Dear Devotees, please accept my obeisances. Glories to Srila Prabhupada, Hare Krishna, Happy Kartika. Here is my report on my preaching activities in Iraq. I have set up book stands in 4 different locations on the base and every 3 days they are dry.... all gone. At the moment we are approaching 700 books out. So nectar!!!
We also have 12 bhaktas [devotees] that are reading and chanting regularly. Our programs are spreading. Now I host a mantra meditation class once a week, and also Mondays and Fridays I have a small program of bhajans [devotional songs] and prasadam [vegetarian food, offered to Krishna]. We are also distributing cookies on 3 different base camps thanks to Rathna Bushana Prabhu with an average of 1000 cookies out a week. Recently I reached out to the Indians that work here and am having a weekly program with them as well. I am giving a presentation on the Lord's lifting of Gorvadhana Hill on Sat, 10 Nov to about 200-300 Indian-body contract workers.
My diet is ok.. mostly I am eating raw and dry fruits, dahl with only turmeric, cumin, and small amounts of salt, very simple food (maybe because I cannot get anything else). I also am following chaturmasya this year strictly, and for the Kartika I have increased the number of rounds I am chanting and my reading as my vrata. And have never missed a round of japa since arriving here. Bhakti Shastri is moving along and am now in the 6th chapter... so much nectar.
The Ratha Yatra was all set to go, but Krishna had another plan. So now the hard date is Jan, which is great, because all the Indians want to be involved.
But like in all areas of the material world.... there are bad times. One of my soldiers died in my arms. That hit hard, because he did service for my Lords. But I was told he said "Krishna" before he left, so that gives some solace. Also I have been hit with a lot of IEDs, took a round, lost some hearing and some more, and I am only 5 months in.
Also Krishna gave me the strength to lead my team through a mass casualty event, where after suicide attacks in the North, we had to treat over 60 men, women and children. The real material world. Nothing more sobering than having to put some little child's brain matter back in their head while still trying to focus on speaking Krishna Katha to the dying child. Some died, but l always carry Sri Ugraji [the form of Lord Krishna who appeared as Narasingha Deva] with me, and His smile was seen by them before they left their bodies. So powerful this movement, this process. Krishna is helping me here and showing me how special this life is.
Here is my report, submitted at your lotus feet. I pray that Krishna helps me out of this situation, and I can help others outside the military come to Srila Prabhupada's feet.
Your servant Partha-sarathi dasa
On two or three forums, I happened across comments from persons who criticized Partha-sarathi's reports from Iraq as bad for the image of the Hare Krishna movement–questioning the apparent paradox that is Partha-sarathi Prabhu's identity as a devotee and simultaneously a soldier on his fourth tour in Iraq. Much of the criticisms turned on the topic of nonviolence vs violence, voicing concern that the Hare Krishna movement is seen by the public as a movement of peace so what will the public make of a devotee on active duty in Iraq, offering cookies in one hand and toting a gun in the other.
Partha-sarathi Prabhu speaks for himself below, but I would like to add that it is our job to present Krishna consciousness as it is to everyone–individuals and the public at large, and that means dispelling myths and misconceptions as well. There is no peace in this world, and there will not be unless and until Krishna consciousness takes hold in the hearts of the people of all nations. Prabhupada did not bring Krishna consciousness out from India to start a "peace movement"; he spoke that even if there were no war, the planet would not have peace, and besides that, he pointed out that sometimes there is necessity for war. Bhagavad-gita was spoken on the battlefield, minutes before the onset of the world's most horrific war that ended in the deaths of 640 million in just 18 days.
That is not to say that the Iraq war is justified or has the blessings of Krishna. But a devotee reaches out to his fellow men wherever he finds himself, no matter what situation he might be in, and that is just what Partha-sarathi Prabhu is doing.
I would like to ask who else is doing anything good for the US soldiers in Baghdad or back in the US? We may be against the war, but so are many of the troops in Iraq right now. In any case, they do not have a choice; they get their orders and go. We have been reading about their plight on coming back - stories abound of neglect, mental afflictions, homelessness, suicides. So all glories to Partha-sarathi Prabhu, who is a lifeline for his men in many ways and a fearless sankirtan soldier of Srila Prabhupada.
Dear Devotees, Please accept my most fallen and unworthy obeisances, All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Hare Krsna, I am writing this letter to explain myself and my motives behind what I am doing in Iraq.
I am not here to be a hero, make waves in ISKCON and certainly not to make Srila Prabhupada [embarrassed] and place a negative preception of ISKCON. I joined the Army prior to becoming a devotee. While some talk harshly about my being there, and some praise me, the fact is that I am stuck here. I signed my name and gave my word to lead soldiers.
After reading Srila Prabhupada's books, I have understood that Srila Prabhupada wanted us to take advantage of any chance we have to preach this wonderful message. This brings me to Iraq (the fourth time), where after years of preaching in the Army, I am finally getting facility and means to cultivate and introduce jivas [souls] to Srila Prabhupada's books. To be able to have a Ratha Yatra on a US Army base, to be given a building to be used for educationg and advancing this culture. With all due respect to all the devotees, none of you are here, none of you have to have someone covered in blood and die in your arms and see that his only hope is to hear the Holy Name. I believe, if not mistaken, Srila Prabhupada wanted us to develop a quality called compassion. It is lonely here, and while most of you live in a community of devotees, I live not in a comfortable temple, but in a war zone. There is no life here; only death. Death of the material body and even more importantly death of the interest in spirtual life. But when they hear about KrishnaÉ.. their lives light up.
All of you are more advanced and senior than me. After all, I am just a dumb soldier, but I ask each of you, do these soldiers not deserve the right and opportunity to learn about Krishna? Do they not deserve a chance to end the cycle of birth and death? I am not a savior but Srila Prabhupada is, and if I have to go through all of this to bring one to Srila Prabhupada, then it is worth it. That is my desire. No, it is my DUTY to Srila Prabhupada and to my Spiritual Master. It is the duty of all that claim to be a Vaisnava. Where would we be if Srila Prabhupada never left India? We would be rotting in the material suffering.
Contrary to some, not all of us soldiers are the cause of the greatest horrors. A shame, such a broad and intelligent movement and such narrow-minded thinking. After all, with this logic should we label every Hare Krsna as a demon after the events of the late 1970's and 1980's? These men and women are thirsty for the nectar of Bhagavad-Gita. Who here has the right to take the cup of nectar away, that would relieve their thirst?
With all this said, I ask all the devotees to look past politics, to look past their personal opinions and for a chance be supportive of one another. After all, as Srila Prabhupada said "the dogs may bark, but the caravan will pass." Please forgive me for any offenses I have made. It is not my desire to upset anyone. I fall at each of your feet repeatedly and beg for your forgivness.
Your's in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
Comment posted by Partha-sarathi Dasa on September 23rd, 2007 at http://www.dandavats.com/?p=4334