We have a nice ISKCON temple there - in the middle of the city, situated on a little hill, with gardens and big trees surrounding the temple buildings.
Around 50 brahmacaris are serving Them in dedication and devotion, and the preaching is lively with lots of new devotees coming to Krsna consciousness.
The devotees gave me a heartfelt welcome and kept me busy for the next few days.
The first evening we dedicated to chanting in kirtan: I gave a short talk about the deeper secrets of chanting, followed by one of my favorite kirtan tunes. Everybody eagerly participated and absorbed themselves in chanting the holy name.
The next morning I was sceduled to give the Bhagavatam class, and in the afternoon we conducted a program for the temple devotees on important aspects of servicing in puja. So easily the mood of routine and overfamiliarity enters this most confidential service to the Lord....!
The next day was dedicated to the topic of devotee care, which was well received. Devotees would have liked to hear more but unfortunately the time was short.
On the following morning I gave the Bhagavatam class again, followed by a program for the students, and the day concluded with the general Friday evening program, which is the main event of the week.
Three programs in one day - something which I only occasionally do in Bangladesh....
On Saturday morning I gave a book distribution seminar, and in the afternoon we went out on distribution. Devotees did not want to miss this exciting adventure, and our group going door to door was almost too big. So we divided into two groups and knocked on people's doors within the same block of flats, one starting from the top and one from the bottom.
People were so receptive and happily welcoming our party of devotees. In each and every flat we managed to distribute at least one of Srila Prabhupada's books! And while I was signing the books which we distributed we also had a little kirtan - a perfect way to conclude the loving exchange.
Unless people read Prabhupada's books they will always remain confused and cannot distinguish between ISKCON and other Hindu organisations. Prabhupada did not only bring this knowledge of Sanatan Dharma to the Western world, but he also re-established the Siddhanta for the Hindu population. If it was not for Prabhupada's books people would remain in the darkest confusion of ignorance....
In this part of the world people have a natural respect for sastra and sadhus! It is probably one of the easiest places for distributing Prabhupada's books....!
I also spent time with the student girls - here in Sylhet they are very eager to offer service and inquire. Every day they brought my meals to the temple, which they had cooked in their flat nearby.
All of them are such sincere and beautiful, chaste ladies! Only here I learnt to understand what Prabhupada means when saying 'the beauty of a woman lies in her chastity...'
On the 17th of March I flew to Chittagong, the yatra which had become my main base in Bangladesh.
It felt simply wonderful to once again visit the sweet and cultured devotees here! And I had decided to stay here until after Gaur Purnima....
Pandit Gadhadara Prabhu, who is in charge of the student preaching in Chittagong arranged a busy scedule for me, with several preaching engagements every single day.
Our main focus was on the topic of Devotee Care, and I gave a four session seminar to the brahmacaris and bhaktas on "Giving And Accepting Shelter - The Foundation To Vaisnava Relationships And Devotee Care." They eagerly participated, and the seminar opened very relevant and almost revolutionary topics to them which had never been discussed before and which stimulated lively discussions. Everybody felt very encouraged to move forward to a higher standard of taking care of Krsna's devotees....
I regularly gave the SB class in the mornings, which always stimulated nice question and answer sessions. And on Ekadasi we had a nice program at lunch, and a long evening kirtan in the temple room.
Chittagong is the only temple in Bangladesh which has a temple room closed in by four walls - all other temples have the traditional Nath Mandir which is open to all sides. Once again I noticed how much better the focus is during the programs when the four walls are there to contain the energy - during japa, during kirtans and during lectures. It makes an immense difference which cannot be under-estimated.
I also spent time with our students who are practicing Krsna consciousness while they are studying at the University. I visited them in their BACE-flat for a morning program, and we also went on harinam together. On Friday evening, when they are all in the temple I conducted a seminar on the topic of balancing our external and internal activities - a very relevant topic which accompanies us throughout our entire life, on every level of spiritual advancement.
One afternoon I conducted a program on book distribution - a most important service which always needs ongoing encouragement and inspiration.
A month ago our ISKCON Minister for Book Distribution Vijay Prabhu visited Chittagong and spent a wonderful time with our devotees! Now we were discussing the idea to establish a regular Book Distribution Department within the temple. So far some devotees had been going out occasionally, and all the various preaching departments are regularly distributing books to their audiences, but nobody had been dedicating their energy to this service full time. Even many initiated devotees do not have a set of Srimad Bhagavatam's in their homes - something which is an absolute must....!
How can we establish our relationship to Srila Prabhupada without reading regularly Srimad Bhagavatam with Prabhupada's so valuable purports....!
Gaur Purnima was a wonderful event! Lord Jagannath looked very festive on this occasion, and the altar was nicely decorated with flower arrangements, and fruits were hanging from the simhasana.
I was requested to give the morning class and spoke on deeper aspects of Mahaprabhu's appearance and His mood of separation - a topic we only discuss in the assembly of practicing devotees.
Around lunch time I gave a more simple class to the visiting congregation centered around Mahaprabhu's appearance and childhood lila's.
In the late afternoon an abhishek was conducted in the large new temple room which is still under construction. The unfinished walls had been covered with coloured cloth, and what will one day be the altar was transformed into a stage where the bathing ceremony was performed. Only the senior temple brahmacaris were conducting the bathing, and being a visiting preacher I was also invited to bathe the Deities. The congregation and visiting devotees were sitting on the covered floor of the temple room to witness the auspicious ceremony, all along chanting in melodious kirtans.
The entire event was very harmoniously performed, and all along I was envisioning the wonderful day when we would be ready to inaugurate this new temple and install Their beautiful Lordships Sri Sri Radha Rasabihari with Lalita and Vishaka, Lord Jagannath and Gaur Nitai.
I was envisioning our most wonderful and advanced kirtaniyas within ISKCON coming here, holding the first Bangladeshi Kirtan Mela.....!
After all the pure chanting of the Holy Name is what impells Krsna to appear.....!
For my last evening in Chittagong I arranged for a pizza feast. I had requested Julia to bring me a big packet of dried Basilikum and Oregano from Ukraine to Mayapur, and I had sent out the boys to buy olives and olive oil - something they usually don't purchase....
I had formed a good team of enthusiastic boys who were ready to prepare fourty-eight large trays of pizza, under my coordination and supervision.
We had a lot of fun, and I happily served out the popular delicacy to one and all, which was eagerly received with enthusiastic shouting of Hariiiii Booool......
On the 31st of March I flew back to Dhaka.....
Your servant, Devaki dd