Every year, scores of women from all over the U.S., Canada and other parts of the globe travel to the hills of West Virginia to attend the annual Vaisnavi Retreat in New Vrndavan. The ladies come, young and old, to participate in an exciting weekend of activities beseeching the mercy of Srimati Radharani, the feminine counterpart of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
This year, we were pulling around the curving roadway at about 7:00 a.m., leaving New Vrndavan and the 2008 Vaisnavi Retreat, when my 13 year old daughter, Krsna-Jivani, tugged at my sari saying, “I don’t want to leave yet—do we have to go now?” She was disappointed when I responded, “we have to, Draupadi, --I have a program back in Cleveland at 3:00 p.m. and we want to go home to get Dad and finish preparing.” Draupadi is her middle name and one that I use when I want her to be patient or understanding.
My daughter frowned slightly. Our time at the 2008 Vaisnavi Retreat, held from Friday, October 10 through Sunday, October 12, had been a lot of fun for her. This year’s Vaisnavi retreat, like others in the past, was facilitated by women, for women and was full of educational and interesting workshops, delicious prasadam (often prepared utilizing organic ingredients), intimate satsanga with devotees from many, many different places and a variety of different backgrounds.
In the words of Gopimata dasi, a devotee from Kansas, “Something extraordinary happens when Krsna's vaishnavi devotees gather to share insights, realizations, and kirtan. A loving, supportive environment is created that refreshes our enthusiasm and thickens our desire to assist Srila Prabhupada in a wonderful way. We share ideas on how to overcome our obstacles and move forward dynamically. It is very difficult for these women to take time off from their important services and jobs, but our experience is that it is so deeply strengthening that it is absolutely worth the effort.”
And don’t we all desire a loving, supportive environment? The 2008 Vaisnavi Retreat definitely exemplified this concept. For example, at this year’s Vaisnavi Retreat, devotees remembered some others who were not able to attend due to illness; several spontaneous, affectionate letters were written, signed by the collective group of Vaisnavis and then sent to some of these absent devotees along with a donation we had collected for one!
Many who attend the retreat are caretakers who serve others as mothers, nurses, wives, teachers, etc. The Vaisnava Retreat, with its many workshops, therapeutic, spa and massage sessions, and fireside bhajans provides an opportunity for the caretakers themselves to relax and be taken care of in such sweet, wholesome ways.
Some of the fantastic workshops/sessions conducted this year included the following:
The Vaisnavi Retreat culminates in a very special, intimate morning program at Srila Prabhupada’s palace and a touching closing sister circle.
Malati devi dasi, a senior devotee and one of Srila Prabhupada’s earliest disciples, created the annual Vaisnavi Retreat to provide a forum for women devotees to share, encourage, support and learn from one another in a strong, powerful, devotional atmosphere. Malati, as chief facilitator of the Vaisnavi Retreat, has a small but very dedicated staff of Vaisnavis who work with her every year. They do a superb job of planning for and coordinating the retreat, accommodating and caring for all the guests who attend the retreat and connecting a diverse group of women with each other and with valuable resources to help them grow in their devotional lives. Malati told this reporter that her “desire is that more women would come to the Vaisnavi retreat to take advantage of this splendid opportunity for healthy, devotional association and for personal growth.” Costs are minimal and Malati states that, ‘I have never allowed money or lack thereof, to keep women from attending the retreat.”
One Vaisnavi, Jambavati dasi from Gita-Nagari, gives the following reason why she comes to the retreat, year after year: “To reconnect with matajis I knew previously and meet and bond with new devotees. I come to exchange information and to learn from senior matajis.” And she adds, “every year the Vaisnavi Retreat goes beyond my expectations. One great benefit is that I connect with Vaisnavis on a deep, spiritual level, which enhances and inspires my own devotional service. And I use this retreat as a gauge for self-improvement. I would definitely recommend the annual Vaisnavi Retreat in New Vrndavan to others; Anyone who attends will become a better devotee in general will improve her relationship with all devotees.”
For details and more information, visit the website at www.vaishnaviretreat.org. Plan to attend next year’s Vaisnavi retreat and bring your mother, daughter, sister, or friend. You can tell from the heartfelt testimony of women who have attended the Retreat in the past that you will be awfully glad you did.
|Initiated into the Vaisnava culture in 1972 by H.D. Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Krsnanandini devi dasi is a Certified Family Life Educator(CFLE), Senior Minister, president of the Grhastha Vision Team and Co-Director, along with her husband, Tariq Saleem Ziyad, of the Dasi-Ziyad Family Institute. Also, along with her husband, Krsnanandini is the author/facilitator of numerous articles and workshops about relationships, marriage and family. She has given birth to 10 children and currently resides with her family in Cleveland, Ohio.|
[ family ] [ retreat ] [ vaishnavism ] [ women ]