Journal


English: Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

English: Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is one of my favourite classes by the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

manusyanam sahasresu/kascid yatati siddhaye/yatatam api siddhanam/ kascin mam vetti tatvattah

‘Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows me in truth’ [Bg. 7.3]

‘To understand Krsna is not very easy.  Krsna says manusyanam sahasresu: ‘Out of many millions and millions of persons,’ one tries to become perfect.  Who is going to become perfect, especially in this age?  Everyone is working like cats and dogs.  The whole day is spent working for eating, sleeping, sex and defense, that’s all.  People are not living as manusyas, as human beings.

ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam ca/samanyam etat pasubhir naranam/dharmo hi tesam adhiko viseso/dharmena hinah pasubhih samanah

‘Both animals and humans share the activities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending.  But the special property of the humans is that they are able to engage in spiritual life.  Therefore without spiritual life, humans are on the level of animals [Hitopadesa]

What is the difference between my eating and the dog’s?  He is eating according to his taste, and I am eating according to my taste.  The eating business is there in the dog also.  Don’t think that your eating is different because you are eating nice preparations on a table, with a chair and plates.  It is still eating.

People say, ‘Because I am eating nice preparations on a table, I am civilized’.  The sastra, scripture, says that although your food may be different, your eating and the dog’s eating are the same.   You are not civilized just by eating at a table.  Similarly, the dog can sleep on the street without caring for anything, and we cannot sleep without a nice apartment, but both we and the dog are sleeping.   And for sexual intercourse, the dog has no shame.  It can enjoy sex on the street.  We have some restrictions, but the sex is there nonetheless.  And bhaya means defense, to take care of our fears.  That is there in the dog and in you also.  It does not make any difference.  Because you have discovered the atomic bomb for defense, that does not mean that you are better than a dog.  He defends himself according to his intelligence, and you defend yourself according to your intelligence.

Human beings and animals have these four businesses in common: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending.  Then what is the special advantage of human life?  That advantage is athato brahma jijnasa: You should be inquisitive to know the value of life, the Absolute Truth.  The dog cannot do that.  That is the distinction between a dog and a human being.  In the human form of life there should be inquiry about Brahman and Parabrahman, spirit and the Supreme Spirit.  When you attain brahma-jnana, knowledge of the Absolute Truth, that is your perfection, not competing with the dog in eating, sleeping, mating and defending.  That is not civilization.  That is not perfection of life.  Foolish persons who are animalistic, like dogs and cats, do not know the aim of life.

na te viduh svartha-gathim hi visnum/durasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah/andha yathandhair upaniyamanas/te pisa tantryam uru-damni baddhah

‘Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to the external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Visnu.  As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries’ [SB 7.5.31]

The aim of life is to understand Visnu, the Supreme Lord.  People are trying to become happy in the bahir-artha, in the external energy of God, the material energy.  And the so-called leaders, politicians, philosophers, and scientists are all blind.  They do not know the aim of life.  Still, they are leading the whole society.

Uru-damni baddhah.  Uru means very strong, and damni means rope.  If I tie you with a very strong rope, it is very difficult to untie it, and you are put into difficulty.  Similarly, we in this material world are tied very tightly by the laws of material nature.  And still we declare, ‘I am free.  I am independent.  I can do whatever I like’.  That is called imperfection.  As long as we are in the bodily concept of life and think ourselves free to do whatever we like, we are in ignorance, darkness, tama.  Tama means darkness.

A Vedic injuction is tamasi ma jyotir gama: ‘Don’t remain in darkness; go to the light.’  Darkness means thinking, ‘I am this body, and fulfilling the necessities of the body is the highest perfection of my life.’  Everyone is trying to have a skyscraper and three Rolls Royces, and so on.  They think this is the perfection of life.   They do not think to ask, ‘How many years shall I have this skyscraper?  And what is my main business? My main business is how to become perfect.’

There are many animals within the skyscraper.  There are human beings, dogs, cats, worms, rats – so many things.  So the right to live in a skyscraper is there even for worms, cats, and rats.  Then what is the difference between these animals and me?  The difference is that I can become perfect.  I can ask, ‘What am I?  Am I this body?’  This should be the question.

