on Sept. 28, 2008
Partha-sarathi Dasa, the devotee-soldier who inspired many by organizing the inaugural Govardhana-puja and Ratha-yatra in Iraq, and who has a preaching program through which he distributes Srila Prabhupada's literature as well as cookies offered to the Lord (prasadam), recently took time out from his duties to speak to Antony Brennan from ISKCON news.
Asked what motivated him to start preaching in Iraq, Partha-sarathi said, "I started to preach because I was lonely. I had no one around me to talk with about Krishna."
After beginning to discuss Krishna with others around him, Partha-sarathi came to realize the power of the preaching process and the purity of Srila Prabhupada's instructions. "After seeing so many people dying I decided to try to spread the message to the suffering souls," he said.
"My spiritual master, Kadamba Kanana Swami, inspired me to make the best out of my situation and encouraged my preaching. The way it started was simple, and since becoming a devotee I have been very open about it. The best way to preach is to try to apply by practical example. I'm not saying I'm perfect, but I would hold myself to a higher standard. I would always be conveniently chanting or reading around people, so naturally they became interested. Then I decided to push it further through books and openly preaching, and somehow Krishna was very merciful to me.
"I was a soldier before becoming a devotee. Actually, when I was very young I would call out to Krishna, driving my parents crazy. I can't explain why I would do that. I had no exposure to Krishna consciousness, except for seeing devotees.
"I started to seriously study the 'Bhagavad-gita' after joining the army. I just got sick of this world and wanted something better after having to pick up some dead children while I was in Kosovo."
Preaching has caused no problems for Partha-sarathi's military superiors. "My superiors think it is good," he said. "They are favorable. My old commander would offer pranams and say Hare Krishna to me. My new supervisor came by because he remembered seeing my salagram-silas (a stone likeness of the Lord) in Kuwait and he wanted to have an audience (darshan) before them again."
Partha-sarathi believes his superiors see his activities as having a positive influence. "Whereas others are interested in escaping reality, I am interested in helping each person develop the good in themselves. There are some who disagree with what I do, but all are respectful."
I asked Partha-sarathi about his daily activities. "My day is intense," he said. "It usually begins about 2am when I shower and then perform service for the salagram-sila that decided to accept my worship. I chant from about 3-5.30am, read until 6am and then do physical training until 7am. I then shower and eat the prasadam from my seva, which is usually nuts and dried fruit. I listen to a lecture and then I'm off on missions.
"When I return from missions, I make my Lords a small meal of dhal and chapati. I read or study the scriptures (bhaktisastri) until 10pm and then it's time to rest. On some days I teach mantra meditation at night or "Bhagavad-gita" study. When I am not on missions or in meetings, I am usually out delivering prasadam cookies I receive from LA, or distributing Srila Prabhupada's books to the soldiers."
There are some soldiers taking guidance from Partha-sarathi. "They ask questions and seek some solace in this craziness," he said. "I don't force anything onto to them; they ask and I tell. They see the purity of the "Bhagavad-gita" and how it applies to their life at this very moment. Krishna is so kind, if we just endeavor to share Him with others, He will reciprocate. In my opinion, He does not want us to keep Him to ourselves - He wants us to give Him to everyone with whom we come in contact. We can do that by sharing Srila Prabhupada's books with everyone we meet. And in this way we can assist Srila Prabhupada in fulfilling his spiritual master's mission.
"One of the big lessons I am learning is how we take for granted the association of the devotees. We are in the best situation in this world to fall at the lotus feet of the Lord. The material world is so horrible and I should not have needed to come here to learn that. Now I have to apply my realizations to my everyday life when I return from here."