By Swami B. V. Tripurari
I write as I am crossing the Atlantic, returning from our Sangha’s annual European retreat held this year in the countryside near Wroclaw, Poland, to Audarya. The retreat was well attended and the participants kept me busy for two hours or more daily answering questions. Topics included the nature of guru bhakti, the contribution of our Bhaktivinoda Parivara, nama seva, the “mamata” of prema, sraddha namabhasa, and more. Swami B. V. Ashram Maharaja also spoke daily. Morning kirtana was especially sweet. Each morning after kirtana we read from Sacred Preface. On the morning that we read about Advaita Acarya and his compassion I entered a trance state during the kirtana and wept alone in my quarters during japa, overwhelmed by the mercy of Gaura, his associates, and Sri Krsna Nama. The sambandha-jnana issuing forth in the subsequent question and answer period was compelling. No one can say that our Sangha, with all of its shortcomings, is lacking in tattva.
Joy of Self, Siksastakam of Sri Caitanya, and my commentary on Gopala-tapani Upanisad have all been published in Polish, with Siksastakam and Gopal-tapani due for a second printing in the near future. Aesthetic Vedanta has also been translated, and Bhagavad-gita: Its Feeling and Philosophy is being translated at a pace of one chapter per month with four chapters already finished. The translation of Sacred Preface has also begun. This is an ambitious publishing effort to be sure, and it no doubt insures good attendance at future retreats over the years ahead. We are all indebted to Krsna Karanam, Yamanuja, and Guru-vakya for their efforts in this service.
There are many devotees in Poland and a number of Gaudiya sects. All of my time there is spent speaking to these devotees and exposing the crippling effects of sectarianism through sharing insights into the depths of our philosophy/theology in light of the modern world. It is very gratifying to see devotees gain fresh inspiration to pursue the wealth of Gaudiya Vedanta’s bhakti-rasa.
This year I flew alone and I was thus personally assisted by my Polish students. I had heard for years of how Anadi Krsna was an excellent cook, and finally this year I got the opportunity to experience his cooking. Lila-sakti supplied excellent raw milk cheeses. Mayapura Candra and Gokulacandra took good care of me personally, and everyone involved in organizing the festival should be commended. Bhrigupada conducted a seminar on Deity worship, and a number of my students are now worshipping the Deity regularly in their homes. Krsna Karanama and Nama-rasana also hosted me at their house and arranged another speaking engagement there that was well received. Yamanuja and Madhu Pandita escorted me here and there and helped me to better understand Polish history and the social and cultural Polish reality, as did Guru-vakya.
Poland is a relatively small country of approximately 30 million people, the majority of whom are Roman Catholic and fill the many awesome churches every Sunday. In the outlying villages, of which there are many in a largely still agrarian country, the sacred cross commemorating the crucifixion of the Christ is found at almost every intersection, where flowers are offered. Cows still cross the country roads at times in small herds, and it was not long ago that practically every family kept a milker of their own. Home gardens are the norm, and there is considerable distrust in the highly industrialized approach to feeding the world. The pace of life seems slower and more conducive to community, child rearing, and spiritual culture, all of which makes the sometimes strident sectarianism amongst the followers of Mahaprabhu so much more unbecoming and unfortunate.
My last day in Poland after the end of the retreat was spent touring the ancient city of Wroclaw. War torn after the Second World War, it is still not entirely rebuilt and signs of the war including bullet holes in some buildings are still visible. But it is mostly restored and we visited several churches and educational institutes. One
Greek Catholic Church Church that honors the Roman Catholic pope was especially inspiring. The iconography and artwork struck me. Although I could not make out all of the figures depicted, they were all distinctly transcendental. The Christ was not from Hollywood, blond and blue eyed, but Byzantine and beatific, the atmosphere somber and awesome with Ukrainian chanting for muzak.
From there we visited the Japanese gardens, where Ashram Maharaja and I looked at home to other tourists. There we picnicked and then visited the central island of the city, surrounded as it is by the second largest river in Poland. The island is a virtual Roman Catholic city with several towering churches and quarters for the priestly order and the bishop. There we entered the city’s largest church during the early evening mass. It was like a compartment of Vaikuntha on earth and I began to feel like Santana Goswami’s Gopa Kumara of Brhat-bhagavatamrta.
Blessed is God and blessed are those that adore him. I write for the pleasure of the Vaisnavas. May they show me their mercy.