viernes, 30 de julio de 2010

New Vrindaban’s Swan Boat Festivals



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El Narrador de Cuentos - UNO

A Little Encouragement Goes a Long Way…

A Little Encouragement Goes a Long Way…


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A Little Encouragement Goes a Long Way...

Chaitanya Mangala dasa: In his article entitled, “Mini Skirts… Skirting the Issue”, Kapila, one of the lead organizers of the Kuli Mela Association, eloquently and succinctly elaborates on the moods, mindsets and intentions behind the events. He also offers more details about the Gala Evening at the Ford Theater from KulimeLA 2009. Recently we released the KulimeLA 2009: Ford Theater video on the Internet and it seems an elaboration is needed to explain some of the deeper contexts of the Melas, and the 2009 Gala Evening in particular. There’s a lot of history contained in that video and it might be a challenge for some to understand and appreciate it without more information.

From the the recent discussions and articles I’m glad to see that we can view these things with a little light-hearted humor and detachment. Thanks for that. It is much appreciated.

Generally speaking, as Kulis, we do not think we are pure devotees. Far from it. We openly say we are not. We are further from the center than some, and a bit closer than others. Most of us are members of the wider ISKCON Community and not full-time, initiated, priestly temple devotees. At the same time, that doesn’t mean we should be seen as outcasts because of it.

For the record, the Kuli Mela organizers do not promote the breaking of the regulative principles, or any other progressive guidelines set forth by Srila Prabhupada. In fact, we hold them in the highest regard, follow them as best we are able, and encourage participants at our events to do the same. Our hope is to inspire devotees, the youth in particular, to find strength in being open and honest about where they are at and to make progress from there. It is our firm belief that in such an atmosphere, real advancement can be made.

One important mission for Kuli Mela Association is to bring people together and offer them a place to share their talents with one another, regardless of the spiritual practices they may or may not be following. As a result, sometimes the offerings reach new heights and sometimes the offerings are a bit questionable. Most fall somewhere in between. The main thing is we allow people the space to express sincere offerings to their peers, the gathered devotees, their guru, Srila Prabhupada, right on up the line to Krishna. The person offering this year’s “questionable” offering could very easily become the next year’s “advanced devotee.” Over the 21 years that I’ve been volunteering I’ve seen that happen enough times to keep me inspired in this service.

Sometimes a little controversy can be a good thing. It increases the focus on a particular issue, even if we don’t want it to. Seen in the right light, it can be opportunity for us to create a space for meaningful dialog. It allows us to continue to build a vibrant community based on love and trust, with all the dynamic and diverse layers that entails. Of course, at the center is finding ways for us to connect on deeper, more spiritual, levels, which ultimately lead us back to the Source…

Yours in (imperfect) service,

Chaitanya Mangala dasa

For those who appreciate/prefer a quote from Srila Prabhupada to qualify our statements, please read the following excerpt from a Room Conversation With Srila Prabhupada in Hawaii - May 3rd, 1976:

Siddha-svarupa: “There are a lot of devotees here who follow the principles but cannot completely… (break) …shaved up, and they still wear karmi clothes pretty much, but they’re clean, they’re devotees, and in this way they’re attracting many of the local people, because they’re able to relate to them.

Prabhupada: So that…

Siddha-svarupa: They’re not lowering your standard.

Prabhupada: No, naturally, but when they are initiated they must shave. They must keep to the standard. If one becomes initiated and he still keeps the hippie form, that does not look nice. Do you think that is all right? No, that is not good. So long they are coming as outsider, joining kirtana, they may have their own dress, it doesn’t matter. They are coming to kirtana, that must be (indistinct). But when they are to be initiated, they must follow the rules and regulations given by the spiritual master.

Siddha-svarupa: So…

Prabhupada: Otherwise they should not be initiated. It is simple thing. Let them go on chanting, taking prasadam; we have no (indistinct). But when they are to be initiated, they must follow. This is the clear (indistinct). If you don’t want to disturb them, let them come, chant, dance, take prasadam We have no objection. But don’t recommend them for initiation unless he agrees to the rules and regulations given by the spiritual master. Where is the wrong? Where is the difficulty? You can talk with him like that.

Siddha-svarupa: I think they only feel that because…

Prabhupada: No feeling, if you…, when you are surrendering to the spiritual… Sisyas te ‘ham sadhi mam prapannam. Find out this verse. Tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya.

