More than 8.000 devotees came together in Koblevo - a holiday resort on the Black Sea outside of Odessa. We welcomed many Sannyasis and preachers, who offered seminars in six venues parallel throughout the day. And there were so many wonderful kirtaniyas chanting the holy name throughout the evening.
As every year, Maharaja was again the most affectionate and caring host of the whole gathering. His humility, affection and devotion was permeating the entire atmosphere and created an outpour of selfless service mood. Everyone present was serving in their own way - by hearing, speaking, leading us in kirtan, serving the VIP's and general devotees, etc, truly creating "Vaikuntha atmosphere" within this material world. In order for the whole event to take place, it requires around one thousand devotees who are fully absorbed in service - otherwise such festival cannot take place. Many devotees already came to the venue ten days earlier in order to help setting everything up: the cooking arrangements (for 8.000 devotees!), the huge pandal and stage for the morning programs and evening kirtans, the arrangements for the VIP's, etc, etc. And so many other back-up services were required, which necessitates a strong mood of cooperation - for the sole goal of making pleasing arrangements for Krishna's devotees. Simply amazing!
I gave special attention to the topic of 'no illicit sex life' - something which is often misunderstood and thus can even break up marriages. First of all, sex life within marriage is not sinful as such, but it is certainly not favorable for developing pure devotional service. Not following the other three principles is sinful, but sex life within marriage is not. This understanding we find in all spiritual practices and religions: that the man-woman relationship is distracting us from God and needs to be sanctified by the Lord through the samskara of marriage, which makes it bona fide and not sinful.
In the process of devotional service we have many such activities which are not at all favorable to bhakti but also not sinful, such as close association with materialistic persons, criticizing others, engaging in worldly and mundane activities which have nothing to do with devotional service, etc, etc. The list is long. So a serious practitioner will certainly do everything to avoid them.
In SB.11.20.27-28 Krishna very nicely describes the inner mood and attitude of a serious devotee towards any kind of sense gratification:
"Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities."
Krishna understands that not everyone will be able to renounce all sense gratification immediately - from one day to another. For most of us it is a gradual process. He gives us encouragement to nevertheless remain hopeful, that if we just continue applying ourselves sincerely to the process of devotional service, eventually we will get to the point where we develop a higher taste and can let go of the lower taste. Krishna's instruction in those verses of sincerely repenting such activities of sense gratification is very significant. Such sincere repentance will purify us and impel us to endeavor for a higher taste, minimizing the lower taste of sense gratification. Paramatma is there within our heart and witnesses whether or not we sincerely repent. So we can't cheat Krishna. We should repent and cry out to Krishna for help: "My dear Lord, when oh when will the day come when I can finally let go of these activities!?" Krishna responds to such sincere appeal and will help us by removing our attachments to sense gratification. These attachments to lusty gratification are very deeply rooted in our heart - we have been carrying them with us for many life times! By our own strength we will not be able to free ourselves from lusty desire. We need Krishna's help. Lord Nrismhadev is very expert in performing such heart surgeries with His sharp and long nails.....!
Sometimes devotees ask whether it is 'OK' to engage in sex life once a month. The answer is no, it is not 'OK'. If we think it to be OK - how can we repent sincerely?!
Husband and wife have to give shelter to each other's senses - they have to work as a team. By nature men are as a rule more attached to the gross aspect of sex life, whereas we women are more attached to subtle aspects and are thus to be known as being more competitive, envious and also more attached to showing off our beauty, etc. Nevertheless, a wife has to give shelter to the husband's senses. This is expressed in SB.3.14.20: "As a fort commander very easily conquers invading plunderers, by taking shelter of a wife one can conquer the senses, which are unconquerable in the other social orders."
A wife who refuses to give shelter to her husband's senses will inflict severe pain to her husband's heart. He will feel painfully rejected and has no shelter. She may even drive him to satisfy his senses outside of marriage, which is sinful. At the same time, a trained and expert wife can very much help her husband to minimize the indulgence in sex life. By her chaste and uplifting beauty, her wonderful cooking, by keeping the home nice and clean, and by her submissive mood of serve she can divert her husband's attention and can satisfy him on higher levels. A dominant wife who always corrects and instructs her husband may have to face the fact that he will more often approach her for sex life. It may be his foremost way how he can dominate over her and take the superior position. Sex life is closely connected with power and control over another person.
The main process to purify our senses is by using them in Krishna's service. Thus it is highly recommended to try and invite a special soul to take birth in our family and give this Vaishnava the best chance right from the very beginning of life to go home, back to Godhead. To chant 50 rounds on the day of conception is highly purifying and helps us to transform our attitude towards sex life by realizing its actual purpose: to beget children.
guidance, and at the same time recharge my own batteries and receive
spiritual nourishment by attending classes and evening kirtans. I also managed to distribute 145 copies of my book, which I thought to be a good number considering that not so many devotees can read in English. I am looking forward to have it in Russian language on next year's festival.....!
On the 16th of September I flew off to London......
Your servant, Devaki dd