On the Sunday that just went by, I had another chance to mingle with the wonderful disciples of His Holiness Indradyumna Swami Maharaj. Earlier in the morning, at prasadam time, Stoka prabhu asked me, if I wanted to join them in their trip to Torquay, a nice beachfront town, about 2 hours from Melbourne. At this place, they would be conducting a harinam on a popular beach followed by the last and final show of “La Carnaval Spirituel” in Australia for 2009, later in the evening. I jumped at the sudden opportunity! A perfect occasion to do some service, get some valuable association of devotees and of course try out the new camera.
In this post, I will focus on the beach harinam and in the next post, I will put some snaps and a short essay on the event as well. But for now, let’s go through the Sunday at the beach.
A few large and comfortable passenger vehicles had been sourced for the trip. Dominic prabhu, the main person looking after all the arrangements, ensured that the right mix of people were packed into the vans.
We left Melbourne under a cloudless sky and the mercy of a nice warm sun. What can I say about the ride? Nothing much. But, what about the passengers? Wild !!! And hilarious ! I had 16 rounds to go, but I spent most of the time laughing ! Torquay is 95 Km South West of Melbourne and we took the road via the Geelong-Surf Coast Highway. Torquay is also the commercial centre for surfing with the major source of employment related to surfing goods and merchandise. Hence, it is often labeled as Victoria’s surfing capital.
The beach at Torquay was fabulous. It had all the ingredients necessary to make a great day for the Australians – the long weekend, hot sun, good surf, beer at hand, plenty of people to gaze, sportive kids and lots of parking. We could see people thoroughly enjoying the crystal clear blue waters. In fact, I think, we saw more people in the water than on land ! Would they have ever guessed in their wildest dreams, who else would be checking the beach out on this day?
The Hare Krishna’s start their performance. A performance which is based on a genuine interest to get people introduced to spirituality, whenever and wherever. The first part of the harinam was led by Tribhuvaneshwar (in red) who also led the kirtans at all the “La Carnaval Spirituel” shows in Melbourne. He has a nice soft voice which immediately gets people’s attention. Next to him is Stoka prabhu, well protected from the harsh sun. He is one of the most soft spoken guys I have ever met and to see him on the beach, loudly singing with the others was a surprise for me.
The devotees in their eastern wear was the highlight and a complete surprise for the sun bathing locals. Here they were, on a hot hot day, completely clad from head to toe, walking such long distances on the beach, yet maintaining a beautiful smile all along. I guess this really put the people at ease somewhat and they quickly figured out that the new entertainment on the beach was well worth the watch.
3-4 devotees ensured that they didn’t forget their purpose on the beach – to invite one and all, to attend the event in the evening. These devotees ran the length and breadth of the beach with handouts they had made so lovingly the previous weeks. Each handout for them seemed like a currency note. Such was the value assigned to each one. Because we knew that every person who accepted it and also listened to a few words from the devotees, were very special. When these handouts were accepted by non-devotees, the feelings of achievement was high. I guess we felt that they accepted us and the Hare Krishnas. But then, there were a few people who refused to pick one. During such times, there was sadness in the heart of the young devotee and perhaps, a feeling that they let their guru maharaj down. I could see it in their faces. They can’t hide it. The sun was bright.
The devotees with their drums, hand cymbals, loud speakers on their shoulders, dhotis and sarees, traveled from one section of the beach to the other. Wherever there were people, we went. It was getting very hot. But the purpose of sharing the holy name and the cold wet sand was very satisfying. The devotees would wave out to the crowd and many of them would wave back. I could hear the beach-goers say, “They are the Hare Krishna’s”, to those who weren’t aware. Then, there were those who completely ignored us and wouldn’t even exchange glances. But we kept going. It’s not the quantity of people who paid attention that’s important but the the act of being out there, chanting the Holy name, giving people a chance to meet the devotees again and giving anyone an opportunity to hear Krishna’s name was of the highest priority.
Many people went up to the matajis and exclaimed how beautiful they looked in the colorful outfits. It’s something they had never seen or expected to see on a remote beach. In fact, against the grey sand, blue sky and almost naked people, our troupe looked the most attractive. Even from a distance, you couldn’t miss them. As I sat on the sand, I loved watching the well synchronized movement of the saree ends and how it flicked some sands up in the air.
