A news article from Leicester. Normally we don't post "local events" articles but wanted to post this one. In recent most of the news on the wire is either about the Bangalore situation or the silly bollywood movie composition and music that shares the same  name as our movement...so it is nice to have some nectar coming accross. Also it has been a while since I have taken darshan in the UK but as some may recall, less than a year ago ISKCON Leicester had a fire/explosion right before Janmastami festivities were to begin. With Krishna's mercy no one got hurt but it is very nice to read that the devotees not only bounced back but are putting together such a large festival for the pleasure of Lord Jagannatha, Srila Prabhupada and the assembled devotees. 
The final preparations are under way for a colourful and lively city centre procession set to attract thousands of people.

The annual Hare Krishna Festival of Chariots returns to Leicester tomorrow.

The city hosts the second biggest celebration in Europe and festival-goers will descend on Humberstone Gate, to pull three giant chariots from the Clock Tower, in the city centre, to Cossington Street park, Belgrave.

Devotees believe that if they get the honour of pulling the ropes of the giant chariots – carrying models of Lord Krishna, Lady Subhadra and Lord Balarama – they are brought closer to the Gods, and at the end of this life they will be granted a place in the spiritual world.

Organisers are busy cooking food, arranging flowers and decorating the chariots for the festival, which is expected to attract 9,000 visitors.

Krishan Mistry, who owns Loughborough wedding florist Vrinda Flowers, will be helping to make garlands and flower displays for the festival.

He said: "Flowers play a really important part of the festival and are very significant.

"Garlands are a traditional way of welcoming and showing respect for guests, so those are being made to give to VIPs on the day, and to offer to the deities.

"Flowers are significant because we feel that while you can offer gold and silver, that is a one-time offering. But flowers will wilt, so the offering can be made again and again.

"The flower side of things can be very busy, because it has to be done last minute as the flowers will wilt.

"The arrangements for the park were done on Friday and the garlands will be done today – into the late hours."

The 5,000-year-old festival came to the UK from India in the 1960s, and has since been celebrated in hundreds of cities all over the world.

This year will mark the 14th time the festival has taken place in Leicester – the second biggest celebration in Europe, after London.

The procession leaves Humberstone Gate at noon, and arrives in Cossington Park at 2.30pm.

One of the organisers, Nimai Devi Dasi, said she hoped this year would be bigger than ever.

"Last year, we had 8,000 people, and this year we are expecting 1,000 more," she said.

"It certainly grows every year. The atmosphere is very jovial and family-friendly, and we invite people from all cultures to join us and celebrate.

"The pulling of the chariots is very important and symbolises pulling God into your heart.

"There will also be lots going on at Cossington Park, too, with tents, free food and a children's area with dancing and yoga."

[Editor's note: It is back to blogging. Earlier this week we had some technical issues with the site which interrupted our posting. Although I am backed up with blog notes from my dad, Subhavilasa das, I had to head up to Muskoka where I "unplugged" for a few days of r&r and caught up on rounds in the process. So hopefully over the next few days we will get caught up...]

This past Tuesday was Kamika Ekadasi and although it has already past, in order to maintain continuity in the series, the following are the glories of Kamika Ekadasi...

 The saintly king Yudhisthira maharaj said, "Oh Supreme Lord, I have heard from You the glories of fasting on Deva-sayani Ekadasi, which occurs during the light fortnight of the month of Ashadha. Now I would like to hear from You the glories of the Ekadasi that occurs during the dark fortnight (krishna paksha) of the month of Shravana (July -August). Oh Govindadeva, please be merciful to me and explain its glories. Oh Supreme Vasudeva, I offer my most humble obeisances unto You.The Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna, replied, "Oh King, please listen attentively as I describe the auspicious influence of this Holy fast day, which removes all sins. Narada Muni once asked Lord Brahma about this same topic. 'Oh regent of all beings,' said Naradji, 'Oh you who sit upon a water born lotus throne, please tell me the name of the Ekadasi that occurs during the dark fortnight of the sacred month of Shravana. Please also tell me which Deity is to be worshipped on that Holy day, the process one must follow to observe it, and the merit it awards.'

