Travel Journal#13.2: North and Central Florida

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 13, No. 2
By Krishna-kripa das
(January 2017, part two)
North and Central Florida
(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, on February 18, 2017)
Where I Went and What I Did
I continued staying in Tallahassee for eight days, chanting at Florida State University for three hours each weekday, distributing vegan oatmeal cookies and invitations to our campus Krishna Lunch program and to the temple Sunday Feast and Tuesday Bhagavad-gita class, and trying to interest people in the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita. I also taught a class on mantra meditation there. Then I spent a Wednesday chanting at the Gainesville Krishna Lunch and the Farmers Market and attending a University of Florida interfaith event, a progressive dinner. Then I joined Ramiya Prabhu and his wife, Ananta Dasi, in chanting at and attending our campus Bhakti Yoga Society program at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Friday I chanted at Krishna Lunch and with the Alachua devotees at the University of Florida entrance. Saturday devotees from Alachua, Gainesville, and Tampa chanted for three hours at the yearly Gasparilla pirate festival in Tampa and had a picnic in a park. After attending the Sunday feast in Alachua, I went to Jacksonville to chant with the University of North Florida Krishna Club devotees on that campus and attend the evening program at the Jacksonville Bhakti House. Then I returned to Tallahassee for the final day of January.
I share insights from Srila Prabhupada’s books and lectures. I share excerpts from Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. I include notes on lectures by Srila Prabhupada disciples from Alachua, namely Mother Nanda, Ramiya Prabhu, and Mother Sukhada. I present notes on a class by Kaliya Damona Prabhu about japa, and a quote from “A Succession Conflict Caused by Selflessness,” a Back to Godhead article by Caitanya Candra Prabhu. I share notes on a class by Hanan of Krishna House and interesting quotes from a Christian preacher and people from different faiths, who attended the University of Florida interfaith progressive dinner.
Thanks to the lady who gave me a donation on harinama at Tallahassee’s Lake Ella.
February 18: Jacksonville Monster Truck Jam harinama
February 19–24: Tallahassee, FSU campus
February 25: Sacred Sounds @ USF, Tampa
February 26–April 8: North and Central Florida campuses
April 9–11: Washington, D.C.
April 12: Albany
April 13: New York City
April 14–September 5: Europe

Chanting Hare Krishna in Tallahassee

I chanted at Florida State University in Tallahassee for three hours each weekday, distributing vegan oatmeal cookies and invitations to our campus Krishna Lunch program and to the temple Sunday Feast and Tuesday Bhagavad-gita class, and trying to interest people in the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita.
One day a young lady named Isabella stopped by my table, and in the course of our conversation, she mentioned that her mother did meditation and had compiled research showing how meditation actually changes the structure of the brain. I invited her to the Krishna Lunch and to the mantra meditation class I was going to do that evening behind the library. She looked at her watch and realized she had better leave soon if she wanted to make it in time for the lunch. As it turns out, she was the only one to show up for mantra meditation. I explained how we have an existence beyond the body and mind and that the mantra nourishes our transcendental self. We chanted twice for ten minutes each, with some discussion in between, and I encouraged her to chant ten minutes each day. She has been doing it for three weeks now and writes, “It is wonderful. I am so happy to have stumbled upon the practice. It has impacted my life very positively.” She also became a regular attender at Krishna Lunch and enjoyed the one Sunday Feast program she came to.
On Inauguration Day, as I was chanting at FSU’s Landis Green, I could heard students protesting the inauguration behind me. Of course that made it harder for me to focus on my chanting. Some students seeing me chanting during the protest indicated they thought my contribution was the real solution, and I appreciated that.

One day I made oatmeal with slivered almonds roasted in coconut oil, cinnamon, and turbinado sugar, and offered it to our Gaura-Nitai deities at the Tallahassee temple. It was just awesome. I really think it was the best oatmeal I had this life. Maybe Gaura-Nitai were pleased I decided to cook Them something instead of just having Krishna Lunch leftovers for breakfast.
The last day of the month I returned to Tallahassee. While I was singing, a woman named Suzette came up to me who appreciated the chant. She told me she lived for two months in a Hare Krishna ashram in Chapel Hill.

Looking at her graying hair, I asked, “In the 1970s?”
She replied, “Yes.”
She told me that the Hare Krishnas had the best food in the world, and I smiled and told her of the Krishna Lunch on the FSU campus. Every Tuesday, she takes a class in teaching French, so she promised to check out the Krishna Lunch the next week, and sure enough she did. She was very happy to see the Hare Krishnas still have the best food in the world. She wanted to learn how to cook it, and I told her about Yamuna Devi’s amazing cookbook, Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, that won awards for being the best Indian and the best vegetarian cookbook the year it came out.
Chanting at the Gainesville Farmers Market
The devotees canceled the weekly harinama at the Gainesville Farmers Market because the yearly interfaith dinner was Wednesday night, and they felt there was not enough time to do both. I had returned from Tallahassee on Wednesday just to participate in it, and so I encouraged them to chant at the Farmers Market for just an hour so they would have time to do the other event. Later the devotees expressed gratitude that I resurrected the program that week.
Here Bhaktin Christiana chants Hare Krishna at the Gainesville Farmers Market (
Here Krishna Prasada Prabhu chants Hare Krishna at the Gainesville Farmers Market (
The University of Florida Interfaith Progressive Dinner
For the last four years or so, the chaplains at University of Florida have organized what they call an interfaith “progressive” dinner. The initial snacks are always at the Hillel House far to the west on University Avenue. The main course is always the Hare Krishna spaghetti which this year was served along with the Lutheran’s salad at their place to the east of Hillel. The Episcopal church serves the hot drinks, usually tea, coffee, and hot chocolate. This year they had Bengal Spice, my favorite of the herb teas.
At that church some artistic types had made a nice sign welcoming the people from the different traditions and thanking Christ and Krishnas:

