for ISKCON News on July 15, 2010
As they disembarked the airplane in Guyana on June 20, 2010, and waited in line for the customs procedures, it certainly felt like they were eager, yet uncertain warriors. They were ten devotees who had encountered several challenges to make this trip and now were finally at their destination. What did Lord Krishna have in store for them? How would he use these devotees to share Krishna consciousness with the citizens of Guyana?
For most of the group, it was their first trip to this colorful country, which had once been a British colony. About 80% forest or jungle, Guyana is home to about 775, 000 people of primarily African and Indian descent and hosts a variety of religions: Hindu, Christian and Muslim, with some Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses and others, including the Hare Krishnas.
A few days later, other devotees, after clearing some visa hurdles, joined the original ten. Now all these devotees were coming as Spiritual Warriors from America, a term coined by Bhaktitirtha Swami as the title for his series of books about the God-conscious person who realizes his duty to fight— to fight his own personal anarthas, or weaknesses as well as the expressions of lust, anger, greed, false pride, and material attachment in the society at large.
Vilasa Manjari, a disciple of Romapada Swami and her husband, Paramananda Prabhu, a disciple of Bhakti Caru Swami had cajoled, requested and gathered devotees from all over the U.S, as part of a team to specifically join with Prabhupada Deva, temple president of the Nimai Pandit Study Center in Guyana and the devotees in the Crane temple, to come and show the unity in diversity among devotees who come from African and African-American families and those from Indian backgrounds. In Guyana, many of the Black people had erroneously assumed that Hare Krishnas or the “Hari Bols” as they were affectionately called, were coming from only from the Indian population.
Because Vilasa-Manjari and Paramananda Prabhus had been born in Guyana, they were inspired to do some preaching service there and thus they invited the Spiritual Warriors consisting of Bhakti Vasudeva Swami, Krsnanandini Mata, Hari Cakra Prabhu, Jambavati devi, Mohini devi, Antaryarmi devi, Gopana-daksa devi, Krsna-sakti devi, Pallaka dasa, Bhakta Marcus Arjuna, Krsna-Jivani devi, Krishna-Brnga das, Govinda das and Vrnda devi as the team to come to help serve in the Guyanese mission.
In so many scriptures, Lord Krishna assures His devotees that if they make one step on His behalf, He makes so many more. Most of these devotees from America had no idea what to expect but were determined to represent their beloved Srila Prabhupada by performing Harinama and serving as examples. And how does one describe the Harinamas they participated in? By sheer numbers? That they went on Harinama for four consecutive days in the biggest and most famous market in Guyana, Stabroek Market? That each day they engaged in Harinama sankirtana for no less than 5 hours? That hundreds and hundreds of Guyanese citizens received the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the form of prasadam: trail mix, savories, and gallons and gallons of sweet rice? That the kirtanas and colorful devotees were captured on the front pages of three main newspapers?
How can words describe the kirtans leaders and their effect on the crowds? Suffice it to say that the Guyanese were astonished by Hari-cakra’s amazing otherworldly vocals that seemed to call divine energies all around, by Krsnanandini Mata’s heartfelt calling for the Compassion and Mercy of Krsna and the Lord of the Universe, by Pallika’s sincere singing of fantastic bhajans and by Krsna-sakti’s spirited chanting of Radhe Syama that charmed children and adults alike for at least two hours. She was like the Pied Piper, captivating souls wherever she danced for Krsna in the Stabroek Market,
As events unfolded in Guyana, the devotees from America appeared on several television shows and were interviewed by reporters from the major Guyanese newspapers. They served prasadam to children at two schools and had interactive sankirtana with the young people in the schools. Krsnanandini Mata and Bhakti Vasudeva Swami gave class at the temples and were deluged by grateful devotees who appreciated their “vibrant, knowledgeable, touching” classes.
Bhakti Vasudeva Swami, along with other spiritual warriors who accompanied him, gave presentations for students at the University of Guyana and a teacher’s college. The inquiries and comments of the students indicated their very real appreciation of the swami’s wisdom and scientific approach to understanding life.
So many of the local devotees such as Prabhupada Deva and his wife, Visakha-sakhi from the Nimai-Pandit Study Center and the many kind devotees at Crane temple facilitated the Spiritual Warriors in every way by making sure we had delicious prasadam and assisting with the transportation to and from the airport and cooperating nicely with Vilasa-Manjari and Paramananda Prabhus to get the most out of the Spiritual Warriors’ Guyana trip. The host family (Vilasa’ nephew had just built a beautiful house near Georgetown and allowed the Spiritual Warriors to stay there) including ONeil, Susan, Alexis, Mother Lorraine, Sueon, Wade and Kim made us feel at home by their service attitude and friendly interactions. Our bus driver, Chris, exhibited patience and genuine affection as he drove The Spiritual Warriors from place to place to place from morning to night in our service.
On the last Saturday before their departure from Guyana, the spiritual Warriors were part of “the best Ratha-yatra we’ve ever had in Guyana” (from the words of many local devotees). The colorful, ecstatic parade, including hundreds of devotees, well=wishers and local citizens, culminated at a park with hours of music, dance, lectures and feasting. The Prime Minister of Guyana, the Honorable Samuel Hinds, attended as did other dignitaries, including the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Robert Persaud and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor and his wife. For some of the Spiritual Warriors, a warm and healthy relationship was established with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Mayor and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Williams, as they enthusiastically shared prasadam and listened well to the Krsna philosophy, asking relevant questions and assisting the team in connecting with media and other avenues of service.
A contingent of devotees headed by Bhakti Vasudeva, Prabhupada Deva, Krsnanandini Mata, Hari Chakra, Vilasa Manjari and Paramananda Prabhus met with the President of Guyana, His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo. This president listened with rapt attention as Majaraja shared some tips for peace, unity and ecological harmony for the people of Guyana. The Swami commended the president for his recent selection as a “Champion of the Earth” by other world leaders and informed him of the karma that allowed him to have such a position. His Excellency actually invited Maharaja to return to Guyana and share his “message of healing”. President Jagdeo also insisted that Maharaja be connected with a prince from the Middle East who had questions about solutions for some of the world’s problems. As they were leaving, Krsnanandini Mata shared the story of “Back into a Mouse” with Guyana’s top leader. This story, told many times by Srila Prabhupada, shows how those who fail to appreciate and respect their ultimate benefactor, will again “become a mouse”, that is lose their powerful positions, resources and talents. It also reminds us that simply changing our material situation is will not bring peace or relief from troubles.
Despite the mosquitoes and the heat and humidity, for the Spiritual Warriors, the spiritual adventure has just begun and they are looking forward to continuing the exciting momentum that started earlier this year, with other trips to Guyana, as ambassadors in Lord Caitanya’s mission.
Krsnanandini Dasi is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, initiated on Radhastami, September 12, 1972 when Their Lordships Radha-Kalachandji were also installed. She is a Senior Minister, educator and president of the North American Grhastha Vision Team. She accompanied the group of Spiritual Warriors to Guyana and was grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such an exciting preaching effort.