Lord Brahma replied, 'My dear son Narada, for the benefit of all humanity I shall happily tell you everything you wish to know, for just hearing the glories of the Kamika Ekadasi bestows merit equal to that obtained by one who performs a horse sacrifice. Certainly, great merit is attained by one who worships, and who also meditates on the lotus feet of the four-armed Lord Gadadhara, who holds conchshell, disc, club and lotus in His hands and who is also known as Shridhara, Hari, Vishnu, Madhava, and Madhusudana. And the blessings achieved by such a person / devotee, who worships Lord Vishnu exclusively are far greater than those achieved by one who takes a sacred bath in the Ganges at Kashi (Varanasi), in the forest of Naimisharanya, or at Pushkara, which is the only place on the planet where I am formally worshipped. But one who observes this Kamika Ekadasi and also worships Lord Shri Krishna achieves greater merit than one who has darshan of Lord Kedaranatha in the Himalayas, or one who bathes at Kurukshetra during a solar eclipse, or one who donates the whole Earth in charity, including its forests and oceans, or one who bathes in the Gandaki River (where the sacred Shaligrams are found) or the Godavari River on a full moonday that falls on a Monday when Leo and Jupiter are conjoined.

'Observing Kamika Ekadasi bestows the same merit as donating a milk-cow and her auspicious calf, along with their feed. On this all auspicious day, whosoever worships Lord Sri Shridhara-deva, Vishnu, is glorified by all the devas, Gandharvas, Pannagas, and Nagas. 'Those who are afraid of their past sins and completely immersed in sinful materialistic life should at least observe this best of Ekadasis according to their ability and thus attain liberation. This Ekadasi is the purest of all days and the most powerful for removing sins of the native. Oh Narad ji, Lord Shri Hari Himself once said about this Ekadasi, "One who fasts on Kamika Ekadasi attains much more merit than one who studies all the spiritual literatures. 'Anyone who fasts on this particular day remains awake throughout the night will never experience the anger of Yamaraja, the king of death personified. It has been seen that whoever observes Kamika Ekadasi will not have to suffer future births, and in the past too, many Yogis of devotion who fasted on this day went to the spiritual world.

One should therefore follow in their auspicious footsteps and strictly observe a fast on this most auspicious of Ekadasis. 'Whosoever worships Lord Shri Hari with Tulsi leaves is freed from all implication of sin. Indeed, he lives untouched by sin, as the lotus leaf, although in the water, is untouched by it. Whosoever offers Lord Shri Hari but a single leaf from the sacred Tulsi tree attains as much merit as one who gives away in charity two hundred grams of gold and eight hundred grams of silver. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is more pleased by one who offers Him a single Tulsi leaf than by one who worships Him with pearls, rubies, topaz, diamonds, lapis lazuli, sapphires, gomeda stones, cat's eye gems, and coral. One who offers Lord Keshava newly grown manjari buds from the Tulsi plant gets rid of all the sins he has committed during this or any other lifetime. Indeed, mere darshana of Tulsi on Kamika Ekadasi removes all sins, and merely touching her and praying to her removes all kinds of disease. One who waters Tulsi devi need never fear the Lord of death, Yamaraja. One who plants or transplants Tulsi on this days will eventually reside with Lord Shri Krishna in His own abode. To Srimati Tulsi devi, who awards liberation in devotional service, one should therefore daily offer one's full obeisances.

'Even Chitragupta, Yamaraja's secretary, cannot calculate the merit obtained by one who offers Shrimati Tulsi-devi a perpetually burning ghee lamp. So dear is this sacred Ekadasi to the Supreme Personality of Godhead that all the forefathers of one who offers a bright ghee lamp to Lord Shri Krishna on this day ascend to the heavenly planets and drink the celestial nectar there. Whoever offers a ghee or sesame oil lamp to Shri Krishna on this day is freed from all his sins and enters the abode of Surya, the Sun-god, with a body as bright as ten million lamps. This Ekadasi is so powerful that if one who is unable to fast simply follows the practices as mentioned herein, he is elevated to the heavenly planets, along with all their forefathers.

