By Ananda Gaurangi Dasi
The 2017 Padayatra Lithuania took place on June 13-18. We were blessed with the presence of Niranjana Swami for the second time and of Dhirasanta Das Goswami for the first time as well as of our regular special guests: Bhakti Caitanya Swami, Bhakti Saran Santa Goswami and Bhakti Svarupa Caitanya Swami. Madhavananda prabhu joined us for a couple of times during the Padayatra week. It was such an incredible opportunity to hear the glories of Lord Jagannath from this Vaisnava. He gave an enlightening class about Lord Jagannath at the beginning of the festival, and all of them were really inspired by his talk during the whole padayatra.
Taking risks with a new Ratha-yatra in the small city of Mazeikiai
Our program was as usual: Ratha-yatra in Vilnius, the capital city, in Kaunas, the second biggest city, in Siauliai, and the final festival in Palanga, a beautiful resort city. This year, however, the first Ratha-yatra organized in the small town of Mazeikiai was the highlight; it was also the most impressive of many padayatras we had done in the past. For a couple of years devotees of the Mazeikiai yatra had been desiring for Padayatra to come and have Ratha-yatra in their city. As it is a really small city, we were having some doubts whether we should go there or not because usually in smaller cities we meet only few people during the procession. Devotees from Mazeikiai also were having fears whether they were able to organize everything properly or not. Guided by Bhakti Caitanya Swami we decided to take the risk.
All our doubts vanished in seconds as soon as we entered the square with the Ratha-yatra chariot. Some devotees were thinking that our Ratha-yatra was taking place at the same time as some other local event. Others were simply shocked to see so many people. It seemed that the whole city had gathered there for the Ratha-yatra. And if that wasn’t enough of a shock for us, the local devotees had organized tents with prasadam, henna tattoos, sari photo shoots, books and yoga stands and a tent for children. It was the festival of Indian culture in this small Lithuanian city. Something they had never seen before.
Actually, it was something that we also had never seen before. It was everything we dreamed to have in all the cities for so many years but couldn’t achieve due to the lack of different resources. The Mazeikiai yatra had done it! In such a small city we even had doubts about visiting our own festival! The local devotees demonstrated the power of blessings, the power of cooperation, and the power of friendship and love! When we asked devotees how they achieved such a result, that so many people not just came to the festival but also joined the procession by pulling ropes of the chariot, dancing on the sidewalks and just staring from their windows, they told us, that everything they did was done by the mercy of Guru and senior devotees. They were really united in purpose and were so eager to make this happen and share this mercy with the people of Mazeikiai.
We haven’t seen so many lucky souls in any other town that we visited, especially taking in consideration the number of population of the bigger towns. So, proportionally, there were the biggest number of people, who got the mercy of Lord Jagannath for the first time and who had never even seen devotees in their lives before.
Niranjana Swami: “This is what Prabhupada really wants”
In his class the next morning Niranjana Swami shared his experience and realizations:
“I was thinking about yesterday. Yesterday we were in Mazeikiai. It was the first time I was coming to Mazeikiai. I was asking Bhakti Svarupa Caitanya Maharaja, ‘what’s the population in Mazeikiai?’ And I was guessing. Is it about 20 000? He said it was about 40 000. I asked what’s the population in Siauliai? 60 000. What’s the population in Vilnius? 700 000. So I was just asking about the populations trying to get the picture of Lithuania. And then we walked to the festival side… And we saw all these people! Why? I was thinking, ‘What is the event going on here?’ I turned to Maharaja and asked him what all these people were doing there. ‘We’re having a Ratha-yatra and this event?’Then Maharaja told me, ‘No, this IS the Ratha-yatra!’ With all these people! They all came for Ratha-yatra! I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is amazing! How did this happen?’ It just happens because there were some devotees who really wanted to glorify the Lord of the Universe. And they engaged so much of their energy to glorify the Lord of the Universe. I’ve been to other cities before on Ratha-yatras but I’ve never seen so many people come to see Lord Jagannath for the first time, take the ropes and join the whole procession. Usually I NEVER take pictures, but this time I pulled my mobile phone out and took those pictures. All those people! They are pulling Lord Jagannath! Then I went to the side and watched all those people who were walking on the sidewalk with Lord Jagannath. I just started crying. This is what Prabhupada really wants!
