Then, one week before my visit to Odessa we had spontaneously decided to conduct the Holy Name Retreat after all, with Niranjana Swami and the Regional Secretary Acyuta Priya Prabhu giving their full blessings.
On my arrival in Odessa on the 29th of May we immediately met with the Temple President Rohininandana Prabhu to discuss all the details of the retreat. It was the very first time that we conducted a Holy Name Retreat in this yatra, and the devotees had rented a Holiday Camp on the Black Sea outside of Odessa - a place where we had conducted one of the very first Bhakti Sangam Festivals some twelve years ago.
Nostalgic memories of those early festivals came up within my mind, and I remembered how I had conducted a grhastha seminar on one particular veranda. It almost seemed like it took place in a previous life time - so many things had happened meanwhile....
Around one hundred and twenty devotees from various parts of Ukraine eagerly assembled to join the event. Some senior devotees and nice kirtaniyas had also come, who were giving the morning class in connection with chanting the holy name, and conducted the evening kirtans. The atmosphere was surcharged with eagerness, excitement and affection, and everybody felt very blissful and uplifted.
Some devotees shared what a relief it was to be without a mobile phone, and they were not even so eager to take it back at the end of the retreat.
During the seminars I would sometimes include japa exercises and other personal exercises, and at times I would ask the audience to turn to their neighbors and share realizations. This always deepens the learning experience and involves the audience nicely. And of course the role plays summarizing the topics discussed on the previous day were once again the big hit....!
Little do we realize how much of our talking is unnecessary and falls into the category of prajalpa....
What a wonderful meditation! This is the perfection of self-sacrifice.
By chanting the Maha Mantra with the intense longing to serve we can connect with Srimati Radharani and tap into her energy and potency. This is the foremost way to connect with Her - not by simply chanting Radhe Radhe Radhe. Srimati Radharani is not so cheaply accessible. It is a deep matter from within the heart - the quality of feeling in which we chant.
When a devotee who is not yet firmly established in dasya tries to see Radha and Krsna or remember Their pastimes while chanting the holy name, the danger is there that some tinges of the enjoying spirit enters his/her consciousness, thinking: "Radha and Krsna had such a nice time together - I also want to be there...." Such kind of chanting feeds the enjoying mentality and will not establish us in dasya, and thus should be carefully avoided.
However, if a devotee who is firmly established in dasya will spontaneously remember Radha and Krsna while chanting, his/her only thought will be: Radharani is the most expert servant - she knows more than anybody else how to please Krsna. I wish I could learn from her how to serve.....!" And all he/she will think of is how to serve more and more...
On the 5th of June I took a flight from Odessa to Frankfurt. When changing planes in Kiev all passengers were already seated in the plane to Frankfurt, when the pilot announced that there were some technical difficulties which wouldn't allow us to take off. I saw the pilot running back and forwards in anxiety, in and out the cockpit, talking passionately to the co-pilot and the crew, trying to decide whether or not to fly. Finally he decided that we all had to get off the plane and wait for three hours to board another machine.
I was grateful that he noticed the technical problem while still being on the ground. Krsna must have inspired him from within his heart.....
Your servant, Devaki dd