A Mantra Yoga Lounge in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is attracting young people to begin chanting. And it’s changing lives in the process.
Krishna consciousness in Portugal is surprisingly recent. Although there were several attempts by devotees to preach there in the 1970s and 1980s, ISKCON Lisbon was born as late as 1996, as a gift to Srila Prabhupada for his Centennial.
Today, with a well-loved Food For Life program, a Rathayatra festival funded and co-organized by City Hall, and a successful restaurant, it’s catching on. And none more than at the Mantra Yoga Lounge, established in 2014 by leader and guru Param Gati Das in fashionable downtown Lisbon.
“It’s in a very happening area with lots of yoga schools and young people,” says communications volunteer Sri Ananga Manjari Dasi, who works nonstop hours in a laboratory office but still helps out in the little free time she has.
Students from 20 years old to their early 30s are drawn to attend the Lounge’s kirtan programs. One of the most popular is the Wednesday evening mantra program, in which students learn how to play mridanga, kartals, and harmonium, as well as to sing the Hare Krishna mantra and other bhajans. For many, this is their first contact with Krishna consciousness.
Regular temple morning programs – mangala arati, japa, guru puja, Deity greeting and Srimad-Bhagavatam class – are also open to the public, so that they can learn about and experience the daily life of a Vaishnava.
Hatha yoga and ashtanga yoga classes are also offered, as well as yoga classes for children. And the Sunday Feast, utilizing Srila Prabhupada’s simple formula of bhajan, lecture, kirtan, and prasadam, is always packed – mostly with young people.
Some students come to these programs through activism – volunteering with the vegan Food For Life program; or by meeting devotees distributing books or on Harinama.
A considerable number are happily surprised by the effects of the Hare Krishna mantra, and begin attending the Mantra Yoga Lounge regularly to chant. Some begin to do service while still working at their jobs or taking their university classes, and gradually become devotees. Recently, there have been ten new such bhaktas and bhaktins.
Bhakta Nuno, 25, visited the Lounge in February this year when a friend recommended it to him.
“It changed my life completely – 180 degrees,” he says. “I was taking anti-depressants, smoking drugs, and thinking negatively. I didn’t have any spiritual aspirations in my life, and I wasn’t even sure if I was a spiritual being or not. But when I started to chant, it was like love at first sight. I felt like I was remembering something. It was a strange sensation, like I had already done it in the past – but I hadn’t!”
Nuno began substituting chanting for drugs to get the pleasure he craved. “It really worked!” he says. “Then I started doing asanas, and eating Prasad, and it all happened really fast. I fell in love with the Hare Krishna Movement!”
Lisbon’s Mantra Yoga Lounge hopes to soon add more bhajan and kirtan programs on evenings and weekends, and to keep changing lives like Nuno’s.
As the number of devotees grows, ISKCON Lisbon aims to move into its first purchased property within a year or two.
“We hope to establish a full temple and install Deities,” says Sri Ananga Manjari. “Currently, Lisbon is one of the few European capitals without installed Deities. So we hope to change that!”[ hare-krishna-mahamantra ] [ lisbon ] [ mantra-yoga ] [ portugal ]