These Are All Krsna’s Arrangements

Diary of a Traveling Monk
Volume 15
Chapter 10



I was on my morning walk on the beach in Durban, South Africa, last week when my cell phone rang.

“Hey, Maharaja. This is Craig! Craig from high school!”

“Wow, Craig! I can’t even remember the last time we were in touch! How are you doing?”

“Just fine,” he replied. “I heard through the grapevine that you’re recovering from a big surgery and I just wanted to call and wish you well.”

“Thanks a lot, Craig. That’s very kind of you,” I said. “Hey, I’m curious. How did you get my number?”

“I met a few of your students here in California,” he said. “And I follow you on Facebook too. You’ve done well for yourself!”

“Well, thanks,” I said.

“Remember way back in 1969? I predicted who your guru would be. And it all came true!” he said.

“That’s true, you did predict it,” I said. We both laughed.

“Well, get better, my friend,” he said. “And let’s keep in closer touch.”

“Yes,” I said. “Let’s do that.”

Craig had reminded me of a defining moment in my life. Overwhelmed with emotion, I sat down on a bench. I looked out at the ocean and, wondering at the mysterious ways of the Lord, I thought back to that moment.

On leave from the United States Marine Corps for a month in July 1969, I was living with six of my friends in a rented house in my hometown of Kentfield, California. One evening the phone rang.

“Hey, Steve,” one of the guys called out, “get the phone, will you?”

“Man, I’m watching the Beverly Hillbillies,” Steve yelled back. “No way I’m getting up!”

“I’ll get it,” said Jonny in a resigned voice. He put his beer down and dragged himself off the sofa and into the kitchen. “The darn phone rings all day long, and it’s never for me.”

Sure enough: “It’s for you Brian,” he called to me.

“Who is it?”

“Dunno, I didn’t ask,” Jonny said. “But the guy sounds official.”

“Thanks, man,” I said, taking the receiver from him. Into the phone I said,
“Hello, this is Brian. Can I help you?”

“Is this Lance Corporal Tibbitts?” said a commanding voice. I immediately realized it was a Marine Corps official.

“Sir, yes sir! It’s me.”

“The captain of the local duty station is requesting that you come to see him at zero-eight-hundred tomorrow morning,” he said.

“What’s it about?” I asked.

“That’s classified, soldier.”

“Sure. Ok,” I said. “I’ll be there.”

The next morning, I arrived in full uniform at the Marine Corps center on Madison Ave in San Rafael at 8 am. I knew where it was because I had signed up for the Corps there three years earlier. The captain was a serious-looking man in his 60s; he directed me to a chair in front of his imposing desk.

“Lance Corporal Tibbitts, thank you for coming in,” he said. “I have the report of your meeting with the naval doctors last week in Oakland.”

“Yes, sir,” I said nervously.

“Son,” he said, “on the advice of those physicians, we’re discharging you from the Corps, effective immediately. An honorable discharge.”

I felt my stomach drop. “But why?” I blurted out. “I thought I was on my way to Vietnam!”

“Well, according to the report, you joined the Corps with eight of your high school friends. Correct?”

“Yes, sir,” I replied. “All guys from my high school football team.”

“And when your unit shipped out to Vietnam, you were ordered to stay back for advanced weaponry training. Yes?”

“Yes, sir. Underwater demolition.”

“And then you served stateside for some time?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And while you were stateside, your platoon came under heavy artillery and rocket fire during the Tet Offensive. And all your friends were killed. Correct?”

“Yes, sir,” I said in a quiet voice.

“The doctors have determined that that’s had a major effect on you,” the captain said. “We don’t deem you fit for combat.”

“But I’m over it,” I said in a bigger voice. “I’m ready to go.”

“Not according to what I have here in front of me,” he said, tapping the pages on his desk. “Your father’s deceased?”

“Yes, sir. Last year.”

“It says here he was on the aircraft carrier USS Cabot in WWII in the South Pacific. Says that he was injured and that he received a purple heart.”

“Yes, sir,” I said, surprised. “He saw action there. It was his dying wish that I join the armed forces.”

“Has your mother remarried?” the captain asked.

“No, sir.”

“Are you helping her out financially?”

“Yes sir, I am.”

“Son, we’ve taken all that into consideration. Your discharge papers will be mailed to you within a week.”

“But sir…”

“That will be all, soldier.”

“But I’m not a soldier anymore,” I said, standing up.

“You gave a few good years to your country,” he said. “You can be proud of that.”

When I got back to the house, I shared the news with my friends. They all jumped up and down for joy, but I was despondent.

“Come on, man!” Steve said. “Be happy! You know how many guys wish they could get out of going to the war in Vietnam?”

“You know my story, Steve,” I said. “Harvey, Jerry, Paul, and all the others died in combat while I was stateside. They’re gone and I’m still here. I don’t feel good about that.”

The mood in the room changed suddenly. Craig, the most spiritual of my friends, spoke up.

“Everyone has their karma, Brian,” he said. “Try not to feel guilty. Karma is a law of nature. What you do, good or bad, comes back to you. It wasn’t your time to die then, and it isn’t your time now either.”

“Whatever,” I said.

I walked down to the corner church and sat awkwardly in the pews with folded hands.

“I can’t remember ever having come into a church,” I said out loud. I wasn’t sure who to talk to, so I directed my words toward the cross on the altar. “My parents weren’t religious, and I guess neither am I. But what can I say, God? I’m struggling with a few issues and, honestly, I don’t know who to turn to. If you’re there, if you’re real, can you give me a sign? Some direction?”

It was quiet in the church. I sat a few minutes and when nothing happened, I stood up and left, grabbing one of the free bibles at the entrance on the way out.

I wandered into a local alternative bookstore. Browsing through the section on eastern philosophy, I picked out a book I thought might help. It was called The Tibetan Book of The Dead.

I stopped in a park on the way back to the house and read the first few chapters. I was confronted with an idea totally foreign to me: the theory of reincarnation, the idea that there is life after death.

“It helps a little if you believe in reincarnation, I guess,” I thought. “If it’s true, it means the guys are probably doing OK somewhere else.”

When I finally got back to the house, Craig was sitting on a couch waiting for me. He could see I was upset even without me saying a word. Craig was like a big brother to me. Tall, freckled and with a full head of red hair, he stood out in a crowd. He had done well in school until the drug culture hit and he had started missing classes. Intelligent and inquisitive by nature, he had recently started showing an interest in Indian philosophy.

“Hey Brian, Billy saw you go into the church,” he said. “How about we sit and have a talk? How are you?”

“I just don’t know where to turn from here,” I confessed.

“I think you should look to the East,” he said. “Like India. The Beatles went there. They stayed in an ashram for a few weeks. Look, yesterday I was in San Francisco, in the Haight Ashbury, visiting some friends. Someone gave me an invitation to a big event that’s happening tomorrow in Golden Gate Park.”

“Yeah, what kind of event?”

“It’s a big parade with a gigantic chariot from India,” he said. “A spiritual gathering. People dress up like in India. They’re gonna sing songs and burn incense. Stuff like that. It’s the talk of Haight Ashbury. All the hippies in San Francisco are going.”

“What’s it all about?” I asked.

“I’m not completely sure,” Craig said. “But there’s going to be a vegetarian feast at the end, so I’m going. You wanna come with me? It’s free!”

“I guess so,” I said. “I don’t really feel like going to a big celebration, but I guess I’ll go if you’re going”.

