Forever Your Servant – by Indradyumna Swami

Volume 14, Chapter 3

Forever Your Servant

August 18, 2014

– by Indradyumna Swami

chap 4

Dear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my most humble obeisances in the dust of your lotus feet.

Once again, I stand before you on the annual occasion of your auspicious Vyasa Puja, the celebration of your appearance in this world. I take this opportunity each year to reflect on the great mercy you have bestowed upon me in the form of service to your mission. I am very happy to be a small part of your great legacy in fulfilling Lord Caitanya’s prophecy that His holy names would be heard in every town and village on this planet. I can report that beyond a doubt this is happening here in Poland, due in part to the festival program we have been maintaining for over 20 years.

The preaching you started nearly 50 years ago continues to grow and expand despite the rapid advancement of Kali Yuga portrayed in ominous headlines and photos of the world’s daily newspapers. This alone is proof of the blessings you received from your own guru maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Once, when some of your sannyasi godbrothers complained to your spiritual master that he was giving you – a householder at the time – too much attention, he shot back, “Don’t complain. In the end he will do everything!” And indeed it has come to pass.

No one can contest your achievements in establishing Krsna consciousness around the world: your books, the farms you began, the gurukula system you introduced, the scientific approach you established for preaching Krsna consciousness—the list goes on and on. But no less amazing in my eyes was your ability to deliver me. Before meeting you I fully embraced all the dreadful activities that characterize this horrible age. Once my father chastised me saying, “Son, you’re a misfit! There’s no place for you in society. I shudder to think what will become of you!” Srila Prabhupada, what he said was true; there was no place for me in material life. But by taking shelter of your lotus feet I was elevated to the topmost transcendental position of being your humble servant, a destination for which even the demigods surely aspire.

yatha kancanatam yati
kamsyam rasa vidhanatah
tatha diksa vidhanena
dvijatvam jayate nrnam

“As bell metal is turned to gold when mixed with mercury in an alchemical process, so one who is properly trained and initiated by a bona fide spiritual master immediately becomes a brahmana.”

[Sanatana Goswami, Hari-bhakti-vilasa 2.12]

I have a long way to go before I attain perfection, but by serving you I am confident I can attain the supreme destination. The seeds of such service were sown in my heart when you accepted me as your disciple in a letter to my temple president on December 10, 1971. In that letter you mentioned the specific service that I would eventually take up as my life and soul. You wrote:

“I am very glad to accept these students as my duly initiated disciples and their names shall be as follows; Brian Tibbitts: Indradyumna Das, Ilene Tibbitts: Krpamayi Dasi and Heidi Paeva: Hrisakti Dasi. These are all very nice boys and girls and I have very much appreciated their attitudes of devotion and surrender as displayed in their letters to me. … I very much approve of your enclosed brochure, and I am pleased by your festival plan for colleges all over the state. I have received intimation from Rupanuga of a very large festival he is planning for Central Park. His conjecture is very nice and I want that many such festivals should be held in every town and city. I am always thankful to Krishna that I have somehow got so many wonderful boys like yourself to assist me in this way.”

It is through the festival programs I help organize, Srila Prabhupada, that I have established my deepest link with you. My constant prayer is that these festivals will please you as they bring hundreds of thousands of people into contact with Krsna consciousness each year. By such service I hope to achieve the goal of pure devotional service to the Lord. Srila Prabhodananda Saraswati made it very clear that the awakening of pure love of God is entwined with service to the samkirtan movement:

yatha yatha gaura-padaravinde
vindeta bhaktim krta punya rasih
tatha tathotsarpati hrdy akasmat
radha-padambhoja-sudhambu-rasih

“To the degree that we surrender to Lord Caitanya’s service, to that degree we gain qualification for the service to Radharani’s lotus feet in Vraja.”

(Caitanya-candramrta, verse 88)

Each year, the meaning of this verse becomes clearer to me, for whenever I work hard to spread Krsna consciousness a strong desire to visit Vrindavan awakens within my heart. Conversely, after spending time in the dhama an equally strong desire appears in my heart to spread the glories of the holy names far and wide. I am confident that one day I will become qualified to understand and serve the innermost desires of your heart. I must only remain loyal to you and continue to endeavor to share my good fortune with others.

param gopyam api snigdhe
sisye vacyam iti srutih
tac chruyatam maha bhaga
goloka mahimadhuna

“The Vedas say that to a loyal disciple one may speak the confidential secret. Therefore, O most fortunate one, now please hear the glories of Goloka.”

