Vanity thought #245. Good Tidings.

Last night, after typing up this blog, I saw some really inspiring news in my tweeter feed and it I think they deserve some thinking about, and some other news stories from the past couple of weeks, too.

First was a Facebook article about an annual festival in Ukraine. Yesterday I was reminiscing about huge kirtans in Mayapur but that festival must not be very far behind, in fact its title is simply “The Biggest Festival”.

The author, HH Devamrita Swami, doesn’t compare it to Mayapur yet but someone in the comments hopes to elevate Ukraine to a dham status ASAP. In terms of the size it’s the biggest ISKCON event already, with 6,000 registered guests. Actually that doesn’t sound like much if you think that sporting events draw ten times more spectators every weekend and some large political rallies reach a million but we are talking about a six thousand strong kirtan here. Surely Man U fans can easily whip up a six thousand strong chorus and will be just as ecstatic singing their silly songs but we are talking about six thousand strong KIRTAN here. That is just mindblowing and it’s only going to grow, it already adds over a thousand more people each year.

Another aspect of that festival is that there was no compulsory fee. Registering devotees are informed of the organizing cost per head but they are not forced to pay, just donate as much as they want and it worked. This policy even worked in gift shops where people could pick up anything they wanted and just leave donations. What can I say, long live Soviet Communism!

Humor aside, this is what our spiritual communism should be like, we should give people our service and leave returns to Krishna. He WILL provide, after all that’s our fundamental philosophical premise. No wonder I had never been offered any managerial positions…

When things are growing it’s relatively easy to implement but what would happen when people get greedier? Would the festival go broke? Every country had experienced tough spells, some have never quite shaken them off, and deterioration is actually the natural quality of the material world, what would happen if people lose interest and devotees start leaving?

I don’t think it should be worrying. Let’s things run their natural course, somebody is going to lose some money, true, but it’s trying that counts, not the success per se, right? There will be devotees who will learn from the failures, too. What’s the actual loss?

There was another encouraging article I saw on Dandavats recently and it was about a Polish devotee, Mahasringa, who has been cooking for Food For Life and other prasadam distribution programs for decades now. He has fed three and a half million people and he is not thinking about retirement yet. This is just amazing dedication, wherever he lives or visits he just finds pots and pans and cooks. I’m sure he doesn’t always have funds, he provides his loving, selfless service and Krishna takes care of the rest.

I think Ukrainian festival organizers have the same attitude, too – we’ll do our part to our best and we’ll take whatever support Krishna thinks we really deserve. This is a massive shift in consciousness and it’s becoming institutionalized, not just dreamed about or eulogized. I hope this is only the pilot project and this model will be spread all over the world. God know the world needs it.

What it really offers to the world is the proof that we are not just some weirdos with funny handbags but we can actually make something work according to OUR laws, not the market economics. I think Srila Prabhupada was very clear that prasadam should be served in our temples for free to anyone who comes but somehow or other we had become focused on the “free” part as in “no such thing as free lunch” and at some point our free prasadam started coming with our mental conditions attached but things have been changing for the better for years now.

I’m sure no one was counting the proceeds amidst a roar of a six thousand strong kirtan, I’m sure lots of people were on the seventh heaven and weren’t even touching the ground in that euphoria, which, I think, is essential if they want to turn that place into a new dham – it needs the dust of their lotus feet.

Another good ISKCON news also came from former USSR, this time from Siberia. They have finally installed the first ever deities of Radha Krishna in Russia, and not in Moscow but in some godforsaken Siberian Gulag. Okay, that city, Omsk, looks quite respectable on the Internet, with over a million population, but I doubt it has ever been anything more than an unknown blip on ISKCON maps.

Apparently they have built quite a community there, got their own land, built their own temple, trained their own pujaris and so on. All of it without waiting for Moscow to lead the way. As far as I know HH Bhakti Bringa Govinda Maharaj has been the main preaching motor in that zone, and he is another devotee whose energy and dedication is unmatched. He is like a touchstone turning Siberian forest into gold, or maybe into groves of kalpa-vriksha trees.

In another, not so good news from Siberia, Christians in Tomsk have taken Bhagavat Gita to courts and they want to prove that it’s the extremist literature that should be banned and burned. Apparently devotees won’t be even allowed to keep Bhagavat Gitas, much less distribute them to the public. The demons have lost this case once already but now they want to bring new university “experts” who had previously banned Jehovah’s Witnesses. Legally the verdict might not have much affect on the book distribution as only one specific edition would be affected but it would be like adding a nuclear weapon to the arsenal of church propaganda there.

On that subject, there was a curious development in Paris recently where they have altogether outlawed praying in the streets. Granted it was aimed at a specific Muslim community that inconvenienced both traffic and pedestrians in one city block but they are looking to extend the ban to the rest of the country in a few months. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any news on how this ruling affected our harinama parties, I imagine they could be stopped and asked to disperse at any time. France, the nation that practically invented the western concept of liberty has gone a full circle and is promoting fascism instead.

Finally, the biggest story of the past couple of weeks had been the departure of HG Gopiparanadhana Prabhu. I have never seen him in person but it seems he was a living example of a learned and devoted brahmana, the kind that is most dear to Krishna, the kind that we mention several times every day when offering prasadam, and that’s just the first among his exceptional qualities. Personally, I’m going to re-read his translation of Brihad Bhagavatamrita at the earliest chance and find his Q&A group that, reportedly, was a trove of useful information.

I still don’t know what should be the reaction to the departure of vaishnavas. It’s sad for us but it’s good for them. Should we be selfish and miserable of happy for his return to Krishna? I don’t know, it should be a mix, I suppose.

To conclude this review I would happily report that no Dalai Lama quotes have found their way into my twitter for the past month of so. I hope it was only a one off occasion. He might be a cool dude but whose quotes are going to appear there next? Deepak Chopra?