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Sri Jagannatha Mandir Articles

Japa Retreat

Posted by iskconklnews on February 16, 2011

By Bhakta Mayank

JAPA RETREAT
28th to 30th January’2011,
Port Dickson

nama om vishnu padaya krsna presthaya bhu-tale

srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine

namas te saraswate deve gaura-vani-pracarine

nirvisesa-sunyavadi-pascatya-desa-tarine

 

jaya sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu nityananda

sri-advaita gadadhara srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrnda

 

hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare/

hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
On the behalf of the participants for the Japa Retreat’2011, I would like to express our sincere gratitude towards the Organizing committee and all the sponsors, who gave the youths of Shri Jagannath Mandir, Kuala Lumpur, a wonderful opportunity to be a part of this inspiring event.

Our heartfelt thanks to the members of the Youth Training Academy, HG Patita Pavana Caitanya Prabhu, HG Hemarupa Caitanya Prabhu, HG Veer Bhadra Nitai Prabhu, HG Gauranga Vihari Prabhu and HG Navakishore Gopinath Prabhu, who despite being busy with their own engagements organized the program and successfully managed to pull off quite an enjoyable and spiritually nourishing weekend. We’d like to convey our special regards to HG Navakishore Gopinath Prabhu who spear headed this retreat and did a great job in getting an awesome spacious bungalow house with 5 bedrooms, kitchen, hall, and backyard!

A loud Haribol goes out for the Prasadam arrangement team led by HG Veer Bhadra Nitai Prabhu. All of us would like to sincerely express our gratitude towards HG Gauranga Vihari Prabhu and Mahesh Prabhu who lovingly prepared a great feast for all, for the morning Prasadam.

We sincerely thank HG Srivas Caitanya Prabhu, who took his precious time off to drive all the way to Port Dickson to bless us his association. Out of his compassion and love towards the youth, he also offered a massive feast with a variety of rich and palatable preparations. We feel highly grateful to him.

We would like to convey our regards and sincere thanks towards all the senior youth devotees who took the efforts to organize the whole program despite their services and blessed us with their association; all the while being there to guide us. We are grateful to Nanu prabhu who inspired all of us with his presence.

On the behalf of the organizing committee and the YTA Members, lastly but by no means the least, we’d like to express our heartfelt thanks to all the youth devotees who attended this Japa retreat, in a wonderful mood full of love and enthusiasm.

PROLOGUE
-By HG Patita Pavan Caitanya Prabhu.

Inspiring location, wonderful and diverse association, ‘finger-lickin’ good Prasadam, fun-filled activities, and dramas; certainly lists all the ingredients for a fantastic getaway from our daily materialistic affairs and responsibilities. When you add the fact that, it all revolves around improving the foundation of our spiritual lives (our Japa), you would never want to miss it for the world!

I’ve attended several Japa retreats before and I can confidently say that the power of concentrated Japa, temple morning program (including bhajans/aratis), and providing a space to share our realizations, is so empowering and beneficial for the devotees.
In many cases one may have never really experienced a regulated temple life before, or haven’t experienced such at all. This retreat offered a sample of this. By experiencing a taste of the sweetness of this simple temple atmosphere (chanting, dancing & feasting with devotees), even for a few days, our connection to the holy name is emphasized and made prominent. Where respectful and loving Vaishnava dealings are encouraged, a powerful impression is formed in the heart.

An ideal life to aspire for, a goal to work towards and that’s what for the Youth Training Academy (YTA) of Sri Jagannath Mandir Kuala Lumpur was established. Surely without a clear impression of what we want to achieve in this brief life and how to attain that goal, it wouldn’t be possible to proceed at a respectable, reasonable pace in our spiritual life.

I’m convinced, time and again, by creating this space for Sri Nama to flourish, a very powerful, nourishing, and lifelong impressions come in the heart. This is our goal, to become more attracted to this process of chanting and remembering the Lords Holy Names and pastimes rather than striving to fulfill our various material desires and ambitions. When we leave this world our practice of this chanting will be sufficient to carry us to a much higher birth and beyond. It is primarily through this process that the realization of Krishna can take place.

