Newspaper clippings following Yasodadulal Dasa's journey

By Yasodadulal Dasa


Note: Earlier this year we featured an article about Yasodadulal Dasa, a 60 year old travelling preacher who, since July of 2015. has been traversing New Zealand first with a horse and cart and then by foot for a few months In this article Yasodadulal Dasa gives a detailed and moving account of his journey, how it all started, the inspiration behind it all, the obstacles faced and the sincere New Zealanders he meets along the way.  


Nitai Gaurachandra damaged during a violent earthquake

A virgin girl had a dream that Sri Sri Nitai Gaurachandra, the presiding Deities at our Christchurch[1]  temple, had a desire to go out on harinam sankirtana. The very next day, February 22nd 2011, there was a violent earthquake, and the whole city shook to its knees. The temple collapsed, the sringasana[2] tumbled, the marble altar jolted askew and the most beautiful Lordships, Nitai Gaurachandra, were suddenly thrown into the hard reality of fractured parts.  The outstretched hands of Nitai were broken and scattered like dice across the floor.  We always said that with His back arched and His head tilted towards the sky that Avadhuta Nityananda looked like He was out of this world.  We thought that one day He would leave the altar and escape in His madness to preach.  One has to die to live.

I was in Sri Dhama Mayapur at the time and though I wasn’t in Christchurch to experience the catastrophe the earthquake caused, those divine searching hands touched my heart. It was the month of kartik on the bank of the Ganges where I explained in detail to the brahmana shilpy (deity sculptor), Nimai Bhagavan Dasa, how I would like some Gaura Nitai murtis carved for the padayatra I was planning in New Zealand.  We selected the neem wood and I stipulated that these deities should be fashioned in the mood of those most beautiful Christchurch temple deities.  I gave him details about Nitai’s unusual posture and how it culminated in His eyes being ecstatically tilted and rolled back, as if He were about to fly.  He said normally the tradition was to have the eyes of the deity addressing the jivas who took darsana.  I said, “Never mind [that] just do it.”


The Lords’ desire to go outside in the world

When the typically hand crafted Indian tin trunk arrived in New Zealand, the distinctive ‘Indian-English’ phrase “God Idols Inside” caught my attention.  I reflected on the Lord’s desire to be outside in the world.  I couldn’t wait to free them so they could fulfill their dream as Golden Avataras.  In no time we were caught up in a whirlwind impulse to take them out on kirtana, on a cart, in a boat –anything to satisfy their desire.  I felt that I was being pushed by a strong force that had a hypnotic power over me. First, we had a small but significant inauguration ceremony. I saw their eyes open for the first time[3] right in front of Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra (caksunmilan).  The ceremony was held at a significant historic site in New Zealand, called Waitangi, where a very important treaty was signed.  The treaty stated that the black man (the indigenous people of New Zealand called the ‘Maoris’) and the white man both had ownership and sovereignty over the native lands of the country.  On that sacred ‘marae’ or Maori temple I became obsessed with wanting to take Nitai Gaurachandra all over New Zealand.  This was how the “G.O. – God’s Own New Zealand, from Down Under to Up Above” initiative took root as a steadfast desire.  Immediately thereafter, in the summer of 2014, we launched a padayatra in the far north region of New Zealand.  Several of us met at a very special place called Spirits Bay on the northern most tip of the country setting out on an incredible, spontaneous pilgrimage of 200 kilometers. After this “spirits” ran high and our party became intoxicated on chanting, dancing and feasting out on the road together.  We could all feel the wild and driving push of Nityananda to reach all souls. Lokanath Swami once told me, “Padayatra is actually Nityananda’s programme.”

Sonow the die was cast and the whole of Aoteoroa (the Moari word for New Zealand) lay at our feet. I became overtaken with an idealistic and impractical vision of doing 108 padayatras in New Zealand alone.  I felt like the fisherman who had touched Lord Gauranga while he was floating in a sea of ecstasy in Puri.  The devotees were quick to bring me back to the reality that I was the only one enlivened with such madness.  So it came to be my personal grandiose dream and “pie in the sky” padayatra amongst other devotees. It became a humble “pancake on the earth” offering to simply please my Guru Maharaja.  I was humbled, and yet with my feet firmly on the ground.