Hari-sauri:

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darsinah

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Enquire from him submissively…”

Prabhupada: Mm? Where are they? Mm.

Hari-sauri: “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Enquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.”

Prabhupada: You have to submit. You cannot remain independent. That is the first condition. Sisyas te ‘ham,sisya. Sisya means voluntarily accepting the rules offered by the spiritual master. That is sisya: “Ah, yes, I agree to abide by your order.” Then he becomes sisya. Otherwise where is the question… “I am thinking like this, I am thinking…” So long you are thinking otherwise, you don’t try to become a sisya. You remain outside and you are welcome: chant, dance, take prasadam, and remain independent. There is no objection. But when you become sisya, then you cannot remain independent. These things convince him. Then you don’t become sisya. Remain as friend, there is no harm. Just like so many people, they come. So if these things (indistinct). This way. What is the wrong there?”

Chaitanya Mangala dasa: Prabhupada: You have to submit. You cannot remain independent. That is the first condition. Sisyas te 'ham,sisya. Sisya means voluntarily accepting the rules offered by the spiritual master. That is sisya: "Ah, yes, I agree to abide by your order."


Miniskirts… Skirting the Issue

Miniskirts… Skirting the Issue


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Miniskirts... Skirting the Issue

Kapila dasa: I appreciate the recent discussion in regards to the recommended attire of a brahminical devotee. It is always good to be reminded of the most correct form, and to recognize standards which apply to temple environments.

I would like, however, to clarify the position that I take when approaching both the Kulimela’s and the youth, as it will better inform these devotees and others why some things are the way they are.

It is pertinent to note first and foremost that although Kulis (youth born into the Hare Krsna movement), are members of the community, and often great devotees too, the majority are not initiated devotees.

So we see that there are initiated devotee youth, youth who are active members of the community, and others who are not active but still attend to their friends, and still others who are inimical.

The Kulimela is actually a space where all such are invited to attend, and to come together and rejoice in friendship, family, community, and spirituality.

So for the Kulimela event we set aside our particular conditions and standards and set a more comfortable space.

This space, of course, still has some rules we ask all attendees to respect, on temple property, such as no alcohol or drugs.

Although a number of Kuli’s do partake of such substances in the outside world, the vast majority, even amongst these, are happy to set aside these activities during the mela, and we have had no issues with drugs or alcohol at our events (ironically we did have one old Prabhupada disciple who was smoking weed in the woods and he was politely asked to stop.) If there are other issues, they have been minor and incomparable to the wonderful benefits that the Kulimela’s bring.

I would note that Radhika Mataji has also mentioned the sunday feast, which again was set up to be the Sunday love feast, a place where the public are invited to join and come for the feast etc.

The fundamental issue here is that the majority of Kuli’s have not made any vows or taken initiation, and are attending as members of the wider community. They therefore have no obligation to attend the lectures, to dress according to brahminical standards, or to do anything other than enjoy the feast and socialise, although almost all will be found in the kirtan, singing, dancing, and playing instruments, surely something wonderful and to be encouraged.

Their attitude can create a disturbance to some who evaluate them as initiated by default, which is not a fact or the process at all.

Of course, there are still certain expectations even of the wider public in the temple environment (such as not wearing shoes inside), and dressing to some degree of modesty, but it is hardly the same as the standards we would expect of initiated disciples, or temple pujaris.

So the question can be asked, what is the value of the Sunday feast being open to all, and of the Kulimela’s being a more open environment?

The benefit is that we can reawaken the taste of bhakti in such circumstances.

So we don’t say that only people who follow the four regulative principles can attend a Sunday feast. Why not? Because then how can we preach. Yet we would say they cannot eat meat on the property, which is appropriate. As an example of how people and place can change our approach, when we go out on Rathayatra, the space is even more open, because people can come and view the tents in their bikini’s and even be eating meat while talking to a devotee.

My point is that standards should be known, understood, and explained, but that they are personal and place dependent.

Let me give those who have not attended and experienced the magic of the Kulimela’s a few important things which happen at the melas.

Firstly, nearly everyone participates in service. At the Radhadesh mela we had more than 75% of all delegates participate in service, from cooking, to cleaning, to presenting etc. How do I know? We gave a gift t-shirt to everyone we could identify who had done some service and that was the figure, it was probably higher.