There were always a few who appreciated what we were doing. Perhaps, they were happy to have been entertained. We would see people dance in the distance, there were others who listened attentively to what we had to say and some used the devotees as a photo opportunity. Perhaps, they couldn’t wait to tell their friends of the weird happening at the beach. I also spotted a few who hugged or embraced the devotees. I am not sure what conversation was going on but they seemed to be enjoying each others presence. One main reason why people liked them could be because of the friendly nature of the devotees. Also, whether they accepted or ignored, the devotees kept their tempo high and gave people the impression that they loved what they were doing out there. And I suppose in Australia, people love that attitude.
For me the highlight of the afternoon beach harinam was when Sri Prahlad Das took the lead to sing. I was so happy. Because, like I mentioned in my previous post on La Carnaval Spirituel at Fitzroy, I had spent a few years listening to his CD, “Harer Nama”. The music was in my CD player, in my iPod and also in my laptop. Whenever I got a chance, I would play it. Everyday at the altar, it was a standard practice to switch his music on and sing alongside. The kirtan that he led on the CD was so full of energy and enthusiasm. Even my earlier Japanese room mate who had no inclination towards spirituality whatsoever, once told me how he enjoyed listening to the music during my prayer time. So, in a way, it was a dream come true to be listening to him live ! I walked along side him, whenever I got a chance, thanking Krishna for the luck and opportunity. I love the above photo and perhaps..maybe, it could be on his next CD !!!! Now, that would be something !
Under the leadership of Sri Prahlad das, the rest of the crew picked up their energy even more. It was great to see how he brought out many variations of the Maha Mantra. And we could see many young men and women on the beach get up or stop their beach cricket to focus on the nice beats coming from the distance. And some even danced to the tunes !
A group of women on the beach, possibly from the UK, got really wild with their dancing on the beach with us ! It was a sight to watch and many people began to encourage them to keep dancing. They did some disco moves while others attempted, what looked like a belly dance. One young girl, even put her palms together in a prayer position, held it high over her head and moved her hips around wildly. People were loving it. I can’t remember what we felt then. They went with us for a short distance before requesting to have our photos taken with them.
A good majority of people, just sat there on the beach, with their eyes fixed on the procession. Many didn’t know what to do. Should they join? Perhaps clap like the others? Are they supposed to donate? What kind of show are these Indian attired westerners want us to attend? And why are they on the beach? So many questions must have been running through their mind. Some people looked very possessive about their beach. The way they would stare without any interest or continue reading their books without even looking up, gave me the impression that they didn’t like any such exhibition in front of them.
The young Australians are the solutions to this country. After all, for any country, the youth is the most valuable resource. Its important they learn very early on that life isn’t all about being laid back, hitting the surf, having a party with mates every now and working hard to fund all these pleasures. From a very young age, they need to be exposed to the wonderful world of diverse cultures, all of which has its basis in spirituality. They need to understand that spirituality and devotion to God can be just as fun as catching the next big wave and riding it to the best of their abilities.
This is a favourite photo of mine. Here, you can see all the devotees arranged in such a way that you can see them all. This is what the crowd would see from their seated position. In fact, I have 150 more photos of the beach session but I can’t post them all here. Just the one’s that will help me narrate the incidents and those that doesn’t look repetitive.
And finally, the person who was the backbone behind the beach harinam operation – His Holiness Indradyumna Swami Maharaj. Through out the entire 2.5 hours on the hot beach, he let his young team take charge. He was right behind them all along, playing on his blue mrindanga. He always kept an eye out on the crowd, measuring their interest level on the devotee performance. Whenever he felt that they had performed enough in front of a particular section of the crowd, he would inform the head of the troupe, to move to the next set of stationed people on the beach. I kept wondering throughout the entire session how the devotees were so tolerant of the people and extreme heat. Not a sip of water was taken throughout the tough ordeal. I suppose when the mission is enjoyed and the pleasure of guru is vital, all hardships easily pass.
It was a great learning opportunity for me in many ways. We can’t expect people to come knocking on our doors to take up spirituality. Since we have the answers, we must actively pursue them. Whether, it be hot or cold, outside or inside, streets or the beach, hungry or thirsty, as Hare Krishna’s we always have a job to do – to take the transcendental name of the Lord to one and all. Not a drop of time can be wasted. You never know whose life can be changed in an instant.