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

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Rise of the Bhakti Recovery Group
By Jay Subal Balaram Das, Jiva G, Yogesvara Das, and Namamrita Das   |  Feb 04, 2023
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There is a quiet yet powerful revolution occurring within the safe and confidential walls of the Bhakti Recovery Group (BRG). With hundreds attending meetings happening daily worldwide, ISKCON members, leaders, and many of the BRG participants agree that this may be one of the most significant developments in devotee care today.

BRG combines bhakti yoga with the famed twelve-step recovery program developed in the 1930s by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. Since then, the twelve-step approach has proven itself effective for other kinds of compulsions such as sex addiction, co-dependencies, eating disorders, drugs, and gambling. Some even consider the program “a bona fide spiritual practice,” as it has been the point of entry to acknowledge the existence of a higher power for thousands around the world.

 

STRUGGLE OF JIVA

BRG, was initiated by Jiva, an American-born woman whom many know from her appearances on the Bhakti Yoga Podcast, Wisdom of the Sages, and other media. She generously and bravely relates her own experience.

“After getting released from jail, dope-sick and desperate,” she says, “I got into a fist fight on the subway with two men. Flustered and shocked, I got off at the stop where I could possibly find some drugs but it was deserted. It was late at night, a cold February evening in Germany. I had no coat, no home, no money and no hope. I had lost everything.
“Then something simple but amazing happened. It started to snow. I watched snowflakes falling in the streetlights and thought how beautifully surreal the scene was. In that one small moment, I had a thought or perhaps heard a voice that said, “This doesn’t have to be the rest of your life.’ Then and there, I knew it was over.”

 

STEPS OF SURRENDER

Today in her interviews, Jiva appears as the new person she has become, a mature seasoned Bhakti practitioner with an extraordinary track record of helping others battle the hardships of this material world.
Leaning into her camera she explained what it is like to live with addiction. “Imagine I told you a tsunami is coming,” she says, “That’s the material energy. You are powerless..” A huge smile beamed broadly across her face, “But you are not helpless.”
Jiva diligently described for me each of the 12 steps of recovery emphasizing the all-important first three:
1) Admitting one’s powerlessness over addictions and associated behaviors,
2) Coming to believe that Krishna, a power greater than ourselves, can restore us to sanity, and
3) Deciding to turn one’s will and life over to the care of that higher power.

The other steps follow as important milestones on the path to recovery including taking an honest moral inventory of oneself, making amends with people we may have harmed, and improving our conscious contact with Krishna through prayer and sadhana. ISKCON members who participate in the BRG seem to agree that this program is not only a way to overcome addictions and associated behaviors but also a doorway to reaching new depths in their experience of Bhakti which they never thought possible before. They are eager for this message to be shared with others in our devotional communities.

 

THE TSUNAMI

The metaphor Jiva used to describe the material energy felt like a wake-up call to any one of us struggling with the four regulative principles or unhealthy habits and behaviors. “Trying to fight this fight alone is pretty arrogant,” Jiva continued. “It’s like thinking you’re as powerful as Krishna. But only He is more powerful than Maya.” She expanded on some of the challenges that are specifically addressed in their dedicated BRG sessions such as freeing oneself from co-dependency, overcoming the uncertainties that come with being a child or partner of an addict, and managing overwhelming emotions such as anger, lust, and greed. “We’re all a little broken,” she said, “right?”

 

THE MEETING

All meetings begin with the Serenity Prayer. Addressing Krishna directly by Name, members of the group ask Him to grant them the serenity to accept the things they cannot change, the courage to change the things they can, and the wisdom to know the difference. After conducting introductions and establishing ground rules for the meeting, a moderator engages the participants in readings from twelve-step literature and Srila Prabhupada’s books. Then comes an intimate process where members share their experiences, strengths, and hopes on their journey through recovery.

Namamrita Das, who helps Jiva by developing in-person meetings for his community in Alachua, Florida, shares: “BRG offers a much-needed safe place where members of ISKCON can find freedom from religious taboos. In these circles, participants know they will be welcomed and accepted as bhakti yogis while struggling through recovery and trying to navigate their journey in the material world. This comes as a great relief for many who have felt alone up until now. Testimonials show that they have developed great strength in their bhakti practice through the process of honest sharing, being heard lovingly, and connecting with other fellow devotees in a program that is known to work.”

In preparing this article, I reflected on the struggles of society and how addictive behaviors—whether serious drug addiction or the equally insidious daily presence of caffeine and junk foods—are so rampant. I contemplated social media’s influence on young minds and the struggles future generations will face with access to pornography and drugs becoming easier by the day.

 

THE VISION

Feeling it self-evident that every center promoting Bhakti needed access to a BRG, I asked Jiva about the vision for BRG going forward and she immediately replied“We want that no devotee seeking recovery should ever have to be alone again.”
Her words struck me with tremendous force as I considered this quintessential need. I thought of devotees I personally knew that had taken their lives, others that had lost faith in themselves, and some even in Bhakti as a reality. That’s when I decided to dedicate my time to helping the BRG and considered checking out the program for myself as well.

Jiva leads Bhakti Recovery Retreats around the world, which is a great introduction to the program. If you are interested in joining the BRG or promoting it in your local community, we recommend you go to the website bhaktirecoverygroup.com. To see testimonials from participants, visit bhaktirecoverygroup.com/testimonials.

This article is written by Jay Subal Balaram Das, in collaboration with Jiva G, Yogesvara Das, and Namamrita Das.

The images are all AI generated (except for Krsna-Kaliya) and have been created and edited by Jay Subal Balaram Das.

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