Battlefield Bhajans Vol. 37
Pretoria, South Africa
I arrived in Pretoria via Durban and received a phone call from the temple president that I would have to walk over to the international arrival terminal to get picked up with HH Bhakti Narasimha Swami. I met Maharaja at the airport and we chatted about the future of South African preaching. For the temple devotees it was nice for Maharaja to spend sometime at the temple. When senior devotees come to the temple, it charges the ashram devotees batteries and they are ready to go back out and preach.
That evening I took the devotees on harinama in an area called Sunnyside. We had about twenty-five devotees with us, and when they chanted it sounded more like one hundred. I lead the beginning and soon Braja Vallabha Prabhu took over. Soon he had the devotees dancing and singing in the streets. The devotee's enthusiasm increased with each sound resonating from the mrdanga. As he chanted with more enthusiasm, the devotees responded with even more enthusiasm. The chanting became contagious and soon the onlookers were dancing and chanting with the devotees. I saw some very interesting dance moves that evening. I saw some moves that look as if the dance defined all law of psychics. One boy danced like he was a robot, another start break dancing; the devotee's fed off the energy of the crowd and the crowd fed off the energy of the devotees. I lead the final portion of the harinama and gave a short explanation of what was happening. The crowd listened and when all was done, one boy came back to the temple with us.
The following day was a harinama in the city center in Pretoria. Maharaja sang the first leg of the harinam and had the devotees in ecstasy. Before I knew it, there was a crowd of about fifty people gathered around and watching and smiling. I started to approach people in the crowd with our literature. Some were very favorable, some weren't; but still I was determined to at least show them Srila Prabhupada's books. One man smiled the whole time I explained what was happening. He said " Man I don't care what those books say, if I can be as happy as them, I'll take it."
The harinama kept moving and I sang for a short while before the heavy gun was brought out. Bhima Prabhu led the rest of the time with his trusty accordion. He had everyone mesmerized with his singing. I decided to break off from the harinama and concentrate on distributing books. I approached a group off ten youth. They asked me what I was doing, and I explain that I am a monk and we are singing God's name. These youth asked many interesting question and I tried my best to explain. When I asked for a donation, they looked down and said they had no money. Just then one of the kids father walked up and asked what I was doing with these boys. He said, "Are you trying to hustle my son?" Very respectfully I said, "No sir, I am simple monk trying to give the best gift in the world. These books are windows to the spiritual world, when he reads these books, he will understand what the goal of life is." The man surveyed the scene and saw the smile on his son's face. He pulled out a hundred (rand) and bought all the kids books and shook my hand. The rest of the day I played 'catch up' to the chanting party. I would find them, then distribute some books and look up and seem them gone again. Overall it was a very successful day, and we planned on performing more chanting throughout the streets in the future.
The next weekend the temple devotees joined the youth group and their Food for Life program. We decided to make this program a festival and give a meaningful presentation of Krsna Consciousness in an African village. We had devotees serving prasadam, others chanting, and a few distributing books. As soon as this festival hit the parking lot, dozens of onlookers showed up. Plates of prasadam were given out, books were distributed, and smiles were seen from devotees and non-devotees alike.
Since I have arrived I have noticed small pockets of piety in the people. Every person I approached took a book and gave a donation. At one point I ran out of books. I was looking for more when I saw Vaisnava Prabhu in a conversation with a gentleman. The discussion looked deep and without Vaisnava noticing I took books out of his bag. For over twenty minutes this went on, Vaisnava would talk with this guy and I would take books out of his bag and distribute them. Finally he distributed a Bhagavad-Gita to this man and looked into his bag to find only a few books left and a puzzled look. Myself and another devotee started laughing. "You snooze you lose," is what I told him. At the end of the day everyone was satisfied.
The Pretoria center is not known for their book distribution, after I spoke some encouraging words the devotees decided we would go out and not come back until out supply of books was gone. I broke the devotees up in to groups of two for safety reasons. My partner was Bhakta Damodara. He is a fourteen-year-old boy that also lives in the temple. He comes from Soweto, which a rough township. It was his first time out on sankritana and his approach was interesting. He would wait for me to speak to someone then he would hand the person a book. The person would take his book and give a donation. I realized what was happening and laughed, it was cute and inspired him to approach more of the Africans. I just had fun and approach every person I saw.
I approached a group of teenagers; before I could say anything, they asked me,
"What the hell do you want?" I explained I was a monk and was here to introduce them to the highest consciousness on this planet. The leader of their group, said, "Whatever man, if it isn't hip hop, I am not interested." I immediately asked one to give me a beat and he started using his hands and made a sound. I rapped the English translation of the Siksastika prayers spoken by Lord Caitanya. The kids started moving to the rhythm and I finished with the maha mantra. The kids were excited and were grabbing books out of my stack and handing me rands. It was amazing, the Lord was inspiring them. They asked me questions about the books and I took my time to explain until they were satisfied.
When the devotees met up, we swapped stories of our adventures during the day. They were so excited to be part of this spreading of Lord Caitanya's mission. In their eyes you could see the fire of preaching had been lit and the potential was unlimited. We read off the end of month scores during the Sunday feast and when one mataji's name was announced and her scores; I looked at her father whose is also a devotee and saw the biggest smile I have ever seen. He seemed so happy that his daughter was engaged in spreading of this message.
So far in our new life things are working out for us. I am learning I need to learn patience and tolerance. I need to realize there is always improvement in my sadhana, in my relationships with devotees and my preaching. I therefore request blessings from the devotees to be able to improve in these areas, so that I can better serve Srila Prabhupada.
Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
Partha Sarathi Dasa