Especially in such difficult times the devotees need association and encouragement. Naturally, foreign preachers are not so eager to visit this part of Ukraine at the moment, being afraid of instability, crime and violence.
We had scheduled a four-day Holy Name Retreat over the following weekend, and upon my arrival I immediately got involved in the organisation of this event, making sure that everything was nicely arranged. As two years ago, we rented the same holiday camp 45 km's outside of the city. Around one hundred devotees participated - many young devotees who had taken up the process of devotional service over the last two years. Also senior devotees attended the retreat, welcoming it as a wonderful opportunity to go into seclusion for four days and polish up their chanting habits in order to ongoingly deepen their relationship with the holy name.
The atmosphere was sweet and deep, and devotees gained valuable insights into deeper levels of chanting - in japa aswell as in kirtan. One day of mauna vrata helped us to be more introspective and do some internal work on our hearts. The holy name carries an echo called dvani, and even after chanting this echo still affects our heart. However, what immediately destroys this transcendental echo is unnecessary talk, or prajalpa. And little do we realize how much of our daily talking is unnecessary! Prajalpa immediately switches on the mundane mind, whereas the holy name stops the mind from rambling on and on.
As we know, overeating creates toxins within our gross body, and thus it is healthy to fast sometimes, simply to give the body a detoxifying break. In the same way, unnecessary talk creates toxins within our subtle body, especially the mind, and thus it is very beneficial to observe a little mauna vrata sometimes, simply to give the subtle body a detoxifying break!
We spent a wonderful time together, churning this topic on deeper levels. Around 60 to 70 devotees participated every day - a good attendance, which I never expected! We even included the well attended regular Saturday morning program in this discussion, and also the Sunday feast lecture. Devotees felt genuinely encouraged and inspired, and we received valuable food-for-thought and practical tools to assess ourselves: to what extend we have actually accepted shelter within our spiritual practice. Witnessing the wonderful response and the deep realizations which devotees shared in the concluding session I felt very encouraged to again offer such systematic courses and seminars on my future visits to Kharkov.
On the 24th of June I flew off to Odessa for yet another Holy Name Retreat....
Your servant, Devaki dd