Radhadesh is one of the main communities in Europe. ISKCON owns a big old Castle here, where the Dracula movies were produced before we purchased the property. It is surrounded by beautiful nature - gentle hills covered with fields and forests. The devotees also maintain gardens and cows. Many of the grhasthas are living outside the temple in the nearby village, and some have a simple flat within the temple compound.
Throughout the Castle are many original BBT paintings decorating the walls. The windows into the spiritual world, as Srila Prabhupada called them. Much to my delight I could even detect quite a few of my very favorite paintings here! Prabhupada had painstakingly trained and instructed the devotee-artists with minute precision and detail how to paint these paintings - just to make sure not the slightest speculations or wrong understanding would enter these works of art. How well Prabhupada knew the importance of such paintings depicting the spiritual world and various pastimes of the Lord! It would help establish eternal spiritual reality.
Kancana-Valli Mataji received me at the airport in Brussels - we had met before in Mayapur, and some years ago when I visited Radhadesh to attend HH Sacinandana Swami's Holy Name Retreat.
On my arrival I moved into my bhajan kutir in the very top of the tower of the castle. It was a quiet and secluded room, only accessible over the long and narrow spiral staircase climbing up the inside of the tower to the top floor. Devotees would only take the effort to walk up those stairs if they really had to.... I was happy to have a bit of daily exercise throughout my stay. And a few more steps took me up to the rooftop of the tower with its little platform where I could have a wonderful view onto the entire property and surrounding nature. I discovered it to be a nice place for chanting - in the early mornings, when the day awakened and the fields and forests were still covered with fluffy fog, as if the demigods had spread thin cotton wool around, and in the evenings, when the sun was setting, and the sky was painted in dramatic formations of colorful clouds.
The temple president, Manohara Prabhu immediately invited me to give the SB class on the next morning. He appologised that my visit had not been properly announced and thus thought it to be a good introduction if I could immediately give a morning class.
The community has many senior devotees, but also a lot of Gurukulis and young devotees of different nationalities. I could sense an openess to new thoughts and concepts. And indeed, the topic of spiritual culture is a rather revolutionary one! The propaganda of equality and women's liberation is indeed already an old hat - more than fifty years ago it was a new thing, but meanwhile there is already an anti-movement developing, since it has become clear that those concepts did not bring more stability and harmony to human society at large, and also not to Prabhupada's ISKCON.
Manohara Prabhu requested me to also give some sessions on Devotee Care, since this topic is so closely connected with spiritual culture being Krsna's Divine system for Devotee Care. So I gave an introduction to the principles of giving and accepting shelter, connecting it once again to spiritual culture. The presentations were very well received, and I felt very inspired to come regularly to this community and offer consistent service. I sensed that this community is indeed ready to accept these ideas and principles: all the material structures and facilities are established, and there are many senior and mature devotees here who are deeply interested to bring their community further. Manohara Prabhu has been the TP for one year, and he is keen to introduce new concepts to move things forward. It would be indeed a great honor for me to be part of it and regularly offer service to these wonderful devotees....
Our ladies' course was once again so well received - far beyond my expectations! The group was small since not many could take so much time off their services and home duties. We were an intimate circle of around 12 to 15 devotees, amongst them also senior devotees and one disciple of Srila Prabhupada. We churned the nectar in deep discussions, which brought us closer and transformed our hearts. Here are some of the wonderful feedbacks the ladies shared:
Visakha Devi Dasi:
I found the entire course 'Women in Spiritual Culture' extremely interesting and relevant. For the first time I could deeply understand the controversial topics about women, relationships between men and women, behavior, dress codes, etc. Everything just made so much sense and it was a relief to get insights into the proper perspective. I really liked the explanation about the powerful female energy and how it can be destructive to ultimately the entire society, or, on the contrary inspire and empower the men. The whole topic of women submitting to men simply became so wonderful - it completely lost this bitter taste it often had before. I feel totally at ease now being in a woman's body, having the privilege of being a mother and striving to become a chaste and submissive wife. I feel really excited to apply everything I learnt in order to bring more harmony and stability into my life.
