Holy Name Retreat for the youth at Ekachakra Dham
By Devaki Devi Dasi
In February, the leaders of the Sri Mayapur International School had requested me to spend quality time with their pupils aged 11 to 18. We had decided to first welcome the boys with a group of teachers for two days to Nityananda’s abode, and then a bus-load of girls and their teachers. What a wonderful excursion!
Our children are very special, and they start chanting in japa and kirtan already at a very young age. If we can inspire them to develop good chanting habits from the very beginning of their life, it will give them a wonderful start to their way back home, back to Godhead.
Of course, this retreat was a simplified and condensed version of our usual retreat, but nevertheless we discussed many important aspects of chanting in kirtan and japa, with lots of exercises. Writing a letter to Sri Harinama Prabhu was a thought-provoking task, bringing about the awareness that the holy name is non-different from the personality of Krishna, who we can address – even in a letter. We can glorify Him, express our gratitude towards Him, that He has so kindly agreed to appear in this material world in order to give us a chance to revive our lost and forgotten relationship with Him. We can lament that we have ignored and neglected Him for many life times, and for many years in this life. And we can re-dedicate ourselves to serving Him and giving Him more attention and mindfulness. The children were eagerly writing – I wished I could have read what they put to paper. However, I had announced it to be an exercise between them and Krishna and should not be shared with others – just to avoid that our false ego takes part and tries to push us to say something very extraordinary and unique in order to be recognized as a special and so advanced devotee.
We also had four role plays, showing the empty medicine capsule in japa as well as in kirtan, which refers to chanting without mindfully turning to Krishna and appealing to Him in earnestness. Such empty capsule does not bring satisfaction to the soul since we are not endeavoring to connect with the Lord. And thus the capsule easily fills up with poison, meaning that instead we try to taste the satisfaction of showing off, using the holy name in japa or kirtan for our own ego satisfaction – posing as a highly advanced devotee. Such chanting not only contaminates our own heart, but also the hearts of others around us.
In the final closing ceremony I asked the children what they liked the best in the retreat, what they learnt and how they want to transform their chanting. A number of kids expressed how they liked our final kirtan the best. In this concluding kirtan we tried to deeply within our hearts turn to Krishna and call out to Him in helplessness. And in order to deepen our feeling of helplessness I requested everyone to imagine what it would feel like if this very evening at 10pm we would all have to give up our body. Sometimes it seems that death is the main and foremost scenario which can truly help us to feel helpless. And trying our best to chant in kirtan in this mood certainly brought about a different quality of kirtan: so much more focused, trying to connect with the Lord. It was a different kirtan experience, which some of the children could definitely perceive. Our theme song of Sri Kevalastakam was also happily received.
Several boys shared their realization how showing off is bad, and they expressed the desire to give up this tendency. Wow, how amazing! Such realization is remarkable and indeed so valuable…..
As always, we set a few hours aside for parikrama, and we visited special places where Lord Nityananda had performed his sublime pastimes. In the later evening we also had a bit of fun sitting around a bonfire, and the youngsters played games and had kirtan.
I thoroughly enjoyed spending my time with these young Vaishnavas, and also the teachers expressed their appreciation for the insights they received. On our return to Mayapur the parents offered their gratitude for giving spiritual nourishment to their children. And it was nice meeting the kids again at the morning program or around the Mayapur campus. Now there was a relationship established, based on chanting the holy name at Ekachakra Dham…..