Krsna says here, ‘The ultimate goal is to understand me.’  Vetti mam tattvatah – to understand Krsna in fact, in truth, not superficially.  That is required.  Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah [Bg. 15.15].  If you are a great scholar studying all kinds of Vedic literature, then you must know Krsna.  If you do not understand Krsna and simply study the Vedas, it is a useless waste of time.

dharmah svanusthitah pumsam/visvakena-kathasu yah/notpadayed yadi ratim/srama eva hi kevalam

‘The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead’ [SB 1.2.8]

You are executing your occupational duties very nicely, honestly.  That is all right.  But if after executing your duties very honestly and nicely you do not awaken your dormant Krsna consciousness, then srama eva hi kevalam: You are simply wasting your time.  Useless.  When you understand Krsna, that is the highest perfection.  But nobody is interested.  Therefore Krsna says in today’s verse, manusyanam sahasresu…: ‘Out of many millions of persons’, one may be interested.  Otherwise, all are in darkness.

What is siddhi, as mentioned here?  Siddhi means to understand my constitutional position, what I am.  I am trying to lord it over material nature in so many ways.  Is that my position?  But I am a failure.  I am trying to lord it over material nature as a big man – as a minister or a zamindar or a big business magnate.  And when I am a failure, then I want to become God.  That is another ambition.

This is not self-realization.  Self-realization means to understand, ‘I am trying to lord it over material nature in so many ways, but my attempt is becoming baffled.  Why?  With great endeavor I become a head of state, and I do not wish to die, but death comes and takes away everything – my political position, my wealth, my family, everything.’  Mrtyuh sarva-haras caham [Bg 10.34].  Who is taking?  That is Krsna.

When you realize, ‘I am trying to accumulate so many things but Krsna is taking everything away,’ then why don’t you surrender to Krsna so that He may not take away your position?  That is siddhi.  ‘I am not independent.  I am trying to be independent, but it is not possible.  I am dependent.  I am an eternal servant of Krsna.’

That is self-realization.  That has been taught by Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  Jivera ‘svarupa  haya – krsnera ‘nitya-dasa: ‘It is the living entity’s constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krsna.’ [Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.108-109].  Brahman realization – aham brahmasmi – is liberation from the material conception of life.  ‘I am not matter.  I am not the body, but I am spirit soul.’  Aham brahmasmi.  That is the first step of self-realization.  But that is not final.  The final realization is ‘I am an eternal servant of Krsna.’  As long as you do not come to that position – the final, consitutional position that ‘I am an eternal servant of Krsna’ – then knowledge is lacking; there is no perfection of knowledge.

Therefore, Krsna says in Bhagavad-git [7.19], bahunam janmanam ante…vasudevah sarvam iti: ‘After many, many births, when one is actually self-realize – in awareness, fully in knowledge – then he understands that Vasudeva [Krsna] is everything.’  ‘Vasudeva is the supreme everything.  I am simply part and parcel of Vasudeva, an eternal servant of Vasudeva.’  Sa mahatma sudurlabhah.  One who thinks in that way, that kind of perfect person – a mahatma – is very, very rare.  A mahatma understands, ‘I am an eternal servant of Krsna.  My only business is to serve Krsna.  That is my constitutional position.  I am part and parcel of Krsna.’

This finger is part and parcel of my body.  Its business is to serve the whole body.  I ask the finger, ‘Come here,’ and immediately it comes.  That is the normal, healthy condition of the part and parcel.  My leg is part and parcel of my body.  As soon as I ask the leg, ‘Please take me there,’ it does so.  That is normal.  And if the leg cannot take me there – if I have to take help from a stick – that is not normal.  It is a diseased condition has to be treated.  Similarly, as soon as we find that we do not abide by the orders of Krsna, we must know that we are in ignorance and in an abnormal condition, madness.

To serve Krsna is my duty.  Krsna does not require my help, and still he asks me to surrender to his order.  That is for my good.  If I surrender to Krsna, then that is my benefit.  Krsna does not require my service.  He is omnipotent.  But we are such rascals that we think, ‘Why shall I surrender to Krsna?’  That is perfection.

