Caracas, Venezuela — Wednesday, November 10th
Today, Srila Gurudeva begins the South American portion of his 21st World Tour. At six o' clock in the morning, Srila Gurudeva and his entourage (about fourteen devotees) leave the Seva Ashram in Soquel, and are driven to the San Francisco airport by a convoy of cars. We are on our way to Caracas.
We will stay in Caracas for ten days, and then fly to Mexico City and then on to Veracruz for another ten days. Srila Gurudeva has been looking forward to seeing the devotees in Venezuela for some time, attracted by their service mood.
We fly to Houston, Texas, for three-and-a-half hours, arriving at 2:30 p.m. local time. An hour later, we fly across the Gulf of Mexico, past Cuba and Jamaica on our left and Honduras and Nicaragua on our right, unseen in the sudden darkness of the foreshortened day, as we fly over the Caribbean Sea, past Colombia, and land in Caracas at 10:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time).
It is raining when we arrive, but the enthusiasm of the Venezuelan devotees is undamped. Led by Purujit Prabhu and Antarjyami Prabhu, they joyously greet Srila Gurudeva with kirtan, banners, and flags. Sripad Ashram Maharaj (from Mexico) and Sripad Trivikrama Maharaj (from Brazil) are also at the airport to meet us.
We drive for about half an hour to Purujit Prabhu's house. Srila Gurudeva briefly addresses the assembled devotees, and at midnight (8:00 p.m. California time), we have dinner. It has been a relatively short day, but it sure feels like midnight after the long flight.
Caracas, Venezuela — Sunday, November 14th
In the afternoon, the six sannyasis accompanying Srila Gurudeva on his 21st World Tour — Sripad Bhakti Sudhir Goswami Maharaj, Sripad Bhakti Pavan Janardan Maharaj, Sripad Bhakti Kusum Ashram Maharaj, Sripad Bhakti Premik Siddhanti Maharaj, Sripad Bhakti Vijaya Trivikrama Maharaj and I — drive from Sriman Purujit Prabhu's house (where we are staying) to the beautiful temple of Parama Karuna Sri Sri Nitai Gaurachandra for the weekly Sunday feast program.
Srila Gurudeva, who initiated seventeen local devotees this morning, is feeling a little tired and short of breath, and remains at Purujit Prabhu's house, but he can see and hear us and we can see and hear His Divine Grace on the internet, through the monitors and video conferencing cameras set up on computers in the temple room and at the house.
This is our third visit to the temple; on the first visit with Srila Gurudeva, the day after we arrived in Caracas, the temple was crowded, and yesterday, for the Govardhan-Puja festival, the temple was even more crowded, but now, for the Sunday feast, the devotees and guests overflow out into the passage and up and down the stairs.
After the arati, Janardan Maharaj addresses the congregation in Spanish, and then assumes the role of interpreter for Goswami Maharaj. After Goswami Maharaj's talk, the video conference screen goes blank, and Janardan Maharaj again interprets while I talk briefly about the great South American revolutionary leader, Simon Bolivar (who grew up right here in Caracas) and how the real revolutionary leaders are the stalwarts of own sampradaya or disciplic succession — Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakur, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Maharaj, and Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj — whose revolutionary conception of Krishna consciousness leads not just to a temporary regime change here in this material world of exploitation, but to a life of eternity and bliss in the spiritual world of dedication.
Then, while Trivikrama Maharaj is speaking, we hear some kirtan growing louder and louder outside, and suddenly somebody blurts out: "Srila Gurudeva is here!"
Goswami Maharaj says: "Srila Gurudeva was drawn here by affection's force. Your love and affection for Srila Gurudeva has forcibly brought him here."
Srila Gurudeva sweeps into the electrified atmosphere of the temple, to cries of "Jai Gurudeva!" from the ecstatic devotees. After paying his obeisance to Sri Sri Nitai Gaurachandra, Srila Gurudeva sits down, and confirms Goswami Maharaj's insight:
"You are all so affectionate to me. I was watching you all on the internet, and listening to your kirtan, and thinking, 'Why should you have all the fun?' So I came here."
Very briefly, Srila Gurudeva stresses the importance of sravan-kirtan (hearing and chanting about Krishna consciousness) then His Divine Grace himself leads the singing of Jaya Radha Madhava, and ends by once again praising the "incomparable" kirtan of the Venezuelan devotees.
Layout by iMonk — November 14th, 2004.