Polish Woodstock report - thoughts from the Astrology Tent

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Above: Patita Pavana and Abhaya Mudra Dasi of Mithuna Twins Astrological Services concentrate on a devotee’s chart while the translator looks on. The gentleman waiting, one of the crowd’s few non-punks, has been reading the Polish Gita for eight years.

By Patita Pavana das Adhikary

Kostrzyn Nad Odra, Poland Summer 2009: At around fifty cents per donation, horoscopes have been flying off the table and out of the astrology tent non-stop since the canvas doors were roped wide opened. We’re reading the birth charts at Poland’s version of “the summer of love” where orange punk hair dos, wild tattoos and pierced skin are as common as grey suits and BMW’s on Wall Street. This crowd of 400,000 also attracts political muscle at the highest level. Yesterday I met Lech Walesa; it’s always nice when a world leader shakes the hand of a Hare Krishna wearing dhoti and tilak.

In the astrology tent the accumulative karma of so many materialists with planetary portents piled up in the houses of death and disease have begun to wear me down like stinging ants. Retrograde planets at war have tightened the muscles in my neck and I feel a migraine coming on. It is true that reading the horoscopes of karmis is not like seeing the stars of devotees whose blissful charts radiate the warmth and glow of bhakti, pleasant as a campfire under an autumnal sky brightened by the stars of Sapta Rishi. Whereas our God-brothers and -sisters bring charts that are bedecked by Jupiter brightening the ninth house of dharma, or Mercury dancing in the house of learning, here at Woodstock conformists in the dress of rebels are tied to Gordian knots of endless karma played out on the stage of their birth charts. As Prabhupada says, “From the beginning of time in this material world there are two types of personalities, devotees and demons.” This conclusion is verified by the birth charts.

Euro-Woodstock is a world apart, a circus of humanity trying to rock, roll and outdo their grandparents. For the astrologer or the sage, it is merely a phenomenon re-cycled. It is the cry of a generation unknowingly longing for salvation before they lay down to the same fate as those who gave their parents birth and have now gone before them. Where they go from here could depend upon whether or not they visit the prasadam tent or are handed a mantra card.

Woodstock, like any social phenomenon here in mrityu-loka, is measured not by the intoxicated beats of late night drummers or lead guitarists, but by the measured steps of the Slow One, the planet Saturn. Perched upon his crow vahana, this Grim Reaper of the Zodiac sweeps away each successive crop of sense gratifiers. Right on cue, the subsequent consignment of samsaris in each time and clime makes the same mistakes before exiting to the next birth under rewritten horoscopes. In each of his thirty year rounds of the signs it is the stoic Saturn, Lord Shanaischara, who watches entire generations rise and fall, brushed aside by his scythe of time. Like each one before, generations cling optimistically to the relative truths they’ve stumbled upon hoping for salvation until they are swept away like ants before a water hose. Washed away by the tide of death and rebirth…unless some agent of God, some selfless devotee of Krishna, some sold-out follower of Shrila Prabhupada catches hold of some isolated individual in the passing parade and points the way to transcendental reality. The great planets themselves are silenced when a devotee hands over a mantra card that advises, “Chant Hare Krishna.”

Left: At Krishna’’s Village of Peace over 120,000 big plates of prasadam were served in a non-stop smorgasbord of bliss

Back in the summer of ‘69 far out on the green fields of Woodstock, NY, this servant of Shrila Prabhupada was one of three of the Great Master’s shaved-up saffron brahmacharis shuffling through the rock ‘n’ roll throngs of Woodstock, New York. That hip bumper crop of post-World War II neo-rebels were ISKCON’s best customers a generation ago. Few devotees then had not sprung from that group of refugees from white collar America. Conch shell in hand, I was on the look-out for lost souls or spare change. Either one would do for me at a time when little was known about Hare Krishna except: “Like, they’re good people. They feed hungry bodies and fill hungry souls. Krishna is love, man. Way out love.”

