By Deva Darshan Das
Rio de Janeiro , Brazil – 20.11.2013
( Diary of travelling Preacher – The Brazilian adventure – By Deva Darshan Das )
This is practical, simple, and sublime. Four hundred and eighty years ago this formula was introduced in India by Lord Śrī Caitanya and now it is available in your country. Take to this simple process of chanting as above mentioned, realize your factual position by reading the Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, and reestablish your lost relationship with Kṛṣṇa God. Peace and prosperity will be the immediate worldwide result.`( From the peace formula by HDG A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada)
As we approached the Arpoador beach in Ipanema, I noticed the traffic was getting worst, so I decided to jump off the cab and walked to the meeting point.
I knew it wasn’t the best option but at least it helped me staying away from the traffic frustration. However, on the other side, I had to put up with the hundreds and thousands of sun – seekers as I cut my way through the beach area. The weather was perfect for spending a day at one of the most famous place in the world and beside, it was the ´Zumbi“ public holiday commemorating the death of a famous slave, Zumbi dos Palmares, apparently a hundred years old tradition.
After I met with the devotees, Kadamba Gopi one of the coordinator of the Beach kirtan explained to me that the situation wasnt pleasant at all. There have been several robberies and fights earlier in the area and as a matter of fact hundreds of policemen have been deployed to keep the situation under control. She suggested we check another spot for the kirtan. This idea was welcome by other members of the party.
As we moved in search of a more secured location, I noticed the situation wasn’t getting better on the beach. Several groups of people, mainly local teenagers were creating havoc and the policemen were having a tough time to deal with the whole Mayhem.
Here is the thing in Rio de Janeiro, You always need to be on your guard. Organized crime is one of the biggest problem society is facing and theres no perfect situation for robbery. It can happen to anyone anytime. Further to a crime report in 2013, Rio de Janeiro has been rated “Critical” for crime by the State Department for the past 25 years. Crimes statistics for 2012 reflect continued critically high and rising levels of crimes in both the state and city of Rio de Janeiro in the categories of robbery, rape, fraud, and residential thefts.
For example, there are thieves gangs called ARRASTÃO, they are large group of people usually 50+ and the way they perform their act is quite unique.
ARRASTÃO means sort of a net. So these gangs operate in such a way that they catch everyone in their web cob as they move along. They usually spread in sort of a horizontal line and run forward like a herd of mad elephants. On their way, they snatches anything and everything. It is difficult to catch them because they quickly mixed up with others making it difficult to track them down. Its a big team work and worst is if you try to stop them, you may find yourself in even more trouble as the possibility of your own death or serious injury is highly possible as they also carry weapons on them.
As we passed a large group of policemen, they urged us to stay away from the beach area as it was becoming more and more dangerous.
Finally, after a few minutes, we reached a quieter location with a smaller crowd but safer than the main beach area. Everyone happily agreed it was the perfect spot to have our kirtan. As we started setting up the space,several members of the public showed their acknowledgment, it was clear to them, with the instruments and sound system etc there was going to be a Hare Krsna musical performance.
But our happiness was soon to come to an abrupt end. As we sat down ready to start, we were approached by a gentleman who politely explained that this spot is mainly used for ´Capoeira `Practice (A Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music) which they were about to start. To everyone´s dismay, we were again forced to move away. That also brought some disappointment to several people who tried to convince us to stay around by sharing the spot with the dancers.
As it wasn’t much of an option, we again gathered our strength dragging all equipment in search of a new location.
Finally, to no one´s surprise we were back again to the original spot. Despite the continuous disturbance, which was still taking place, we set up our base a few meters away from the main beach area.
It was certainly a risk but devotees are preachers, their only desire is to please Sri Guru and Gauranga. They are `Abhay ` or fearless, willing to take risk for the sake of spreading the holyname. However, we pondered on the situation carefully before making a final decision. We may be preachers but sometimes it is better to realistic and avoid certain situation. After assessing the location, we agreed to keep the spot as not far, there was a group of policeman standby.
As stated in the Bhagavad Gita (18.69), the Lord declares that no one is dearer to Him than one who risks everything to preach His glory.
I started the kirtan with our standard invocation prayers. I first offered my `Pranam ` or obeisance to my own Guru, HH Indradyumna Swami, then to Prabhupada begging for their mercy to strengthen the faith of the assembled devotees, in our attempt to share the glories of the holyname to the public. I also prayed for our safety and protection because it was clear the situation can get out of hand anytime and we may need to wrap up and run.As we chanted, I felt there were less and less tension in the devotees response. Their voice were clearer which indicates they were more confident and peaceful.
Later on as our kirtan reaching its peak, a big blue van packed up with special police force, suddenly pulled by our side. Armed with guns, tear gas and riot type Baton, they hastily jumped off the van and within seconds were raiding the beach area.
However, by that time the situation was somehow less tense which explained their quick return back to the van before moving to a different location.
