News from New Govardhan
THE GLORIES of RAMANANDA RAYA
By Ambika Devi dasi
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of both Radha and Krishna, decided to tour South India from Jagannatha Puri. His great devotee, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, advised Him to meet a very special devotee called Ramananda Raya during the tour.
Ramananda Raya had a high position as Governor of Madras. He daily took his bath in the Godavari River, accompanied by many brahmanas, musicians and soldiers.
Lord Chaitanya met Ramananda Raya by the banks of the river. Their initial meeting was very emotional, since Ramananda Raya’s spiritual identity is Visakha – a very dear companion of Radha and Krishna. As they embraced, ecstatic symptoms appeared in each of them. Their natural love was awakened and they fell to the ground.
Forced to restrain themselves, they sat and began a session of questions and answers that was repeated over the following ten days. Lord Chaitanya would ask Ramananda Raya about the goal of life and encourage him to go deeper and deeper with his answers, until the highest conclusion of love of Godhead was reached, specifically the love the gopis have for Krishna.
At the end of these transcendental discussions, Lord Chaitanya revealed His divine form as Radha and Krishna to His very dear devotee. He then requested Ramananda Raya to come and live at Jagannatha Puri so that they could relish Krishna’s pastimes together there.
Ramananda Raya was one of the Lord’s two most confidential associates in Jagannatha Puri along with Svarupa Damodara. When the Lord became completely absorbed in love for Krishna during evenings and nights, His ecstatic symptoms frequently resulted in Him becoming unconscious. At these times, it was Ramananda Raya who would quote relevant verses from Srimad- Bhagavatam to pacify the Lord and Svarupa Damodara, who would sweetly sing of Krishna’s pastimes. In this way, they gently brought the Lord to external consciousness.
Highly respected by the King of Puri, the brahmanas, Vaishnavas and local residents, Ramananda Raya lovingly served his Lord throughout the remaining years of His earthly stay, in full Krishna consciousness. By remembering such an exalted soul, we please the Lord and make spiritual progress.
Srila Prabhupada Uvaca
On Vrindavana dasa Thakura
Just as Vyasadeva compiled Lord Krishna’s pastimes in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Thakura Vrindavana dasa depicted Lord Caitanya’s pastimes. His Caitanya Mangala annihilates all misfortune. From it, I learned the wonders of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda and came to know all the most subtle doctrines of devotional service to Krishna. Vrindavana dasa Thakura has summarized the essence of the teachings of the Srimad-Bhagavatam in his Caitanya Mangala. If even a Muslim or an atheist should listen to Caitanya Mangala, he immediately becomes a great Vaishnava. An ordinary human being could not have composed such a sublime work; Lord Chaitanya himself has spoken through the mouth of Vrindavana dasa. I offer millions of obeisances unto the lotus feet of Vrindavana dasa Thakura who has delivered the entire universe through his book. He was born in the womb of Narayani who eternally enjoys Sri Caitanya’s remnants. How wonderful is his description of the activities of the Lord, simply by hearing which the three worlds have become sanctified!
Sacred Sound Retreat
By Ajita dasa
The purpose of the Sacred Sound Retreat (SSR) is to enliven the devotees. ISKCON’s Founder-Acharya His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada wanted us to fill stadiums and have everyone chant and eat prasadam, just like the festival he held in Nairobi.
SSR’s goal is to eventually gather all the devotees in Australasia to chant, dance and take prasadam together. Chanting japa purifies us, and kirtana improves relationships among participants. This will eventually give great strength to the Australasian yatra by breaking down any barriers.
Therefore it is vital that everyone participates in such national events. One of Srila Prabhupada’s key instructions is to co-operate, which can be easily achieved by all of us participating in kirtana at the same place and time.
The cost to hold such a festival varies from $35,000 to $45,000, so everyone who donates towards it receives tremendous benefit and ensures its continuity for the good of everyone.
SSR 2018 was very special, more so than SSR 2017 because rarely had we seen such a variety of participants being so enthused, enlivened and spiritually surcharged. It was very moving and rewarding to observe the increasing bliss of the participants – be they our volunteers, yoga students, visitors, guests, and new as well as the senior devotees.