Srila Krishna das Kaviraja Goswami writes:

tattva-vastu-krishna, krishna-bhakti, prema-rupa
nama-sankirtana-saba ananda-svarupa

“The Absolute Truth is Sri Krishna, and devotion to Krishna in pure love is achieved through congregational chanting of the holy name, which is the essence of all bliss.” (CC Adi 1.96)

DAY1

It was the Friday of 28th January’2011 when a caravan of about twenty five youth devotees packed their bags and headed for a weekend far from the regular lives of study, work and social obligations only to come closer to their real self, to introspect in the association of advanced souls by humbly seeking their blessings, hearing their realizations and thus endeavoring sincerely to improve themselves so as to be used as instruments in the service of the Supreme Lord and His devotees.

We drove for about two hours on the evening of 28th January’2011 from the temple before halting permanently at the entrance to this beautiful Bungalow at Port Dickson, named ‘Langkawi’. The lawn was lush green covered with soft grass. The main hall was spacious and served perfectly well for the planned programs to be conducted.

As soon as we reached, some of us occupied ourselves with arranging the furniture and securing bags and other luggage, while some engaged themselves in the cleaning the hall.

HG Navakishore Gopinath Prabhu along with a few other devotees went on to set up a beautiful altar with the deities of Gaura Nitai and a deity of Sri Radha Madhava and the Asta-sakhis of Sri Chandrodaya Mandir at Mayapur (framed photograph).

As soon as everybody had checked in and all the arrangements were well taken care of everyone honored Prasadam. Everybody then glued themselves to an amazing and a spellbinding slide show presentation by Surintan prabhu, “Reminiscing the Japa Retreat 2010”. We all had a hearty laugh relishing the pictures and videos depicting devotees in various aspects of such events, one of them being wildly dancing in an ecstatic Kirtan!

Thereafter an introductory session was facilitated by HG Hemarupa Caitanya Prabhu and HG Patita Pavan prabhu, where every devotee introduced himself along with sharing one’s expectations from the event. Quite synonymous with the name of the event, “Japa Retreat”, almost all the devotees unanimously addressed their sincere wish and an urgent need to improve the quality and number of daily rounds of chanting of the Hare Krishna Maha mantra. Another important expectation or an area to work upon for many of us was to build strong and loving relationships with the devotees, to be able to appreciate each other and understand each other thereby helping each other to progress in Krishna Consciousness.

The clock displayed a tiring and a drowsy 11.30pm as everybody departed to bed to wake up for the morning program.

DAY 2

The morning program started as scheduled at 05.00am as all of us gathered in the main hall. The program started off with the recitation of the “Shikhsastakam Prayers” followed by an intense Japa Session for one hour.

Surintan Prabhu later shared, out of his true humility that it was inspiring for him, especially to see new devotees taking up chanting, to take chanting more seriously. He actually summed up the feeling of all the devotees after the intense chanting sessions.

HG Patita Pavana Caitanya Prabhu led the Mangal Arati at 06.00am after instructing the devotees to be attentive and to dance together in the graceful “Swami step” while raising the hands. HG Navakishore Gopinath Prabhu later shared that the session he liked the most was the Mangal Arati which kept all of us charged through the rest of the day so that we could appreciate other activities.

The Mangal Arati was followed by the Nrsimha Pranaam and the Tulasi Arati, after which HG Hemarupa Caitanya Prabhu while giving a discourse on a verse in Bhagavad Gita shared some of the hilarious experiences of his initial days of coming to Krishna Consciousness. The session was made lively and refreshing with other YTA members chipping in to share similar experiences from their lives. Everybody felt enlivened and was inspired to see such exemplary examples around us who took the process just like us, facing same awkward situations at home with parents or college and at work with colleagues and have come to benefit a lot out of the process being sincere and full of faith.