This is service done with genuine happiness and love, and the smiles on the face of the servers was very real. When service becomes a burden and expectation, this smile disappears, and can lead to burnout. The mela’s are an attempt to overcome some of the damage done by burnout from the past (not an issue with the new generation of youth, but the older generation 25+ certainly experienced such burnout), so we ask and make no demands.

If you want to come, play sports, talk to friends, that’s fine. And it works. I have had many experiences where youth who came just to play sports, and attended no seminars or lectures, were so inspired by the event that they organized lectures and seminars a year later! And these seminars were on preaching….

If we had put pressure on this young man not to play sports, if we had told them to wear a dhoti and proper kurta (most of these young men had no shirts on at given times), and if we had insisted on the morning program and lecture, they would not have attended, not been inspired, and we would not have their energy for the future.

Secondly, the most popular activity at a mela is not the entertainment, it’s not the seminars, it’s not even the prasadam, it’s the Bhajan Kutir. The nama yajna for the mela’s.

We place this at the centre of the event, and it runs all day. It’s so appreciated that the attendees won’t leave even for prasadam and the evenings entertainment.

Thirdly, we schedule spiritually infused entertainment so that youth who will go out and enjoy night clubs and all that the material world has to offer, will always remember that the best time they ever had was dancing with their friends, without any drugs or alcohol, and with reminders of Krishna.

But that is not where it ends, we escalate the evenings dance, so that first there is a more neutral space, with dance music etc, but then we transition the next day to a rocking kirtan, where the mood, of course, only goes higher and becomes the most powerful and appreciated.

The power of a rocking kirtan is such that the taste can remain even after 20 years of material life. And so with our neutral space we entice kuli’s back to experience it.

But again, this is all by the process of invitation, by welcoming, by putting aside judgment, and by embracing our wider community.

I would add one final note for those who may not understand the Gala Evening at the Ford Theatre. There were very specific reasons why we hosted such an event off the temple property. (We hosted a Rukmini and Krishna play on temple property). This was because the evening was one that was reaching out to the most abused and mistreated of our second generation, young men and women who would not feel comfortable or safe in any temple environment.

And inside of that space we had to widen the boundaries of our neutral space, where inside the temple we would narrow those same boundaries.

It is a reminder that we are not devotees “because” of our dress, but that we may dress in certain ways because we are a devotee. So to me it is an inspiration when George Harrison sings Hare Krsna, or when a model says she chants Hare Krsna to the Daily Mail newspaper in the UK, these are events which say, you never know where you will find a devotee, and in what guise or factor of life.

I won’t go into a full analysis of all of these circumstances, except to say that I greatly appreciate seeing a devotee in full garb, because it creates contrast as well as comparison.

So when I organize events in the UK for professionals, we have many devotees in suits, interacting with bankers, lawyers, and the like, and they don’t know if they are speaking to a devotee or a non devotee, they can appreciate Hare Krsna’s are also professional. But I also invite the brahmachari’s and temple president to attend in their professional garb, a dhoti, and this contrast and comparison in a neutral space is very effective.

I can state with absolute certainty that if we only had devotees in dhoti’s at the professional events I host, or if we established a traditional temple garb on all mela attendees, we would have very few people there. And those few people are well served by many other events.

So my argument is not against standards, and I respect and appreciate being reminded of them, I just wanted to perhaps explain a few things to those who might misunderstand what the value and purpose of the mela’s are.

One final point about what is probably the most disturbing “garb” issue from the evening at the ford theatre, that is the dance in which the dancer rips off certain elements of her clothing.

This dance is supposed to be awkward and uncomfortable at that moment. It is a statement against hypocrisy as experienced in our youth, where we were judged by the “appropriateness” of our clothes, rather than the spirituality in our hearts, and where we were instructed not to dress like whores, while a number of youth were sexually abused, assaulted, and molested, or given away in marriage at the ages of 11 and 12.

These are issues that we can forget, but they are not forgotten by those who lived them and were there.

This dance addressed those issues, daring the viewer to treat the dancer as a sex object, while demanding at the same time that she dress appropriately. At least that is how I interpreted it. As a work of art, there are other experiences possible.

This resonance will not be understood by all, but I for one defend it, and appreciate it, in the context in which it was presented.

That same dancer organized all the young children (and a number of older youth) to dress up in fantastic garb to add to the glory of the parade for Lord Jagannath, she also gave up huge amounts of her time and energy to make the mela happen, and is a very dedicated participant in this spiritual path, raising her children wonderfully. How do I know this? She’s my sister.

