Balkan Harinama Tour a Great Success
Posted October 4, 2010
Harinama in Ulcinj, Montenegro
It is almost a month since our 2010 Harinam tour finished, this year's being the largest and "craziest" tour so far. No one had tried a tour on this scale before; even we thought at the beginning that we might have bitten off too much, but somehow we all managed with Krishna's grace.
We had some amazing numbers. The tour lasted over two months, beginning with the first harinam on June 29 in Otocac and finishing in Sibenik on September 1. We divided the tour into three phases, playing in 57 cities located in 7 states, and performed 84 Harinams. Twenty devotees from three continents, including three Srila Prabhupada disciples, travelled with us, whilst 50 more devotees joined in at least one Harinam, for a total audience of half a million.
Traversing a whopping 10,000 km (6,200 miles) in total — almost as far as from Karlovac to India and back — we visited Trieste, Italy and Gevgelija, Macedonia, two towns 1,600 km (1,000 miles) apart. We crossed and recrossed an area where at least five different languages (Italian, Slovenian, Albanian, Macedonian and Croatian) were spoken. Wherever we played we had a permit.
Home program in Shkodra, Albania
The journey home back from Skopje to Karlovac lasted three days. The first day we left Skopje at 1:30 p.m. and arrived in Dubrovnik at 3:30 a.m., 14 hours later. Roads such as we saw in Albania probably exist nowhere else in Europe; it is hard to even call them roads. The second day we travelled seven hours from Dubrovnik to Sibenik and on the third day five more hours to Karlovac.
We distributed from 300 to 400 CDs with spiritual music, 200 Srila Prabhupada books in seven languages — Croatian, Slovenian, German, English, Italian, Albanian and Macedonian — 80 magazines in Albanian, 20 DVDs, 1,500 to 2,000 tulasi necklaces and bracelets, and around 1,000 incense packages. In several cities in Slovenia and Montenegro we had the first public distribution of prasadam as we handed out hundreds of cookies.
The last part of the tour was especially difficult, because apart from the long, exhausting trip, every couple of days we were in another country with another currency and different exchange rates. We were using five types of monetary currencies — the Euro, Croatian Kuna, Bosnia-Herzegovina Mark, Albanian Lek and Macedonian Denar. An even bigger experience was the money exchange on the way out, especially in the "muddy" Albania and Macedonia. We never thought to achieve such numbers.
It was an unforgettable and invaluable experience to go to cities and countries new to us and to spread the movement of Mahaprabhu. On woman who provided us with accommodation told us that staying a few days with the Harinam group was "the most beautiful thing that had happened to her this summer, and the best entertainment," and one devotee who joined us for a few days said: "What is more beautiful than this?" Some things really cut into our hearts when we saw that some people were with such expectation waiting for a year for us to come again to their city because they did not have a society of devotees the rest of the year.
Others showed such enormous gratitude and with tears in their eyes thanked us for giving them answers they had so long waited for, declaring we had "saved their lives." In those moments we realize how powerful the Maha Mantra is and how important it is that we sing and preach as often as we can.
In many situations we had to fully depend on Krishna. In two countries where we were, there were no other devotees, which meant that we did not know where we would sleep and what we would eat. We finished Harinam at 11 p.m., and what now? When Krishna saves you in such a situation, then your faith increases, and when Krishna saves you in so many situations your faith increases so much.
In Budva in Montenegro we entered into an auto camp after midnight and in the morning went to the registration office. The woman who owns the camp gave us free accommodation when she heard what we do. She thanked us for choosing her camp and said we must come again next year. Thus we understood that Krishna was constantly with us and inspiring people to get involved — amazing!
The next day we played in another town in Montenegro, but we had to change the plan twice; we did not know where to go or how, but again super arrangements happened, with even finer accommodations at a better place — all in Montenegro, where the Orthodox Church is very strong.
The highlight was the departure to the former dictatorial communist country, now the only Muslim-dominated country in Europe: Albania. It was like India in miniature; there are so many similarities between India and Albania. Certain parts of the country are as developed as London, and others are as if they were 150 years back in time. Such are their roads also; some parts are as the German Autobahn and some are as the donkey tracks before the invention of automobiles. There we were forced to eat karmi bread, some of us for the first time in the last ten years, but what could we do? There was nothing else. The awareness was very high and "fired up," partly because of the great severities, partly because of the great grace. We had the feeling that nothing would disturb our consciousness in these times of revolution, that we were completely protected by Lord Caitanya.
I could scarcely believe some scenes in Albania. People were wondering what we do. Not wanting to philosophize too much, I said, "yoga," and they asked "What is yoga? Yogurt?" I called one of our devotees, a yoga teacher, to show a few asanas, but they were still in wonder, watching and saying: "statue, statue." They thought he was showing them the shapes of some statues from the outside world. They had no idea of what yoga might be. When we told them, "You know, like in the Himalayas," they still looked in wonder. They'd never heard of the Himalayas.
Among them there were some students also. I did not know that there were people in Europe who were unfamiliar with such terms and concepts. At our departure from their homes where we'd slept, our hosts remained unclear as to what we were doing, but they embraced Krishna and Srila Prabhupada's photos and journals. Such simple people.
In addition, we have seen all sorts of people, we have met and seen many yatras and quite different devotees and came to the same conclusion that we want to share with you and which I consider quite important for the successful spread of our movement. We noticed that in our society, among most of our members, in general there is space for improvement in two things: abhay, fearlessness and sraddha, higher faith in the power and glory of the Holy Name. However big is our faith, that much the Holy Name reveals to us. It is so strong and so powerful (and often our faith does not grasp it). Srila Prabhupada had both of those things in such a large volume, so he expanded the movement throughout the world.
Some devotees said to us that we were too crazy and that what we were doing was too dangerous, but we had no dangerous situations. It was a totally different experience. "Fearful eyes are big," a Croatian saying goes. I am not saying that we should be foolish and thoughtless, but often we have unnecessary fear and hesitate, and Krishna is just waiting for us to go ahead and to give us whatever we need and want.
If we could only be aware that anything is possible and that everything is available; all mercy is here! Frequently we limit ourselves and do not allow grace to flow; we create the obstacles which in fact are not existing. I thought about this often on the tour; if we develop these two things in a larger scope, what might be the result of our preaching?
Next year devotees have called for us to go even further on the tour to the countries new to us. We do not know what will happen next year, but there is a chance to go even further, to Kosovo, Greece and Bulgaria. This year we approached close to the frontiers of all these countries. Who knows what is the plan of Nitai Gauracandra?
I, an insignificant devotee, am happy and thankful to Lord Chaitanya, who has allowed us to go to these seven countries, some for the first time, to represent and take part in his movement — such an honor. Thanks also to Srila Prabhupada, who was so kind as to allow us mlecchas and yavanas to reach the pinnacle of human existence and to obtain the blessings of Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana. We should be happy and honored that we can take part in it.
See you next year. Whoever wants to go with us on a new journey and a new adventure may contact us in advance. Param Vijayate Sri Krishna Sankirtan. By the way, Candramauli Swami wants to finance a book and DVD about our Harinam preaching in the last seven years to help inspire other devoetes. Maybe this book will be out soon, somewhere.
Contact: Mohana das, Sri Sri Nitai Gauracandra mandir, Tudmanovo setaliste 5, 47000 Karlovac, Croatia. Tel. 00385 47 600 601