Moscow was overwhelmed with an unusual and abnormal heat wave. Numerous bush and forest fires had broken out all around Moscow, causing poisonous smoggy air, casualties, and deaths, and the airport was closed for the two days prior to Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja's planned arrival. Russian government officials issued an edict: "state of emergency due to fires," and they cancelled two large and famous festivals that were supposed to take place around that time. Everything happened so suddenly that several devotees and guests immediately left and returned to their cities.
Some of the festival leaders contacted Srila Maharaja's secretary, Brajanath dasa Adhikari, to let Srila Maharaja know about the dangers, and Brajanath dasa informed them of Srila Maharaja's reply: "Please do not be worried. I am coming." The several hundred devotees who arrived a few days before the Moscow Harikatha Festival was scheduled to begin were brought to ecstatic tears to learn that it would now actually take place.
However...due to the bushfires, the police would not allow the devotees to hold the festival in the place where they had spent many thousands of dollars renovating for several weeks. Therefore, the organizers arranged for the devotees and guests to sleep in forests and hotels, while they themselves would be looking for a new place. Finally, at the last minute, a connection was made by the grace of Guru and Gauranga, and the whole festival along with several hundred devotees relocated themselves and brought with them all the festival paraphernalia.
Then, on August 8th, which one day later than planned because of Lord Krsna's desire to still further increase the love-filled anxiety and anticipation of the devotees, Srila Maharaja's plane landed at the airport. Over one-hundred-fifty devotees waited outside the Moscow airport with kirtana, despite the police asking them to stop, chanting the holy names of the Lord with great eagerness.
Upon his arrival, Srila Maharaja stayed at a hotel, which had air-conditioning as well as air-purifying facilities, in the outskirts of extremely smoggy Moscow city. Then, on the following morning, he was driven to the festival site, which was one-hundred-fifty kilometers outside of Moscow where the air was clearer.
As the first site was shut down by the police due to not having been properly fire inspected, the new site, beautifully located in the forest at an ethnic retreat center, was brilliantly organized within two days by the harmonious effort of all the organizers and other devotees.
The new site had very simple facilities and no kitchen, so the innovative devotees set up a kitchen within hours, and arranged accommodation for over 700 devotees in rooms, tents, teepees, and pavilions. Who would have thought that a four-course delicious prasadam feast could be cooked with only one pot and one wooden-fire stove? (see youtube video tour of the festival site)
Srila Maharaja came to the pandal on the evening of his arrival, but after speaking for about 15 minutes on the glories of Srimad-Bhagavatam, he excused himself due to the heat. Devotees wept for him as they watched him leave the pandal, thinking about his discomfort in the pandal after so much exertion at the age of ninety to come to see them all the way from India. They also wept for themselves, due to the sense losing the association they had attained after so long, and helpless to remedy the situation.
In that mood of great helplessness and great separation they continued class and kirtana on his request – at the same time knowing in their heart of hearts that, as a transcendental personality, he was simply doing what he was doing to churn their hearts and still further increase their feeling internal meeting, thus purifying them from the contamination of material existence.
The organizers decided that the only way the festival could continue with Srila Maharaja's physical presence would be for him to give lectures in the morning, as the weather was cool at that time of the day – and the sannyasis and other preachers would give the rest of the day's classes. Therefore, on the following day Srila Maharaja came to the pandal at 6am and continued to speak on the first canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. On the third and final morning, he spoke on the sweet pastime of the Yajnapatnis, the wives of the brahmanas, who came to meet with Krsna in the forest. You will receive the transcription of that lecture soon. To watch the movie of that lecture and of all Srila Maharaja's lectures in Moscow, please visit www.purebhakti.tv.
Initiation was held at 9am outside of Srila Maharaja's quarters. One hundred-ninety devotees received harinama and diksa initiation at that time; and later, coming in from other cities, small groups received initiation throughout the day.
In the late afternoon of the day before Srila Maharaja's departure, Srila Maharaja sat outside his cottage, with about thirty devotees and guests sitting around him and asking questions:
Sripad Nemi Maharaja: He is a visitor, Srila Gurudeva; a completely new person.
