Shocking Stories of a Russian Hospital By Indradyumna Swami


Diary of a Traveling Monk

Volume 1, Chapter 10


 May 27,1995



Shocking Stories of a Russian Hospital

By Indradyumna Swami


I was exhausted from many days of traveling and had difficulty rising this morning. Seeing my exhausted state, Govinda Maharaja told me to stay back from the program. With a little extra time I tried to answer some correspondence but fell asleep at the computer. It was the first time in months I had had a moment to attend to my correspondence. I feel bad because I know there are many disciples who are anxiously awaiting replies from me. I have more than three hundred letters to answer. But what can I do? My schedule is so intense, always traveling here and there with so many preaching engagements. My dear disciples, please forgive me.


I have also had to adjust my Deity worship. Several years ago I had an hour or more each day to offer puja to my Deities. But as the years have progressed and my responsibilities have increased, other services have taken priority. At the moment I am simply traveling with my Nrsimha salagrama. The puja takes me only ten minutes. I wear the salagrama around my neck during the day, instead of leaving Him unprotected in the apartments or hotels I stay in. For the time being, I have turned the worship of my other Deities over to several of my disciples in Poland.


My dear Lordships, please forgive me. Please accept my constant preaching to the conditioned souls and my disciples as my service unto You.


This morning Sri Prahlada took off the bandage on his right hand, and to our great relief his hand had healed properly. A few days ago he had injured it in a kirtana. A devotee dancing wildly had knocked Sri Prahlada into the wall, badly smashing his hand. I had the devotees take him to the hospital.


Upon his return Sri Prahlada had told us shocking stories of the state of affairs in a Russian hospital.


The devotees had accompanied him to the emergency room, where people, many in bad condition had been waiting in line for four days to see a doctor. The room was fiilthy, and the nurses were not caring for anyone. A man in great pain kept falling off his stretcher. No one came to help him, so Sri Prahlada and the other devotees would pick him up and put him back on the stretcher each time.


While the devotees were waiting for a doctor, a man came up to Sri Prahlada and asked if there were any Hare Krsna sisters present. He meant a woman devotee like a nun. He explained that his father was dying next door and he wanted a Hare Krsna nun to perform the last rites. Sri Prahlada looked around for a woman devotee, and seeing that none had come to the hospital with them, apologized to the man, who went away disappointed.


Somehow after only three hours Sri Prahlada was able to get treatment by a top neurosurgeon, who confirmed that his injury was not serious. In their ensuing discussions Sri Prahlada was shocked to learn that the doctor and most of his same caliber, earn a salary of only 100,000 rubles a month – about twenty American dollars.


A great risk in traveling in Russia is that if we would ever require serious medical assistance, the medical standard is so bad. Equipment in most places dates back to the 1960s. Proper drugs are scarce, even in big cities.


Recently my eighty-two-year-old disciple Kisori dasi had a two-hour surgical operation in Odessa without any anesthetic. I asked her how it was possible, how she tolerated the pain. She said she had no choice but to scream “Hare Krsna” at the top of her lungs during the operation.

Feet Soaked in Sticky Gulab Juice – By Indradyumna Swami

Diary of a Traveling Monk

Volume 1, Chapter 9

 May 26,1995

Feet Soaked in Sticky Gulab Juice

By Indradyumna Swami

 This morning we left Rostov for Krasnodar, further south. As we were leaving the temple, my ten disciples came close to the car to see me off. Many had tears in their eyes, and all of them were looking at me intently, knowing that they would not see me again for a long time, perhaps not for a year or more. It is always a difficult moment for both my disciples and me when I have to leave a place.

But I think it is more difficult for me. They are being separated from only one person they love, but I am being separated from many. My only consolation in such circumstances is that I will soon be in the association of other disciples at the next destination.

Sure enough, when we arrived in Krasnodar, there were more than two hundred and fiifty enthusiastic devotees there to greet us. Many were disciples of mine who had not seen me for a long time. We exchanged our loving feelings through chanting and dancing together to the holy names of the Lord.

Then Govinda Maharaja and I sat on the vyasasana together and accepted the traditional foot-bathing and guru-puja ceremony. As the devotees came forward to offer flowers, we both gave each one a gulabjamun, which had been soaking in sugar juice in a big pot in front of us. I was sitting on the left side so I gave each devotee a gulab first, after they had offered me a flower. With that gulab and another flower in their hands they then offered a flower to the feet of Govinda Maharaja.

But I laughed throughout the whole ceremony because each time they offered their flowers to Maharaja, the juice from the gulab in their hands also dripped onto his feet. By the end of the ceremony his feet were soaked in sticky gulab juice. And little Nadya, who always stayed by my side during her time with us, ate so many gulabs that she couldn’t stand.

Everyone Has a Right to Live Here and Worship God – By Indradyumna Swami

Diary of a Traveling Monk

Volume 1, Chapter 8

 May 25,1995

Everyone Has a Right to Live Here and Worship God

By Indradyumna Swami

We put on a Harinama and program in the center of Rostov. The police escorted our Harinama the whole way. I didn’t bother asking Acaryanidhi why, because I remember this was where the Cossacks had threatened to beat us up on our Harinama last year. Today, when Govinda Maharaja was asking for questions after his lecture, a man stood up and defiantly challenged him.

“Why have you come to the land of the Cossacks?” he asked.