“Hey, but it’s not just a celebration,” Craig said. “Maybe you can find the answers you’re looking for.”

“Yeah, sure. OK,” I said. “Where shall I meet you?”

“I’ll meet you at the event,” Craig replied. “Just drive over Golden Gate Bridge and take the second exit into the park. We can meet at noon next to the big chariot.”

The next morning, I got up late and rushed through the traffic towards Golden Gate Bridge, which was an hour from where we lived. There a long line of stationary cars backed up for at least half a mile at the tollgate.

“Reports are just coming in of a bad accident on Golden Gate Bridge,” the newsreader announced on the radio. “The California Highway Patrol says to expect a delay of several hours.”

I gave up after two hours. “Must be my karma,” I thought, remembering Craig’s explanation for unfortunate reversals.

The next day Craig came bursting into the kitchen where I was having breakfast.

“Hey Brian,” he said. “What happened, man? I looked for you everywhere at the parade yesterday.”

“Sorry,” I said “there was an accident on the bridge. I waited for hours and just gave up.”

“Man, you really missed out,” Craig said. “It was far out! There were literally thousands of people. The chariot was huge! We all pulled it through the park on ropes for three miles down to the beach. Then we had a feast of rice pudding, fruit salad, and sugar balls. The food was so delicious! But you know what impressed me the most?”

“What?” I said.

“The guru,” he said. “He’s the spiritual teacher of the people who organized the event. He’s from India. He rode on the chariot with statues of their gods. His speech in the Family Dog Auditorium was super cool. He began by telling us he was going to sing a song by an Indian holy man who lived 450 years ago. Then he explained the song. It was something about an incarnation of God who lived 500 years ago. At the end, he encouraged us to sing, dance and eat the food.”

“Wow. Sorry I missed it,” I said.

“Yes, but listen to this,” Craig said. “I was thinking of you as he spoke. Everything he said seemed to resonate with who you are. I mean, he was talking about finding the answers to the questions of life. And how we’re struggling in this world but that there’s a spiritual way out. Stuff like that. And when he said his practice includes singing and dancing, I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s Brian when he’s doing good.’ Because you like to sing and dance. And you know what?”


“I’m convinced he’s your guru. I mean seriously, man. One day you’re gonna be his student!”

“No way, Craig,” I said. “I’m not even looking for a guru.”

“I get it,” he said. “But if you ever do want a guru, he will be your guru. Believe me. I’m gonna write down his name for you.”

Tearing off a piece of newspaper that was lying on the couch, he wrote down each letter of the guru’s name and handed it to me. “They call him Srila Prabhupada,” he said.

I took the scrap of paper and crammed it into a pocket in my jeans. That night before going to sleep I emptied out my pockets onto my bed and found the piece of paper. I stuffed it into the cover of my Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band record album by the Beatles.

For a few weeks, I mused over Craig’s advice that I look to the East for the answer as to why my friends died in the war and I didn’t. My discharge from the Marine Corps, though honorable, also weighed heavily on my mind. I finally decided to leave the house I was living in with my friends, leave California, and leave the United States altogether.

“For now, I’ll go to Europe and experience different countries and different cultures. I’ll meet all kinds of people. Maybe I’ll find some answers to my questions,” I thought.

In September 1969, I boarded a flight for Europe with a friend. We visited England, Denmark, France, Germany and Greece. We were still unfulfilled, so we went on to Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon. I started thinking of going on further to India when unforeseen circumstances forced me to return to the USA. Upon my return, I got married and, with my wife started to follow Craig’s advice in earnest by attending lectures of various yogis and spiritual teachers who themselves had traveled from India with their teachings.

Then, as fate would have it, in December 1970, my wife and I chanced upon a small group of men who seemed to be monks. They were dressed in flowing saffron robes and were singing and dancing on the main lawn of the campus of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor where I was working as a gardener. A large group of 200 or so students had gathered around them. When the singing stopped, one of the monks stepped forward to speak.

“Thank you, boys and girls,” he said in a clear and joyful voice. “This chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is a transcendental sound vibration coming down from the spiritual world.”

The students started drifting away. After a few minutes there were only a few remaining. But I stood dumbfounded by the whole experience, captivated by the young monk’s presence and by the atmosphere they had created. The young monk came over to me.

“My name is Visnujana Swami,” he said. “What’s yours?”

“Brian,” I said. “Tell me more about what you’re doing. Tell me about Krsna.”

“First let me tell you about my guru,” he said. “One can only understand Krsna by the mercy of the spiritual master.”

“Who is your guru?” I asked.

“His name is Srila Prabhupada,” he replied.

The name was familiar, but I couldn’t figure out why. It rang a bell and awakened a deep emotion I couldn’t understand.

We sat and the swami spoke about Srila Prabhupada for well over an hour. When he finished, he asked me, “So what do you think?”

“Can he be my spiritual master too? Can I be his disciple like you?” I asked.

It wasn’t long before I was. My wife and I moved into the nearby Hare Krsna temple and, within a year, I was an initiated disciple of His Divine Grace Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami, affectionately known to his disciples and followers as Srila Prabhupada.

I had long forgotten the short exchange I had had with my friend Craig after he saw Srila Prabhupada at the chariot festival in San Francisco. But ten years after joining the movement, I went to visit my mother in California where I went through some of my old possessions which I had left with her when I went to Europe. When I picked up my Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band record album a tiny yellow piece of newspaper fell out from the cover. Picking it up, I saw Srila Prabhupada’s name scribbled in Craig’s handwriting on it. Suddenly, everything came back to me and I broke into tears.

I marveled at how the Lord orchestrates for His devotees to come to Krsna consciousness and at how He had arranged for me to meet and take shelter of my eternal spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. I could only conclude that such arrangements are not of this world.

Srila Prabhupada has said the same:

“Today is the disappearance day of my Guru Maharaja. I was born in a different family, my Guru Maharaja was born in a different family. Who knew that I would come to his protection? Who knew that I would go to America? Who knew that you American boys would come to me? These are all Krsna’s arrangements. We cannot understand how things are taking place.”

[Srila Prabhupada lecture on the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, Los Angeles, December 9, 1968]



Их радостные улыбки

Дневник странствующего монаха

Том 15, глава 2

8 мая 2019

Последние пять месяцев я провел большей частью во Вриндаване, отлучаясь лишь на несколько коротких поездок. Но в начале мая я уехал. Несмотря на приближение тягостной летней жары, мне казалось, что я мог бы задержаться и подольше. Ощущая глубокую разлуку, с огромным сожалением я направлялся в аэропорт Нью-Дели, чтобы улететь из святой дхамы.

Вриндаван становится частью* тебя, когда остаешься в нем достаточно долго. Даже краткое посещение святого места может произвести чудотворный эффект. В «Сканда-пуране» говорится:

«Человек, проживший в Двараке шесть месяцев, месяц или хотя бы полмесяца, заслуживает того, чтобы перенестись на Вайкунтха-локи и получить все блага сарупья-мукти, дарующего преимущества того же четырехрукого тела, что у Нараяны».
[Нектар преданности, глава 7]

А Шрила Прабхупада однажды сказал: «Вриндаван – для вдохновения». Я всегда понимал это так: мы приезжаем во Вриндаван, чтобы очиститься и развить привязанность к нашему возлюбленному Господу Шри Кришне, но через какое-то время должны уехать и делиться нашей огромной удачей с людьми, ничего не знающими о Кришне и Его трансцендентной обители. Заставляя себя уезжать, я держал в мыслях это наставление.