Actually I was just reading last week how much Prabhupada wanted that first Ratha-yatra in San Francisco. I was reading Syamasundar’s book “Chasing Rhinos with the Swami”. Syamasundar was telling the whole story about Prabhupada, how he drew the picture of the cart he wanted Syamasundar to make. First it was a truck, then it was a cart. And then he had Syamasundar carve the Deities of Lord Jagannath. Prabhupada was just so eager to give others the opportunity to come in contact with the Holy Name of the Lord and to serve the Lord by pulling His cart. Certainly there is an inner mood that a devotee meditates on with Ratha-yatra: Krishna leaving Kuruksetra and going to Vrindavan. This inner mood is also relished by the devotees. But also, devotees are so eager to give others the opportunity to come in contact with the Lord of the Universe. Devotees should be meditating in all these different cities how to have an event like Mazeikiai. How to bring those unfortunate conditioned souls who don’t know anything about the Lord of the Universe. How to bring them out and get the mercy. 40 000 people in Mazeikiai! There are big cities with hundreds and thousands of people. They need mercy too. Who is going to be meditating on this? Doubtless there were some devotees who were meditating on this in Mazeikiai. My gratitude knows no bounds. Plan a ratha-yatra in every city. That’s what householders have to be doing: planning how to get people to bring Lord Jagannath’s mercy. Tell everybody what they have to do to contribute, to take part in this wonderful pastime. They should plan to please the Lord, they should plan to glorify the Lord.
I was giving the talk in Moscow and the whole lecture was about how Prabhupada was talking about making plans. Prabhupada was explaining how everybody in this world has to live by making plans. And he said everybody is making plans for happiness in this world. This is the symptom of life, making plans. And we were quoting the verse from the commentary on Bhagavatam where Prabhupada talks about how in the material world people are making plans for their own happiness. But he said that this is like a person who goes to a river and is being swept away by the waves of the river. Because no matter how many plans one makes for his own happiness in this world he is going to be driven by his own material desires. And there is no stopping of these material desires. Therefore people are making plan after plan after plan how to be happy and it only leads to frustration. But Prabhupada said, when the waves of the river go down to the ocean and enter the ocean, then the waves of the ocean become more powerful and they push back the waves of the river. Since plan making is the symptom of life, devotees make plans for Krishna’s pleasure. And by making plans for Krishna’s pleasure the small waves of the river are pushed back by the waves of the ocean. We should be making plans for Krishna’s pleasure. Everybody should have a plan of what they are doing for Krishna’s pleasure. But it’s not realized immediately. It may take some time to realize. But a good plan is the plan that keeps one absorbed and that is satisfying the Lord.
In the same way devotees have to make plans how to glorify Lord Jagannath. Lord Caitanya told Kurma the brahmana that there would be no obstacles in his household life, that they would meet again and that he would never loose His company. This is the way to satisfy the Lord. This Ratha-yatra is a very wonderful festival which gives so many devotees the opportunity to plan from one year to the next how to glorify the Lord. I thank all of you for giving me this opportunity, and I pray that all of you would also be encouraged and inspired to expand it unlimitedly and give Lord Jagannath’s mercy to everyone.”
We really hope that this example, by seeing what a strong desire to please Guru, Krishna and devotees can do, will inspire devotees all over the world to join their local padayatras by helping with its organization and, most importantly, by taking part in it. They will feel unlimited bliss and dive into the spiritual realm, which will keep them enthusiastic during the whole year. Until the next Padayatra.
Our Padayatra Lithuania 2018 will take part from June 25 to July 1st. Please, come and join us. More information will be posted soon on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PadayatraLithuania/
Video link of Padayatra 2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHsZujd6E3Q&feature=share