Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine — Thursday, June 2nd

Readjusting my consciousness

Jet Airlines' in-flight meals are the best! When I flew from Calcutta to Delhi last week on my way here to the Ukraine, I must confess that I was looking forward to the meal.

But hold the phone! Jet Airlines' in-flight meals have a rival: Aerosvit Airlines! Now I know what you're thinking: Aerosvit is a Ukrainian airline, and if their meals are anything like the swill served on Aeroflot and other Eastern European airlines, they must be pretty gross, right?

Wrong! Expunge that thought from your memory; obliterate it from your brain. Aerosvit meals are, if anything, better than the fabled fare of Jet Airlines. Basmati rice, dahl, cauliflower pakora, salad, wheat bun, mango pickle — and not one, but two gulubjamuns for dessert!

Now Jet Airlines serves similar fare, including mango pickle, but the dahl and rice on Aerosvit, at least on this trip, I thought, gave Aerosvit the winning taste. Jet Airlines still has the edge overall, because their presentation is so much better — china plates instead of styrofoam trays, metal utensils instead of plastic implements, linen napkins instead of paper towels — but they had better watch out...

But why did I start writing about [drool!] this anything but plain plane fare again? Oh yeah:

On the Jet Airlines flight from Calcutta to Delhi, I took my first mouthful of food before remembering — with such a shock that my jaw went slack in mid-bite — that I had not offered it. Same thing on the Aerosvit Airlines flight from Delhi to Kiev:





I am very upset with myself. What is wrong with me? How has this impure selfishness (kutas tva kasmalam idam) appeared to adulterate my consciousness at this critical juncture (visame samupasthitam), at the very beginning of my mission to the Ukraine for Srila Gurudeva?

You see, I have been with Srila Gurudeva almost constantly since my last visit to the Ukraine in January last year, and when I am living and traveling with Srila Gurudeva, there is no need to offer my food: whatever I eat is already offered — by Srila Gurudeva.

In the beginning, when I first started living with Srila Gurudeva, I had to get out of this habit of mentally offering my food. Think about it. To offer my food when I am eating at the same table with Srila Gurudeva — to take his prasadam and give it back to him — would be insulting. In Srila Gurudeva's association, everything is already properly adjusted: everything is his grace, his prasadam.

But now that I have left Srila Gurudeva's holy association, I have to again constantly readjust my consciousness. When I was living in that guru-centric world of dedication, everything was automatically adjusted, but now that I am back in this egocentric world of misconception, everything must be reconceived and reconciled in relation to that plane.

I can do anything and everything in the presence of my guardian, because he is there to supervise my behavior, but in his absence, those same activities are fraught with danger because I am no longer under his watchful eye. Outside Srila Gurudeva's protective circle, it is I who must be vigilant, who must adapt my behavior to protect myself in a world where there is danger at every step (padam padam yad vipadam).

Oh Gurudeva, why have you sent me here? How can I help others when I am so helpless myself? I miss you so much!

Donetsk, Ukraine — Saturday, June 4th

To Donetsk — by bus

On this and my three previous tours of Russia and the Ukraine, I have traveled from city to city by plane, train, and automobile, but today, for the first time, I go to the next stop on my tour, Donetsk — by bus!

It is a novel experience, for sure. Not like the bus ride from Calcutta to Navadwip (is there any trip as unforgettable as that?) where you compete for standing room with livestock, but, tellingly, nobody seems at all fazed when a babushka boards the bus with a box of squawking chickens during a twenty-minute stop in Pokrovski.

And the smells! We forget what a cocooned environment we live in, in the association of the devotees. A geriatric gentleman behind us gnaws on pungent pieces of pickled fish; a blowsy babushka on the other side of the aisle plies her pretty pig-tailed granddaughter with foul-smelling boiled eggs and chicken carcass chunks; the couple in front of us stink of cigarettes and alcohol after every rest stop...

The miasma is asphyxiating, but tolerable; after all, it hasn't been all that long since I too was one of these meat-eating karmi dogs! This is a minor unpleasantness to put up with in my attempt to serve Srila Gurudeva. I remember reading in the Prabhupada Lilamrita how when Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad first began to live in such a degraded household in America, he used to blithely tell his apologetic meat-eating, chain-smoking hostess in Boston, "Think nothing of it!"

At two o' clock in the afternoon, six hours after leaving Zaporizhzhya, we arrive in Donetsk, a city of 1.2 million people, about 250 kilometers east of Zaporizhzhya, on the eastern border of the Ukraine and Russia. This is my second visit to Donetsk. The last time I was here was in the winter of 2003.

Sakshi Gopal Prabhu and Mahanamavrata Prabhu meet us at the bus terminal. We will stay in Donetsk until Friday night, and then we will take the overnight train to Kharkiv in the north for the weekend.

Donetsk, Ukraine — Sunday, June 5th

Another world

This evening, at a planetarium in downtown Donetsk, I give a lecture on the Subjective Evolution of Consciousness. I remember giving a lecture on a cold winter evening two years ago at the Kukolny Teatr (Puppet Theater) not too far from here.

There are about forty well-dressed people in the audience, seated expectantly under the large dome of the planetarium, and they listen attentively while I contrast Darwin's objective evolution with Srila Guru Maharaj's subjective evolution of consciousness, to show the superiority of the latter.

We may look up at the stars, planets, and constellations projected on the inner surface of the dome of this planetarium, I say, and try to find our place in the universe, but, as Berkeley so startlingly asserted, "The mind is not in the world; the world is in the mind." Reality exists not in the objective world without, but in the subjective world within.

I speak about this other, subjective world, for an hour, and answer questions for another hour. We then gather around the book-table until the crotchety custodian (who keeps looking at his watch) shoos us out, and I spend another hour outside, speaking informally to a small group of people in the warm summer night under the stars...

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