These stories have their "entertaining" element and the way devotees enjoy to hear them is the proof, that most of us are of simple nature basicaly seeking happiness and different ways to find a good laughter.
It is for this reason that I would like to add to every story a little "moral"-commentary to demonstrate, that as devotees get under the control of the internal energy of the Lord, there are ways He guides them directly while taking interest in their selfless preaching activity. Afterall, He states in Bhagavad-Gita that those who do risk their lives to broadcast His message, are most dear to Him.
It was already late evening as we still kept on distributing in the streets of Berlin city. Being more and more absorbed in book distribution we forgot the time and place, being drawn from one person to another. Swimming in the ocean of conditioned souls, I got spilled out into a side street where I suddenly found myself facing a dark skinned man. Still spinning out of the shopping street, I almost automaticaly handed the book to him, not paying any attention to his external appearance. He glanced over the book and said: "Yes, I give you a donation." ¨
Then he pulled out of his coat not a wallet.. but a gun. He pointed it straight on me. One quick look made it clear to me that this was a real gun as the barrel was clean and not blocked by some devise as gas powered guns are.
Being heated up by the fire of book distribution I just laughed and stuck my little finger into the opening of the barrel, while I looked firmly into the mans eyes: "So, what will you do now" I asked smilingly.
Rather surprised about my quick response and the finger being stucked into his gun, the man started to laugh and stashed the gun away. I told him: "What will you gain by killing a Hare Krsna monk?"
He kept on laughing in disbelieve and went away. I turned around heading for the shopping street again. Suddenly I stopped and my knees got soft. I asked myself: "What have I done? I just stucked my small finger into somebody´s gun!"
Once again I got some taste what it means to e instantly guarded by Srila Prabhupada´s merciful glance. Obviously the man could have shot me there in back yard along with my finger. But he didn´t.
Krsna will always protect a devotee who tries to broadcast His glories.
As one of my wonderful godbrothers stated: "With all our obstinacy, incompetence, and collective foolishness... we cannot stop tjhe flow of mercy coming from Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu."
Therefore preaching Krsna consciousness under Srila Prabhupada´s instructions is the most protected position in this world.
SRILA PRABHUPADA IS COMING - MARATHON DAY
After being on sankirtan for almost two years, the german devotees rented a big castle, Schloss Retterhof.
With hardly any time for renovation, we got to know that Srila Prabhupad is arriving soon. For me it would be the first opportunity to see Him personally. Instantly we decided to welcome Him with an increased sankirtan effort. A (typical german) iea became prominent: "Let´s collect a new Mercedes car for Srila Prabhupada.. in one day!"
And so the day was set where EVERYBODY went on sankirtan. German yatra operated at that time a modest numbert of sankirtan vans already, filled with enthusiastic distributors. I knew instantly the town I wanted to be at that day: Dusseldorf. A town which offered an opportunity to distribute indeed day... and night.
As the old town red light district was directly connected to the main shopping street, we simply switched after the closing hour of the shops and kept on distributing most of the night in conditions surely not exactly suitable for a brahmacary. I remember scenes where some of my older godbrothers dashed into the bars and distributed Bhagavad Gitas to all the drunkards present. (Not to be immitated.) I received donations on the street from ladies of not exactly representative appearance. (Not to be immitated either.) We simply didn´t care. I saw devotees becoming in middle of the night so ecstatic, that they started to grab people coming out of the bars and dance with them in the streets while chanting Hare Krsna.
I totally forgot my regular distribution mantra, simply telling people in most excited way, "He is coming! He is coming!" I got donations without even distributing any book. Some people cried. Nobody asked who is coming as nobody knew what is really going on. The image of Srila Prabhupada soon arriving took completely over our minds, as we run from one drunkard to another.
By four o´clock in the morning, after 20 hours of non-stop distribution, the streets became really empty, and we met in absolute ecstatic spirit at our car. We spent the time driving back with wonderful kirtan and arrived exactly at the guru puja time in the morning. With our sankirtan abg hanging still around our necks we danced in the kirtan like madmens. This was the biggest one-day-marathon I ever took part in. Two weeks later Srila Prabhupada arrived.¨
Being lifted by the mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu from the senti-mental platform the coditioned souls dwell on all the time, one realizes the true meaning of spiritual rationality. It doesn´t apply to the puny "rational" concepts of the mundane speculators. Once one is acting in one´s original constitutional capacity, the spiritual bliss the soul is experiencing cannot be compared to any "pleasure" of this material world. Just a glimpse of it leaves permanent mark in the heart of the conditioned soul and so both, the distributor and the receiver are tasting something they forgot long time ago: the bliss of Krsna-consciousness.