Other signs in that church had progressive messages:

Standing up for truth is important. Truthfulness is sometimes said to be the distinguishing quality of a brahmana.

What does Krishna say about kind words? “Austerity of speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature.” (Bhagavad-gita 17.15)

I had never heard of Gandhi’s seven deadly social sins. Have you?
This year I decided to talk with some of the older people who encourage the students in their faith instead of the students themselves. I asked one Christian gentleman in charge of a spiritual program for his group what motivates the students the most in a spiritual direction. He explained retreats, where you get away from your daily life and just focus on spiritual activities, either in town or at some remote retreat center, are the most powerful way of motivating the students.
The Wesleyans have the dessert at the end, along with the entertainment.
Chanting with Alachua Devotees at the University of Florida Entrance
Almost every Friday since I moved to Alachua in 1994, I would chant with the Alachua devotees at the corner of University Avenue and Thirteenth Street in Gainesville, on the northeast corner of the University of Florida campus, where the entrance gate stands.
Here Nagaraja Prabhu, editor of Back to Godhead magazine, chants Hare Krishna at University of Florida entrance (
Here Shankha Prabhu, the famous cook, chants Hare Krishna at the University of Florida entrance (
Here Hari Priya chants Hare Krishna at the University of Florida entrance (
Here Bhaktin Christiana chants Hare Krishna at the University of Florida entrance (
Chanting at the Krishna House Friday Evening Program
Every Friday we have a program at Krishna House which begins with twenty minutes of kirtana.
Here Bhaktin Tsurit chants Hare Krishna at Krishna House Friday program (
Chanting After the Alachua Sunday Feast
After the Sunday feast devotees who love kirtana, young and old alike, stay and chant in the temple room until the deities are put to rest for the evening, just after 9 p.m.
Here Lilananda Prabhu, disciple of Srila Prabhupada, chants Hare Krishna after the Alachua Sunday Feast (
Here Dhanya, wife of Bali Prabhu and daughter of Havi Prabhu, chants Hare Krishna after the Alachua Sunday Feast (
Anasuya, a third-generation devotee girl, chants Hare Krishna after Alachua Sunday Feast (
Conversation with a Nurse
A nurse asked me what I did as a monk, and I told her that I taught classes on Bhagavad-gita. She surprised me by saying, “I am studying Bhagavad-gita.” I asked her where she was studying the Gita, and she explained that the hospital she was working in had a course on holistic medicine, and that was part of the course.
Later as she reviewed my chart, seeing the date of my birth she exclaimed, “September 30! That is the same day my dog, Bhakti, was born!”
“You have a dog named Bhakti?” I inquired incredulously.
“Yes,” she replied. “I have three of them, Jai Ram, Kali, and Bhakti.”
I asked her how she came up with such spiritual names for her dogs, and she told how a very devout Muslim patient, who gave a her Koran out of gratitude, started her on a spiritual search.
She said that she thought that our meeting was providential.
I had explained I was doing a meditation on my beads, and when I left, I gave her a copy of the new On Chanting Hare Krishna, with the text of Srila Prabhupada’s description of the Hare Krishna mantra from the record album, and I told her about Dhira Govinda Prabhu’s research showing the Hare Krishna mantra decreased stress and depression to a statistically significant degree while a bogus mantra of Sanskrit words in the same pattern was ineffectual from the statistical point of view.
It was striking to me that a Western lady about forty, with a perceptable English accent, would be studying Bhagavad-gita and have dogs named after an incarnation of Krishna, a pure devotee of Krishna, and the process for attaining Him.

