Festival of Inspiration ISKCON 50 Special Packed With Variety

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By Madhava Smullen

It’s hard to beat Festival of Inspiration for sheer variety.

This year’s ISKCON 50 special edition of the Appalachian spiritual retreat in New Vrindaban, West Virginia will overflow with the best Krishna consciousness has to offer: seminars, kirtans, entertainment, and the tastiest prasadam this side of the spiritual world.

Hundreds of devotees from all over the East Coast of the United States and Canada are expected to pour in for the May 6th to 8th weekend.

Each day of the festival will begin with an extended themed Srimad Bhagavatam class. Author Yogesvara Das will speak about his new biography of Srila Prabhupada for a mainstream audience, entitled “Swami in a Strange Land.” And the class on Sunday – Mother’s Day – will focus on the importance of honoring mothers in the Vaishnava tradition.

The centerpiece of the seminars, meanwhile, will be two special panel discussions to commemorate ISKCON’s 50th Anniversary.

“In the first, entitled ‘ISKCON 50 Years Ago,’ early Prabhupada disciples like Malati Devi, Shyamasundar Prabhu, and Yogesvara Prabhu will talk about their struggles and victories in expanding the movement, and how Prabhupada encouraged and enthused everyone,” says organizer Vrindavan Das. “They’ll be joined by Sally Agarwal, who sponsored Prabhupada when he first arrived in the U.S.”

The second panel, ISKCON’s Future in North America, will be facilitated by Gainesville Krishna House Director Kalakanatha Das and feature Varshana Swami, Vaisesika Das, educator Urmila Dasi, and more. They’ll discuss how to learn from the mistakes of the past to improve the future, how to care for the needs of current devotees, and how to reach out to more new people.

And that’s just the beginning. New Vrindaban’s own Sankirtan Das will present his Powerpoint on Prabhupada coming to America, which has been very well-received in colleges. He’ll also facilitate an open discussion on developing strategies for presenting Prabhupada to the public.

Urmila Dasi will offer practical and clear instructions for overcoming obstacles in spiritual life, setting our “compass” to the right direction, and finding the ultimate spiritual attainment.

Kalakantha Das, who has spoken out in favor of women gurus in ISKCON, will talk about the role of women in the society, and about Krishna conscious marriage.

Veteran book distributor Vaisesika Das is likely to speak about his new book, Our Family Business, in which he shares key principles and techniques of book distribution.

And ISKCON pioneer Shyamasundara Das will tell amazing stories from his upcoming book Chasing Rhinos with the Swami about ISKCON’s early days in San Francisco and London, as well as about his travels in India and Russia with Prabhupada.

As usual, parents will be able to attend these and the many other seminars on offer while their children have fun at a supervised kids’ camp with face painting, clowns and more.

At mealtimes, devotees will sit at picnic tables on the sunny lawn and socialize as they tuck into a tasty blend of Eastern and Western prasadam. There’ll be lots of healthy options such as salad and soup, as well as traditional Indian dishes and comfort food like macaroni; while many of the dairy dishes will be made with the milk of protected New Vrindaban cows.

In the evenings, everyone will focus on singing the Lord’s praises. Friday will see the continuation of a bhajan program that became an instant hit when it was introduced last year.

“Devotees rarely get to sing bhajans, because at most kirtan festivals they only chant the Hare Krishna mantra,” says Vrindavan. “So they’ll appreciate the chance to sing traditional songs of the Vaishnava Acharyas with some of the best bhajan singers in ISKCON like Agnideva Prabhu, Havi Prabhu and Ekendra Prabhu.”

Participants will get to immerse themselves in the Maha-mantra too, however, with a Nama-Yajna on Saturday evening.

The grande finale will follow on Sunday, with the hugely popular Transcendental Entertainment show at midday. Ekendra Das will lampoon both ISKCON and material life through song as his comedic alter ego Yama Niyama Das Brahmachari, Bhaktimarga Swami and his team will bring one of their epic dramas, and more top performers are yet to be announced.

After the show, a traditional Sunday Feast of rice, dahl, subjis, pakoras, chutney, puris, sweet rice, and gulabjamuns will be served. Devotees will return to their homes satisfied, relaxed, and yes, inspired.

“This year’s festival is a great way to celebrate ISKCON’s 50th anniversary, with so many excellent speakers covering the achievements of the last 50 years and motivating us about what we can do in the next 50,” says Vrindavan.

“It’s also a wonderful opportunity for participants to get inspired in Krishna consciousness and then return to their communities and enthuse others in devotional service.”

To register, please visit http://www.festivalofinspiration.net/registration/

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