For SSR 2019, we aim at improving the services offered to our guests, create better facilities both in the venue and in accommodation. I think everyone was very satisfied with the quality of the prasadam.
This year our organising crew gained a few members but lost Venugopal dasa and Braja Vallabhi dasi, so it was somewhat challenging. However, we are very grateful for the new members of the 2018 organising team, especially Braja Vallabhi’s family, who were integral in the organisation of the festival.
Please register for SSR 2019 now and be part of this growing and exciting preaching event.
Transformation at SSR
By Jhulan dasi
We received so much positive feedback from devotees and guests alike at New Govardhana’s Sacred Sound Festival (SSR). Here is one testimony from a student at Krishna Village.
Winter Harvey from Hawaii, an attendee at the Yoga Teaching Training course at Krishna Village, said, “It’s hard to believe that less than a year ago I was deeply fearful of singing in front of anyone. I wouldn’t even sing Happy Birthday to my husband. My fear was so bad, I actually ran out of a workshop crying on Day 2 of Yoga Teacher Training at Krishna Village because the instructor asked me to sing.”
“Fast forward to the Sacred Sound Retreat 2018. There I was chanting at the top of my lungs – belting out the maha-mantra as loud as I possibly could – not a care in the world about who might hear me. Chanting the maha-mantra has rewritten my destiny, and kirtana has been the instrumental tool in finding a voice and cultivating the self-confidence I needed to share yoga with the world.”
“I was blown away by the soulful musicians at the Sacred Sound Retreat – they were next level. At certain points during the festival I felt that I had reached samadhi – with the mantra flowing through my veins, my body kept moving as my soul floated high above New Govardhana in pure ecstasy. Best weekend ever!”
Each year becomes sweeter
By Jhulan dasi
It was my third year attending the Sacred Sound Retreat as a resident of New Govardhana. It is becoming sweeter and sweeter. Each year I am in a different mindset. The first year I absorbed myself in the holy name and developed a taste for kirtana; in the second year, my focus was more on the devotee association. This year it was serving the Vaishnavas.
I was engaged in the Temple Shop service, and I also tried to help with the needs of our guests. It was very nice to connect with many devotees and see them pleased with my little services for them. They weren’t necessarily big things, just little favours such as finding their lost property, helping with directions, answering questions, and so on. It was nice to get out of my daily routine and engage in spontaneous service.
Various people came with different requests, that sometimes I even felt like it was a game Krishna was having with me. Each time He gave me a mission that I had to deal with, it seemed as if He also gave me a score of my service attitude. There were challenges, but whenever I felt weak from my mind and body I reminded myself of the power of the blessings of the Vaishnavas.
It was also nice to co-operate with our community members in preparation for the festival. I really like being a part of New Govardhana as it is my most favourite place in the world.
BB Govinda Swami Aussie Visit
By Kisori devi dasi
Bhakti Bhringa Govinda Maharaja – also known as BB Govinda Swami – who usually resides in Vrindavana, recently visited Australia for the first time. His good friend Indradyumna Maharaja had invited him to the Sacred Sound Retreat festival, held over the Easter weekend at New Govardhana.
Maharaja gave mesmerising classes on the Sri Brhad-Bhagavatamrta and led ecstatic kirtanas, captivating the hearts of many.
He travelled with his beautiful Deities and was ably served by his disciple Vinod Bihari dasa during the visit.
Maharaja writes: “Well, I wanted to dance with a kangaroo, duel with an Australian Brown Snake, cuddle a koala bear, and ride on the back of a Great White Shark.”
“But instead I ended up having the association of many loving godbrothers and godsisters, an ocean of enthusiastic chanters and dancers, totally amazing hospitality, and it all took place in an area more beautiful than the planets of heaven.”
“Thank you dear devotees of the Australian yatra. I pray that someday I may return to your beautiful country, have your association, and the blessed hope to serve you all.”
All the devotees of the Australian yatra are eagerly awaiting his next visit.
Let the Games Begin
By Suvarna Rupa dasi
There was no shortage of service opportunities last month for New Govardhana devotees, as the end of the Sacred Sound Retreat marked the beginning of the Commonwealth Games.
