By Sutapa Dasa
Think of the Hare Krishna movement, and one of the first images that comes to mind is a group of bright-faced young men with freshly shaven heads, swaying in saffron robes to the sounds of drums and hand cymbals. It’s hard to forget. In the late 1960s and ’70s, inspired by the dedication and devotion of Srila Prabhupada, thousands of young men dedicated themselves to the brahmacari asrama, a monastic life of selfless service.
Although ISKCON’s demographics have considerably changed since then, with householder devotees now far outnumbering brahmacaris, the importance and value of ISKCON’s monastic orders should never be minimized. Numerous precepts about brahmacarya, celibacy for the sake of spiritual advancement, are contained in the books, lectures, and correspondence of Srila Prabhupada. These indicate that brahmacarya is the basis of the three other asramas, or spiritual stages of life, and must be practiced by anyone serious and sincere about making tangible spiritual progress. A brahmacari asrama serves the interests of the larger community, because strong training in brahmacarya helps form ideal householders. Srimad-Bhagavatam explains, “There is no possibility of controlling the mind and senses without following the principles of brahmacarya.” So it is extremely important to revive and maintain the spirit and unity among brahmacaris, who now (outside of India) are a diminished asrama in ISKCON. With all these purposes in mind, nearly eighty brahmacaris gathered at Bhaktivedanta Manor in late July for the second annual European Brahmacari Convention, the theme of which was “Reviving, Uniting and Empowering.”
The two main aspects of the convention were:
1) enhancing the personal lives of brahmacaris
–classes inspiring them to deepen their spiritual practices
–seminars on the importance of scriptural study
–discussions of the roles of brahmacaris within the community: menial servants, teachers, priests, and congregational ministers
2) enhancing our communities of brahmacaris
–classes on developing genuine and profound friendships
–the care and support that produces confident, happy, dedicated men
–various ashrams cooperatively sharing visions, policies, & strategies
This year’s seminars:
Loving Relationships by H. H. Bhakti Rasamrita Swami
Going Deeper in Sadhana by H. H. Prahladananda Swami
Developing Intelligence in Spiritual Life by H. H. Bhakti Vijnana Goswami
Shanti, Shanti, Shanti by H. G. Krsna Ksetra Prabhu
Dealings with Women by H. H. Candramauli Swami
Anything Goes: Questions and Answers with H. H. Jayadvaita Swami
Considering Future Options by H. H. Yadunandana Swami (with panelists Krsna Ksetra Prabhu, H. G. Kripamoya Prabhu, and Bhakti Rasamrta Swami)
H. H. Bhakti Charu Swami gave a talk: “Just Give this One Life to Krishna”
H. H. Janananda Goswami helped inspire and facilitated the convention.
Overall, the convention succeeded in its purposes. The whole Manor community felt enlivened by the presence of the many brahmacaris. Lively morning kirtans revived memories of the times when all the ISKCON temples were bursting with enthusiastic brahmacaris. This gives us great hope that the increased presence of brahmacaris in all the European temples will ensure a bright future for Europe’s ISKCON communities.