Ten of My Favorite Books – A review of Indradyumna Swami’s Diary of Traveling Preacher series
By Patita Pavana das Adhikary
Someone once said of Indradyumna Swami, “If Prabhupada had thirty men like him, this Krishna consciousness movement would already have taken over the world.” Devotees who read of our Godbrother’s remarkable escapades through his Traveling Preacher series (including his touching book Vraja Lila) often dub him “the Indiana Jones of ISKCON.” But a tinsel town superman can never be compared to a Vaishnava parivrajakacharya, because Hollywood with its thousands of creative writers will never come up with anything like this extraordinary series of transcendental adventures. That’s because, as this devotee see it, these diaries are ultimately staged by the divine will of the Supreme Director, Lord Shri Krishna.
The Traveling Preacher series records for posterity many important incidents during the great global push of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s movement in the generation that follows the departure of Shrila Prabhhupada. Therefore, is it any wonder that these accounts record the phenomenal works of the divine hands of Shri Krishna? Even as the author himself becomes humbled before the ongoing stageplay he chronicles, so is the reader left dumbfounded by these acts of God.
The marionette dancing at the pull of the strings is not responsible for the actions of the puppet master; he simply performs as directed. Though Indradyumna Maharaja is an excellent storyteller in his own right, he remains merely a reporter relating one incredible event after another in his life of submission to Krishna’s will. Thus, this series is not meant for skeptics who can hardly appreciate the weight and message of these accounts. Although simple on the surface, the subject matter of Traveling Preacher dives as deep as devotion itself.
Those who doubt the Supreme Lord’s ability to empower His own reveal their own reservations regarding the spiritual potency of Krishna’s representative Shrila Prabhupada. It is well known that the lone acharya who planted the seeds for today’s incredible times experienced a life of supernatural phenomenon. As the seeds His Divine Grace planted fructify, the world gardener continues to share his fruits even now through his disciples. Today, the seedlings the acharya cultivated have developed into a global orchard of plentiful ripe fruits. The pages of the Traveling Preacher series are merely a record of Prabhupada’s fruit picker.
With limbs hanging low, the mango tree shares its fruits with any hungry man. Yet the fruit picker who savors its sweet taste, and encourages passers-by to likewise partake, is accused of exaggerating its sweetness by suspicious persons who fear the ripened fruits will poison them. Hence, these diaries cannot be for everyone, but faithful devotees who partake of this ambrosia will find nourishment for the soul.
Just as Shrila Rupa Goswami in a divine vision urged Shrila Prabhupada to depart for America assuring him of the devotees awaiting his arrival, so Indradyumna Swami has discovered almost serendipitously a similar situation, whether in snowy Gypsy camps of Siberia or in the mountains of Kazakhstan. From Baku to the Ukraine, Krishna Himself has planted many great devotees in remote areas of the world. Yet the Lord in His mercy has offered the credit to His fearless preachers who, with Bhagavad Gita As It Is in hand, risk their lives to reach the next generation.
This diary series has its heroes, too, like Bhakta Andrei, once a top Moscow book distributor. Answering the call of Mahaprabhu, Bhakta Andrei went off to Chechnya to distribute prasadam to Muslim Chechens oppressed by the war. Sadly, he was mistaken for some sort of enemy combatant, and was summarily executed by the very people he came to help. The large bore bullet that found Bhakta Andrei took a week to finish off his body, but never his spirit. From war zones of Belfast to jungle villages of Africa, where our Godbrother Tribhuvanath breathed his last on the way back to Godhead, these inspiring stories of sacrifice inspire us.
We read with wonder the examples of Shrimatis Jahnukanyaka and Hamsahina devis of Sarajevo who, against all odds, kept their ISKCON Center running during four bloody years of siege. This indomitable pair of diehard devotees even dodged sniper fire to distribute the real peace formula, Prabhupada’s books. There are many other heroes, too, like kirtan leader Shri Prahlada chanting all day and into the night, and Mother Nandini the festival organizer who gave up her Vrindavana pilgrimage, returning to Poland to book one more event. There is the example of the twelve-year old girl, a festival guest, who along with the devotees was beaten by thugs hired by a Catholic priest. In Bosnia there are the members of a sankirtan party who were stabbed and beaten near a mosque. The Muslim doctor who operated on the devotees would tell Indradyumna Swami that it was the Bhagavad Gita that helped him through the war. The surgeon begged of Maharaja, “In the name of Allah please forgive my people for what they have done to you.”
Maharaja takes the holy names to places where the mahamantra is needed most, to the victims of Katrina, to Ceylon right after the great tsunami, or bedside to the departing young disciple Vraja Lila Dasi who left this world from Vrindavana. We learn how Indradyumna Swami saved his brother from drug addiction and life in a homeless camp in San Francisco, how he delivered his own mother back to Godhead, and how he nursed terminally ill Shrila Shridhar Swami half way around the world to Shridham Mayapura so Maharaja could leave this world sheltered by the holy dham. These and more are the continuation of the never-ending stories of Shrila Prabhupada’s great sankirtan parade through the universe.
The author-disciple gives all the credit to Shrila Prabhupada. Yet, so selfless and renounced was Shrila Prabhupada that he never accepted recognition for himself, but always deferred to his disciples. Because Prabhupada kept himself in the background, some even to this day believe that the Hare Krishna Movement is a sort of leaderless grass roots phenomenon, like a tidal wave or volcanic eruption that “just happened”. We learn from Indradyumna Swami’s example that success in preaching Krishna consciousness is achieved by keeping Prabhupada’s instructions close to the heart, for it is his unflinching faith in Shri Guru that makes the Traveling Preacher series so readable. Although the spiritual master offers the disciple all credit, the disciple never accepts it.
Indradyumna Swami is merely an instrument of the pure devotee’s divine wish, a link in the chain of disciplic succession, a bugle through whom sounds the clarion call of yuga dharma. His success formula is simple: never allow a moment to pass that is not devoted to Krishna’s service. This example illuminates these pages as Vaishnava shastra.
Ultimately, the message is one of personal choice: we may either continue drowning in the muck of never-ending material existence, or we may choose to submerge ourselves beneath the liberating waves of sankirtan bliss. That is the sum and substance of Diary of a Traveling Preacher. For me, having dived into the nectar of Indradyumna Swami’s books, I herewith accept his invitation to save my own fallen soul from perdition. America has not seen sankirtan like this since the Radha-Damodar party folded. I’ll see you soon in Eastern Europe, Maharaja!
Note: Indradyumna Swami is currently in Eastern Europe traveling with 300 devotees and 28 tons of equipment in a summer tour that includes over 50 major festivals. Of these, the biggest is the Woodstock Festival (July 30th – August 2nd, 2009) which draws over 300,000 visitors, nearly half of whom get full plates of prasadam. For those devotees who would like to sample Eastern Europe’s ecstatic movement within a movement, or to obtain his Diaries, please contact HH Indradyumna Swami via his website www.traveling-preacher.com.