When their farm seva allowed it, many devotees travelled to the Gold Coast to join the Harinama Ruci team for two weeks of blissful sankirtana. Two devotees in particular, Garuda dasa and Syamalata dasi, made an extraordinary effort to attend harinamas every night. Their enthusiasm was a great inspiration.
“To see the hearts of so many souls touched by the holy name and a simple smile gives me the faith that harinama really can deliver everybody who comes in contact with the devotees,” says Syamalata. She continues, “Garuda has taken some of our devotees out almost every day, even though he has been doing all his regular services at the farm. He is also an inspiring devotee because he is making harinama possible for our local New Govardhana community to travel to the Gold Coast.”
For the devotees who attended the harinamas, some of the highlights included dancing and chanting with the ecstatic women’s hockey team from Ghana and the grand finale harinama being the Ratha-yatra in Ipswich.
SERVICE OPPORTUNITY NOTICE
4.30am – 7am
7am – 10am
4.30pm – 8pm
if you are interested in any
other service opportunities,
please contact Padmalocan dasa
0423 374 840
By Suvarna Rupa dasi
It is a great blessing to be able to call New Govardhana dhama my home. I love waking up early in the morning and taking darshana of beautiful Shri Shri Radha Govardhanadhari, Krishna Balarama, Lord Giriraja and Gaura Nitai and serving Them alongside inspiring devotees.
I have heard from many Vaishnavas around the world that they have wanted to reside here for so many years, but still hadn’t been given the opportunity. So I feel especially grateful to have been given this mercy.
As a newly arrived resident, coming from Sydney, I am very aware of the rare jewels that are freely offered. There is an unlimited variety of services: kirtana, outreach, cow seva, cooking, gardening, harinama, book distribution, garland making, study, devotee care, just to name some – and all in the most breathtaking environment imaginable.
Here, devotees can practice and explore their unique relationship with Krishna in a natural and joyful way within a nurturing and encouraging community. But it’s not just the devotees who can do this: the volunteers and yoga students from Krishna Village can, too!
Coming from a city outreach centre, one thing that is often challenging is the introduction of guests to temple practices. This gap is so well integrated at New Govardhana, and it is inspiring to observe how the villagers grow more and more interested in devotional culture.
I pray that I can serve and please Their Lordships and the devotees here for many years to come.
By Kisori devi dasi
The new high school construction at New Govardhana’s gurukula is making solid progress.
Vinod Bihari dasa, the school’s principal, explains: “As a strong spiritual foundation will carry us well through life, so also a strong building foundation will hold firm our classrooms for years to come. Under Maha Mantra dasa’s expert supervision, the high school construction is well underway.”
“Specially engineered reinforcing structures are now being erected to ensure a strong support for the hilly slopes of the new high school site. The new buildings will be positioned on the different levels, allowing our high school students a beautiful view of the valley without any obstructions from other buildings and structures.”
“We are looking forward to the completion of these robust retaining walls and the local Tweed Shire Council giving us a green light for the building of the actual classrooms and other educational facilities on the new campus,” he concludes.
Maha Mantra dasa offers some technical insights: “The first stage in constructing the new high school is to build the retaining walls. The masonry walls are being built prior to the construction of classrooms. This sort of wall has the longest lifespan compared to other types.”
“The first wall of Stage One has been completed, and the second wall should be complete in three weeks. After this, a smaller wall and a stairwell will follow and that will complete Stage One.”
Home Mothers Group
By Jyestha devi dasi
The idea to begin a mothers group at my home came to me during my pregnancy. There were at least seven other women in our community who were also expecting. I thought how nice it would be for all our children to form friendships right from birth, as they would most likely all be going to gurukula together in the future.
There are up to 10 mothers and 16 children who attend each week. The children are aged from four months to eight years (and some mothers are pregnant also). Of course, school holidays are the busier weeks.
The mothers group begins with morning tea at 10.30am and some guests bring a plate of prasadam. We also prepare lunch at home.
During the gathering, we share advice and experiences with each other. We also have kirtana with the babies and older children.
In the afternoon, everyone heads to the pool for a swim. The day usually ends with some mothers racing to the bus stop to collect their older children, and some stay on for dinner as well.
