Tag Archives: Rio de Janeiro

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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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 Course in Rio

Over the weekend I taught the eighth of a series of nine Bhagavad-gita weekend courses in Rio de Janeiro. We studied chapters 15 and 16. We have one final weekend course and then we’ll be finished!

While preparing for the course I had a nice realization: it just struck me how the Gita is our oasis. As soon as you take shelter of the Gita, worshiping Krishna with your intelligence by studying its contents, illusion is just blown away. It becomes easy to be Krishna Conscious when Prabhupada’s Gita is open before us. The Gita is always there, ready to bless us, ready to push us forward back home, back to Godhead!

Next weekend I’m off to Porto Alegre to start a new series of weekend Gita courses there. Let’s hope we manage to complete the series there, too. And the weekend after that, we’re doing one more chapter here in Brasilia, chapter 13.

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Weekend Gita Course

When I published my book, “Yoga Sutra Made Simple”, based on the translation and comments of Srila Hridayananda Das Goswami Acharyadeva, it occurred to me that I could teach its 196 sutras in one weekend. I thought that this could be an attractive preaching opportunity, giving the yoga crowd a chance to really understand the meaning and message of Patajali’s Yoga Sutra. I have since done several of these intense 14 hour weekend workshops in different cities of Brazil (this book is currently available only in Portuguese and Chinese, but we’re working on an English edition).

One of the first ones I did was in Rio de Janeiro, hosted by a small but very nice yoga studio there. The group and the owners of the yoga studio in question liked it so much, they wanted more. So, I offered them a complete course on the Bhagavad-gita, covering every single one of its 701 verses, in nine modules. Twelve hours per module, six on Saturday, six on Sunday. Since I live in Brasilia (1000 km away), we decided to have one module every two months.

Well, this last weekend we just had our 7th module, covering chapters 13 and 14 of the Gita!

Amazing transformations have occurred with the small group of dedicated students who are still doing it. These people have little or no contact with the local ISKCON Temple (the standard ISKCON programs aren’t attractive to them), yet, having imbibed the nectar of the Gita, and following my recommendations, their lives are very different from what they were when they started, back in 2006.

The story of one of them, a 55 year old restaurant owner, is specially interesting. Ever since the first Yoga Sutra course, I made it clear to the students how important it was to become a vegetarian (“prasadatarian!”). By the second of third Gita module, this lady had become a vegetarian. Thereafter, at every new module, I emphasized how important it was for her to change her restaurant, and stop serving meat. Changing your own dietary habits after the age of 50 is tough enough, changing your restaurant’s menu to vegetarian is harder still! But she did it!  She fought off the bitter complaints of her long-time clients, family members and friends to do it too! Her restaurant is now vegetarian (she just re-opened it recently) and will soon be a prasadam restaurant (she is still learning to cook without onion and garlic and is preparing a special place to offer the bhoga).

All the other students too, are changed. All of them have become vegetarians, all are chanting japa, and several have bought and are reading the Srimad Bhagavatam collection. All this with very little direct association from devotees, just our weekend courses every two months or so!

This is the power of hearing the pure message of the Bhagavad-gita!

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