It was soon time for the much awaited “Japa walk” by the beach. It was a fresh and peaceful morning as we stepped out towards the nearby beach in enthusiasm, holding on to the bead bags.

The ocean extended till the horizon, complimented by the grey cloudy overcast sky. Some looked mesmerized by the vastness of the ocean, while a few ran around collecting shells and stones. HG Hemarupa prabhu, noting everyone’s amazement while observing the sea, shared that everything wonderful and great like the vastness of the sea is just a tiny spark or splendor of Krishna. To see everything in relation to Krishna is the simplest meaning of being Krishna Consciousness!

We soon returned back to the Bungalow where a wonderful feast awaited us. Before Prasadam however, it was an energetic kirtan led by HG Patita Pavana Caitanya Prabhu which served as the ‘appetizer’.

While all of us had spent a good time chanting, discussing or simply relishing the beach, HG Gauranga Vihari Prabhu and Mahesh Prabhu labored in the kitchen preparing breakfast Prasadam for all, presenting yet another example of sincere and dedicated serving attitude in Krishna Consciousness. Their love was well received as everybody applauded their efforts and it was their love which manifested in the taste. The breakfast was simply delicious!

Hot stuffed sandwiches were served, while this family of young devotees found time to relax and share their hearts, sitting at the porch.

After the Prasadam and after a bit of relaxation, it was time for some ‘Krishna Katha’, where HG Gauranga Vihari Prabhu led a discussion on the importance of “Vaishnava Relationships”.

Some of the ‘points for contemplation’ as discussed were-

  • The first step towards any relationship is the acceptance of our position that who we really are!
  • The gauge for our happiness in spiritual life is how eager are we to serve!
  • Importance of cooperation among devotees-
    • Cooperation should not be superficial.
    • Genuine Cooperation beings gratitude. Without being grateful one cannot appreciate relationships with Vaishnavas.
    • The importance of developing the virtue of simplicity at heart. Being strict to oneself and lenient to others.
  • Importance of the association of devotees- gives the inspiration to develop the qualities of gratitude and simplicity.
  • The mood of a Vaishnava
    • One should really be happy to see another devotee advancing and should be sensitive towards the needs to others. Only this would lead to affectionate dealings.
  • Ability to share hearts- the sharing of the heart should be so as to glorify the Supreme Lord and should contribute to develop love for Him.

As everyone was deeply engrossed in the discussion, where most of the seniors shared their experiences from their daily life substantiating the points mentioned above, we failed to notice that almost three hours had passed! The session definitely helped all of us to appreciate and take inspiration from the loving exchanges between the senior members of YTA. The purity of love and respect they felt for each other deeply touched the hearts.

HG Hemarupa Caitanya Prabhu later shares his views about the sessions-
“The session, although seemed long, we’re in fact very honest, simple and deep. It created a sense of responsibility among the YTA members.”

While waiting for the lunch Prasadam to be provided by the nearby ISKCON center, we feasted together relishing the Bhajans from different acharyas.

After the Prasadam, while most of the devotees departed to take rest, a few still held on to their chanting bags extracting the most out of this atmosphere of purity, gratitude and humility which is   exclusively conducive to serve the holy name.

In an attempt to wake the sleeping devotees up, as well as to create the right mood before hitting the beach for the Harinaam we took shelter of a heavy kirtan once again chanting His holy names.

The team then proceeded towards the public beach in an attempt to present a glimpse to the people in general, of the happiness derived from the blissful process of Krishna Consciousness and to distribute the holy names. The breeze lifted the spirits to great heights as devotees smiled their way to the beach and started the Harinaam.

It didn’t take long for everyone to be lost in the mood of chanting and dancing as the mrdangas and the kartals complimented the voice of Mahesh Prabhu who led an ecstatic kirtan. The enthusiasm of the youth was at full display as the kirtan progressed on.