When you come to the point that you abide by the order of Krsna and surrender to Him, that is perfection.  But people do not do that. 

na mam duskrtino mudhah/prapadyante naradhamah/mayayapahrta-jnana/asuram bhavam asritah

‘Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto me’ [Bg. 7.15]  

Why do they not surrender?  Because they are duskritinah, always performing sinful activities, and they are mudhah, rascals.  They do not known their own interest.  And naradhama means the lowest of mankind.  Krsna says, ‘This human body was given to him by material nature to understand me, to surrender to me, but he will not do this.  Therefore: lowest of mankind.’

Someone may object, ‘No, he is so educated.’  No, this is nonsense.  If he does not understand Krsna, what is the meaning of education?  There is no education.  Mayayapahrta-jnanah: his knowledge is stolen by illusion.  Why?  Asuram bhavam asritah: he’s defying Krsna, defying God.  

‘What is God?  I am God.’  This is the position of everyone in the material world, and especially in this age, Kali-yuga.  In Kali-yuga, people are all first-class fools.  That is described in the Bhagavatam [1.1.1o]:

prayenalpayusah sabhya/kalav asmin yuge janah/mandah sumanda-matayo/manda-bhagya upadrutah

‘O learned one, in this iron age of Kali men have but short lives.  They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and above all, always disturbed’

Kali-yuga is a very difficult age.  In ignorance people fight, quarrel.  Kali means ‘fight’.  Therefore it is called Kali-yuga.  In this age especially, the inhabitants are manda.  Manda means all bad.  Nobody is good.  And sumanda-matayah: Everyone has his own conception of perfection – all bogus.  Why this is?  Manda-bhagyah: because they are unfortunate.  No one knows what he shall eat the next morning or in the evening.  Everyone is in need.  There is scarcity all over the world.

And people are disturbed.  With the progression of Kali-yuga, people will be disturbed by two things especially: taxation and scarcity of food.  That is stated in Bhagavatam [12.2.9]: durbhiksa-kara-piditah.  Kara means taxation.  People will be embarrassed for want of food, and at the same time, every year there will be an increase of taxation.  They will be so disturbed that they will give up their money, wife, children – everything.  They will be disgusted: ‘Now it is impossible to maintain.  Let me go away.’

This is our position in Kali-yuga.  So five thousand years ago, when Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita, at that time the position was manusyanam sahasresu – ‘one among thousands will try for perfection.  Now, on account of Kali-yuga, it is ‘one among millions.’  The percentage has increased to one in millions and millions.  

Therefore nobody is interested in this Krsna consciousness movement.  We are trying to give the highest perfection of life, but people are not interested.  They want to remain like cats and dogs and suffer the consequences.  That is going on.

This Krsna consciousness movement is very difficult to understand, but by the grace of Krsna it has been made very easy.  That is stated in the Srimad Bhagavatam [12.2.51]: kaler dosa-nidher rajann asi hy eko mahan gunah.  Sukadeva Goswami described the faults of Kali-yuga to Parikisit Maharaja, but he encouraged him with one verse.  ‘My dear king, Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, but there is one very nice gain.’  What is that?  Kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet: ‘Simply by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra one can become free from all the troubles of Kali-yuga, become liberated, and go back home, back to Godhead.’  So take Krsna consciousness very seriously and make your life perfect’

Thank you very much.’ [Back To Godhead Magazine, March/April 2006]

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While Bhakta Arne is saturating himself in bliss in Sri Vrindavan Dhama, MCD and G-Man (Gaura Sakti Das) are holding the fort here in Rosebank. We are still cooking up a storm with ‘Krishna’s Vedic Emporium’ foodstalls at the Killarney Mall Organic Market on Thursdays and The Wholefood Market at Blu Bird (Atholl Oaklands) on Sundays. Actually, we held a stall at Blu Bird today and Yelena, the wife of Branco, who sometimes fetches me from the airport, bought a Bhagavad-gita and took a whole lot of pamphlets on Krishna Consciousness. Another lady, Corinne, bought a Spiritual Warrior IV by Bhakti Tirtha Swami and another took a Higher Taste.

