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

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Global Youth Retreat: A Powerful Experience in Practicing and Preaching Krishna Consciousness
By Ranchor Das and Ayan Gupta   |  Mar 28, 2024

On December 26th, 2023, around 25 ISKCON youth from around the world gathered at the Senator Hotel in Kolkata for the 2nd Annual Global Youth Retreat in Kolkata and Mayapur. The much anticipated transformative 10-day retreat, organized by Inner Yoga Retreats, is a youth yatra led by Vaisesika Dasa and his wife, Nirakula Devi Dasi.

The retreat was designed to help youth who are on their winter vacation immerse themselves in Krishna Consciousness in the holy dham. This year, we explored Srila Prabhupada’s Lila Sthanas in Kolkata and Lord Chaitanya’s Lila Stanas in Mayapur.

On the first day, we visited the Baag Bazar temple, which was an ornate structure built by the Gaudiya Matha, which Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada, founded.

Next, we visited the temple at Ultadanga Junction, where Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura began his preaching and instructed Srila Prabhupada to preach in the West. We heard that Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura preferred the simplicity of this building over the more elaborate Baag Bazar temple since it kept the focus on preaching. We appreciated the calm atmosphere of the temple and sought the blessings of both Srila Prabhupada and Bhaktisidhanta Sarasvati Thakura to carry forward the Krishna Consciousness movement.

Vaisesika Dasa at Ultadanga Junction.

On the second day, we saw how Srila Prabhupada began to execute that instruction. We visited the dock that Srila Prabhupada boarded the Jaladuta on to go to the West and preach. Vaisesika Dasa led a beautiful Gurvastakam while several youth participants distributed books. We showed a book to a beggar, who told us that she had never given money before but wanted to donate one rupee just for the temple, an example of the potency of Srila Prabhupada. Due to the weather, the bridge from which we were viewing the dock began to shake, which symbolized for us how Srila Prabhupada’s journey had and will always shake the whole world.

In Mayapur, we visited several places of Lord Chaitanya’s lilas. For instance, we visited Yogapitha and saw the tree under which Lord Nimai was born. Additionally, we saw the home of Srivas Angan, where a confidential kirtan was performed in the first half of Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes. In every one of these places, we distributed books and lollipops to locals, who accepted our spiritual gifts with great eagerness.

One another day, we visited Ekacakra, where the potency of Lord Nityananda’s mercy was evident in multiple ways. For example, when we placed the box of books on the ground to arrange our shoes just prior to entering the temple, there were dozens of residents holding 20 rupee notes, asking for books in their native language. Wherever we went, locals took books – we were even able to distribute books while riding in rickshaws. Everyone, no matter how poor or rich, was willing to take spiritual literature in spite of the fact we couldn’t speak the local language. Through gestures and ten well-rehearsed Hindi sentences, we conveyed the urgency of receiving these books.

Harinam and book distribution outside of the ISKCON Ekacakra Temple.

By contrast, in the West, we may find it hard to distribute books on Bhakti Yoga, but that difficulty was not present in our time in the dham. The public’s favorability towards the cause of book distribution inspired many yatra participants to engage in the sankirtan service, particularly those who had not previously been inspired to do so.

Tulsi Patel, 22, related her experience,  “It was definitely daunting at first, but seeing my peers succeed encouraged me to face my fears about distributing books.” Madhuri Sakhi Devi Dasi, 19, also had similar feelings, “I was really intimidated to go out and distribute books, but doing it with my friends encouraged me to give out at least one book! To my surprise, we did more than one book; it felt like mercy flowing!”

Book distribution in rural area.

Many of the youth saw this yatra as the closing of a circle. Srila Prabhupada came to where we lived and preached Krishna Consciousness, and now we have gone to where Srila Prabhupada lived and intensely practiced and preached Krishna Consciousness. While immersing ourselves in Srila Prabhupada’s and Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes, we distributed over 1,000 small books. On the final day of the yatra, in the final book score presentation, the yatra sankirtan leader quoted the Chaitanya Charitamrita, “This is an indication that from the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, the inundation of love of Godhead should be spread all over the world, for this will help everyone, including old men, young men, women, and children. The Krsna consciousness movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is so powerful that it can inundate the entire world and interest all classes of men in the subject of love of Godhead” (CC, Adi-lila 7.25). We saw that we had done sankirtan in the dham, and now it is our responsibility to spread the sankirtan movement all over the world. This yatra empowered us to deepen our Krishna Consciousness and inspired us to spread the sankirtan movement worldwide.

Japa Walk in Mayapur with Vaisesika Dasa.

The good news is that the adventure doesn’t stop—the 2024-2025 Yatra is already announced. The next group will visit Govardhan EcoVillage, Kolkata, and Mayapur from Dec 23rd to Jan 4th. For more details, visit the Inner Yoga Retreat’s website.  We hope to see you join!

Ranchor Das is a young adult member of ISKCON Columbus who participated in the Global Youth Retreat in 2023. He is a Computer Science student at Ohio State University and hopes to be more of a service to Srila Prabhupada in the future.

Ayan Gupta is a senior at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA, where he studies Computer Science. This was his first time participating in the Global Youth Retreat Yatra.