Some seek further, some don´t, but both are blessed forever.
And so any concept derived from one´s mind is false. The true benefactory activity is remembering the souls again about their original position as eternal servants of Krsna, and engaging them directly in service of Krsna´s pure devotee. That night, as we danced through the streets of that sinfull city, rejoicing about the arrival of Sri Krsna´s most confidential servant, we got a glimpse of a spiritual reality far beyond the reach of our mundane mind and the material senses. Some forgot and got covered again, some can still remember. Srila Prabhupada showed us that our home is not here, but in His place, the place where Krsna, His master, resides. As He told once to one exhausted and discouraged devotee: "We have to always dance... even when authorities don´t give permission."
THE ATTACHED TREASSURER
Driving full speed back to the temple on a hot Saturday afternoon, I got a glimpse in the back mirror of the sankirtan van of our sankirtan party treassurer, counting the collection.
As it was indeed very hot, he had his back windown open. He asked me if I could open the front window as well. This devotee was known for being very laksmi oriented during his distribution. His main ecstacy was to distribute minimum books for maximum money.
He was so absorbed, that he didn´t even noticed the increased draft in the car. He opened the window on his side even more and....... a sudden wind turbulence created in this way snapped the money bills out of his hands and exported them right away out into the open space, all over the highway. Everything happended so fast that there was no time to even complain.
We all knew that everything happened with such precission that this incident couldn´t be accidential.
Any other attachment than attachment to the mission of the spiritual master is detrimental to one´s spiritual advancement. Everything done with this consideration in mind carries at least the nature of mode of goodness. Anything else can be easily contaminated by mode of passion and ignorance.
Srila Prabhupada warned devotees already at very early stage of the develoment of this movement not to be alured by business activities. Specialy a brahmacary cannot conduct his preaching with business in mind. Even he may think it is for Krsna, the calculative spirit of gain and profit carries already a seed of further developed mentality which is detrimental for spiritual life. Srila Prabhupada said that even book distribution shouldn´t be perceived as a business activity, but as a preaching activity. Of course, to conduct preaching money is needed. But Srila Prabhupada always asured us that Krsna will give whatever is necessary when our preaching motive is pure.
What could now follow is a detailed account how this instruction was in history of ISKCON violated, with desastreous results, both materialy and spiritualy. Srila Prabhupada forbade even the sales of His own LPs, what to speak of any karmi-music. He cautioned temple presidents not to get involved in dangerous business transactions, involving specialy jewellry, gold, etc.
I myself ended after Srila Prabhupada´s departure distributing and managing parties selling all types of paraphenelia of no vallue whatsoever. Temples were quickly built from collection of brahmacaries and brahmacarinis, selling candles, parfumes and cheap oil paintings. Now these temples stand empty,some are accomodating more Deities as devotees.
As the preaching deteriorated and the preachers themselfs got diverted by business mentality, finaly everything stoped. In some locations the leaders fell in mayas whirpool, or they even ended up sitting in jail.
This doesnt mean that any grhasta cannot do business if he feels qualified to do so, and spend his profit for Krsna conscious cause. Such grhastas were by Srila Prabhupada designated as good as sannyasis. As matter of fact, being able to help other grhastas by offering them and their families a deacent way of income is a noble contribution to the creation of Krsna consciouss communities. There are not many devotees qualified in this way, most devotees range in the category of employees, not enterprise men.
But there is no way that brahmacary and brahmacarinis can be involved in business enterprises, neither in the restaurants or any money oriented operations. Srila Prabhupada defined restaurants as "grhasta business only".
Book distribution is essentialy a brahminical activity, as it has only one objective, to disseminate transcendental knowledge. Those grhastas who can maintain themselfs by book distribution are most glorious. But most cannot. And so for them farming and minimum-sinful businesses are in order.
Any development in mode of passion has its end. Only goodness can prevail. And so finaly, the most profitable approach is to stay faithful to Srila Prabhupada´s instructions. This is the best investment and the best business policy.
HARE KRSNA FOOLS IN THE POLICE STATION
Growing up on sakirtan in Germany 1972-1986 gave us enough opportunities to see many police stations from inside. As matter of fact the prosecution of the Hare Krsna Movement in Germany in those years could only be surpased by the methods of the russian government applied by locking every chanting devotee into mental institutions. Germans, still remembering well the times where they transported those of different views into gas chambers, couldn´t do that.