Однако, к тому времени, как я добрался до аэропорта, я уже был в ином настроении, готовый проповедовать сознание Кришны. С самого начала своей карьеры преданного мне одинаково нравилось и проповедовать на улицах западных городов, и бродить по лесам Вриндавана в поисках святых мест. Эти настроения взаимосвязаны. Проповедуя сознание Кришны в странах Запада, мы становимся достаточно подготовленными для посещения Вриндавана, а, живя во Вриндаване, обретаем чистоту и духовную силу, чтобы делиться сознанием Кришны с другими. Шрила Прабодхананда Сарасвати красиво это выразил:

йатха йатха гаура-падаравинде
виндета бхактим кр̣та-пун̣йа-расих̣
татха татхотсарпати хр̣дй акасмад

«До какого уровня мы предаемся служению Господу Чайтанье – того же уровня мы обретаем и качества, необходимые для служения лотосным стопам Радхарани во Врадже».
[ Чайтанья Чандрамрита, текст 88 ]


Из Нью-Дели я вылетел в Польшу, где хранятся мои вещи. Отдохнул там денек и на следующее утро отправился в варшавский аэропорт, чтобы сесть на самолет до Москвы и так начать свой ежегодный месячный тур по России. И столкнулся с очень нелюбезной сотрудницей иммиграционной службы.

– Ваш паспорт, – рявкнула она. За ней сидела другая дама в униформе, наблюдавшая за каждым ее движением. Я сделал вывод, что попал к стажеру.

– Где посадочный талон? – резко бросила она. Начальница еле заметно одобрительно улыбнулась.

– Вот, мэм, – сказал я, передавая его через окошко в стекле.

– Разве вы не знаете, что должны подавать его вместе с паспортом? – прорычала она так, будто я был самым распоследним тупицей.

– Да, конечно, в следующий раз так и сделаю, – ответил я, удивляясь, неужели в должностные обязанности входит резкое и грубое обращение с вылетающими пассажирами.


Пока она проверяла мои документы, я вспомнил, как однажды в аэропорту Джона Кеннеди в Нью-Йорке проходил иммиграционный контроль вместе со Шрилой Прабхупадой. Таможенник был с ним очень груб. Он хотел посмотреть, что в маленьком белом чемоданчике Шрилы Прабхупады, но замок заклинило, и Шрила Прабхупада никак не мог его открыть.

Офицер потерял терпение:

– Я же сказал открыть! – прикрикнул он на Шрилу Прабхупаду.

Возмутившись, я шагнул вперед, и рука моя сжалась в кулак:

– Еще раз скажешь что-нибудь таким тоном моему духовному учителю – разобью физиономию!

В наше время этого было бы достаточно для ареста. Но тогда таможенник лишь отпрянул от меня в шоке.

– А я-то думал, что вы, Харе Кришны**, за мир! – саркастически заметил он.

Я по-прежнему стоял в вызывающей позе. Как бы желая меня унять, он сказал:

– Ладно, молодой человек, тогда вы откройте.

Я придвинул к себе чемоданчик, немного повозился с замком, и крышка, подскочив, внезапно открылась. Как завороженный, я стоял и разглядывал личные вещи моего духовного учителя: его паспорт, золотую ручку, маленький шарик тилака, тюбик с аюрведическим лекарством, пару каратал и другие трансцендентные предметы.

Голос таможенника нарушил мое благоговение.

– Молодой человек, это я должен осматривать вещи, не вы.

Я подвинул чемоданчик ему, и после беглого осмотра он нас пропустил.

Уже когда мы шли по летному полю к самолету, Шрила Прабхупада сказал:

“Из-за соприкосновения с гунами материальной природы люди развивают множество плохих качеств. Но когда кому-то выпадает удача общаться с преданными Господа, он развивает все хорошие качества полубогов”.


– Ваш паспорт! – сердитая сотрудница польской иммиграционной службы размахивала моими документами по ту сторону стекла.

– О, простите, – сказал я, и она вытолкнула их через окошко.

Начальница улыбнулась ей, будто подтверждая хорошо проделанную работу. А затем переключилась на другого стажера, слева от себя.

Поведение моей таможенницы тотчас изменилось. Широко улыбаясь, она прошептала через окошко:

– Я обожаю ваши лекции на фестивале Индии. Каждое лето я езжу в Реваль. У меня есть «Бхагавад-гита».

Я тоже улыбнулся и хотел было ответить, но начальница, заподозрив что-то неладное, обдала ее холодным взглядом. Мгновенно ее лицо опять стало каменным.

– На этом всё, – сказала она, давая понять, что я должен отойти.

«Спасибо, Кришна, – думал я, – что показываешь мне чудные плоды Твоего движения самкиртаны».

Иммиграционный и таможенный контроль в Москве прошел на удивление легко. В зале прилета меня встречали 60 счастливых преданных, все с улыбками до ушей. Когда я шел к ним, меня посетило странное чувство. «Что это такое с преданными», – думал я. А затем понял: «Их улыбки! В точности как у сотрудницы иммиграционного контроля в Варшаве. У любого, кто испытал на себе милость Кришны, такая же радостная улыбка».

Я вспомнил фрагмент лекции Шрилы Прабхупады, которую недавно слушал.

«Верховный Господь радостен. Если вы оказались в счастливом сообществе или рядом со счастливым человеком, то автоматически станете радостны. Нет нужды быть радостными порознь. Само общение сделает вас радостными. Таково сознание Кришны. Просто благодаря общению. Это счастье от общения со Всевышним».
[лекция по «Бхагавад-гите», Лос-Анджелес, декабрь 1968]


Я подошел к собравшимся ликующим преданным, и они задарили меня бесчисленными букетами цветов и прекрасными цветочными гирляндами всех видов. Я уже раздавал букеты преданным рядом, а новые все прибывали в мои руки.

Идя к паркингу, я снимал с себя гирлянды и раздавал недоумевающим прохожим. Конечно, требуется немного смелости, чтобы подойти к совершенно незнакомому человеку и надеть ему гирлянду. Но я всегда убеждаюсь, что этот миг становится одним из «магических моментов» в сознании Кришны, как их называла моя духовная сестра Ямуна даси. Кто бы сомневался, большинство людей расплывались в широченных улыбках, напоминающих улыбки преданных, и принимали гирлянды. Некоторые даже просили с ними сфотографироваться.

Лифт к паркингу был переполнен: пятеро преданных и, по меньшей мере, еще человек двадцать. Столько незнакомцев столпилось в замкнутом пространстве – атмосфера была напряженной. В лифте было душно, плохо пахло, и единственным утешением был невероятный аромат трех гирлянд на моей шее, одна из которых почти касалась пола. Я чувствовал на себе взгляды пассажиров лифта, хотя и не был уверен, что именно кажется им странным: гирлянды, мои одеяния санньяси или и то, и другое. Я обратился к своему секретарю, прижатому ко мне.

– Махаван, – говорю, – хочу сделать объявление. Переводи людям, громко и четко.

Махаван посмотрел на меня в недоумении:

– Но, Гурудева…

– Дамы и господа, – громко начал я, – у меня тут чудесные ароматные гирлянды, которые любезно подарили мне мои ученики. До этого их предложили Богу, поэтому они приносят удачу любому, кто их носит.

