I enjoyed attending various presentations and associating with devotees from all around the world over the delicious lunch prasadam in the big pandal. And it gave me a great opportunity to promote my book by showing it to many leaders and devotees who I know a little. Most of them accepted one or even more with great eagerness. Every day I came with my book bag and went on "Sankirtan" - by far the best way to get it out there! So much more effective than sitting on a book table. The personal approach always wins. And I love to approach devotees, connect with them and have meaningful exchanges. The book gave me a good reason to get in touch with people, and everybody reacted with appreciation, encouragement and interest.
The ILS presentation which left the deepest impressions on my mind was given by Kalakantha and Samba Prabhus, who live in Mayapur and spoke about "What we can learn from the Amish" - a Christian sect which lives in farm communities in America. I was deeply impressed by the slide show, illustrating their simple life style - keeping away from sense gratification and unnecessary necessities, as Srila Prabhupada calls them. They grow fruits and vegetables, produce wooden furniture and other crafts and move around in horse carts, and their life is God centered. Whenever a new technology appears on the market, the elders meet and discuss whether they want to accept it in their communities. One of the main important criterias in the discussion is whether or not it will increase pride. And if it does so, they don't accept it. Many times they consider "What would the Lord think about this? What would He instruct?" They very regularly meet for Bible studies in somebody's home. The ladies look very chaste, simple and pure hearted - covering their head and wearing simple uniforms.
Srila Prabhupada's instruction on the importance of farm communities came to practical life for me! I was amazed at how they manage to live like this - even without having access to the power of the holy name! And yet, we devotees seem so far away from this simple life style! Will there ever be a time, when we can be so united in our values, principles and practices? The amazing thing is, that they send each and every youth at around 19 years of age for one year out of their communities in order to evaluate their life and decide, whether they want to continue as a member of the Amish, or rather live a life in the outside world. And around 95% of those youngsters come back to their community! What binds them is the strong relationships, deep friendships and supportive systems which the community has developed.
Of course, they are not a preaching movement like we are, and only rarely accept an outsider into their communities. They increase the numbers of their members through having many children, and in this way they have expanded quite remarkably over the last 200 years.
Your servant, Devaki dd