[Brhad Bhagavatamrta, Part 2, Chapter 1, text 6]

Srila Prabhupada, I am very happy in my service to you. I harbor no doubts, misgivings or illusions about my position as your servant. I would do anything for you. If you ordered me to go to hell and preach, I’d jump on the first train spiraling down to that lake of fire, happily chanting the holy names all the while. If you instructed me to preach in heaven, I’d arrive in that celestial abode with no other interest than to serve your order. This is because I’ve already seen heaven and hell in my many years of service to you in this world, and I’ve concluded there is no shelter other than your lotus feet.

Some time ago I had a dream in which you were sitting with a number of my senior godbrothers including Tamal Krsna Goswami, Giriraj Swami, Radhanath Swami, Vaisesika Prabhu and others. I was observing the scene from some distance away. At one point you smiled and said to them, “So all of you are going back to Godhead.” I was dumbstruck by your mercy, while at the same time wishing I could be as fortunate as them.

Suddenly Giriraj Swami noticed me and, being the dear friend that he is, he pointed me out to you. “Srila Prabhupada,” he said, “Indradyumna Swami is sitting over there. Can he come too?” You turned and looked at me and with a smile said, “Yes, he’s a nice boy. He can also come.”

Of course it was only a dream. However, you once said that although dreams are illusions, “dreams of the spiritual master are very nice.” Srila Prabhupada, I’ve never known your words to be untrue. It is one of the reasons that I have full faith in you and that my desire to assist your mission in this world becomes stronger day by day. You once wrote to me that you felt your spiritual master was always “watching over and protecting you.” Please also watch over and protect me as I assist you with your service in this world. Then at a suitable time, when you see fit, please grant me eternal service to you in the transcendental abode.

Forever your servant,
Indradyumna Swami

A Thousand Lectures on the Absolute Truth – by Indradyumna Swami

Volume 14, Chapter 2

A Thousand Lectures on the Absolute Truth

August 8, 2014

– by Indradyumna Swami

chap2

It was a week after the Sadhu Sanga Retreat in North Carolina last May, and I was in Los Angeles waiting to board a flight to London and then on to Warsaw, when an older gentleman walked up to me. He looked at my sannyasa robes. “You must be a Hare Krishna,” he said with a strong Polish accent.

“Well yes,” I replied, “I am.”

“Where are you going?” he said.

“Actually,” I said, “I’m off to Poland.”

“Is it your first trip there?” he asked.

“Well, no … ”

“Hare Krsna is a famous religion in my county,” he said, interrupting me with a smile.

“Oh really?” I said feigning ignorance.

“Oh, yes,” he said. “They have wonderful festivals.” Then he walked back to his place in line.

“Well now,” I thought, “if that’s not one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me… It’s the result of pushing on our festival program along the Baltic Sea Coast for the last twenty years.”

At the airport in Warsaw the next day, the woman behind the immigration window looked up at me with a big smile. “O Guru,” she said. “Festival of India. Welcome.”

“They almost never smile,” I thought. “And to be addressed as Guru, well, that’s something really rare.”

“Officer,” I said as she stamped my passport, “have you been to one of our festivals?”

“Four” she replied. Then her face took on an official expression. “You may proceed now.”

“Two auspicious omens,” I thought as I walked down to the baggage carousel. “First the man at the airport in Los Angeles and now the immigration officer. It’s got to mean a good start for our twentieth-anniversary summer tour.”

I reached my apartment in Warsaw an hour later. I started to repack my bags but fell asleep and didn’t wake up till the next morning, just in time to rush back to the airport and catch a flight up north to the Baltic Sea Coast. A disciple drove me to the site of our first festival, where the devotees were putting the finishing touches on the exhibits. And just an hour later I was on stage delivering a talk to seven hundred people. As I walked down off the stage I stopped a devotee passing by. “I feel so satisfied,” I said. “And you know, I don’t think I could count the number of times I have given that talk over the last twenty years.”

“Oh I could,” he said with a smile. “A thousand times.”

“A thousand times?” I said. “How do you get that?”

“Well,” he said, “we do about fifty festivals each summer. Multiply that by twenty years and you get a thousand lectures on the absolute truth.” He started to chuckle. “Hey, you know what?” he said. “That would make a great title for one of your diary chapters—A Thousand Lectures on the Absolute Truth.”

The next day I woke up exhausted. “Twenty years of festivals has taken its toll on me,” I said to a devotee as I struggled to crawl out of my sleeping bag. “I’m sixty-five now.”

“My dad’s the same age as you Maharaja,” he said. “The other day he told me that the sixties are the youth of old age.”

“That helps a little,” I said.

