From September 23rd to October 3rd, I did a multi-city 10-day preaching tour in the Northeast of Brazil. The trip started in Aracaju and ended in Natal, spanning some 800km, mostly coastal cities. The Northeast of Brazil is famous for its beautiful beaches, but the pace of my tour was quite intense and I only managed some brief visits to the beach, for japa walks and a quick swim.
One very interesting fact about the tour is that it happened as a direct result of our yoga retreats at Pandavas Paradise. At the two ends of the tour were events organized by guests who previously had no contact with Krishna consciousness until they came to one of our retreats, and having liked what they heard and saw in Pandavas Paradise , invited me to speak in their home towns. I was pleased to see this pratical result of our regular yoga retreats.
The first event was a wellbeing, alternative lifestyle, yoga event in Aracaju, in its third consective year. I was their guest speaker for this year. I gave the opening lecture, another lecture on the following day, and finished the event with kirtan and Nrsimhadeva prayers on the last day. Lots of books were sold and new contacts made. Aracaju has only one ISKCON devotee, as yet uninitiated, so it was good to inspire him and to try and help him organize a monthly program there.
From there I rented a car (turned out to be a bad decision!) and drove to Maceió. In Maceió we have 4 ISKCON devotees who are trying to organize a regular program there. They organized for me to give a talk in a beachside hotel. I spoke on the teachings of Dattatreya, found in the 11th Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam. Some very interested, intelligent people, who had previously had no contact with ISKCON, showed up. Again books were sold and a new contacts made.
From there I drove to Recife, crossing the great São Franciso river, the second most famous river in Brasil after the Amazon. Recife was one of the first cities in the Northeast of Brazil to open an ISKCON centre, back in the late 70’s. In the early days, their full-fledged Gaura Nitai temple was filled with dozens of fired-up sankirtan devotees. These days, they still have dozens of devotees in their congregation, including some Prabhupada disciples. Though the Deities are currently residing in Nova Vrajadhama, a rural project some 150km from there, the devotees are currently planning their return to Recife in the near future. Despite the Deities not being there, the preaching is going on nicely and they have a well located cultural center and restaurant near one of the city’s universities. I spoke on the Sri Siksastaka and did a quick questions and answers session on the Gita as well to a crowd comprised mostly of local devotees. Sweet 3 hours of krishna-katha – this was one of my favorite events of the whole tour.
From Recife I drove inwards, away from the coast, to Caruaru – a small city in the interior of the State of Pernambuco. An unlikely place for Krishna consciousness, yet the home of one of ISKCON Brazil’s oldest rural communities – Nova Vrajadhama. The local devotees have expertly cultivated Krishna consciousness here, to the point of having a major city square named after Prabhupada (for his centennial celebrations). I spoke that night in their preaching center, which functions as a restaurant during the day. The small place was packed to capacity and the crowd very attentive.
I slept in Nova Vrajadhama, some 40 minutes from the center of Caruaru. This is the home of one of only two Radha Krishna Deities in Brazil, the other being Nova Gokula. Sri Sri Radha Govinda are graceful, sweet Deities. A small community of approximately nine devotees live and take care of this remote dhama. You can see some pictures of this beautiful farm here.
From there my trip took an unexpected turn! First, I managed to get my rented car bogged in the mud, a mere 40 meters from where I started. A full hour of ardous digging, pushing and adjusting was needed to free the car. Because I was now late for a TV interview in my next stop, Campina Grande, I pushed forward with a bit too much passion through the rough 10km dirt road leading out of the farm, hitting a rock squarely on the oil reservoir. That would have been pretty bad already, however, because of the rough conditions of the road in general, I did not realize the seriousness of the bump we felt, and thus did not stop the car. As a result, two kilometers later the engine, now deprived of oil, was making a ghastly sound, forcing me to stop the car, which would then not start up again. Final tally: a blown engine! By the time I reached Campina Grande, the whole day had been spent dealing with the car rental company, police reports for insurance purposes, etc.
In Campina Grande I just had enough time to shower before going off for my Yoga Sutra lecture. Campina Grande is the home of one of our best urban ISKCON communities, with gorgeous Maha Gaura Nitai Deities and our Bhakti-shastri Seminary. The devotees there have been very well trained and inspired by Dhanvantari Maharaja.
No longer having a car, I continued my tour by bus. The last stop: Natal, where I spent the weekend teaching a 12 hour Bhagavad-gita seminar to an amazing group of about 20 Spiritists who are now getting a serious taste for Krishna consciousness. As I mentioned before, this group had their first contact with Krishna consciousness in Pandavas Paradise. They came to our Easter yoga retreat earlier this year and, since then, have been practicing japa, offering their food and studying Prabhupada’s books. The weekend Gita course in Natal was organized by them so they could continue to deepend their understanding and practice of Krishna consciousness. It was thus a great crowd, which included some local devotees as well. I expect that they will soon be fully practicing Krishna devotees.
Thus, with this brilliant weekend in Natal, my tour came to an end. Tired but very blissed from 10 days of spreading these wonderful teachings and associating with devotees and seekers, I returned to Pandavas Paradise.