Winter retreat 2005-2006 in Finland

Guru-nistha Das - December 29, 2005 3:23 pm

We are now on the third day of the winter retreat. It has been hectic as usual and I have been writing down notes but haven´t had any time until now to write here. But let´s start from the beginning.


On the 27th Krsangi, Guru Maharaja and I drove from the Helsinki airport about 1 and half hours to the west and arrived on the shore of the ocean where Kamalaksa greeted us. He gave all of us ice picks that we hung around our necks, in case the ice would cave in. Luckily no one had to use their picks and we made the 300 meter walk on ice safely to Kamalaksa´s parents´ second island. Bhrigu, Hari-priya and Tiina greeted us with kirtan at the mainhouse and Guru Maharaja drank some tea and said a few words.

Few hours later arrived Jananivas, Mikko, Mathura-natha, Syama Gopal and a young, new guy called Visa who´s only 17 years but seems to be quite interested. A little later arrived Mohan, one of Kamalaksa´s students called Jaakko and a devotee called Jayadeva, who is a disciple of Narayan Maharaja. The gang was all here.


The first lecture was questions and aswers. Bhrigu asked that how should we explain if someone asks us to tell what we are about in five minutes. GM made a remark that a person who asks that kind of a question probably only has a 20 to 30 second attention span anyway. GM explained further that it´s good to give some vedanta (to start with that) as well as bhakti. He suggested that we give a little "sample", a compelling thought or two from the vedantic point of view on some universal truth, for example how material life is all about exploitation, and then give a solution to it from the vantage point of bhakti and vedanta.

GM got excited in describing our path from the two afore mentioned viewpoints, then he stopped and said to Bhrigu: I´ll get to the five minute version later.

In the end GM said something like this: the whole material existence is based on exploitation, which means taking from others instead of giving. So we have to become givers instead of exploiters to get out of the realm of exploitation. And we have to give to the object that can take unlimitedly and perfectly, and we also believe that that object is Krsna.


At about nine o clock GM wrapped it up and we had some snack after the lecture and crashed out.


The program goes like this:

3-4 AM GM bathes in the sauna

4-5:30 The boys take their bath

5:30-6 the ladies bathe

6 AM mangala arati

8 AM breakfast

10 AM morning lecture

12 AM noon arati

1-2 PM lunch

6 PM sundara arati

7 PM evenining lecture

8:30-9 PM evening snack


Between lunch and sundara arati we go to the sauna, chant, sleep, read and do all kinds of household stuff like chop wood, pick up more people, do the dishes etc. Kamalaksa (aka the Fuhrer) takes care that everybody are fully engaged.


More later! i have to get ready for the sundara arati.

Guru-nistha Das - December 30, 2005 7:21 pm

The next day started with going to the sauna (that is a separate building in one corner of the property) in the dark around 4 o clock and bathe. It was about -12 C outside so some austerity was there. The mangala arati was sweet, Bhrigu had brought Sri Sadbhuja and Jananivas brought his Gaura-Nitai.

After the arati we had a really typical finnish breakfast: porridge. Just rolled oats, water and salt. We did have blueberries in it, which is considered to be luxurious.


The morning lecture was a questions and answers session. Syama Gopal said that he has some friends who are really new agey, talking about seeing ghosts and all that and he doesn´t know how to relate to them or if their path is actually spiritual or not.


Guru Maharaja said that "New Age" is so vast concept that you have to judge every case separately, but one good way of seeing the amount of spirituality in their path is to see how ego-efacing their meditation is, how much do they try to go above their minds and senses. GM said that it´s very typical in the New Age scene to mix the "horizontal" and "vertical" growth (as GM puts it). He gave an example of how some hip new age people in the northern California area think that the way we live at Audarya is the sum and substance on spiritual life, but for us it´s just a framework, a conducive environment to practice spiritual life. Often New Age is just more refined materialism.


Guru Maharaja explained that in our Parampara, especially from Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur on, imagination and concocted spiritual experience is very strongly discouraged. Although bhakti is transrational, spirituality should be on a reasonable foundation. This is something I personally really appreciate in Guru Maharaja. He can give quite esoteric and far-reaching lectures, but there´s always that very sharp spiritual common sense backing up everything.


Jayadeva sked how we can attain Krsna Prema. GM´s answer was simple: sankirtan. Jayadeva asked: there´s no other path? And GM said no. He continued by asking from Jayadeva: is it possible to attain Krsna Prema with offensive chanting and Jayadeva admitted that it´s impossible. GM explained that there´s no question of smaranam without offensive chanting. The chanting must first become your food instead of medicine and then your inner life awakens and you can start meditating. Smarana rises out of Kirtana. GM made a strong point, "people want to do lila-smaranam before they can even do nama-smarana."


In the afternoon was the time for swimming in the hole in the ice. I happened to have some extremely important service right then, conveniently, but Kamalaksa, Visa and Bhrigu proved their manliness. It was -10 degrees outside so actually the water was warmer.



The evening lecture was about the second verse of Caitanya-Cartamrta´s Mangalacarana. GM started explaining the verse by explaining Mahaprabhu´s different names and their significance. He started with the name Vishvambara, the maintainer of the universe. He said that Lord Caitanya maintains the universe in a special way, very different to Vishnu´s. GM went on to explain a little about the hindu cosmology and how Vishnu´s shristi-lila is also expanded because of joy. He also explained shortly how the book and the person bhagavata see the world and how our three-dimensional view is very limited.

So Vishnu maintains the material universe and Krsna maintains dharma in his lila as the prince of Dwaraka, but how is Lord Caitanya a maintainer. GM answered that Sri Caitanya nurtures and maintains us by giving the highest prospect and maintain us spiritually.


Next Gm explained the name Nimai. Mahaprabhu was born under a Neem tree and it was believed that Neem protects from ghosts and evil spirits. GM saif that in both Krsna lila and Gaura-lila there are a lot of things that seem superstitious from our point of view but we have to understand that persons who have bhava see all things from the point of view of lila and in lila all this so called superstitions are true.

Real life only begins when we are freed from the bondage of our mind and senses. Then the world comes to life, we start to see reality with the eyes of a lover.


In the night Jananivas and picked up Rama-Priya and her mother from the railway station of the closest town (about a 30 minute drive) their train arrived at 11 PM and we got to bed around 12.

