June 17 to 23, Bhaktivedanta Manor, Watford, United Kingdom
During the last six days I have attended the II European Brahmachari Conference at Bhaktivedanta Manor. Sixty five brahmachari monks, most of them from Europe, and seven sannyasis have participated. The purpose of this conference is to inspire European brahmacharis in their spiritual responsibilities. In the long term the goal is to revive the brahmachari-ashrama in Europe.
According to the ancient spiritual tradition of the Vedas, the practice of brahmacharya is highly recommended for young men. The same principle applies also to women, but in the classical Indian tradition it was formally practiced mainly by men. Brahmachari means celibate student. The student learns from early age to focus his attention on the essential spiritual wisdom revealed in the Vedas. In order to develop a high moral and spiritual character, students practice celibacy, sacred textual study, selfless service, and austerity. Traditionally, students would practice brahmacharya starting at the age of 5 until they became 25. After an established period of brahmacharya, the student would decide to start a family or, sometimes, would continue living as a monk for the rest of his life. The values of brahmacharya are in sharp contrast with the greatly promoted present lifestyle of sense indulgence. Therefore, for young brahmachari men an annual conference in which they can reaffirm their values is greatly appreciated.
The conference included seminars, lectures, panel discussions, kirtan sessions, and the famous London Ratha Yatra festival, which was celebrated on Sunday June 20.