Spirit South padayatra with Rasaraja the horse

The inauguration held was like the launching of a new ship.  We smashed coconuts like champagne, squashed lemons under the iron wheels, initiated a big horse whose name transformed from Samson to Rasaraja, and called the beginning “The Kick Off”.  It was my 60th birthday, and I had begged of my wife to consent to my walkabout for a complete year; thankfully she understood.  We called the padayatra, Spirit South’ because that was the direction I was heading and the inner meaning also struck.  I was a struggling sadhaka dealing with the onslaught of the lower modes but wanting to make a shift.  Pilgrimage is a great way to make a shift –it means letting go of the unwanted and moving forward with that which is only absolutely essential.  One has to die to live.

Off I went with Rasaraja, a strong Irish gypsy horse, a rustically stylish 100 year old wooden cart through a mid-winter snow storm. I headed out alone, or should I say, Nitai Gaurachandra, Srila Prabhupada and I set the vessel’s compass for that far distant southern-most tip of New Zealand; from down under to up above walking from the Bluff to the Cape.  Just getting down to the Bluff, the starting point, was a 600-800 kilometer trek through many mountain ranges, vast tracks of almost uninhabited country, crossing hundreds of braided rivers, through sylvan glades of native forest and open farmlands scattered with thousands of dairy cows.  I was well aware that the season would slowly change which is why mid winter was a good time to leave since spring would come next. One must die to live. Things could only get better, but as the equinox winds kicked in, they held over New Zealand and we rode storm after storm heading south.

On the cart I carried a few hundred pounds of gear: cast iron pots for cooking on the open fire, a rugged canvas swag for sleeping in the outdoors (temperatures reached -10 degrees Celsius at times), several layers of clothing (which in extreme cold were worn all at once) and a tin trunk with deity paraphernalia and Prabhupada’s books for distribution.  The solid iron wheels rattling along the road became a familiar hum like the strumming of a sarod[4], the clip clop of the hoof, as steady as a drum, and the tiny sweet bells dangling on the cart tinkled in the wind.


Krishna’s unbelievable reciprocation

I loved the spontaneity and excitement of the experience.  I always felt that Radha and Krishna were alongside me and that Prabhupada was happy with my efforts.  There were always people to help.  I very quickly learned to see God within the hearts of all people. Krishna  responded with unbelievable generosity.  It was an incredible challenge, filled with the mystery of the unknown, heightened with risk and yet surrounded in the security of knowing my Lords and Masters were always there.  They stretched my limited, well-sized faith, into an ocean of conviction that God Himself is ever present. He is a hands-on “Superman” Who works His magic into every moment.  One gets addicted to the intoxication of witnessing the fix He injects into the bloodstream of His surrendered devotee.  I felt far from fully surrendered, but whatever little steps I took He ran ahead and made all arrangements.  All that way I just glanced at Them and would feel, “Yes, They are pacing it out, claiming Their detached ownership and sovereignty over New Zealand – the only real way to bring the black man, the white man and the yellow man together.”

Every day there were so many people who heard the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, saw the Lord, tasted Their prasadam, chanted the holy names, took Srila Prabhupada’s books or just wondered, “What the hell are these guys doing?!”  Cities, towns and outback posts, tourists and locals, farmers and business merchants, priests and beggars, cats who ran, dogs who barked, birds who flew, beasts who bolted or danced alongside the ratha, all for the pleasure of Nitai Gaurachandra.  I must have chanted “he govinda, he gopal” to thousands and thousands of cows who came right up to the cart for darsana.


Where did Nitai Gaurachandra go?

