From: Swami Giri
Subject: For Srila Govinda Maharaja
Date: November 7, 2000
Dear Srila Govinda Maharaj,
Please accept my most humble dandavat pranams in the dust of your lotus feet.
I have just completed my preaching tour of Russia and thought you would like to hear some of the news.
As I mentioned in my previous email I received several invitations to visit different cities in Russia and the Ukraine. I also wanted to spend several days in Moscow since I have not had so much opportunity to meet with the devotees there in the past due to traveling so extensively to other places.
Wherever I go the devotees are very eager for my visit and welcome me with open arms. I cannot believe how I have been so fortunate to make so many friends. Wherever I go I do not feel I’m with strangers, but in my own home. I know why it is happening, It is all coming by Your Divine Grace and sweet preaching mood.
When I first arrived in Moscow Nila Shakti devi insisted I come to Smolensk as soon as possible. She told me there were about 20 devotees waiting there waiting for initiation. At the same time Srimatis Indu Bala devi and Tulasi Priya devi had just arrived from Vladimir. They were telling me about a very successful program they had there with Indu Bala preaching to an enthusiastic group of people interested in astrology and Krishna Consciousness. As it turns out, the people were much more interested in what she had to say about Krishna than astrology. As a result, they asked me to come to Vladimir after a week or so to speak to these people. I agreed and Tulasi Priya began making plans for my visit.
My first trip after staying in Moscow for about 6 days was to Smolensk. We went by overnight train and were greeted at the train platform by about 20 devotees doing kirtan. When we got off the train they began throwing flower petals and all of them in unison began to chant “vancha kalpa tarubyas ca…” they chanted this verse three times and one devotee presented me with a flower garland. We then went to the home of one of the devotees where everyone gathered to discuss our program for the next couple of days. They presented me with a computer printout listing about a dozen persons for first initiation and 5 for second initiation. That evening and the next morning we had a program there in the flat I was staying in.
The following day we had a program in the evening in the home of Vajranavar. You may remember him and Vasudeva from Moscow. They were both Colonels in the Russian military and they are very enthusiastic for preaching as is Nila Shakti devi.
The next day was Lord Ramachandra’s Vijayutsava and Sri Madhvacharya’s Avirbhava. We had a grand celebration and initiated everyone who was seeking connection with Your Divine Grace. That evening we spoke again with the devotees. Vajranavar asked several questions about the duties of a sannyasi and told us that he is thinking to ask you for sannyasa when he goes to India. Several other devotees from Smolensk are also planning to visit you in India and they asked different questions regarding this.
In the evening we departed on an overnight train for Moscow where we would spend the next day before going on to Vladimir. Many devotees went to the train with us to see us off. When we were seated in our compartments they once again began showering us with flowers and chanted in unison “vancha kalpa tarubyas ca…”. When it was time for the train to leave they returned to the platform and began doing kirtan and dancing very happily. They joined hands and danced around in a big circle. Sometimes everyone would run towards the center of the circle while raising their hands high in the air. Then they moved back again to the outer part of the circle while lowering their hands, their movements resembling the opening and closing of a lotus flower.
In Vladimir Tulasi Priya devi arranged a program for us to speak to a big group of impersonalists who were practicing some type of meditation. I had an idea to speak with them about the differences between the impersonal conception of God and the Krishna conception of God but instead began talking about the miracle of Srila Prabhupada’s preaching success all over the world. I had just read an article telling about the city of New York declaring a tree in Thompkins Square Park as a historical monument. This tree was recognized by the city as the birth place of the Hare Krishna movement because it was here that Srila Prabhupada first began chanting alone with a pair of kartals and attracted so many young people to join him and from there this movement spread quickly all over the world.
When I finished my talk and asked for questions the leader of the group asked if I would like to hear something about their conception of God. I said no. He then tried to persuade me by telling me that they were offering an alternative idea of God that they thought would be more appealing than the current idea. I replied that we were the only ones offering any alternative conception of God since all other conceptions were similar to each other due to being tinged with the mundane qualities of jnana and karma. I explained something about Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s description of the best conception of God being that which offers the highest and purest conception of Him. Then I explained why the Krishna conception met this criteria being anyabhilasita sunyam, etc.
They seemed more or less disappointed to hear what I had to say and I thought this might be a good time to leave. I had been speaking for about 2 hours and thought perhaps everyone was tired. I suggested to the devotees with me that they distribute the prasadam we brought with us and offered our books to anyone interested. Now the leader of this group took some of his followers into another room where they took prasadam and drank tea. A few people remained in the room with us and I asked one more time if anyone had any question they wanted to ask. These people showed genuine interest and I began to have a nice discussion with them. Gradually several more people came back to hear what we were talking about and to take part in the discussion. Most of these people then came the next day to another program we had in Tulasi Priya’s home.
There in the early evening we had another very interesting program with about 25 people coming to take part in our kirtan, discussion and prasadam distribution. This meeting was attended by a couple of Christians who were trying to convince me that they could see God but I could not be convinced.
Finally someone asked if I had seen God. I said no! That is only possible for a very highly qualified devotee and I have no such qualification. Then I said I can say I can see God but how will you know whether I can or not. But our Guru Maharaj insisted that we not cheat anyone, then why should I say I can see Him if I cannot? At least we should not be cheaters. But this is not the important question whether I can see Him or not. The real question is whether you can see Him and the answer is yes, but first you must become qualified. Then I explained how that is possible under the guidance of a pure devotee.
So Maharaj, in this way we went from town to town staying a few days then going on to the next town. Besides Moscow, Smolensk and Vladimir we also visited St. Petersburg, Kiev and Yaroslavle. When it was time to leave for the next city the devotees did not want us to leave. Sometimes they even had tears in their eyes as they watched us leave.
There is much more to tell but I do not want to make this any longer as you might already be falling asleep hearing my lengthy descriptions.
As I said in the beginning I never expected to have such experience as this in my life. It has all happened by your merciful glance upon me. Then you can understand how much I am eternally indebted to you.
Your affectionate servant,
Bhakti Kanan Giri
Original Date & Time: November 7, 2000 12:49:43 PM EST