I recently heard the story of one lady from Ukraine, Kirtidamataji who struggled to practise and preach Krishna Consciousness while her husband was tormented by the KGB under the former USSR regime. He was imprisoned and persecuted by the former communist government, while she determinedly raised her three tiny children, and also fearlessly preached the message of Bhagavad Gita.
She and many devotees from her generation in the early 1980’s undertook great risks to spread the Hare Krishna movement. Many devotees, convicted by the KGB,were confined to cruel punishment in the Siberian gaols. The devotees would be released if they shared the secrets of their underground preaching, but since they refused to comply, they were subjected to ghastly suffering; and many even lost their lives. The untoldmental anguish of these sincere devotees behind the Iron curtain reveals their own glory; their tolerance and dedication to the cause of Krishna Consciousness is most inspiring. The devotees braved this storm of crisis and eventually managed to see through the fall of the communist regime, and the freedom for the Hare Krishna movement.
During the communist period, the devotees would be considered fortunate if they simply weren’t killed by the KGB. But instead of only thinking how to stay alive, they also managed to practise their spiritual practises strongly. And then to top it, they even preached fearlessly the message of Bhagavad Gita as presented by Srila Prabhupada.
The one reason for their unprecedented perseverance and eventual success is their hunger for Krishna Consciousness. They were desperate, and hence the one copy of Bhagavad Gita they received, they managed to laboriously make thousands of hand written copies. Then they distributed them under the hostile Russian weather of minus 40 degree Celsius, with an even more unfriendly government hounding them.
You can appreciate food only when you are hungry. Similarly only when we have an appetite for Krishna Consciousness, we can actually appreciate the process that Srila Prabhupada has given us. If we are finding the process boring or dry that simply means we aren’t hungry. The devotees in former USSR were spiritually famished; therefore they grabbed on the gift of Krishna Consciousness and displayed super human ability in facing the opposition to their practise.
Besides being hungry for Krishna Consciousness, they were immensely grateful. Therefore they could share the gift of Krishna Consciousness with one and all.
After some years when things in spiritual life become easy and predictable, we take things for granted. We are no longer as desperate as we were once upon a time. At such times we need to hear about these great souls who were really hungry for Krishna Consciousness, and deeply grateful to Srila Prabhupada. And then we need to pray to them for their mercy. Then by their grace we too can become eager to receive the most precious gift of Krishna Consciousness.
When Ronald Regan visited USSR, Kirtidamataji managed to seek the audience of his wife, Nancy Regan and convinced her of the plight of her husband and other devotees in the prisons of USSR. Nancy spoke to the wife of Mr Gorbachev, the President of USSR. And she in turn spoke to her husband. Meanwhile the efforts of Nancy Regan on human rights were well known and soon some of the devotees were released from the prison. Then the world over, outside the Russian embassy there were demonstrations by thousands demanding the release of Hare Krishna devotees from the various Russian prisons. The rest is history.
Although Krishna Consciousness is the only hope to bring sanity in this bizarre world, yet the determination to practise and preach this message may be lacking. At such times, we need to remember the lessons from the Russian episode; develop hunger for Krishna Consciousness by hearing about the sacrifices of these devotees, cultivate gratitude to Srila Prabhupada,pray for mercy, and persevere with determination.
The author is a celibate teacher at ISKCON ashram at Chowpatty, Mumbai