I Wish Everyone Could Experience It

by Bhaktin Rita

Recently, the devotees organized a large kirtan in a public park in Pittsburgh. Almost right at the beginning of the festival, I saw a young lady, Elizabeth, standing in one corner of the tent. She was listening and watching, and seemed to be enjoying the festival. She was very pretty, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, and was carrying a business portfolio and backpack. From her appearance, she looked like a passer-by, and not like a devotee. So, I approached her and began speaking to her. As soon as I began speaking with her, however, I thought I had made a mistake. She seemed to belong there. I thought that she must be a second-generation devotee, so I apologized immediately. I said, “Sorry, I didn’t realize you are with this group.”

Elizabeth told me, “No, I’m not with this group. I was walking through the park and saw this happening.”

I asked Elizabeth whether she would like to join the ladies who were dancing in a circle on the other side of the tent. I expected her to say no, and for the interaction to end but she surprised me by saying OK. She put down her portfolio and backpack, and we joined the circle and started dancing.

A few minutes later, I saw two young ladies standing just inside the tent, and I invited them to join us. They immediately put their bags down and joined the circle. And a few minutes after that, I saw another young lady standing close by, and she joined us as well. For the next twenty or thirty minutes, I was simultaneously dancing in the circle, scanning the crowd for more ladies who might be interested in joining the circle, and scanning the ladies who had already joined us. I kept looking at Elizabeth. She never stopped dancing, and she never looked tired.

During the dancing, one of the ladies I had invited left the festival. She gave me a hug and thanked me for drawing her in. I asked whether she wanted to be put in touch with the group who organized the festival. She said yes, and wrote down her contact information. As she handed me the slip of paper, she said, “I used to chant ‘Hare Krishna.’” I told her, “Welcome back.” She hugged me again. I was very happy for her.

After the dancing ended, Radhanath Maharaja prepared to speak. All of my guests left except Elizabeth. She did not talk to anyone or look around to see what anyone was doing – she simply stood there. To me, it looked like she was unaware of what was happening around her.
I approached her cautiously and asked whether she would like to sit in a chair and listen to the lecture. She said yes, and again followed me.

After the class, Radhanath Maharaja invited everyone to dance and chant with him. He taught everyone the proper way to dance in kirtan. First, he demonstrated the “swami step.” Next, he explained that when the leader is chanting, everyone should stand with their hands folded, in a prayerful mood. Finally, when the group chants together, everyone should raise their hands in the air.

When the kirtan started, I could see that Elizabeth was following what I was doing. When I raised my arms up, she raised her arms. And when I lowered my arms, she lowered hers. But very soon after, she closed her eyes and moved her arms by following the kirtan. And she chanted the entire time.

Prabhupada explains in Nectar of Devotion that “it is found that a person actually attached to material enjoyment or salvation has the good fortune to associate with pure devotees while they are engaged in chanting the holy name of the Lord. By the good grace of the Lord one may also cooperate and join in the chanting. At that time, simply by the association of such pure devotees, the moonlike rays from their hearts reflect on him, and by the influence of the pure devotees he may show some likeness of attachment caused by inquisitiveness, but this is very flickering. And if by the manifestation of such shadow attachment one feels the disappearance of all material pangs, then it is called parä attachment.”

After kirtan ended, I asked Elizabeth whether she wanted to meet Radhanath Maharaja. She said yes, so I immediately took her behind the stage. I knew if I waited, Maharaja would be swamped by devotees, and Elizabeth would miss her opportunity.

I introduced Elizabeth to Maharaja and said, “Elizabeth had a wonderful time here.” Maharaja said a few words to her.

Then Elizabeth said, “I had a wonderful time. I’ve never heard of this before. I wish everyone could have been here. Thank you.”

Maharaja said a few more words, and Elizabeth thanked him again, “This was really wonderful. Thank you for organizing this.”

Maharaja looked at me to see whether I wanted to say anything. I turned to leave, but Elizabeth stood in her place. After a few seconds, she said again, “Thank you for doing this. I wish everyone could experience it.”

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