Round, round and round again the same cycles turn and twist in the few cosmic seconds we have to spin upon this earth. Yet once again an ocean away and four decades apart here I am in a stageplay that mirrors the first act played out long ago in upstate New York. Here and now and more than a generation fast forwarded is Woodstock, and there’s nothing new under the Sun. Except instead of three begging brahmacharis working the crowd for souls and quarters, today there are three hundred blissful devotees, a new generation radiating hope and liberation; an army of Lord Krishna’s servants that has arisen from lands that in 1969 were locked behind an iron curtain. Certainly this is all the manifest vision of the Supreme Swan, the World Guru, the Spiritual Master who longed only to see iron shackles of karma fall before hari nama. Forty years later it is undeniable that the Great Master’s broad vision for world salvation has been focused through the lens of one faithful sannyasi disciple, and he has further communicated his Guru’s Great Revelation of Sankirtan to an entire young army of Krishna’s servants.

During a lull in reading horoscopes, I turn to Abhaya Mudra Dasi, my partner in Krishna conscious astrology, with a revelation. We agree that in truth, not every chart here in the tent has been stubbornly mired in insurmountably bad karma. There are flowers growing in the weeds, but locked into analyzing discordant planets at war I haven’t noticed. As much as I’ve been future-guessing (for the future with all its probabilities is always a guess), I’ve been preaching, too, just as I did at the first Woodstock. Occasionally, even a green-haired neo-rocker has the chart of a future devotee. Without thinking twice, I’ve been repeating mantra-like all day, “You are not your body. You are pure spirit soul.” “Krishna is the Supreme Lord, and you need to surrender to His will.” “Chant Hare Krishna.” Maybe at Woodstock 2014 these punk rockers will be dressed in saffron and saving other souls from sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll with the transcendental sound of the mahamantra. As they say, it is déjà vu all over again; and as Sankirtan expands so will today’s rockers become tomorrow’s bhaktas.

A neatly-dressed man shuffles in to have his birth chart examined. I quip that since he’s the first well dressed gentleman I’ve seen all day, then in a crowd that conforms to a certain style of non-conformity, he’s the only non-conformist. But he has other things on his mind since his wife has just left him. Lord Hari has “taken away.” His planets tell of his difficulties because he has just finished the malefic period called Ketu dasha. But at last his problems are mostly over, I tell him, because he has now entered a bright Venus period. Shyly, he confesses that a devotee gave him a Polish Bhagavad Gita as It Is eight years ago, and he’s been reading it regularly and visiting the temple in Warsaw for Sunday feasts. As our talk winds down, he discloses that our astrological reading has thrown a little light on his life. Now that his Venus period has started, he will have a chance to do what he really wants to do, increase his surrender and devotion to Lord Shri Krishna. The next client, a twelve year old, has the stars of a mahayogi, a mahatma in the dress of a Polish youth. His father knows a bit about “Western” astrology, but he’s surprised to hear my prediction that his son may soon become a saint raining wisdom and bliss upon the world thirsting for Krishna consciousness.

And so it is that I realize why the far-sighted Indradyumna Swami has invited us, the two members of the Mithuna Twins Astrological Services, to Woodstock. I had wrongly assumed that I was part of a cultural approach to soft core preaching. Instead, forty years after the first Woodstock, I have again found myself in the fire of repeating Prabhupada’s instructions to a new generation a world away. This is not some user-friendly, glad-handed approach to Krishna consciousness. I become grateful that, like the devotees out on the battlefield of hari nama or at the front lines of prasadam distributing, my role has also been the essence on cutting edge of truth. Amongst the drunks and the punks and the woodland skunks there are souls out there looking for Krishna. It is simply a question of making the right presentation.

