Joining Radha Damodara Traveling Sankirtan Party
The day after Rathayatra I had packed my bags and was walking out of the hall on my way back to Seattle when I was stopped by Tamal Krishna Goswami. He asked me if I would like to see Srila Prabhupada in his room saying that if I joined their party I could. I said that I was not ready to join at that time and he then made another proposal
Joining Radha Damodara Traveling Sankirtan Party
His Holiness Visnujana Swami was a true modern day saint. I remember when I was a new guest at the Seattle temple in 1974. I had gone to the temple to attend the Sunday Love Feast and was gazing out the upstairs window when I heard a deep voice behind me say, “Haribol! I’m Visnujana Swami. I’m on my way to a festival in Vancouver and am stopping by for the Sunday festival. Please accept my humble obeisance’s.” As I turned to look at him I noticed he had a very bright aura. He looked very pure and innocent. I had never offered obeisance’s before and here was a swami offering obeisance’s to me! I bowed down with him acting like I knew the prayers.
Visnujana Swami started an ecstatic Kirtan and more and more devotees started showing up than ever before. People would come out of the woodwork when Visnujana came around. He did devotional bhajans until about midnight. Every time he stopped chanting the devotees begged him to continue. We were dancing so much Sukadeva Prabhu, the temple president, was looking worried about the floor possibly caving in. What a way that would be to go! I’d never stayed at the temple before, but since it was so late I decided to. I laid down outside of the door where Visnujana was staying. I couldn’t sleep because I was still excited from all of the chanting. At about 2:30am Visnujana came out of his room and seeing me laying there he said, ‘Haribol’ in his esoteric devotional voice. I was blissed out even more. At that time I was attending college and working at Boeing. The devotees at the temple told me that I should go to San Francisco Rathayatra because Srila Prabhupada would be there. I decided to take a transcendental ‘vacation’ and headed for San Francisco Rathayatra.
When I arrived at the temple on Market Street in San Francisco, I was greeted by Jayananda Prabhu who was serving out prasadam. He asked me if I could help prepare the Rathayatra carts. I happily agreed to help, sensing his sincerity and humility. He would always be singing as he drove us out to the Rathayatra site. He was always working and serving everyone very nice prasadam, often that he himself cooked. Jayananda was amazing and inspiring for all of us who were fortunate to come into contact with him.
When the day for the festival arrived, it appeared as if it was going to rain. When Srila Prabhupada arrived and got upon his vyasasana on Lady Subhadra’s cart the clouds opened up and shined a beam of light on the self-effulgent acharya. Even though I was new and didn’t know much philosophy, I knew this was an auspicious omen and that Srila Prabhupada must be very special. At that point I accepted Srila Prabhupada as my guru.
The day before Rathayatra, Visnujana Swami was giving a lecture in the Armenian Hall where most of the visiting devotees were staying. Visnujana Swami said, “Don’t think that these Deities are idols. This is Krishna!.” Just then a rose fell over Lord Damodara’s arm from below His cheek. This really impressed me. I was staring and meditating on the Deities of Sri Sri Radha Damodara at that time. Visnujana Swami always decorated the Deities extravagantly with lots of flowers and unique dressing. Damodara had a blue light on Him and Radharani had a red light on Her and They were very attractive and mystical looking. When I saw the rose drop down when Visnujana said the Deity is Krsna, I felt The Lord was communicating this to me and I believed it.
Srila Prabhupada gave a great lecture at the Rathayatra festival. He mentioned that the whole world follows America and if we could make America Krishna conscious, the world would follow and it would become like Vaikuntha, the spiritual world. The crowd of around 10,000 roared in response. The feast was also awesome. We were served out as we sat in huge rows. It was an unforgettable event organized mostly by Jayananda Prabhu, with all of the preparations and the expert serving of the devotees.
The day after Rathayatra I had packed my bags and was walking out of the hall on my way back to Seattle when I was stopped by Tamal Krishna Goswami. He asked me if I would like to see Srila Prabhupada in his room saying that if I joined their party I could. I said that I was not ready to join at that time and he then made another proposal saying that if I just got the hair trimmed around my ears, I would be presentable and I could see Srila Prabhupada personally. I assumed devotees were honest and agreed to the proposal. Aja Prabhu then led me into the bathroom and started to ‘trim’ my hair. I felt a few snips on top of my head and demanded to look in the mirror. I was shocked to see bald spots here and there. I could not go in public like that. I told him to just shave if off because anything would look better than that. Then I was dressed in a dhoti. I became new bhakta #13. I was very upset and was determined to tell Srila Prabhupada about it when we arrived at his quarters.
We arrived at Srila Prabhupada’s apartment and headed up to his room. We were all given a long-stemmed rose to hand to His Divine Grace. We were told to offer our obeisance’s but I didn’t even know them yet! I was very nervous as my turn approached. Srila Prabhupada was sitting behind a low table gracefully with one leg up. My hand shook as I reached to hand him the rose. My body shook as I offered my full dandavats. I was now too overwhelmed with Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental presence to be mad. I forgot the speech I was thinking of, about my being tricked into shaving up and joining. As we all settled in and sat down Srila Prabhupada looked happy and began to speak, “So your all very bright-faced and fortunate to come to Lord Chaitanya’s movement. Now that you are fortunate, you should make others fortunate. Preach this message of Lord Chaitanya’s all over the world.” Srila Prabhupada melted my heart. I realized it was Krishna’s arrangement that I was tricked into joining, but I wish He would have let me move out of my apartment in Seattle first!
We boarded the Sri Sri Radha Damodara bus and headed out to perform Harinam Sankirtan in a fair in Minot, North Dakota. It was ecstatic cruising down the freeway performing Kirtan along the way. We were shocking to people at times when we stopped and when we were performing Kirtan as we drove down the road. The morning we arrived in Minot, we pulled up behind a closed gas station to take our baths with a water hose. It was about 4am. when all of the sudden a truck pulled around and shined it’s lights on us. We froze like deer starring into the headlights as the truck stopped then backed up and took off in a hurry. A short time later three police cars arrived at the scene after receiving a report of a UFO landing. Ha Ha Haribol!!! We explained ourselves as they scratched their heads wondering if we were for real. (I guess)
We set up a nice booth at the fair and the programs went well. We chanting until about midnight and our morning program started at about 7am. We would fill up the bathrooms with devotees washing shaving our heads and washing their feet in the sinks. Needless to say it was a culture shock to some of the locals. Some of them turned right around and walked out shaking their heads.
As we chanted people gathered and some were so shocked that they stood there with wide open eyes and some even dropped their beer bottles. We had a booth where we sold books, incense, oils and posters, etc., making about $800 a day. About seven more devotees joined up at that fair. The program was so pure it attracted and purified so many souls. All glories to the sankirtan mission which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for many years and extinguishes the blazing fire of material existence. All glories to Jayananda Prabhu and Visnujana Swami and our Divine spiritual master who inspires us all to serve Krsna, jagat guru Srila Prabhupada.
To be continued!
YS, Gauridasa Pandita Dasa
My intention is to inspire you to write your memories also before it’s too late!