Harinama at Gasparilla
The last Saturday in January, devotees from Alachua, Gainesville, and Tampa chanted for three hours at the yearly Gasparilla pirate festival in Tampa and had a picnic in a park.
On college-aged lady told her friend, “They are the Hare Krishnas. They are on all the campuses. I see them at the stadium in Gainesville.”
Cloe, who attends Krishna Lunch at Florida State University in Tallahassee, and who has stopped by my book table behind the library two or three times during the last couple of weeks, greeted me in Tampa, as surprised to see me as I was to see her. She apparently drove at least four and a half hours by herself from Tallahassee to Tampa to attend Gasparilla for the first time. She was amazed to see the large group of devotees, and I explained we have a large community in the Gainesville / Alachua area, and we came down for the event.
One couple, who enjoyed dancing with us, especially the girl, said they had moved here just recently from Colorado, and were happy to encounter us. They wanted to know if we had a Tampa temple, and I made sure they had an invitation card for the local nama-hatta programs. She had graduated from University of South Florida in Tampa, and I gave her a card for the programs we have at that university.
Here are just some of the highlights, including the dancing dinosaur [6 minutes] (
If you want more, here is all the video I took [32 minutes] (
Harinama at University of North Florida
University of North Florida in Jacksonville is my favorite college to chant Hare Krishna at because so many students from their Krishna Club are willing to join us and so many students passing by are open to taking cookies and invitations.
Special thanks to Amrita Keli Devi Dasi, Hare Krishna chaplain at UNF and organizer of the party, who is playing the drum in the beginning of the video, and thanks to lead singers, Richie, Youssef, and Dorian, respectively (
All the devotees had led kirtana except Courtney (on the far right at the end of the above video), who had never led before and who was celebrating her birthday that day. I suggested she lead, but she said she preferred to follow. Amrita had suggested she could sing the Prabhupada tune because it is very easy. So I offered to I play the Prabhupada tune for her while she sang it. She decided to try. Afterwards I complimented her for going beyond her limits, and she replied, “That was awesome! I really loved doing that!” It is nice to be an instrument in people taking another step toward Krishna. If you have a Facebook account, by clicking on this link, you can see Courtney sing in this video taken by Amrita Keli Devi Dasi ( Amrita also took a video of me singing ( It is nice to see the enthusiasm of the students for the chanting.
Srila Prabhupada:
From Srimad-Bhagavatam4.19.2, purport:
“Since no one in this material world can tolerate another’s advancement, everyone in the material world is called matsara, envious. In the beginning of Srimad-Bhagavatam it is therefore said that Srimad-Bhagavatam is meant for those who are completely nirmatsara(nonenvious). In other words, one who is not free from the contamination of envy cannot advance in Krishna consciousness. In Krishna consciousness, however, if someone excels another person, the devotee who is excelled thinks how fortunate the other person is to be advancing in devotional service. Such nonenvy is typical of Vaikuntha. However, when one is envious of his competitor, that is material.”
From a class on Bhagavad-gita 13.26 in New Delhi on September 22, 1974:
“When this body, this old body, will not be workable, when the machine will not act, then I – or you, every one of us – will have to change. Suppose your car is going on then somehow or other it stops. Then you take another car and continue your journey. The car’s stopping to work does not mean that the man who is in the car also stops. No. He continues.”
“There are so many different types of next life, beginning from Brahmaloka, the highest planet, down to the smallest insect. So why should we try to make a better position within this material world? Why should we waste our time like that? We have seen that to occupy the post of president, Mr. Nixon had to work so much in the beginning. I was in America at that time. He was advertising, ‘America needs Nixon now.’ He had to spend millions and millions of dollars, and there were so many cliques and there was so much political intrigue. But now, somehow or other, his presidency is gone. He has been dragged down.”
“Krishna’s name, Krishna’s form, Krishna’s qualities, Krishna’s pastimes – everything about Krishna is absolute. You’re chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. It is not only a sound; it is Krishna personally. You are in direct touch with Krishna when you chant Hare Krishna. This realization is Krishna consciousness.”
“So how can one learn about Krishna consciousness? Those who do not know can come to this Krishna conscious center, and they will understand by hearing from the members. We are opening so many centers. Why? Because people do not know about Krishna, and it is our duty to give them the chance to know. They’ll inquire. They’ll see how we are worshiping Krishna, how we are offering prasadam, how we are serving. They also can go back home, back to Godhead by learning from us. It is a school. We are teaching others.”
“We are all eternally the servants of Krishna. That we have forgotten. Now, in this life, we have surrendered to Krishna and accepted His service. ‘Krishna, for so long I forgot You. I am Your eternal servant, but I forgot. Now, in this life, I can understand. Therefore I surrender unto You.’ This is our life. Krishna consciousness means, ‘Krishna, I forgot You. I forgot my relationship with You. But now I have come to know that I am Your eternal servant. Therefore engage me.”’
“Consider Mahatma Gandhi. He was serving his country, but his countrymen killed him. It is a fact. So you cannot satisfy anyone. Who can give more service to his country than Mahatma Gandhi? But what was the return? His countrymen killed him. This is the return. You go on serving your senses in the name of your country, society, and family, and they’ll never be satisfied. So why should you be so serious about serving someone other than Krishna? That is sensible.
