Kirtaniyas on tour (July 23-26 2014)
An anecdote by Malini Dasi
It was 8 p.m. Vijay Krsna das, Nitai das, Lokah Pavana das and I had just rolled our luggage out of the JFK airport into our rental car. We were all excited to make our first stop to Tompkins Square park to visit the tree where our spiritual grandfather Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada chimed his kartals with his eyes closed, mesmerizing the onlookers—where Kirtan and the Krsna Conscious movement in the west all began.
Unfortunately, it was closed after 8, but we paid our respects from the gate and roamed past the quaint shops of East Village. We decided to walk into this hole-in-the-wall café. Just as we entered we noticed a sculpture of Radha and Krsna on the counter. It was a sign! A young smiling man at the café immediately showed curiosity in Nitai’s tattoos; we explained that they were in Sanskrit and were prayers and names of Krsna. Before we knew it he was playing “Raghupati Raghava Sita Rama” and “Govinda Bolo Hari” in the café speakers. We were all smiling —Krsna is everywhere!
It was already past midnight, when we got to the hotel. The Indian lobbyist apologized that there was a mix up and that we wouldn’t have a room until the next morning. Exhausted and jet-lagged we brought our luggage into the lobby and talked to our lobbyist about Holi until we collapsed on the hotel couches.
The next day we visited the Bhakti Center in East Village. We were greeted by smiling devotees and delicious prasadam snacks: samosas and chutney, cheesecake and mango lassi. His Holiness Radhanath Swami embraced Vijay and warmly greeted us all and took us upstairs to the temple deities, who were in a beautiful altar decorated like a kunja. After some exchanging of sweet words, we said our “haribols” and then headed to Hudson, NY for a yoga studio Kirtan program. It was an intimate group of about 20 people. Vijay Krsna explained the glories of Sri Guru, the enchanted land of Vrndavana and the love of the Brajavasis throughout the evening Kirtan. By the end we all got up and danced in circles chanting “Radhe! Radhe!” It was a good end to our second day.
The next day our first stop was the Donut Plant on Grand St., the famous vegetarian devotee-run gourmet donut café. We were given 2 big boxes with donuts of all kinds: coconut, blueberry, chocolate, lemon pie, crème brule and more—all maha-prasad! In the basement below the store, where everything was prepared, there was an altar with thakurji and pictures of Vrindavan. We danced and chanted with a handful of the workers and the owner Mark Israel for 3o minutes. They were so grateful that they couldn’t let us leave without giving us blackberry ice cream. We then joined the Brooklyn temple devotees in a sit-down harinam at Grand Central Station, which they perform daily from 2pm-6pm. There was so much seva and Kirtan going on in New York City; it was inspiring seeing how Krsna was reaching so many New Yorkers through prasad, books, and Kirtan.
It was already our last day in New York. We headed to Staten Island for the Color Festival with all our gear ready to rock the stage. There were at least a thousand people at the venue. The crowd was wild; they were ready for non-stop high-energy Kirtan. It was incredible watching the hundreds of people jump with their arms raised, throwing colored powder in the air chanting “Hari Bol!” “Nitai Gauranga!” and the maha mantra. It was definitely a colorful day! Of course we had to take the festival gulf cart for a ride before we left, a festival tradition of the Kirtaniyas. Then it was off to the airport early the next morning.
It was an amazing trip. Sitting in the narrow blue seats on the plane, I was already missing the ubiquitous presence of Krsna on every New York corner—a sticker, a devotee, Kirtan, prasadam, a book—He was everywhere! It reminded me of the wise words of the Srimad Bhagavad-Gita
yo mam pasyati sarvatra
sarvam ca mayi pasyati
tasyaham na pranasyami
sa ca me na pranasyati
“For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.”