by HG Bharadvaj 

There was a shining Hare Krishna

Tattooed in black ink on his chest


Kiev 1982, I was sitting at a mental asylum. It seemed to be Pavlov’s hospital. It was then that I had to pass another exam on my illegal way of preaching in the USSR.

It was only the second arrest in Kiev within three years of my administrative secret responsibility for Prabhupada’s mission of ISKCON in Ukraine. I got off light from the first arrest last year after the lecture on “Secrets of the Eastern culture”, which was delivered by Chandrashekhara at the Lenin’s lecture hall at the foreign language department of Pedagogical Institute. Though the statement of discharge was no trifling matter: a man 6’8” tall wearing civilian clothes asked to “stop all this” otherwise our next conversation would be different and without discharge. And they kept their word, these people. At that time we had to fulfill basic functions of our secret council of GBC in the USSR – “To found the temple in Moscow and ISKCON  mission in Russia”. (GBC is the Governing Body Commission of ISKCON mission).

This blessing of Acharya-founder of ISKCON and an Indian saint Prabhupada concerns all the formal legal members of GBC – the supreme council of his mission in the west. But actually the lion’s share of this risky and deadly dangerous responsibility in Russia was taken on not by His elder disciples in the west but by the followers of His first ashram founded in Moscow in 1971.

Ananda Tirtha Svami Maharaja - the leader of our illegal GBC, the first Russian svami and the first disciple of Prabhupada to fulfill the historic blessing and order in Russia – he was already familiar with the pleasures of places of exile as a reward from the USSR leaders for the selfless labor in mission.

Though I knew that I would take hazards and I wasn’t scared of meeting men in “gray suits”, I couldn’t imagine that my service would be associated with repeating mortality risk and leaving my body while being in the claws of men in “white coats”.

The God’s scenario wasn’t opened to me in full. Even without much experience of communicating with God, trying to return His Divine status on the Earth within these two years I was deeply amazed by God’s superhuman results. That’s why my faith in God’s Divineness and Prabhupada, my Teacher, became unconditional. I trusted that they would defend me in any case and the triumph in my service to them is secured. Because the knowledge translated by Prabhupada from ancient Sanskrit was at least five thousand years old and literally all its parts were actual and appropriate in the XXth c. whether about love, family, life and death, war and peace, moral, honor, soul, God, vegetarianism, yoga, reincarnation, cosmology or about anything else. And because Bhagavad-Gita – the spiritual moral of mankind was worshiped by such giants of human genius like Leo Tolstoy, Gandhi, Einstein, Oppenheimer and even Buddha, Jesus, Leonardo Da Vinci and Pythagoras, as well as millions of Indians are vegetarians following the main idea of Bhagavad-Gita – non-violence not only with respect to people but also to all living creatures.

That’s why I was unshakeable in my service knowing the success of this ancient order of peace, I firmly believed that only time divides me from my success. Though I couldn’t see the future in details from the very first moment of acquaintance with Prabhupada’s words I was praying just to be the instrument of the dust from his lotus feet. And regardless of the atheistic insane world of 280 millions of people around me Prabhupada reciprocated my feelings even appearing in person and blessing my efforts sometimes.

For four more times I would appear in such kind mental asylum as in Kiev, let alone imprisonments in different corners of the multinational USSR while promoting the mission. Though the term of confinement at an asylum for those chalked up by the KGB was perpetual, obviously it was the God’s shadow that saved me.

My arrest in Kiev after my routine lecture on the religion prohibited in the USSR wasn’t a reason for a confinement in a mental house. It was the original heroism of the prisoners from high-security cell N33, where I had to fulfill my service, awaiting trial for preaching in the USSR. The authorities of Kiev capital jail were mad with me after they detected the tattoos on the prisoners’ bodies, though it was only Hare Krishna.

Though this “madness” I suppose had its source in quite another organization from the people in civilian clothes. A man in civilian to whom I was called to discuss the results of my modest lectures to the convicts noticed indignantly: “You have already been punished for disseminating the prohibited religion of Hare Krishna – you are in prison, but still you don’t adequately estimate your unlawful actions. You don’t repent or reform, but you are misleading the convicts and making them commit new crimes. It’s beyond any common sense. You are simply not in your right mind and even dangerous to keep in prison, you must be medically treated. By the way how do you feel? We recommend you to get some treatment”.

The man in civilian clothes didn’t give his name, but he complained that the state keeps the prison cells and feeds the convicts and watches over them free of charge – it’s all not for me to deliver illegal lectures and convert them to Hare Krishna religion, let alone tattooing their bodies with His names…

Soon after that conversation I was conveyed in the patrol wagon from the republic prison to the Pavlov’s republic mental asylum for a permanent medical treatment. But this cup passed from those with Hare Krishna on their chests.

My brother Amala Bhakta has met one of those “saved” souls when he served his sentence in a camp in Kherson and was told the story of Hare Krishna from cell N33 of capital prison.