Все, включая Махавана, будто застыли.

– Давай! – повторил я ему. – Переводи и улыбайся. Я проделывал это тысячи раз.

Так оно и было. В 1970-е годы я часами разъезжал в поездах парижского метро. На мне были дхоти и курта, яркая тилака и гирлянда, которую носили накануне Шри Шри Радха-Париж-Ишвара. Я запрыгивал в вагон метро и громко объявлял по-французски: «Дамы и господа! Добрый день всем замечательным людям Парижа. Я – монах из Америки, только что вернулся из Индии. У меня с собой книги, написанные моим духовным учителем, в которых он делится со всеми мудростью древней Индии. Это знание может решить все проблемы и изменить мир к лучшему. Когда я буду проходить мимо вас, пожалуйста, возьмите одну книгу и дайте щедрое пожертвование». Наверное, я произнес эту мантру 100 000 раз и продал 10 000 книг. Иногда я встречался с неприятием, но чаще всего люди были заинтригованы моим одеянием, улыбкой и смелостью, – так что они брали книги.


Я слегка подтолкнул Махавана:

-Давай же, – подбодрил я его.

– Дамы и господа, – начал он по-русски.

– Громче!

– Моему духовному учителю надарили чудных благоухающих гирлянд, – говорит он  немного громче.

Когда он закончил, лифт безмолвствовал. Люди переминались, некоторые нервно переглядывались. Время будто остановилось.

Затем женщина лет пятидесяти произнесла:

– Ладно, если можно, я бы хотела розовую.

Атмосфера разрядилась, и все стали уже без стеснения разглядывать гирлянды. Я поместил розово-бело-голубую гирлянду ей на шею.

– Какая честь, – выговорила она, затаив дыхание.

– Как это приятно слышать, – отвечаю.

Будто стараясь опередить всех заинтересованных в оставшихся гирляндах, другая женщина выпалила:

– Я бы хотела желтую!

Теперь уже все без исключения улыбались. Я вновь вспомнил слова Шрилы Прабхупады: «Если вы оказались в счастливом сообществе или рядом со счастливым человеком, вы автоматически станете счастливы».

Лифт уже доехал до верхнего этажа паркинга, когда стоявший в углу пожилой мужчина в черной потертой одежде тихо сказал:

– Уважаемый, а можно мне последнюю, длинную?

– Конечно, – отвечаю, надевая ему гирлянду. Он разулыбался, глядя, как она раскачивается у его лодыжек.

Лишь только открылись двери лифта, славная атмосфера улетучилась: все бросились искать свои машины. Только старик передвигался медленно, выверяя каждый шаг и сохраняя равновесие при помощи трости.

– Уважаемый, вас встречает кто-нибудь? – спрашиваю.

– О, нет, – отвечает он. – Никого. Я один.

– Жаль это слышать.

– А, не переживайте. Я на машине, и ваш добрый поступок осветил мой день. На мне гирлянда из цветов, благословленная Господом! Что может быть лучше такой удачи?

Он направился к паркингу. Это было то еще зрелище: старик в помятой одежде, неторопливо уходящий в тусклый свет – с гирляндой, доходящей ему до лодыжек, и со светящейся улыбкой.




«У Говинды, изначальной Личности Господа, в руках флейта. Он очень радостный, всегда улыбается. Своей улыбкой Он благословляет вас. Вы видите, как Он улыбается – и сами всегда улыбаетесь. Это настолько замечательно».
[ лекция Шрилы Прабхупады, Монреаль, 4 июля 1968 ]



На английском: https://www.facebook.com/indradyumna/posts/10214222296894318


* Vrindavan grows on you – букв. “прорастает” (прим. ред.)
** Hare Krishnas – общепринятое обращение к преданным движения Харе Кришна в англоязычных странах (прим. ред.)

, , , , ,

“May Mother Ganges Bless You Today”

Дневник странствующего монаха – Том 15, глава 1

“Да благословит тебя сегодня мать Ганга”


Ever since becoming a devotee of Lord Krishna in 1970, I have been fascinated with the Kumbha Mela festival. This year I decided to join millions of other pilgrims in the journey to the Ardha Kumbha Mela where, from January 15th to March 4th, ISKCON devotees were to follow in Srila Prabhupada’s footsteps by bringing his books, the Holy Names and prasadam to the festival.

Kumbha Mela is the largest religious gathering in the world. Estimates anticipated that 120 million pilgrims—nearly double the population of England and France combined—would visit the Mela over seven weeks. The Mela takes place four times within a twelve-year period on the banks of four of India’s most holy rivers: the Godavari River in Nashik, the Shipra River in Ujjain, the Ganges River in Haridwar and the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati Rivers in Prayagraj (formerly known as Prayaga ).

This year’s Mela was to be held at the confluence site at Prayagraj. The point of convergence is called “Triveni Sangam.” Bathing in any of the sacred rivers has a purifying effect, but it is said that the purification is increased a hundred times at the sangam and a thousand times at the sangam during Kumbha Mela.

Srila Prabhupada writes:

“Bathing during the month of Magha at the Magha-Mela [Kumbha Mela] still takes place. This is a very old Mela (assembly), dating from time immemorial. It is said that ever since the Lord in the form of Mohini took a bucket of nectar and kept it at Prayaga, holy men have gathered there every year and observed the Magha-Mela. Every twelfth year there is a Kumbha-Mela, a great festival, and all the holy men from all over India assemble there. Bathing at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna, near the fort at Allahabad (Prayaga), is mentioned in the revealed scriptures:

“maghe masi gamisyanti ganga yamuna sangamam
gavam sata sahasrasya samyag dattam ca yat phalam
prayage magha mase vai try aham snatasya tat phalam

“If one goes to Prayaga and bathes at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna in the month of Magha, he attains the result of giving hundreds and thousands of cows in charity. Simply by bathing for three days there, he attains the results of such a pious activity.”

[ Caitanya Caritamrita, Madhya 18.145 ]

I had a special desire to attend Kumbha Mela this year as the main bathing day, February 4th, was on Mauni Amavasya, which creates a special tithi that appears only once every 200 years. However, my main motivation to go was to meet with the holy men Srila Prabhupada describes in his above purport, and to share with them the glories of Lord Caitanya and His movement of chanting the holy names which He inaugurated just over 500 years ago. My experience in India is that most people are aware of the 10 primary incarnations of the Lord—the das avatars such as Lord Ramacandra, Varaha, Kurma, Matsya and so on. But very few are aware of the avatar of this age, Lord Caitanya, whose appearance is predicted in ancient scriptures like Srimad Bhagavatam:

krsna varnam tvisakrsnam
sanopangastra parsadam
yajnaih sankirtana prayair
yajanti hi su medhasah

“In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.” [ Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.32 ]

The origin of Kumbha Mela is mentioned in the Vedic scriptures. It is stated that in bygone ages, the demigods and demons assembled together to churn the ocean of milk to produce the nectar of immortality. Mandara Mountain was used as a churning rod, and Vasuki, the king of serpents, became the rope for churning. The demigods took Vasuki’s tail and the demons his head, and they churned the milk ocean for one thousand celestial years. Among many other amazing things, a pot of immortal nectar was produced. The demigods were fearful that the demons would take advantage of it, so they stole the pot and hid it in the four places on Earth where the Mela is held. During the act of hiding, a drop of immortal nectar spilled from the pot at each of the four places. Kumbha Mela is held at the time when, according to astrological calculations, the immortal nectar is most readily available to those who bathe in the sacred rivers.

