Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Sadhu-Sanga Retreat 2007/2008

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

What can I say… I was blown away by this experience – over 80 inspired and enthused devotees gathered in the mountains of Otaki for 10 days of pure unadulterated Krishna Conscious association.  Headed by HH Devamrita Swami and accompanied by HG Bada-Hari prabhu and his wife HG Kosa Rupa prabhu, our days were filled with  endless Krishna katha, thought provoking presentations and ever-fresh ecstatic kirtans.  Oh, and lots of fresh air, beautiful surroundings and time to rest and recover for the dedicated sankirtan devotees after an intense marathon.   My repeated respects to all these personalities – I have never before encountered such a team – HH Devamrita Maharaja is expert in extracting the best – just like a swan can extract milk from water, he finds the right personalities and draws out the best in them.  Of course the surrender has to be there.

Unavoidable old age… we were urged to meditate on the realities of life in the material world

Yasomati devi dasi

About 16 devotees took initiation vows.  Syam Gauri dd is now a brahmin.

The cooks were very accomodating…

catering for all tastes and requirements

HG Urmila prabhu joined us for the second part of the retreat – Devamrita Maharaja and Bada-Hari prabhu stayed at Riverslea with the rest of the men, and Urmila and Kosa Rupa prabhus shared their wisdom and realization with the women at Waihonga.  The association of these great souls brought about a significant transformation for me and I am sure for many others. 

more realities… there really is a dramatic difference between women and men

A long awaited reunion with my mrdanga guru Caroline… and of course finally meeting the vibrant Syam Gauri.

Down by the riverside

Gaura Haven… the fruits of the labor of the Gaura Yoga devotees – their very own retreat center.

Zoto 3.0 – Photo Sharing

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New Zealand

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Finally, after being here for more than a month, I’ve managed to set up a way to get blogging again.  Syam Gauri’s encouragement to keep going helped speed things up a little. 

Anyway, here I am… at the beautiful home of beautiful Sri Sri Radha-Giridhari – New Varshan dhama in New Zealand… what great fortune.  My realization – wherever you may go, you’ll always find a home amongst the devotees of Sri Krsna, you’ll always find shelter at His lotus feet.  Another realization – no distance can separate you from the devotees of Sri Krsna, sankirtan connects us eternally.  Suvarna Manjari is singing and dancing, calling out to Krsna somewhere and I am singing and dancing, calling out to Krsna here, and somehow this connects us very deeply, very tangibly.  We can still share our realizations, our blissful experiences and our hearts, and still fully relate to each other, because we’re tasting the same nectar.

Much has happened, and I probably won’t be able to share it all, but I’ll try to post some pictures and more news very soon…

Zoto 3.0 – Photo Sharing

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return of Happy Cows

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Mayapurchandra and Suvarna Manjari have returned from their pilgrimage in India… they are very inspired and working hard at establishing a functional farm community in South Africa.  Meanwhile, after joining forces with Gunther, Happy Cows Srikhand is finally back in certain stores (mainly Spar at this stage).  We are all very happy about this.

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and more surrender…

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

A big anartha that is being painfully parted with at the moment – my fierce independence and severe strong will. Radha-sanga helped me to make more sense of this situation – I’ve had to find, and rely on, a great deal of strength due to my particular karmic package. I’ve become so accustomed to relying on my own strength that I refuse to rely on anyone else and I end up taking on everything (even things that I shouldn’t be taking on – things that are not my duty), because I know I can do it properly and efficiently. In short – I’m a control-freak. While being aware of all of this (and consistently being presented with situations that require more detachment), Krishna very expertly starts to take away my fake strength. Of course this leads to some resistance on my part, but gradually I am being shown that I have no strength of my own. I have to submit. I have to surrender. I have to let go of my own useless attempts and have faith that He will be my strength. It makes so much sense – stop playing around with this little spark of ability and access the Source of everything and then be strong for His pleasure and in His service. Once the realization starts to take place, the process is not so painful anymore – it’s just a matter of applying the realization. Phew!

When we are given lessons, it’s done so skillfully.

