Donetsk, Ukraine — Wednesday, June 8th

Newspaper interview

This evening Sanatan-Dharma Prabhu arranges for a reporter from the Government Courier — a weekly newspaper published by the Ukrainian Government at its headquarters in the capital city, Kiev — to interview me at the local nama-hatta program.

The reporter begins by asking, "What is the soul?"

I'm, like, "Whoa! This guy's from a government newspaper?"

It seems that the reporter is a friend of Sanatan-Dharma Prabhu, and familiar with Vedic philosophy. He thinks his readers will be interested in the precise and elaborate explanation of the soul given in the Vedas because we often use the term without really knowing what it means.

I agree. "If we have any conception of the soul at all, it is usually, 'I am this body, and I possess a soul,' but according to the Vedas it is just the opposite: 'I am the soul, and I possess a body.'"

His next questions, "What is death?" and "Where does the soul go after death?" show that this guy has done some research, so I give him the straight stuff.

The guys at the Government Courier must be a lot more liberal than their counterparts in the States. I can't imagine such a frank interview in a U.S. government publication. (Of course, I could get a knock on my door late tonight: "Comrade, about that 'newspaper' interview..." :-)

My interpreter, Swarup Prabhu's family name indicates that he is a descendant of the legendary Zaporizhzhya Cossack, Maxim Krivonis, and the reporter likes that local interest angle: even the famous Ukrainian Cossacks are becoming devotees of Krishna!

Donetsk, Ukraine — Friday, June 10th

Another TV interview

I have another TV interview this morning — my second TV interview in two weeks. This time I appear on the Donetsk Metropolitan TV station, as a guest on the Channel 12 "Wake Up!" Show.

The live interview, which begins at 7:45, lasts just ten minutes, and is conducted by Elena Prodai, at the Channel 12 TV studio in Artema Street, in the city center.

I was originally supposed to say something about bhakti-yoga, but in a pre-interview question-and-answer session, the hostess, Elena, tells me that I cannot talk about God, sex, or politics on the set.

"We can't talk about this subject with such restrictions," I protest, "since it is impossible to even define bhakti-yoga without reference to God." We decide to talk about something safer: my itinerant lifestyle.

I walk onto the live set, sit down, and the first question I am asked is, "What do you find when you go to the mountains?" I flash Swarup Prabhu, my interpreter, a quizzical "?!" (Apparently this is a question they ask all their guests.) My answer? "Yourself!"

Next, I am asked about the tilak marking on my forehead, the aura of sandalwood that surrounds me (!) and, of course, some perfunctory questions about my native Africa and some of more exotic countries I have visited, like India and Turkey.

Superficial, yes, but then how deep can you go in ten minutes? If my speech and deportment during these brief TV appearances leaves the audience with a favorable impression of the devotees, my job is done. I'm not trying to save the world on these shows.

Kharkiv, Ukraine — Monday, June 13th

Weekend in Kharkiv

Monday morning. We're on the express train from Kharkiv to Kiev — from the old capital to the new capital. Kharkiv was only a weekend stop on this Ukrainian lecture tour. As the train speeds through the verdant countryside, I think about the events of the last three days...

We arrive in Kharkiv, the second largest city in the Ukraine (population 2,000,000) on Friday night, at 9:45. Bimala-Kanti Prabhu, Kamala Devi Dasi, and Indra-Nivasini Devi Dasi meet us at the station, and we take a forty-minute taxi ride to the apartment that they have arranged for us for the weekend.

The next day, on Saturday afternoon, I give a talk at the "Yuri Gagarin Planetarium." Yuri Gagarin, of course, was the world-famous Russian cosmonaut who helped the Russians beat the Americans in the race to put the first man in space when he made the first manned space flight in the spaceship Vostok 1, in April 1961.

The meeting is well-attended, and includes a young man, Vladic, who read about this meeting on our Russian website, and telephoned Swarup Prabhu to get directions to the meeting while we were on the train from Donetsk to Kharkiv the night before. Our technology has come a long way since Russia launched the world's first man-made satellite, the Sputnik, in 1957!

Kharkiv is a tough city, with many contrary conceptions dueling for the minds of the devotees. The scary thing is that everybody seems to have Barney-vision, seeing the world through purple-colored glasses: I'm okay, you're okay; all paths lead to the same goal; we're all one big happy family...

I don't have much time here; some strong medicine is needed. I spend most of Sunday talking exclusively to Srila Gurudeva's disciples, passionately stressing the glories of the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math and reiterating the unique, unprecedented conception of divinity given by our gurus: gayatri muralista kirtana-dhanam radha-padam-dhimahi.

I don't know what else I can do: those who have even a slight appreciation for this message (kalyana-krt kascid) will pull through okay (na durgatim tata gacchati).

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Layout by iMonk — June 13th, 2005.