Report written and compiled by Jita Krsna das
Being situated within the boundaries of favorable devotional settings, and having open and easy access to transcendental subject matters, we feel obliged to focus our energy outward and distribute the mercy of our guru-varga to all the waiting souls. We find ourselves on a heartfelt mission to pursue guru-seva, however very unfit we may be. We strive to take direct part in the ecstatic sankirtana party of Mahaprabhu that is ever expanding in every town and village. Guided only by the spotless grace of Sri Guru, Vaisnavas, and Krisna himself, a humble group of simple & very sweet devotees served as instruments in the fortunate occasion of distributing the nectar-like name of the sweet Lord in an otherwise completely dry and spiritually destitute place.
Somewhere between the “beef barn”, corn dog stands, and small children with electric toy machine guns, there were a handful of very sincere and fortunate souls whose hearts were ready for the message of Srila Gurudeva and the gift of Krishna. Who can understand how this mercy flows in such beautiful and perfect ways? And how can we possibly fathom the fact that we are propagating the flow of this mercy merely by acting as blissful puppets of this Gaudiya-guru-varga? It is so sublime that the flood of prema drowns everyone, with no prejudice of qualification, and even more so that this flood is continuing to lap at the feet of persons so unaware and so far away.
The beautiful bhakti booth
It is natural that nagar sankirtana and everything associated with it, stir the hearts, ears, and minds of conditioned souls with little to no exposure to it. Witnessing this at the Deschutes county fair was a privilege. We have to understand that all individuals from those on the twirling rides, to the insects pressed into the ground under the weight of the boxes of Srila Gurudeva and Srila Prabhupada’s books, are all blessed by the vibration of Harinama. We’ve all heard of the potency of even uttering Krsna’s name once, the benefit of glancing upon the golden Vaisnava tilaka, or even pondering only for a second the beautiful and seemingly unfamiliar form of Krsna printed on paper. I remember looking at the beautiful bhakti booth and realizing that it was the purest thing within a radius of so many uncountable miles.
One little boy walked by the booth, he was maybe five or six. He looked at the painting by Syamarani didi of the image depicting the stages of human life, death, and the different animal species emerging from the dark and dismal ocean. He stared at it for some time and I watched him with attention. When his father caught up to him and also looked at the picture, the child asked his father: “Is that true?“ His father replied with a somewhat ominous “Yeah.” I remember feeling a strange mixture of emotions knowing that the philosophical conclusions presented in that one painting were so profound, and I felt very secure sitting behind it.
We found joy in witnessing the souls who made even a fleeting contact with a faint scent of bhakti as they passed by our booth. Yet, even more happiness was found when people passing by on their heart’s journey were pulled into our camp by paramatma to taste a particle of the sweetest nectar that is rightfully theirs. Such instances are recalled by some of Srila Gurudeva’s daughters:
“One young fifteen-year-old boy Marcus joined us for kirtan. In the midst of singing I was struck by the fact that he was spontaneously smiling and laughing. Unsure of his thoughts I was hoping it was positive which was confirmed at the end of the kirtan when he exclaimed, “That was awesome!” He told us about how he didn’t have many friends in school because people weren’t very deep but that he’d recently met his girlfriend that had a great personality. Later he brought her to the booth so that she would be able to experience kirtan as well.
Marcus was one of many young people that felt our booth had something special to offer the seeking soul.
Quietly reading Gopi Gita
Gaya and Karen were two ten-year-old girls that spent some time with us in the booth. Gaya’s mother had a booth nearby so she would often come to hang out with us. She fully memorized the maha-mantra and would often sing with us. She took many books and on one occasion I even caught her quietly reading Gopi Gita.
Karen’s parents actually sent her to our booth. They said she was an old soul and they wanted to expose her to different paths so that she would be able to choose for herself one day. She sang kirtan and clapped her hands perfectly to the beat. Whenever it was time for her to finally leave, she rolled her lip over into a pout and waved frantically with her head turned towards us in an effort to not lose connection as she walked away.
Vasanti dasi met Christine, a young mother that said she was going through a difficult time. When Vasanti asked her what was going on, Christine said she couldn’t talk about it but wondered if we had a book on death. Vasanti was inspired to read her the second chapter of Bhagavad Gita and Christine took it home.
Another wonderful woman Diana, a counselor, shared with us how she likes to help her clients by turning them towards a higher power and therefore likes to read about many paths. She was so delighted by our exchanges that she wrote an email to Vasanti that evening describing the sweetness she felt and how for her, it was the highlight of the fair; she even extended an invitation to her home!
It was these instances of sweetness and connection that made me know we were placed there in Redmond, Oregon specifically for each and every encounter that manifested. So many souls had never even heard of Radha and Krsna. How blessed we are to play a tiny part as messengers of all they’ve been waiting for.”
—Jaya Sri Dasi
“By the will of Providence, we ended up at the Deschutes County Fair in Redmond, Oregon. I had heard the Oregon State Fair was great (Caru-candrika didi distributed books there last year), and I have been to Ashland and Eugene, so I thought everywhere in Oregon would be a great, hip place for book distribution. It said on their webpage that over 200,000 visitors attended last year, so we got a booth and took a chance and went. Well, it wasn’t the crowd that I expected (I’ve never seen so many cowboys and cowgirls in my life), and practically no one had heard of Krsna before, still, there are sincere and lovely people everywhere. We met such open-minded, seeking individuals – and 90% of them were from the neighboring city called Bend.
The music is what brought the most crowds in and on the first night, Pat Benatar was performing. I had thought that she was in a band in the 80s with Chrissy Hynde (who is initiated by our Srila Gurudeva), so I went to the office to find out how to get tickets. The lady said, “You must be from out of town because the tickets have already been distributed.” I told her that I was from California and just arrived. She said, “Don’t tell anyone,” and then handed me two tickets. Just before the concert, Jaya Sri told me that they weren’t in the same band. Still, I had the desire to gift her books. I went into the concert to see how I would be able to get backstage and present her with Srila Gurudeva’s beautiful books and artwork. I then went to the back of the building outside, and the security guard pointed out her bus to me. After the concert, I went to the area near where her bus was. I saw a lady come out of the bus and then was walking up the ramp towards me. When she passed the security guard, I approached her and said, “You look like someone with connections.” She smiled and said “Yeah, kind of.” I introduced myself and told her we have a booth with books about Krsna and artwork. I had a GVP bag with a few books in it and I showed her the Bhagavad-Gita and Seva Kunja poster. She said, “Beautiful.” I said Pat looks so nice that I wanted to gift her these books and art. She said, “Great. I’m her assistant and I will put them in the bus.” I gave her a hug and she reciprocated and said, “Namaste.” I then gave her a couple small books to have of her own.”
Report written and compiled by Jita Krsna das