Kiev, Ukraine — Friday, June 17th
A week in Kiev
We returned to Kiev on Monday afternoon. The express train from Kharkiv to Kiev is fast (600km in less than six hours) and nice: comfortable reclining seats, three per row, pull-out tables, and an electric outlet for my laptop.
On Tuesday, we have one of those cozy nama-hatta programs at our apartment. I like these informal get-togethers because they are almost exclusively attended by Srila Gurudeva's disciples, so I can talk much more frankly than I can at the public lectures.
On Wednesday evening we hold the weekly three-hour public program at the town hall, the grandly named Palace of Culture, just a few blocks down the road. About twenty people show up.
On Thursday, I go to the local clinic to get a blood test: I have to get an HIV-free clearance certificate for my Russian visa application. I submit the paperwork to the Russian consulate; I should get a reply — one way or the other — in ten days.
In the evening we have another nama-hatta gathering. Three newly interested people have been coming all week, and their questions are probing and sincere.
Kiev, Ukraine — Sunday, June 19th
Sripad Avadhut Maharaj arrives this morning from Moscow, and in the afternoon we go out on nagar-sankirtan again — chanting the maha-mantra in the streets. It has been drizzling on and off all morning, but when we arrive at the Golden Gate square (Zoloti Vorota) in the heart of Kiev, the sun comes out.
We follow the same route that we did last time — past the National Opera Theatre, down Tarasa Shevchenka Boulevard to the Mandarin Plaza, then left on Khreschatyk Street towards Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square).
The last time we chanted down Khreschatyk Street it was filled with lunchtime traffic; on weekends the street is closed to vehicles, so today thousands of pedestrians throng the wide expanse in their stead.
Khreschatyk Street is right in the center of the city, and is now famous as the place where the "Orange Revolution" began. At the end of last year, at the height of the revolution, three hundred tents pitched in this popular street brought traffic — and the country — to a standstill.
Avadhut Maharaj and I — in our bright saffron robes — bring our own "orange revolution" to the street, attracting the interest and curiosity of the Sunday afternoon crowd as we wend our way through the hustling vendors, the busking musicians, and the futzing pedestrians.
We stop and chant for a while in Independence Square, then run for shelter under the arch of one of the many monuments and sculptures when it begins to rain. In a few minutes the sun comes out again, and we continue chanting down the rain-slicked street...
Kiev, Ukraine — Tuesday, June 21st
Sometimes I'm so dumb, I despair. When His Holiness, Sripad Bhakti Bimal Avadhut Maharaj arrived here in Kiev from Moscow, the first thing he did was pay his obeisance to me. He is always so humble, so respectful.
And what about me? Did I, or anybody else in our reception party have a garland for him? Um, no. Of course, he is so humble that he does not, or pretends not, to notice. But is this any way to treat the leader of our Russian/Ukrainian mission? What were we doing that was so important that we did not have a garland for him when he got off the train?
Because he treats me — a nobody, really — as a friend, and as a senior, I tend to forget his exalted position. But Srila Gurudeva does not forget. I saw the letter, dated June 10th (less than two weeks ago) that Srila Gurudeva wrote to Avadhut Maharaj, wherein His Divine Grace writes:
"My affectionate blessings to your holiness... I want to see you more and more exalted, as Krishna has given you that capacity. You are using that for the service of my Guru Maharaj. My heart is so joyful with your all activities.... What service you have got and are maintaining with your full energy, that is giving me extreme happiness....
"My blessings, love and affection forever for you. My blessings and affection for all of the devotees there who are living in your connection and are connected with Krishna consciousness... All glory to your holiness..."
Have you ever seen a letter like that? From a guru to his disciple? "[Your service] is giving me extreme happiness. My blessings, love and affection forever for you. I want to see you more and more exalted."
If I had a letter like that from Srila Gurudeva, I would laminate it and carry it with me wherever I went. You had better believe that nobody would mess with me! I bet even the Yamadutas would back off, fearful and apologetic, if I flashed such a letter and said, "You talkin' to me?"
Here was an opportunity to try to fulfill Srila Gurudeva's desire to see Avadhut Maharaj "more and more exalted," but I blew it. You would think that the least I could do was make sure we had a garland for His Holiness when we went to meet him at the train station...
It is a measure of Avadhut Maharaj's humility that he never demands any respect (amanina) but always gives honor to others (manadena). It is really my duty to set the proper example, to show the Russian and Ukrainian devotees how to properly respect such an exalted Vaishnava.
Layout by iMonk — June 21st, 2005.