Mission of a Solitary Monk in Soviet Ukraine
by HG Bharadvaj
“If there is no possibility for you to serve personally to your spiritual teacher devotee must serve to him through following his instructions. There is no difference between spiritual teacher and his instructions. That’s why in his absence teachers’ words must be the object of pride for the disciple”
(Sri Chaitannya-Charitamrita, Adi-Lila, 1.35 comments).
Ukraine is the second biggest republic of the USSR with the population of 50m people where in 1979 by grace of the Highest Will there descended Prabhupada’s mission after His visit to Moscow in 1971.
Ukraine like all 15 multinational many-millioned republics of the USSR often changes historical and national policy and had its own history. Though, this didn’t become an obstacle for the Ukrainians to adopt the initial knowledge of Vedas when I had to bring it to them. I had to bring this knowledge down from Prabhupada illegally.
The Ukrainians like all other USSR nations couldn’t accept at once the lesson given at the end of the XX c. by His Divine Grace Prabhupada, the representative of God. This dimmed vision is not new. It is chronically repeated not only in Russia, it was in times of Jesus and Mohammed.
At the beginning of the XX c. the boom of outright terror from the side of small communist-Marxist party was accepted by the majority in grand Christian Russian Empire as panacea. Just like a thousand years ago the majority of subjects of the Empire and their leaders turned out to be unwise and indifferent to the violence of the minority and thus the aggressive minority dramatically changed the culture and spiritual course of the country having turned it into the atheistic USSR.
Trampling their fathers’ culture in 1917 by the children of the Russian Empire was similar to the violent destruction of vernacular non-Christian culture of the initial predecessors in Russia by their unscrupulous descendents thousand years ago under the lead of Prince Vladimir.
Only by the end of the XX c. after 70 years the nature of the communistic tumor became obvious and in 1991 the nation made an attempt to return to its true roots. At present wide communications and computer literacy all over the world let see the history of Russia’s scrupulousness. There can be only one reason – the punishment from HEAVENS for the sins of previous generations which couldn’t be avoided by the guilty souls. Even the Bible says: “eye for eye”.
Though, the following history of Russia at the end of the XX c. turned to positive when it was visited by the saint monk Prabhupada. Although it was again offered to change the established customs and laws it was the path of voluntary acceptance of God, not the terror of one faith against another.
Prabhupada offered to restore the ancient spiritual pre-Christian true roots of Russia and of the whole world where the word was the main, and this was the name, and this name was Krishna, one of sacred names of the Supreme Personality of God.
When I left Riga for Ukraine in search of civilization and the Promised Land I was destined to become the monk of the society of Krishna consciousness in 1979. Before that I got acquainted with many religious and esoteric currents which could be found only abroad in Europe. I guess it was this that Baltic republics differed from others where the Soviet Union acted sternly, as they came to power only 25 years before that. After acquaintance with the rest of spiritual cultures in Riga I came to a conclusion that God existed and I changed the direction of my life. After such discovery my imagination was subdued by the only will:
to re-establish historical, international and spiritual justice to the position of God on this planet
Seeking the ways to restore the real position of God from its previous position which was lower than popular stars of the stage, movies and politics, I was conquered by flawless logics and refined non-dogmatic moral principles of the old order of the world presented by Prabhupada. From then on I had an inexhaustible desire to serve to such society. My faith to God and to Prabhupada, the head of the mission, grew with every new page of His books. I tried to serve the mission better to bring maximum good.
In summer of that year having known about the main office in Moscow I asked to go there to work despite its being illegal.
In December I was called to Ukraine to take care of some documents.
The chance to propagate especially in my native cities of Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkov couldn’t be wasted by the monk who had become the secretary of the head of the Russian mission.
These seemingly accidental circumstances were the beginning of expansion of the mission to Ukraine and of the lecture tour of the mission’s representative.
The beginning was rather modest. Japa dasa, the graduate of chemical department of Moscow State University with honours degree, the servant of Moscow office and my good friend from the times of service in Riga, he had become my assistant. We went to Kursk railway station and took the first train to Ukraine. We literally got on the train and took the seats as the assets of our mission were minimal or more exactly there were no assets at all. Monks lived on what was at hand. We didn’t have to take seats according the tickets but I hoped to arrange it with the conductor. Having taken the first coach we took the seats and discussing in a low voice our spiritual realizations about Krishna consciousness to our surprise we were addressed by a man sitting next to us. During the talk we confessed that we were monks and we had no money to pay for the trip and we wanted to arrange it somehow with the conductor.
The time passed and the discussed issues become deeper and deeper and fortunately in the middle of the atheistic country our interlocutor turned out to be a true Christian. From time to time our new friend left for some business and I kept watching the conductor’s accommodation waiting for him to come up and to decide our future. When the darkness fell and passengers began to make their beds I understood that miracle happened – the conductor took no notice of us. I shared my guess with the company, and our Christian friend who turned out to be a priest, father Sergiy from Karocha town, Belgorod, in a conspirator’s tone whispered: “Sorry guys, I paid for you, as you told you don’t have any money.”
Such was the will of Providence that the way of Prabhupada’s mission to Ukraine was financed by the servant of Christ. We often met later visiting father Sergiy at sermons in the temple where he proclaimed the words unusual for the ears of Christians: “You are not this body”, on hearing this the parishioners would all cross themselves at once and start whispering. In a year I found father Sergiy without cassock and beard but with the sack of beads on his neck in our ashram in Tallinn; having left his parish he became a Krishnaite monk.
