Polish Woodstock report – thoughts from the Astrology Tent
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?”
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