Japa & Kirtan Retreat at Govardhan Ashram
The second Santulan retreat at Govardhan Ashram was held from 29 February to 2nd March 2012. Featuring theme “Japa and Kirtan,” the seminar topics of this 3-day retreat were chosen to help the participants improve their chanting. The first day’s program started with a welcome address by HG Gauranga Prabhu followed by his talk on the “Keys for Improving Japa.” He began the talk explaining that the Japa seminar is equivalent to a Relationship seminar where the object of relationship is “Nama Prabhu.” He further explained that displeasure in a relationship is expressed in the form of ‘neglect,’ and when a sadhaka doesn’t chant properly, the holy name or Nama prabhu expresses his displeasure by neglecting the sadhaka. In the first session that continued till the lunchtime, he explained various reasons for lack of taste in chanting from the book ‘Japa’ by HG Bhurijana Prabhu. The morning session also included the congregational singing of the beautiful bhajans, “yadi gaura na hoito…” and “bhuliya tomara…” Gauranga Prabhu’s explanation during the bhajans session made the participants meditate on the deep meaning of the bhajans.
After a sumptuous lunch at the Yogashala, and a short break, the participants were free to explore various aspects of Govardhan Eco Village – like the Goshala, Nursery, Swimming pool and Adventure sports. Back in the Auditorium at 4.15 pm, the participants attended a Japa Workshop hosted by HG Sudama Prabhu who presented the importance of preparing for the next day’s japa. Sharing the experiences of his years of practice, he gave several practical tips for physical and mental preparation for the next day’s chanting.
One of the highlights of the Santulan retreats at Govardhan Ashram is the soul stirring Shyana Kirtan session in the evenings with the melodious singing of HG Jaysacinandan Prabhu. Accompanied with a slideshow of Radha Krishna deities the enthralling kirtans on the first day connected the participants closer to the holy name. The day ended with dinner.
After a peaceful night’s rest in the eco-friendly cottages of Govardhan Ashram, the participants gathered for the Japa session in the seminar hall. Having heard the importance of chanting the holy names and having taken several tips for chanting the previous day, the guests appreciated the Japa session better the second day. Following the Japa session was Mangala arati. Post breakfast, in the first session, HG Gauranga Prabhu continued his topic on the keys for improving Japa. Highlighting the function and nature of mind, he presented that the real obstacle in chanting is one’s ‘false ego’ and the ‘mind’ just serves the false ego by maintaining and protecting it; and the intelligence tries to satisfy the mind’s fluctuations. He concluded his presentation by saying that when the mind is stopped from sankalpa and vikalpa, the effect of the material world stops and it nears transcendence.
At this point, the next speaker for this Japa and Kirtan retreat, HG Radha Gopinath Prabhu made his presentation on the importance of “Endeavoring to know the Nama tattva.” He mentioned that the more one hears about the holy name, the more one appreciates and respects the holy name, and thus gives attention to the holy name. After a short juice break, HG Jay Sacinandan Prabhu and HG Radha Gopinath Prabhu sang the bhajans “udilo aruna…” and “hari hari bifale…” and HG Radha Gopinath Prabhu explained meaning of these bhajans and further elaborated on the types of prayers and the mood of our acharyas in writing those bhajans. Following the bhajan session was HG Radha Gopinath Prabhu’s talk on the “Importance of Sadhana,” in which he delineated the seven benefits of chanting the holy names from the first verse of Sikshastakam by Lord Chaitanya. He further explained different stages of Bhakti with the help of Sikshastakam verses. In the second half of the day, Sudama Prabhu made his presentation on the first verse of Kevalashtama and elucidated how the holy name is the sweetest and most auspicious. Following this was HG Radha Gopinath Prabhu’s session on the significance of Sikshastakam.
After a day of focused hearing on the glories of holy name, the participants joined the fascinating Shyana kirtan session with HG jaysacinandan Prabhu in which he sang Sri Saci Sutastakam and Kevalastakam along with the euphonious Hare Krishna dhuns.
On the final day, HG Gauranga Prabhu presented 2 more keys for improving Japa – simplify the mind’s task by listening to ONE mantra that we are chanting NOW, and be determined to do that throughout the Japa; if not one mantra, one NAME. Following this, HG Radha Gopnath Prabhu sang the bhajan, “gay gora madhur sware…” and made his presentation on the topic “Focusing on our real role,” by sharing the example of Bhishma deva who focused his mind on Lord Krishna at the end of his life.
In the afternoon session of the final day, HH Niranjan Swami Maharaj arrived at Govardhan Ashram. He began his session with an ecstatic kirtan that made all the participants absorb in the holy name. He then gave his talk on “Appreciating the Association of Holy name,” in which he explained that the appreciation one has in the beginning days of devotional service has to be improved as one advance on the path of bhakti. He further explained several anarthas that block one’s appreciation for the association of the holy name, and one needs to seek the association of advanced devotees who have the taste for holy name. Towards the end of the day’s program Maharaj sang “samsara davanala…,” “gora pahun…” and “Kevalastakam” along with his mesmerizing Hare Krishna kirtans. The Japa and Kirtan Retreat ended with a group photo session of all the participants with HH Niranjana Swami Maharaj, HH Nitai Caitanya Swami Maharaj, HG Nartaki Mataji, HG Radha Gopinath Prabhu, HG Gauranga Prabhu and the GEV Brahmacaris enthusiastically joined the photo session. On the final day, Govardhan Ashram also demonstrated the various organic foods and cottage industry products made there, by putting up various stalls outside the auditorium.
Carrying with them the enlightening lessons by different speakers, hearing their heartfelt realizations the participants departed with a rejuvenated spirit for chanting the holy names.
Visit www.govardhanashram.com for updates on all future Santulan retreats. Mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to register for the event.