Approaching the festival site, we pulled over at a small hill that provided a panoramic view of the Mela. The magnitude of the site testified to the pilgrims’ enthusiasm to be liberated from the material world through contact with the nectar of immortality. Witnessing the vast landscape of tents, I was fascinated by the thought that so many people were coming simply for spiritual purposes.

Prabhupada said:

“At the Kumbha-Mela, millions of people come to take bath in the Ganges because they are interested in how to become spiritually liberated from this material world. They travel thousands of miles to take bath in the Ganges at the holy place of Prayaga.” [ Room conversation with Pusta Krsna das ]

From our vantage point on the hill, I could see thousands upon thousands of people pouring into the Mela. These people were prepared to travel long distances and tolerate many discomforts, including sleeping in austere conditions in very cold weather. Some arrived on overcrowded trains. Others came by bus, car and even ox carts. While the rich and famous flew into Prayagraj on chartered flights, the multitudes came on foot carrying all their necessities—food and a couple changes of clothes—in bundles on their heads. But whether rich or poor, everyone had the same agenda: to bathe in the sangam at the auspicious moment and attain passage back to the spiritual world. I could hear many people glorifying the Ganges with cries of “Ganga Ma ki jaya! All glories to Mother Ganges!”

Sastra supports their glorification:

nimna ganam yatha ganga
devanam acyuto yatha
vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh
purananam idam tatha

“Just as the Ganga is the greatest of all rivers, Lord Acyuta the supreme among deities and Lord Sambhu [Siva] the greatest of Vaisnavas, so Srimad-Bhagavatam is the greatest of all Puranas.” [ Srimad Bhagavatam 12.13.16 ]

I knew that as Westerners, we would be a tiny minority at the Mela, but we were not the first foreigners to take part by any means. A seventh-century diary written by Hiuen Tsiang from China mentions Kumbha Mela. He writes that he witnessed half a million people gather on the banks of the Ganges at Prayagraj to observe a celebration for 75 days. He even mentions that a king was present with his ministers, scholars, philosophers and sages, and that he gave away huge amounts of gold, silver and jewels to acquire pious credit and assure himself a place in heaven.

The current rulers of India, likewise, were taking part in the Mela by facilitating many of the logistical details. The government had been working on the services and accommodations for an entire year, and the statistics were mind-boggling. Over 6,000 religious and cultural organizations had been allotted land, including our International Society for Krsna Consciousness. The Mela site sprawled over 32 square miles, an area equivalent to a large town. There were 4,200 premium tents, 300 kilometers of roads, 122,000 toilets, 20,000 dustbins, 10,000 policemen and 30,000 military personnel. They had provided row upon row of simple tents for free accommodation. There were lost-and-found centers dotted throughout the Mela, intended mainly for helping people find their lost family members and friends. In 2013, thousands of people—mostly women and children—went missing in the huge crowds. The entire cost of this year’s Kumbha Mela was estimated at 400 million dollars.

There were many ashrams and camps distributing free food throughout the Mela, including our ISKCON camp. Overall, 5,384 metric tons of rice, 7,834 tons of wheat, 3,174 tons of sugar and 767 kiloliters of kerosene were allocated to the food distribution centers. 160 dispensers of clean drinking water were available throughout the Mela.

A 100-bed hospital and ten smaller hospitals staffed by 200 doctors and 1,500 health professionals were set up throughout the event. 80 practitioners of Ayurveda were also available. There were elaborate plans for waste management too. Every one of the 122,000 toilets were geo-tagged to help tackle any problems. Talk about organization!

Meeting India’s Spiritual Leader

It is generally very difficult to meet famous spiritual personalities in India due to strict security policies, but luck was on my side. My good friend Pundrik Goswami of the Radha Raman temple in Vrindavan invited me to stay with him at a camp where many of the principal spiritual dignitaries would be staying. It was called, Guru Karishni Camp, and was run by Swami Sharanandaji Maharaja, a prominent figure in Vrindavan. I considered this to be a golden opportunity to network with these personalities, most of whom would be unlikely to visit our ISKCON camp at the Mela or ISKCON temples elsewhere in India.

Once I arrived at the camp, Pundrik Goswami lost no time introducing me to the spiritual leaders present. His introduction followed a standard format: he would begin by glorifying Srila Prabhupada and explaining how he took Krsna consciousness to the West and how ISKCON has become a worldwide spiritual organization. Then he would introduce me and share some of the results of my service in different parts of the world. His introduction acted as an endorsement whereby India’s spiritual leaders gained confidence and respect for my humble self and, through me, Srila Prabhupada’s movement.

Over several days I had enlightening talks with numerous personalities. These included:

· Sri Ravi Shankar, the head of the Art of Living Foundation: I shared with him the work of ISKCON in communist countries like Russia and China. I told him of how Srila Prabhupada went to Russia in the 1970s and of the success of our movement there since that time. He was so touched that he gave me a beautiful silk chaddar as a gift.

· Swami Chidananda of Parmarth Niketan from Rishikesh: he wasn’t staying at the Guru Karishni Camp, but like many other sadhus, he visited to associate with prominent spiritual leaders. We had lunch together on two occasions. After I spoke to him about the glories of Srila Prabhupada, he offered to help renovate holy places in Vrindavan. He was especially eager to give money towards cleaning Radha Kunda so that pilgrims could drink the water from it, as well as establishing a large evening arotika on the banks of that sacred lake.

· Keshav Prasad Maurya, the deputy chief minister of UP: he had some misconceptions about our movement which I was happy to resolve to his full satisfaction.

· Swami Avdeshanand, the leader of one million Naga Babas and head of the Juna Akhada: Naga Babas (translated literally as “naked yogis”) are worshipers of Lord Siva. With their ash-covered bodies and matted dreadlocks, even their physique resembles his. They take vows of celibacy, renounce societal norms and live in the Himalayas. Swami Avdeshanand is such a respected leader that he is given the honor of being the first person to bathe at Kumbha Mela. After our talk he took my hand and said, “Your movement is creating a spiritual revolution all over the world!”

· Sri Rajendra Das Ji Maharaja, a well-known sadhu with a big ashram in Vrindavan: moved by Srila Prabhupada’s voyage to the USA and his introduction of Krsna consciousness in almost every country of the world, he invited me to visit him for lunch in Vrindavan.

· Lokesh Muni, leader of the Jains in India: this was the third time I have met him over the last few years. He invited me to spend time with him at his headquarters in Rajasthan.

Lost At The Mela

Going anywhere outside the Guru Karishni Camp was a challenge because there was a veritable flood of humanity outside its confines: an estimated 64 million people were descending upon the Mela to bathe on February 4th, the most auspicious bathing day.

I woke up early that morning which was an austerity in itself. It was mid-winter and it was cold in the tent where I was staying. I bathed quickly in an improvised bathroom which was without hot water, and then went out into the cold foggy morning.

“How in the world are 64 million people going to bathe along the river bank?” I wondered. And then a doubt entered my mind. “Will I actually be able to bathe in the river myself?”

The previous night I had searched the internet for all the information I could find on the three sacred rivers, the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati. A recent BBC article described the Ganges as the world’s sixth most polluted river. It said that 3,000 million liters of untreated sewage are pumped into the river every day; the figure didn’t include the industrial waste poured into the Ganges as it descends from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. By the time it reaches Prayagraj, a town that also contributes untreated sewage to its waters, the Ganges, the article said, becomes a sewer.