'Oh Maharaj Yudhisthira,Lord Shri Krishna concluded, "...these were the words of prajapathi Brahma to his son Narad Muni concerning the incalculable glories of this Kamika Ekadasi, which removes all sins. This sacred day nullifies even the sin of killing a brahmana or the sin of killing an unborn child in the womb, and it promotes one to the spiritual world by making one supremely meritorious. One who kills the innocent, i.e., a brahmin (brahmana), a child in the womb, a pious and spotless woman, etc., and then later hears about the glories of Kamika Ekadasi will be relieved of the reaction to one's sins. However, one should NOT think beforehand that one can kill a Brahmin or other innocent folk and then go unpunished simply by hearing of this Ekadasi. Such knowing commission of sin is an abomination.

Whosoever hears these glories of the Kamika Ekadasi with faith becomes free of all sins and returns home, back to Godhead - Vishnu-loka, Vaikuntha. Thus ends the narration of the glories of the Shravana-krshna Ekadasi, or Kamika Ekadasi, from the Brahma-Vaivarta Purana.

We apologize for ongoing difficulties with the blog link. 

The rest of the site www.RadhaShyamasundar.com seems to be operating fine, however the blog link is having intermittent errors including unavailability, error messages and non view ability of photos/graphics. We hope to have this resolved  shortly. 

The small deities are Sri Sri Radha-Vinoda which were manifest to and worshipped by Srila Lokanth Goswami

[Due to blog site having intermittent issues, this is being posted 1 day late and Friday's post will be reposted]

We have compiled some glorifications of Srila Lokanath Goswami a personal associate of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in honour of his disappearance day. 

In glorification of Srila Lokanath Goswami, Sri Narottama Dasa Thakura writes, 
padmanabhatmajam shrimal lokanatha prabhum bhaje

I worship the lotus feet of Srila Lokanatha Prabhu, the son of Sri Padmanabha. He is a storehouse of single minded service to the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha Vinoda. 

Typically when writing about exalted vaishnavas who associated with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, such as Srila Lokanath Goswami we consult the Caitanya Caritamrta, however it is said that when Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami went to Srila Lokanatha Goswami and asked his blessings to compile the Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, Lokanatha Goswami gave his blessings, but out of humility asked Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami to not use name in the Caitanya Caritamrita. Thus Srila Lokanath Goswami is only briefly mentioned in the Chaitanya Charitamrita. 

Srila Prabhupada confirms this in the purport of Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya-lila 18.49. In the verse Sri Lokanatha Goswami is just mentioned in association of others, however Srila Prabhupada expands his glorifications as follows: 

Sri Lokanatha Gosvami was a personal associate of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and a great devotee of the Lord. He was a resident of a village named Talakhadi in the district of Yasohara (Jessore), in Bengal. Previously he lived in Kacnapada. His father's name was Padmanabha, and his only sibling was a younger brother named Pragalbha. Following the orders of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Lokanatha went to Vrindavana to live. He established a temple named Gokulananda. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura selected Lokanatha dasa Gosvami to be his spiritual master, and Narottama dasa Thakura was his only disciple. Because Lokanatha dasa Gosvami did not want his name mentioned in the Caitanya-caritamrita, we do not often see it in this celebrated book....
[excerpt from Srila Prabhupada's purport of CC Madhya-lila 18.49]

As indicated in the purport above Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu instructed Sril Lokanatha Goswami to go to Vrindavan where he performed ecstatic kirtan feeling great separation from Mahaprabhu. 

One quick story...

Sri Lokanatha Goswami wandered throughout all twelve forests of Vrindavan in great ecstasy.
In one of the forests there is a village named Umarao. There he stayed for some time on the banks of Kishori-kunda.
He had a great desire to establish the worship of the deity and render service to Krishna in that way.
Understanding Lokanath's aspiration to serve, Krishna Himself appeared before him and offered Lokanatha a vigraha, saying, "Worship this Deity here".This deity's name is Radha-vinoda.

Even in old age Srila Lokanatha Goswami continued performing ecstatic bhajan kirtan is separation of Mahaprabhu in Khadiravan in Khayara Gram. There is a kunda called Yugula and on the banks of this kunda, while performing bhajan, Srila Lokanatha Goswami entered samadhi. 

