I had the good fortune of being able to accompany Srila Acharyadeva on his visit of Nova Gokula, this last weekend.
Over 500 devotees travelled to Nova Gokula to get Srila Acharyadeva’s rare and transformative association. Nova Gokula is the most important rural community and temple in Brazil. It was started 31 years ago and is situated in a beautiful valley of the Mantiqueira mountain range, about 30 minutes away from the city of Pindamonhangaba, in the state of São Paulo.
He arrived on Friday, the 18th of September. As usual, he got out of the car well before the entrance, so as to enter Nova Gokula on foot. The devotees went down the road to receive with great fanfare, a garland and kirtan.
A local news team from one of the major TV channels was also there, to report on his arrival and interview him.
He first paid his obeisances to Srila Prabhupada and the beautiful deities of Nova Gokula. In Nova Gokula we have deities of Radha-Gokulananda, Sita-Rama-Lakshmana-Hanuman and Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai. It’s the most beautiful altar in ISKCON Brazil.
He then gave a talk in the temple. He spoke a little about his trip through Brazil. After that he emphasized the importance of ISKCON being a movement and not just a religion, in the sense of the members of ISKCON prioritizing the diffusion of Krishna consciousness (KC), the expansion of the Society, as opposed to merely taking care of their private spiritual lives.
Later that same day, at night, he gave a darshan in his house, answering questions. Amongst other things, he spoke about the many different endeavors necessary to distribute KC and about the dangers for a devotee entering politics.
On Saturday morning devotees with academic careers met with Srila Acharyadeva to present their lines of research to him and the assembled devotees. As in other countries, Acharyadeva has emphasized in Brazil the importance of having qualified devotees in the academic world.
In the afternoon, he spoke at a wedding that took place in Nova Gokula. The wedding attracted quite a bit of media attention, because all things “Indian” are in vogue here due to a successful soap opera set in India by the country’s top TV station. In his talk, Acharyadeva pointed out that the position of a married devotee (grihastha ashram) is superior to that of a celibate student (brahmacari ashram).
Sunday was quite intense for Srila Acharyadeva. He started out by giving a phenomenal Srimad Bhagavatam class, which is already being considered a historic lecture here in Brazil. It was over two hours long. He explained the importance of adjusting the details of the presentation of Krishna consciousness, while preserving the fundamental aspects. He also spoke about the dangers of misinterpreting Srila Prabhupada, ignoring Srila Prabhupada’s own descriptions of himself.
We’ll be posting all of his lectures in Brazil online, but here is a link to the video of this particular class (all in Portuguese, of course). Later, I intend to post some excerpts of this class, translated into English.
After the class, he had a private meeting with the disciples of Param Gati Swami. It lasted for over two hours (and this was just after a two hour class!).
In the evening there were initiations. Here we see Bn. Rosângela being initiated as Rasanandi Devi Dasi. After receiving her beads and new name, she asked for the microphone. She told the assembled devotees that she was 50 years old and that people should know that it’s never too late to take up their spiritual lives.
After the initiations he had to go to an administrative meeting with all the Nova Gokula residents. In Brazil we have just re-instated a National Council for Nova Gokula, composed of senior devotees, to manage this important project better.
On Monday, Acharyadeva had several private darshans. Then he said good-bye to the deities and the devotees and set off to Campos de Jordão, a famous tourist destination in the mountains of São Paulo, to visit the impressive Govardhana-lila Ashram, set up by a couple who are disciples of his. In my next post I’ll describe his visit there.
You can see over a hundred pictures of Srila Acharyadeva and Nova Gokula from the past weekend here.