Tag Archives: prabhupada

A Trip to Rio

During my one week trip to Rio de Janeiro, I had the opportunity to give lectures in three different places.

Thursday, Oct. 27, was the day we celebrated Govardhana Puja. The event took place at the Rio ISKCON Temple.

The Deities were beautiful.

And here’s a picture of the Govardhana Hill wth the Temple’s Govardhana Sila on top.

I talked about the importance of the day, focusing on the different ways of taking shelter of Krishna and its importance in our spiritual lives.

On Saturday, the 29th, I went to the pleasant mountain town of Miguel Pereira where the devotee couple, Tulasi Bhakta and Radharani, have a preaching center.  There I lectured on Dattatreya’s teachings from the Srimad Bhagavatam, “Enlightenment by the Natural Path.”  The next day we observed Srila Prabhupada’s dissappearance day. I spoke about the unique importance of Srila Prabhupada and how we are fortunate to have him as our founder-acharya.

And on Tuesday, November 1st, I spoke on the subject of karma at the new ISKCON center in Rio de Janeiro called “Govinda.” This yoga preaching center, organized by the ever enthusiastic Chandramukha Maharaja, is well decorated and comfortable and located in the heart of downtown Rio.

A group of more than 25 people attended the event.

My next trip will be to Nova Gokula, on the 11-15th November, where we’ll have our Brazil National Council meetings, with the presence of Devamrita Maharaja, our GBC.

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Devotee Training Retreat (JIVA) in Pandavas Paradise 2011

For the fourth year running, we held our one week intensive bhakta training retreat at Pandavas Paradise. We call the retreat “JIVA” (Jornada Intensiva de Vaishnavismo).

This retreat is probably one of the most rewarding for us. Seeing enthusiastic devotees take to Krishna consciousness with determination, getting a deeper grasp of the philosophy and practices, gives great pleasure to any follower of Srila Prabhupada.

This year we had a slightly more advanced group than the previous year, including an already initiated devotee lady. This meant the participants got more hands-on training, including leading the kirtans and helping with the aratiks.

We strive to instill in the participants the importance of having a solid sadhana as well as a desire to serve the mission, be it in direct preaching engagements, or be it in the form of helping out their local administration.

All the classes were taught by me or my wife, with the exception of a Vaishnava songs class taught by our visiting guest teacher, Sadhu Sanga Prabhu.

We emphasize the importance of reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, especially the Srimad Bhagavatam. Every year just about all the participants walk out of the JIVA retreat owning a Srimad Bhagavatam. This year we sold three full 12 Canto collections, as well as large Gitas and other books. Alas, these are the last Portuguese Srimad Bhagavatam collections in Brazil! The Brazilian BBT has run out of them and it may take a while before they manage to print another full set.

JIVA isn’t just about studying and austerities though. We also make sure everyone has a really good time. The rooms are very comfortable, the prasadam quite opulent (but still healthy!) and we take them on walks and for swims in the waterfalls and natural pools.

Here are some comments we received from this year’s group:

“This experience was an important milestone in my spiritual life. I feel I have made great progress and many concepts which before were vague and unclear to me I now understand well.” – Alessandra, Brasília – DF

“I had rich unforgettable moments in this retreat, full of intense devotion. I left there with more love, wisdom, understanding and friendship.” – Rasa-lila Devi Dasi (CMS), Brasília – DF

“By Krishna’s mercy my family and I spent a week in a true paradise with sublime people. We had eight very important days for our spiritual lives. We returned home renewed.” – Gustavo, Márcia and Hillary, Belém – AM

“Many of the questions I had about Srila Prabhupada’s mission were answered and  I had the chance to learn various key practices for my spiritual progress… Beyond that, I was able to understand more clearly the importance of passing this transcendental knowledge to others who are in need of true peace and happiness… Pandavas Paradise is a holy place that is completely favourable to our search for a spiritual life.”  – Raphael, Brasília – DF

You can see more picture of the retreat here!

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Hridayananda das Goswami’s New Year Greeting

This is the New Year Greeting written by Srila Hridayananda das Goswami on the 31st of december:

Dear Devotees,

Jaya Srila Prabhupada. On the last day of 2010, I wish you all a wonderful Krishna conscious 2011. For me, the greatest and most inspiring challenge in the coming year is to strengthen ISKCON in the western world.

When I joined the movement in 1969, ISKCON seemed like a North American movement with branches in Europe, Australia and East Asia.

In 1970 Srila Prabhupada dramatically established ISKCON in India. The movement also spread throughout East and Southeast Asia.

Prabhupada planted a transcendental seed in the Soviet Union which blossomed into a huge, powerful mission throughout Russia and other CIS countries.

I helped to expand the movement in Latin America in the mid 70’s and ISKCON is now well established throughout that region.

However it is ISKCON in India that has expanded beyond comparison. Of course, India has a huge, natural advantage. It is the land of Krishna. Even in America, ISKCON congregations in most large cities consist mainly of devotees from an Indian background. We find the same phenomenon in the UK and South Africa, and in most other countries that host a significant Indian diaspora.