Guest: Who am I?
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: You are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord Krsna. Your place is not here in the material world; you came here by mistake. By your good fortune you now have sadhu-sanga, and therefore you will gradually realize, "Who am I." After many years you will have bhakti, and by the process of bhakti you will go to Goloka Vrndavana (the spiritual world).
Guest: Whose mistake was it?
Sripad Nemi Maharaja: His mistake?
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: Yes. You have committed so many mistakes that now you are thinking, "This world is real; I am this body, and everything I am seeing is true." You will realize that you are not this body, and that this world is not true. 'Not true' means 'not permanent, not eternal.'
Devotee: Thank you for coming to Russia.
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: Thank you for coming to this festival.
Devotee: Can we hope that you will come again?
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: Oh, don't expect this. It may be that I will come, but it is ninety-five percent chance that I won't come. It is very rare for me to travel in this age. This Russian program was set-up before, and therefore I came.
Devotee: Srila Gurudeva, in Bhajana-rahasya, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes a method for chanting the holy names. Is this the only way, or are there other ways?
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: There is only one way; by that way we can practice bhakti-yoga. [For a free download of Bhajana-rahasya, please visit the download section of Purebhakti.com.
Syamarani has a question?
Syamarani dasi: Yes, Gurudeva, I do. I was just now giving class, and one of the devotees quoted you as saying that Gaura-Nitai Deities can be worshipped with the mood of Radha and Krsna, because Mahaprabhu is Radha and Krsna combined.
Sripad Madhava Maharaja: Gurudeva never told this.
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: It is true that He is Radha and Krsna combined; He taught this by His own life's example. But, after worshipping Him for some time as Gaura, then that worship will turn to Krsna worship.
Brajanath dasa: Gradually; not right away.
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: First do dasya-bhava (perform worship in the mood of an obedient servant) to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Then, after some time, when that worship will be completed, it will be transferred into Krsna-bhakti.
Syamarani dasi: So when the devotees are offering bhoga (foodstuffs) to the Gaura-Nitai Deities, they should not utter srim klim Radha-krsnabayam svaha? How will they offer their bhoga?
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: "Etat naivedyam klim gauraya svaha (O Gaura, I offer myself to You. Please accept these foodstuffs)."
Mahaprabhu is Krsna, so we utter "klim" as His seed-mantra ["k" stands for "Krsna", "i" stands for "Radha", and "im" stands for the living entity in Their service]. But Nityananda Prabhu is not Krsna, so we utter "Om nityanandaya svaha." ["Klim" is the seed-mantra for Svayam Bhagavan, Sri Krsna in Vrndavana, and "om" (or "aum") is the seed-mantra for all His manifestations.]
Your whole body is made of questions.
Syamarani dasi: Fortunately your whole body is made of answers, so I am lucky.
Sripad Padmanabha Maharaja: Srila Gurudeva, one question: After the Ratha-yatra festival, when Mahaprabhu was speaking with Satyaraja Khan and others, they were asking Him what they should do as their devotional service. He told them to chant harinama and serve Vaisnavas. They asked, "Who is a Vaisnava?" They asked this question in three consecutive years and Mahaprabhu answered in three consecutive years. In the first year He answered that a Vaisnava is one who chants the name of Krsna even once.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, "Whoever chants the holy name of Krsna just once is worshipable and is the topmost human being. (Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya-lila 15.106)
Some devotees are asking about this. In the fifth verse of Upadesamrta it is stated: "Krsneti yasya giri tam manasadriyeta – One should mentally honor any devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Krsna."
Who is this person? Does this refer to someone who has taken diksa and is chanting regularly, or to just anyone? [*please see endnote]
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: Diksa should be real diksa, not ordinary. Now we have been admitted in the 'diksa class,' and the process of diksa may take much time. For one who has actually received diksa, divya-jnana (realized transcendental knowledge of one's eternal relationship with Krsna) comes at once. "Who is Krsna? Who am I?" These questions are solved, and all kinds of anarthas are gone. This is diksa. As far as you are concerned, you are not admitted in the class of diksa, and it may take time to complete of the diksa process.