Night has fallen now. Through the tent doors I see the nonstop throng of visitors to Krishna’s Village of Peace passing by. Little children with endless energy skip by laughing; young lovers locked in samsara move as one holding hands; married couples carry babies; at last arthritic grandparents hobble past. Whether they know it or not these generations following the roundabout of time into the whirligig of rebirth are all looking for Krishna. Our translators Varshanarani and Mandakini excuse themselves. Soon, when Raman Reti das comes in to knot together the tent doors in the evening, Abhaya and I shut down the Vaio and the Mac to stroll by the various tents of Krishna’s blissful devotees. My shiksha guru Indradyumna Swami, smiling from ear to ear, has returned from hours of Hari Nama to fill a cavernous plastic bag with litter. I muse that Shrila Prabhupada named him correctly. He is like his namesake, the great Vaishnava King of Orissa who used to sweep the road for Lord Jagannatha in Puri. When—I ask no one in particular—will I, too, share the vision of the mahatmas?

Left: Time for the ultimate astrological prayer, the Gayatri homage to the Sun god Lord Surya Narayana.

Generations have swept by me and I am dumbfounded. In the kirtan tent my old friend Ayodhyapati das Brahmachari, long since transformed into Bhakta Bhringa Govinda Swami, sings his endless kirtan. Before him a thousand rockers are undulating in an ecstasy that even yogis seldom find. On the main stage, is the immortal hero Shri Prahlada das churns out a hip, transcendentalized reggae beat. Two decades back Prahlada, then a gurukuli from Australia, unlocked an iron door with an EMI hit that got Gorbachev to free suffering Godbrothers and -sisters confined for their conviction. He unlocks doors even now as testified by the thousands of revelers who prefer his kirtan to the punk heavy metal being played across the field. Beside him, though one generation apart, Chaturatma das, who has made his yearly escape from America to attend Woodstock, dances with feet that never seem touch the ground.

Since the advent of Shrila Prabhupada and with each new generation rising in the West the Sankirtan movement of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu pushes forward in ways never before considered. And so will it continue to do so as long as we devotees, each one of us a uniquely talented part and parcel of Lord Shri Krishna, continue to ask ourselves, “What else can I do for Krishna today?”

Comments are welcomed. Please leave a message at: dhimanakrishna@yahoo.com.

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1 Unregistered

Dear Patita Pavana Prabhu,

Hare Krsna. Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to our most merciful Srila Prabhupada!

Thank you for this very wonderful article. I entered Srila Prabhupada’s service almost forty years ago; your eloquent assessment of the rise and fall of generations of living entities in the cycle of samsara and how they are sometimes plucked out of that cycle by a dedicated follower of Srila Prabhupada touched my heart very deeply. I’m inspired to ask myself, “What else can I do for Krsna today?”

So many of Srila Prabhupada’s followers are being revealed as bright gems. It’s as if Lord Caitanya’s pastimes with his devotees, as in the Caitanya-caritamrta, are unfolding before our eyes. Thank you for increasing the nectar of that glorification.

Are you the same Patita Pavana (at first, Patita Uddharana) from the Detroit temple in the early ’70s who so enthusiastically served Srila Prabhupada? I tried to cover your hair in the photograph to see if I could recognize you, and I think it could be. I often wonder where are all those devotees from decades ago who did such amazing things for Srila Prabhupada.

Whether you are or aren’t, thanks for sharing your realizations. Truly inspiring.

Your servant,
Lalita-sakhi dasi

Comment posted by Lalitasakhi dasi on August 23rd, 2009
2 nrsimhananda

Dear Patita Pavana prabhu,

Dandavats. The article read like a poem. No wonder. You are ever the lyricist in rhetoric. I missed seeing you at SF Rath this year. You are one of the personalities to whom I look forward to associating. Guess I’ll have to make plans to join you next year in Poland in order to catch the nectar. I believe that, like our gurudeva, we Prabhupada disciples will do our best work in our third act of life. Certainly, in your case, the best is yet to come. I remind you of Joni Mitchell’s memorable ode to Woodstock; she says it all if you know that the garden is Goloka Vrndaban:

I came upon a child of god
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
Im going on down to yasgurs farm
Im going to join in a rock n roll band
Im going to camp out on the land
Im going to try an get my soul free
We are stardust
We are golden
And weve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe its the time of man
I dont know who l am
But you know life is for learning
We are stardust
We are golden
And weve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation
We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devils bargain
And weve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Comment posted by nrsimhananda on August 25th, 2009
3 Administrator

Patita Pavana das: From reader Shriman Guru Gauranga das Prabhu: a photo from Woodstock 1969. This is Bhurijana das. The other Prabhu present among 450,000 people who attended was Shriman Vrindavana Chandra.