Jaya Srila Lokanatha Goswami! 

Samadhi of Srila Lokanath Goswami
Last weekend was Toronto's Ratha Yatra Festival and it gave a shining example of how to nicely present Krishna Consciousness to the masses. From ecstatic kirtan, deity darshan and excellent prasadam to book distribution, philosophical presentations/discussions and riveting entertainment. 

The prevailing mood of this year's festival was one of cooperation and compassion. Cooperation among devotees to host an excellent Ratha Yatra and festival and compassion to touch souls with Gauranga's love. 

The sankirtan team often uses an inspiring line, "a lot of people, each doing a little bit" and this was prevalent in this festival. But there was also "a few people doing quite a bit". From the youth that organize for countless hours and the cooks and volunteers that cooked in the heat for thousands of pilgrims to the book distributors carrying/organizing thousands of books to the devotees and volunteers that kept talking and working till it hurts, this selfless service to Srila Prabhupada and Lord Jagannatha is more than commendable. 

So this post is to simply say PAMHO. Please accept our humble obeisances...

Subhavilasa das & family. 
A small group of Hare Krishna devotees has left the counter-culture '60s and found Tampa, spreading their message and devotion, member by member.

By Rory Crump
July 18, 2011

It may be tiny and lack curb appeal, but the Shri Radha Krsna Mandir temple – 14610 N. 17th St. - 
fosters big love and pure spirit for its 200 Tampa followers of the Hare Krishna movement. 

The temple, hidden in a working-class neighborhood off E. Bearss Avenue, was founded in 1989 and moved to its current home in 2002. Almost an acre, the Shri Radha Krsna Mandir property packs in a modest sanctuary, a plush garden and a communal residence hosting a steady stream of local members eating, meditating and chanting. 

The Hare Krishna movement is not a cult. At least, that’s what the Tampa temple’s spiritual leaders, Vivasvan and Giridhari Das, fiercely defend. “Don’t lump us in with the other cults,” said Vivasvan. 

Lounging on a Spartan couch, the founder and director of the temple makes a casual, yet firm reference to David Koresh’s Branch Davidians. “No roots, no philosophy, no historical basis,” said Vivasvan. 

Although the Krishnas have shallow roots themselves – formed in New York City in 1966 – they worship ancient Hindu scriptures, dedicating their spiritual lives to the Supreme Lord, Krishna, a Hindu deity dating back to 4th century B.C.

“Our organization is clear on where we get our authority,” said Vivasvan.

Vivasvan encourages both stereotypers and naysayers to “look at our roots and see what we’re doing.”

Yet the Hare Krishnas aren’t really Hindu, or a religion.

“It’s not a religion, it’s the highest science of spirituality,” said Giridhari Das. A fit, 64 year-old former engineering professor and Italian immigrant, Giridhari Das correlates science and spirituality in soft tones – and relaxed Florida attire.    

He’s considered a natural healer inside the Tampa temple. Although resisting a direct comparison, Giridhari Das likens his powers to Jesus Christ, receiving his gift from “cosmic energy.”

Like a Catholic monastery, The Tampa chapter of ISKCON – the International Society for Krishna Consciousness – houses the most devout Hare Krishnas. No alcohol, no tobacco, no coffee, and no, well, you know.

Any other rules?

“You’ve got to be a vegetarian,” said Vivasvan. Food is a recurring theme here, and cows are off-limits.

The Tampa temple is a men’s club, with members ranging from ages 25 to 65. On a weekday, members share scripture and philosophy in both traditional robes and khaki shorts. They also share haircuts.  Loose locks – called a sikha – peak out from the back of Tampa Krishna heads like missed patches of grass. “It’s the oldest haircut in the universe,” laughs Vivasvan. 

Servitude transcends hierarchy as members dote and distribute, topping each other’s drinking glasses off with a funky, all-natural juice and sharing resources financed by Hare Krishna literature: hardcover books moved with a message in public, touristy hotspots.

The Florida Aquarium is the most lucrative marketplace, although the elders acknowledge the cash-and-carry model of selling books has been threatened by plastic. Nobody carries cash, and the Krishna’s don’t take credit. 

