March 2, 2012: Summary of the Year 2011
My blog has been practically inactive for one full year. Despite the fact that some of my colleagues regularly reminded me to write, I have not managed to do it. It is a fact that 2011 has been an especially busy year. Besides my responsibilities as principal and teacher at Bhaktivedanta College, I accepted the role of rector for a Krishna conscious educational institute in Spain. It is named ‘Instituto de Estudios Bhaktivedanta’, and it aims at contributing to the need for spiritual education of ISKCON devotees in the Spanish speaking world. The Instituto is located at Nueva Vrajamandala, the 300 Ha. Hare Krishna farm in Spain. By Krishna’s grace the first year has been successful, with a good number of students and teachers. I guess that this new project is a good excuse to justify my inability to keep up with the writing. One of the duties of a sannyasi monk, however, is writing: hence, my decision to review my priority list and to schedule quality time for sharing with others through this means.
In order to ‘catch up’ I will simply reflect on the experiences I had in 2011. As an itinerant monk, I visited eleven countries, some of them many times. Here goes a list of figures and places:
a. Spain: 145 days (11 times): Nueva Vrajamandala, Madrid, Barcelona, Málaga, Tenerife, the Sankirtana Party in Avila
b. Belgium: 139 days (16 times): Radhadesh and Antwerp
c. Cabo Verde: 21 days (1 time): Praia and Mindelo
d. United Kingdom: 17 days (4 times): Bhaktivedanta Manor, Leicester, London, Manchester and Chester University
e. India: 16 days (3 times): Mayapura, Mumbai, and Bangalore
f. United States: 10 days (1 time) Viraha Bhavan (Satsvarupa Dasa Gosvami´s ashram) in Upstate New York
g. Portugal: 6 days (2 times) Lisbon
h. Middle East – Mathuradesh: 3 days (1 time)
i. Germany: 3 days (1 time) Wiesbaden
j. Italy: 3 days (1 time) Villa Vrindavan
k. Holland: 2 days (1 time) Amsterdam
- In Spain I gave priority to establishing the Instituto de Estudios Bhaktivedanta. The institute has operated fully from April to September. It has been a notorious success. More than 20 residential students participated, which contributed to increasing the temple program participation by more than four times. Many teachers also participated and enlivened the community. During the winter the institute operated one weekend every month. It has also been successful on a smaller scale (an average of 12-14 students per weekend).
- Belgium: Bhaktivedanta College is continuing to operating nicely with an average of 25 residential students. We plan to open a new academic programme in education, which should contribute to training teachers for ISKCON schools. We are targeting to increase the number of students in order to consolidate this project.
- Cabo Verde: Cabo Verde was a highlight this year. We were the first sankirtana party ever to visit this country. The party was composed of 4 devotees. We stayed 20 days in two main cities (Praia and Mindelo). We distributed nearly 1500 of Srila Prabhupada’s books, conducted 10 Harinamas and 19 public programs in universities, secondary schools, and cultural halls. We also met several authorities in the country, such as the Minister of Culture, and the Roman Catholic Bishop. People responded very favorably. We also distributed japa malas and taught people how to chant Hare Krishna japa.
- United Kingdom: It was inspiring to see how well-organized and developed ISKCON Britain is. At Bhaktivedanta Manor, the temple authorities are headed by Srutidharma Prabhu, who along with the brahmacharis, organized programs in some homes, and a Diwali program at the Home Office (the government department dealing with police, immigration, and multi-cultural affairs). I also invested time in building relationships with leaders of the Krishna Avanti schools, a growing family of government-funded Hindu schools, whose faith organization is ISKCON. I’m interested in providing career opportunities to Bhaktivedanta College graduates. Krishna Avanti will need many new teachers in the coming years. Their needs match well with Bhaktivedanta College’s need to find placement for its graduates.
- In India I participated twice in ISKCON educational development meetings. These meetings were connected to the Strategic Planning work of ISKCON’s GBC (Governing Body Commission), the highest managerial ISKCON authority. My third trip was sponsored by the Portuguese Yoga Confederation so I could participate in an international Yoga conference. Radhanath Swami Maharaja was also present on behalf of ISKCON. Many influential yoga teachers of India, such as R.K.S. Iyengar, Ramdev Baba, and Sri Ravi Shankar, were present in the conference. It was agreed that a proposal would be brought to the United Nations and UNESCO to establish the summer solstice, June 21st as the World Yoga Day. Both Radhanath Swami and I lectured about bhakti-yoga during this event.
- In the US I mainly worked on finishing my academic paper (MA dissertation) focusing on issues related to sannyasa in ISKCON. It was very pleasing to spend time in the association of my beloved spiritual master, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, and the devotees who live with him.
- In Portugal I lectured at the ISKCON temple and at an international Yoga conference organized by the Portuguese Yoga Confederation.
- Mathuradesh is a thriving yatra. I was very inspired to see the excellent missionary work that has been developed by Jayapataka Swami, Vijaya Venugopal Prabhu, and his wife Prema Padmini Devi. The number of devotees is big, and they are very enthusiastic. I visited two cities in the country.
- In Germany, Dina Sharana Devi, the GBC representative, and Maha Vidya Devi, the national coordinator for Educational Development, organized workshop with leaders and educators. Rasamandala Prabhu and I facilitated the workshops. The German leaders and members who attended agreed on developing a team of educators and increasing the focus on Krishna conscious education as part of their strategy to spread Krishna consciousness and to consolidate the ISKCON communities in Germany.
- In Italy I attended the European ISKCON organizational meetings and took the opportunity to discuss educational development with Parabhakti Prabhu (temple president at Villa Vrindavana) and other Italian leaders and educators .
- Holland: I attended the Amsterdam Ratha Yatra festival. It was very successful, well-attended, and nicely organized.
The lifestyle of an active itinerant monk can sometimes be demanding. Nevertheless, when I reflect on how the services I have the good fortune to offer contribute to the spiritual lives of others, and on my own experience of inner satisfaction, I realize that it is worth the endeavor thousands of times. May Sri Krishna and His devotees bless this poor monk with a life of continuous service until his last breath.