Questions and answersThe following questions were asked during an informal gathering on the porch of Sri Chinmoy's house on 31 August 1978.
Question: Guru, recently I was running in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and I saw the Hare Krishnas' Jaganath parade. They were pulling the Jaganath cart. What struck me was that I didn't get a feeling of spirituality from the parade and the people in it. It made me wonder, are our parades successful from the spiritual point of view?Sri Chinmoy: Sometimes we are in difficulty when we want to achieve anything here on the physical plane. Whether we create art or compose music or perform songs, it is most difficult for us. When it is a matter of outer achievement, sometimes the performance or the result is very poor, very deplorable. But as far as the spirit goes, I am satisfied. The spirit that is behind our achievements is quite good. Almost everyone has a sincere, cheerful consciousness. That in itself is a very great achievement. People who are marching or doing something else in the parade are under no obligation to do so; they are not forced to participate. They are not doing it reluctantly; they are doing it very cheerfully. Not for New York, not for the United States, not even for mankind, but for Heaven they are doing it. It is all recorded in Heaven. Heaven sees how difficult it is to get anything done on earth.
Our parade starts with tremendous purity and dignity with these two girls carrying the banner. Then the Centre flag comes. The music is also very dignified. So the parade first starts with spiritual purity and dignity and then everything else comes. The dignity and purity may lessen to some extent, but I see a kind of uniformity from the beginning to the end. True, there are some silly groups, absolutely silly groups. If you make a comparison between the best group and the worst group, there is such a difference! But even these silly groups fit in to some extent. And from the beginning to the end there is always a kind of childlike innocence. That is what I want. Otherwise, if the marching is too rigid or done all measured in a military way, then there will be no joy in it. That kind of marching is only for the military; we don’t want that.
What you are saying about the parade on Krishna’s birthday — it is the same in India, or sometimes it is worse. When I was a little boy, I used to walk in that procession. Right from the beginning, the stupid caste system starts causing problems. There are two or three long ropes to pull the chariots. They are like the ropes we use in tug-of-war. The Brahmins won’t allow the Kshatriyas to be near them and so forth. Gradually the Sudras are pushed to the back; God knows where they will be. Each group says: “How do you dare to stand with me? You go stand with your rank.” Fights start many times.
Sometimes the people who are mistreated get mad and go against the others. They bring another rope and attach it to the chariot. Then from behind the chariot they start pulling in the opposite direction. The owners and organisers get furious, because they have organised the procession and the chariot was built with their money. In spite of that, those people keep pulling in the other direction.
In that parade you have to draw the chariot from one place to another special place. When you reach the destination, the owners of the chariot will throw some sweets, just the way I sometimes throw extra candy or fruit after each disciple has received prasad from me individually. Then there will be real problems. Here our disciples don’t fight; they just try to catch the prasad with a family feeling, in a sweet, exuberant, very charming way. But in India I have seen many times actual, real fighting. The things that they get are so negligible, but to get them, the way they fight is too much, too much! They break each other’s heads, arms and limbs, just to get things they can buy for two cents. Is it their devotion that is carrying them? So, Krishna is observing and appreciating their achievements!
Sometimes it happens that when it is time to draw the chariot from one place to the other, some people won’t pull. They start dancing around the rope, and the people who are trying to pull the chariot forward can’t move because of the dancing. It is not two or three or four people who start dancing, but two hundred, three hundred, four hundred or even six hundred people. How are you going to control that?
So from the beginning to the end, everything goes wrong. The problem starts with the caste system and then leads to a terrible fight. You can’t remain safe no matter how innocent you are, because constant fighting is going on. Our family did not join the procession for the sake of fun. It was my mother’s wish, so that Sri Krishna would bless us. In a religious family, the members feel that it is compulsory to help draw the chariot. Otherwise, they believe that Krishna will not be pleased. So you go join in order to get Krishna’s blessing, but instead you get all the blessings from those hooligans.