Guru-nistha Das - December 31, 2005 3:24 pm

The morning lecture on the third day started with Krsangi´s question about Tulasi devi.

Guru Maharaja started by explaining how Tulasi is dear to Vishnu, and how she is a manifestation of Radha, as well as yogamaya, or lila-shakti.

Vrinda devi is a gopi who plays an important role in trying to bring Radha and Krsna together, which in turn is the whole essence of Vraja.

GM compared the plant form of Tulasi devi to that of the Deities or the scriptures. If you look at them from the point of view of your mind, you can judge them to be products of matter and their worship as superstitious rituals, but this should change. GM said that there are a lot of examples in the history of bhakti of how these manifestations of the absolute are spiritual and powerful.


Bhrigu asked an interesting question. He said that although it may sound offensive, Gaura-lila seems to be kind of boring compared to Krsna-lila, where Krsna is hurled into an adventure after another, where as Gaura-lila seems to be more of a "normal" life.

GM began answering with a question: if you are in a perfected sadhaka body and being in continous exctasy, do you think it´s boring?

GM also explained how sometimes Caitanya and His accosiates would be transfered into Krsna lila, into a pasturing ground where there would be millions of cows and cowherds with Krsna and Balarama, and eventually they would come back to Gaura-lila.

In Gaura-lila the devotees are falling over, trembling and exhibiting all kinds of exctatic symptoms, whereas for us going to aratis is just a duty and only sometimes we get a small glimpse.



Kamalaksa cooked an excellent tofu-cocnutmilk-cauliflower-eggplant subji for lunch. There has definately not been scarcity of prashad. There´s aways someone in the kitchen, preparing something that is normally so good that you just have to eat it. There´s a tradition of making ginger bread houses in Christmas in Finland, so Hari-priya, Tiina and Krsangi made a nice house for GM too. they decorated it with sugar coating and marmelade balls and took it to GM´s house.

After lunch we went to the hole in the ice again. I went two times since I didn´t go the day before and it actually was bad at all. It made my body and mind really energized, actually.


It´s interesting how a real Vaishnava can bring a group to life. It seems like the atmosphere is getting more relaxed, focused and joyful all the time. Krsangi and Kamalaksa have been doing a great job once again with the retreat. As Kamalaksa put it, "we have a second backup for every backup", and it´s true, things are quite well thought out and organized.

Guru-nistha Das - December 31, 2005 3:25 pm

On the third night´s talk Guru Maharaja was talking about samvit, sandini and hladini shakti, the three constituents of svarup shakti. This morning (on the 4th day) Krsangi asked about samvit shakti and who presides over it. GM said that Vasudeva Krsna resides over it. He explained how the material world is a distorted expression of the svarup shakti. He also made the point that Jivas possess these different shaktis in small amount, but only through association with a person who is under svarup shakti can we fully come under the shakti ourselves. This made me think of our fortune to be connected to a Guruparampara that can connect us to svarup-shakti, the internal, intimate life of the Absolute... wow.

GM explained that although a bhava-bhakta has retired material life and his or her body isn´t material anymore, it doesn´t mean that he can walk through walls or something, but that the motivation, the driving force has nothing to do with materialism. It also doesn´t necessarily mean that spiritually realized people are healthy, beautiful or balanced and politically correct. A saintly person has to know the modes of nature and how to overcome them, not all the details that are involved in it.

Gm made a point that he nonetheless wants his disciples to be well-informed and balanced people, in order to have a good basis for spiritual practice.


GM gave a little idea of where we are in all of this. We as sadhakas are not under the svarup shakti but either are we totally under maya-shakti either. we are a combination of the material and spiritual shaktis. We are under the influence of Guruparampara.

We have to be on a person´s mind, in any way possible, who is connected to svarup-shakti, and that is possible only through the Guruparampara. If a person who has real spiritual standing pays attention to you, Krsna is sure to pay attention to you too.

After the morning lecture I walked to Guru Maharaja´s house to ask how he´s doing and I was thinking about what he had said on the lecture. Sometimes it´s just so clear how fortunate we are to be connected with him like this.

Guru-nistha Das - January 1, 2006 3:46 pm

Unfortunately I don´t´have time to write anything now since it´s the last day and we have been cleaning up and packing our bags. I will write something from my notes when I get back to Audarya.

Jananivasdas - January 1, 2006 8:51 pm

jay jay jay...i just wanted to inform that me and visa arrived safely back to the hellsinki!nice retreat...i will write more later and i will also try to read all of GNU's writings...

i allready miss you all!!! :(

mathuranath and shyama gopal and guru-nistha! ;):blink::) you are all my brothers from different familys!!!


my only minus from the retreat was that krishani didnt make her world famous vegan laddus!!!


now i will go to a shower...

Syamasundara - January 1, 2006 11:37 pm
my only minus from the retreat was that krishani didnt make her world famous vegan laddus!!!



I'm a little scared to ask what she'd replace butter or ghi with... ;)

Bhrigu - January 2, 2006 4:17 pm
I'm a little scared to ask what she'd replace butter or ghi with...


No need; she uses a kind of margarine the vegans over here use which tastes a bit like butter. I don't particularly like the stuff itself, but the laddus she makes with it really are fabulous!

Mathura-natha Das - January 3, 2006 7:11 am

Just to give a cliffhanger: I have some videoclips from the retreat that I will post on a seperate site. So toon in to those in an short while. Those clips includes parts of kirtan, Tadiyasevas (spelling?) initiation, bobsledge mayhem and more!

Tadiya Dasi - January 3, 2006 1:36 pm

Meeting Guru Maharaja for the First Time


Krsangi asked me to write something about my ”Winter retreat –experience” to Tattva-viveka, and I am doing so, even at the risk of sounding stupid ;). As some of you may know (at least those of you who were there) Guru Maharaja kindly gave me an initiation during the retreat –so, in that regard, the retreat was very special to me. This was also my first time to see Guru Maharaja in person, not just hear his voice from the CDs and read his words from his books. I was happy to note that I had gotten an acurate picture of him from his lecture-CDs & books, and I felt like I was just meeting someone who I already “knew” and now I just had the chance to be in his physical presence. That said, I was quite nervous to meet with him! In fact I felt rather self-conscious…because of my command of English….because of my lack of experience…because of so many things. I guess a part of me felt a little intimidated to be in the presence of such a great soul. I’ve always sensed that pure vaishnavas could see through you ( kinda like a spiritual X-ray vision :P;) ) and there’s no way of hiding your heart from Krishna & from His representatives! I suppose that’s where the mercy steps in, and indeed, Guru Mahaja was very kind to me.


