Suddenly a crowd gathered and began cheering wildly for me: "Run, Krishna, Run!"
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© 2004 - Hansadutta das
[Posted November 15, 2006]
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"Run, Krishna, Run!"

At the Front Line Sankirtan Story

Praghosa das (ACBSP)

Detroit Riverfront ParkIt was the summer of 1973.

My life had been upended by the will of Lord Krishna. Only six months earlier I was all set to attend my Freshman year of University at Wayne State in Detroit Michigan... but Lord Krishna stripped me of all ambition when He introduced me to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. After reading Srila Prabhupada's Perfection of Yoga, I demanded that my best friend since the age of 7, Randy Cieslak, turn over any other writings by Srila Prabhupada for my study. He gave me his copy of Sri Isopanisad, but he held back his Bhagavad Gita, saying:

"If you like this one, then wait till you read the Gita! But you are going to have to get your own copy cuz I am not lending this to you or anybody!"

Perfection of YogaI gladly took the Isopanisad, read it, and a few months later both he and I found ourselves in downtown Motor City Detroit chanting, dancing and distributing the Sri Isopanisad and Perfection of Yoga to whomever we could convince to stop, listen and give up a buck or two, whether they were genuinely interested, curious or just wanted to get us to stop "chewing on their ear"! We were intoxicated with our discovering Guru and Krishna—in our hometown, no less—and we were eager give as many "Wings" fans real "wings" to begin their blissful flight back to home, back to Godhead with His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada as the most able "Pilot" of his "ISKCON AIRLINES"!

So by the summer of 1973 I had been out every day for about 4 months, making sure that only the dead in Detroit could say they had not yet encountered the "Hare Krishnas" at least once! With a city and suburbs of 3 million plus, and feeling as fortunate as we did, we were pretty eager to introduce Srila Prabhupada's clear and beautiful explanation of the Absolute Truth to anyone and everyone.

This daily rountine set the stage for a wonderful experience that I wanted to share.

It was August that summer, and in the Downtown Riverfront area at that time the city would sponsor a different ethnic festival each week. One week it was Greek, the next Polish. Next week Arabic or Indian or German or African American, etc. The book distributors in the temple were accustomed to going downtown and taking a position on an adjacent public street that would put them in an excellent postion strategically to maximize the number of people that we could approach with Srila Prabhupada's books.

I was there—as I had been for a number of previous festivals—in my usual spot when along came an agitated man who directed his agitation to me personally.

"This is not gonna happen!" he snarled at me. "Take off, kid. This is our program and we have not given you permission to do this here! Now do yourself a favor and leave. Otherwise I will have to call the cops."

I was 20 years old at that time and full of vinegar, as they say, and not easily cowed. I looked at the man for a moment , all the important "humble stuff" in our philosophy flashing before my Inner Eyes like a comic silent film, and with that swimming inside my head, found myself saying "Sir... I am sorry but this is a public street, and I have a protected right to be here." (I thought I sounded pretty lawyer-like for a kid, but truth is I heard that line from our sankirtan leader, and it just popped out of me.)

He was unmoved with my "Perry Mason" impression. He grabbed my arm and tried to physically move me.

I went Mexican Jackass on him—far more realistic for me than Perry Mason—and would not be budged!

Frustrated, he said, "Look... I am going to get a cop, and my advice is to cross the street and work over there. I don't care what you do over there, but I am in charge of this event, and I don't want this here."

I looked across the street to where he was so willing to accomodate me. An old man walking his dog ... two pedestrians... and a crossing guard. I flashed forward to the day's "results". There was no way I was going over there!

"Sorry pal. That is not in the program. I am staying right here. Get over it, or get a cop. We can discuss it with him if you like, but on your say-so? No way. I'm not trying to be difficult, but what I am doing is at least as important as what you are doing, and I have as much right to be here as anyone! (Secretly of course I figured the only reason he was being allowed to do what he was doing was to facilitate what we were doing, but try telling him that!)

He turned, and I didn't have to be a fortune teller to know that our little go-round had only begun. I had to admire his vigor, but I was not gonna capitulate without due cause—which in my mind meant never! Even if it came to jail, I was not gonna surrender to this guy. I knew—at least in those days—that I was technically right and stood an excellent chance of prevailing.

Ten minutes later I had my doubts. The man returned with a policeman.

"Listen young fella," the officer said, "this man has explained everything to me, and he's being reasonable. I want you to find some other area to do this."

"Officer," I said, testing his determination, "being 'reasonable' means he is 'legally authorized' to demand I leave a public area. Is he?"