Prema Kishore prabhu led us on our third regular Harinam though the streets of Melville last Friday (see http://www.vediccity.co.za for details). I rounded off our very successful Cooking Course on Saturday with Pizza, Khichari, salad and salad dressing. We sponsored the chef, Joseph, from St James (a vegetarian school) and the headmaster wrote a letter praising Joseph’s new cooking skills. I realized that what we take for granted, in this case our training as chefs, is of great value to others. That evening we cut vegetables for Sunday’s market. On Sunday we sold Prashadam at Blu Bird again and held our weekly Sunday programme. It was very encouraging for me to have Gaura Das and some of his friends at the programme. Another friend, Marcelle, arrived just as the guests were leaving. Gaura Shakti showed her some basic mridanga beats, then she sat and chanted a round of the maha-mantra with us. Oh…and we also gave her some chickpea fudge (which she’d had before).

Monday. We teamed up with Nandarani – who was in the Temple with me in Cape Town – at the University of Johannesburg Bhakti Yoga Society (BYS) from 12-2:30pm. We taught the students how to chant on beads last time. This time we held a basic cooking demo: Simply Wonderfuls and Nimbu Pani. The demo went well. Prema Sarovara Mataji’s friend, Grace, bought a Bhagavad-gita. Seven students bought chanting beads at the previous session. That they took beads was a very positive sign from the point-of-view of chanting. They told me at this session that the chanting was really helping them find peace and happiness. I returned to the flat, took a brief nap, then Gaura Shakti and I went to Dwarakadish prabhu’s place for the Marlboro Namahatta. It was humbling to be with such hospitable and respectful devotees.

Tuesday. Market and shopping for the stalls in Fordsburg. We dropped in at “Cater Commercial” to pick up some kitchen utensils kindly sponsored by Bhakta Rakesh and his family. We got in at around 4pm. Gaura Das came in the evening for a Mantra Meditation Session. He brought some of his friends and people he’d met on book distribution – Lebohang, Matthew, Claudia and Mortaza. I delivered 30 pieces of Laddhu (Chickpea Fudge) to a juice-bar in Woodmead on Wednesday morning, rushed back to the flat, then gave a talk on ‘Jyotish And Its Relevance To Spirituality’ (Jyotish is Indian Astrology) at the Wits BYS at from 1-3pm. I bought some slop-chips at “Kara Nicha’s” before trundling back home, back to Pancha Tattva. That night Gaura Das invited us over to his mom’s place for supper (in honour of his wife Jamuna’s birthday). I still had to cut veg for Thursday’s stall when we got back to the flat. Thursday means Killarney Mall Organic Food Market. Self-explanatory. Mother Prema Shakti came to the stall and informed me that there was a GAD (Gauteng Administration and Development) Sub-Committee meeting about Education at her flat with Keshava Krishna prabhu and some other devotees. The meeting touched on various important areas of education – for children, youth and adults. Another late night. Friday, I went on Sankirtan at the airport and Eastgate. Saturday, Sankirtan at Menlyn. Sunday, Blu Bird and Sunday programme.

Tonight we read from Bhagavad-gita and then chanted Damodarastakam Prayers. This week has been quite a busy one, compounded by Arne’s absence. (All the guests left with Chickpea Fudge). We are offering lamps every night to Lord Damodara and chanting the Damodarastakam. Kartik is a month of mercy. May the Lord be kind upon us.

Your servants at the Vedic City Project.

Versatile South African astrologer, Richard Fidler, gave an enlivening talk at the Tuks Bhakti Yoga Society (BYS), in Pretoria, on 6 October 2008.

Richard explained that jyotish is considered ‘the eyes of the Vedas’. He explained that jyotish is connected to ayurveda (Vedic natural medicine). The sciences of the Vedas are interconnected whereas western understanding is compartmentalized.

How is jyotish related to Indian culture, destiny, spirituality (ie. Deities, spiritual paths, the guru and human relationships?

