The Odessa temple is situated in a rural area outside the city. The disadvantage is that it is more difficult for the congregation to attend temple programs. However, the advantage is that the atmosphere is peaceful and provides more shelter to the brahmacaris and bhaktas. As a result there are quite a number of serious and also senior boys living in the temple - around ten or twelve, which is rather substantial for this part of the world.
Some of the boys had come to attend the Holy Name Retreat which we had just conducted in Chisinau.
Now the devotees happily welcomed and accomodated me in a tiny little room within the temple building - a little bhajan kutir: just as I like it!
Wooden Sri Sri Gaur Nitai, a huge Patita Pavana Jagannath and also Giriraja are residing on the altar and accepting the devotees' worship. This is the first temple in Ukraine where only brahmanas are engaged in cooking and puja - the standard Srila Prabhupada had wanted us to follow.
On the day of my arrival we met in the evening with the temple devotees and discussed the concept of systematic cultivation of students and intelligent youth. Some of the brahmacaris have University education, and thus it would not be difficult to start this program, since they can well relate to the students and their mentality. It is just a matter of simply doing it.....!
And this ashram here in Odessa could possibly be very suitable to recruit student boys, since it has a good atmosphere for studying and serving together as a team.
I gave two SB classes, another evening program and the Sunday feast lecture.
For the Sunday program I chose the topic of chanting the holy name, discussing the verses of Sri Kevalastakam and singing this beautiful bhajan. Some of the temple boys prepared a wonderful skit in order to illustrate the importance of chanting while consciously turning towards Krsna and appealing to Him: "My dear Lord, I know You are there! Please accept me...!"
If we ignore Krsna's presence and forget about Him, thinking of so many other things, then our chanting resembles a reflection, a shadow of the holy name - or an empty medicine capsule.
The skit was well done, and everybody felt enlivened while clearly understanding the point.
Skits are a wonderful tool to deepen our learning experience and at the same time illustrate our philosophy in a humerous way.
On Saturday late afternoon we went on harinam in the city of Odessa. A good number of devotees participated, and many people were in the street, trying to enjoy the warm summer evening.
Sometimes we tend to introduce some entertaining elements into our harinams, trying to make the holy name more attractive. This can become a danger to our own concsiousness and attitude towards harinam, and we easily forget what Harinam Sankirtan is all about: a highly transcendental affair, which has nothing to do with a musical performance or dancing show!
The holy name is all attractive, and if we want to affect people's hearts, we have to chant purely. Purity is the force - the price to pay.
Here are some interesting instructions of Srila Prabhupada on the topic of Sankirtan:
Madhya 11.95, PURPORT :
"Such are the symptoms of pure devotees when they are chanting. All the pure devotees are as bright as sunshine, and their bodily luster is very effulgent. In addition, their performance of Sankirtan is unparalleled. There are many professional chanters who can perform congregational chanting with various musical instruments in an artistic and musical way, but their chanting cannot be as attractive as the congregational chanting of pure devotees. If a devotee sticks strictly to the principles governing Vaisnava behavior, his bodily luster will naturally be attractive, and his singing and chanting of the holy names of the Lord will be effective. People will appreciate such Kirtan without hesitation."
Letter to: Sudama, Vrindaban 5 November, 1972
"Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter
dated October 27, 1972, and I have noted the contents carefully. So far the Road Show and this Yoga Village are concerned, these things should be stopped. Simply perform our kirtana. If we divert our attention in this way, the whole thing will gradually deteriorate. He is going far away. All these things are nonsense inventions. Such inventing spirit will ruin this movement. People may come to see, some will become devotees, but such devotees will not stay because they are attracted by some show and not by the real thing or spiritual life according to the standard of Lord Caitanya. Our standard is to have kirtana, start temples. What is this "Road Show'' and "Yoga Village?'' It will be another hippie edition. Gradually the Krishna Consciousness idea will evaporate: another change, another change, every day another change. Stop all this. Simply have kirtana, nothing else. Don't manufacture ideas."
Letter to: Jadurani -- Calcutta 12 December, 1967
"I understand also, there was a Kirtana performance given by Sri Purna das. You have rightly remarked whether they are devotees. You are right. These people are professional singers. Krishna Kirtana is not for earning livelihood. Krishna Kirtana is not meant for entertaining the public for demonstration of arts. It is dynamic service to the Lord. We do not therefore mind so much about the artistic presentation of Krishna Kirtana but we want to see how much a devotee is satisfying the Supreme Will."
Letter to Tamala Krsna, Tittenhurst 30 October, 1969
"So if you can also do this, it is nice. But do not change our principles. Practicing is already done by kirtana. It is not required for us to become artists. Our main point is service to Krishna, not to please an audience. We shall not divert our attention too much to adjustment of musical sounds. People should not misunderstand that we are a band of musical artists. They must know that we are devotees of Krishna. Our devotional practice and purity shall be so strong that wherever we chant there will be immediately an impression in the audience for devotion to Krishna."
On our last evening we arranged a program for the councelors and mentors, and I shared some important aspects of 'care for leaders'.
We had lively discussions, and devotees asked good questions.
Care has to begin on the level of the leaders. If the leaders are cared for, then the care will filter down throughout our society, and such leaders can give care to those who serve under their care.
The result will be more devotees - happier devotees.....!
On the 10th of June I took the night train to Kharkov, together with Acyuta Priya Mataji......
Your servant, Devaki dd