I had visited the devotees in Chandigarh once before around three years ago, and now I was scheduled to offer the seminar on the Vanaprastha Ashram. The devotees of this community are always very eager to attend systematic educational seminars, and it was a great pleasure for me to serve them. I was accomodated in a comfortable room in the temple Guest House, and the devotees took nicely care of me, considering very carefully all my special diet requirements. And the Deities of Sri Sri Radha Madhava are simply so beautiful!
I arrived in Vrindavan on the 18th of October - just in time for Govardhana Puja.......
Cologne had become my base within Europe - from where I fly back and forth to India. Now I was busy getting ready for my upcoming trip back to Delhi, repacking things and doing last minute errands. It was gradually getting cold here - time for me to move over to the other side of the world and continue my service over there.......
On my arrival in Goloka Dham on the 26th of September I met up with Lisa from Kiev, who I had invited to accompany me for three weeks in Germany. We spent ten days here at the peaceful abode of Sri Sri Radha Madana Mohan. I had come to spend a little time in seclusion, working on some writing projects and catching up on various things which I had put aside. Devotees have urged me to travel at a slower pace and take out some little time every now and again. And I had felt it is a valid suggestion. After all I will be turning 60 next year, which requires some little adjustment to keep the pace. Goloka Dham is a very suitable place for going in seclusion, and the surrounding nature and forests invite for contemplative walks.
It had been a few years that I last visited the Baltic countries for preaching. Svarupa-Siddhi Prabhu and his good wife Govardhini Mataji who are heading up a little preaching center in Riga had felt inspired to arrange for a retreat in a nice holiday center near Sigulda, 45 km's outside of Riga. We had invited the devotees from the three Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) to come together and spend two days churning the nectar on the topic of "Men and Women in Spiritual Culture". On the weekend of the 22nd/23rd/24th of September a nice group of around 35 serious devotees assembled - some of them had traveled a long way to get here.
On my arrival in Zagreb on the 9th of September I was nicely received by the local devotees and settled into a comfortable guest room in the temple.
The gigantic Bhakti Sangam Festival in Ukraine is truly the most amazing event within the three worlds. It is so unique and unparalleled - simply out of this world! Nothing can compare to it.....!
After Janmastami I spent another two and half weeks in Kharkov/Ukraine in order to associate with the devotees and give my body a little more time to recover after the Chemo.
On the following Sunday I used the Sunday feast lecture to introduce the upcoming seminar "From Grhamedhi Life to the Grhastha Ashram", which we were conducting over two weeks, as extended evening program. Our devotees are always eager to attend systematic courses, and thus we had a nice group of devotees who participated in the entire seminar. Recently the realization had occured to me, that we have not yet managed to establish the grhastha ashram firmly, but are still with one foot in grhamedhi life. We are still tending more towards material patterns of behaviors, expectations and attitudes found in mundane family life. And it is very natural: we are coming from grhamedhi families, and we are surrounded by grhamedhi culture and propaganda - we are carrying a good portion of grhamedhi conditioning and "luggage" with us. It will take time to establish family life as an ashram - a place for cultivating pure devotional service. It requires systematic training and education, and ultimately an internal transformation of our desires, expectations, attitudes, visions and approach to family life.
Janmastami in Kharkov/Ukraine is always the most blissful event of my entire year. In preparation for the festival I have the opportunity to get absorbed in another mood - not giving lectures, but endeavoring to create a Vrindavan panorama on the altar. I usually go to nature and collect all kinds of flowers, decorative grasses, greenery and other interesting things for the altar decoration. We compose things in such a way that it looks like naturally grown, rather than floristic arrangements. And we don't place things symmetrically on the altar, which once again gives the impression of a window into Vrindavan forest. Some of the boys go to the forest and collect moss and interesting pieces of wood and tree bark, and also stones of all sizes. This year we also had a fountain on the floor in front of the altar - a little Radha Kund. And of course our festival Deities of Radha Syamasundara were the center of attention.
When boarding the plane in Bangalore on the evening of the 10th of August I had a long journey ahead of me: from Bangalore to Mumbai, further to Sharjah/Middle East, and then to Kiev and on to Kharkov. Almost 30 hours. I had only been discharged from the Ayurvedic Clinic one day before, and I was still a little weak after the Panchakarma treatment. But I was determined to reach Kharkov for Janmastami in order to be amongst all those wonderful devotees - as it had been a long standing tradition. For me it is not easy to experience a deep and sweet mood at festivals when being in a part of the world, where thousands of visiters come to the temple. Therefore I prefer to be outside of India or Bangladesh for the main Vaishnava festivals. I had invited Deena Bandhu Prabhu from Vrindavan to spend Janmastami with us, and he was scheduled to arrive on the same day. So I was anxious to reach there.
Devaki Devi Dasi's Travel Diary
Devaki Devi Dasi is sharing her realizations and adventures in her Traveling Diary.Welcome to relish this nectar!