In Vaishnavism (God-conscious Indian spirituality), we see an ancient culture practiced in modern times. Richard went on to explain that astrological interpretation brings home ‘timeless truths of uniqueness of individuality’ to light. We are re-connected with rhythms of nature, the universe and Divinity. Astrologers see the karma (material destiny) of people and this gives them a sense of empathy for them.

Vedic concepts of dharma, artha, kama and moksha are revealed in a chart. Even if you are very spiritual, you need to eat food…you still need basic resources.

Another point that arose was that astrology can be an objective affirmation of a direction we are headed in. This is one use of astrology since so many scenarios arise. Reminds me of the point where the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, Swami Prabhupada, said of the usefulness of jyotish, ‘If you know it’s going to rain take an umbrella with you.’

Richard introduced me to a quote on astrology some time ago: ‘There are those who are born under the stars and those born born seeing stars. ‘ In other words, some are born ignorant of their destiny; while others ‘see’ theirs – through astrology.

After the talk, there was a question-and-answer session. Was astrology only applicable to individuals? Richard explained to the students that astrology was not confined to one individual. Astrology could be applied to ‘a state of energy’ and had political, religious and economic applications. There is an ‘astrology of world events’ or an ‘astrology of collective karma.’ Collective karma could pertain to families, communities and certain planets or universes (eg. the heavenly planets).

Another student asked about the different yugas (epochs described in the Vedas). Richard answered that the Yugas are, in a sense, part of astrology and time-cycles. He cited an example from the ancient Indian history the Mahabharata wherein mention of a solar eclipse is made.

Richard answered another question about the relevance of astrology in our lives. He spoke of the macrocosmic and microcosmic applications of astrology. The Moon is a jewel on lord Siva’s head. The cosmic machine is a little piece of the reality of the Devas (Demigods or higher beings that “run” the material manifestation on behalf of the Supreme Being, Vishnu). We find it difficult to understand the miracle of what it means to be a human being. With respect to astrology, Richard made the point that ‘God does not play dice’ and also mentioned that Jesus said that every hair on our head is numbered. The basic point being that astrology helps us understand the cosmic being we are part of. Cells serve the body; and we are meant to serve God. Astrology could be part of the spiritual path of the intellectuals and would help an organization like ISKCON in an individual and collective sense.

”Where does the observance of Krishna’s birthday come from?’ Astrology.

Someone asked a question about Vastu (Vedic architecture/feng-shui) and Richard gave some simple explanations about the Sun in the east being auspicious and Saturn in the west being inauspicious. He also spoke a little about Vastu grids (being based on jyotish).

Richard made some other points in the discussion after his talk about how astrologers generally accept that there is a higher intelligence governing the material universe. He also mentioned that most astrologers become more spiritual through the practice of the science. Western science teaches that consciousness is random and comes from matter. The spiritual world-view is different: consciousness creates matter. Consciousness reveals the relationship between the soul and the material form, since the gross manifests from the subtle.

Astrology helps us to re-define events. External, physical events are the result of consciousness and, therefore, have a relation to psychology.

Astrology is intimately connected to religion. Astrology assumes there is a God and that our worldly activities should be aligned with the will of God. Astrology is the language of God. It is not trying to be separate from God.

Hemant (one of the students) asked about having a ‘good day’ or ‘bad day’ in spiritual practise. Richard mentioned that there are various forces that influence us, such as the sun, earth and water. Astrology helps us to time things better – remember Prabhupada’s point about the umbrella? There is a reason that certain activities take place within a religious calendar. To create auspiciousness. In addition to this, your consciousness will have a lot to do with how you respond to certain ‘events.’ With respect to difficulties in the course of our spiritual lives, you may not be able to find an outlet for that energy. Richard made a cogent point, ‘Even relatively enlightened people have “off days”. It probably has something to do with the stars.’ He went on to explain that pujas (worship), bugles, astrological rings (ie. gemstones which correspond favourably to certain constellations or planets) etc. ‘deflect bad energy, like a lightning rod on a house.’

After the question-and-answer session the devotees, students and Richard all took some prasada (vegetarian snacks offered to Krishna).

Thank you Richard. Hare Krishna.

