One of the essential teachings of the Hare Krishna theology is that devotion doesn’t depend upon material circumstances. Whether impoverished, wealthy, happy or distressed the quality of exchange between a devotee and God can transcend externalities.
Meet Partha-sarathi Dasa, who despite serving on active duty as a sergeant in the US Army in war-torn Iraq manages to maintain his devotion and encourage it in the hearts of others. Partha-sarathi has been doing this since 2003 and is now on his third tour.
In previous years he was given facility to have Bhagavad-gita classes and distribute Srila Prabhupda’s books to the soldiers. This year he aims to make an impact by organizing the first Ratha-yatra procession in Iraq. Sound incredible? Well, he’s already been given permission from his commanding officer to have two festivals on US bases in Mosul and Talafar - and the Motor Corps is building Lord Jagannatha a cart.
His command has also given him permission to renovate a building into an ISKCON center for the fifty people who regularly attend his Bhagavad-gita classes and for the ten soldiers who’ve taken up daily chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, eschew non-vegetarian food, frivolous sex, intoxication and gambling. For those living on an army base, that’s quite an achievement.
Back in Los Angeles, a team of cookie bakers headed by Ratnabhusana Dasa sends thousands of cookies to distribute amongst the troops. Is this just a frivolous novelty mission? Is there any real value in this sort of effort? Yes, according to Partha-sarathi.
“I lost a soldier recently and the amazing thing was that he did so much service for Krishna without knowing. He bought dry fruit, incense, etc. And the amazing thing was that he ate, like, 50 of the last batch of cookies.
When we packed his stuff up I found a card I had given him in his helmet”¦ it said Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare ”¦ and I was told before he died he yelled Krishna.”
Life isn’t easy living amongst the sometimes 140F degree chaos of one of the most controversial wars of our time, yet Partha-sarathi gives several accounts where he feels divine intervention was obvious.
Once he was on a six mile run with 500 men when the commander called on him to “get out there and sing.” These espirit de corps runs are accompanied by a call and response chant. Partha-sarathi took the opportunity to lead the troops in a rousing session of chanting Hare Krishna. As they ran through the base, the sound of the holy names chanted by so many soldiers reverberated off the buildings and could be heard more than a mile away.
Afterwards his commander claimed, “That was amazing – the most motivating run I’ve been on in 13 years.” So Partha-sarathi handed him a Bhagavad-gita.
A few days later his commander remarked, “With Krishna on our side how can we lose?”
[ iraq ]