On Saturday there was a tremendous amount of rain, but on Sunday afternoon I managed to get down to Jeanne Mance Park and join the devotees in their annual Festival of India. This year, I had the specific intention of distributing some of those Madhurya Kadambinis that I worked on a couple of years ago.
The first thing I did was go to Bhakti Marg Swami and give him a copy. He is always nice to me, always recalling our sankirtan days in Toronto. I asked him if he minded me distributing Madhurya Kadambinis on the Rathayatra grounds and he graciously agreed. He was also very grateful for the gift.
What I really enjoyed about the book distribution was talking to devotees about the book--about Vishwanath Chakravarti, his writings, Rupa Goswami and the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, etc. About the different stages of devotion. It was a great chance to meet with old devotees and make new friends also.
Debnath Bhoumick said that he would like to get books in Bengali, so I think I will see about ordering stuff from Radha Kund for them. I ended up selling only 5, which was OK. I did not get entangled with any negative vibes, and just left alone those devotees who weren't interested. But of course, I was expecting trouble.
Sure enough, I started talking to a young Chinese girl devotee I had never seen before. She was intelligent and had done a bhakti-shastri course, so she asked me many questions and indeed started to open up to me on a personal level, telling me that she was quite involved in doing service at the temple and felt she had little time for study. Anyway, I did as I always do: encourage a person to pursue their inner direction and have faith that Krishna would guide her.
But our conversation was interrupted by a committee of three of the more conservative members of the local Iskcon establishment who expressed disquiet that I might be corrupting an innocent member of their congregation with my dissolute philosophy. I am afraid that I did not respond with perfect calm and started to feel the adrenaline pumping--even though it would have been easy to say that Bhakti Marg had given me permission. Instead, I foolishly tried to talk to these people--even though we generally keep out of each other's way. I know how narrow they are in their views.
I got the distinct impression that they were in uniform--like police. You know they are not allowed to talk to you.
Well Vishwambhar said, "We have heard you say you are a Sahajiya. Is that true?" I knew I had to say yes, but that made me want to defend my position, which of course was a no go. Prabhupada said no Sahajiyas.
Of course, one of their complaints was that the devotees had worked so hard to organize this festival and they did not want non-devotees to take advantage of the situation. Again, I tried to answer them by saying that the Madhurya Kadambini was not in conflict with Iskcon philosophy; I basically just said that an open policy would probably be more effective in the long run, but they were in unbreakable uniform mode.
They must have been observing me and tolerating my talking to people until they saw me talking to her. At least, they made it clear that was what was irritating them. But from my conversation with her, it had become clear to me that she was already feeling temple life constraining. After my talk with the three heavyweights, which I am a little ashamed to say, was not totally conducted in a calm and joyous manner, the girl came up to me and gave me 5$ donation (which I knew was all she had on her)! She actually looked pretty embarrassed for her leaders.
I may not have written anything here today had I not received a phone call this morning from a Bengali man, a lawyer, to whom I had sold a book yesterday. He wanted to return it! It was very clear that someone had been talking to him.
I ended up talking to him for two hours while he halfheartedly regurgitated the old accusations. As it was, it turned out OK. I had to reexplain to him who Vishwanath Chakravarti is, who Rupa Goswami is, etc. My main message to him in terms of my relation to Iskcon was that of course Iskcon is doing many good things; I am only against their narrowness. But there is a lot of undoing to do when talking to such people.
Afterwards, someone said something very negative to me about Iskcon devotees, but I have mixed feelings.
There is a kind of problem, since the obvious people who are interested in what I have to say, or who are interested in a book like Madhurya Kadambini, are devotees with a little experience. But I don't like to cause trouble. Really, I just wanted to sell a few books. I have NO money. But I will have to find my own audience.
Anyway, I enjoy talking about these things. And most people do enjoy listening to me. It was very enlivening and shook me out of my doldrums a bit.