“Better to serve Krishna. Then you surpass the jurisdiction of birth and death. You conquer the repetition of birth and death simply by this process of hearing. If you simply hear Bhagavad-gita from realized souls regularly, by hearing alone you will be able to conquer birth, death, old age, and disease. This is the result.”
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami:
From Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name:
“You want to be a part of the spiritual world, of Krishna’s pastimes in Vraja. It is beginning to happen. But so far, it is not that real to you. You have only been hearing it for a few years, and it has only been a few months since you gained the focus that this should be the goal of your life. For many years and lifetimes, a file has accumulated, filled with so many real and imagined adventures (they are all actually mayic misadventures). So you cannot be part of any world right now. You cannot sink roots into this earth, and neither can you fly to Goloka. You cannot entirely give up your sense of self in this world, and you are tired of playing the center of existence. The condition of your japareflects this confused state of being.
“I am not confused, but between worlds is a more accurate wording. Arjuna also felt this and expressed it to Sri Krishna: ‘But for Yourself, there is no one who can remove this doubt.’ Arjuna thought that if he followed Krishna’s instructions for self-realization, then he would have to give up his hopes for happiness in this world. But what if he failed to attain the transcendental goal? Then he would be neither here nor there, but be like a small cloud torn apart from a big cloud and floating loose in the big sky. Lord Krishna assured His friend that one who does good never meets with evil. Even if Arjuna could not completely succeed on the path of bhakti, there would be no loss. Whatever gains he had made would be continued in the next life. As a result of his spiritual efforts in this life he would be born in the family of yogis or devotees, or pious wealthy people. From there he would be automatically attracted to spiritual life again, and as soon as possible, complete the course for going back to Godhead.
“Therefore, if we cannot chant with attention right now, chant anyway and chant more. Make efforts to control the mind. Discuss the aparadhas in chanting and be alert to when you may be about to commit them. Be glad if you don’t feel part of this world. Go on hearing the pastimes of Radha and Krishna. Associate with devotees and avoid those who would destroy your faith and enthusiasm. Your devotional activities are all gains. They often seem comical because of the awkward place you are in, so there is no harm in having a laugh at yourself. At least you won’t become proud that you are an accomplished taster of rasa.
Radhanath Swami:
Quoted by a disciple:
There is no such thing as a mistake, if we are always learning.
Mother Nanda:
The primary characteristic of pure devotional service is favorable and in relationship to Krishna.
Such pure devotional service begins by developing faith in the spiritual master.
If we only look forward we may be discouraged because the distance we have to go is so vast, so it is good to look back sometimes to see how far we have progressed, but it is not good to always look back.
Comment by Gopal: A sign we are advancing is that, although we may still have material desires, our tendency to act on them is no longer present.  
Sometimes you realize you are not as advanced as you thought. That realization, although it seems like a step down, is actually a step up.
Ramiya Prabhu:
If we become Krishna’s devotee, we enter Krishna’s inner circle and He takes special care of us.
Our material life is like a quarter. You do not get just the heads, but you get the tails too. You want just happiness, but you get distress as well.
When we see Krishna has helped us, we should feel grateful and do something for Him to express our gratitude.
If we chant the glories of the Lord, He will take seriously our claim to be His devotee.
Like parents, what do they want from the child? Just love. Krishna is the same way.
Bandhu means you are my friend, like on Facebook, but not outside, but suhrt means someone who is always my friend.
Krishna is waiting for everyone in Tallahassee to turn to Him, but most of them are not inclined.
Srila Prabhupada explained that if we offer something to Krishna with the mood, “I have no good qualification to be Your friend, but please accept this gift,” Krishna will happily accept it.
Q: If someone is a great devotee his whole life and then does something wrong, what will happen to him?
A: That is up to Krishna. Bharata was a great devotee, but he become absorbed in taking care of a deer and forgot his devotional practice, and Krishna punished him giving him the body of a deer in the next life. Usually that does not happen to a devotee [that he takes an animal birth], but Krishna wanted to teach him a lesson.
Mother Sukhada:
Formerly kings were so powerful they could end drought and famine.
Srila Prabhupada would make the point there is no scarity only mismanagement.
Srila Prabhupada tried to connect with anyone he could. He would talk to famous amd important people in hopes of convincing them of his message.
Srila Prabhupada made an analogy in a conversation with Toynbee that the situation of the people in general is like children who have a father who has given them a great inheritance but whose dependents are unable to access it and thus benefit by it. God wants everyone to have the joy of krishna-prema, but the people do not have the knowledge of how to attain it.
The drug problem is so bad that every 19 minutes someone dies of an overdose of drugs.
Srila Prabhupada, while talking with George Harrison and Yoko Ono, praised them for becoming successful in the music industry, and he urged them to take advantage of that popularity by sharing spiritual knowledge through their music. George Harrison took it seriously and thus inspired many in a spiritual way.
Kirtana is so popular that they even have rabbi kirtana in the synagogues.
One lady in Hawaii got a book from the devotees and put it on her shelf. She did not read it for years, but once she was a little depressed, and she took the book off the shelf, and read it. She read it a little bit more, and she moved in the temple in Hawaii.
