The Adventures of a Traveling Monk: When Adversity becomes Blissful Opportunity

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IS bliss in kirtanaThe life of a dedicated monk engaged in outreach may seem very austere to people or even devotees when it is understood that there is often no “personal time” or little opportunity to savior the beauty of Krishna’s creation, or even take proper rest. In the very first issue of Indradyumna Maharaja’s “The Diary of a Traveling Preacher” he relates one a particular occasion when he was staying at a Temple between engagements. He went in the backyard to behold a beautiful Temple garden with lovely flowering trees and bushes, buzzing bees, and delicate butterflies. As he sat down to chant his rounds on a comfortable bench beneath a fragrant tree he realized that it had been years since he had actually been alone in such a tranquil place.

A sannyasis preacher’s life is always very public and one is constantly on the go. He felt like a soldier in a lull from the battle with a special appreciation for such an aesthetic place. As he was sitting there his preaching companion, another sannyasi named Govinda Maharaja, came out and asked him what he was doing. He replied that he was enjoying a few moments of peace. Govinda Maharaja laughed at this idea saying, “This is not like you. We have to go to the next place and there will be no peace for you in this lifetime. The devotees and conditioned souls were waiting.”

Although these days Indradyumna Maharaja does have to take some R and R on occasion for his health, in general, from reading his diary he appreciates Govinda Maharaja’s sober advice. This is because he also personally relishes the challenges and opportunities of putting his life on the line to spread Krishna consciousness, organizing sankirtana festivals and serving the devotees.

He was reminded of this same point sometime later when one of his teeth fell out. He reflected that his body was getting older and wouldn’t last forever. For preaching he didn’t always take proper care of his body, so he thought that his body would be in better shape if he had—but he feels no regrets, as this is such an enlivening service, though sometimes dangerous.

I think in Indradyumna Swami’s preaching life he lives “when bad is good” almost constantly, though perhaps more externally obviously when traveling in Eastern European countries, or those in Asia that were previously part of the Soviet Union. He faces what appear on the surface to be insurmountable odds when setting up festivals amongst difficult, unreceptive government leaders who somehow change by force of circumstances or due to a favorable superior who orders them to allow the festival. Or if they are denied one opportunity, then something even better opens up. We can all be inspired in our own life that when we takes risks for the sake of helping others revive their Krishna consciousness, Krishna make miraculous arrangement to assist us.

Anyone who reads his diary on a regular basis will be expecting obstacles to arise that amazingly change for the better. Such is the power of determination and faith in Krishna’s service. Perhaps his Diary could be subtitled, ‘When Bad is Good in Preaching” or “When Stumbling Blocks Become Stepping Stones” or something similar.

Traveling by car in some Muslim countries can be especially dangerous. For example when they were driving in Uzbekhistan, they had to go through 3 check points and then another 3 to get into Tajikistan at which they would be detained for 30 minutes at each one by armed guards. In the middle of that odyssey in the desert they had car trouble due to the poor quality of gas. Fortunately one of the devotees knew how to fix cars and was able to get it running.

Apparently if one leaves the lights on while parked in this part of the desert thousands of tarantulas will be attracted to the lights. Plus there are very poisonous snakes and scorpions that inhabit the region. Had no one known how to fix the car, it would have been a very difficult and dangerous situation. At one check point the guard said they were lucky to be crossing here, since only 50 kilometers away a battle was raging. However, they were warned to take precautions as they may have to duck the bullets from the other side of the city.

A few miles away from the last check points they came across a surprising scene. As they were passing through a village they noticed a Muslim wedding ceremony with grand festivities of feasting, dancing and general merry making. As Indradyumna Swami was thinking it would be interesting to visit the ceremony, Govinda Maharaja stopped his lead car and asked him if he wanted to go down to the wedding. They all then proceeded to the wedding, confident from their many experiences that they would be treated kindly by the Islamic people. Indeed they were warmly greeted and ended up being invited to lead the singing. As time progressed everyone rose to their feet to dance and chant the holy name in blissful abandon—Muslims and Hindus dancing in friendship—who could have imagined! They sat down with their new friends only to be invited up again to chant.

As they were leaving they were asked by the village elders to visit another festival some miles away. Not wanting to be disrespectful and also happy to share the holy name in Muslim countries they agreed. Though thought occurred to them that they could be heading for some more difficulties, it turned out well. They arrived at a young child circumcision where singing and dancing where going on. As before the people welcomed them with great kindness. By Krishna’s mercy they again found themselves leading a large kirtana where everyone joyfully participated by dancing.

Could anyone imagine such an outcome in a war torn Muslim country? Though any number of unfortunate events might have taken place here, Lord Chaitanya arranged many miracles to facilitate his devotees outreach attempt. Being able to help others spiritual in spite of all odds makes the austerities and risks more than worth the endeavor.
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