And again after moving to asylum I waited for long months of even more mysterious uncertainty. But now due to my “psycho” condition I was easily allowed to talk about Krishna to anyone without any limits. I enjoyed this right then. Moreover prasada – the blessed food – was regular as the cuisine was rich in vegetarian dishes and before the 40 liter pots were brought inside the department corridor I could offer the dinners of the entire department to God.

In the evenings and on Sundays when there were less bosses in the hospital I could freely deliver lectures which were prohibited outside, with loud glorifying Hare Krishna. At the territory of this institution it was no longer regarded a state crime as the inhabitants here had the state status of immunity. The law declared that the level of consciousness of the residents was free from legal liability.

But the record of my loudness was beaten and when! in broad daylight in front of innocently smiling heads of the department. The general rejoicing involved the entire department: a hundred of men rushed into the corridor from all the rooms happily yelling something unintelligible, and hurrah of course, for an hour I guess. At last when the noise quietened down a bit and I could make out at least anything I found out the reason of joy. And then I laughed myself and couldn’t help wondering at collective solidarity and understanding among the people in such a mourning hour, the people regarded as abnormal in the Soviet society.

That day it was announced on the radio about the death of Brezhnev, the Head of Government and the Communist Party of the USSR.


It was early spring then in Kiev. I came to Kiev from Kurdjinovo in the foothills of the Northern Caucasus where the spring was already in the height. I was invited there by my friends Rama Bhakta from Riga and Amala Bhakta from Kiev to help them organize a new centre of the mission in the Caucasus.

Then that great free time of Caucasus spring as well as the fragrance of living nature so close to me was only in my memory. And the slight echo of rustling yellow leaves over the 4 meter fence around our department reminded me of my past. They also reminded that it was already half a year that divided me from that spring.

The rustle which attracted my hearing and my mind passed through the bars and glass window, by the sentry dressed in black walking back and forth with the short Kalashnikov.

Especially in the sunset the yellow leaves over the fence of my asylum would flash in low-level sunbeams into a bunch of little suns and scorched me like a bonfire during the halt, making me forget the present and recall about the “extraordinary being of matter” which existed before me is existing now and will keep on existing eternally after me. This rustle like a good genius draw the pictures of my past and of close freedom for me.

The blooming and sweet-smelling Caucasus spring with its unique Equator aromas was in the past. And the cells enveloped in tobacco smoke especially stinky in the hot weather as well as the hospital wards with their medicine smell and screams of the patients sharply contrasted and resisted to the natural sounds and smell of the nature itself forcing its way to our ward over the fence edge. The rustle of leaves seemed to remind of the close help just waiting in the wings.

I was arrested in Kiev in the flat of Amala Bhakti mentioned above, it was the second pulpiteering center founded a few years before my first lectures. In the middle of a lecture the doorbell rang and through the peephole we saw the red service cap of a police officer. We decided to sit quietly and wait for the dangerous guest to leave.

But the guests in red were really hot and dropped in through the balcony door having knocked it out with a deafening sound. The first one to rush into an only room was a man dressed in civilian clothes obviously a security officer of Cheka. He shouted in a firm voice of a regular movie gangster: “Don’t move!” I’m not sure now if he had a revolver.

However trite that Hollywood scene might seem it was new for a typical Soviet citizen. And only that real “appearance of the Chekist to the public” put all the ten students in the state of shock. Not only were the hands trembling.


But still there was a positive side of this memorable story, the story which for someone ended with shock and giving their addresses, and for me – with a search and arrest. First of all, it was good because all the participants were eager to know about Krishna some to widen their horizons, others – to find His servants. And one soul thanked me after decades for that old lecture and told me that before that she her attitude to Prabhupada mission and to God hadn’t been really serious and she had chanted the mantra "Hare Krishna" only three times a day on her rosary. But after that “great supper” Atapa Rupa d.d. had a revelation that God is not a cheap thing, and she started to chant the mantra "Hare Krishna" 108 times 16 times a day as an initiated disciple is supposed to.


The First Rescue of a Brother in Prison

That my arrest was a symbolic one in the row of a dozen before and some ten after that. It was like the Passions of Christ as it happened at Eastertide on the 17th of April 1982. But in the middle of this ordeal and temptation there were not only Krishna’s children but also the children of Jesus Christ.

So the main story from that blessed time is about a young man who got to the Pavlov’s asylum for the medical examination. The boy was a late teen, Christian Baptist and he was scared at the thought of going to prison. He wanted to marry a young Baptist from America and move to his wife but the KGB charged him of selling illegal literature and arrested him as a criminal. At that time even connections with the West, God forbid the voluntary ones, were severely punished by the secret services, let alone leaving the country.

We became friends in the course of our long talks about ways to God and he accepted me as his elder brother. Once he ran into my ward looking like death and asked me to save him. It turned out that the medical examination found him normal and he was asked to pack his things to go to prison of which he was so scared. I told him that I had only one lock code I saved myself with. And there is nothing like glorifying the name of God to save oneself in this world. But this lock code doesn’t suit you; you are embarrassed to follow this way and to sing Hare Krishna mantra or other names of God. I can’t help you in any other way.

