Tag Archives: Bhagavad-gita

Weekend Gita Course in Uberaba

I was invited to the small city of Uberaba, in the state of Minas Gerais, to give a weekend 12h course on the Bhagavad-gita, on the 15th and 16th of October.

Uberaba is a peculiar city. I’ve never been in a place before where I’ve been so repeatedly told by the residents how terrible the place is for cultivating higher consciousness. Just about everyone I met there, on different and seperate occasions, would spontaneously tell me this! And I must confess I did also perceive a rather “heavy” mood to the place. Uberaba, amongst other things, is famous as national center for cow slaughter, as well as beer drinking and country music – I’m thinking this has something to do with it! The picture above of the city’s cathedral catches some of this mood.

There is one lone and brave devotee, Yadunatha Das (pictured above next to me), who fixes motors for a living, who tries to keep alive the flame of Krishna consciousness in the city. He is very, very humble and sincere. With the help of only two fixed congregational members, a steel worker and an electrician, they payed for all my travel and lodging expenses and offered the course to the public free of charge. Charging, they all agreed, would be hopeless given the city’s apathy for all things spiritual and uplifting.

Despite all these obstacles we had a group of 10 people, who very attentively heard the necterean teachings of the Gita and highlights of Srila Prabhupada’s brilliant commentary.

We also had a small Sunday Program, with two new guests and some of the guests from the Gita course. We had a lively questions and answers section that went for about an hour. They showed a lot of eagerness in hearing more and more!

Some of the participants sent me some nice feedback, which I post below:

“Thank you for all the instructions and wisdom that you gave us these days. These were very auspicious days… Who knows, maybe the consciousness of this city is changing, and perhaps expanding, as the seeds have been sown.” – Marluce

“Thanks again for all the lessons, good will, love of God and your example. Now I will try harder to change my habits and my mind.” – Fernanda

“For starters I want to thank you for the joy of having participated in the course over the weekend. Benefiting from it all brought me immense joy. The words in our vocabulary cannot clearly express what I felt … Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” -Telma

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Trip to Miguel Pereira and Rio de Janeiro

In the mountains of the State of Rio de Janeiro are many beautiful towns, surrounded by the Altantic Forest and peaks. One such place is Miguel Pereira, a town with a population of 26 thousand people. It’s only about 90 minutes from Rio and because it’s not too high (600m altitude), the temperature is always quite pleasant there. A devotee couple recently opened a preaching center there and invited me to give a lecture.

Actually, the recent story of this couple is a nice example of how Krishna makes wonderful and unexpected arrangements for His devotees. The couple fell quickly in love last year and got married soon after. However, they did not want to live in Rio (the husband, Tulasi Bhakta Prabhu, is a policeman – imagine being a policeman in Rio!). Praying to Krishna for guidance they embarked on a tour of the country, a sort of honeymoon/pilgramage, visiting many different ISKCON temples and projects in Brazil, as well as other scenic spots. In their travels they met a pious lady from Miguel Pereira. She immediately liked them (they are very likeable!) and offered them a beautiful, well located house in Miguel Pereira – for free! There was only one catch: they would have to maintain an ISKCON preaching program there, with at least one program a week. She signed a two-year contract with them. Just amazing! And the wife, Radharani DD, was already pregnant by this time too. So, in the space of about 10 months, Radharani and Tulasi went from not even knowning each other, and both living in the temple (one in Rio, the other in Belo Horizonte) to being married, with a baby (she was very premature but healthy), and an excellent, free house/preaching center in this charming town in the mountains! By the way, they met and fell in love in Pandavas Paradise!

They organized the program very nicely and managed to get a full half-page article in the local newspaper about the lecture. As a result, the small preaching center was packed to maximum capacity (just over 30 people). My wife started with a nice bhajan and then I gave the lecture. The crowd was very interested and asked lots of questions. It’s a great lecture that I have taught in several different cities: “Karma, What it Is and How to Get Rid of It!”.

In the end we managed to sell several books and CDs.

The next day we came to Rio de Janeiro, where I held a “12h Gita”. It’s a lecture I have come up with, which contains the full content of the Gita, and key quotes from Prabhupada’s purports. It’s quite intense (nearly 500 slides worth of powerpoint), but gives the participants a full view of the Gita, allowing them to perceive the flow of the entire text and Krishna’s message. I don’t read all the verses, but I do include all the information contained in them, in the same sequence. It’s the second time I’ve done this presentation and the students have given me very positive feedback.

On Sunday I was invited to give the Sunday Feast lecture at the Rio ISKCON Temple. I spoke on “Karma-yoga”, to a lively and attentive crowd.

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Fortaleza Weekend Lectures

I was in Fortaleza from May 27 to 31 on a lecture tour. I taught a weekend Gita course in a yoga studio, presented a lecture to the local ISKCON devotees on the Citra Kavitvani, gave the Sunday Program class.

Fortaleza is an important city in the northeast of Brazil and one of the principal tourist destinations of the country. The beaches around Fortaleza are among the most beautiful in the world. This time, though, I didn’t get much of a chance to take advantage of this, taking only one quick trip to the beach the whole time I was there.

On Friday I had the opportunity to present a Portuguese version of a wonderful presentation created by the BBT Sanskrit School in Govardhana on the Citra Kavitvani – Rupa Goswami’s incredible poems, with mind-boggling formats and in the shape of images. I had first heard it during the GBC meetings this year and luckily got a copy of them. The devotees here loved it.

Over the weekend I inaugurated a special study of the Bhagavad-gita the local devotees are organizing for the public at large. They are planning a long series of workshops on the meaning and practical implications of the Gita. I presented a summary of the entire contents of the Gita in just over 7 hours, half of it on Saturday, half on Sunday morning. It was quite intense!

