Lessons Learned On Padayatra By Devotees Of The Noida Personal Development Course
By Acarya Dasa
In the month of April, while we were in the city of Tumkur in Karnataka, I got a call from the Noida temple near Delhi informing me that a group of 8 devotees of their PDC group would be joining padayatra for 15 days. The initials “PDC” stand for the Personality Development Course for ISKCON devotees. This course helps newcomers to venture into the world of inner discovery; it also brings them inner peace and fulfillment by learning how to balance work and devotional life through a regulated lifestyle. As a part of this course, different skills and techniques are taught to help them tackle stress, bad habits and conflicts.
A very warm welcome to the 8 PDC boys
We always warmly greet guests who come to our padayatra. As the PDC boys reached Tumkur, we welcomed them with harinama sankirtana and garlands. While honoring prasadam I shared with them our daily routine, which they had heard of and read about from various padayatra articles. But now it was time to practically follow it.
As instructed by Lokanath Maharaja, a devotee should spend time on padayatra and have different book distribution experiences. Every day is an adventure for the padayatris, and they have to totally depend on the Lord for everything, prasadam, accommodations, and so on. .Kalpavriksha Dasa, the devotee heading the PDC visiting party, suggested to Maharaja that spending some time on All India Padayatra should be part of the PDC syllabus.
Catching the padayatra spirit
When these 8 boys joined us they became part of our padayatra party, in fact we felt like they were also padayatris. Their sadhana was very strong- they used to get up at 3 am and chant their rounds before mangala arati. Not only did they attend all the programs with us but they also lead some harinamas and other programs and sang the prayers of mangala arati and Gaura arati with so much enthusiasm. They walked with us all day, tolerating the scorching sun. Sometimes we did not have much water to drink, but they never complained. Almost all of them caught a common cold due to the weather change, but they happily accepted it as part of their padayatra experience. They were all very fervent to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books. One of them exclaimed, “We have never seen such book distribution anywhere! Even Muslims are taking books and participating in sankirtana. It’s a miracle they do it, it’s all mercy. Their hearts are getting transformed by the darsana of Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara.”
We served the boys Bengali and Odisha dishes during the feasts and gifted them with bags and clothes. The day they left, we all felt gloomy. But this is the way things are: guests come and go, padayatra must go on. We were very happy to have their valuable association and we all felt younger with these young boys.
Their own realizations
Kalpavriksha Dasa, PDC leader: “On padayatra we learn the meaning of surrender”
My experience of padayatra was wonderful. Each and every devotee is engaged in some service. Daily we meet new individuals and inspire them to take up harinama. In spite of the language barrier harinama reaches hearts and people easily buy a Bhagavad-gita. I had heard a devotee saying that every devotee should stay on padayatra for a few days- this was always on my mind- and now I am experiencing why it is such an important journey to go on.
On padayatra we were engaged 24 hours in the service of the Lord. Even if one wants to forget the Lord, one can’t. On the other hand, in the material world, one wants to remember the Lord but he can’t. Every day we go to different places, meet new people and totally depend on the Lord for accommodation and prasadam. Every day is an adventure. Every day there is Srimad-bhagavatam class, so before leaving for next destination, we are also empowered with spiritual knowledge.
Wherever we went people welcomed us and readily accepted the holy names. On padayatra we have devotees from different countries and places living together with love and respect. I was recharged being on padayatra. If I get a chance, I will again join padayatra. 15 days just flew away like I had come yesterday. The padayatris are so friendly and compassionate. They took great care of us. It is an ideal example of cooperation and love, devotees moving together since so many years. They go through such austerities that each devotee becomes tough, becoming unaffected by sun, rain and wind.
We have heard this verse many times… Sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja (BG 18.66) but on padayatra, we have lived that verse: here, the only shelter is Their Lordships, Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara.
BHAKTA JITENDRA: “I lost my heart on Padayatra”
I am Jitendra Jena, from Baksor, Odisha. By the mercy of Lokanath Maharaja I am undergoing training at ISKCON Noida. Maharaja inspired us boys to visit padayatra and learn especially the way padayatris distribute books. Padayatra is the small travelling temple of Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara. The padayatris are very affectionate and they take great care of us. I could say, “I lost my heart on Padayatra.” I would like to come again and join padayatra. I was very happy to attend the pre-bhakti sastri classes given by Dharmaraja Dasa during the walk.
I was much impressed by the way the padayatris distribute books, they are so zealous that even the blazing heat can’t distract them. I felt like they were really meditating on book distribution, so much engrossed they were in that activity.
Every day we move from one place to another, so we cannot get attached to any place or facility. We are totally dependent on the mercy of Their Lordships. There is no particular place where we can have prasadam; wherever we find some shade, that’s the spot we choose, and if there is no shade available, we sit under the shade of the tractors and trollies. Some padayatris even lie down there if they did not find a place to rest. I had only read about padayatra but now I practically experienced what padayatra is!
GIRIRAJ DASA: “The enthusiasm of the padayatris is contagious”
The enthusiasm of the padayatris is contagious they are always fired up and ready to render any service. I never found them tired, they were always on their toes. The caring nature of the padayatris touched my heart, especially Acarya Dasa, who is always busy in one service or another; sometimes he is performing sankirtana, sometimes driving a tractor, sometimes feeding the oxen, and another time taking care of devotees. He is a remarkable example of dedication.
Sadhana on padayatra is better than in the temple. Padayatra reaches small villages and towns distributing harinama, books and thus fulfilling the mission of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The oxen are the special attractions for the people. Sometimes oxen themselves stop at some places and give darsana of Their Lordships to the public. Persons along with the Lord capture photos of the oxen. In padayatra we have a chance to visit many holy places and be always absorbed in the holy name. The austerities of the padayatris are mind blowing. They walk in the scorching sun, blowing wind and stormy rains. I salute them all.