I arrived in Dhaka on the 27th of October, and two days later I had the opportunity to receive six visiting devotees from Ukraine: four brahmacaris from Kharkov and Odessa, and Sahasrajit Prabhu with his twelve year-old son Visvambhara.
Visvambhara and his father had been to Bangladesh once before two years ago, and they were excited to visit once again. Especially for young boys Bangladesh is a paradise - full of adventures, and the brahmacaris and general devotees are very much aware of the importance of involving the young generation and make them feel part of everything. So Visvambhara has already many friends in Bangladesh....!
Their visit to Bangladesh started with a Holy Name Retreat which was sceduled for the 1st/2nd/3rd of November.
For this event more than 250 devotees from all around Bangladesh assembled at the holy Dhama of Pundarik Vidyanidhi's birth place to explore the deeper secrets of chanting the holy name.
Situated in a peaceful and rural environment with lush and tropical greens Pundarik Dhama is a most suitable place for such a Holy Name Retreat.
Spending three days in seclusion, away from all our usual responsibilities and distractions creates a wonderful and most conducive atmosphere to deepen our relationship with the holy name.
We were embarking on an internal journey - a systematic step by step preparation of our consciousness in order to open our hearts and welcome Sri Harinama Prabhu to perform His mysterious work on us.
All participating devotees received well prepared materials on the genius formula of Sacinandana Swami's Kirtan ARROW: It begins with Alignment of the body, mind and heart, followed by chanting with the awareness of a Relationship with the Lord, in the mood of Rendering service. And finally it leads to Opening the heart and Welcoming the divine gift.
The first letters of these key terms form the famous kirtan ARROW:
A..... Alignment of the body, mind and heart
O......Opening the heart
W......Welcoming the Divine gift
As we were exploring the science of chanting Hare Krsna a variety of personal exercises deepened our learning experience.
Especially humerous and illustrative were the skits which devotees performed at the beginning of each day, summerizing the topics of previous day's discussions. The skit of our Ukrainian devotees was exceptionally well done - without any spoken words, since most of them speak only Russian...
Our theme song was Sri Kevalastakam - harer namaiva kevalam: the holy name of Sri Hari alone is everything.....
Indeed, such Holy Name Retreats can help us to enter a different reality - actual reality of the holy name forming our eternal connection to Krsna Himself.
Our Bangladeshi devotees are very wonderful kirtaniyas, and their sweet voices and expert mrdanga playing was melting our hearts during the evening kirtans. From day to day we increasingly cultivated a prayerful and deep mood in chanting, until one evening we experienced a very extraordinary kirtan session, with ever increasing waves of joy and happiness flooding our hearts! It felt like Sri Harinama Prabhu was taking His seat on the lotus of our hearts, after we had endeavored to chase away our pride and false designations. No doubt Mahaprabhu had been present in a very tangible way....!
One morning we took a ten minute walk to the nearby bhajan kutir of Mukunda Datta. The very original building is still preserved until this day, and we can even enter and chant our rounds inside this holy tirtha! Doing so we realize the deeper meaning of a bhajan kutir - protecting the senses and mind from distractions, and increasing the sound vibration of the holy name through the echo which is generated by the small cave-like construction of the building itself.
It was wonderful to have the group of Ukrainian devotees there - even the language barrier was easily overcome simply by associating on the basis of chanting, dancing and taking sumptuous Krsna prasad.
During the final closing ceremony devotees shared deep realizations, confessing that some had been chanting Hare Krsna for twenty-five years without deeper understanding of the quality of feeling with which this chanting should be performed. And the Ukrainian devotees shared deep realizations appreciating the beauty of the Bangladeshi culture and the sweetness of the local devotees.
We also remembered Srila Prabhupada's concern which he expressed in a letter in 1972 to Hamsaduta:
"Now we have got so many students and so many temples but I am fearful that if we expand too much in this way that we shall become weakened and gradually the whole thing will become lost. Just like milk. We may thin it more and more with water for cheating the customers, but in the end it will cease to be any longer milk. Better to boil the milk now very vigorously and make it thick and sweet, that is the best process. So let us concentrate on training our devotees very thoroughly in the knowledge of Krsna consciousness from our books, from tapes, by discussing always, and in so many ways instruct them in the right propositions."
Such Holy Name Retreats are indeed a most effective way of bringing our devotees to deeper levels of spiritual practice. We gain firm faith and conviction that everything the heart desires is indeed contained within the Holy Name! Endeavoring to obtain deeper insights into the secrets of chanting offers final and most satisfying solutions to all problems we might be facing in this world.
Our preaching will bear tremendous fruits once we teach our devotees the deeper science and secrets of associating with Krsna through chanting His Holy Name.
This retreat firmly established in the devotees minds the absolute need and importance of such kind of retreats. Devotees asked to have such events several times a year in various yatras around Bangladesh.
I could sense that we are gradually embarking on a kirtan revolution in Bangladesh - re-establishing the pure and deep chanting of the holy name!
Bengal has always been the headquaters of Vaisnava Sahajiyas, and the pure chanting of the holy name had been degraded into a show and musical performance. Now is the time to re-establish kirtan in it's pure form....
And this retreat has given devotees a tangible experience of a different flavor of chanting.....
On the 5th of November we embarked on a two weeks' tour around Bangladesh, together with our six visitors from Ukraine....
Your servant, Devaki dd