I very much appreciated how Devaki Mataji shared her personal experiences and also the mistakes she made herself in the past, before gaining insights into this lost and forgotten knowledge of spiritual culture. I really
appreciate that she encouraged us where we stand without putting pressure or judging those who have not come up to a higher level yet.
Sri Kumari Devi Dasi from Kuwait:
Devaki Mataji's course in its entirety is very illustrative and practical. I was especially impressed by the concept that women are meant to be the auspicious source of energy to men. It also tremendously helped to understand that when women, consciously or unconsciously choose to not be the auspicious source of inspiration, and instead compete with men - it throws them off balance first, and then their relationships with women, and finally how on a communal and global scale the imbalance leads to mistreatment of women in the form of exploitation: physically, financially and even emotionally. For months I have been quite disturbed about the mistreatment of women - rape, violence, etc - and I would wonder whether Krsna consciousness has the answer to everything. I was hoping and praying for a practical answer firmly based in Krsna consciousness, which could explain and perhaps even provide solutions to the afore mentioned global issues. Devaki Mataji's course gives this answer and the solutions - for women and men alike. I am thankful for her enlightening seminar which came at a time when I was quite frustrated of blaming the other gender. I am convinced, with her blessings and mercy, that girls and women have this power and energy to turn in themselves to Krsna and in the process also serve and inspire their families and communities to do just the same.
Bhaktin Lara Orlic from Croatia:
The topic that affected me the most is the understanding how a woman should behave towards men, how she should be the source of auspiciousness for them, and not a seductive and cosmopolitan girl. I wish I had heard about this knowledge as a young girl which would have spared me from wasting many years of my life which I have spent in trying to be a hip modern Western urban girl. Modern lifestyle has spoiled me in so many ways. No matter how much I tried to adjust to the modern lifestyle, people would tell me: "This is not you. You are trying to be somebody who you are not." Only now I understand what they meant. And at least with the help of this seminar today I can make a new list of my values and priorities. I had no idea that the tools to a woman's beauty and being herself are the qualities of tolerance and shyness, resulting in chastity. And that these are the qualities which ultimately make a woman most attractive and desirable for men. I am happy to learn these things, and I secretly hope they will bring some changes to my life. At least I can stop hankering to be something which I am not. I find that some restriction, correction and discipline works as a kind of protective fence - like in a garden where beautiful flowers can grow. I see this knowledge of the principles of spiritual culture as a challenge for me to become more mature, responsible and selfless, and more mother-like. I pray that the weaknesses in my
character can become a source for spiritual growth leading to a beneficial transformation.
Madan-mohan Mohini Dasi, the TP's wife:
This course "Women in Spiritual Culture" is a wonderful tool women can utilize in discovering, realizing and expressing their nature being in a woman's body. It is a challenging journey into the inner corners of ourselves. It clears away many of the misconceptions, fears and brings relief.
Especially interesting was to hear and understand the differences between materialistic and spiritual culture and our roles. I was affected the most by the deeper explanations of the position of the mother. The fact that the
position and role of women is so important - at home and within society at large, that they create the whole atmosphere through their powerful energy was very new to me.
My realization is that we women hold the key to our happiness, and the happiness of others around us. What a great responsibility!
I also had a nice meeting with Hrdaya Caitanya Prabhu, the GBC of the zone.
He was very pleased that my humble efforts of offering some inspiration to this community were so well received and requested me to come regularly.
This visit to Radhadesh was a major break-through in my humble mission of spreading the awareness and understanding of spiritual culture. Once again it confirmed to me that some yatras are indeed eager and perfectly ready to receive it. And I was looking forward to be back.....
On the 1st of October Bhakta Peter picked me up from Goloka Dham to take me to the next transcendental adventure - the course "Men in Spiritual Culture"...
Your servant, Devaki dd