Every journey has a beginning, middle and an end. What was the greatest jewel unearthed by turning over the hard dirt of so much tapasya?  A shock will come when I tell you.  I had just completed a round trip of 1600 kilometers to the South and had gotten back to the starting point. It was a very quiet country setting where all that could be heard were birds and a lazy gentle stream chuckling; when in the early morning I realized that the most gorgeous coveted forms of Nitai Gaurachandra had disappeared from my sight and touch.  As mysterious as their appearance, they just up and left me on a very lonely road bereft of their sweet, sweeter and sweetest association.  After we had come what seemed like legions together, through thick and thin, storm and calm, mountain and sea, forest and desert, hardship and ease, amongst people or alone, and now, especially for my purification, they had gone – but that is another story to tell another time.  Obvious from the external, the illusion appeared in the material, to be like an accident, with so many logical reasons why.  But the real jewel was the inner spiritual vision that such a loss affords.  When the lover of Krishna has been captivated by his most beautiful form in a private grove, Krishna suddenly disappeared just to increase her hankering and to intensify the mellow.  This is the topmost point in gaudiya vaisnava siddhanta.  One must die to live.  A very close friend of mine commented, “This is a sign that Nitai Gaurachandra will now return to Christchurch.”  Another friend consoled me with a positive viewpoint, “Oh, don’t worry, they have just jumped into your heart.”


A new beginning with ‘Spirit South – Going North’: less is more

How could I continue on from here?  The answer was very simple and pure.  When you lose the jewel, the setting of the ring has no meaning.  There didn’t seem to be any reason to take the horse and cart anymore.  The horse transformed into a red balarama mrdanga and the mahamantra itself became the living force.  ‘Spirit South’ took on a new identity, ‘Spirit South – Going North’ with the catch phrase “less is more”.  It was a new beginning to walk on alone with next to no possessions.  “One robe, one bowl” meant all I had to worry about, besides whatever little shelter and food was required to keep this simple pilgrim heading north. In retrospect, Krishna was kind.  He took away everything, leaving only the bare essentials.  It would have been too difficult to manage the horse and cart in the much more intensified traffic highways north of Christchurch.  In fact, it would have been impossible.  One has to die to live.

I found myself even being able to exercise the freedom of not having to ask for assistance.  People throughout New Zealand seemed to recognize my complete dependence and they opened their hearts naturally. When you look like you can take care of yourself they leave you alone, but when you hang it out and leave room for Krishna to play a part, He seems to enjoy coming up with everything that is needed in very novel ways.

The media soon picked up on my story and followed me all the way, even though I was now without the grand presentation of a travelling temple.  They seemed to welcome the simplicity and the uncomplicated message.  After all, our deep tradition and philosophy holds in its essence the answer to all sociological, physiological, environmental and political problems.  “Less is more” means less matter and more spirit.  I found people everywhere merely overloaded with matter and screaming out to know about spirit.  One has to die to live.  There were 20-30 television interviews, newspaper and magazine articles reaching an estimate of 800,000 to 1 million people.  More than a third of New Zealand’s population came to hear Krishna’s name and hear about Prabhupada’s 50th anniversary.  After all, this is our family business.  It was evident to me there is simply not enough salesmen and saleswomen in the marketplace, since everyone wants our product.  It was always such a simple exchange, they would give me shelter and food and I would trade with highly valued spiritual knowledge assuring my new found friends that it is the subtle that moves the gross.


Practicing humility by being alone and vulnerable

Being alone and vulnerable meant I had to be very accepting of whatever situation Krishna put me in, and in a sense, the position of a transcendental beggar demands the practice of humility.  It also enhances the ability to have a compassionate heart and to even be open to receive the gems of wisdom that others outside our faith are willing to share. After the subtle art of befriending my hosts with a genuine relationship, in a one-on-one loving exchange they could appreciate that this beggar, although free of possessions, had so much to give spiritually.  I could feel the benediction of Sanatana Goswami giving me the mercy to share Krishna consciousness with the common people in an ordinary way and yet injecting some highly potent spiritual medicine.

In the last 45 years New Zealand’s family of devotees has grown significantly and has spread out throughout the country. There are now devotees everywhere, so I was able to take shelter in their homes, ashrams and small temples.  They also seemed to benefit by having some fresh blood pass through.   With those of the ‘outer’ family I would only stay “as long as it takes to milk a cow” and those of the inner family of devotees, 2 or 3 nights were enough to share and move on with good will.  Their homes became like small sheltered ports for my small boat that was mostly out there roughing it out on high seas.