At the end of my visit I gave class at the Sunday Program, on conscious vs. unconscious desires and how they affect our spiritual progress.

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Weekend Gita Workshop in Porto Alegre

Last weekend we held our 4th Weekend Gita Workshop in Porto Alegre, covering chapters 7 and 8.

This was our biggest group yet, with 16 people. Since the last one was our smallest, I was enthused by the change. The devotee couple who organize this program in Porto Alegre, Vrajendra-nanda Das and Vraja-jana DD (both Param Gati Swami disciples) redoubled their efforts to attract new participants. When the group is a little bigger, like this, the workshop is much more dynamic and interesting and I personally find it more rewarding in general.

Chapter 8 of the Gita explicitly deals with the subject of death (and where we go after it).  This timeless issue raised some interesting discussions that revealed our natural fear of death and rebirth.

“Gitaphiles” may also like to note that Chapter 8 is where Prabhupada most often insists on the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra (and most often writes out the entire mantra, purport after purport!) as the highest means of attaining the Supreme Abode.

On Sunday night I was invited to lead some bhajan at our local Jagannatha Temple. I chose a nice soulful Hare Krishna melody.

This Saturday we’ll start JIVA 2009 – our longest and most important retreat of the year in Pandavas Paradise. It’s an intense one week long Krishna Conciousness training retreat. We have a full house, with bhaktas and bhaktins coming from all over the country. I am grateful that Prabhupada is keeping us busy!

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Weekend Gita Workshop in Rio de Janeiro

This weekend we had the 2nd module of the Gita Workshop in Rio de Janeiro. We had 10 participants (11 if you count 5 month old baby Theo). Everyone enthusiastically drank the nectar of Krishna’s teachings. We covered chapters 3 and 4.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Gita endlessly gives us more and more, at each and every reading. This time, one of my realizations was that Krishna uses the word “karma” in the sense of “that dharmic activity one should naturally perform according to one’s gunas“, translated by Prabhupada as “prescribed duty”. We normally think of “karma” as any sort of mundane activity, but here it seems Krishna uses it strictly in the sense of dharmic duty. When Krishna later introduces the term “vikarma“, “bad action”, we get further support for this idea. I also had a new take on the list of yajnas found in the end of the 4th Chapter (verses 25-29). This time I could see that Krishna glorifies them all, without pointing out any faults, even though the list includes things we normally “look down upon”, such as simple pranayama, giving up eating, and demigod worship.

I was also invited to give class at the Sunday Program in Rio’s Jagannatha Temple. I gave the class on verse 4.34, taking the opportunity to present a series of important points on the topic of guru. I described the culture of general respect we find in the Vedas, the psychological advantage of respecting the guru in absorbing the teachings transmitted by him/her, Prabhupada on gurus and how he urged us hundreds of times to become gurus following Lord C’s order*, definitions of a “pure devotee” and an “uttamaadhikari“, gurus in ISKCON and, lastly, the special position of Srila Prabhupada as founder-acharya of ISKCON. Several people expressed their gratitude for the class and for clearing up their confusion on the topic.

In short, it was an amazing weekend, packed full with nice service! Jaya Prabhupada! Jaya Jagannatha!

 

*yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krsna’-upadesa amara ajnaya guru hana tara’ ei desa”,  Caitanyacaritamrta, Madhyalila 7.128

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Weekend Gita Workshop in Porto Alegre

It’s Gita Workshop time!

On the 17th we had our Brasilia Gita Sunday Workshop, in which we studied the 16th chapter. It was our biggest group yet. Some of the participants are from our local outreach efforts, but most are from our Yoga Retreats in Pandavas Paradise.

Last weekend I was in Porto Alegre, doing the 3rd module of our Weekend Gita Workshop. It’s always wonderful to study the Gita and it’s interesting to see how this weekend workshop suits all kinds of people.

For example, in the group I have the daughter of the local Temple President, Radharani (fourth from the left). Though her father is one of the greatest preachers in Brazil, she is still appreciating the course so much. Rossana (second from the left), has known the devotees for 25 years, but really appreciates this kind of deep systematic study. She wrote to me yesterday saying that this last module was one of the most amazing moments she’s had in association with devotees her whole life. Yet the workshop also satisfies the newcomers. Angela (fifth from the left), knew absolutely nothing about KC before starting these Gita workshops and she has practically no contact with devotees out of it. Yet, she is in awe of its contents and feels it’s changing her life.  This is the power of the Gita explained in the light of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings!

This weekend I fly off to Rio de Janeiro, for the second module of our second series of Weekend Gita Workshops there.

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Preaching in Porto Alegre

This last weekend I was in Porto Alegre again. We had another Gita Weekend Workshop. This was the second one there, teaching chapters 3 and 4.

I had a good group and they all listened very attentively. Two members of the group are philosophy majors, one of whom is the daughter of Lila Prabhu, who brought KC to the region some 25 years ago. Though her father is a great preacher and president of ISKCON there since its inception, and has brought hundreds of people to KC, she had never properly studied the Gita and is not currently practicing KC. So, I was very happy that she claimed to have thoroughly enjoyed the weekend workshop and has promised to come back for the whole series.

On Sunday the local devotees arranged a public celebration for Gaura Purnima. They celebrate two separate Gaura Purnima festivals in Porto Alegre – one for the devotees (on the day) and one for the general public (on the weekend). They invited me to give the talk at the public festival. I presented a brief sketch of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s life and teachings, using a powerpoint slide show, to a crowd of about 180 people. I was very grateful to Srila Prabhupada for allowing me to spend the whole weekend preaching on the Gita and then topping it off with a little glorification of Lord Chaitanya!

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