Dear Readers,

Please accept my respectful obeisances.  All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

It is with great pleasure that we announce the launching of our Johannesburg preaching centre project, Vedic City (ISKCON Johannesburg North, Founder Acharya His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada), on this the auspicious occasion of Sri Krishna Janmasthami, Sunday 24 August 2008.

The GAD (Gauteng Administrative Directorate) endorsed the project on the 27th May Instant.  Exciting developments for the project include a Prabhupada Museum and Reading Room; Pancha-Tattva Temple Room; weekly programmes; harinamas; book distribution; Food For Life; and Academy for Spiritual Understanding.

We humbly request the devotees’ blessings for the project – so we can make a pleasing offering to Srila Prabhupada and Nitai-Gaura Hari.

Your servant,

Mukunda Charan das (Johannesburg, South Africa)

Dear Readers,

Just a filler really to keep you updated.  Arrived back in the country from India on the 27th November 2007.  Pretty much launched into the December book marathon (when Hare Krishas distribute Vedic literatures for the month of December) from there, basing myself in ISKCON Lenasia.  The Temple President, Caitanya prabhu and the GM, Bhakta Adrian, were really helpful and it was a reasonably eventful marathon.  I have a lot of plans for preaching in SA, so my head is swimming with thoughts.  Still, the marathon was focussed and I did okay (by my standards).

The brahmacaris (celibate monks) in South Africa are taking to the road – like those in America.  Examples of this phenomenon include Gaura prabhu, Savya-saci prabhu, myself and, of course, Jagat Guru prabhu. South African brahmacaris generally have three choices – go west, go to India, serve in local Temples or go on travelling sankirtan.  Nothing new, really.

I’ve been based in Lenasia from December to February with my travelling sankirtan partner Bhakta John Robbie.  We spent a few weekends at ISKCON Pretoria and stayed at a devotee family in Johannesburg.  We rented a vehicle and distributed books in the malls of Johannesburg.  It’s been an adventure, but a tiring one.

I’ll take a couple days break at my parents’ place.  Thereafter, I will go to Pretoria until Durban Ratha Yatra on the 22nd of March.  I’ll pick up my vehicle in Cape Town after the Festival, then it’s back on the road.

Today Partha Sarathi Maharaja will speak at ISKCON Lenasia.

Hope this meets you well,

Mukunda Charan das (Johannesburg, South Africa) 

Sharon Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
41st Annual Ratha Yatra Festival, Sunday 19 August 2007

There is something very wonderful about the Hare Krishna movement in North America. When you go back to where everything began, so to speak, you get a sense of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami’s extraordinary achievements. The Caitanya Caritamrta states that the seed of the creeper of devotion is planted in the heart of the conditioned soul by the spiritual master or guru – guru-krsna-prasade payi bhakti-lata-bija. In other words, by the mercy of guru one gets Krishna; and, by the mercy of Krishna, one gets guru.

It is forty years since the Summer of Love began here in 1967. The 2007 San Francisco Ratha Yatra marked the 41st anniversary of this annual event in the town. Today I took a walk around Hippy Hill. It was here that George Harrison strummed on his guitar with heart-shaped sunglasses; and it was here that that Swami Bhaktivedanta chanted Hare Krishna as the young hippies held hands and danced.  A few die-hards remain.  Are they still looking for the saviour (who already came)?  Devotees sit on the grass below Hippy Hill, forty-one years later.  Jagannatha is here.  And so, too, is Srila Prabhupada…in his murti form.

Thursday 24 August, Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco

The Haight-Ashbury is still very hip. I passed a shop called “Reincarnation”, organic food wholesalers, Hippy-era tee-shirt shops and a host of Oriental shops selling incense and murtis of Lord Buddha and Ganesh. I met a boy named JT who said he already got some books about Krishna. I asked him, ‘Where?’ And he said, ‘When I was in South Africa.’ I asked, ‘Whereabouts in South Africa?’ He said, ‘Pretoria.’ Then it all came back to me. I had met him in a mall in Pretoria during the December book marathon. I was the only devotee distributing books there, so it could only have been me. He had, incidentally, visited the Pretoria Temple. This was amazing. Here we were, meeting on Haight Street in San Francisco.