Schedule that Centered Around Krishna & Sadhu-sanga


The first evening and the morning before Gurudeva’s arrival were quite hectic and I was experiencing a bit of a “cultural shock” when I found myself in the middle of an island and was faced with much more ascetic facilities than I am used to in home. But I was able to adjust to the surroundings quite fast (although, I must admit, I hated the outside WC the whole time! :( ) Sleeping in the floor also made my throat really dry and “itchy”, so if you wonder about who’s the annoying devotee who coughs in all of the lecture CDs –that’s me :) ! One of my “worries” was being more of a disturbance than being of service. For a city-girl like me things like getting logs for the fireplaces, getting water from a well and just generally doing physical labour is exotic. (I’m already wondering, based on Guru-nistha’s & Hari-priya’s Audarya stories, that maybe I should start going to the gym before I come to Audarya, heh :D .)



One of the nicest things and at the same time most uplifting in a spiritual sense was our retreat’s daily schedule. Guru Maharaja asked me that if I had found the retreat helpful and I told him that I found the daily schedule that centered around aratis very helpful: it helped to calm the mind and focus on what’s essential, chanting & hearing. Of course, the association of vaishnavas proved also to be quite powerful in that regard. It was so nice to be able to just go to the temple room, sit in front of the Deities and chant japa together with other devotees. Everytime I did that I remembered Guru Maharaj telling in one of his talks (from the CDs) that he used to go in front of the Deities to chant the Holy Name until he felt inspired.


I got so much out of Guru Maharaja’s teachings & felt very privileged to be in his presence and being able to render some little service for him and for the Sri Vaishnavas. However, I feel that what I gave to others was so little and insignifigant in comparision to what I received. When I listened to Guru Maharaja I often had the experience that the doubts & questions in my mind were addressed even without me verbalizing them. (Which was lucky for me since I was too shy to open my mouth in front of everyone! :blink: )


Guru Maharaj spoke frequently about how the material world is based on exploiting and taking, as opposed to the serving and giving that occurs (hopefully!) in spiritual life. I got a glimpse of that “service-mentality” during the retreat when I observed the other devotees. Kamalaksa & Krsangi worked tiredlessly throughout the retreat and their devotion and surrender to Guru Maharaj was really quite touching and inspiring. After all, without Krsangi and her comics, I might have not found my way to Guru Maharaja at all! All of the devotees I met were really nice, friendly and helpful. Their sanga was/is priceless and I learned many lessons simply by watching my fellow bhaktas. Krsangi’s & Kamalaksa’s seva seemed to truly be a labour of love (Guru Maharaja was speaking about that too: how we should change our angle of vision, blur the insides & outsides, and do our service as a labour of love to Krishna and Guru). Hari-priya was excellent association & company, I very much enjoyed our talks in the sauna & her insights and encouraging words. She very kindly shared her own experiences and realizations in Krishna-consciousness and taught me very practical skills such as how to wear a sari (somehow I had managed to avoid wearing devotional clothes during my time in iskcon) and she even gave me one of her own saris and some gopi-chandan. She also encouraged me to ask questions even at the risk of making a total fool of myself. Unfortunately Hari-priya had already left when I finally spoke up & incoherantly rambled a confusing question to Guru Maharaj about how we should approach the Holy Books & deal with the “hard to accept and believe” –parts of the Scriptures.


I received a great, detailed and very helpful reply to my question. One of my favorite parts of the answer was when Guru Maharaj was talking about Srila Prabhupada and seeing how his whole being lit up when he spoke of his Gurudev. Guru Maharaj has so much affection for Prabhupada & it’s inspiring to hear about his experiences with him. I loved his stories from “back in the days with Srila Prabhupada” and I wish he would tell them more often! I also found Guru Maharaja’s advice about the methods of studying the Holy Books very helpful and practical.


Bhrigupada was also doing great service & giving me lots of practical advice. He taught me and Hari-priya in the art of doing a Tulasi-puja, wearing a Tilaka & how to take care of the puja-items (he made us polish & clean them! :P ) All in all, I feel blessed to be a part of this spiritual family and I am very grateful that I have been welcomed into it with arms wide open. Everyone has been very kind and friendly to me, even though I am little shy and cautious at first. It takes awhile for me to relax & “come out my shell”, but everyone has been very great about that too…It was fun to meet Syama-gopala & Mathura nath in person too. I had previously listened to their initiation from one of the CDs and was wondering about how they look and what they are about. Guru-nistha’s Audarya stories were nice to hear, his friendliness impressive & his service to Guru Maharaj wonderful. I also appreciate the fact that whenever he made tea, he’d offer some to me too! Jananivas das was, like me, fond of our house-pet the Lulu-dog & Visa’s enthusiasm and strong convictions impressed me greatly. Visa certainly had an intensive start to his spiritual life! I also admire his courage to stay among strangers. It was nice to meet Rama-priya & Vrindavania too. They were nice company, especially during the train-trip back to Helsinki.

Tadiya Dasi - January 3, 2006 1:53 pm



(first a little back-ground)


Before I “found” my way to Swami, I was an aspiring devotee of Bir Krishna Goswami, the leader of the North Carolina’s New Goloka –spiritual community. I was under his guidance for about a year (a year that I like to think of as Krishna preparing me & teaching me lessons that I needed to learn before finding out about Swami). One of those lessons was about initiation and faith. I had come to a point in my journey with Bir Krishna Goswami where he said to me that he would like to initiate me the next time he visited Finland. For some reason, I felt restless and confused about accepting his offer. I had no idea what was going on with me, after all, accepting a Guru and receiving the Holy Name from him are crucial steps in one’s spiritual journey. I could not pin-point the reason for my restless heart, I just figured out it was maya trying to fool me, heh ;):D . During that time I had a pretty warped idea about the whole initiation-process…I am ashamed to admit it :);) …but a part of me thought of accepting the initiation from Bir Krishna Goswami just to be “in better standing” in the devotee-community, being thought of as “real devotee” and not just as somekind of a materialistic hang-aroung. I thought of initiation as somekind of a stamp in the forehead that would magically make me a respected in the eyes of the other devotees, and viewed the whole process rather superficially. It’s really stupid of me, but I had come to think that faith & one’s relationship with Sri Guru are mechanical things that can be confined into institutional needs and standards…I saw these things (faith, Guru, Holy Name) as “steps” in the assembly-line that I was about to enter (by accepting initiation) and really thought that I could come out from the other end and “be a Vaishnava”. The process of entering the “assembly-line” was simple: first pick a Guru among iskcon’s Gurus, approach him, chant 16 rounds & follow the principles for a year, have a initiation, be a Vaishnava.


