In my preaching efforts here in Brazil I try to give significant attention to devotees who have never lived in temple ashrams, to give them an easy introduction into a full Krishna conscious lifestyle. In Brazil there are very, very few full-time ashram residents. Krishna consciousness, therefore, for just about every devotee in Brazil, including the ones that get initiation, does not include ever living in an ashram.
Just going to Sunday program, or even helping out with the preaching programs, and reading Prabhupada’s books, still leaves some key areas of a good KC lifestyle uncovered. Some things are easily assimilated from reading or attending KC programs, such as how to chant japa, the philosophy, becoming vegetarian and avoiding drugs, alcohol, etc. But other details remain elusive, such as how exactly to offer prasadam, how to worship the Deity at home, how to apply tilaka, Vaishnava etiquette, etc.
For example, I noticed that a lot of people would hear about prasadam, would understand the importance of eating vegetarian foodstuffs and offering everything to Krishna… but just would not actually offer their food in their day to day lives. Why? Just because they were unsure as to how exactly that was supposed to be done, what the “rules” were. Knowing how to behave around devotees and devotional things, or in temples, is also one of those apparently very simple subjects that, nonetheless, baffles even people who go for years on end to courses and Sunday programs.
Sometimes, even after reading the Gita a few times and other Prabhupada books, listening to many lectures, people are sometimes still confused about simple philosophical points on karma, spiritual/material worlds, forms of God, etc.
With these needs in mind, we started offering a very special week-long retreat in Pandavas Paradise, called JIVA. In Portuguese JIVA becomes an acronym for Intense Vaishnavism Workshop (Jornada Intensiva de Vaishnavismo). We held the first one last year and it was a real hit. We knew were onto something very valuable.
For these people, usually with busy jobs, hectic lifestyles and a whole non-KC family around them, the chance to spend a week in a spiritual environment, surrounded exclusively with like-minded practitioners, in pretty much the same level of advancement they’re in, was in and of itself a profound experience. Add to that an intense learning program to with all the basics (including home Deity worship), regular aratiks, group japa sessions, great prasadam and you can understand why, at the end, just about every single participant cried their hearts out when it came to sharing with the others what they felt. The natural beauty of Pandavas Paradise, 4000ft high pure fresh air, pure spring water for bathing and drinking, waterfalls, incredible deep blue sky and bright sun are the cherry on the cake of the whole JIVA experience.
In my next post, I’ll share some more details and pictures from this year’s JIVA.