I also met a couple of teenage girls on the tram. They were both wearing Beatles tee-shirts, so I gave them each a Chant and Be Happy (a book about mantra meditation with pictures of the Beatles on the cover). They were delighted to receive the books and each gave $5. I walked around, bumping into all sorts of interesting people and ‘creatures’ on the Haight. I met two boys, Nick and Colin, at “The Peace Cafe.” With rucksacks and a guitar, they were on a pilgrimmage of their own. They were going through “The Burning Man” Survival list (“Burning Man” is an Extreme Art function out in the Nevada desert). The devotees are, by the way, installing a Krishna Camp at “Burning Man”. Anyhow, Nick and Colin had trekked over to to the famous bridge in Aberdeen frequented by Kurt Cobain (remember ‘Something in the Way’?). Nick’s sister is Maha-Laxmi, a devotee from New Zealand who is staying at the LA Temple. He was really interested in knowing about the philosophy and gave $20. I gave him and his friend a Science of Self-Realization and a Chant and Be Happy.

I took a little detour off Haight, from Cole, and made my way to 518 Frederick Street, site of the original Hare Krishna Temple. The Frederick Street Temple was second base for Prabhupada in America. It was also home to Jayananda and Vishnujana Swami.

Visiting all these places evoked sweet memories of a special time in history.

Seems like we’re celebrating the Summer of Love all over again.

The Prabhupada Tree, Thomkins Square Park, New York City[/caption]IMG_6193_1_1View from under Hare Krishna Tree, New York City, 30 July 2007

Visiting New York City was the fulfillment of one of my long-cherished dreams in Krishna consciousness. In Prabhupada Lilamrta, HH Satsvarupa Maharaja poignantly describes the origins of ISKCON in New York City in the mid-1960’s.

The first place I visited was the “Matchless Gifts Storefront” on 26 2nd Avenue. The Storefront is rented by devotees and programmes are held there. I also visited Thompkins Square Park where Prabhupada chanted under a tree and, in effect, began the chanting of the Holy Names of Krishna in the western world. Here I got a sense of Prabhupada’s audacity. He took a pair of karatalas and began chanting, and next thing you have an international spiritual movement. It could have been any park in any city of the world. Prabhupada, however, had the nerve to do it. That is what makes his contribution to world religion so unique. His unwavering, unflinching faith in Krishna. I was fortunate to hold the same bongo drum which Srila Prabhupada played during his early kirtans in Thompkins Square Park at the Palace in New Vrindavan.

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I also visited the fourteenth floor of 33 Riverside Drive on the West Side of the city. This was Prabhupada’s first home in the city. Here he stayed with the impersonalist yoga teacher Dr Misra for a couple of weeks before moving on to Dr Misra’s yoga studio on the corner of 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue (100 West 72nd Street). One of the residents let us look at his 14th floor apartment. There is a beautiful view of the Hudson River from the apartment. The neighbourhood is very aristocratic. Prabhupada used to take walks on the Hudson and in Riverside Park. I retraced Prabhupada’s daily route from 75th Street, past Broadway and Amsterdam, to Dr Misra’s yoga studio.

Prabhupada had stayed in Dr Misra’s yoga studio 507 at the time (now 5G). After some time, he moved into room 301 (3A). Here he held Bhagavad-gita classes and kirtans. He also suffered several setbacks – his typewriter and tape-recorder were stolen here. Later on, he moved to 93 Bowery (which I also visited). This is the address of the Artist In Residence (AIR) loft where Prabhupada stayed with David Allen. Prabhupada fled the place, however, when David, high on LSD, attacked him. He moved to 26 2nd Avenue after this.

I also visited various other Prabhupada tirthas in the city including Washington Square Park (where the annual Festival of Chariots is held), Port Authority Terminal, 143 West 72nd Street (where Prabhupada wanted a Temple) and “West End Superette” (where Prabhupada bought his vegetables and spices). You really get a glimpse into Prabhupada’s oceanic compassion when you visit New York City and this is the valuable lesson that I have learned from my pilgrimmage.

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