all photos courtesy Chris Norris.
Nearly 100 fresh-faced devotees in their late teens and twenties flocked to New Vrindaban on Mother’s Day weekend for the Vaishnava Arts Festival on May 12-14. The largely Western-raised crowd enthusiastically attended mangala arati, performed kitchen and cleaning seva, and participated in the inspiring sessions seamlessly – although most had been practicing Krishna consciousness for less than five years, and some only a few months.
These bhaktas and bhaktins had something special in common: they were all past or present Krishna House ashram residents, and they had traveled from all over North America to associate with each other in the first annual Krishna House North America (KHNA) reunion.
Organized under the auspices of Kalakantha Das, the foremost cultivator of the Krishna House network and culture, the reunion was a milestone for the nascent mission. Starting with the establishment of the Bhakti Academy at ISKCON Gainesville in 2008, the Krishna House approach is to attract young Westerners to Krishna consciousness by evoking the nurturing, egalitarian atmosphere of ISKCON temple ashrams in the 1960s and their inclusive preaching following Srila Prabhupada’s mood. After 12 years or more of steady growth and building on successes, even during the global pandemic, other temple communities in the USA and Canada took notice and requested support to start their own ashrams based on the Gainesville model. This led to the founding of new Krishna House locations in Toronto, Canada; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Dallas and Houston, Texas; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the past two years alone. Several more are planned to open in the coming months.
As there had never been such a “gathering of the tribes” before, the assembly at beautiful New Vrindaban aroused a vivid excitement as the ashramites converged in the yoga shala for the Krishna House Continental Reunion panel on the last day of the Arts Festival. ISKCON Gainesville Temple President Srutisagar Das and Educational Director Prabhupada Priya Devi Dasi started the session by describing the common values underlying the Krishna House culture. This led into a series of short presentations from each Krishna House describing the location’s unique activities, with a heartfelt testimonial from a new resident in each center. Finally, KHNA Director Brhat Mrdanga Das revealed the upcoming Nitai Corps seminary course for training new Krishna House leaders, a comprehensive team of experts offering resources and guidance for fledgling ashrams, and a list of additional locations in active planning within ISKCON temple communities.
“The KHNA reunion at New Vrindaban was a joyful, ecstatic event that helped give Krishna House devotees a sense of shared identity, nourishing sanga, and exhilarating momentum. We are grateful to the New Vrindaban community for warmly hosting us and to all of the dedicated temple leaders and staff at our six locations who made it possible for so many devotees to attend. It is only by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, Lord Caitanya, and all of our acaryas that we’ve been able to attract young Westerners by showing them the beauty of a life in Krishna consciousness,” said Brhat Mrdanga Das.
The second annual Vaishnava Arts Festival was a vibrant and diverse event that offered creative workshops, exceptional classes, and transcendental entertainment (plus excellent prasadam) to visitors and local devotees alike. Highlights of the festival included Hridayananda Das Goswami reading the first two chapters of his Mahabharata novelization, Waldorf Pedagogy in Bhakti with Anuradha Dasi and Virginia, morning yoga classes, watercolor, and poetry appreciation workshops, harmonium and mrdanga group lessons, and much more. The drama showcase on Saturday night featured a dynamic presentation of “The Witness Gopal” by Bhaktimarga Swami and Players, as well as other colorful and charming works of song, theater, and poetry. On the last day of the festival, Prabhupada Priya Devi Dasi invigorated the large morning audience with a Mother’s Day-themed Srimad Bhagavatam class filled with the glories of Mother Yasoda and revolutionary appreciation for maternal qualities in preaching Krishna consciousness. The Vaishnava Arts Festival’s distinctive mix of reflective, creative, and inspiring experiences truly earns it a place on the well-rounded devotee’s event calendar.
For more information about Nitai Corps, please эл. почта Visakha Devi Dasi.
For inquiries and support for starting a Krishna House, please эл. почта the KHNA team.
For more information about the upcoming events at New Vrindaban, visit their сайт..
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Sunanda Das, TOVP Communications Director