I really have nothing to be proud of…


Thursday, November 30th, 2006

On Tuesday we visited Mukunda, Mira and Nitai at their home in Pringle Bay. Mother Visakha Priya is in South Africa, so we had the good fortune of her sweet association as well as the enlivening company of this lovely family and on top of that – a much needed break from city living. Pringle Bay is a little coastal village about an hours drive from Cape Town.
HG Visakha Priya dd

Tomorrow we start the annual December book distribution marathon.
We will also be hosting Cape Town’s very first Ratha Yatra festival, so devotees have been and will be fully engaged in preparation for this glorious occasion while simultaneously going all out to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books.

on the farm

Monday, November 6th, 2006

On Sunday morning we went to the farm to buy milk. Mayapur Candra and Suvarna Manjari found this little dairy where the cows look quite happy and the calves aren’t sickly. Also, the calves love to be cuddled which seems to indicate that the humans they are in contact with treat them nicely. It’s clean and small and all the animals have lots of space outside. What a relief – I can use dairy with a happy consciousness (still – I’m glad there’s nothing in my body that humans want – scary thought). The milk is good – creamy and free from hormones and other nasties. Here are some pictures of our outing. I had lots of fun playing with the calves and sneaking up on the peacocks in an attempt to photograph them displaying their beautiful feathers (no success with that I’m afraid).
lsdd calf
yummy sari

smd calf
bonding with Suvarna

We’re all really fired up to start a farm community here, we have been for quite some time, but the desire is getting stronger and Mayapur prabhu is taking action – looking into possibilities and inspiring congregational devotees to get involved.

these guys showed no interest – they didn’t budge or wink or respond in any way to our attempts to get their attention. hmmm… sometimes you just have to accept that some entities are quite happily stuck in their ignorance.

So back to the milk – Mayapur Candra and Suvarna Manjari have a little business making Srikand (a delightful thick yoghurt dessert) and supplying local stores. It’s called Happy Cows Products. They also make plain and vanilla yoghurt and sometimes (when we’re lucky) Kir. All their products are made and packaged by them and contain the finest ingredients. The Srikand comes in 4 flavours – Saffron&Cardamom, Organic Vanilla (from vanilla pods), Cinnamon&Honey and Mango (made from 100% pure, real mango pulp). This is what it looks like.
happy cows

Encounter with death

Saturday, October 7th, 2006

On this day last year my older sister left her body in a violent car crash. I heard my mother’s hysterical voice on the phone repeating the words, but somehow it didn’t make sense. It was as if she was speaking to me in a foreign language – I heard words, but they had no meaning. My body was reacting in a strange way – my mouth dried up and my heart was pounding, my breathing heavy, my body numb. I’m usually a very calm person, I don’t get carried away by situations, but somehow I lost composure and became bewildered.

At that time, I came face to face with the reality of death. I took it upon myself to identify the body (My mother was already too traumatized to deal with it, my one sister was in hospital, seriously injured – she was in the car when it happened, and my youngest sister is my youngest sister and was naturally being protected from all the horror). They live in a small town in the middle of nowhere surrounded by rural townships so you can imagine the state of things in the morgue there. Bodies were everywhere… the one that was once inhabited by my sister was still as it was early that morning when it happened – a complete mess. I had with me some sacred items – dust from holy Vrindavan and Mayapur, Tulasi leaves offered to Sri Sri Radha Syamasundara and 1008 Tirtha Jal (water from 1008 sacred rivers that was once offered to Srila Prabhupada). With some difficulty I placed these in the mouth – the staff were looking on in amazement, not thinking to assist. Afterwards I had to sign a register to confirm that it was indeed her body and noticed, as the official paged through the book, some information contained within; most causes of death were from hanging – suicide. So empty and painful is life in this material world for so many entities, that the only way out to is to try and escape the body that one has become so attached to during the course of this lifetime.

Next I visited the scene of the accident, blew the conschell there and sang prayers to Lord Nrisimhadeva as well as the Maha-mantra. I wanted to do everything possible to help her in some way. It struck me how many living entities leave their bodies everyday and how frightening it must be for each of them not having the proper knowledge to deal with this experience, I silently thanked my Spiritual Master and Srila Prabhupada for making the truth available to me and realized the need to make it available to others.

