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October 9, 2002   VNN7593  

Russia Rasamrita


RUSSIA, Oct 9 (VNN) — His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaja in Moscow, September 2002

Photo: His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj at Dom Kultura, Moscow. Visit GOKUL website for more photos.

Having been unable to accompany HDG Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaja on his tour of the United States and missing him intensely, we suddenly woke up one morning thinking, Srila Gurudeva will be in Russia. Why don't we go to Russia? Inspired by Lord Krishna in this way, we purchased airplane tickets and waited patiently in line at the Russian Embassy for entry visas and within a few days found ourselves en route to Moscow.

Landing at Sheremetyevo Airport, we were met by our most gracious and kind hosts, husband and wife devotees, Madhusudana das and Haripriya dasi. We had previously met them for a brief period in Sri Mayapura at the time of Navadvipa parikrama. Due to airplane schedules, we had landed a couple of days prior to the coming of Srila Gurudeva and his entourage, and we, along with the Russian devotees, anxiously awaited their arrival.

Needless to say, it was an exciting moment when the devotees arrived at the airport from India, not only because of their transcendental presence, but also because of the presence of many dedicated Russian devotees whom we were meeting for the first time. We had heard numerous reports of the large numbers of Russian devotees and their enthusiasm for Krishna consciousness and were now just beginning to experience the truth of this first hand. Loudly singing the glories of Guru-Vaishnava-Bhagavan and, with eyes moist with tears of joy, the devotees paid their prostrated obeisances as the ambassadors from the spiritual world emerged from airport customs. Srila Gurudeva and his entourage seemed very happy to be in Russia where they had been greeted in such a heartfelt and sincere way. They were then taken to a beautiful apartment donated for their stay by Apurva Krishna das, one of the Russian devotees, and we returned to the home of our hosts in another part of Moscow.

The devotees had rented a large hall for the week where devotional discourses and kirtan could be held. They complained to us, that the year before, they had rented a nicer hall that was now not available, but we felt that the present arrangements were quite satisfactory. This was a week of auspicious events, days that are close to the hearts of Vaishnavas: Parsva Ekadasi, the appearance day of Lord Vamanadeva and Srila Jiva Goswami, the appearance day of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura, the disappearance day of Srila Haridas Thakura and Sri Vishvarupa Mahotsava. What else could one ask for as a springboard for deep and moving devotional lectures? There were always two to three hundred devotees in attendance at every lecture, both morning and night, and their enthusiasm was obvious. Many had come from outside Moscow and had travelled long distances for the opportunity of having the association of a suddha bhakta. They would arrive early for the morning lecture and stay at the hall all day, chanting and discussing Krishna-katha, until the evening when Srila Gurudeva would arrive to give his scheduled lecture. It is worth noting that everyone was also very interested to hear any information about the pastimes of HDG Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja and HDG Srila Bhakti Pramode Puri Maharaja. It seemed that they could just not get enough! We were, and still are, most impressed by the piety and devotion displayed by the Russian devotees. In a private conversation with Srila Gurudeva at his apartment, he asked us whether or not we had observed the Russians' devotional attitude and confided in us that perhaps their fervent degree of interest had something to do with the geographical proximity of Russia to India. It is certainly striking that so many Russian words are cognate with Sanskrit words, indicating a close connection with the Vedic civilization of ancient Bharata (India).

The kirtans of the great Vaishnava poets were consistently sung with the utmost devotion by the intimate associates of Srila Gurudeva. Srikanta Prabhu and Ananta Rama Prabhu must surely be two of the most soulful kirtanias on the planet, wresting endless depths of devotional ecstasy from every word and nuance of the most beautiful of Vaishnava songs. Clearly this is indicative of the purity and potency of their Gurudeva. Talented they most certainly are, but it is their sincerity of bhakti that outshines all other elements. They were ably accompanied in the most heartfelt way by HG Sripad Bhakti Vichara Vishnu Maharaja and Sriman Sudarshana das, both great and insightful devotees in their own right.

HDG Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaja was in top form as usual, releasing torrents of sastric revelations and profound insights against maya, in the same way that Dhruva Maharaja fired his potent arrows at the fearsome illusions of the demons. He discussed in detail, the advent of Lord Vamanadeva, relating how the husband of Aditi, Kashyapa Muni, was surprised to hear his wife's request to remove Bali from the throne of heaven on behalf of her son Indra who had formerly occupied that position. Srila Gurudeva pointed out, among other things, that it was inappropriate for a Vaishnava to think in mundane terms of friend or enemy according to the bodily conception of life. Realized souls do not conceive of friends or enemies in the same way that ordinary, materialistic persons do. The impetus for action for the suddha bhakta is quite different from that of the materialist. This brings to mind a point that Srila Gurudeva once discussed while reading the story of Vamanadeva from the Srimad Bhagavatam at a class in Calcutta. Kashyapa Muni, acting as his wife's guru, gave her a strict vrata (vow) to follow for one year by the calculation of the demigods, after which she was blessed by the appearance of perfectly proportioned, yet tiny, Lord Vamanadeva. Srila Gurudeva said, on this occasion, that the sadhu is always thinking of everyone's welfare and that he always craves the association of his beloved object of bhajana.

