A brand new outreach project is spreading Krishna consciousness around Germany with joy, color and enthusiasm that’s simply infectious.
All six core members of Der Fahrende Tempel—or The Traveling Temple—are celibate monks called brahmacharis. Seven years back, they started ISKCON Leipzig, which quickly became the most active temple in Germany with lots of outreach, book distribution, and festivals. Yet as the temple grew and became a more family-centered project, the brahmacharis decided they needed to hit the road for more adventure.
Visionary Sadbhuja Das and fellow preachers Dvarakadish, Citta Hari, Jaya Nitai, Godruma, and Bhakta Viktor first relocated to the Bavarian forest community of Simhachalam. There, in January of this year, they purchased a 1971 motorhome and set to work transforming it into a “Sankirtan Bus.”
A morning program on the bus
“We put in an altar for Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, bigger windows, a stove, solar panels on top, and a big sound system, with amplifiers,” says Sadbhuja. “We also added a platform on the front that can sleep five people as well as the seven or eight inside. For programs, we can have up to fifteen people, maybe twenty.”
For the past four weeks, The Traveling Temple has been on tour around Germany and other nearby countries with a plan to continue through the summer until August.
The core six brahmacharis, sometimes joined by other local or traveling devotees, began their journey in Radhadesh, Belgium, where they presented their Sankirtan Bus to their guru Kadamba Kanana Swami on the occasion of his birthday.
Chanters vs BMXers
Next, they headed to Amsterdam for Queen’s Day, a national holiday in Holland and the biggest street party in the world. There, three hundred devotees joined them for a huge Harinam (street chanting).
From Amsterdam, The Traveling Temple set off through central Germany, visiting all the major cities along the way including Frankfurt, Cologne, Heidelberg, Dortmund, Wiesbaden, Mainz, Bochum, and Moers.
At some cities, they stayed in ISKCON temples or participated in Namahatta congregational preaching groups.
Chanting at Better Than Nothing Music Festival
Every evening, they would drive to a lake or riverbank in the countryside, where they would read, relax, and spend the night. Every morning, they would cook, hold a morning program, and then drive into the city at around ten or eleven o’clock.
“In Germany, every city has a pedestrian shopping area with no cars,” Sadhbuja says. “So we would leave the bus in a parking lot and do Harinam through the streets. The pedestrian streets are wonderful to do Harinam on because they are car-free and quiet but full of shops and people.”
In a blaze of saffron, The Traveling Temple brahmacharis brighten up every city they visit. Rather than simply marching in a parade down the street, they engage with people and dance with those that respond well. This creates a snowball effect, with more and more people participating in the kirtan.
Devotees distribute between 50 and 150 books a day
“We even sometimes go into department stores,” Sadbhuja says. “The owners like us, and invite us in, so we go and dance in their shop for a bit, and then back out again.”
When they are in cities with temples or Namahatta groups, the traveling brahmacharis invite the devotees from these communities to join them, creating an even bigger festival atmosphere.
After their Harinamas, they invite interested people onto their bus, where they serve them prasadam and discuss Krishna consciousness. They also distribute between fifty and one hundred and fifty of Srila Prabhupada’s books daily.
Getting a little help outside a department store
“Some people who know us from the past are happy to see that we still exist,” says Sadbhuja. “Young people who aren’t familiar with Hare Krishna like the chanting very much too. Some people have negative preconceptions of devotees because in Germany Hare Krishna is still sometimes viewed as a cult. But then they see others responding positively and dancing with us, and they get attracted and their mood changes.”
Sadbhuja tells many unusual and wonderful stories about his team’s travels. On one occasion, a large, burly man approached the devotees as they chanted Harinam. He confessed that he had been so angry and agitated that he had been about to commit a murder.
“But then I heard your chanting,” he said. “I listened to you for two minutes, and I became so calm and peaceful. I thought again about what I was going to do, and changed my mind.”
In Every Town and Village
Another time, a Muslim mother walked by with her two small children, who stopped in front of the Harinam party and began dancing with wild abandon.
“She freaked out and tried to stop them,” Sadbhuja says. “But the kids couldn’t be stopped. They were too much into it. It was so funny!”
Others were more tolerant. While chanting in a park, the devotees came upon a group of Muslims having a picnic. Open and smiling, the group began to dance with the devotees, and even offered them their food and drink in a guesture of solidarity and friendship.
Magical experiences also happened at music festivals, which The Traveling Temple frequented.
Mickey Mouse joins in
“We wrote to the organizers of the Open Ohr (Open Year) festival, asking if we could attend, but they said it was already full,” Sadbhuja recalls. “Since we knew it would be a good opportunity to preach, we drove there anyway and parked outside as we had no entry tickets. We got out to go on Harinam in the area, and the festival’s security guards began to dance with us. When we returned from our Harinam, we got them to dance with us again. They enjoyed it so much that they let us in to the festival. And from that moment on we were authorized. It was amazing.”
Meanwhile, organizers of the Better Than Nothing festival welcomed devotees when they wrote asking if they could attend, and gave them the best spot right in the center of the festival grounds.
“They were so supportive,” Sadbhuja says. “They told us that what we were doing was exactly what had been missing in their festival. It was very inspiring.”
The Traveling Temple members hope to continue touring Germany and having these kinds of experiences every summer, well into the future.
With their traveling temple
“There have been a lot of bus programs going on in ISKCON, but none of them have lasted so long,” says Sadbhuja. “So we want to develop very deep connections and deep spiritual realizations as a team, so that we can last long term.”
Sadbhuja also envisions not just one, but many Traveling Temples touring Germany.
“We really want to have a new era of Krishna consciousness in Germany,” he says. “We want to reach out to people, make Lord Krishna and Srila Prabhupada known, and touch a lot of hearts.”