This modern dilemma illustrates the Hare Krishna’s reluctance to embrace 2.0 culture. Internet, television, and most millennial technologies are discouraged, considered spiritual pollutants. Like their food, entertainment is organic. Live-music fills the temple, and food not homegrown comes from partnerships with regional farms. 

The Hare Krishna’s answer to outside influences is to turn more inward, striving to be more sustainable and self-sufficient, while remaining true to the ancient constructs of their faith. 

The Tampa Hare Krishna movement pulls closer with daily chants: two-hours' worth. They even chant through their voicemail message.  The leaders compare the chants, or mantras, with lifting weights to build muscle.  “By chanting Krishnas everyday your strengthening your spirituality,” said Vivasvan.

The group congregates on Sunday and Wednesday evenings, similar to mainstream denominations. The service, or ceremony, lasts 1½ hours and concludes with a full dinner. The Sunday meal is a sanctified experience, and symbolic of their service mentality. And Giridhari Das is revered for the Italian touch he adds to the vegetarian feasts.

Sundays, more like an open house, can stretch and meander all day, with members offering incense, sacred water, and food to their deity. And serious devotees gather at 7 a.m. each morning for more brotherhood and worship – and more philosophy. 

For the full article {click here}
Today is the day after a fantastic Ratha Yatra weekend in Toronto. After 3 days of kirtan, association, service and a overall blissful Krishna Conscious weekend, this news article pops up. It talks about the continuing ban on certain devotees to visit the Jagannatha Temple in Puri based on their birth place/skin color. 

This is wrong on so many levels...the most obvious one being the lack of basic understanding by the management or high caste brahmans that "we are not this body". 

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's lila  is intertwined with Jagannath Puri and it is His sankirtan movemement that is spreading around the globe and their continued ban on certain devotees is a disservice to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabu's mission. 

These same devotees have taken the glories of Lord Jagannatha to millions of people around the world with Ratha Yatra's being conducted on every continent around the world with the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and his sincere followers from all backgrounds. 

What is sad is that some of the priests and managers in charge of Jaganntha Puri cannot feel the mood of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's sankirtan movement. This mood manifested over the weekend in Toronto.  People were immersed in kirtan...and if you looked around you would have seen brown, white, black, yellow and shades in between of skin colour. 

But according to the logic of this ban, a brown bodied person who may have just eaten some fish and polished it off with a cigarette is allowed in the temple in Puri, however a white bodied person who chants at least 1,728 times daily, reads Srimad Bhagavatam daily and do not touch meat, fish, intoxicants, etc. is not allowed inside the temple. Perhaps there can be a test at the door of the Puri temple on the pastimes of Jagannatha and this will truly separate the "rift raft" to those who truly want to take darshan.  

But here in lies the true mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada...that in every corner of the world including our own ISKCON temple in Jagannath Puri not only are devotees of every color and walk of life able to enter the temple to take darshan of Jagannatha but they are personally changing and worshiping Lord Jagannatha, cooking and serving His prasadam, preparing His Ratha Yatra and discussing and spreading the glories of Jagannatha. 
[Please see article below which instigated the above commentary.]
Picture from Ratha Yatra in Toronto this past weekend.

Remark on foreigners' entry into Jagannath Temple sparks row

Source: PTI   |   Last Updated 18/07/11

Bhubaneswar: Senior BJD leader and Rajya Sabha MP Pyari Mohan Mohapatra's statement supporting the idea of allowing foreigners to enter into Sri Jagannath Temple in Puri has sparked a row with a local outfit staging agitation before the 12th century shrine.

Mohapatra, considered as the chief advisor to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, had on Sunday told a meeting on tourism that there was nothing wrong in allowing foreigners to enter into the temple in order to boost tourism potential of the state.

Clarifying his stand on Monday, Mohapatra said, "I had said to allow entry of people belonging to all religions into the temple with a focus on tourism. I was not speaking at any religious convention, rather at a business meeting on the promotion of tourism."

He added that only tourism could help in providing employment to the local youths.

The 12th century shrine, however, does not allow non-Hindus into the temple. A sign board at the temple's Lion Gate clearly states: "Only Hindus are allowed".

