From December 1st to 6, 2012, around 400 devotees eagerly gathered for the 12th annual Vaishnava Institute for Higher Education (VIHE) Japa and Kirtan Retreat in Varshana--all the way from South and North America, Europe, Africa, Australia, Russia, India, and even China.
"This is the land of Krishna, expect miracles to happen" warned Sacinandana Swami in his introductory speech, thus setting the pace for a heart-transforming, miraculous atmosphere, which overwhelmed the devotees throughout the week.
Bhurijana Das and Sacinandana Swami, each known for their sincere endeavors in bhakti, took the devotees on the boat of the holy name, sending good winds through profound insights into the art of chanting and kirtan. Bhurijana Das would set the mood of sincerity and proper intention in the morning lectures, while Sacinandana Swami would open the treasure box of tips and guidelines during his workshops.
But who could have known how fast the boat of the holy name would flow, as already on the second full day of the retreat the participants found themselves sitting in the most beautiful Gevarvan forest of Varshana for a day of 12 hour kirtan. With visiting guests such as Indradyumna Swami, Bada-Hari Das, and local sadhus, devotees were able to experience the sweetness of kirtan while they applied to the best of their ability whatever they had been taught in the lectures.
And the holy name boat took them even further... After another day of intense hearing and workshops, they visited Ter Kadamba - the place where Srila Rupa Goswami would engage in bhajan and writing. At that most holy place the devotees got the opportunity to chant 64 rounds in the cooling shades of Srila Rupa Goswami's bhajan kutir. With the many guidelines given to them by their teachers, they were equipped to go deep into chanting japa. The 12 hour kirtan from the second day surely helped their japa chanting since japa and kirtan go hand in hand together. Both practices support each other.
In this way, with a week of deep spiritual discussions, workshops on mantra chanting, meditation and prayer, the hearts of the participants transformed whilst the Holy Name became the focal point of the week. It was very enthusing and inspiring to be able to focus only on the spiritual needs of the soul by consciously aiming to plug out of the material world and plug into a new dimension of reality - the reality of the soul in its relationship with Krishna. This relationship is easily grasped through chanting the holy names in a sanga of sincere spiritual seekers in the sacred land of Braj, where unconditional mercy is shed from all sides on one who genuinely tries to connect to Radha and Krishna.
As this retreat is taking place annually, many devotees come year after year and collect jewels which enrich their spiritual practices.