Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

2018 International Vaisnavi Retreat: The Art of Deity Worship
By Nagapatni Devi Dasi   |  Apr 16, 2018

This year’s International Vaisnavi Retreat was exceptional. Eighty-six radiant sadhakas from 13 countries, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia, Russia, Germany, USA, India China, Canada, Italy and Ukraine, came to Govardhana with the unifying desire to deepen their understanding of service to the Deity.  

The yearly International Vaisnavi Retreat was established in 2011 to give the ladies of ISKCON special educational opportunities and to strengthen networking connections between junior and senior vaisnavis. Eight disciples of Srila Prabhupada attended—Kusa, Nagapatni, Arundhati, Girija, Annada, Kisori, Pavani and Yasomati. They shared their mature realizations gathered over a lifetime in Krsna’s service and the instructions on Deity worship they had heard from Srila Prabhupada. The main meeting hall was decorated with large pictures of Deities from over 40 ISKCON temples as well as pictures of the Six Gosvamis’ Deities.

The classes covered all aspects of Deity worship and more, from “How to Approach Him” to mrdanga lessons. The participants learned cooking techniques, Tulasi care, turban making, proper handling and offering of bhoga, how to wake up the Lord, offer arati and, of course, how to keep clean and pure and polish all the paraphernalia. The atmosphere was sublime, enhanced by the close proximity of Govardhana Hill. Besides sharpening their service skills, the devotees went out, walking on the same paths Krsna and Balarama and all Their dearest friends and cows traveled on. They breathed the same air and saw the same sights all the previous great acaryas experienced before them. In this most transcendental atmosphere, the devotees achieved much more than they had thought possible. They tasted the sweetness of devotional service, being blessed in return for the austerity they performed in leaving the comforts of their homes and traveling long distances with no other desire than to please Krsna.

Austerity however, was not on the agenda at the retreat—rich, healthy and abundant prasada was served three times a day. The weather was most pleasant and the seminar crew was completely equipped with a loving desire to serve the devotees’ needs. Everyone relished the loving exchanges flowing freely among all the devotees. 

Yasomati Devi led heartfelt kirtanas every evening. On the fourth day of the retreat, all went to Ter Kadamba, the place of Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Bhajana Sthali, where he wrote his books describing the mellows of devotional service. Kirtana began mid-morning in a secluded shaded area in the forest, where all relished hearing the glories of the Holy Name, while peacocks cooed in the background. After lunch, the kirtana resumed next to the place where Srila Rupa Gosvami is being worshiped. It was here that when he wrote about the separation of Radha and Krsna the kadamba tree under which he was sitting lost its leaves, and when he wrote about the union of Radha and Krsna the tree bloomed, regardless of the season. 

The caretakers of Ter Kadamba agreed to have a grand abhiseka of the resident Deities, Sri Sri Krsna Balarama. What a great celebration this became—which went well into the night! All the vaisnavis participated in showering milk, yogurt and other auspicious elements, and their devotion, all over the Enchanting Two Boys. The uninterrupted kirtana had a profound effect, purifying and enlivening everyone present. The Ter Kadamba pujaris said they had never seen Krsna and His brother Balarama shine as brightly as then.  

By the end of the retreat, not only were the ladies very well trained in the art of Deity worship, but they had new friends and memories to cherish for a lifetime. As one devotee who had been wanting to come for many years shared, she felt a great lifelong dream had come true and was very grateful for all the knowledge she was bringing home with her. Other ladies spoke of their plans to return again, year after year.

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