The BJP MP had said, "If we allow foreigners to enter into the temple, tourist flow to the state will be doubled."

Angry over Mohapatra's statement, activists of Jagannath Sena in Puri staged a demonstration in front of the temple and burnt his effigy demanding withdrawal of the statement.

Jagannath Sena's chief Priyadarshi Patnaik said, "How can Mohapatra make such a statement which hurts sentiments of crores of Hindus? He should withdraw it immediately."

Sri Jagannath Temple priest Jagannath Swain Mohapatra said: "Pyari Babu should not have made such a statement. It is better for him to withdraw the statement immediately."

Meanwhile, Assam Governor and former Orissa chief minister J B Patnaik on July 5 had advocated for entry of ISKCON devotees into the temple.

"The ISKCON devotees should not be prevented from the temple entry for being whites. They are Hindus and read the sacred 'Bhagavat' everyday and have set up a number of Jagannth Temples across the globe."

Gajapati Maharaj of Puri King Dibyasingha Deb said: "The religious leaders, saints, spiritual persons should decide whether non-Hindus should be allowed into the temple."

Jagannatha Swami nayana pata gami bhavatu me

This weekend is Ratha Yatra in Toronto! We will all be at Ratha Yatra so there will be no regular blog posts. If you are reading this, chances are you did not make it to Toronto to join the festival. [You still have tomorrow to make it to Toronto Island to join...]

Nothing beats being here live...but the next best thing is to get some nectar from the weekend. So join us on Facebook during the weekend as we do a few posts here and there with photos (maybe some video) from Ratha Yatra followed by the festival on Toronto Island. 

To set expectations...this will not be professional or official...just random pictures taken by my daughter Minakshi, son Indresh and daughter-in-law Kishori. 

Check them out on my Facebook page and if you are not a friend yet just ping "Subhavilasa Das" on Facebook

Jaya Jagannatha! 
Celebrated chef Vikas Khanna has been asked to cook for a White House dinner. In remarking about his ISKCON inspired menu he talks about his relaizations "the power and purity of temple food.”

An excerpt from the article...

About his choice of Iskon inspired food for the White House Dinner, he says, “I just released my second film- Karma to Nirvana, a part Holy Kitchens film series. The film focuses on sharing food in Hinduism, essentials of ‘Atithi Devo Bhavo’ and life of Krishna. Working in the ISKCON in New Delhi and serving free meals to children in schools made me realize the power and purity of temple food.”
[click here] for full article.

As of tomorrow a 4 month period called Caturmasya begins. Sometimes this is a confusing period as to what to follow and how strictly it should be followed. If the entire Caturmasya restrictions are compiled it may make many fall of the chair or at least close the page. 

But as usual Srila Prabhupada has given it to us very simply. In his purport in Caitanya Caritamrta, Chapter 4, verse 169, Srila Prabhupada states. "In the month of Śrāvana one should not eat spinach, in the month of Bhādra one should not eat yogurt, and in the month of Āśvina one should not drink milk. One should not eat fish or other nonvegetarian food during the month of Kārtika. A nonvegetarian diet means fish and meat. Similarly, masūra dhal and urad dhal are also considered nonvegetarian. These two dhals contain a great amount of protein, and food rich in protein is considered nonvegetarian." 

So basically every month we need to give up one ingredient. And of course in the fourth month it is simple since we are sustained on a vegetarian diet and most of us avoid masura ahd urad dhal anyhow. 

A few times I have heard that it only needs to be followed in the temple of by a certain section of devotees. Srila Prabhupada in the same verse answers this, Cāturmāsya should be observed by all sections of the population. It does not matter whether one is a grihastha or a sannyāsī. The observance is obligatory for all āśramas.

So why do we follow Caturmasya? Well Srila Prabhupada answers that also in the same purport. "The real purpose behind the vow taken during these four months is to minimize the quantity of sense gratification."

Some may think these additional restrictions are difficult. Well Srila Prabhupada answers that too in the same purport where he states,"This is not very difficult."

So there you have it. A briefing on Caturmasya and as usual Srila Prabhupada's instructions are clear. 

All glories to Srila Prabhupada and 4 months of increased Krishna bhakti!