After about 45 mins, I passed the microphone to Mother Lila Shakti also known as Lea Fabres. Brazilian of origin, Lila Shakti is a wonderful soul and example to many people in this country. She is an accomplished musician and singer and an internationally recognized artist who have shared kirtan to a worldwide audience for many decades. She has several CD recorded under her name including the famous `Transcendence `
Lila brought a different twist to the kirtan scene. With her soothing yet powerful voice; it didn’t take her long to catch the attention of the passerby. She progressively brought the kirtan to its peak while maintaining the spiritual mood which encouraged many to join our circle of dance.
I noticed there were two girls standing for a while watching our kirtan party. One of them was also chanting and while observing her, I could see she was pronouncing and following the mantra correctly without missing any words. On several occasions her friend attempted to divert her attention but she was completely ignoring her and was fully focused and absorbed in the kirtan. At one point, she got angry at the friend who made a last but serious attempt to drag her away by pulling her arms. She immediately retaliated and explained that she don’t wanna leave the place.
I was somehow curious about the situation. To me, this girl must have a story behind. How come she knows this mantra and was also able to chant without having any difficulty following the melody. Obviously it wasn’t her first time.
So, I decided to approach them and the girl narrated her story. Years back, her uncle was singing this mantra at her house and she became captivated and quickly learnt it from him without knowing what he was chanting, but somehow she got addicted to it and has been chanting for a few years now because she feels nice and happy when doing so. While telling me her story, her facial expression somehow changed, her voice became slightly chocked with her eyes moist with tears.
I was mesmerized by this girl´s story. She must be around 15 years old or less, yet unknowingly she has been chanting selflessly for years without expecting any reciprocation from Krsna, it was due to her lack of knowledge for sure but the benefits she received was tremendous.
As explained in the S.B 6.2.19,
If a person unaware of the effective potency of a certain medicine takes that medicine or is forced to take it, it will act even without his knowledge because its potency does not depend on the patient’s understanding. Similarly, even though one does not know the value of chanting the holy name of the Lord, if one chants knowingly or unknowingly, the chanting will be very effective.
Srila Prabhupada also explained how the hippies became happies by unknowingly chanted the mahamantra. They were turned into pure vaisnavas and their consciousness uplifted. That is the potency of this mantra.
Before taking leave, I quickly grabbed a couple of books and handed them to the girls who gave me a donation. They were also given a flyer with the Mahamantra and temple address.
The mercy of Lord Caitanya
As I sat down for more kirtan, many people gathered to watch the beautiful sunset at Arpoador beach. I again meditated on the Lotus feet of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu and expressed my heartfelt gratitude to him for using all the devotees present as an instrument to distribute the holyname and protecting us in his mission.
We continued the kirtan until late evening. There were no more incidents and the occasional police group that passed by our kirtan party acknowledged our presence with a smile or ´Thumbs up ` as a token of appreciation to our service.
Later on, Mataji Ragadasi gave me some wonderful news which was confirmed by several other devotees.
Mataji Ragadasi ( ACBSP) :- The police has been asking us to come back because our presence and chanting brought peace to situation today.
This was the culmination of the sincere efforts of the devotees. They have tireless worked to promote this culture of Krsna consciousness to the people by braving the scorching heat, taking risks and giving their own time to the sankirtan movement. It was great news for everyone. Krsna somehow made the arrangement for us to be in that particular place, although we tried to run away, he pulled us back. As it is commonly said, God works in a mysterious way however he always does so for the benefits of his devotees. Now, we will surely not have any problem getting permission from the local Mayor´s office.
After, listening to Mother Ragadasi, I recalled another incident which happened earlier. At some point while mother Lila Shakti was leading, I decided to leave the kirtan to do book distribution. I remember coming to a spot where there was a guy, apparently belonging to one of local gangs. He was the cynosure of all eyes by the way he was acting. Like a mad man, he was leading other teenagers to provoke the police.
Later on, that same guy walked and stood for about 20 minutes near our kirtan party without moving a single inch.
I was leading kirtan but was constantly watching out because I recognized him and was afraid he might start a fight with the devotees. But I was wrong in my judgment, he was completely absorbed in the kirtan, his eyes were wide open, starring at us and completely captured by the whole scene. I could see he was mesmerized by what was going on. Probably something he never saw before. I acknowledged his presence as he broke out from his thoughts bringing up this big effulgent smile and with a ` thumb up ` showing his appreciation for the devotees.
The holyname definitely made him happy. On many instances, we experienced similar situation where many locals teenagers, most probably belonging to the gangs by their look, were captured by our kirtan party. Many stood watching us for a long time. It looks like the holy name pacified their heart and that’s what brought peace.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In Kali-yuga, if this Vedic maha-mantra is chanted regularly and heard regularly by the devotional process of shravanam kirtanam, it will purify all societies, and thus humanity will be happy both materially and spiritually ( S.B 3.29.18 )