Comment posted by Administrator on August 28th, 2009
4 dhimana_krishna

My dear Narasimhananda das Prabhuji,

So kind of your to comment on the article. You are one of my most intelligent Godbrothers, hence your input is especially welcomed. Yes, you must by all means visit the Woodstock Festival next year, and tour with our wonderful Godbrother HH Indradyumna Maharaja to the Polish towns along the Baltic Coast after that. Following in the footsteps of Shrila Prabhupada, who created so many innovations for the enlightenment of the world, he is likewise doing things that have never been done before in history. Therefore, I implore all Godbrothers, “Come witness.”

Thanks, too, for the song about Woodstock. Yes, back then we had a sparkle in our eye heralding a New Dawn in Spiritual Revelation. Those with the vision of sages recognized that the it would require some sacrifice to have that realization and that the prophet of the age was none other than His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Even those (like Joni Mittchell) who felt it coming were kept by their own fame from seeing Shrila Prabhupada’s potency, and staked their claims upon an impersonal form of World Harmony that never could really manifest amidst the rampant illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and mental speculation that is the hallmark of Kali’s Age. But, as you imply, what they were feeling was the early waves of the Sankirtan Movement. It is said that, “just as a magnet makes order out of scattered iron filings when it is moved over them, so the acharya creates social order out of chaos.”

Many thanks, too, for your blessings regarding the third and last act. Many of us who have fallen off the Great Ship and are floundering at sea refuse to accept the Life Rope despite the cold turmoil of the incessant waves. That the Great Ship has weathered stormy seas is undeniable. That a few of the ship’s officers have been mutinous is a sad fact of history, and we must vow not too make the same mistake. But there is a fine crew of able-bodied seamen (and women) aboard the ship, and their number is growing. Our nephews can be our salvation, as we can help them. The tireless currents of false philosophies or the shelter of pirate ships who are ever antagonistic to the sound vessel of Gurru-seva will only assist the skeptic in elongating his quest indefinitely.

Therefore, to answer your song, let me quote Bob Dylan, “And the ship’s wise men will remind you once again that the whole wide world is watching.” -Patita Pavana das

Comment posted by dhimana_krishna on August 31st, 2009
5 Unregistered

Dear Patita Pavana and Nrsimhananda Prabhus. Dandavats. Jaya Srila Prabhupada!

So nice to hear your heart-warming exchanges about preaching and the real counterculture movement of Srila Prabhupada. Please continue to share the nectar with us all.

By the way, on December 12th, 1975, Bob Dylan traveled to Montreal with a large entourage of musicians, artists and poets (including Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, Allen Ginsberg and others) in what was billed as the “Rolling Thunder Revue.” By Krishna’s grace, I somehow managed to get backstage in full devotee attire. Many of the performers were already hurrying to climb the stairs for their performance, so I had to act fast. Luckily, I spotted Canadian folk singer, Joni Mitchell.

“Joni,” I called. She turned in my direction and I said, “Hare Krishna,” handing her a “Back to Godhead” magazine and a large bunch of red carnations offered to the Montreal Deities. She accepted them graciously, thanked me very much, and then bounded for the stage. As the curtains opened and the music began, I was delighted to see a number of famous artists holding red carnations in their hands. A roar of approval swept through the front rows of the audience as the performers onstage began throwing Krishna’s flowers to their adoring fans.

Although they never visited the Montreal temple at the time, Dylan and his famous friends had contacted Krishna in the form of His transcendental prasadam. By Prabhupada’s grace, there is no limit as to who can receive — or distribute — the mercy of Krishna consciousness. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Pd

Comment posted by Padmapani_das on September 3rd, 2009

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