Sincerely,

your servant,

Kapila

Kapila dasa: I appreciate the recent discussion in regards to the recommended attire of a brahminical devotee. It is always good to be reminded of the most correct form, and to recognize standards which apply to temple environments



New Vrindaban’s Swan Boat Festivals

New Vrindaban’s Swan Boat Festivals


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New Vrindaban's Swan Boat Festivals

By nvcommunications

“The Swan Boat Festivals are pure elegance,” says Bhakta Gerald Yule from Elm Gove, WV. This year, Bhakta Gerald has the unique privilege of navigating the Swan Boat across New Vrindaban’s Swan Lake every Saturday night, from Mother’s Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. “The Swan Boat is one-of-a-kind. For a few years, the devotees used to enter the Swan Boat in parades and festivals in Wheeling, Charleston, Pittsburgh, and other places. The Swan Boat always won a prize.”

The 15-foot, 3,000 pound Swan Boat was created in 1987 by local artist Soma dasa of New Vrindaban. Swans are a common feature in Vedic art, which is based on the ancient Vedic scriptures of India. In the ancient Sanskrit language of the Vedas, a swan is called a “hamsa,” and a spiritually enlightened person is called a “paramahamsa.” The Vedas explain that swans have the ability to “separate milk from water.” Thus, if milk and water are mixed into a bowl, a swan will drink the milk and leave the water. Similarly, a self-realized soul has the ability to distinguish spirit from matter, and he accepts what is spiritual and rejects what is material. The founder of New Vrindaban Community, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, is recognized world-wide as a paramahamsa.

The Swan Boat Festival begins at approximately 9:15 pm with a torchlight procession, during which Lord Krishna is carried from the temple to the nearby boat house on Swan Lake. “There is always singing and dancing during the parade, with a mix of traditional Indian instruments and western instruments,” explains Bhakta Gerald enthusiastically. “It is a style of music called ‘kirtan,’ which originated in ancient India but is currently becoming trendy in the US and Europe.”

After Lord Krishna reaches the boat house, he is then offered his seat on the boat. Yule then boards the swan carrier and artfully glides across Swan Lake in figure eight’s. “I put the boat in neutral a few times so that the crowd can take photos of Lord Krishna. I crouch down inside the boat so that I become invisible to the camera.”

People from across the US travel to New Vrindaban to attend the Swan Boat Festival, which lasts between 30 – 45 minutes. “I personally talked with two different groups from New York and Toronto who traveled to New Vrindaban by coach bus,” says Bhakta Gerald. “They drove in Saturday morning, and stayed overnight at the Palace Lodge. They scheduled their trip so they could attend the Swan Boat Festival.”

In addition to the Saturday night festivals, the Swan Boat makes extra outings for special occasions such as Janmastami. Janmastami marks the day, approximately 5,000 years ago, on which Lord Krishna descended from the spiritual world to the planet Earth. New Vrindaban will hold four separate Janmastami celebrations due to the high volume of out-of-town guests who will visit. During all four Janmastami celebrations, the Swan Boat Festival will have the added feature of a brilliant fireworks display over the lake.

Here is the schedule for the Swan Boat Festival for the remainder of 2010. The festival is from approximately 9:15 – 10:00 pm.

Saturday, July 31
Saturday, August 7
Saturday, August 14
Saturday, August 21
Saturday, August 28 (Janmastami) – fireworks
Wednesday, September 1(Janmastami) – fireworks
Friday, September 3 (Janmastami / Labor Day weekend) – fireworks
Saturday, September 4 (Janmastami / Labor Day weekend) – fireworks

“I want to make the Swan Boat Festivals even better next year,” declares Bhakta Gerald. “This winter, I am going to re-paint the boat as well as Lord Krishna’s seat. After that, I am going to work on re-decorating the Swan Boat.”

New Vrindaban Community is located south of Moundsville – Wheeling, off Route 250. For more information about the Swan Boat Festivals, contact (304) 843-1600 or mail@NewVrindaban.com.

By Iskcon New Vrindavana

The 15-foot, 3,000 pound Swan Boat was created in 1987 by local artist Soma dasa of New Vrindaban. Swans are a common feature in Vedic art, which is based on the ancient Vedic scriptures of India


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