Being 18 years old and already a fully developed cynic, the bold and fearless preaching of the devotees was attractive to me. Even it was full of inmaturity, afterall, hardly anybody yet studied Srila Prabhupada´s books, it carried the original spirit of Srila Prabhupada to question and to challenge any dogmas presented to us by the "establishment".
And so, once again traveling with one of my godbrothers, we were stopped by the police and transported to the local police station.
This particular godbrother of mine was a very intelligent devotee with wit and freshness of an anarchistic revolutionary student.
We knew the routine: first our ID cards were collected, then a report was written about our "illegal" distribution and collection, and at the end we were supposed to sign it. We were already well informed by our lawyer that our legal obligation lies only in presenting our ID-cards, and not in signing any forms whatsoever.
Somehow, on this particular day, we were cought in a blissful spirit of sankirtan and understanding the absurdity of the whole procedure, we exchanged a short look with my godbrother. We knew what to do.
The police chief carefully fixed a form in his typewriter (no computers those days!), and asked: "Name!?"
My friend assumed an outlook of an idiot-since-ever, who couldn´t understand the meaning of this question.
"Name?" he asked.
The police officer paused for a minute. "Yes, your name!" he yelled.
My godbrother smiled in an unknown accumulation of emotions: "Yes, the name!" he said happily as if dreaming himself away.
The police man gave up to ask further in this matter and simply filled in our names from the ID-cards.
When finished, he handed the form over to us, pointing to the bottom of the paper where signatures were supposed to be submitted.
"Sign here," he ordered us. My godbrother friend smiled even more stupidly, and repeated: "Yes, signing good," with a grin of a totaly mentaly retarded renegate.
Then he took the pen which was offered to him, held it in his wrist as if it would be a knife... and signed with three crosses on the bottom of the form, pushing the pen so violently that it ripped of the whole corner of the sheet.
The police man couldn´t believe his eyes. His protocol so precisely filled in was ruined in one second. He jumped up, grabbed the paper, ripped it in pieces and yelled: "Get out!"
My friend smiled, blessed with the spirit of mentaly retarded ones, and said: "Me going out? Very good."
We quickly collected our IDs and exited the police station. Returning to our van, we drove back to the temple laughing and chanting all the way.
It was easy to be fools when meeting a fool.
Sometimes devotees tell me, it must have been a special time to join this movement in the sixties or seventies. Even I don´t believe that times changed that much, it was indeed a special time when Srila Prabhupada entered the western hemipshere.
In massive ways the young people questioned the values enforced on them by their forefathers, the government, and the so called intelligentsia of the society. To come together, explore new ways to see the world, experiment with new visions, and try to live the way nobody did before, everybody was somewhat on the move, looking for something he couldn´t precisely define.
However, it was a hopeless revolt, as the speculations of often intoxicated visionaries offered little tengible alternatives for our daily lives.
That dream had to be dreamt to the end, as sex life tied us exactly to the ways of life we tried to escape.I t was only Srila Prabhupada who delivered such an impact of a higher taste, that we could shake of the shackles of lust, ending up dancing on the streets as ecstatic brahmacaries.
Those who try to espace the gripp of illusory dogmas established by the leaders are stil living today. Maybe maya celebrates victory achieved by the means of technocratic development, and she tries to cover the conditioned souls even more. But the desire for a change is still here, and when we dare to present Srila Prabhupada as He is, and we dare to live as He wanted us to live, many will respond to His call to return back home back to Godhead.
As the atmosphere is once again filling up with fear and unsecurity, no doubt, the sixties and seventies are coming back again. Material nature works in cycles, and the decline of prospects for increased sense gratification is only enhancing the possibility, that people may lend their ears to Srila Prabhupada´s most sublime words. The books are here, the students are waiting. Now we have to only qualify ourselfs as good teachers until Krsna rings the opening bell at the gates of His most wonderful school.
WHY DO YOU ACT LIKE A PIG?
Arogance and obstinacy towards any God-given laws governing human society can be found everywhere, but distributing books for fifteen years in Germany allowed us to meet daily the masters of the art how to insult The Supreme Personaly of Godhead in most professional, organized and precisely scheduled fashion. (My appologies to those few pious souls residing in that part of
Europe, who dont fit in this description.)
And so, once again, I was observed during my distribution by a fetty, angry and very intense looking middle aged man. He wasn´t a police man monitoring my actitivies, he was just another ordinary german citizen, who just exited his mercedes car in order to rule the world.