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, claimed that cleansing the Ganges was nothing less than a mission from God.

“Ma Ganga has called me,” he told the crowd at his victory celebration some years ago when he was swept to power in a landslide victory. “She has decided some responsibilities for me. Ma Ganga is screaming for help; she is saying ‘I hope one of my sons gets me out of this filth’. It is possible it has been decided by God for me to serve Ma Ganga.”

He pledged serious money to his Clean Ganga Mission – more than $3 billion dollars.

This was sobering and disturbing information. I turned away from Google to the Srimad Bhagavatam and the purports of my spiritual master for guidance. My doubts were resolved when I read this:

yat pada sevabhirucis tapasvinam
asesa janmopacitam malamdhiyah
aadyah ksinotyanvaham edhati sati
yatha padangustha vinihsrta sarit

“By the inclination to serve the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, suffering humanity can immediately cleanse the dirt which has accumulated in their minds during innumerable births. Like the Ganges water, which emanates from the toes of the lotus feet of the Lord, such a process immediately cleanses the mind, and thus spiritual or Krsna consciousness gradually increases.” [ Srimad Bhagavatam, 4.21.31 ]

In his purport, Srila Prabhupada writes:

“In India, one can actually see that a person who takes a bath in the Ganges waters daily is almost free from all kinds of diseases. A very respectable brahmana in Calcutta never took a doctor’s medicine. Even though he sometimes felt sick, he would not accept medicine from the physician but would simply drink Ganges water, and he was always cured within a very short time. The glories of Ganges water are known to Indians and to ourselves also. The river Ganges flows by Calcutta. Sometimes within the water there are many stools and other dirty things which are washed away from neighboring mills and factories, but still thousands of men take baths in the Ganges water, and they are very healthy as well as spiritually inclined. That is the effect of Ganges water. The Ganges is glorified because it emanates from the toes of the lotus feet of the Lord. Similarly, if one takes to the service of the lotus feet of the Lord, or takes to Krsna consciousness, he is immediately cleansed of the many dirty things which have accumulated in his innumerable births.”

Elsewhere, Rupa Goswami writes that the Ganges is always pure, regardless of its seeming pollution:

drstaih svabhava janitair vapusas ca dosair
na prakrtatvam iha bhakta janasya pasyet
gangambhasam na khalu budbuda phena pankair
brahma dravatvam apagacchati nira dharmaih

“Being situated in his original Krishna conscious position, a pure devotee does not identify with the body. Such a devotee should not be seen from a materialistic point of view. Indeed, one should overlook a devotee’s having a body born in a low family, a body with a bad complexion, a deformed body, or a diseased or infirm body. According to ordinary vision, such imperfections may seem prominent in the body of a pure devotee, but despite such seeming defects, the body of a pure devotee cannot be polluted. It is exactly like the waters of the Ganges, which sometimes during the rainy season are full of bubbles, foam and mud. The Ganges waters do not become polluted. Those who are advanced in spiritual understanding will bathe in the Ganges without considering the condition of the water.” [ Nectar of Instruction, Text 6 ]

Reading these instructions, I decided to follow the advice of my spiritual master and the Srimad Bhagavatam. I remembered a key verse:

yasya deve para bhaktir
yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah
prakasante mahatmanah

“Only unto one who has unflinching devotion to the Lord and to the spiritual master does transcendental knowledge become automatically revealed.” [ Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.23 ]

“I’m going,” I said to myself out loud, with full conviction. “Whatever it takes, I will bathe at the Triveni Sangam at the auspicious time.”

The arrangements to travel to the sangam were made by Pundrik Goswami.

“Maharaja,” he said to me, “you’ll come with me and the spiritual leaders in a van, and your assistants, Narottam das, Vikram and Kartamashi das, can go in another. It will take us around four hours to reach the sangam.”

“That’s a long time,” I said. “How far away is it?”

“It’s 12 kilometers from here,” Goswami said.

“So we’ll be traveling at a rate of three kilometers an hour?” I asked.

“Well, remember there are 64 million people vying for that little space at the sangam,” he said. “The police say that since midnight last night 32 million people have bathed. But we’ll make it. We have a police escort.”

I sat on the floor of the van, relinquishing the seats to six elderly sadhus who were joining us on the journey. Wanting to focus on the purpose of our journey, I read aloud the following verse from Caitanya Caritamrta:

mahattvam gangayah satatam idam abhati nitaram
yad esa sri visnos carana kamalotpatti subhaga
dvitiya sri laksmir iva sura narair arcya carana
bhavani bhartur ya sirasi vibhavaty adbhuta guna

“The greatness of mother Ganges always brilliantly exists. She is the most fortunate because she emanated from the lotus feet of Sri Visnu, the Personality of Godhead. She is a second goddess of fortune, and therefore she is always worshiped both by demigods and by humanity. Endowed with all wonderful qualities, she flourishes on the head of Lord Siva.” [ Caitanya Caritamrita, Adi Lila 16.41 ]

When the sadhus heard me chanting the Sanskrit glorifying Mother Ganges, they all smiled broadly.

“May Mother Ganges bless you today!” one said, placing his hand upon my hand.

Our van crawled through the dense crowds. Seeing the sadhus inside, people folded their hands in respect, and some touched the van and then touched their heads. When they saw me crouched on the floor of the van, many smiled and called out, “Hare Krsna!”

“You Western vaisnavas are keeping our spiritual culture alive,” one of the sadhus said to me.

We finally arrived at the river confluence hours later. The bank seethed as people tried to move towards the water while others tried to move back after bathing.

“Alright! We’re here!” Pundrik Goswami called. “Everybody out!”

I hesitated. “Out where?” I thought. There was not an inch of free ground.

I quickly changed into a small red gamcha (thin cotton waist towel) and slung a small towel around my neck. Kicking off my sandals, I grabbed my cell phone and placed it in a small plastic bag. “Just in case!” I thought. Finally, I tucked my bag containing my passport and money safely under the seat. For a moment I contemplated taking a sweater because it was so cold outside.

“No,” I decided. “I’ll just take the bare minimum. The river is only meters away and we’ll be back in a flash!”

Without warning, the sliding door I was leaning on opened and I fell out of the van and onto the ground.

“I’m going to get trampled!” I thought. The crowd surged over me and around me. I pushed myself upwards to gasp for air; all I could see was waves of people for kilometers in every direction. When I finally managed to steady myself on my feet, I saw I was 20 meters behind the sadhus. They were intrepidly pushing their way towards the water, the policemen guarding them on all sides. The crowd was squeezing me and it was hard to breathe.

“Wait for me!” I yelled, trying to recover the distance between us. My cries merged into the tumultuous noise created by the pilgrims as they strained forward to bathe in the nectar of immortality.

I managed to rejoin the sadhus just a few meters from the Triveni Sangam where the Ganges flows alongside the Yamuna and the mystical Saraswati River joins them from beneath the ground. We were also joined by Vikram and Kartamashi, who was trying to take photos in the midst of it all. His face was ashen.

“I thought I was going to be crushed to death!” he blurted out.

The roar of the crowd at the sangam was deafening as thousands of people simultaneously achieved their goal of bathing. Cries of “Ganga Ma ki jaya! All glories to Mother Ganges!” reverberated everywhere.