At the back of the hall a number of men began moving towards the stage, and we braced ourselves for a fight. But Maharaja began answering his question calmly, emphasizing that this is God’s land and everyone has a right to live here and worship God as he sees fit. The audience applauded his answer, and the atmosphere calmed down. But I felt they wanted blood and that we would meet them again. The rest of the program went without incident.

When we returned to the temple this evening, a group of fifteen devotees, many of them my disciples, approached me with complaints about the temple president and local management. I listened carefully because I’ve learned from many years of leadership to always hear both sides of the issue. But from the beginning I had my doubts about their complaints. I knew Acaryanidhi and his men quite well, and they are competent managers.

After hearing from the devotees, I called for Acaryanidhi and the other managers and heard their side of the story. Then I called both groups in and had them discuss the issues between themselves in front of me. The whole procedure, which was intense, went until 2:00 AM.

Then I gave my verdict. I felt that the complaints were not of a serious nature, most of them stemming from rumors. Other complaints— that the devotees couldn’t always get laksmi for personal needs, that the temple president once called someone a bad name, that he wasn’t personal enough, etc—didn’t warrant the revolution that was brewing.

On the other hand I told the temple managers that they had to have more communication with the devotees. I told them Srila Prabhupada introduced ista-gosthi (temple meetings) so that temple managers could keep in touch with the feelings and needs of devotees. I also reminded them that although some devotees are able to work harder and do more service than others, all devotees are important and should feel protected and cared for.

Are you God, the Almighty? – By Indradyumna Swami

Diary of a Traveling Monk

Volume 1, Chapter 7

  May 24,1995

Are you God, the Almighty?

By Indradyumna Swami

 After chanting our rounds in the morning, we went to the Rostov temple for an afternoon program. After Govinda Maharaja’s lecture we had a huge kirtana, which we took from the temple into the streets of the neighborhood. The temple is in a relatively poor area where there are only dirt roads. During the kirtana, Govinda Maharaja had an idea. “There’s a colony of gypsies nearby,” he said. “Let’s take the kirtana there.”

Within a few minutes we arrived at the gypsy area. Their crude wooden houses stood in a sort of circle, and we chanted in the center. Suddenly they all poured out of their homes, dressed in their traditional colorful outfits. They were amazed to see us, and a crowd of several hundred surrounded the kirtana and began clapping and moving to the rhythm. After a while we stopped the kirtana and I spoke to them, encouraging them to chant and dance with us. When I reminded them that their forefathers originally came from India, they cheered. When we began the next kirtana, transcendental chaos broke out as the gypsies began wildly chanting and dancing with us. The kirtana went on for hours.

Towards the end I was resting by the side when a group of gypsy children came and stood around me, mouths open, their big eyes staring at me. After standing motionless for some time they began speaking among themselves and pushed a boy forward.

“Are you God, the Almighty?” he asked.

 I smiled. “No,” I said. “I’m the tiny servant of God.”

Warnings of Anti-Cult Danger – By Indradyumna Swami

Diary of a Traveling Monk

Volume 1, Chapter 6

 May 23,1995

During the morning in Rostov we received a call that Niranjana Maharaja was refused entry into Russia. He had been in Tbilisi, Georgia, and was coming up from there by car into southern Russia to meet us. It was sobering information. Last week we met Maharaja in St. Petersburg, and he told Govinda Maharaja and me that ISKCON leaders in Moscow had received reliable information from sources inside the government that the FSK (formerly the KGB) is preparing a serious strike against us. After communism was fiinished in Russia in 1990, the KGB was reorganized as the FSK, the government’s secret service unit. “Reorganized” means most of the same people remained in the service, only their titles were changed. It is obvious that every country needs a secret service, just as in the United States there is the CIA.

The recent events in Japan with the cult group Aum Shinrikyo, which is accused of a poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, caused a big stir in Russia. Aum Shinrikyo has many members here and they own a lot of property. One week after the incident in Japan, the Russian Government voted the group illegal and the FSK closed in on them and liquidated their assets. The FSK took four million American dollars from Aum Shinrikyo’s bank accounts and gave it to the most powerful anti-cult group in Russia.

The next week the Duma (Russian Parliament) met and unanimously passed a stronger and broader law giving it full power to close down any “cult” or “sect.” Niranjana Maharaja told us that the Russian Orthodox Church is strongly pushing parliament to do this.

The Church is upset about ISKCON’s success in Russia since perestroika and glasnost gave rise to democracy.

Last year Newsweek magazine wrote that the Hare Krsna Movement is the “fastest growing religion in Russia.”

When the Aum Shinrikyo incident happened in Japan, the Russian Orthodox Church used that to push the government to close the group down in Russia. But Niranjana Maharaja said that the Church’s ultimate target is ISKCON. Under Russian law a parliamentary ruling must be voted on twice and then ratified by the President. The second voting on the “new religions” bill is imminent and will then go to President Yeltsin for approval. Considering that he often appears at public functions with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, things don’t look very good for us.

Several weeks ago the government also reactivated Section 5 of the KGB, which oversees and investigates religious affairs. Since then, various temples have reported their telephone lines appear to be bugged, and one temple reported that its COM system had been infiltrated. Another ominous report is that Russian embassies in other countries are no longer issuing visas to ISKCON devotees desiring to visit Russia. My fear is that I may not be able to come back here. It is an uncomfortable thought because I have been preaching here for years, even secretly during the communist era, and have initiated more than three hundred and fifty disciples.

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