We got quickly trained to recognize three kinds of police:
1) The "boys" with their uniforms and white hats, arriving in their green cars just to check our IDs since somebody called up the police station again, complaining about the presence of "the sect".
2) The civil dressed man who very seriously asked us to give him our ID, and follow him to the police station. He never got it as we knew well that he has no right to do so, and his responsibility is simply to supervise the traffic in the shopping street.
3) The most dangerous type, the criminal police, dressed also "in disguise" in Adidas tennis shoes, blue jeans and leather jackets. This species came exclusively in double version, waiting for the opportunity to snatch the book out of our hands. When the uninformed sankirtan devotee made the mistake to reach out for the book in order to get it back, he was instantly taken in custody by the two police men, which accused him for being the thief and herewith punishable, claiming that he gave it to them first for free and then tried to steal it back. This trick seemed to be rather popular in the criminal police community, as it was repeatedly applied in various cities.
Any oposition in court was useless as the policemen were two and one testified in favour of the other. And so sankirtan devotees were advised, if they got involved that far, failing to identify the "undercover police men" in first place, instantly to donate the book to the police officers, making their schemes invalid.
Once I was followed by two men of this sort, who seeked an opportunity in a "friendly way" to approach me to be able to steal the book. I avoided them again and again, but the chase was going on, and so I finally got a firm grip on the book, and offered it to them. One of them instantly grabbed it and tried to pull it out of my hand. But thanks to my firm grip he couldn´t do so. He wasn´t ready for this response, and let it go.
I smiled and told both men,"My dear annonymous police gentlemen, I may inform you that this book is a demonstration copy only and it is herewith glued to my hand."
Being typical german police men, entierly bereft of any form of humour, they hissed some very unkind words and went away.
But on this day I somehow felt by Srila Prabhupada´s mercy not capable to opose the german edition of arogance. I felt overpowered by getting a glimpse of the infinitive mercy Krsna bestows even upon this obstinate souls, giving them intelligence how to defy Him. Seeing their intense strive to create kingdom of God without God, the here and there comuting souls seemed to be drawn in the realm of illusions maya has surounded them with. Helplessly they floated here and there from one shopping window to another, dragged by their senses, victimized by the illusory scenery they created themselves in name of a progress. Always seeking pleasure they found themselves in most misserable circumstances, pressed together in subways, busses or piling up their steal framed cars on the ever congested highways. Missing entierly the purpose of human existence, they simply got tranqualized by the powerful illusory energy of the Lord, still believing to be the same with Him. Boasting about their achievements they were destined to die to the echoes of their voices while seeing their schemes turning into ashes and dust.
I just turned around and handed the book to another big bodied well dressed man who took it in his large hand, gave it a look and said with an arogantly distant tone: "I dont need this garbage." Normaly I simply took the book back and went on seeking another more pious soul. But somehow this time I couldn´t resist to respond, seeing this poor man encaged in his false ego, simply repeating what maya put into his mouth. I looked seriously in his eyes and said: "My dear sir, you are so nice, so why do you act like a pig?"
The man was shaken instantly. He stared at me, trying to find out if it is real what he just heard. His mind took a spin, trying to get some logic into my somewhat contradictory statement. Something happened in his heart and his face softened. He smiled insecurely and said: "How much is the book."
I told him while still smiling: "Nice people get special reduction, and pigs dont buy it."
He smiled even more and bought it.
I wished him a nice day, and I could hardly resist the urge to embrace him, and congratulate him for his exceptional achievement to be able to overcome his false ego so quickly.
Sankirtan is not about mundane logic and reason. Sankirtan is about the purity of our purpose, the simplicity and honesty generated from our heart.T here are very very few real demons out there, most of the conditioned souls are simply confused. The more we get freed from our envy, the more they will respond positively. They don´t mind to hear our strong preaching as long is not administered in an arrogant "lord it over" spirit. They may get even occassionally upset about our straight forward approach, not being able to be confronted with so much truth at once. But the serious ones will think it over and see the simplicity and purity of the devotee. For me this incident was a rare moment as I felt blessed by Srila Prabhupada´s infinitive mercy.
Somehow, for few minutes I could overcome my own arrogance and pride, and feel truly compassionate to this lost fool. We met as two souls and he joined via the book the place where devotees of the Lord reside. Whatever happened to him thereafter is not relevant. The taste he experienced that minute never gets lost. It is liberating to opose the dictate of false ego with the help of superior spiritual force. I wish I could have more moments like this while being on sankirtan.
YOU DONT KNOW WHAT I KNOW
This story illustrates how a sankirtan devotee can be instantly given linteligence by the Supreme Lord to trick even the most stubborn conditioned soul.