That was the result of the very beginning of our attempt to start our service in Ukraine. Even still being on our way to Ukraine we understood that the Providence was beside and It led us convincing us with circumstances that we were on the right way. This confirms the Holy Scriptures when we make one step to God He makes them dozens.
The main thing we had to share was only one word. This word was the name, the name of God – Krishna – in his maha-mantra, the great song of liberation:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
In several years in 1983 the number of centres and those who accepted this gift in Ukraine grew as they trusted me that I brought them panacea. These were the objective reasons to start the new initiative – to organize the translation and illegal publishing of Prabhupada’s books.
The society of Krishna consciousness has deep roots in times long before Kievan Russia as it is the branch of the oldest Divine mission or order “Brahma-Madhva-Gaudia-sampradaya” which dates back to the creation of this world.
That’s why it is not surprising that the atheistic USSR in spite of their military power couldn’t prevent the mission of solitary Indian monk from expanding into the country. Its time had come.
As once the Christian terror destroyed the culture and faith of the old Russia – Aryan Russia – later communistic terror destroyed the culture and faith of Christianity.
Just like that, in the epoch called in Sanskrit by the name of the Most High “Kala” the mission of Prabhupada held its more peaceful mission in Ukraine.
According to the plan of the Providence Kievan Russia in 1979 heard again the call of their forefathers in Dnipropetrovsk which is not far from Zaporozhskaya Sech.
We must take into account 1982, the 11th year of regular propagation of Prabhupada’s mission by his disciple in the USSR Ananta Shanti. It was the year of intermediate results. By that time his mission numbered about 500 followers. Then the mission had already come to Ukraine, Baltic countries and some cities of Siberia and Far East, to Tashkent and to the capitals of Armenia and Georgia. As I have already mentioned when I was the secretary of the first Prabhupada’s ashram, future Bharadvaja das, I had the honour to start the propagation in Ukraine.
It seemed to me that I started propagation in Ukraine of my own free will in fall of 1979. Though it was the will of Providence that was the reason of success of my lectures held in scientists’ clubs, in different halls, research institutes, during close meetings of local philosophers, health groups and in private residences, and by the High Will there appeared the first followers in Dnipropetrovsk. Soon the service was blessed by my elder brother, the head of Prabhupada’s mission in the USSR Ananta Shanti.
In fall of 1980 in Prabhupada’s mission’s headquarters – in Ananta Shanti’s house in Moscow the telephone rang, a woman named Nina Vasilievna who practiced yoga and esoterism asked to deliver lectures in health group in Kiev and offered to stay in her flat. We understood that the expansion of Prabhupada’s mission was in progress in Ukraine.
In half a year when we discussed the success of Ananta Shanti’s lectures we saw that it wasn’t as good as in Dnipropetrovsk where there were already several groups with their own leaders. Then in order not to lose the initiative I asked to continue the mission in Kiev myself and at once got the permission.
At the beginning of 1981 it became clear that our first Kiev leader couldn’t be our representative and I had to take the initiative.
The second wave of propagation of Krishna consciousness in Ukraine’s capital was timely and new followers were deeper in the mission than earlier. There was the family of mathematician with his wife architect, future Amala Bhakta and Kirtida, and Chandrashekhara prabhu, the downtown residents. Though, my successful propagation was interrupted by arrest in spring of 1982 at Amala Bhakta’s place during the program. By that time there were three apartments where namahattas, the followers of the ancient mission, could meet.
During that my arrest in Ukraine I had no one to help me. Even our most active and numerous bhaktas in Moscow lost guidelines and activity after their leader’s arrest when Ananta Shanti was placed to an asylum.
There was no question of help from our Western brothers taking into consideration the clouds of KGB gathering over the mission. There was left only God to rely upon and He remembered me. Through Kiev bhaktas, Chandrashekhara and my mom He would send me news and parcels with prasada.
In 1984 after numerous arrests and asylums in my 5th year of service I had to leave Ukraine for Baltic Republics escaping prosecution from KGB. Up to 1988, when our mission was registered, I had to travel to Ukraine illegally (it is described in details in the book “Unbending”).
By the sixth year of my propagation in Ukraine in 1985 there grew up a soul who replaced me with God’s bless in Kiev. From then on our mission was headed by Artiom, future Achiuta Pria prabhu, who started attending my lectures in 1981 before he was enrolled into army.
At the same time I had to think of another republic – Moldova and start propagation from Chisinau where I distributed books from the apartment of Alexander sent by God.
Though it was one big country we lived in it turned out later that the spheres of KGB influence and carrying our laws in different republics were different. That’s why they didn’t arrest me in Baltic republics when Ukrainian KGB was searching for me high and low and the reward for my head was regular promotion.
I couldn’t give up my duty though, every year from 1984 to 1988 I would illegally visit my brothers in different Ukrainian cities encouraging them to continue their service.
However in 1985 I was once caught in Vinnica but thank God my bag was already empty by that time. As it is said in Bhagavad-Gita, God protects His followers. Thus I was released in 21 one days of my hunger strike, my risk was justified. In my dream Prabhupada came to me and talked to me in Russian, we talked all night and at the end he told me: “All will be all right”. The next morning I was released under written undertaking to appear before the court in a month. I was the only one in the whole Vinnica prosecutor’s office to see whose was the hand which let me out. After such God’s sign it became clear to a bhakta what to do and if it was necessary to stand before anybody else’s justice except God’s…