With a minor interruption of a drizzle, we took shelter under a huge canopy where the kirtan continued led by HG Patita Pavana Caitanya Prabhu and HG Padmanethra Prabhu. The loud chanting and dancing was like the rumbling of the clouds which drenched everyone in the rain of the holy names.

We then returned back to the temple for a yoga session by HG Gauranga Vihari Prabhu demonstrating the “Surya-Namaskar” posture. We were soon blessed with the association of HG Srivas Caitanya Prabhu and HG Gadadhara Pandita Prabhu. It was inspiring to see HG Gadadhara Pandita Prabhu, despite the discomfort and pain in ailing from a recent surgery made an attempt to come for the event.

HG Srivas Caitanya Prabhu then addressed the youth on the importance of taking Krishna Consciousness seriously and being properly trained. He also shared many of his realizations through the years of experience in Krishna Consciousness. The lecture was followed by a massive Feast, which he had so kindly prepared and was later humbly served to all by him.

Before departing finally to bed, the devotees savored on a hilarious yet meaningful drama, on the pastime of ‘Ajamila’, who was prevented to be taken by the Yamdutas, and was given a second chance to perfect his life, for he had simply called out the name of his son, Narayana while being on the death bed. The pastime lifted from Srimad Bhagavatam was wonderfully narrated by HG Veer Bhadra prabhu and it brilliantly highlighted the theme of the event, emphasizing the importance of the holy names. The spontaneity and creativity of the YTA members taking the lead roles left most of us rolling on the floor laughing!

DAY 3

It was an Ekadasi and the morning began quite like the previous day which had been full of enthusiasm and high spirits to chant the holy names, as devotees assembled in the hall again for the Japa Session followed by Morning ‘Aratis’.

For many devotees it was a struggle, both to wake up first and then to be awake while chanting, after a tiring day filled with Krishna Consciousness, but it was the feeling of combined struggle that kept us endeavoring throughout the whole Japa Session.

The Japa session was followed by the concluding and the most interactive session of the treat facilitated by HG Hemarupa Caitanya Prabhu and HG Patita Pavana Caitanya Prabhu as the heavy downpour had prevented us to have any outdoor activity. The session was titled “Gratitude”, and the devotees were asked to share their feelings on “who are we grateful to, for being in Krishna Consciousness!”

The devotees unanimously expressed their gratefulness towards Srila Prabhupada displaying their deep love and dependence on the Founder Acarya of the Movement.

It was a session coated with laughter, as many incidents unfolded about the lives of devotees, before coming to Krishna Consciousness. While deep inside, everybody felt a deep sense of gratitude, a feeling of appreciation and acceptance towards each other. Many devotees also revealed their hearts sharing how they were touched by the care and affection of all the YTA members which was the main and the underlying factor for them coming to Krishna Consciousness.

Surintan Prabhu shares about the session-
“I noticed that all were friendly to each other, so to speak, after the ‘gratitude’ session. So, I guess such group activities were an awesome idea in the retreat, just to bring devotees and other boys getting to know each other closer.”

HG Navakishore Gopinath Prabhu highlights his views in similar lines-
“It’s good to see some of our participants who are getting closer with the YTA boys and revealing their hearts to us too. It’s a good sign!”

The main idea of the session as highlighted by HG Hemarupa Caitanya Prabhu was to allow that sense of appreciation for other devotees to surface, allowing us to feel grateful.

HG Gauranga Vihari Prabhu amalgamates this wonderful thought beautifully-
“My learning from retreat is that our Japa depends on attentively hearing the holy names and to be attentive in our endeavor the heart should be at peace and this peace comes from having very healthy and grateful relationship that we share with other devotees.”

The devotees felt nourished having drenched their hearts with the nectar of deep realizations pouring from the seniors.

Pretty soon, yet another Feast prepared by none other than HG Gauranga Vihari Prabhu and Mahesh Prabhu added taste to the ongoing discussion and taught us another important lesson that the feeling of gratitude consequently results in loving service towards the Lord and His devotees. Beyond doubt, their sincerity to serve was reflected in the delicious and exquisite fruit salad preparation!

