The Berlin yatra has experienced a troubled year of instability, with no permanent place for the devotees to hold programs, and Lord Jagannath having to live in a tiny little flat and being taken care of by a couple of devotees.
One year ago the devotees had been asked to vacate their spacious flat which had served for many years as their temple and meeting place. It had been a shock to the entire congregation. The disgruntled neighbors had repeatedly complained to the house owner about the noise of the kirtans. And finally the devotees had been asked to leave.
Since then they have not managed to find a suitable place for worship and preaching. There also have been different visions of what kind of place to get: a store front, or better a house in the suburbs? Or a flat within the new-age scene? The devotees have not managed to come to some united conclusion, all the while Lord Jagannath has been patiently waiting.....
They have been feeling homeless....
I stayed with Dominique and her partner Bhakta Nick for a couple of days. They are in their early twenties, and they distribute books in Berlin with great enthusiasm. They also conduct regular programs in their home - something which is especially important now, since the devotees don't have a meeting place. At least this gives them some sense of belonging, and they have an opportunity to maintain relationships on the basis of sravanam kirtanam.
Sometimes Nick and Dominique are also receiving Maharajas and preachers in their two-room flat and are inviting the congregation for programs. In this way every challenging situation also offers an opportunity to manifest initiative and increased longing to serve.
We had sceduled a three-day retreat for the ladies - a follow-up and continuation of our course "Exploring The Roots Of Spiritual Culture" which we had conducted in Goloka Dham in the beginning of August.
Around 25 ladies came together from various parts of Germany. Some had brought their husband and children along, and the men had kindly agreed to help preparing the prasadam and engage the children in various activities, so that the mothers could peacefully attend the seminar. What a wonderful idea! It created a very nice atmosphere with the men being part of it aswell, in service.
I indeed have these famous ancestors - Carl Friedrich Schinkel is a well known personality in German history. There are stamps and coins with his head on it, streets are named after him, and there is a Schinkel Society with people remembering and honoring him and his direct family members.
However, as devotees we are not so interested in honoring our non-devotee ancestors, much to my mother's disappointment. After all it is simply another manifestation of extended false ego and all very temporary, related to the bodily platform.
Those ladies who had attended the previous course came together on the first evening, sharing realizations and experiences during their attempts of applying what we had discussed eight weeks ago.
This follow-up meeting gave me the clear realization that devotees will need ongoing guidance and support in order to make the paradime shift into spiritual culture. To once attend the course is a good start, but by far not everything. The application is the main challenge - to let go of all the old habits and patterns of behavior and establish new and uplifting habits.
For this we will have to establish a network in order to provide ongoing association, encouragement and guidance. Ideally every yatra should have a team of senior and experienced ladies who can give training, guidance and support to the other ladies. And several times a year we could have retreats and week-end seminars to further deepen the understanding of the topics.
Kanupriya and Syamasundari Matajis are the main pillars of this new-born project - two mature and intelligent ladies who are eager to sacrifice their energy for this laudable purpose of propagating spiritual culture within the German yatra.
They had always been dreaming of being part of something like this, but they couldn't understand where and how to start.
Looks like Krsna has somehow sent me along, just at the right time....
Some ladies had joined this course for the first time, and all together we dived into the topics of "Secrets Of Success In The Grhastha Ashram", and "Children In Spiritual Culture" - both very relevant themes for all our participants.
Thus we spent three days in wonderful association, churning various topics in an intimate setting and personal atmosphere, and encouraging each other in our devotional practice.
Some evenings we chanted in kirtan together with the men. I also spent quality time with devotees privately, giving encouragement and advice wherever I could.
Even though it had been an intense three days with lots of association, we all felt rejuvenated and enlivened - a sign of uplifting sanga. The feeling of being drained and worn out comes only about when we spent too much time in prajalpa. If the discussions are centered around Krsna consciousness, then we never feel worn out or drained.....
This retreat had further given me an opportunity to establish new relationships and deepen existing one's. We had grown together as a good team, and the need and importance of such events were clearly established.
And we developed a plan for the upcoming year....
On the 30th of September I flew off to Stuttgart to visit my dear mother for three days.
Every time I see her I feel it might be the last time...
She had done her service of being my very first Guru during my childhood with great care, attention, selflessness and thoughtfulness.
She had planted the seed of devotional life within my heart - no doubt....!
On the 3rd of October I flew off to Delhi....
Your servant, Devaki dd