The exoteric reason for the appearance of Lord Krishna as Vamanadeva might have been to remove the demonic hordes from the heavenly planets, but the esoteric reason was to satisfy the desire of the suddha bhakta. He gave the analogy that when one cooks some foodstuff, which is the primary purpose of cooking, a secondary action (the burning of fuel in the cooking process) automatically takes place. The primary purpose in the prayers of a suddha bhakta is to have the association of the Supreme Lord due to extreme separation grief, as in the case of the great devotee sage Kashyapa. By the appearance of the Supreme Lord as Vamanadeva to alleviate His pure devotee's intense feelings of separation and longing, the secondary or auxiliary purpose, the reinstatement of the demigods in the heavenly planets, was also automatically accomplished. In the Russian lecture, as at other places, Srila Gurudeva was careful to emphasize the need to purify or sanctify the heart so that Krishna can take His rightful seat there. Not without a sense of humour, Srila Tirtha Maharaja also said that the brahmins in the court of Bali Maharaja were situated behind Lord Vamanadeva and because he was so tiny, holding a large umbrella, it seemed to them that they were seeing a walking umbrella.

Srila Gurudeva delineated many relevant points on the different appearance and disappearance days, but he was in an especially profound and poignant mood on the appearance day of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura. He said, Today is a holy day because of the appearance of our Revered Guru, the founder of Sri Chaitanya and Sri Gaudiya Maths. If he had not appeared we could not sit here to propagate Sri Chaitanya's message of divine love. He is at the root of this. If we were not to observe this occasion properly it would be most ungrateful of us. It would be a great offence. In Calcutta I saw a great celebration attended by so many important persons. There were so many elaborate preparations. Nowadays there is not as much enthusiasm. If he had not appeared we would not have Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. He said that Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura has revealed his real identity in his own writings as Kamala Manjari, the maidservant of Lalita Sakhi. Srila Gurudeva further stated that Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura was non-different from Sri Gauranga Himself and that we should understand the following point carefully. After the disappearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His personal associates there was a great spiritual vacuum. All the books were there, but nobody could discern the true message. A deep, deep darkness had descended on the horizon of the Gaudiya Sampradaya. Due to the appearance of many different pseudo-sects, intelligent people lost their belief. Because of this lack of pure devotion, Krishna sent His own man.

The appearance of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura is not an ordinary event. He is superhuman and extramundane. Without such surrendered souls in the world no one would be able to understand the truth. The whole world is indebted to him. Srila Tirtha Maharaja remembered the words that his Gurudeva, Srila Bhakti Dayita Madhava Maharaja, had told him while reading from 'Kalyana-kalpataru' of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura. These writings have descended-they are not just the words of wise persons. I was groping in the dark, without knowledge, but Sri Chaitanya sent His own person-Gurudeva. Can just anyone write these words of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura? They are something quite different! Srila Tirtha Maharaja continued, If we were to give up Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura what would be left? We are singing his songs morning, afternoon and evening. I was instructed to read 'Jaiva Dharma' which I found in the library. By reading this book of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura, all my doubts were dispelled. He wrote so many books in Sanskrit and Bengali so that all could know the teachings of Sri Chaitanya. He did this for the whole world-not just for India. We should get the grace of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. We should believe in them! By this belief all attachments will be destroyed! He wrote of the glories of Sri Navadvipa dhama because he is the personal associate of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, otherwise how could he know of them? Now the whole world goes there because of him. Today is for us the holiest day. We should go through his books. Today we pay our innumerable obeisances to him. The owner of Sri Krishna is the suddha bhakta.

On the morning of Sunday 22 September, it was encouraging to see the further expansion of the Russian devotee community in the form of sixteen Harinam initiations and one Diksa initiation. Due to our work schedule, but more than likely our lack of sukriti, we were unable to follow Srila Gurudeva on the rest of his tour of Russia and were deeply saddened at the prospect of leaving his immediate divine association and that of the inspiring Russian devotees. Our association with Srila Gurudeva in the company of the Russian devotees will remain eternally in our hearts and minds as one of the high points of our devotional aspirations and experiences. We are eternally indebted to them.

Vaishnavdasanudas, Members of GOKUL, UK

For more photos of Russian tour, visit the GOKUL website or http://www.sadhusanga2002.narod.ru

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