This phenomenon is not so evident in most of Latin America, or in some parts of Europe, where there is a comparatively small Indian population.

Still, the massive expansion and unique wealth of many Indian devotees, both in India and other countries, presents an interesting challenge to the International Society for Krishna consciousness. Is ISKCON destined to be basically an Indian movement with branches in foreign countries? Or is it meant to be a truly international society that establishes the yuga dharma as a dominant spiritual process throughout the world?

In India, ISKCON’s influence at all levels of society is enormous. In America, and most European countries (England and Hungary might be exceptions) ISKCON’s national influence is insignificant.

Personally, I believe that ISKCON can fulfill Srila Prabhupada’s and Lord Caitanya’s vision only as a truly international society that presents Krishna consciousness as a non-sectarian, non-ethnic spiritual science. I learned this from Prabhupada hismelf. Thus it is the responsibility of those of us who serve Srila Prabhupada in the west to do all we can to reignite the fire of a powerful, relevant movement in our respective countries.

I find this vision, of reestablishing the full power and relevance of ISKCON in the west, to be a most inspiring challenge. It is to the fulfillment of this vision that I wish to dedicate myself in 2011. I invite all the devotees to share and serve this awesome vision.

Wishing you all a year of health, happiness and potent service in Lord Krishna’s divine mission, I invoke this blessing: Krishna-shaktir astu te!  May the force of Krishna be with you!

With best wishes,

Hridayananda das Goswami

 

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November Retreat In Pandavas Paradise

We were all jumping with joy by the end of the retreat!

In November we held a 3 day retreat in Pandavas Paradise, from the 12-15th. Once again, it turned out to be an all-female retreat, as no men signed up for it!

There are lots of birds at this time of the year...

It was a small group of only 7 women, but from different parts of the country. One of them, from Fortaleza, travelled for 10 hours to get here!

Every morning we had a 30 minute japa session...

It was, however, one of those special retreats, where all the guests are openly desiring to hear more about spirituality, and half came specifically wanting Krishna Consciousness. Of these, only one had been to a Hare Krishna temple before. On our retreats we get a lot of people who would normally not be attracted to the usual Hare Krishna temple situation but are very attracted to our books, our philosophy and our practices.

... and a 90 minute yoga class.

These smaller groups have the advantage that the guests really bond. By the end, it was like they were all best friends. This helps create a very sweet atmosphere and spirits were very high.

It is now the rainy season here in “Chapada dos Veadeiros”, but we still managed to go on two walks. Only on one of the days did it rain incessantly. But no one minded, as they all got a chance for massages, acupuncture, and other alternative therapies, as well as a trip to the local town to check out an Indian boutique owned by our friend Maharani Vrindadevi dd.

A great asana photo-op.

 

Breathtaking view from the top!

They especially appreciated the trip to our scenic lookout point, climbing up the steep trail to the see the breathtaking view.

The food was amazing, too. My wife, Carana Renu, prepared Indian on the first day, Italian the second and Mexican on the third. Her hard work was compensated by the constant praise of the guests, enjoying every dish.

The lecture was divided into two 90 minute sessions.

At night I gave a new lecture in which I present Krishna consciousness in a very practical way, as a lifestyle choice, for the regular modern person, living in a big city, with their jobs, families, etc.

Here are some of the comments we received after the retreat:

“I’m very happy and grateful for the great opportunity I had to meet such wonderful and special people. This retreat was really blessed… unforgettable moments and a very special birthday for me. Such beautiful and friendly people, such a magical and welcoming place, the constant presence of the Divine and the joy of sharing… teachings, good company, nature, sacred food, inspiring music, and a respect for life and care for others.  A big hug to all my fellow participants and a special thanks to Masters Giridhari Das and Charana.”  – Leonice (Goiânia)

“Thank you Krishna for having given me so much!” – Jocely (Fortaleza)

“My deep thanks to you all. It was a wonderful experience. I’m already feeling withdrawal from everything there – the mantras, the collective japa session, the yoga classes, the walks, swimming in the waterfall and the food, teas… oh!”  – Verônica (Campinas)

“I also want to thank you all for the opportunities you have given me. With my eyes wide open now, I will never be the same! I’ll be eternally grateful to you for this. A loving hug to all of you and a special Jaya for masters Charana and Giridhari .” – Renata (São Paulo)

Click here to see lots more photos of the event!

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Audiobooks and Sankirtana

We’ve just finished another yoga retreat in Pandavas Paradise (more on that in a later post!). I judge the success of a retreat on the interest the participants show in delving deeper into Krishna consciousness and taking the practice home. I always make it clear to our guests that practice (sadhana) means, above all, japa and study of KC books. So, when the guest buys his own japa beads and books at the end of the retreat, this indicates to me the message got through, by the grace of guru and Gauranga. Gladly, this happens in the great majority of the cases!

Interestingly (and rather obviously to me), the best sellers are audiobooks! BBT Brazil has currently three books in audio: 1) the entire 1st Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam (translations and purports), 2) the entire Sri Isopanishad (Sanskrit, translation and puports) and 3) the entire Krishna Book. They were all recorded by me in Pandavas Paradise.  Currently, I’m working on “The Pastimes of Sri Nrsimhadeva”, a reading of Chapters 2-10 of the 7th Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam (translation and purports).

