This time I was intending to spend almost the entire month in Chittagong - a lively yatra with around 70 brahmacaris which has meanwhile become temple number one in Bangladesh.
The annual tradition is that I feed all the temple devotees with a special breakfast on the morning of the 1st of December, thus marking the beginning of the Book Marathon.
What a wonderful way to serve and enthuse all the devotees.....
And for the first time I was introducing this tradition here in Chittagong.
And they were making their offering with so much excitment and affection!
In the flower arrangement they had hidden a little paper heart with "Happy Birthday Devaki Mataji" - very sweet indeed.
I had a team of enthusiastic helpers to prepare the breakfast, and we decided to make baked potatoes with oregano and basilikum, a paneer subji with pasta, and carob pudding which I had brought all the way from Germany. For the local devotees these were very special preparations - something they received only on this very day.
Of course, we also offered the usual rice, dhal and subji - for those who found our menue too exotic.
It was not so easy to get so many baked potatoes ready in time, without burning them - it was quite some endeavor. We had to feed around 150 devotees.
I took great delight in serving out the breakfast prasadam to all the devotees, filling up their plates with pudding - something they had never seen in their entire life.
I hadn't had such a celebration since I had joined Krsna consciousness.
For around 25 years I had spent this day traveling in a van on collection for Bangladesh - either in Australia, or in Germany, or in Norway.....
The month of December had always been best for collecting, since people were spending money for Xmas presents.
I was serving out the cake to one and all, feeding everybody up to the neck....
Throughout the day devotees offered some little gifts - flowers, photos of the Deities in Pundarik Dham, and some pens - so I could use them to sign the books we would distribute in the upcoming Prabhupada Marathon. This was indeed good thinking! Just the other day the thought had entered my mind that I need some good pens....
For the 6th, 7th and 8th of December we had sceduled the second IYF Youth Festival to be held at Pundarik Dham - the same beautiful setting where we had our Holy Name Retreat.
I had invited Atul Krsna Prabhu to give a short version of the Disciples' Course, focusing on the topic of how to chose Guru. HH Bhakti Purusottama Swami came to give deeper insights into various sections of the Bhagavatam, emphasizing the benefits of tapasya, and I gave my seminar on "Death - Our Final Challenge"
For several years I had been meditating on the idea of getting him to come to Bangladesh and inspire our devotees, especially the student boys!
I knew they would really love him!
And so they did....!
I had to fly him in all the way from Ghana! And this was quite a challenge! We were facing so many impediments along the way - so much so that I almost gave up all hopes that he would ever get here in time....
I had booked his ticket for the 1st of December with Emirates, choosing the more expensive airline just to ensure he would get here smoothly. But on the set date they would not let him board the plane, apparently because he had no ticket showing that he will leave Bangladesh. And this scenario repeated itself on the following days, even though meanwhile we had booked a ticket showing that he would leave Dhaka.
It was almost as if some unknown forces would not allow him to leave Ghana!
Finally we decided to cancel the flight with Emirates and book an entirely new ticket!
And low and behold, he finally made it here - just in time for the Youth Festival! Krsna had tested our determination....
Little did we know that he would stay in Bangladesh for entire two months! So it was well worth while the endeavor to get him here.
affected - he almost became the kirtan hero of Bangladesh.....!
The whole atmosphere of the entire event was simply so wonderful and created deep Samskaras in the hearts of these young devotees.
In youth the senses are very strong and demanding some excitement and joyful experiences. And unless we can offer this to our youngsters within Krsna consciousness, they will look somewhere else for it - outside the spiritual realm. So such Youth Festivals are an eternal investment into the spiritual growth of these students, and they create deep and unforgettable impressions in their minds. A glimpse into a realm of ever-increasing happiness... lick here to edit.
I had conducted several programs about book distribution, and every morning after Mangal Artik we read some quotes from Prabhupada about the importance of book distribution, and also some parts of Prabhupada Lilamrta describing the beginnings of Sankirtan and the Marathon.
It was all pretty new to the devotees, and everybody eagerly tuned into the marathon mood.
Pandit Gadadhara Prabhu had made a busy scedule for me, which enabled me to go out with as many department heads and general devotees as possible. We wanted to involve everyone, especially also the senior devotees.
Gradually everybody was caught in the Prabhupada Marathon fever, and we read out the scores every morning after Mangal Artik.
I also went traveling for some days with a group of devotees to various towns nearby. We were involving the local devotees there aswell, and the marathon mood thus spread with its contageous effect.
During the day we were visiting offices and shops, in the afternoon we went to Hindu's homes, and for the evenings we did little programs. I gave a short presentation on the importance of Prabhupada's books, and introduced various titles requesting everybody to come up and purchase something.
And of course I was offering to sign the books with blessings.
We sold so many books! We also distributed quite a number of the first box of the Srimad Bhagavatam set with the first four cantos.
In no other country it is as easy to distribute Prabhupada's books as it is here - people have that natural respect for Sastra and Sadhus.
Nitai Priya Prabhu's presence gave our distribution program a specially sweet flavor. He would come along with his accordeon, and in each house while I was signing the purchased books he would lead a joyful kirtan, which concluded the exchange on a jolly and victorious note. In some houses we had to accept some fruits, and practicing devotees were insisting that we would take some little prasadam. The Vaisnava hospitality in Bangladesh.....!
A visitor cannot leave the house without accepting some prasadam....!
Thus we spent our time blissfully absorbed in book distribution.....
On the 25th of December I flew off to Calcutta.....
Your servant, Devaki dd