There is a celebrated story of a man who was so disturbed by a lady distributing books on a bus, he ripped the book in half and stepped on it, and rudely pushed the lady off the bus. So as not to litter, he put the ripped up book in his bag. His maid found the book, repaired it, and put it on the shelf. Years later, the man’s wife died, then he got cancer, and he was depressed and he saw the book on the shelf and read it. He realized it really did tell about ultimate goal of life. He felt so bad about how he mistreated the lady who was distributing it, he went to the temple, and explained what had happened. He had one desire: to meet that lady and apologize. And the devotees made that arrangement.
Comment by Yugala: I distributed a book to one lady on a bus who wrote me back really grateful she got the book. She said she had decided to kill herself, but on reading the book she changed her mind.
Kaliya Damana Prabhu:
From a japa class:
Srila Prabhupada said that Jayananda was the first pure devotee to come out of ISKCON. Jayananda Prabhu would say, “Always encourage and never discourage.” He would always leave the room when he heard criticism of devotees.
Everything we do is to chant better.
Japa is like the password that unlocks your computer. Everything becomes available if you have the password.
In Denver as an experiment, we had the whole congregation chant one round of japa together at the Sunday feast. We happened to have 500 sets of japa beads on hand, and we engaged in the whole mostly Indian congregation in chanting one round together. We ended up selling 250 sets of japa beads that day and making japa a weekly event.
I find it hard to focus on the holy name on a japa walk. Prabhupada did it, but I know he wasn’t window shopping.
Comment by Abhi: In Jaiva Dharma, Bhaktivinoda Thakura said, “A Vaishnava has no taste for arguments.”
The Bible indicates that Jesus was a vegetarian:
Isaiah 7: 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
Comment by Tulasirani Devi Dasi: I beg Srimati Tulasi Devi to help me when I chant japa, and I find very soon she helps me.
Krishna wants us to offer everything to Him, not just the good things. When we offer the bad things into the fire of Krishna consciousness, we become purified.
If thoughts come to mind during japa if you write them down, then they will be off your mind and you can chant peacefully.
Caitanya Candra Prabhu:
From “A Succession Conflict Caused by Selflessness” in Back to Godhead, Vol. 51, No. 3 (May / June, 2017):
“Valuing relations over possessions is foundational for the sustenance of family, society, and humanity. Bharata considered the affection he relished in his relationship with Rama far more meaningful and fulfilling than the gratification of ruling the kingdom. Even if we can’t be as selfless as Bharata, still a slight increase in selflessness in our relationships can significantly improve them and substantially decrease conflicts.”
The difference between the university and life is that in the university you learn first and then you take a test and in life you get a test first and then you learn from the test.
The first six chapters of the Bhagavad-gita deal withkarma-yoga, the next middle six chapters deal with bhakti-yoga, and the final six deal with jnana-yoga.
Bhakti is in the middle because it is confidential and to protect it.
Comment by Dhamesvara Mahaprabhu dasa Prabhu: Without the touch of bhakti, karma and jnana are not fruitful. Thus bhakti is in the middle in order to touch both.
When we hear if we remember Krishna at the end of life that we will attain Krishna, we might conclude, “I will do what I like and then just remember Krishna at the end.” That however is not practical because the time of death is a critical time and it not easy to just remember something that we have no deeply routed attachment for at that time. Therefore, Krishna recommends to practice to remember him.
Patanjali says that attachment is a moment of pleasure we become attached to so we want to do it over and over again.
Shabari was a goat herd girl, who was upset when she was told she would be married and some of her goats would be killed for the marriage feast. She did not want the goats to be killed, so she left home for the forest. She took shelter of the ashram of Matanga Rsi, and she rendered all kinds of services to him. Then he and the other monks left, having attained perfection, and before going they instructed Shabari to continue worshiping Rama with devotion. Rama came by her place when He was in the forest. She would pick fruits, taste them to make sure they were sweet, and then offer them to Rama. Although it was nonstandard to taste fruits before offering them, Rama accepted her devotion, and blessed her she would attain perfection. After Rama left, she sat in trance, meditating on Lord Rama, and attained perfection. We can learn from this that bhakti is so easy that no qualification is needed to execute it.
The whole story of Shabari as told by Radha Govinda Swami in detail, I found online at: – !topic/istagosthi/s8Yilyr98DU
[After clicking on the link above, you will have to then click on the line beginning:
 B. Radha-Govinda Swami (ACBSP)]
Comment by me during prasadam to guests: We can also learn from the story of Shabari, about the power of associating with devotees in attaining bhakti.
Interfaith Progressive Dinner participants:
A Quaker lady: If you have 2 Quakers, you will have 3 opinions.
A Christian boy: If God leads you to it, He will lead you through it.
A young Mormon preacher: When God gives you a test, you are either strong enough to pass it or about to become strong enough to pass it.
Christian TV preacher:
God loves it when we trust Him. He loves it when we trust Him in all aspects of our life.
In the Hare Krishna movement, we advise everyone to engage in the congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord (sankirtana) and to encourage others also to perform this chanting for their ultimate deliverance from material existence and attainment of spiritual perfection. Lord Caitanya was so advised by His guru, Sri Isvara Puri, who said:
naca, gao, bhakta-sange kara sankirtana
krishna-nama upadesi’ tara’ sarva-jana