"Well," he said, not really able to look me straight in the eye, "I want you to take your books and go across the street or wherever and just help me keep this area free of any of this."

While I was standing there considering my options and the next thing I was going to say, he said, "I am going to leave now, and when I do, I am going to assume that when I come back around here you will be someplace else. Anywhere but here. Is that clear?"

"Sure, sure," I said, convinced that I was now probably going to find myself in a pickle sooner than later. He looked at me with a confident air, sure he had made his point and I had conceded.

Twenty minutes later he returned with the original man and two more cops!

What happened next I cannot really explain. I have to chalk it up to youthful bad judment capitalized upon by the Divine Will of Lord Chaitanya and the wondrous "net" He employs to effect contact with Lord Krishna by so many all at the same time. I am sure that sankirtan devotees all over the globe know exactly what I am talking of here.

I saw the policmen approaching and just took off running! There was a large grassy field adjacent to the street. I was determined to make all of them pay a price for their interference. They were going to have to catch me. I was not going to go quietly!

They took off running, and I was watching the whole scene play out as comedy in slow motion. Keep in mind that in those days we did sankirtan dressed in dhoti [robes] and tilak [the clay marking worn on the body, especially on the forehead, the sign that one is a devotee of Vishnu or Krishna]! So it was an amazing sight. I was fast and shifty, and they just could not catch me. I couldn't help it. I started laughing uncontrollably as I imagined how this all appeared as they were being forced to chase a saffron Hare Krishna kid around the field in full view of the public! The entire scene was slightly absurd and comical. Even one of the cops was laughing too. Suddenly a crowd gathered and began cheering wildly for me:

"Run, Krishna, Run! Run, Krishna, Run!!!"

In my mind I heard the second half of that mantra:

"Krishna Krishna, Run Run - Krishna Krishna, Run!"

A couple hundred people, and they were all loudly chanting and/or hearing the Holy Name of the Lord! Never mind why! It was amazing!

The cops of course finally caught up with me. I dropped suddenly to my knees. This sent one of Detroit's "Finest", as they like to call themselves, sailing over me in a tumble and needless to say did not put me on his list of favorite people.

They jumped on top of me, deftly put me in cuffs, and marched me off to their squad car. The fans' chanting died down but clearly they were "Rootin for the Krishna Kid" and no doubt for that single sentiment they all reaped heaps and heaps of favor with Lord Chaitanya Mahapabhu!

Arriving at the Police Precinct, the cops walked me inside - cuffs on my hands and a smile on my face.

"What do you have here?" asked the Desk Sarge looking very curious. All the cops in the station looked on, captivated by the saffron dhoti and my shaved head. All eyes were on us.

"He's one of the Hare Krishna kids. Caught 'em selling books down at the festival site."

"Really?" the Desk Sarge said sarcastically. "And?"

"And what?" the arresting officer asked, now looking a little embarrassed.

"Well, if he was on a public street you're wasting your time, my time and his time. In case you didn't know it, they are downtown every day on Woodward Ave in front of Hudsons doing the exact same thing, selling their books and incense. Was he on the public street or on the festival grounds?"

"Ah... well... he was really close to the festival site. The guy running the thing was really putting up a fuss and asked us to move him."

"Public street or private?" the Sarge asked once more.

"Well, technically, public," the cop replied.

The Sarge looked at me and asked, "You OK, kid? Did they hurt you any?"

"No Sir. I'm fine." I said, a little surprised at the way things had obviously swung in my favor.

"Listen, young man,I apologise for this. Obviously a misunderstanding on this officer's part. What do you say we just let it go and you go back there and go about your business?"

"That would be excellent," I said, smiling to the Sarge.

He looked at the two officers who "tagged and bagged" me and said, "Take this kid back to the site and release him. Then tell the guy who was complaining to you about him to mind his business and this "Krishna Kid" is gonna mind his!"

"Good Luck out there, kid" said the Sarge.

I smiled, stepped forward and reached over the desk, shook his hand and then laid a copy of Back to Godhead in front of him on his desk.

"My gift to you Sir. It's on the house. Your help is your donation!"

Ten minutes later the "Krishna Kid" was back on the Riverfront, passing out POY's and BTG's [Perfection of Yoga and Back to Godhead magazine] for Srila Prabhupada!

As my dear friend Udayananda Prabhu (formerly Randy Cieslak) always says:

Lord Chaitanya's Mercy Strikes Again!!
All Glories to the Sankirtan Movement!
All Glories to Srila Prabhupada!!

Praghosa Das (ACBSP) NYC

©2004 - Hansadutta das
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