My heart was beating in anticipation as the vans and buses pulled away from the base that morning, taking the devotees on harinam to advertise the next festival. As we drove along I remembered the words of my godsister Sitala Dasi. Some months earlier we had reminisced about the first time I went on harinam. It was in 1971, just after I had moved into the temple in Detroit. After a few hours of singing on the streets and selling Back to Godhead magazines, we were all in a van driving back to the temple. Sitala turned to me. “So,” she said, “how did you like your first day on harinam?”

“I could do this for the rest of my life,” I replied.

And indeed I have. I am indebted to my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, who encouraged his disciples to share Krsna consciousness with the whole world through the chanting of the holy names. I could never give it up.

The great devotee Prahlada Maharaja once spoke the following words: “My dear Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, because of my association with material desires, one after another, I was gradually falling into a blind well full of snakes, following the general populace. But Your servant Narada Muni kindly accepted me as his disciple and instructed me how to achieve this transcendental position. Therefore my first duty is to serve him. How could I leave his service?” [ SB 7.9.28 ]

Upon reaching the town we all jumped out of the buses and vans. The sun had just dissipated a chilly fog, and devotees were taking off their sweaters and coats when a man walked up to us. “Welcome to our town!” he said. “Everyone knows that whenever you people come with your mantra the clouds run away and the sun shines.”

“Just see!” he said looking up at the sky as the last bit of fog disappeared and the sun shone brightly.

Within moments we had crossed through the town and descended on the beach, which had quickly filled up with people as soon as the sun came out. As we were taking off our shoes to walk barefoot in the sand a young man in his late twenties approached me.

“The priest was talking about you people in his sermon last Sunday,” he began.

“Oh no,” I thought. “Here it comes. And just when everything was going so well.”

“He told us you were coming soon,” he said.

I braced myself for some harsh words.

“He told us not to be afraid of you,” the young man continued. “He said that that you worship the same God as we do, but you call him by a different name: Krishna. He encouraged us to attend your festival and learn more about your religion. He said we should each try to be as good a follower of Christ, as you people are of Krishna.”

I was dumbstruck hearing these words after decades of harassment and abuse from the local priests. After a few seconds I managed to speak. “Yes,” I said, “please come. And offer your priest my deepest respect and admiration.”

“I never imagined it would come to this point,” I thought, “at least not in my lifetime.”

I remembered Nelson Mandela’s words in 1996 at our Festival for the Children of the Rainbow Nation in Durban. I was standing next to him when a reporter asked him about his long struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa. “It always seems impossible,” Mandela said, “until it’s done.”

My thoughts came back to the present. “Of course,” I thought, “we still have a long way to go in establishing Krsna consciousness in this country, but now we’ve got our foot in the door.”

As we started chanting and dancing down the beach giving out invitations, I noticed a mother grabbing her young daughter and pulling her to her side. “Don’t be afraid, darling,” the mother said. “They won’t kidnap you. They’re just collecting money for the poor people in India.” Her words brought a smile to my face.

Then I noticed a group of devotee women sitting in the sand some distance away. I called another devotee over. “Please go and tell those matajis not to sit down now,” I said. “We have a lot of invitations to pass out. Tell them to help with the distribution.”

The devotee ran over to the women. After a minute he returned. “Maharaja,” he said chuckling. “They’re not devotees. They won the saris in the dance competition at the festival last night. They’re proudly wearing them around town and on the beach.”

The hours went by as we chanted and danced among the throngs of people on the beach. Often we would stop, and when a crowd gathered I would give a short lecture and invite people to the festival that evening. One time, we started down the beach with an especially loud and enthusiastic kirtan while people followed and danced alongside us. Suddenly a woman came running up to me. “Please stop!” she said. “My baby is asleep. It’s her afternoon nap. If she wakes up she’ll be very upset.”

“Maharaja,” said a devotee smiling, “we can’t stop the kirtan for one baby. Anyway, if the baby wakes up hearing the holy names she’ll get mercy.”

“And the people will think ill of us,” I replied. “Stop the kirtan!” I yelled.

Most of the devotees had not seen the woman and were surprised that I ordered the blissful kirtan to stop.

“Keep walking!” I shouted.

We walked in total silence for a good twenty meters. “OK!” I shouted. “Kirtan!” The devotees began chanting enthusiastically.

Then I heard a man talking to his wife. “These people have etiquette,” he said. “They are ladies and gentleman. They took care not to wake up the child. Take one of their invitations, dear. We’re going to their festival.”

The devotee who had objected to stopping the kirtan also heard the man. I winked at him.

After all the invitations had been passed out, I took the kirtan through town on the way to the festival site. As we stopped at a red light, a taxi drove by. The driver put his head out the window and shouted out the name of one of Srila Prabhupada’s books.

“Yes!” he yelled. “Teachings of Queen Kunti! Yes!”