Far away in the river, separated from the throng, I saw a small group of four sadhus standing motionless in the water, their hands folded in prayer. Their long, matted hair was tied up in topknots on their heads. Though thin, they were not emaciated; in fact, they were effulgent, almost glowing. Seeing their gravity and obvious devotion, the hair on my arms stood up for a moment.

“That’s the mood I’m seeking,” I thought. I remembered a verse that encapsulated my aspirations:

tvayi me ‘nanya-visaya
matir madhu-pate ‘sakrt
ratim udvahatad addha
gangevaugham udanvati

“O Lord of Madhu, as the Ganges forever flows to the sea without hindrance, let my attraction be constantly drawn unto You without being diverted to anyone else.” [ Srimad Bhagavatam 1.8.42, “Prayers by Queen Kunti” ]

As if hearing the verse I had just remembered, the sadhus I was with sat down together to do puja, their attention single-pointed on the sacred sangam, oblivious to anyone else.

“Here and now?” I thought. I watched in disbelief as they took out all sorts of paraphernalia and, in a peaceful reverie, began offering arotik to the three rivers. Hundreds of people directly behind us were straining to see the sadhus do their puja, while the build-up of people further back caused the line to bulge. People fell to the ground because of the weight of the crowd behind them.

I heard Vikram calling, “Maharaja! Maharaja!” Over to my right, the intense pressure of the crowd was pulling him away. Then he simply disappeared into the mass of people.

Suddenly the crowd surged forward with such force that all of us were thrown into the river. I clutched my phone in the plastic bag as I fell into the cold water. I swam up to the surface, gasping for air. There was transcendental chaos everywhere as people splashed each other in great joy. The glorification of Mother Ganges reached a frantic pitch: “Ganga Ma ki jaya! Ganga Ma ki Jaya! Ganga Ma ki jaya!”

Surrendering to the moment and remembering the four effulgent sadhus, I stood with my hands folded and prayed to Mother Ganges for loving devotion to the Supreme Lord. Then, following the prescribed method for bathing, I dunked three times into the cold water. When I came up the last time, one blissful sadhu jumped on me and we both tumbled back into the water. Coming up, he again pulled me under, this time going deeper into the water. We splashed each other in great fun, and more sadhus joined our little melee.

“Maharaja,” I heard a voice shout. I saw Vikram swimming towards me. “I finally found you!” he said. “Our group is back on the bank of the river and is preparing to leave. You must come now.”

As I prepared to get out of the water I saw Kartamashi on the bank taking photos. I raised my arms in bliss, and he took a last photo before being pushed from behind. He and his camera just escaped falling into the river.

I glanced back to catch a last glimpse of the four sadhus. They were nowhere to be seen.

“How is that possible?” I wondered. “There’s no way they could have moved through all the people bathing in the sangam back to the bank. It’s very peculiar.” I remembered something I had read a few days before:

“Prabhupada said that although a number of the saints and sadhus present [at Kumbha Mela] were inauthentic, many were perfect yogis, some of them three and four hundred years old. These yogis, from remote parts of India, would come out for the Mela and then return to seclusion. ‘I have personally seen,’ he said, ‘that they take bath in the Ganges and come up in the seven sacred rivers! They go down in the Ganges and come up in the Godavari River. Then they go down and come up in the Krsna River, and go down, like that. The devotees, therefore, should respect everyone who attended the Mela.’” [Srila Prabhupada lilamrta, Volume 4, Every Town and Village]

It took me a good half an hour to make it back to the van. Somehow we had acquired a number of additional sadhus for the ride back to the camp, so I offered to ride in the smaller car with Narottam, Vikram and Kartamashi. Always concerned about my welfare, Pundrik Goswami reluctantly agreed. I started to push through the crowd away from the van when I realized I had forgotten my bag with my passport in it.

“I left my bag under the seat,” I called to Goswami. “I’ll get it when we’re back.”

“Sure, Maharaja,” he called. He held the bag up so I could see it. “I’ve got it.”

Confident that the smaller car was nearby, I made my way inch by inch to where I had seen it parked some distance away. But to my astonishment, it was gone. I made my way as quickly as I could back to where the van was parked, only to find it had left as well.

I stood there, momentarily bewildered. I was alone in a crowd of 64 million people, dressed only in a small wet gamcha with a damp towel around my neck. I had no dhoti, no kurta, no shoes, and, perhaps most alarmingly, no jacket to protect me from the cold. I had no clear idea where I was. All I knew was that the camp I was staying in was in Sector 7, and that that was 12 kilometers away. 12 kilometers through a mass of humanity pressing its way along the 300 kilometers of roads crisscrossing the Mela site. I had no map, and there were no signs giving directions in Hindi, much less English. I glanced at my watch. It was 4 p.m. and sunset was imminent.

Then I remembered I had my phone clutched in my hand. I unwrapped it from its plastic-bag covering and turned it on. To my dismay I saw there was no service available, and my battery had only 3 % left in it. I hurriedly turned it off.

“How in the world do people know where they’re going?” I wondered. Then, laughing to myself, I thought, “I’m probably the only person in this crowd of 64 million people who doesn’t know where he’s going!”

Knowing for sure that the direction to proceed was not behind me, I started walking forwards through the thick crowds surging towards the river. An hour later, I made it to a crossroads, turned left and began walking down a dirt road with a myriad of shops and ashrams on either side. Each ashram was festooned with colorful banners advertising the resident guru and his teachings. Speakers blared music from inside. As it was now getting dark, bright lights illuminated the temporary city built on the sandy banks of the Ganges.

People gawked at me curiously, and I understood why. I was the only white person to be seen, and I was practically naked. Several times I was approached by Naga-Babas who, thinking me to be one of them, pulled me into their tents and offered me a chillum of hashish to smoke! Each time I declined they seemed perplexed.

I knew I needed to get directions, but to my dismay I couldn’t find a single person who spoke English. There were many different languages being spoken around me because there were pilgrims from every part of India, but not one of those pilgrims was speaking English. There were policemen on every street corner, but they too could make no sense of what I was saying. On a couple of occasions, they literally pushed me away, apparently thinking me to be insane.

A real blow came when I heard a young Indian man say to his friend, “Isn’t that Indradyumna Swami?” But before I could say anything, his friend pulled him away saying, “Come on! Are you crazy? That’s not Indradyumna Swami!” They disappeared back into the crowd before I could confirm my identity and ask their help.

Every now and then I would turn my phone on to see if I was in range. Each time I wasn’t, and each time the battery drained a little more.

By 8:00 pm it was quite cold. From time to time when I got too cold to continue, I slipped into an ashram where a program was going on and sat amongst the crowd for warmth. On one occasion, while sitting in a chair and watching a bhajan on stage, I was approached by one of the ashram leaders.

“Are you in need of anything?” he asked.

“Yes!” I replied enthusiastically, surprised and relieved that I had found someone who spoke English. “I am lost in the Mela and trying to find my way back to my camp. It’s in Sector 7. Can you help me to get there? I have been wandering around for four hours now. Is it far away?”

“Yes, it is,” he said. “It’s about 12 kilometers away at the far end of the Mela site. At the moment you are 50 meters from the bathing spot at the sangam.”

My jaw dropped. I had walked in a big circle, coming back to the exact place I had started. The ashram leader could see my disappointment.

“Why don’t you rest here for a while?” he said. “I’ll get you a blanket.”