At my age, when this old body seems rightly fit to be taxiing on the runway of vanaprastha life, it is definitely good practice to take test flights to see if the wings will hold out for the big flight.  We all have to move on alone, fully dependent on the winds of our faith.  For many of us the ultimate flight for transcendence, the sannyasa ashram or the mood of exclusive dedication to Radha Krsna, seems to be still parked in the hangar.  But some day, could be any day after 50. We may have to bring it out and wind up the motors if we are going to cross to the other world –the ultimate padayatra.

‘Spirit South – Going North’ continued on its destined path for another 1500 kilometers right up into the top end of the North Island.  ‘Spirit South – Going North’ secondary meaning is the moving of the force from the lower chakras up to the higher chakras of the heart and consciousness.  One has to die to live.

A significant element of change was the ethnic diversity as the currents converged into Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand.  In particular, the influence and cultural significance of the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maoris, has been dominated and materially eclipsed by encroaching Western material influence.  On the open road there was a lot of time for deep introspective thoughts and copious amounts of harinama sankirtana.  Playing the red drum, putting up a beat good for walking and the constant steady repetition of the maha mantra played on the heartstrings. After 5 to 6 hours of chanting kirtana each day the soul was soaring and the body puffing like a steam train trying to catch up.  It all came to an end too early. I could go on doing this forever.  However, I was looking for a significant sign of auspiciousness that Krishna would indicate He was pleased.


Radha Krishna’s smile on the last day of my “hikoi”

It came on the final peninsula of land jutting out into the vastu’s[5] northeast extremity.  There, on the last day, I met two very interesting travelers who asked me what I was doing.  After telling them that this was the completion of my hikoi (Maori for walk) of the length of New Zealand, they exclaimed that on that very day they were just planning a similar walk; and had come here to get the spirit to begin.  Coincidentally enough, one of them went on to say that in the summer of 2014 they had seen a Krishna party at this very same spot and that back then they were just completing a full hikoi of New Zealand.  I stood up excited and said, “That was us!”  Yes, we had now linked up with the journey we had begun in 2014.  What an amazing situation to have occurred in such an isolated and spiritually revered location.  I felt that this was Radha Krishna’s smile.

Now the amazing trek was over.  Nitai Gaurachandra had claimed ‘God’s Own from Down Under to Up Above’ with harinama all the way, Their desire had been fulfilled.  On the return trip back south it was not by chance that we had been called upon to be the vehicle carrying the new marble deity forms of Nitai Gaurachandra, back down to the city of Christchurch.  By some unbelievable mystical arrangement Nitai Gaurachandra were now returning to a brand new mandir.  It will be a new temple with new Deities carved by the same shilpy, waiting to take up Their rightful position as the presiding Lordships with supreme ownership and sovereignty over the whole of New Zealand and more.  I felt They Themselves had walked the distance taking us from ‘Down Under to Up Above’ and they had shown the ultimate realization by personal exchange.  One has to die to live.



I would like to acknowledge the assistance of the following people who helped me on this journey:

My wife, Ramila dasi, who made it all possible by giving me her full support in so many different ways which enabled me to go out on padayatra for an entire year

Bhaka Brendan Dallimore, a particularly supportive devotee, who travelled with me for 2 to 3 months.

My daughter, Radha Bhavani, who spent many hours doing all the graphic design work to promote the padayatra.

Lastly all the devotees and sponsors who generously gifted their well-wishing prayers, bhoga, shelter, finances and various other resources.



[1] Refers to the New Zealand ISKCON centre, ‘Hare Krishna Cultural Centre Christchurch’.

[2] Altar where the deities reside

[3] During the installation of deities the second step is the opening of the eyes or netra unmilinam.

[4] a lute used in classical North Indian music, with four main strings

[5] A Vedic term used to indicate the northeastern direction (ishaan) as being auspicious