To Iraq and back, a devotee's experience in a war-torn land
Posted January 16, 2005
Just as things were going well for me and I was conducting weekly programs, the word came down that I would be moving to a new location in Iraq. So on a cold day I put my gear in the truck and prepared for another adventure, not knowing what Krishna had in store for me.
As we left the gate I prayed out loud, "My dear Lord, please protect us and if You decide I should leave my body today, please allow me to utter your name at the time of death."
The convoy was going smooth, then I felt the truck pull to the left and heard a boom. Krishna!!! We got hit by an improvised explosive device. By reflex, I grabbed the gunner and pulled him down from the turret. As I gathered my senses, I commanded my truck to push through the kill zone. No one got hurt; the only damage was a shredded tire. As we continued to roll along the road, I started to sing out loud, Jaya Nrsimhadeva, Jaya Nrsimhadeva!
As we pulled into the gate of our new home, I saw a very bare base camp with hardly any comforts -- no heat, ice-cold showers, bathrooms that were nothing more than a wooden divider and a oil drum cut in half. All I thought was, "Wow, just like last year!" I went to sleep hoping for the best and praying that tomorrow would be better. I had no idea what the next day would bring.
The next morning, I woke to find that our heater broke during the night and the showers were again ice-cold. Great start to the day. After running from the shower to my tent, I got dressed and went to work. As I walked in my new office I saw some Indians sitting around. Tired and trying to get warm, I decided to sit near the heater and chant my rounds.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare -- the Holy Name was vibrating off my tongue. Some of the workers in the office started to stare at me. I am used to this; some are very uncomfortable with my chanting, so I moved to a corner by myself.
Later in the day, I was approached by an Indian, who saw that I was reading Sri Caitanya Bhagavata. They were really interested that an American-bodied person could be a devotee of Krishna. Slowly they approached me, asking if I had ever been to India. I replied, "No, but Krishna is everywhere, even in Iraq." They looked puzzled after I said Krishna. They asked if I knew of Him. I replied that I am a devotee of Krishna.
Within the next five minutes, I opened up my laptop and put in the installation of Pancha Tattva. Seeing their faces as the beautiful forms of Their Lordships was truly a blessing. Their eyes lit up and, as the DVD was playing and the kirtan was growing, they were swaying and moving with the bhajans.
Soon I heard a "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna!" I looked up and smiled and we laughed. I expected to see only him, but to my surprise there were six Indian-bodied devotees, swaying to the music of the kirtan and their eyes and mind were fixed to the screen as the bathing of Pancha Tattva was happening.
How amazing that the Lord never forgets His devotees. Here I was near the Iran border, and these people were having their original Krishna conscioussness reawakened. It reminded me of a story about Lord Caitanya: it seemed that His servant, Kali-Krsna Das, was lured away from the Lord by some bhatta-hari (Roma) women. But the Lord went to rescue His servant from these women. When He got to the camp, Kali-Krsna das did not want to leave. So Lord Caitanya grabbed His servant by the hair and forcibly dragged him from maya. Even though we may forget Krishna, He never forgets us.
After preaching and watching videos, I found out that they knew of ISKCON and they have been to our temples. They then asked me if I could come to their tent twice a week and have bhajans and give a lecture on Bhagavad-Gita.
The Lord as the Supersoul, Paramatma, knows what is in our
hearts. Here in Iraq, He gave me another chance to serve Him. The great
feeling you get while taking about Krishna is priceless. I don't know
what tomorrow may bring, but I am happy that Krishna is engaging me in