We settled into my nice ashram at the Mayapur Goshala and immediately started to prepare for our first Vaisnavi Holy Name Retreat at Ekachakra Dham, which was sceduled for the 5th to the 9th of January.
I had been advertising it by sending out posters to many temples, and also hanging them up around Vrindavan and Mayapur. Some ladies had already registered, and now we wanted to get more people on board to make it all
very nicely, and people felt moved by our welcoming invitation and eager service mood.
On New Year's evening the Mayapur devotees had made a very wonderful arrangement in Srila Prabhupada's Park. There was a nicely decorated arena to welcome the New Year with kirtan. Several big open fires where there to
warm the devotees, and there were seperate sections for the ladies and the men to sit, everyone being greeted with garlands. The Mayapur Chandra's were singing, and the entire arrangement almost appeared like something from the heavenly planets....!
This was the first time that such New Year's program was conducted, and it was a simply wonderful arrangement, which certainly brings together the members of the Mayapur Community.
We had rented a bus for the 5th of January to take ladies from all around the world to Ekachakra Dhama for our Holy Name Retreat. I had gone there already one day before in order to supervise all the necessary arrangements. Ekachakra is certainly the most perfect place for such kind of retreat - so peaceful and away from any kind of
For the following four days we embarked on an internal journey and adventure, systematically preparing our consciousness in order to open our hearts and receive Sri Harinama Prabhu - in japa as well as kirtan. We remembered Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur's instruction: "Make your chanting heart-deep, not just lip-deep!" And this does not come about automatically. Every relationship requires serious and consistent endeavor in order for it to develop, and this includes our relationship with Sri Harinama Prabhu - Krsna in the form of His holy name.
Chanting the holy name while turning towards Krsna and longing to develop our relationship with Him will destroy our tendency for impersonalism and will reconnect us with the Lord. Interestingly to note that it is indeed possible to chant Hare Krishna for many years and even lifetimes and at the same time completely ignore the personality of Krsna and our relationship with Him. This is indeed a common occurance since we all carry a little impersonalist within our heart! After all even Mayavadis are often chanting the maha mantra, however their chanting is without the intention to develop a loving relationship with Krsna.
Begging Krsna to be allowed to serve will purify our tendencies for being the enjoyer and controller, and it will re-establish us in our actual position of loving servant. These are two main keys which help us to cultivate the right quality of feeling while chanting - turning to Him helplessly while longing to serve. In this way the chanting of the holy name is a very deep science. It is not an external matter of simply mechanically doing our prescribed number of rounds, but it is an internal process of developing a certain mood and attitude within the heart, which gradually turns into pure love for Krsna. And it all begins with a mindfulness of the personality of Krsna being actually present. Thus our chanting becomes "my time with Krishna".
However, donations given with a happy and affectionate heart complete the loving exchange of receiving inspiration and giving in charity.
During the first days of January it was rather cold out there in Ekachakra.
Nevertheless, we welcomed the tapasya as an opportunity to be even more determined to get off the platform of dualities - heat and cold, comfort and discomfort, pleasure and pain. We kept a good focus on the holy name, which allowed us to get a glimpse into a different reality: harer namaiva kevalam - the reality of the holy name of Sri Hari alone being everything....
Returning to Mayapur it took us a couple of days to find our way back into our daily life, and we were missing the sweet evening kirtans in this personal and intimate atmosphere. We had shared a deep and unique experience which created a very special bond amongst all of us who participated in this retreat......
Your servant, Devaki dd