In this part of the world people are so naturally eager to participate in spiritual events - no need for big advertisement.
We left Dhaka after Mangal Artik and embarked on a seven-hour journey by van to Perojpur, which included a trip by ferry across a big side arm of the Ganges. The van was packed with students and brahmacaris who were eager to join the adventure. On the way we took our breakfast and reached Perojpur in time for lunch.
For the evening the devotees had arranged a public program in an auditorium commemorating the 50th anniversary of ISKCON, with various political leaders and senior devotees taking part. Many educated Hindus of the city had assembled to become more familiar with our ISKCON society and hear about Srila Prabhupada's glories.
I was invited to give the main speech, sharing my journey of how I met the devotees in Australia, and glorifying Srila Prabhupada as having made the most outstanding contribution to humanity at large in this Kali Yuga. At the end I introduced some of Srila Prabhupada's books, urging everyone to purchase some. I had set up a little book table, and people eagerly came to take books, especially since I had announced I would sign them "with blessings". This is such a simple trick which always works in Bangladesh! People have such respect for Western preachers and eagerly buy a book, just to have an autograph with some good wishes! These are always my happiest moments - when I see so many books going into people's hands to sooner or later transform their lives....
On the second day of the Holy Name Retreat I gave the participants a little homework for their lunch break: I asked them to go and collect some leaves and flowers for Krsna. I requested them to make an effort and really endeavor to find something nice for the Lord. No need to invite the false ego to participate in this exercise, by trying to show off and bring something which nobody else will bring - a huge tree, or whatever! The false ego is always eager to use any chance to show off and in this way get some gratification.
Our audience took the exercise very seriously, and it was my greatest pleasure to see all these boys going out to pick flowers and leaves, in all sincerity - something they would normally never do....!
It is interesting to understand that only that kind of service will transform our heart and produce bhakti, which involves the heart and is done with conscious endeavor and great effort to please the Lord and His devotees. If our service is executed with a certain indifference, then it will not produce bhakti.
This is explained in the Garude Purana: "The word 'bhakti' is derived from the root verb form "baj". And the verbal root bhaj means to render service. Therefore thoughtful sadhakas should engage in the service to Sri Krsna with great endeavor, for it is only by such service that bhakti is born."
This little exercise of going for a walk and collecting leaves and flowers for Krsna made the difference very clear to us all, when we perform such simple service with great endeavor and attention, trying to please the Lord.
Our protectors were Muslims and armed with guns and pistols - very polite and respectful people. When I acknowledged their handcuffs and weapons they eagerly responded by mentioning the brand name and model with a certain pride. It seemed a great honor to them to follow us on every step, even attending the evening program and listening with great attention and interest, and taking prasadam. I exchanged some friendly words with them, thanking them for their dedicated service. One of them responded: "Yes, we want to show the world that we people in Bangladesh are not fanatics! We are doing our very best to protect everyone of any religious background, and also the Hindu temples in our country."
Our ISKCON temples have been receiving special protection, since it is an international organisation.
On the 21st of November we traveled back to Dhaka.....
Your servant, Devaki dd