“‘My dear child, continue dancing, chanting and performing sankirtana in association with devotees. Furthermore, go out and preach the value of chanting krishna-nama,for by this process You will be able to deliver all fallen souls.’” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi 7.92)

New Vrindaban to Host 2017 ISKCON North America Farm Conference

New Vrindaban to Host 2017 ISKCON North America Farm Conference

By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON New Vrindaban Communications

Sunflowers grown in New Vrindaban gardens

New Vrindaban is set to host the second annual ISKCON North America Farm Conference from October 13th to 15th this year.

The GBC Ministry for Cow Protection and Agriculture, which organized conferences on simple living in four continents last year, is behind the event. The conference, themed “Back to the Basics,” will be facilitated by ECO-Vrindaban and ISKCON New Vrindaban.

Organizers include ISKCON Minister for cow protection and agriculture Kalakantha Das; ECO-Vrindaban board chairperson Sri Tulasi Manjari Dasi; volunteer coordinator Mukunda Das; ISKCON Alachua’s Save the Cow program co-director Kesihanta Das; and Gita-Nagari farm representative Keshi Mardana Das.

Representatives from thirty farming efforts all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico will be invited. The conference will feature presentations, demonstrations and hands-on workshops held onsite at different cow protection and agricultural facilities throughout New Vrindaban. Topics will include cow care, oxen training, planting, cover cropping, disease control, greenhouses, and organic pest control.

The main goal of the conference is to help facilitate a network of support amongst established and aspiring devotee farmers, gardners and cow protectors.

Sunflowers grown in New Vrindaban gardens

“We’re all so spread out, so if we start building relationships, it might just make farming a little bit easier,” says co-organizer Sri Tulasi Manjari. “For instance, one farmer might say, ‘I did this for my cow when it got mastisis,’ and another might share, ‘I use this soap to get rid of aphids.’ It creates a support network where we can just call or email someone who might know the answer to a problem, saving each farmer from having to learn everything from scratch.”

The conference also aims to inspire devotees who are not yet pursuing the simple life to make some effort towards it.

“We hope to raise awareness that farming is an important part of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions,” says Sri Tulasi. “And we’d like to encourage devotees in North America to take up some form of agriculture, whether it be growing flowers for their Deities, starting a local community garden, or working together to protect cows.”

The ‘Back to the Basics’ conference at New Vrindaban is just one of a worldwide series of Ministry for Cow Protection and Agriculture conferences this year, which will include gatherings in Nova Gokula, Brazil, New Vraja Dhama, Hungary, and more.

“ISKCON New Vrindaban and ECO-Vrindaban are pleased to host this conference in hopes to inspire as many devotees as possible to engage in farming,” Sri Tulasi beams.

To see the full list of previous and upcoming ISKCON farm conferences around the world, visit

For regular updates, visit the ECO-Vrindaban Facebook Page:

To find out more, visit the ISKCON GBC Ministry of Agriculture and Cow Protection at

ECO-Vrindaban logo

My Musings – 3: How do I control my mind?

By Niraj Bidawatka

Lord Chaitanya has descended with the medicine of the Holy Name to cure our disease of material attachment

Lord Chaitanya has descended with the medicine of the Holy Name to cure our disease of material attachment

mana eva manusyanam karanam bandha moksayoh

bandhaya visay asango muktyai nirvisayam manah

The above verse from the smrtis, states that the mind is the sole cause of a human being’s bondage and liberation.

The mind, which is engaged in sense enjoyment, becomes the cause of bondage, whereas the mind, which is not attached to sense objects, leads us to liberation.

Thus, in order to control the mind, we need a mantra. Manah trayate it mantra.

Mantra means that, which delivers (trayate) the mind (mana). The mantra, which is especially prescribed for this age, is the Hare Krishna mahamantra. This is the verdict of the Kalisantaran Upanishad.

Hare Krishna Mantra

Therefore, if we want to go back to Godhead, we must chant Hare Krishna at all times (kirtaniya sada hari).

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says that, “I have descended with the sole purpose of taking you back to Godhead. So please accept this medicine of the Hare Krishna mahamantra, which I am distributing to one and all.”

So, at least for Lord Chaitanya’s sake, Who has very benevolently appeared to take us back, we should at once start chanting the Hare Krishna mahamantra.

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Avirbhav Mahotsava of Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati celebrated

Vrindavan, 2017.02. 15 (VT): Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur’s appearance day was celebrated in  on Wednesday in Vrindavan. The Gaudiya Vaishnavas assembled at Shri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math to celebrate 144th appearance day of the founder of Gaudiya Math.
As a part of the appearance day celebration, the devotees held ‘Pushpanjali’ by offering flowers and garland to the image of ‘Prabhupada’. They expressed gratitude to their ‘spiritual master’ for introducing them to consciousness of Shri Krishna and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.15vrnp02rr
The Sanyasis and devotees spoke about the glories and pastimes of Prabhupada Shri Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. A grand feast was organized during lunch after offering the ‘Mahaprasad’ to Saraswati Thakur. Mahaprasad was distributed among hundreds of devotees.
A grand Nagar Sankirtan was carried out which passed through the packed lanes, markets and roads of Vrindavan, under continuous showers of flowers.
Bhaktiprasad Vishnu Maharaj said, “Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur spread the message of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu around the country in early twentieth century and his followers are spreading it around the world”.
Shri Tamal Krishna Das Brahmachari of Imlitala said, “Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur appeared in Shri Kshetra on 6th February 1874. In his childhood he quickly mastered the Vedas, memorized the Bhagvad – gita, and relished his father’s philosophical works”.
Bhaktivedanta Madhusudan Maharaj said, “Apart from his father’s writings, he published many authorized sashtras of Bhagvad Gita, Shrimad Bhagvatam, Chaitanya Bhagvata, Chaitanya Mangala, Prema Bhakti Chandirka and his favorite book Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita”.

