After giving the course on spiritual culture to the ladies in Kharkov/Ukraine I once again remembered what a wonderful mother she had been, and I felt I should give her a little more attention now during her last phase of life. And even more though since I was coming to Germany anyway - for preaching. Living alone is rather difficult, especially at this final stage of life.
We spent harmonious days together. I was harvesting the yellow plums in her garden and made tasty chutney, which was so sweet - even though we did not add any sugar or other sweetener. And I was cooking a nice lunch every day, picking nettles outside her house and making shak.
One afternoon I went to pick some nice wildflowers in the nearby meadows and forests - in my mind for Krsna, and then presenting them to her. One of my favorite ways to offer my devotion to the Lord, and also to my mother.
This is how our communities should be arranged - similar to how it was in the German villages some eighty or one hundred years ago.....
Since she is almost blind, I was reading to her every evening. First I agreed to her choice of literature, and we read some poems by Eugen Roth. Then it was my turn, and since I keep the German version of Krsna Book in her house I read to her the story of Sudama, how he visited Krsna in Dvarka. She enjoyed hearing the pastime, so we continued the next evening with the following story of Sudama returning home to his wife. We had nice discussions, and she was contemplating the story deeply. I shared with her Visvanath Cakravarti Thakur's explanations, how Sudama had been affected by a slight trace of pride for being a renounced brahmana, and therefore Krsna had given him this worldly opulence in order to purify him. And Sudama had lamented that Krsna had not awarded him the highest boon - pure love of Godhead. He lamented that Krsna had not thought him eligible for the highest blessing, and therefore was trying to allure him with material opulence. And this lamentation of Sudama had protected him from becoming intoxicated by his sudden wealth. My mother really appreciated these finer points and felt very satisfied with this deeper explanation.
Recently she had started knitting all kinds of colorful pieces in various shapes and assembled them as a piece of art by glueing them on a sheet made from cork. She is an artist, and due to her loss of eye sight she is rather limited in her creativity. She laughingly exclaimed: "This is not art - it is simply therapy for me. I am playing around to keep myself busy and engaged. And I can feel that it is good for my brain - some finer coordination of the fingers and hands." And all this in an almost blind condition, with 5% eye sight.
Then she asked whether she could knit something for me, and I requested her to make a woolen scarf. She was very excited about the idea and promised to embark on this new project very soon. Not so easy to knit blindly - the result would certainly look very unique, with lots of little mistakes....
She also suggested that I should record some of my lectures which I would be giving in German language during the next month, and make an MP3 out of it so she could listen to them. Since she can't read any longer she had switched over to hearing, and is listening to many different readings and lectures available through a library supporting blind people.
This was indeed an amazing progress in our relationship - the fact that she desired to offer some little service to me, and to listen to some of my seminars and lectures would have been unimaginable some years ago!
The purifying effect of old age and disease.....! She had become so much more humble and grateful. I could clearly see Krsna's hand - giving her the perfect situation to make spiritual progress, and helping her to come to the point where she desired to serve a devotee and hear transcendental knowledge - especially coming from her own daughter, which is not easy for the false ego of a mother. For many years there had always been some little tension and competition between us, which was now being washed away more and more.
On the 28th of August I took the train to Hamburg - a journey of six hours traversing the entire country from South to North. Of course, the German trains are very fast - sometimes going up to 300 km's per hour, and extremely comfortable. One can reserve a seat in a quiet area, where even no phone calls are allowed. Perfect for doing some work on the computer.
I spent four days in Hamburg, staying with Vaidyanath Prabhu and his good wife Nitya Siddha Mataji. He is nobody else but the older brother of Sacinandana Swami and also a disciple of Prabhupada! What a great honor to get his association.....
We spent a wonderful time in personal discussions, and he shared many personal thoughts and experiences from his life. He had lived for many years in New Vrindavan and other temples in America, and then had returned to Hamburg with his wife and three little children in the mid eighties. It had not been easy for him to maintain his family, after having lived in the temple for most of his life. But Krsna was there, helping along while witnessing his sincere desire to make spiritual progress. Now he has retired from work and can give all his time and energy to devotional service. He is in charge for ISKCON Communications in Germany and other European countries, does the accounting for the Hamburg temple and also translates and edits various Krsna conscious books in German language.
Since his wife was very busy helping her daughter with her two little children I offered to cook lunch every day - much to their delight. As preacher we can serve the devotees in so many different ways....!
And again - I made shak from nettles and also grape wine leaves - something they had never eaten before.
At the temple we conducted two evening programs introducing the topic of spiritual culture. I focused on the most valuable position of mothers within spiritual culture, which was greatly appreciated by one and all. Jaya Gaura Prabhu, the TP of Hamburg and also disciple of Srila Prabhupada had raised nine children and had always helped to maintain the temple in a generous way, earning his livelihood by running a bicycle shop - repairs and trading.
The congregation is rather small for a big and important city such as Hamburg. On the Sunday feast program I spoke on the topic of death, and around 25 to 30 people gathered, many of them being from Russia and Ukraine. I even met a very nice family coming originally from Kharkov. I invited their teenage daughter to come to Kharkov with me next summer, as my assistant.
On the last day of my visit we had planned an evening program on the topic of the Holy Name. While taking the Metro to the temple we all of a sudden got stuck in a strike which the locomotive drivers had instigated. Since none of us had been watching the news or reading the paper it had caught us by surprise, and we did not manage to reach the temple. Some people had gathered to attend the program, but it was too far to come and meet us by car. So we returned home and had a wonderful discussion on chanting the holy name in a very personal setting - with Vaidyanath Prabhu and his good wife.
He had shared how Hamburg was the very first city in Europe for Prabhupada to visit. From here he had gone to London. These thoughts had accompanied me throughout my stay in Hamburg, remembering that Prabhupada had put so much hopes in Germany for Krsna consciousness to spread. And it made me feel close to Prabhupada....
Every year the devotees have a Ratha Yatra Festival here, which brings them together and gives people a chance to get in contact with Krsna consciousness.
Surely it must be pleasing to Prabhupada to endeavor to preach here, even though there are not so many people who come to hear.
The mere endeavor in itself is glorious when done sincerely....
On the morning of the 2nd of September which was also Radhastami, I took the train to Cologne.......
Your servant, Devaki dd