He was young, naïve and in despair, he was almost in tears. But I saw the hand of the Highest Will which sent to me a soul begging for help, and I tried to serve It and help Christian Zhenya as soon as I was under Its protection.

Then I took a “sin upon my soul”, thanks God there were no bhaktas of my mission beside. I started to preach the Will of Christian mission of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the mission which Zhen’ka piously admitted but didn’t know quite well. Why not start with the main principles of your religion – the Ten Commandments are your panacea, as long as you keep to them you are protected and so on and so forth… In a few minutes of my talk the boy became a different person. He was either ashamed to have forgotten everything or it was the will of Jesus and the One God who acted through me… But the boy changed before my eyes, returned to life and smiled. He pattered something like “oh, I understand” and this very moment, as if especially waiting for the revelation, a medical assistant came in to tell that the patrol wagon was already waiting for him.

In two years in 1984 in Dnipropetrovsk I received a letter from my Baptist Zhen’ka. God has been merciful to me, I was already “free”, though I was under house arrest and had to be observed by a psychiatrist and of course I was on the register in KGB in Krasnaya Street.

In the letter Zhenya told me that he was also free. He described the whole story which went off smoothly and that was it. And only a short phrase in the postscript “Brother, save me once again. Please come”. And the address.


A Cry from Kiev or The Second Rescue of the Brother on the Freeside

I couldn’t ignore the call of a soul.

I had to start off for Kiev to face the uncertainty and to pass the exam in compassion and faith in the triumph of the God’s Will. And it passed all understanding, the things that were waiting for us connected by love to the One God…

The intrigue and the plot was so sophisticated that the Hollywood paled before it. The second rescue of that Baptist boy was simply inevitable as it was the outcome of the first one.

Zhenya met me in one of churches where there were around 300 people and told his story to me:

“When I wrote letters from the prison to my brothers in our parish I told them about my elder brother who rescued me from spiritual death. Those confessions didn’t confuse anyone. The parishioners answered that it was not surprising as the whole community of Irpen and Kiev were praying a special prayers to Christ for Him to send me the “elder brother” to help and protect.

“While I was in prison everybody was glad that God heard their prayer and sent me the one they asked for – the elder brother. And I was writing to them all about you, that it was your advice and example that saved me. And I was released from prison only after half of the term for good behavior. But when I was home and told them everything about you, they lost their tongues when got to know that you were Krishna worshipper, not a Baptist. When they recovered from shock they told me that it was impossible. He had to be a Baptist, as for a year we’ve been praying to nobody else but Christ.”

So the will of God has drawn me in such a game with Christian Zhenya. Then not only the community’s faith and prayer was upon the die. It was the qualification of God Himself which was questioned. As according to Baptist claims not only was God inattentive to their prayers, but also sent them the “WRONG BROTHER”. For me acquainted with Prabhupada’s books and the truth stated in them it was just another example of a situation when the multitude of people can be in such ignorance and consciously in error. Let alone the parishioners from Irpen and Kiev, the entire 300 millions from the USSR with its great amount of scientific centers and universities of atheism – all of them were mistaken in their hypothesis that there was no God.

And once again the will of God lead me to the chosen souls and I tried to deprive the Russian nation, now the religious one, from outright ignorance. Once again I had to go to the ancient capital of Kievan Rus’ and to stand before the Baptist trial to defend their boy: not in prison but on the freeside, and this time from the idle mind of his own brothers. We were received by children from the oldest Baptist family in Ukraine; their father was 70-year-old former chairperson of the USSR Baptist community. But it’s a different story, one of a dozen which happened with me in Ukraine during my victorious service while propagating the mission of my spiritual teacher Prabhupada.

Now there was a day, now there was a meeting. The long discussion was a great success, we sang kirtan to praise God, allotted prasada and parted with tears. And there was another “wrong brother” there with me to witness and to help me, a brother from Dnipropetrovsk the future Bhagavatacharya das. And somewhere near also in Kiev a family received from army, not from prison, my another younger brother, also the “wrong one”, Artyom future Achyuta P. Prabhu who saved himself with the help of the Holy Name, disseminated in his heart in distant 1981.

Though for a young presbyter from Irpen the lesson of God about the “WRONG BROTHER” left unlearned. The Grace of God was rejected by him. For months to come he would write to me trying to convince me to admit that I was Satan, as he had unmasked me. He demanded that I stopped spoiling the innocent soul of his brother Zhenya. The presbyter didn’t know and couldn’t notice that he copied my atheistic doctors from asylum who convinced me of almost the same things but in other words, that my poisonous teaching of Shri Krishna about the One God for the entire Universe destroyed the scientific atheistic life of not one, but many Soviet citizens.

The only thing left is to thank the Highest God for using all of us in his plans and for answering the prayer of His Kiev children. God led me and made me help both his believers and disbelievers. All I had to do is to repeat the real knowledge given by God, on the contrary to the one invented by people.

Such was my way to follow the wish of my beloved spiritual teacher Prabhupada – to disseminate his mission in every town and village of the USSR. The chosen and innocent souls were given salvation by His Word as is shown in the story of Baptist Zhenya from Irpen and my other brothers and sisters.