Even though I was clearly misguided and confused in my views, Krishna showed me special mercy & guided me to Swami :D . What happened was this: I bought Krsangi’s comic book called “Your Name Is Krsangi”, read it, and wondered, Who is this Swami B.V Tripurari? He certainly seems to teach in a way that touches my heart. Then I checked out the Sanga website & ended up sitting in front of the computer for hours reading through the Sanga-archives and thinking: Oh my God, these words go right into my heart, he explains things in a way that makes sense to me, I feel such a connection to his writings and an inner pull to him. Then followed a time of confusion and neurotic ( :blink: ) fear of committing an offense against a Vaishnava…but I decided nonetheless to contact Swami and ask him if he could be my siksa-guru & if I could meet with him when he would come to Finland. He answered my email and put me in touch with Krsangi (whom I had met previously in passing without knowing that she was a disciple of Swami and I never had actually talked to her).


Krsangi immediately contacted me, told me about Swami & the retreats, invitated me to their reading-group and invitated me to their home in Porvoo. As time passed my faith in Swami growed and it was imposible for me to ignore it anymore. I knew that even if Swami would not accept me as his disciple and I would never get an initiation, for the sake of honesty & personal integrity I should leave iskcon and follow Swami’s teachings. Given my faith in Swami, staying in iskcon would have meant dismissing what I knew to be true in my heart. Then I wrote to Swami again ( on Radhastami-day), told him everything that was going on and asked that if I were to reject my current Guru, would he accept me as his disciple?


Swami answered me quickly, assured me that I would not be committing a Vaishnava-aparadha by following my faith. He also wrote to me about the free flow of faith and how it should be honored and then –to my great surprise—said that he would give me an initiation & gave me the advice that in the meanwhile I should associate with his disciples in Finland.


(end of beackground, back to the retreat)


On Friday evening, after the arati, Bhrigu told me that Guru Maharaj had asked him to speak with me about something. It turned out to be about the initiation & the so-called four principles. We had a nice discussion about the principles and the ideas behind them with Bhrigu and Krsangi, and we also talked about how the Harinam-initiation is actually a start of a new life. Guru Maharaja touched on this when he spoke about how initiation is like “planting the seeds” and the beginning of a systematic approach to spiritual life in general and the Holy Name in particular.


The next day Guru Maharaj asked me to come and see him. During the darshan we talked about my relationship with my iskcon-friends & my previous guru, Bir Krishna Goswami. Guru Maharaj asked if I wanted to be a part of his group –to which I said yes—and then he said that he was very to happy that I was a part our group. I also told him that the devotee-community felt almost like a family to me and I felt very welcomed among devotees. Guru Maharaj told me that he would like for all of his diciples to visit Audarya sometime ( so watch out for me! :P:D ) & subscribe to the Audarya-CDs. When I was leaving he told me that he would give some beads and a new name in the ceremony that would start at ten a.m.


In the initiation lecture Guru Maharaj talked about how the Holy Name has His own agenda and He will lead us wherever He wants to and thus the free flow of faith should be honored and acknowledged. Swami said he had to ask me if I had faith in the Holy Name, for one of the offenses against the Holy Name is to give it to the unfaithful. I told him, “Yes”. Guru Maharaj spoke about the other offenses as well. Regarding the offenses against Vaishnavas Guru Maharaja mentioned that one should not become neurotic about it ( Neurotic? Who, me? Never…heh :P ) and stressed that the offenses are about having true malice in your heart for another Vaishnava. He mentioned that the initiation ceremony is about giving blessings to chant the Holy Name and receive Him from the lips of a Vaishnava who has made the Holy Name his very life and soul. Guru Maharaj stressed the importance of accepting guidance and talked about how the Guru is the active agent of Divinity, while the Scriptures are the passive-agent of Divinity and how both aspects of the Divinity are needed.


In the lecture Guru Maharaj told a story about Parvati and Shiva. The Devi had become upset because she could not serve Krishna directly and felt some frustration because of her circumstances as a wife of Shiva who is duty bound to serve her husband, Lord Shiva, instead of serving Krishna directly. The Devi was comforted when she was told that she is serving Krishna indirectly as she is serving Lord Shiva, who is a great Vaishnava. By serving those who are dear to Krishna and in relation with Him ( =Tadiya) Krishna actually becomes even more pleased with us than if we would serve Him directly. Parvati became satisfied when she heard the explanation. I was chuckling inside when I heard the story because I was thinking that even though it’s impossible for me to approach Krishna directly and get His attention I can, by the grace of Divine Intervention, serve Swami Tripurari, who is very dear to Krishna & who’s name refers to Lord Shiva :) .


Then Guru Maharaj asked to come forward and he put the Tulasi-mala around my neck and told me that it “would protect me” ( maybe from radiation? ;):P ) and then he gave me instruction about the kind of a life I should lead ( accept that which is favorable to bhakti, and reject that which is not. Follow the four principles…and remember the fifth, “don’t hoard gold”, though he jokingly said that it won’t be a problem for me given my financial situation!). What struck me the most was when Swami was talking about dispelling all doubts and to trust my Guru and saying that I will be succesfull. To me, hearing those words, was amazing. My Guru has faith in me! How wonderful! Swami also said that we should try to catch the essence of Gaudiya-Vaishnavism, internalize it and apply it in our life. He also spoke of what a glorious parampara I was being included in & I should try and honor it and live a good life. I said to that: “ I will try”. In which he replied, “ I know you will.” That again sent chills to my spine…Wow, he really has faith in me! Then he asked me to come closer, as he would whisper something to my right ear. Then he showed me how to chant on my beads and asked if I was comfortable to chant sixteen rounds, to which I said yes. My name would be Tadiya dasi, meaning a servant of those who are dearmost to Krishna and in relation with Him.