“Thank you,” I said. Once I was wrapped in the blanket, I succumbed to my exhaustion and started to drift off to sleep in the chair. I awoke with a start when my entire body began to itch. The blanket was full of fleas and they were ruthlessly biting me. I threw the blanket to the side and quickly left the ashram, determined to reach my destination.

I started out in a different direction. Two hours later, around 10 p.m., I realized that I couldn’t keep going unless I had something to eat. I had learned the hard way not to eat food that I wasn’t 100% sure of in India, but this was an emergency. I joined a line of pilgrims waiting to be served prasadam at one of the food kitchens. It took 45 minutes for me to reach the front of the line. I was given a leaf plate and 2 leaf cups, and was served kichari, a subji, two warm chapatis and a cup of tea. Some smiling pilgrims waved at me to join them as they ate their meal in a circle on the ground. Several times I heard the word “Angreji” which means “English person”. They were kind and sympathetic to me, probably because of my paltry attire.

Hungry, cold and tired I devoured the prasadam. “This is some of the tastiest prasadam I ever had!” I thought, laughing to myself. Once I finished, I thanked the pilgrims and continued on my way with renewed vigor.

I began wondering what Pundrik Goswami, Narottam, Vikram and Kartamashi were thinking.

“Surely, they realized quite quickly that I had been left behind,” I thought. “They must be frustrated and worried, being unable to contact me or find me. But actually, I’m fine,” I realized. “There’s no real danger and it’s only a matter of time until I get back to the camp, whether it’s today or tomorrow. And I am meeting so many nice people! Krsna played a little trick on me just so I can see how the mass of people experience Kumbha Mela. He’s also teaching me how to fully depend on Him. Wonderful!”

Just then I felt a rock whiz past my ear. Then another and another. Looking back I saw a group of children laughing at me.

“Pagal baba! Pagal baba! Pagal baba!” they yelled. I knew the what the phrase meant: “Crazy sadhu!”

I walked quickly away but they followed me and continued throwing stones.

“I can’t blame them,” I thought. “I must look pretty crazy—a barefoot white guy with a dishelved sikha wandering around half naked.” Then one of the rocks hit my elbow causing me to yell out in pain. A policeman saw what was happening and yelled at the group of children to leave me alone. Then he came over and spoke to me in Hindi.

“No Hindi,” I said. “English.” I got down on my hands and knees and wrote “Sector 7” in big letters in the sand.

“There,” I said, pointing. “I need to go there.”

He looked puzzled and took me by the arm to an ashram just a few meters away. He sat me down on a mat and disappeared. Ten minutes later he came back with a man who offered me a hot cup of tea. I gladly accepted it and then both of them went on their ways. I curled up on the mat and fell asleep. When I jolted awake, I checked my watch; I’d slept for 10 minutes. I got up and continued on my way, first checking to make sure the group of children was not around.

At 11:30 p.m. I checked my cell phone again. I was in range! But I was alarmed to see there was only 1 % battery power left.

“I have enough power for one phone call,” I thought. “If the person doesn’t answer, I won’t be seeing any of my friends tonight.”

I choose to call Narottam. He picked up immediately.

“Hello! Hello! Gurudeva, is that you? Hello?” Narottam sounded both excited and worried.

“Yes, it’s me!” I said.

“Good Lord! We’ve been so worried. What happened? Where are you? I’ve been out looking for you for hours!”

“I’m not sure where I am,” I said. “I’ve been walking around in circles since we were separated. But I’m fine. Just a little cold and tired. Can you find a car and come to collect me?”

“It’s almost impossible to find a car at this hour, but I’ll try,” he said. “The main thing is that we need to figure out where you are.” He was silent for a moment, thinking. “OK, here’s an idea. Take a photo of where you are and send it to me on WhatsApp. I’ll go to a police station and ask for their help in finding your location.”

“Brilliant idea!” I said. And without even saying goodbye I hung up and quickly took a picture of the scene in front of me. I sent the photo on WhatsApp and my phone immediately died.

It took Narottam just 30 minutes to find me. It turned out that his search had led him quite close to where I was, and the nearby police kiosk was quickly able to identify the junction where I was waiting. When he finally arrived, I jumped into the car and sat as close as I could to the heat coming out of the vents on the dashboard. Just as the car was pulling away there was a loud bang and it stopped in its tracks.

“What was that?” Narottam asked.

“The driver dropped his transmission,” I said with a wry smile.

“What does that mean?”

“Basically, it means we aren’t going anywhere in this car,” I said, getting out.

“Now what?” Narottam asked.

“Lots of walking!” I said. “Let’s go!”

“Where are we going?” he said.

“Sector 7 of course!” I replied.

With Narottam at my side, we were in a much better position to make it back to our camp, simply because he speaks Hindi. He asked people for the directions to Sector 7 and after a short time he had a good idea how to get there.

“How long will it take to walk there?” I asked.

“Through this crowd,” he replied, “Maybe 2 or 3 more hours.”

I looked at my watch. It was 12 p.m. For the first time that day I became a bit despondent.

And then a taxi came around the corner.

“Narottam, stop that taxi!” I yelled. He literally jumped in front of the taxi, surprising the driver, who screamed at him in Hindi.

“What did he say?” I asked.

“He said he’s not working now. No way.”

“Yes, he is,” I said. “Give me 1000 rupees.”

I opened the back door of the taxi and jumped in. The taxi driver looked shocked.

“Out!” he screamed in Hindi.

“Bhai sabh, brother!” I said. “This is for your trouble.”

He smiled when he saw the money. “No problem!” he said in English.

At 1 a.m. we pulled into our camp. Everyone was fast asleep, but I saw the light was still on in Pundrik Goswami’s room. I knew he would be worried about me. His eyes opened wide when he saw me standing there barefoot in my red gamcha, the cold wet towel still around my neck.

“Maharaja, I am so sorry!” he said.

“Nothing to be sorry about,” I said with a big smile. “Tonight, I experienced Kumbha Mela first hand, much like Hiuen Tsiang from China probably did in the 7th century. But whereas he walked amongst half a million people for 75 days, I walked amongst 64 million people for 9 hours. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life!”

We left the Mela around noon that day. When we drove out of our camp, I was surprised to see the streets were mostly deserted.

“Where is everyone?” I asked Narottam.

“Many of the people you saw yesterday came just to bathe in the sangam,” he said. “The majority were leaving on foot late last night when I was looking for you. More people will come again for other important bathing days in the next few weeks. Did you enjoy your visit, Gurudeva?”

“It was most satisfying,” I replied. “I feel as though the sadhu’s benediction upon me has come to pass, for I indeed feel as though Mother Ganges has blessed me. I was able to bathe in the Triveni Sangam in the association of advanced souls at the most auspicious moment to occur in 200 years. I spent time with the masses and, most importantly, I was able to share Krsna consciousness with a number of important spiritual leaders of the country. I feel very fortunate to have visited this sacred place on such an auspicious occasion.”


“There are several places in India. One of them is this Naimisaranya and another very important place is called Prayaga, generally known as Allahabad. But the original name is Prayaga. That is considered to be one of the most sacred places in India. Still every year there is a fair called Magha-Mela. Magha means during the month of January, February, a fair takes place in which all the sages, saintly persons, come from all over parts of India. They gather and take their bath at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna. That is a very nice place. If you visit India, you should see all these nice places.”

[ Srila Prabhupada lecture, Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.6. London, August 26, 1971 ]