Ecstatic Vaisnavi Retreat at New Vrindavan

by Amrita Gopala dasi

The chairs are folded and stacked and the big hall under the lodge stands empty, but the spiritual buzz generated by the 150 ladies who gathered for the ninth annual Vaisnavi retreat still hangs sweetly in the autumn air in New Vrindaban. The retreat, “by women, for women” who are engaged in Krishna consciousness, is a unique way for American and Canadian devotees to hear, chant and learn in a supportive, enlivening atmosphere and has become a staple festival coordinated by Her Grace Malati devi dasi. This year’s Vaisnavi retreat was held from October 2nd and culminated in a Love Feast on October 4th.

This retreat’s special attraction was the large number of Srila Prabhupada’s initiated disciples in attendance. In a seminar facilitated by Her Grace Mahamaya devi dasi, twenty-three devotees shared their wonderful, funny and amazing memories of their spiritual master to an audience greedy to hear their realizations and experiences. Seated around Srila Prabhupada’s vyasan in the temple, the disciples spoke of how meeting and serving His Divine Grace impacted their lives forever. “His eyes, when they looked into mine, said ‘Come with me,'” recalled Gopi Mata devi dasi, an American disciple who joined ISKCON in the United Kingdom. There was hardly a dry eye in the room when Kanti devi dasi, who took shelter in the Paris temple whilst evading a suspicious man who was following her and Madira devi dasi, spoke with a heart overflowing with gratitude about Srila Prabhupada’s infinitely compassionate nature.

Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, grand-disciples and followers gathered together again to glorify His Divine Grace in the Palace of Gold, New Vrindaban’s “labor of love” built by hundreds of devotees in the 1980s. After an exhilarating mangala-aroti led by Sandamini devi dasi (the current president of the Tuscon, Arizona temple), the retreat participants focused their energy and prayers in an offering to Srila Prabhupada. Specific requests were made on behalf of Rasajna devi dasi, a beloved and celebrated disciple of His Divine Grace who is suffering the advanced stages of cancer. Via telephone, godsisters expressed words of love, admiration and gratitude to encourage Rasajna in her time of need. The prayer circle was an incredibly powerful and bonding experience that will replay in the memory of all who attended.

Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and grand-disciples exchanged knowledge and engaged in remembering the intoxicating pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna in over a dozen seminars and workshops. In one of the devotional presentations, Her Grace Nanda devi dasi elaborated on the meaning of the markings decorating the Lords’ lotus feet. Devotees engaged in front-line preaching spoke about they are spreading Krsna consciousness. Two of Srila Prabhupada’s grand-disciples, Anandini devi dasi and Cakori-Radha devi dasi, gave compelling Power Point presentations detailing their efforts to push on the sankirtana movement. Both women are using dynamic approaches to expand the preaching. Their presentations made an impact on the participants, and at the end of the retreat many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples expressed their satisfaction and gratitude at the efforts of second-generation devotees to keep the mission going.

Beautiful kirtanas and sumptuous feasts prepared by long-time New Vrindaban resident, Shanka dasa, are always a mainstay of any Hare Krsna festival, and these made their mark on the Vaisnavi retreat.

New Vrindaban will again be the place to be in 2010 for another ecstatic gathering of women who serve Srila Prabhupad and Lord Krsna. Plans for next year’s Vaisnavi retreat are already in place: Malati devi dasi will extend an invitation to all of Srila Prabhupada’s women disciples to come to New Vrindaban from October 1st to the 3rd . Also, a Facebook page will be launched to facilitate the disciples in communicating, sharing and event planning.

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Reader Comments

I heard wonderful things about this retreat. A female devotee from Indianapolis spoke very highly of the Vaisnava retreat. Recommended by both her and her husband. Great association and Vaisnava support network.