We have such a lovely time together, watching our children grow and forming new friendships. It is a wonderful support group for our community.
For any mothers or mothers-to-be who would like to join us, please contact me on 0457 060 150.
By Indranila devi dasi
Happy Hearts Family Day Care in Murwillumbah is a Steiner-inspired day care that uses more than 70 per cent natural materials and toys. The curriculum includes gardening, handwork and craft, arts, adventure and cooking.
We provide freshly cooked vegetarian meals and try to practice sustainability. We also hold seasonal family festivals.
Happy Hearts Family Day Care is situated in the town of Murwillumbah, and we have vacancies on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8.30am–3.30pm. Please visit us for a tour!
On page 2 of the April issue, there was a case of mistaken identity. Gadadhara Dasa, who was the subject of the column ‘Srila Prabhupada Uvaca’ is different to Gadadhara Pandit of the Panca Tattva. We had included a bulleted point reminding readers that it was the Appearance Day of Gadadhara Pandit on 16 April, leading devotees to think that Gadadhara Dasa is the same personality as Gadadhara Pandit. We apologise for the confusion.
By Vasusrestha dasa
Although cars are material objects made of metal, rubber and plastic, the New Govardhana devotees were pretty excited about our latest acquisition for the farm: a shiny, eight-seater Toyota Hiace Grand with low mileage. This new spiritual chariot will take our sankirtana party all over the area to spread the holy name.
Just seeing the van, ideas began to flow in the devotees’ minds about what they can do and where they can go to expand the preaching. So far we are looking into developing outreach programs in Byron Bay and Mullumbimby.
So with our new, yet-to-be-named chariot (the last one was called the ‘Blue Screamer’ because everyone used to scream, “where are the keys to the blue van?”), there’s lots of potential for the devotees to start small preaching centres nearby, consolidate our weekly harinamas and increase book distribution.
By Mandakini devi dasi
New Govardhana welcomed Townsville resident Malthi Sundari devi dasi for a two-day visit last month.
Five years ago Malthi started Bhakti Vriksha programs at her temple home in North Queensland. This highly successful venture is growing steadily, with regular book distribution and public programs. Her facility is a home away from home for the New Govardhana catering team, travelling preachers/book distributors and any devotee who may be en route to other destinations.
As a growing industrial town with various communities and a large army base, Townsville presents many annual and ongoing activities and cultural festivals. Thanks to Malthi, an annual Ratha-yatra festival is now one of them, and much appreciated by everyone.
Opportunities for preaching abound, and Malthi never misses the chance to set up her bookstall and perform kirtana. She also works with Hindu communities and is often invited to religious events.
Malthi originally hails from Burma (now known as Myanmar). Her family members were the first ISKCON devotees there with her father, Bhagavata Dharma dasa, serving as the first temple president. Currently he is filling that role in Moulmein and at the advanced age of 85 remains a tireless preacher.
Her brother, Srivasa Pandit dasa, now heads up ISKCON Myanmar, a large project consisting of eight temples, four preaching centres, two goshallas, a gurukula and Food for Life. He also serves as the GBC for the growing Myanmar devotee population.
Malthi works full time as a literacy coach for secondary students at Education Queensland.
She thanks the New Govardhana farm management and all the devotees who have for many years supported the yatra in Townsville.
Sacred Sound report
By Manjulali devi dasi & Jhulan dasi
All profits will go towards improving the festival for next year.
By The Conch team
On 19 April, Mukunda Goswami gave Vrindavani Briant first and second initiation simultaneously in a moving ceremony at New Govardhana.
Vrindavani lived on the farm for a period of time in 2016, and was delighted to have been able to be initiated here. She and her family are based in Mayapur. Her mother, Jahnavi devi dasi, is also a disciple of Mukunda Goswami.
Her initiated name is Vrindavani devi dasi.
Snapshots – Ladies Kirtana
On Sunday 15 April, New Govardhana celebrated with a special Ladies Sunday Feast Kirtana. Kisori devi dasi presented a short seminar on the benefits of cow protection, and a number of talented Vaishnavi kirtaneers filled the temple with the sound of the holy name from 3pm to 8.30pm.