(Dandavats.com) – Benelux Sankirtan Tour – Diary Of A Brahmacari “Dawn Of A New Beginning”
By Rasānanda Sankīrtana Dāsa
Association means protection. By associating with devotees, we are protected from the dangers of the material world the same way a calf is protected by the herd of elephants. However, the voice of kali is telling us to leave the herd behind and everyone is accepting it proudly like wearing a t-shirt saying, “leave the herd behind.” Right, because isn’t our refusal to follow the herd that led us to Krishna consciousness? Our emancipation from Big brother and Uncle Sam that led us to spiritual freedom? We hear now devotees religiously say, “you know, I prefer doing things my own way” or “independence is important.” With no intent to reduce the validity of their individual experiences, The psychology behind their statements is very simple. “We don’t want to be hurt or cheated again. We want to surrender but we don’t know how to.” Spiritual life is full of these conundrums, and it befalls us to not fall under their spell bound easy conclusions. This is the path of renunciation.
I don’t actually recall if it was through a call or a message when Gopinatha prabhu first proposed to me “would you like to participate in the sankirtan summer tour in Belgium?” But I knew he had been preparing something for a while. We first met during the Radhadesh mellows of 2023. As a newly decorated brahmacari in saffron cloth, I was simply happy to see him as a person is happy to see his own kin in a foreign land. Being a minority is always cause for solidarity. About a year and half prior to meeting with Gopinatha, prior to being a brahmacari myself, I had met with Rupa Ragunatha prabhu in Spain, new Vrajamandala. He was the first brahmacari I had ever seen, and even back then we knew that our paths would continuously cross like the double helix of a dna structure. Inseparable, but free to go our own paths at the same time. Somehow, Krishna had sent him to Portugal, Lisbon and somehow, I ended up in France, Lyon. It is only a year later that we would meet again for the first time as I would proudly carry my new spiritual name.
Radhadesh, Sunday 16th of July, 10 am sharp, our meeting had started. Seated in a circle, as would the knights of the round table, brahmacaris alongside with our senior devotees initiated the Istagosthi with a roaring kirtan. Of course, the whole campaign was strategically inspired by the Supreme Lord as part of a greater Plan. When and where the faithless see randomness, the faithful see Godliness. Gopinatha prabhu, as the instrument of that faith, led the meeting with a heartfelt and personal introduction of each devotee participating in the marathon. He had just met Rupa Ragunatha prabhu and his eternal companion Nitai Caran prabhu in Mayapur some months ago. Our host and facilitator, Janmasthami prabhu was the first devotee I had ever met in my life. Then I was introduced to our resilient bhakta Beny prabhu and most affectionate Abhimanyu prabhu. The mood was set in gold as a diamond (devotee) is set in a golden ring (the Supreme Lord). Our thinking-feeling-and-willing spelled out the theme of our sankirtan tour: “dawn of a new beginning.”
Gopinatha prabhu, son of Nadia Bihari prabhu and Syamalika mataji (owners of Radhadesh’s bakery) had and is the vision to revive the brahmacari ashram in the Belgium yatra. If, indeed, brahmacaris represented an endangered species then preserving them could only be done by protecting and expanding their natural habitat— the Sankirtan movement. As the saffron cloth becomes rarer with the passing years, the irrefutable need of a brahmacari association and the expansion of our preaching efforts is undeniable. Therefore, Gopinatha prabhu united the belgian yatra with the French, London, Portugal and Spain yatras as a great general unites different armies under one flag, one banner. this marked the beginning of a long-term relationship between brahmacaris across Europe.
In Brussels bhakti centre, our headquarters during the marathon, the mood was enlivening. One day in the life of a brahmacari and you might also be convinced. Beginning with the level of attentiveness in choosing the room you sleep in. snoring or not snoring. Those who are early birds and those who are late birds. the secret art of living in community resides in how to balance collective imperatives with individual needs. And much respect goes to Antaranga prabhu, sankirtan leader of the London yatra, for putting in practice that secret art. Between heavy breakfasts, dynamic krishna kathas, kirtans, police arrests, cars being towed, fines for not wearing seatbelts, rainy days, powerful harinams and flying books, sankirtan is uncontestably the life and soul of brahmacaris. It is in that fertile soil that the most fundamental questions and affirmations arose. How to keep our enthusiasm? What is spiritual responsibility? How do we become devotees and how do we inspire others to become devotees? Great personalities preach to the world. Insecure personalities preach to the choir. Sankirtan devotees are protected by the Lord. Sankirtan devotees are hopeful for the world. As Robert frost said in his poem “the road not taken”: “two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” The road not taken is the path of renunciation.
It is wonderful that our sankirtan tour began with the Amsterdam ratha yatra and ended with the London ratha yatra. Again, When and where the faithless see randomness, we see Godliness. By the mercy of Lord Jagannatha, we saw that we weren’t here just to enjoy ourselves but that we were here to train ourselves to be part of the sankirtan mission of Lord Chaitanya. As prabhupada says in one of his purport: “Our duty, therefore, is to execute devotional service sincerely, under the direction of the spiritual master. Krishna, by His grace, will supply whatever we need in executing our devotional service. In the Krishna consciousness movement, we simply have to execute the order of Krishna and guru. Then all necessities will be supplied by Krishna, even if we do not ask for them.” (SB 8.6.14, purport). Therefore, let us be fearless in the execution of our devotional service and in the spreading of the movement of Krishna consciousness.