That evening thousands of people passed through our festival site. Again I found myself on stage sharing the truths of the Bhagavad Gita. When I saw that people were not catching a point, I would illustrate it with an anecdote. When they caught the point and their faces lit up, I felt as if I’d achieved a great victory.

As I walked around the festival grounds that evening, a woman came up to me. “Good evening,” she said. “Are you the wise man everyone is talking about?”

“No,” I said. “I’m his servant.” I put a Bhagavad Gita in her hand. “Here is one of the books he wrote,” I continued. “You will get great satisfaction from reading it.” She bought the book.

A young man standing nearby spoke up. “Is that the Bhagavad Gita?” he said.

“Yes, it is,” I replied.

“I want one too,” he said.

“Wow!” I thought. “This is my lucky day… No, it’s not just a lucky day. It’s often like this out here on the preaching field. Every sankirtan devotee experiences these special moments.”

“Last year,” the young man continued, “I went to Woodstock and met you people there. I went to the Questions and Answers tent and listened attentively. Suddenly I had all the answers to the questions of life that I had been asking. It was as if a light had been turned on. Seriously. I wanted to buy the book that the speaker was quoting from, the Bhagavad Gita, but I had no money. I have been waiting all year to buy the Bhagavad Gita. I was so surprised to find you people in town today. In fact I just walked into this festival by chance.”

“Nothing happens by chance,” I said, “especially in spiritual life.” I picked up a Bhagavad Gita from a table nearby and handed to him. He smiled as he gave a generous donation.

A couple of hours later I was heading to the stage for the final kirtan when Nandini Dasi came up to me. “Srila Gurudeva,” she said, “do you remember Rewal, the town where they canceled our festival many years ago when the priest objected to it? They actually asked us to leave town.”

“Yes,” I said, “of course I remember. The incident is seared in my memory.”

“Of course, years later they welcomed us back,” Nandini said, “but I thought you would appreciate the letter I received from the present Mayor of Rewal.”

She handed me the letter:

“Respected Agnieszka,

“Remembering our longing for lifetime cooperation in organizing the Festival of India in Rewal and surrounding towns, it is our pleasure to inform you that we will allow you to use all the locations you requested for this year’s events free of charge. Your festival is one of the most attractive and popular events of the year in our city, actually on the entire Baltic Sea coast. Each year it attracts thousands of local people and tourists hankering for the exotic and cultural experience you present so well. We are confident that this year our cooperation will be smooth and harmonious, as it has been for several decades.

“If you have any specific needs we will be happy to attend to them. Please just contact us at city hall.

“With Respects,

“The Mayor of Rewal”

“How happy Srila Prabhupada would be to hear this message,” I thought. “But in fact he must know. This event could not have gone on for so many years without his blessings.”

The kirtan that evening was wonderful. I noticed many people I had seen on the beach that afternoon chanting and dancing with us. When the music stopped and the lights went down I started walking back to my van. Just as I was about to open the door a family of four came up to me. The wife and two daughters were dressed in beautiful saris they had won during the competition at the last kirtan. “Please can you sign our Bhagavad Gita,” the man said. “We’d be very grateful.”

“Sure,” I said.

“Is this your first Hare Krsna festival?” I asked as I started to sign the book.

“Yes,” the man replied. “It’s our first time.”

“What part of the festival did you enjoy the most?” I continued.

“Actually, we just arrived ten minutes ago,” the man said with a smile. “But the atmosphere here was so overwhelming, so gracious and loving, that we went straight to the book store as it was closing to buy this book to understand more about you people. We were able to join in the dancing for three minutes. We loved every second. My daughters memorized the whole song and can’t stop singing it.”

“Do you have a card?” the man continued. “We’d like to keep in touch. My wife and I feel we’re on to something deeply spiritual and satisfying.”

I handed him my card. “Another good sign,” I thought. “It’s going to be a great summer just like all the others we have spent chanting and dancing along this coast for the past twenty years.”

That night as I rolled out my sleeping bag, I thought about my reply to Sitala Dasi after my first harinam. “What to speak of this lifetime,” I thought as I drifted off to sleep, “I could go on distributing the nectar of the Holy Names forever if that would please my spiritual master, my eternal friend and guide.”

“O swan gliding in the lakes of the Vraja-vasis’ love, I wish that I may wander everywhere always chanting and drinking the nectar of Your names. Those most sweet names arise from the ocean of Gokula and spread the glories of Your infinitely varied dress and ways of acting. As I wander, behaving like a madman, may I distribute joy to everyone in all the worlds.”

[Narada Muni, Brhat Bhagavatamrta 1.7.143 ]