Sripad Padmanabha Maharaja: Mahaprabhu was telling them, "You should serve Vaisnavas." Vaisnava is someone who has chanted Krsna-nama once. What kind of chanting is this person performing?
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: In three years He described kanistha (third-class devotee), madhyama (intermediate, or second-class devotee) and uttama (topmost, or first-class devotee). He gave answers for three consecutive years, and therefore we should think that first He was describing the kanistha-adhikari in the first year, the madhyama-adhikari in the second year, and then uttama-adhikari in the third.
Each class of devotee has been further divided into so many fractions, and especially into three fractions. For example, regarding kanistha, there is kanistha-kanistha (beginning beginner), kanistha-madhyama (intermediate beginner), kanistha-uttama (advanced beginner), and this principle of beginner, intermediate, and advanced applies for the madhyama and uttama as well.
Sukadeva Gosvami is an uttama-adhikari, but Narada Rsi is uttama-uttama. Narada is the guru of all sampradayas. Although he has told various things about his gradual spiritual development in Krsna consciousness in Satya-yugaj Dvarapa-yuga, and Kali-yuga, he was actually never a conditioned soul. He showed these activities externally, but in reality he is eternally perfect.
Although Bharata Maharaja came to the stage of bhava-bhakti, he lost three births (due to his attachment to a baby deer). And what became in his third birth? Bharata Maharaja started from uttama-kanistha; in his next life, as a deer, he was more advanced. And in his third life, as Jada Bharata, he completed his bhajana.
Sita Thakurani dasi: Gurudeva, I have so many faults. How can I do any service?
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: Don't worry; these faults will gradually go away.
Srila Maharaja left on the morning of August 12th to return to India before the festival of Jhulan-yatra, which began on August 20th.
[*Endnote: (from Srila Maharaja's "Origin of Ratha-yatra")
How can we recognize a Vaisnava? Please let us know who is a Vaisnava, and what are his common symptoms?" Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied in the following verses (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila 15.106–8): "Whoever chants the holy name of Krsna just once is worshipable and is the topmost human being. Simply by chanting the holy name of Krsna, one is relieved from all the reactions of a sinful life. One can complete the nine processes of devotional service simply by chanting the holy name. One does not have to undergo initiation or execute the activities required before initiation. One simply has to vibrate the holy name with his lips. Thus even a man in the lowest class can be delivered."
Caitanya Mahaprabhu then quoted a sloka from the Puranas to support this: "The holy name of Lord Krsna is an attractive feature for many saintly, liberal people. It is the annihilator of all sinful reactions and is so powerful that, except for the dumb who cannot chant, it is readily available to everyone, including the lowest type of man, the candala. The holy name of Krsna controls the opulence of liberation and it is identical with Krsna. Immediate effects are produced when one simply touches the holy name with one's tongue. Chanting the holy name does not depend on initiation, pious activities, or the purascarya (regulative principles generally observed before initiation). The holy name does not wait for all these activities. It is self-sufficient."
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then finally advised: "One who is chanting the Hare Krsna mantra is understood to be a Vaisnava; therefore you should offer all respects to him."
This reply was given in the first year. Sri Satyaraja Khan asked his question again the next year, and Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied with deep meaning, "You should honor one who chants with some honor for harinama, whether he is initiated or not, if he does not commit any offense and he follows the basic principles regarding gambling, smoking, meat-eating, and other sins. He should be honored because he can be freed from past offenses and he may become liberated."
On the third year the question was asked again. This time Mahaprabhu explained something more, and His explanation became complete.
Through the Kulina-grama residents He is gradually teaching the general public, saying in effect that if you want to advance, you will have to take initiation. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself took initiation. All these descriptions of the good effects of chanting will not apply to you if you neglect the teachings of Srila Rüpa Gosvami, Srila Sanatana Gosvami, and Mahaprabhu by not taking initiation.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's replies in the first and second years were meant to encourage those who do not know that we must accept initiation. Those who want to be pure devotees and have heard hari-katha from such pure devotees must accept initiation, give up all their offenses, become advanced, and realize their relationship with Krsna.]