By Rama Vijaya dasa
Over 600 ISKCON devotees came together for the 2nd annual Sadhu Sanga Kirtan Retreat near Austin, Texas during the Memorial Day Weekend (May 24-27, 2013) to experience, by Srila Prabhupadaâ€™s mercy, the bliss of ecstatic kirtans, nectarean classes, delicious prasadam and sublime association. ISKCONâ€™s stalwart kirtaniyas such as Their Holinesses Sacinandana Swami, Bhakti Bringa Govinda Swami, Indradyumna Swami and Their Graces Madhava Das, Bada Haridas, Mukunda Datta Das, Ananta Govinda and Acyuta Gopi led such melodious and meditative kirtans and immersed everyone in the bliss of the nectarean ocean of the holy names of Sri Sri Radha and Krsna.
If the various kirtans gave an opportunity for all devotees to get some taste for the holy names then the awe-inspiring classes by Their Holinesses Sacinandana Swami and Giriraja Swami as well as the inspirational talks by each kirtaniya before their kirtan set the mood for devotees to cry out for the holy names during those kirtans.
The festival attendance grew by 50% from last year. The co-operative mood of the devotees in coming together to scale up to serve all the devotees who attended was phenomenal. This was particularly evident in the kitchen as the devotee led teams prepared an astonishing variety of prasadam ranging from Mexican to Italian to Indian to Chinese delicacies in such huge quantities which was so expertly served out by another enthusiastic team of spontaneous volunteers.
Srila Prabhupada has given us so many jewels in Krishna Consciousness that it is impossible to count them but the jewel of association of devotees is right there at the top. The experience of the potency of chanting in the association of so many wonderful kirtaniyas as well as many other senior devotees such as Their Holinesses Guru Prasad Swami, Rhtadvaja Swami, Their Graces Caturatma Das, Purusartha Das, Sankarshan Das Adhikari, Sesa Das, Nityananda Das Adhikari, Guru Bhakti Dasi - all at one place - was so profound. The devotees not only felt this way once or twice but experienced it in every kirtan throughout the retreat. Each kirtan drove us deeper and deeper into setting our focus on the holy names and one could witness so many devotees crying out for Krishna during the kirtans.
The whole experience of the retreat was so moving that the attendees didnâ€™t feel like leaving the place on the last day. Most of them expressed sadness as the realization set in that the weekend full of kirtans was over and everyone had to go back to their homes. There were many loving exchanges between devotees with promises to return again next year. So many sweet and tearful exchanges were witnessed that made this year’s kirtan retreat extra special. How much
On the last day of the retreat, many devotees shared their heartfelt realizations and appreciation of the sanga of all the devotees who attended. One of the senior devotees remarked:
â€śAs naĂŻve or advanced one may be in Krishna Consciousness, we all need that boost to go to the next level and surely a kirtan retreat such as this provided that to all the attendees.â€ť
A day after, one of the devotees wrote about her realizations from the Kirtana Retreat as follows:
â€śToday as I wake up tears well in my eyes as I remember the glorious kirtans of Sacinandana Swami. Since first joining I had the strong desire to meet him and be able to attend one of his kirtans and lectures. Krishna has so mercifully fulfilled that desire to the absolute extreme. I am in such ecstasy just remembering the feeling of being in his loving and profound association that my tears pour down my face and the only thing that is keeping me from completely sobbing in separation is the faith that I have developed during his visit. It is that faith and hope that He will so kindly return to us next year and will so lovingly share his transcendental ecstasy that assures my heart that this is only the beginning of the process of advancing in the association of such sadhus.â€ť
We met a lady from Houston who was so desperate to attend the retreat after learning about it only a night before - a point at which all the available accommodation had been given out and we were already way over the on-site cooking capacity - that she called us at midnight and literally pleaded for a place. We scrambled and fit her in somehow. She described her experience in a few words as the best kirtana retreat of her entire life even though she has regularly attended kirtans at yoga centers where she has been a yoga teacher for 24 years. She had never been to a Hare Krsna temple or met devotees ever in her life before this event!
We humbly offer all these experiences and our gratitude at the lotus feet of His Holiness Indradyumna Swami, who has brought this festival to the shores of US and His Holiness Sacinandana Swami who has inspired kirtana mela festivals such as these to sprout all over the world for the devotees to come together and deepen their appreciation and love of Sri Nama Prabhu.
We sincerely thank each and every devotee that attended in person - as well the 200 devotees who attended online - for participating in this Sankirtana-yajna:
ausadham bhagavan nama
â€śIn the age of Kali, persons who have been bitten by the serpent of samsara, shall get relief by the medicinal herb of chanting the holy names of the Lord and menial service to the lotus feet of Vaisnavas.â€ť [Sri Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Susloka Sataka]
Let the sankirtana mission of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu spread all over the world - in every town and village - to bring about auspiciousness for all.
Hare Krishna! Jaya Srila Prabhupada!