Guru Maharaj lead nice kirtans before and after the ceremony. The atmosphere was beautiful, the lecture wonderful & I was glad that all of my nice devotee-friends were witnessing this special moment in my life. In the beginning of the ceremony I was a little nervous but that melted away and by the time I received my beads I was relaxed & knew in my heart that I had followed my faith and I was able to just “let go” and felt without a doubt that I had made the right decision. I felt safe giving my spiritual life in Guru Maharaja’s hands & gratitude to have such a merciful Gurudev, who, amazingly, seems to have faith in me!


Farewell to the Island & the Retreat


I left the Island early in the morning to cath the 7.37 train with Rama-priya & Vrindavania. The weather was horrible, it was raining and it was very dark. The ice was covered with water and one could not see anything. My shoes were soking wet, my toes frozen & I could not see where I was putting my feet. To be completely honest, I was a bit freaked out by the idea that I should walk over the ice when it seemed half-melted and totally covered by water :( . I was a bit scared even! I kept repeating in my mind: Krishna, Krishna, Krishna. Guru-nistha bravely went ahead first and took some of our luggages with the sledge…and, in the end, we all reached the shore safely, though with damp socks and frozen toes. So we had a happy ending to the nice Winter Retreat! I am sure that I will miss the whole retreat-experience and it will propably be hard to adjust to my normal daily routine again but as Guru Maharaja told us, sometimes we just have to change the way we see our life and circumstances. Fortunately there will be another retreat in the Summer. Until then…


My pranams to all of you who participated and a BIG thank you to both Krsangi & Kamalaksa. My obeisances to Guru Maharaj.


-Tadiya dasi (it feels weird to write that name! Weird but nice :D:) )


ps. I am not sure if I can remember everything correctly, so if I have made a mistake…don’t shoot me ;) Especially the initiation-lecture was hard to remember in a chronological order….l look forward to hearing the recording because I may have missed something important or misunderstood something.

Madangopal - January 3, 2006 5:16 pm

Wow, that was a really sweet recollection Tadiya! Congratulations to you for this wonderful event. What a glorious day for you!


p.s. your command of English is great.

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - January 3, 2006 6:07 pm

Pictures! Give us pictures! Welcome to the family, Tadiya. It’s very nice to see our Finnish community growing! See you soon at Audarya (and yes, start going to the gym asap).

Rama-priya - January 4, 2006 10:03 am

Thanks some mercy I was able to come to this winter retreat to Finland and have association of such wonderful devotees. This meeting gave me so much inspiration and happy. Before retreat I felt such lack of sadhu sanga and thanks mercy of Sri Guru and Krsna I was able to come and had possibility to do something for devotees. What else is needed when you are in holy association and it’s such great opportunity to growth and learn something. I think it is easier to learn something or learn quicker when we see all this spiritual knowledge personified by devotees and in this way we can learn by their example.

It was so nourishing to see on Guru Maharaja, how he is personification all of this what he teaches us, He is personification of joy itself. This joy is such great that expands in all directions and fulfill others that are near Him. After seeing this it is easier understand that real spiritual life give us in its own time joy and fulfillment. When I see how Guru Maharaja is fulfilled this joy in my heart appears hope that some day it will happen also to me. During meeting there was a few things that strike me, moved me strongly. For example the idea of what mood we should have during chanting holy names in the kirtan, that presented us Guru Maharaja charmed me so much. I’ve never even imagined such deep vision in kirtan. I used to see on it so superficial, but now I see it in completely different light, at least in theoretical way. Guru Maharaja explained this in respond to some question. We should do some effort to see properly what is kirtan. We should sing for pleasing Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, Guru-parampara. Hearing Holy Names of Krsna is nourishing for Lord Gauranga and Nityananda, for Sri Guru, previous acaryas. With such mood we should sing. I don’t know nothing about Holy Names but I’m trying to sing them as good as I can in due to pleased them. In this way we should think I think that, thanks seeing on kirtan in this way, it is easier not lost attraction to do it and not fell in frustration. Guru Maharaja also emphasized that we should develop patience. The most important thing is not commit offences. And if we avoid offences and chant some day it will bring fruits. We should believe in this and with patience wait for results as when we for example establish some kind of interess we have to wait for results. In similar way we need to wait for fruits of our sadhana bhakti. Even if we have to wait many lives it is worth to do it. We crossed longer distance than we have now to cross. We have found the most charming path and a person that represents God that personifies what he teaches, real bona fide guru. So we can say in some way that there’s no long way to finish our journey. It is for me difficult to have patience, because patience never was my strong side, but form another side I believe that it is worth to wait, like it was worth to wait in my case for real spiritual master, even if sometimes this longing was really horrible. Therefore I think it is worth to wait, even many lifetimes, especially if we go ahead, we progress and we have association of great souls.


I’d like to thank You all of You once again for Your association and possibility to do some service.




Jananivasdas - January 4, 2006 11:07 am

great tadiya!!! ;)


im waiting to see the awesome bobsled mayhem again...hahah! :blink: that was just awesome...


one of the best things was kamalaksa's "great minds think alike!" comment....heh


gauranga nityananda ki-jay!


sleeping sleeping sleeping....


wooden shoe wearing dude:


Shyam Gopal Das - January 4, 2006 3:43 pm

ooooh! I think you are in trouble Jananivas!


I will post my comments about the retreat sometime soon.

Bijaya Kumara Das - January 5, 2006 9:18 am

Welcome Tadiya dasi.


Nice to have a new sister.

Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:05 pm

This time I decided to please your eyes by making a small drawing of everyone who took part in our retreat. (And shame on me if I've forgotten someone!) Enjoy - and don't get mad at me! :D


I'm beginning with Guru Maharaja.


Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:07 pm



Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:09 pm



Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:10 pm



Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:12 pm

Syama Gopala.


Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:14 pm



Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:15 pm



Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:17 pm



Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:19 pm



Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:21 pm

Rama-Priya & Vrindavani.


Syamasundara - January 9, 2006 9:22 pm

what determines if one is a mouse or a duck?

I loved Mathuranatha's hat and Jananivasa so far.

Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:22 pm



Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:23 pm



Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:25 pm



Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:26 pm



Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:27 pm



Syamasundara - January 9, 2006 9:28 pm

what determines if one is a mouse or a duck?