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Celebrating Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s Appearance Day

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati ThakuraYesterday at our ashram in Carpinteria we celebrated the appearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual master, whose divine instruction led to Prabhupada’s coming to America and spreading Krishna consciousness—the teachings of Lord Chaitanya—all over the world. And we were happy that Balarama das, Sripada Tamal Krishna Goswami’s former servant, secretary, and pujari, also joined us.

Balarama shared with us many of his wonderful experiences with Tamal Krishna Goswami—and one instruction of Goswami Maharaja’s really struck me: “If you get a chance for advanced association, drop everything—whatever you are doing—because such association is very rare.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

GRS offering ghee lampBalarama playing mrdangaGRS offering obeisancesSrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura before guru-puja

Review: Avatar Art: Neo-Vedic Paintings Celebrating Life

Review of Avatar Art: Neo-Vedic Paintings Celebrating Life by Vineet Chander, Coordinator for Hindu Life, Princeton University

On one level, Avatar Art is a fairly straightforward book. Published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust—the in-house press of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)—it is a catalog of paintings created to illustrate the many books authored by ISKCON’s prolific founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. On another level, however, there is more to the book than first meets the eye. In its relatively concise 224 pages, Avatar Art manages to pack in several different books, serving many purposes in one attractive and accessible volume. It is a beautifully designed coffee table book—one shrunken down to paperback size and priced affordably enough for even the most budget-challenged. It is a thoughtful re-telling of some of Hinduism’s most beloved tales, from texts like the Bhagavata Purana and Mahabharata, in language that is intelligible and attractive to readers at all levels of familiarity with the tradition. It also serves as a thematic journey through the richness of Chaitanya Vaishnava Hindu theology; in this respect, it might be seen as a visual and literary overview of Krishna consciousness, at least in nutshell form. And finally, it serves as an important historical recording of one of the most fascinating and yet overlooked aspects of the development of the global Krishna movement: the forging of a new culture through the creation and interpretation of original visual art. This is something only hinted at in the book itself—most notably in its introduction—but I will return to this last point a bit later in the review.

The layout of the glossy color book—featuring a full-page rendering of each painting alternating with a page of explanatory text—allows the publishers to showcase a number of stunning works. Indeed, the book boasts 102 paintings by 27 different artists. Its compact size notwithstanding, Avatar Art is an art book through and through, and high-quality production ensures that the paintings are given the best opportunity to shine. Readers are treated to the vivid colors and sweeping, full canvases that establish each of these works as so much more than mere illustrations—they are, it becomes clear, important expressions in their own right. The choice of paintings is likewise significant. There are some well-known works by artists famous within devotee circles, like Americans Marek Buchwald (Baradraj), Matthew Goldman (Puskar), and Judy Koslofsky (Jadurani Devi)—the movement’s first, and arguably most influential, artist. But these are balanced with lesser-known but equally striking offerings from a number of other Krishna devotee painters. For instance, Avatar Art chooses—wisely, I think—to tell the famous story of Krishna and the serpent Kaliya by featuring an unusually saturated, lush rendition by Kaliyev Edik (Saccidananda), a Kazakh devotee now living in Vrindavan, rather than more conservative and recognizable versions by other ISKCON artists. Likewise, I found myself particularly struck by the choice to include Arjuna’s Grief, a tempera work by Vlad Holst (Vasupriya) of Russia. The painting seems to capture the warrior’s melancholy and despair in a way wholly unlike the renderings usually included in BBT editions of the Bhagavad Gita. A possible result of these curatorial choices: readers already familiar with these narratives are invited to draw in nearer and gain new insights.

Accompanying each painting, and truly holding the book together, is the writing. Co-authors Steven Rosen (Satyaraja Das) and Kaisori Bellach do a remarkable job. Rosen, an independent scholar who studied visual art as an undergraduate, clearly draws on both his keen eye for the artistic and his deep knowledge of the texts underlying each piece. Bellach is a wordsmith highly regarded as one of ISKCON’s most capable editors, and similarly brings her vast understanding of Vaisnava texts and cultural expression to bear in her treatment here. Moreover, one senses that as a member of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust she carries an intimate knowledge of the paintings in their original contexts.

