataji and Shambhunath prabhu (who joined in 1969 at Bury Place). I spent Janmashtami and Srila Prabhupada’s Appearance Day at the Manor (4 and 5 September).

Janmashtami at the Manor was out of this world (George Hari Son ki jaya!!). A wonderful display of organization and intelligence. By Krishna’s grace, I sat in the Temple room from 9:30pm until after midnight chanting and taking darshan of Radha-Gokulananda with my friend from New York City, Vrajaraja prabhu. The Festival was beyond my expectations and I am pleased to have spent Janmashtami at the Manor.

Two nights at Soho Street – one of the most fired-up Temples on the planet – followed by a visit to my cousin, Robin, in Notting Hill. I then visited Ireland, thanks to Ryanair (11 September). I spent several nights with my father’s family in Kerry in the south of Ireland. Kerry is green and atmospheric – a nice retreat after big cities like New York and London.

I am now taking shelter of Radha-Govinda, Srila Prabhupada and the Vaishnavas at Inishratha. I will spend Radhastami here tomorrow (19 September). For this, I am most grateful.

Your servant,

Mukunda Charan das (Inishratha, Ireland)