I loved Mathuranatha's hat and Jananivasa so far.

Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:29 pm



Krsangi Dasi - January 9, 2006 9:30 pm

Yours truly.


Bhrigu - January 10, 2006 4:43 pm

Krsangi, your pictures are just great! :D I miss Lulu. And I finally got rid of my headache the next day.


Bhrigu's in Thailand probably taking another nap right now :P but he has sent me to TV as a spy :D



Nanda-tanuja Dasa - January 10, 2006 7:06 pm

What is he doing in Thailand?

Bijaya Kumara Das - January 11, 2006 8:14 am

[i'm beginning with Guru Maharaja.


What is muzak mean?

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - January 11, 2006 1:34 pm
What is muzak mean?

Background music, elevator music.

Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 6:16 pm

P E R S P E C T I V E ; a definition


• Position: a way of regarding situations or topics etc.


• The appearance of things relative to one another as determined by their distance from the viewer


• In theory of cognition is the choice of a context or a reference (or the result of this choice) from which to sense, categorize, measure or codify experience, typically for comparing with another.


* * *


As known, you cannot see the mountain when standing on it. One has to gain some distance to be able to appreciate it fully. Thus I offer you a humble account of the events that began the 25th of December and ended the 2nd of January.


I cannot claim to be the first to give my testimony, nor can I compete with the depth of understanding conveyed through the writings of those preceeding me in this task.


I will likewise give little insight into the talks given. This for a few reasons, the main one being that others have already fared better than I ever could recollecting what was said. Another reason will be revealed further on. These writings will contain random notes from a jam-packed week. I do not claim objectivity, where I have recalled something wrongly please correct me, where I have inadvertedly offended anyone please forgive me.


My point of view will thus be that of an organiser, a emissary moving behind the lines. It was the mission of me along with Krishangi to take care of the backups for the backups, should something have gone awry.


And occasionally it did. (T H I N K: adi-bautika)

Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 6:20 pm

T H E . E T E R N A L . O P T I M I S T


Prior to us getting a green light for the winter retreat from Guru Maharaja we made a quick call-around to the key players, known to participate. I admit having used quite forceful techniques to sell the idea to everyone involved. The views to the contrary held many points which admittedly were worth considering, the main ones being that we were likely to draw a smaller crowd should we choose to convene in a location this remote. There would be no means of mass transport, even to explain how to reach the place held some ambiguity at best. As was seen later on...


The other objection was also beyond my reach of fixing. Should mother nature choose to throw warm water in our way we would have real problems reaching the island. Or to be more precise water would not have been a problem. Nor would ice. It was the in between thing that effectively would have thrown a unsurmountable obstacle in our pathway.


(Should one wish to see this through the eyes of an old punker, we could conclude that both extremes would have been good, but the compromise would have left everyone unhappy...)


Bhrigu also raised a careful question about the availability of wam water. Something that has to do wih brahmanas washing themselves often. I could not vouch for warm water, nor any water for that matter. But one could always roll around in the snow. Should there be any, that is...


Also my meek and submissive vedic wife was quite strongly making her case for the winter program at our home, stating that we would be able to listen to the classes more attentively when not having to worry about practical matters. (It took some amount of sweet words and a lot of cooking her favorite dishes to convince her otherwise.)


Despite this we got Guru Maharaja's permission to go forth.


Sometimes my ass-like stubbornness pays off.


* * *


In the days gone by, it was to my knowledge forbidden for a sannyasi to cross the ocean. Fortunately the progressive minds in the Bhaktivinode parivara have taken to yukta-vairagya, allowing Guru Maharaja to come visit us. Here seen walking on water.


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 6:26 pm

I . B U R N . A . F I R E . T O . S T A Y . C O O L


On one of the first morning questions and answers sessions Krishangi ventured to ask as a spin-off to a previous question how to get people to ask one about Krishna consciousness. After establishing that the very Finnish mentality worked against this, as Finns seek to avoid speaking with strangers as far as possible, Guru Maharaja gave a more philosophical answer.


He said that as we turn away from the world, the world becomes interested in us. Which seems at first glance as a glaring paradox. And probably is one approached with a rational mind. But life on the absolute plane seed not to become servant of mere rationality. Our minds and intelligence may protest to this statement, but even our everyday experience confirms it to be true.


Give to live.


* * *


Walking by Guru Maharaja to his cabin I told him how we even at that time found evidence for what had been said during the class. How, when situated in the city, easily accessible for everyone, we drew a much more meager crowd. And how now, when we were hiding it the woods, we received a so much higher attendance rate. I got the feeling Guru Maharaja was happy with this.


* * *


And while the cold outhouse almost drove our poor guests to desperation, things indoors looked much nicer. Everyone was well-fed, though the servings might have bordered on the unhealthy side.


But then again, to cope in the cold North one would presumably need a bit more fat around oneself, right?


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 6:32 pm

B A G S . G O N E . A W O L


Last summer, we received devastating news, as Guru Maharaja's arrival was compromised, due to the miserly minds of petty bureocrats, who had the nerv to inhibit the travels of Swami due to an insignificant detail such as an invalid passport. The hours we lived without knowledge of whether he could come over or not were the longest we experienced.


This time we fared a bit better. Guru Maharaja arrived on schedule, and seemed from Krishangi's eye witness account to have been in good health and happy. The only problem was that while he himself had no difficulty entering Finland, his bags fared not quite as well. They appeared to have been left behind in New York, for one reason or another.


This led to two things:


O N E : With Guru Maharaja in Finland, I wintertime, with no gear, except for his sannyasa garb and a laptop computer, something needed to be done. This of course provided us with ample service opportunities. We gathered whatever spare (unused) clothing we had. It amounted to a few t-shirts, and some pairs of warm socks. As well as a power cord for his Mac. Also, a blanket was handed over, to keep him warm during the chilly night.


(For this was another thing we really had no experience of: The cabin Guru Maharaja was to stay in had some heating in it, but we had no knowledge of whether it would be enough, as the temperature outside dropped to some 14 degrees fahrenheit. But we heard no complaints on this account either, which meant one of two things: either Guru Maharaja was very patient with us, or my father knows one or two things about insulating a house...)


T W O : As the airline promised to send Guru Maharja his bag as soon as it would arrive they needed some address for them to be sent to. The only problem was that no matter how hard the airline personel pressed Krishangi, she couldn't produce a street address. We were on an island!


