From letters Srila Prabhupada wrote to his disciples, we know that he envisioned New Vrindaban as, among other things, a holy place of pilgrimage in North America, where devotees could gather for spiritual education.
Progress in realizing that vision has gone from strength to strength in recent times. New Vrindaban’s accommodation in its Palace Lodge, cabins, and temple guestwing have been beautifully remodeled, including several rooms with ensuite bathrooms. The recently built Yogashala venue, with its three walls of panoramic windows overlooking New Vrindaban’s own Kusum Sarovara lake, the Vrindaban forest, and peacocks and swans makes an appealing space for events.
These features, along with the service attitude of the local devotees, have created an exceptional attraction for both teachers presenting seminars and workshops on various spiritual topics, and devotees looking for retreats. As a result, more and more people are choosing New Vrindaban as their place to meet.
Sacinandana Swami has taught his hugely popluar experiential Living Name Retreat on japa and kirtan in the West Virginia community for two years in a row, with the third coming up from April 9th to 12th this year. Men of three generations have gathered there to hold their MAN-tra retreat on “Being a K.C. Guy in the 21st Century” for the past two years. ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry has been holding its annual nine-day temple worship course for all of North America at New Vrindaban. And the GBC College for Leadership Development has been holding the residential courses for its Zonal Supervisor Training program there too.
Sacinandana Swami guides devotees in their relationship with the Holy Name during the Living Name Retreat in New Vrindaban
Meanwhile, Prabhupada disciple Malati Devi Dasi conducts ongoing presentations four evenings a week when she’s in town. On Mondays, she hosts video screenings of a class by a past or current learned devotee; and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, she shares stories of her own experiences with Srila Prabhupada, as well as those of others gleaned from extensive interviews. She also discusses how those personal experiences continue to impact devotees in their spiritual lives. The discussions are broadcast on New Vrindaban Facebook Live and on Mayapur TV at 6 – 7pm EST.
Elsewhere once a month on Ekadasi, Japa Ashraya gatherings continue to be held in Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s temple, with devotees finding inspiration and support to chant sixty-four rounds together.
“About forty devotees participated in the first Japa Ashraya, which ran from 3:30am to 1:30pm,” says Jaya Krsna Das, local GBC Zonal Supervisor and interim director at ISKCON New Vrindaban. “In a sharing session at the end, some devotees disclosed their deep experience, and the group said they felt like a family.”
This year, New Vrindaban continues its trajectory to become the spiritualretreat hotspot in North America, with a packed schedule of events throughout 2020.
From March 28th to 31st, Narayani Devi Dasi will present “Seven Days to Live - An Overview of the Srimad Bhagavatam.” Renowned for teaching Bhakti Sastri, Bhakti Vaibhava and Bhaktivedanta courses at the VIHE in Vrindavan, Narayani is the author of Srimad Bhagavatam At a Glance.
Kaunteya Das teaches strategic planning at the GBC College residential course
“Who better to get a bird’s eye view of the Bhagavatam from than Narayani Mataji?” says ISKCON New Vrindaban Communications Director Anuradha Dasi. “She is also known for her studying of scripture and slokas, and in one session, she will teach us a method of how to prayerfully study the Srimad Bhagavatam.”
From April 17th to 19th, leaders and residents of temples around North America are invited to attend the GBC’s Devotee Care Course, offered thanks to an initiative by the New Vrindaban Village Association.
The course will outline six principles of devotee care: Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and example; Vaishnava seva; loving relationships; attentive listening; positive sense of belonging; and spirited leadership. It will also discuss six values that underpin devotee care: wisdom and realization; expertise; affection and love; empathy; gratitude and generosity; and responsibility. Upon completing the course, devotees will leave with a strategic plan of how to implement devotee care in their home communities.
Next, on April 25th, 26th and May 2nd, Adi Purusa Das, who teaches Bhakti Sastri courses around the world, will give devotees the chance to study Bhakti Sastri classes on Nectar of Instruction and Sri Isopanisad without having to travel all the way to India.
“Adi Purusa Prabhu is known for making the sastras very accessible, for his encouraging and non-judgemental way of teaching, and for being extremely knowledgeable in all areas of study,” says Anuradha.
Finally, the famous Festival of Inspiration will return on Mother’s Day Weekend, May 8th to 10th, with the theme of “Celebrating Vaishnava Arts.” The three-day event will explore the hallmarks of Vaishnava art, theater, music, and speech and how they can enrich our lives, strengthen our communities, and assist us in spreading the wealth of the Krishna consciousness movement.
Presenters will include Bhaktimarga Swami on the dramatic arts and Vaishnava theater; Bhakti Charu Swami on the art of speech, drawing from Srila Prabhupada’s eloquence and inspirational preaching; watercolor painter Krishna Bhava Dasi on the visual arts; and Kalakantha Das, head of the Krishna House in Gainesville, Florida on the musical arts, along with Ananda Vardhana Das and other musicians.
There will also be expert storyteller and author Sankirtana Das on the art of storytelling, guiding devotees in how to share their own stories through writing and creative expression; ISKCON of D.C. temple president Ananda Vrindavaneswari Dasi on the art of association; and Prabhupada Priya Dasi, Bhakti Academy Director at the Krishna House in Gainesville, Florida on the art of studying Srila Prabhupada’s books, assimilating them and applying them to everyday life.
Graduates of the Pujari Training Seminar in New Vrindaban, 2017
Both teachers and visiting devotees have found the facilities and atmosphere at New Vrindaban extremely conducive for such retreats and seminars.
“New Vrindavan is a unique holy place - it has absorbed decades of both austerity and love for Srila Prabhupada and Radha Krishna, and now it generously emits all the mercy,” wrote Bhakti Sastri teacher Adi Purusa Das. “I found my japa at Prabhupada’s Palace to be the best I have had in years! To me, besides the scenic nature, jolly peacocks and mesmerizing temple worship, what I found most attractive, was the presence of so many experienced devotees who demonstrate both their keen spiritual interest and encouraging community spirit. I do intend to come again!”
Dronacharya Das, who attended the GBC College residential course at New Vrindaban as a student, commented, “I felt at home and the service mood of the devotees created a peaceful atmosphere for learning. The housing and educational facilities were comfortable, clean and modern. The prasadam was nutritious, delicious and abundant. My highlight was going to Govardhana Hill everyday and in the serene presence of Radha Kunda, chant with deep concentration the holy names of Krishna. The sadhu sanga in the Divine land of New Vrndavana certainly intensified my spiritual realizations and a refocused committeement to Srila Prabhupada’s Mission. I truly wished life could be like this everyday.”
In the future, Jaya Krsna Das says, “Our long term dream is to build a retreat center with ninety additional rooms, a hall for 800 people, two smaller meeting rooms, a restaurant/prasadam hall, and shops. The new facilities will allow us to offer retreats and seminars to bigger audiences.”
To keep up with upcoming events, mark yourself as “interested” and register, please visit https://www.facebook.com/pg/newvrindaban108/events/ and scroll down to “Upcoming Events.”[ japa-retreat ] [ new-vrindaban ] [ new vrindavana ] [ retreat ]