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Gaudiya Vaishnava reflections

Submitted by Vasanti dasi
taclobankids

Area near where we were staying


A few days after New Years, some devotees went back to Tacloban for more prasadam and book distribution (Yadunath and Govinda prabhus (from Manila), Jayadeva, Madhava-priya, Rasabihari and Yasomati-nandana prabhus (from Baguio). They drove the 3 day drive to get there and I joined them a few days later by flight.

When we were there the first time, we made friends with a man on the street we were cooking on named Brother James. He is a very simple and spiritual person and wanted us to open a temple at his house and rent rooms from him.  The men decided to stay on the roof of his house which had only half a roof.  Due to the wreckage from the typhoon as well as the unclean situation, it was very austere conditions, and I was really impressed with them for the hard labor they were undergoing for the pleasure of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission.  After some days it started to rain, and they were cooking and washing pots in the rain.

Brother James


The events that transpired there though, overweighed the austerities that we had to undergo, and hopefully the pictures will reveal this as my writing about it will not do justice to the service that was made possible by Srila Gurudeva and the Vaisnavas.

When the members of the IPBYS Feeding Team drove up to the street in Tacloban where we were staying, they told me that all the kids came running after the van chanting Hare Krsna. They had been chanting since we left, and were missing all of us. When I arrived, I also received such a warm reception – of them chanting and embracing me.

I brought them each a Dasa Avatar coloring book and crayons, and Yadunath prabhu explained the different incarnations to them and the immediately began coloring with such enthusiasm.  While we were there, they joined our morning program and sometimes the evening program as well. One day they even helped by putting sugar on the doughnuts we made.
The kids from our street helping:


One day we were on our way to do prasadam distribution, and we decided to go into one very large evacuation center called the Astrodome to check it out. We saw that there was a Social Welfare office there, so we knew we would have to get permission. While Yadunath prabhu and I were at the office talking with the people, the evacuees had read our banner that said feeding program, and they were already lined up at our van with bowls in hand, waiting for prasadam. The social worker there told us to come the next day, but I told her that it would be so mean now if we just left, so we will distribute what we have (though we knew it would not be enough).

Social Welfare Office


We took the pots out of the van, the boys began kirtan, Yadunath prabhu began distributing prasadam, and I distributed books. The crowd became so wild and eager, that the police had to help us by making a proper line and having some organization. The kids loved the chanting and immediately learned the maha-mantra and were dancing in kirtan. They followed our van (even in the rain) as we left and looked forward to our return.
It is customary in the Philippines that when organizations are doing feeding programs, the children are the ones who get fed first. I also saw that parents would send their child with a big pot to collect for the family.

The next day we went back with much more prasadam and the police were there to keep everything organized. They even began distributing the bread rolls we had made and made sure to get a plate for themselves.

Clip from the Astrodome Evacuation Center:

One young man I met while we were distributing prasadam, told me the last time we were there he got a Way of Love and felt happy reading it and agrees with its message. This time I gave him a Secrets of the Undiscovered Self and a Bhagavad-gita. He was so grateful and is looking forward to reading and understanding more.

It rained for so many days consecutively that the area of the roof where the boys were staying was becoming wet. I asked the owner of the hotel I was staying in if there was any room my brothers could stay in there. It was all booked up as were all the hotels in town (the big agencies have rented them all out). I told him they were getting wet and showed him pictures of our distribution. He said he would give a donation for them to buy tarps to hang and make a roof, which he did.
Before going out to different areas for distribution, we would feed the whole street where we were staying. So many of the residents of our street want us to open a temple there, yet right now the situation is too austere to do so.  Most houses do not have roofs and need so much preparation and cleanup. There is still no power or proper facility for a kitchen. Make-shift kitchens can only last so long. The Manila devotees though might go back again, especially if they can join up with a wealthy Buddhist foundation who likes what we are doing.  They are also inspired to continue prasadam distribution in Manila as there are so many poor areas there as well so no better gift than food for their souls.

We are so grateful to all of the sponsors (Srila Gurudeva knows who you are) who made this prasadam and book distribution possible. Thousands and thousands of plates of prasadam were served, as well as about 3,000 books on this trip.
Srila Gurudeva ki jaya!
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!
Transcendental book and prasadam distribution ki jaya!
This is a poem I was inspired to write after my experience in Tacloban:
Journey of life always remains open
Never would have known I’d end up in Tacloban
Where nature caused the most extreme disaster
Opening channels to realize we are not the master
We are controlled by forces beyond our might
So surrender quicker to God, no time to fight
He will provide, He will shelter, He will nurture, He will care
Devote ourselves in His service and all struggles, He will bare
He tells us I will preserve what you have and carry what you lack
If you serve Me with exclusive devotion, do not slack
He sends His army, His pure devotees to teach us the way
To come nearer to Him, not to go astray
“Dont be selfish” constantly rings in my ears
“Share what I’ve given with others”, have no fears
Realize death always rides just on our backs
Of this there is no doubt, it is the facts
Water and winds washed up a city
No doubt, such a grave pity
Rise up (Tindog) Tacloban is now the motto
So let us surrender to God, Krsna, better than winning the lotto!

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