The man who was to drive over hte bag apparently had a hard time taking instructions from a girl, as he ended up calling for clarifications every once a while, mostly during Guru Maharaja's talks.


But the bag did finally arrive, intact, having taken the scenic route through Belgium, for reasons never understood by us. Along with Guru Maharaja's winter boots, which in due time came to good use.


And for those who think that one missing bag was enough I will disclose a confidential truth: Shyama Gopala, who apparently had understood the instruction to follow in the steps of the mahajanas a tad to literally also left his bag behind him. Ending up in cold Finland. With no winter clothes. And no sleeping bag.


It was here where our backup system kicked in.


* * *


Picture of Shyama Gopala suddenly realizing that all his warm clothes and his sleeping bag are still in Holland. Alas! Truly the material world is a place of constant and repeated misery.


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 6:42 pm

D E R . F U H R E R


As Guru-nistha so kindly referred to me as the fuhrer in his post, I wish to take this oportunity to share with the world what it is like to be the Fuhrer for him.


In Finnish we have a saying: Laita poika asialle, ja mene itse perässä.


Roughly translated it goes something like this: Send the boy on an errand, and follow him yourself. With the purport being that the errand will probably not be taken care of anyway. And with no malice what so ever - everyone out there knowing that Guru-nistha and I are the best of buddies - I can honestly state that it was not one or two times he had to be reminded to take care of things he promised to do.


Taking a bath in a cold sauna is in truth not quite as enjoyable as in a warm one for instance. Me and Krishangi occasionally joked that he he had much in common with a classical hero from a story of the Swedish-Russian War of 1880 called Sven Dufva. Of Sven Dufva it was said that he was very courageous. (He held a strategically important bridge alone.) And that he had a big heart but a small head.


And Guru-nistha, don't you get angry here! To quote another war hero John Rambo in my defence: "You drew first blood."


* * *


It's a hard days night. Guru-nistha looking a bit tired after a trying week in the woods. Soon after the picture was taken he returned to his home in sunny California, retiring to his own cozy yurt. Rolling out his green big sleeping bag he remembered more hectic days. "Home sweet home", were the last words he silently whispered before merciful sleep took over our small soldier.


Tomorrow would be a new day with new challanges!


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 6:47 pm

O U R . O W N . P h D


While it may be said that Bhrigu faced some friendly jabs from Guru Maharaja on a few select occasions due to his question about Gaura lila being boring, he likewise got to bask in the warmth of Guru Maharaja's appreciation. This was most clearly visible when Bhrigu handed over a version of the early Upanishads translated into Swedish by him and his friend Martin.


It is an impressive piece of work, and well received too, to the point of being lauded in Swedens biggest newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Among other strenghts the book contains many of the older Upanishads translated directly into Swedish for the first time in history. No small feat either.


As I had my hand on a small corner of the production of the book by designing one chart for it, I received a copy of it when it was published. Admittedly, I didn't read it through, much of it is too abstract for me, but I learned a few things. Both from the introduction, but even more so from the talks I had with Bhrigu regarding the differences of translations so evident when compared with one another. (Case in point: Isopanishad.)


These talks have helped me much in my understanding of our tradition and its conducts, as well as coming to terms with a very different culture from the western somewhat academic one I am surrounded by.


With Bhrigu's wife Laura coming over for one talk, he had the opportunity to have her bring copies of the book, and even hand out one to Guru Maharja. As stated earlier on Guru Maharaja was visibly pleased having one of his men gainig a prestigious position in society that afforded him to further the teachings of Lord Chaitanya's mission.


The fact that Guru Maharaja was impressed by Bhrigu's effort became all the more evident when I was to bring him his evening meal. Resting on the bed, book in hand, Guru Maharaja lifted his glance from the book and signaled me to move closer. I put down the tray on the small table, and sat next to him on the bed. He then held up a spread in the book with the first page of the introduction.


-It says Alfred North Whitehead here. (Actually, it said A.N. Whitehead, but Guru Maharaja quite clearly knew the man in question, as he was able to give both names correctly.) He was a very famous philosopher, one of the most prominent ones in the 20th century. But why is his name here, in a book on the early Upanishads?


-Well... allow me try to translate.


And so I proceeded translating in somewhat broken English, as my ability to translate by the seat of my pants really isn't all that good. Stumbling over the words, in a texts so eloquent in the original Swedish, I felt I wasn't doing a very good job at the task at hand.


After I finished Guru Maharaja was clearly pleased. To the extent that the very same Alfred North Whitehead and the quote were immediately referred to in a following class. But that's another story, which you will have to wait for until Audarya Audio decides to release the winter retreat mp3:s.


For those of you not there I will again give a rough translation:


"When A.N. Whitehead said that (European) philosophy could best be described as a footnote to Plato he knowingly made an exaggeration. To describe the history of Indian philosophy as a footnote to the Upanishads, when still an exaggeration, is one that holds much more truth to it: even the philosophical systems that do not directly rely on the Upanishads are forced to acknowledge them, and contain as a rule thoughts first formulated by the authors of the Upanishads."


I'll leave you with that thought.


* * *


Bhrigu presenting Guru Maharaja with his translation of the early Upanishads. At this point none of us suspected that Guru Maharaja would take up learning Swedish in his little cabin.


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 6:53 pm

I . D O . N O T . W A N T . T O . B E . R E N O U N C E D


Krishangi once spoke with her girlfriends (which is always a sign of danger). At some point they reached a point where they for one reason or another ended up concluding that should Krishangi ever choose to leave me I would never be able to find another woman who could stand me.


* * *


During one of of our morning sessions of questions and answers my dear wife raised her hand. She had a question. What she wanted to know was how one could make one's life more centered on Krishna.


During his answer Guru Maharaja spoke about the need of not making rushed decisions and how he was quite happy with how Krishangi is situated, and did not wish see any change in that department for some time. The Ananda magazine is up and running, the retreats are rolling on, we are slowly but surely attracting more people. But then the bomb dropped. Swami turned to Krishangi and said:


"When you are old and Kamalaksa cannot resist anymore you can come and live at Audarya!"