It was now time to pay obeisances to the beautiful place that held witness to the intense execution of various aspects of the process of devotional service. Everyone got engaged in cleaning the rooms and arranging the things to their proper place following the true principle quality of a devotee to leave a place as clean as it was earlier (if not better)!

On the way back to Kuala Lumpur, as it rained heavily, the devotees visited the Lukut Center of ISKCON at Port Dickson where HG Veer Bhadra Nitai Prabhu led a sweet kirtan for the pleasure of Their Lordships.

HG Patita Pavana Caitanya Prabhu gave a discourse on the “Glories of the holy names”. It was towards the end of the class while speaking on the purifying potency of the holy names; when his voice trembled and soon tears of deep humility swelled in his eyes. It was a long silence which followed, before he moved the microphone away and in his ever sweet smile, reflecting the genuine purity of his heart, asked for the Prasadam Prayers to be recited.

EPILOGUE

Days later, what followed this wonderful retreat was a sharing of experiences and realizations by the participants-

“By participating in this program, my attachment to the holy name and bond with the Vaishnavas is getting deeper and deeper with each passing day, making me experience more spiritual bliss. Association of other Vaishnavas inspires me to be more serious in my devotional service.”

-HG Veer Bhadra Nitai Prabhu.

“I liked the flow of the event. Nanu prabhu was really really really happy with the retreat. He said that he wasn’t sure whether he was supposed to be in the list of participants, at first place. It seems that when HG Navakishore Gopinath prabhu was listing the participants, Nanu Prabhu happened to be there. He later thought that HG Navakishore Gopinath prabhu was obliged to put him in the list. Nevertheless, out of his sheer humility, he said he needed to attend more of such events to keep him inspired and progress in his spiritual journey. He told that he’s trying really hard, but he can’t do it all by himself, and that it’s tough. Coming to that retreat really was a boost for him. Well, the journey was long, so he told me lots of other stuff.”

-Surintan Prabhu

“Firstly, I’m really glad for being invited for the Japa Retreat. The classes were good; all the speakers were great and really inspiring even though all of them are younger to me in age. Another thing that I really liked was that all the boys were well disciplined, polite and humble, compared to boys at many another youth events that I have attended.”

-Nanu Prabhu

“YTA plans to carry on conducting such activities for boys who are inclined towards Krishna Consciousness, and would like to further progress through the association of devotees. Overall, with all the early morning classes, fantastic kirtans, Harinam by the beach, and boys being boys, with Krsna in the center….the Retreat was perfect. It was a perfect weekend the boys spent with Krsna.”

-HG Hemarupa Caitanya Prabhu

“The whole event was very enlightening and we need to continue with this mood including myself.”

-HG Navakishore Gopinath Prabhu

“I would like to express my sincere and deep gratitude to all youth devotees who attended the Japa Retreat and inspired me in their own ways. I would like to thank all senior youth devotees for guiding me and would like to specially thank Nanu prabhu to be part of the event and inspiring us.”

-HG Gauranga Vihari Prabhu

Vote of Thanks-

I would like to sincerely thank HG Gaura Chandra Prabhu for bestowing upon me this service of writing a report on the Japa Retreat, and it was only by his blessings and encouragement that despite lacking the purity, I could take up this service, for my own purification and the pleasure of the devotees.

I find great shelter and hope in all the YTA members who have showered so much love and affection towards all of us. I acknowledge the fact that they have been so caring and sensitively guiding all of us in our spiritual life. Personally though, I pray to someday get tired out of consistently letting them down, by being complacent.

I would like to sincerely thank all of them who so compassionately agreed to share their experiences, thoughts and realizations on the Japa Retreat and helped me in compiling this insignificant report.

An unworthy soul begs for blessings from all to remain in the association of such inspiring devotees, and in that association incessantly endeavor to learn and deeply imbibe the values of love and affection, appreciation, simplicity, gratitude, humility and to selflessly serve and please the Lord and His devotees.

 

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