The next day I took some cloth offered to Srimati Radharani for the cleaned body to be wrapped in, I watched them seal the coffin. When the body was finally cremated, I felt greatly relieved – it was a heavy experience and now some of that heaviness was lifted. Still the chaos remained – she left behind her husband and little 6 year old daughter (who, after the initial shock, seemed to understand better than the others), my sister in hospital initially wouldn’t accept that her big sister, her best friend had died and she had survived. My mother was finished. Everyone else was pretty finished too. At one stage I was thinking “Can you please come back so everything can be normal?” but it wasn’t going to happen. She had to surrender to a frightening and painful death. We had to surrender to all that came with it. Like Maharaja Yudhistira once said – the most wonderful thing is that people die all around us and still we don’t realize it will happen to us. When people die, everyone seems so surprised “It’s just so unexpected…” We all know we’re going to die, but actually we don’t know. (A friend and fellow Pilates instructor recently told me that she is not afraid of death, she has a feeling that she will go peacefully – I don’t think there is such a thing – peaceful death). Life carries on – we busy ourselves trying to make things comfortable here, trying to convince ourselves that everything is ok. HH Devamrita Swami was once describing a farm where lambs were kept that were meant for slaughter – the farmer had planted neat rows of lettuces and other yummy green things for them to nibble on in abundance. The little lambs felt so happy there, unaware of their ghastly fate. Like that we forget the temporariness of our present situation. The truth is – the soul is eternal, death is foreign to us, so when the body (that we identify with so deeply) dies, it will be difficult and unpleasant… unless we have the proper knowledge to make sense of it all and to become free from this painful experience.


Friday, September 29th, 2006

According to HH Kadamba Kanana Swami, to surrender means to conquer your lower nature. This makes the whole process of surrender seem more practical and manageable. Still… it’s no easy thing. It can be pretty painful to weed out things that have been there since time immemorial, rooted deeply within the conciousness of the conditioned soul. Since these lower tendencies have become so deep rooted, a transformation of the heart is required. This can be successfully achieved by engaging in devotional service to the Supreme Person, Sri Krsna.

HH Sacinandana Swami speaks of the alchemists in medieval times in Europe. These mystics travelled all over the world in search of a formula by which one can turn ordinary bell metal into gold. Their search was not for wealth, but rather for a transformation of their characters, a principle that could be applied to their own hearts. To change ordinary metal into gold you would have to enter into the atomic structure and change the atoms which are held together by a strong force. To enter into the atomic structure requires tremendous energy, and also sets free so much energy. This is an atom bomb. You cannot do it with physical strength. You need strength or forces that are far superior to physical forces. What you could easily do is take copper, paint it gold and say, “I have gold,” but this type of gold would not last (and you won’t be satisfied for long). If you want to change your heart, something of this dimension is before you. When you think deeply about transformation it becomes very clear that we need help. Alone it is to difficult to split the atoms or to transorm copper into gold. Srila Prabhupada gives us the instructions and the knowledge, he presented it so nicely for us, and Krishna will give us the intellegence to understand this knowledge according to our level of surrender – He says so in Bhagavad-gita (10:10) “To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” We need to dive deeply into the ocean of devotional service.


Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

I am intensely happy. I can’t remember it ever being this strong. It is a very calm kind of happiness. I feel deeply grateful to be in such a fortunate situation. I live and serve with wonderful devotees who never fail to inspire those who associate with them. I have the rare opportunity to engage in devotional service to the Supreme Person. I know God’s name and I have access to the highest knowledge.

Yesterday we went out on sankirtan in Cape Town City Bowl. Distributing books is never a mediocre activity. It always manages to blow my mind. Upon returning to the temple, Bhaktin Caroline started to teach me a few mrdanga beats. She’s a far-out teacher. My musical talent is practically zero, but she had me playing quite a few beats in such a short time. I have a long way to go, but my desire is being fulfilled – I never thought I would be able to do it but now I have hope. All one needs is a good teacher and a strong desire. And to practice every day. Somehow, since taking to the process of Krishna Consciousness, I am being given so many opportunities to grow in ways I never thought possible. There’s no question of remaining in a comfort zone.

Tonight we start studying Sri Isopanisad with HG Brhad Mrdanga prabhu as part of the Bhakti Sastri course, HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami just left recently after guiding us through The Nectar of Devotion. Unfortunately I missed out on Bhagavad-gita and The Nectar of Instruction as I was still in Port Elizabeth then. So I have been and will be absorbed mainly in that (and also getting back into Pilates), but I will try to squeeze in some time to update the blog as often as I can.

Of course there was the Radhastami festival. Radhastami is absolutely definitely the topmost day for me. I don’t think I’ll be able to capture the mood adequately if I tried describe it, so I’ll leave it at that.