We conducted four courses at five days each, Monday to Friday, 3pm to 6pm.
We started with "Giving and Accepting Shelter", then "The Vanaprastha Ashram" - a new course which I had recently put together and launched for the first time. It was well received with around 25 nice devotees of all age groups participating. A few senior devotees and disciples of Srila Prabhupada also took part. This topic of the Vanaprastha Ashram is rarely discussed, and there is almost no awareness amongst the devotees of how important this last phase of life is in order to fully prepare for meeting death, our final challenge. In the SB are many quotes and descriptions of Vanaprastha life, which don't seem to be relevant and practical for the modern days. However, we can simply extract the principles and apply them in our life - no matter where we might be living.
Instead of leaving to the forest we can invite the principles of simple forest life into our flat in the city: simplifying our surroundings and freeing ourselves from so many unnecessary things, which we have most likely accumulated over the years: comfortable and oppulent furniture, decorations and so many nick-nacks, which occupy some little space in our mind while we are attached to them. Freeing ourselves from unnecessary belongings is indeed a very liberating experience! Sooner or later we will have to leave them behind anyway. Therefore better to voluntarily let go of them by for example donating them to young devotees who are just about to start with their household life. Thus we at the same time experience the joy and benefits of giving in charity with a generous and happy heart.
Another principle of Vanaprastha life is to keep our externals more and more simple, thus reducing the bodily concept of life. No need to dress in bark! Yet especially for us ladies it means we can give up our attachment to make-up, decorations and oppulent dress and keep ourselves more and more simple. The aging body is already getting less attractive, which is Krsna's perfect arrangement to help us in the process of detachment.
And last but not least we are meant to reduce our fancy eating and simplify our diet - something which would be very natural when living in the forest.
And again, the aging body is helping us along, since the fire of digestion is reduced, and we are forced to keep a more simple diet. As we know, the tongue is the most ferocious sense organ and always demands some satisfaction. And especially in the renounced phase of life we are meant to conquer over the demands of the tongue and develop a higher taste.
Needless to say, this instruction is especially relevant for those in the last phase of life....
And there are of course a few more aspects of Vanaprastha life, which we discussed in our course, the most obvious one being no more sex life.
All courses received such great feedback, and devotees shared heart moving and transformational realizations, which is very encouraging to me.
Since the number of participants had increased to sometimes more than 40 people, my place had become too small, and I had to move to one of the class rooms in the Vaisnava Academy across the road from my home at the Goshala.
Memories of the good old days......
Your servant, Devaki dd