Once upon a time one of my very intelligent godbrothers distributed with me in the same shopping street. I stil remember the name of that town. Those days, a skinny boy, he always made me to recollect how determined he was to join Srila Prabhupada´s movement even before he reached the age of eighteen.
I noticed a big man standing in front of the train station, exhibiting his false ego for everybody to see. Not exactly that type of german nationals I liked to approach. And so I passed that man by, only to notice how few moments later he was approached by the godbrother mentioned above.
The combination of the big, beef-well-fed man with the rather small devotee was hillarous. When offered the book, the man responded as I expected.
He barked at our little sankirtan hero: "I dont want this book!"
With amazing speed, smiling sheepishly, my godbrother responded: "Of course you don´t want the book, I know."
The speed of the comment caught the men´s attention. Agitated he asked: "What do you know?"
Our sankirtan maharathi responded with calm voice: "You see,I distribute these books since quite few years, and I know perfectly well that people like you NEVER take a book."
The man´s face grew red in rage. "You know nothing about people! Give me the book!" he yelled, pulled out his vallet and paid angrily.
My smart godbrother smiled innocently and appologized: "Sorry, I was wrong about you."
The man walked away with the book under his arm and our hero smiled in bliss. Afterall......even the false ego of the most conditioned soul can be tricked.
THE CRYING SANKIRTAN BRAHMACARINI
During one of our marathons in Sweden one very dedicated mataji got herself ready to "hit the streets" during the month of December. Those days nobody who considered himself or herself a member of the Hare Krsna movement could miss the opportunity to be somewhat part of book distribution.
Somehow, Krsna had a ready made special test for this brave girl. First day she couldn´t distribute one book, despite trying very hard. Next day was the same. Third day she went out already with tears in her eyes. She started to doubt that she will distribute one book the whole month, but was far from giving up. Her female nature brought lots of tears into her eyes, but she simply held the book in despair in her hand, hoping somebody will stop. By the end of the day she could hardly see the karmis in front of her, she simply whispered with eyes full of tears, "please, please".
Then, trying to walk further through the shopping street, she discovered that it was not possible. Somebody prevented her from going further by....pulling out the book she was holding and blindly putting forth into the stream of conditioned souls. She came to her senses, opened her eyes and saw a young boy standing in front of her, trying to get the book out of her hand.
"I want that book" he said. She was amazed."Really?"
"Yes, I always wanted Bhagavad Gita." She quickly sold the book to him and invited him for our Sunday Feast.
This boy became our first new bhakta in our new temple we opened in that town. Three days of tears, one book sold, and one bhakta joined.
Not a bad result for a marathon, I would say.
Never give up! Give Krsna a chance!
THE BURNING NEWSPAPER
Sitting in the Govinda´s restaurant in Vrndavana, an older man stopped at my table and looked firmly at me. He had small beard and looked rather retired. He asked: "Haribol, Manidhara, do you remember me?"
I had no idea who is talking to me. I said: "No".
He sat down and started to recollect a story I forgot from many years ago:
"That was the last day I was together with you on sankirtan. It was early morning and we parked the car in front of the small train station. We still ate our prasadam as you jumped out of the van and started to cross the little park between the train station and the shopping street. We just read in the morning in Srimad Bhagavatam how mundane literature is tasted by people resembelling crows. As you passed a man sitting on a bench, reading a large newspaper, you stopped. The man was fully absorbed in reading the latest news. His face, as matter of fact practically half of his body, was covered by the large newspaper, and so he couldn´t even notice you, standing in front of him."
"Then you reached spontaineously into your pocket and pulled out a... fire lighter we used to light the insence with. You holded the fire lighter under the man´s newspaper and see.... it blazed up instantly with a large flame."
"The man, not seeing the cause of his suddenly burning newspaper threw it instantly away.As he did so, he discovered that you stand in front of him, smiling, stretching your arm out, offering him Srimad Bhagavatam. By Krsna´s amazing potency he was so covered that he absolutely didn´t make any connection between you and the burning paper. As matter of fact, he bought the book, completely forgetting that the paper was still smouldering nearby. Then you walked towards the shopping street happily, and the rest of us, sitting in the car, thought this was the best movie we could see to start the day."
As my aging godbrother told the story, I recollected that sunny morning in that small german town located on a swiss border. We embraced each other in ecstatic memories of our happy sankirtan days and I never saw him again.
Don´t burn people´s newspapers! I never did it again either! :-)