There are several advantages to audiobooks.

First, they are cheap to reproduce! Once the work has been done, you can give them away for free as downloads (which we do in Brazil) or you can sell them in CD-roms. In Brazil we chose the DVD box format, with two CD-roms per case. The first one is the SB 1st Canto and Sri Isopanishad and the second just the Krishna Book. Two CDs packed with MP3 files, in a nice DVD  box, pretty cover and nice artwork on the CD itself. Even producing them on a small scale (we do on demand printing as it is), they come out to about US$3 each! So we resell them for about US$10. The customer gets a 1000 pages worth of amazing literature, for US$10! And we still get a big profit. Generally, audiobooks are much more expensive than printed books, but of course there is no actual reason for this, given that printed books are the ones that require so much paper, ink, trucks to move them around in, shelves to put them on, etc.

Secondly, audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular because they are so convenient! Every car these days has MP3 enabled CD players, and just about everyone has their MP3 player, iPhone, etc. So, while we’re walking around, driving to work, catching a bus, exercising, etc. we can be listening to a book. In these days where no one seems to have any free time, busily running from one place to another, from one task to the next, the audiobook fits neatly into this multitasking lifestyle. (Even temple pujaris tell me they love the books, because it allows them to listen to Krishna’s pastimes and instructions while they are busy making garlands, cooking for the Deities, etc.!)

Thirdly, and this may sound strange unless you’ve experienced it yourself, there is an extra potency in hearing these texts. This is the original “format” of the scriptures. Sure, reading is like hearing – but it’s not entirely. Hearing is slightly different – it seems to penetrate further, deeper into our consciousness.

Because of these advantages I’m much more convinced someone will actually listen to an entire 1000 pages of Srimad Bhagavatam then I am that they will read it if they were to buy the printed book.

BBT should push more for audiobooks and should recognize them by including them in the sankirtan newsletter. It’s a bit dissapointing to sell several Srimad Bhagavatams and Krishna Books in a weekend and not be able to share this glory by sending in results to the sankirtan newsletter! The time has come for us to realize that sankirtan will come in the format of e-books and audiobooks more and more. This should be encouraged and officially recognized.

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Kirtan at Laya Yoga in Brasilia

Last weekend we were invited to perform kirtan at the Laya Yoga school in Brasilia, as part of their offer to help us raise funds for Pandavas Paradise. The event was the finale of their “Week of the Divine Mother”, in honor of Sri Lakshmidevi.

Many of our local ISKCON devotees joined in for the fun, playing, singing, dancing or just helping out by selling books and distributing flyers to the guests.

Three of us lead the kirtan.

First Sadhu Sanga Prabhu, the music teacher to many members of our congregation…

followed by me.

Then my wife, Carana Renu, beautifully singing Bajahu Re Mana, followed by the Hare Krishna mantra.

At the request of the owner, I spoke to the guests about our campaign to raise money to rebuild our burnt-down Shanti guest house. She suggested I use a bowl to get the donations! It was kind of funny… but it worked!

I also gave one of my books to their leader, who had flown in just for the closing ceremony, a lady from another important city in Brasil, Belo Horizonte. She’s the “acharya” of Laya Yoga in Brazil. The next day she wrote to me:

“I liked very much the content covered and the way in which the book was written. I found your writing very acessible and a pleasure to read, without distorting the teachings of Yoga. I wish you happinness and success in your work of spreading the teachings of Yoga.”

By the end of the almost three hours of kirtan, the devotees were deep in the bliss of the holy names, dancing, singing and laughing!

Click here to see more pictures of the event.

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Fire Strikes ISKCON Again

First we lost Aindra Prabhu to fire, then a fiery explosion took out our Leicester Temple in the UK. Now, a massive wild fire has engulfed Pandavas Paradise, our 1000 acre Hare Krishna retreat center in the grassy plateaus of central Brazil (Chapada dos Veadeiros).

Though a common occurence at this time of the year, this wild fire was allied with a powerful wind. We are coming to the end of the dry season here, it is very dry and we haven’t had a drop of rain for about 120 days now.

Despite the best efforts of the team of 13 volunteers fighting the fire, we lost our best guesthouse, recently renovated and redecorated, with three comfortable guest rooms and a storage area.

Here’s a picture of the guesthouse and one of its rooms before:

And here’s what’s left:

The landscape now appears bleak but by Krishna’s mercy our other buildings were saved, despite the land around them being badly burnt. A spark of fire, carried by the wind, landed on the grass roof of our temple and the roof caught but one of our volunteers bravely climbed up and managed to put out the fire. Fortunately nobody was hurt and the deities are safe.

The fire has left us with a loss of tens of thousands of dollars, but we have wasted no time in lamentation, knowing well that everything Krishna does is for our benefit. We have started a campaign to raise funds for reconstruction and have already received dozens and dozens of emails, and donations are beginning to come in.

If you can help too, please let us know.

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