Their partnership seems to result in a smooth narrative flow, articulated in a consistent and pleasant voice. The prose is well-informed and informative—thoughtful and intellectually stimulating while steering clear of pretention, dryness, or pedantry. Most importantly, Rosen and Bellach master the role of curator-writers. The explanations compliment and enhance the appreciation of each painting without getting in the way of the intimate visual exchange between painting and viewer. A mentioning of the verdant backdrop to Maitreya’s instruction to Vidura; a gentle suggestion that the ray of light illumining Diti’s face foretells the future birth of Prahlad; a short note on the significance of the corpses strewn about the background of a battleground scene. Rosen and Bellach remind us that the narratives’ subtleties unlock greater appreciation for the painting and that the painting’s interpretive choices also enrich our grasp of the stories. They point to, and model, a beautifully cyclical relationship between text and image.

Special mention should also be made of Rosen’s introduction to the volume. In hardly a dozen pages, he manages to contextualize the book’s collection in terms of the path of bhakti, the complex theology of rasa aesthetics, and historical overviews of spirituality in art in eastern and western traditions. Perhaps most impressive is Rosen’s innovative assessment of art as a depiction of divinity in its manifestation as Brahman (abstraction beyond form), Paramatma (the sacred pervading nature), and Bhagavan (God as an approachable relational being). “All artists attempting to depict divinity,” Rosen boldly suggests, “must choose from one of these three approaches.” As far as I can tell, this is an original insight. It is also incredibly important; scholars will want to more deeply explore his theory, but there are also implications for the practitioner. For instance, bearing Rosen’s idea in mind, a Krishna devotee may re-visit works of art seemingly disconnected from their spiritual life—for instance, Rothko’s Green, Red, on Orange, to use an example that Rosen highlights—and discover a new way of encountering their beloved deity in the experience.

I began this review by appreciating that Avatar Art is, in some ways, many books condensed in one. I might amend that statement by acknowledging that there are always limits to how much can be accomplished through one book. When I first heard about Avatar Art, I was excited about the possibility that the book might examine the complexities underlying the development of the “ISKCON style” of art. How exactly did this style come about, and how did it continue to re-invent and refine itself throughout the movement’s first half-century of existence? What were its influences, and how did those influences coalesce in some instances and clash in others? In this respect, I found myself somewhat disappointed by Avatar Art. Apart from a well crafted but too-brief overview tucked into the introduction, the book does not explore the historical trajectory of art and artists in ISKCON. The introduction states, almost parenthetically, that the artists featured in the book are all from non-Indian backgrounds. Rosen suggests that this testifies to bhakti’s non-sectarian, transcendent nature. I’m not sure I fully agree, and would have liked to see some acknowledgement of the tensions and problematics at play in marrying cultural expressions and art forms—particularly in the context of post-colonial concerns about orientalism and cultural appropriation.

In any event, Rosen and Bellach are to be commended. The book is a must for artists and lovers of art—within or outside of the movement—and for all who want to fully appreciate the visual beauty of Krishna Consciousness. It evinces a beautiful foray into an aspect of the Krishna movement that is rarely explored—its art. As the number of scholar-practitioners increases, more academic works on different facets of Vaishnavism will emerge. I hope that some enterprising young scholars—of art or religion or both—might take on the project of thoughtfully and critically examining the stories behind the story of ISKCON art. When they do, Avatar Art will also prove an invaluable resource.

The book is available at Wholesale and retail orders can be made from NA BBT by phone: 1-800-927-4152.

Grand centennial ceremony of Jaipur Mandir to be held in this year

Vrindavan, 2017.02.14 (VT): Shri Rajkumar Rinwa, the Minister for the department of Devasthan, Government of Rajasthan visited Vrindavan on Tuesday. He visited the Radha Kant Mandir, situated on the Parikrama Marg, near Vihar Ghat and Shri Radha Madhav Mandir or Jaipur Mandir, along with the officials of his department.

Shri Rinwa announced that his department will celebrate the ‘Patotsava’ of the Radha Madhav Mandir in a grand way, as the temple completes one hundred year of its establishment in this year.
Several cultural events are planned during the Centennial Ceremony of the Jaipur Mandir. The instruction have been given to the departmental officers. The Jaipur Mandir was built by Sawai Madho Singh II in 1917.


Minister visiting Jaipur Mandir

He said that the architectural marvel of Shri Radha Madhav Mandir, (Jaipur Mandir) is unmatched with any other architecture. The temple is not less than a spectacular sight for which Vrindavan should feel proud of.
The Minister said, “The Rajasthan government will pay attention to the properties, which belong to the Department of Devasthan. The illegal occupancy on its properties will be strictly dealt and removed. We are gathering information on such properties, and shall take the legal route to get them vacated soon.”


Architectural beauty of Jaipur Mandir

“We are also working on a plan to arrange accommodation in our temples for the pilgrims visiting Vrindavan, so that they can enjoy the temple mood during their visit to the holy town,” said Rinwa.
He also elaborated his plans on restoration and beautification of the temples, and making them pilgrimage friendly.
He was welcomed by the BJP president of the local unit of Vrindavan Shri Rajesh Pandit. Shri Anil Pathak, Shri Hemant Bharti, Shri Sunil Goutam, Shri Akhil Agrawal, Shri Madan Gopal Banerjee were present.

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