* * *


After the talk our group summoned it the kitchen. Everyone was jolly, but the opinions of what actually was said had the group split in two. Was the "you" in singular or plural? The group of us older men were of the opinion that what was said was that while poor old Kamalaksa lies lame in his bed awaiting cruel death Krishangi packs her bags and heads for the states. Only a sad cry is heard as the last sound emitting from the dried-up lips of her former husband.


Those who sided on the more liberal version thought that what was said that when Kamalaksa was too old to resist Krishangi would force him too to move to Audarya. Leaving all his beloved books and toys behind.


Whichever version is the correct one, both would involve me involontarily learning that we are not the controllers. Life sure is hard.


* * *


Thus Krishangi thought: "If I would leave him and move to Audarya I would have no mortgage to worry about... Nor would I have to be born so many times again. And the milk would be cruelty free too... But I wonder how Guru Maharaja would react to my collection of The Simpsons DVDs...?"


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 6:58 pm

A short break in the otherwise more serious content. Take is as a commercial for the Finnish tourist board.


As a gift to Nanda Tanuja I dedicate the following pictures to you. You made us laugh, now let us make you cry!


First off, Bhrigu and Kamalaksa, with icesaw in hand. Guru-nistha, who is behind the camera also took part in creating this pool. Ice thickness around 8 inches.


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 7:03 pm

And the follow-up. (After this, I promise to stop trying to influence people to swim in cold water.)


Please note the hat, which makes me look like an East German border patrol worker. It can be worn in several ways.


Join the community. Resistance is futile.


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 7:12 pm

T H R E E . ( 3 )


Q. What do the renowned rap group De La Soul's hit record and our material sojourn have in common?


A. 3


(For those spotting the reference to The Hichhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in the answer, I congratulate you. For the rest of you, never mind, I will elaborate.)


According to De La Soul "three is the magic number". If you ever listened to the radio in the late 80´s, which I doubt you would have, since radio is maya, you might have heard the tune. Quite catchy, to be honest.


De La Soul caused an upheaval in the Hip Hop community with its own take on the by that time Public Enemy-dominated rap scene. With hippie imagery and soft soul-like melodies it was quite a departure from the norm.


But the feelings stirred up by these worldly-minded musicians were nothing compared to the effect Guru Maharaja's answer to Bhrigu's question had. The audience was left flabbergasted, others from joy, others from disappointment, but most from utter disbelief.


And the question that ties all these strings together? Bhrigu's inquiery, which concerned the lives we would have left in this world. And while many of us probably expected, if not a vague answer, then at least a more unprecise one. So when the simple answer three dropped, the audience gasped. You might be able to hear this from the CD if you listen really carefully...




* * *


Without a second this was the answer that amounted to the most discussion and debate after class. In all groups involved. Some where, as stated, a bit disappointed. Still three more lives to go through. Three long lives, three more times going through the boredom of childhood, the awkwardness of teenage, and, well, I'm not yet capable of speaking of the miseries of old age, albeit I suspect they too are unpleasant.


Others where overjoyed. i count myself to this group. For in discussions with Citta Hari in the summer figures like a million lives were thrown around. So going down from a million to three seemed like a very good deal for me indeed.


Then we had the doubtful. Guru-nistha for instance had a really hard time believing we would be let out so easily. "Do you realize how advanced you have to be go back to Godhead!? Just three lives... there has to be some catch." Gurunishta could barely concentrate on keeping the car on the road while dropping the facts.


We went on speculating if the three lives wouldn't actually mean physical lives, but the stages mentioned during the class, nama-aparadha, nama-bhasa and suddha nama. We soon rejected this version too, as the question related very clearly to physical lives. And the fact that Guru Maharaja also made it clear that some might go faster.


We also recalled how Guru Maharaja stated that in our next lives we would have a pretty good tailwind going for us. That the things we did now, albeit not showing immediate results, would prove fruitful in due time. Maybe in this life, maybe in the one following.


At the end we returned to the original answer. And were content with the knowledge that three was the magic number.


* * *


Intent concentration. Yes, three lives. Krishangi almost tipping from her chair.


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 7:20 pm

O N . A T T E N D A N C E . P R O B L E M S


After a class Bhrigu and Krishangi came in to the the kitchen evidently enlivened by the talk that had just ended. Both were enthusiastically recollecting points made and questions answered.


They were both sparkling, conveying to me how that and that reference in the class probably was aimed at Bhrigu (with his now already famous question of whether the Gaura lila in eternity wouldn't prove to be a bit boring) as well as others relating to Krishangi.


-I am sure he was referring to you with the one line in the lecture!


Krishangi eagerly explained her understanding to Bhrigu, who was quick to answer that although the reference at hand was suited for a general understanding he also felt that it really did hit home with him.


- But, he continued, looking at Krishangi, the one part was clearly directed to you!


In this way they confirmed each others thoughts, Guru Maharaja was speaking directly to them during class, in small turns of words that might have gone unnoticed by others.


Then we concluded that no reference was made to Kamalaksa, as he never attends the classes.


We all had a good laugh at that one!


(What might to some seem as a sarcastic or twisted sense of humor is something that many of our group in Finland hold in common. Thus I ask you not to read the above written as a sour grapes sort of outburst. ; )


As stated somewhere on the Lonely Planet website: If you forget to pack humor along with your sunscreen you are bound to be burned.)


* * *


But seriously. One of the downsides of being the organiser is that one's own attendance in programs is unfortunately relegated very low on the list of priorities. This means hearing half classes at best and occasionally singing along in the aratis from the kitchen.


And before someone starts quoting how a short association with a saintly person is the most important thing in life which never should be missed, please give me the opportunity to explain my actions.


When inviting people to come over for a retreat one also shoulders the burden of making everyone as comfortable as possible in the given circumstances. And while it may be called misplaced pride, I will confess of having attended too many festivities where too little care had been taken of the food served or the lodging arranged for me to want to have anything to do with it.


And while the greatest care was taken for Guru Maharaja's visit to be the best it could, we felt that the same care should be extended to our other guests. (With the natural exception that I got to boss them around! I especially remember the frightened looks on the faces of Mathuranatha and Shyama Gopala whenever I approached them...) Everyone should get enough food as well as tasty food, everyone should be warm, and at least have the possibility of getting enough rest. And everyone should be driven to the train station or picked up from there when needed.


This resolution comes with a price. Krishangi and I are the last link in the chain, and should something go wrong it was we who would hang. This is in no way to diminish the effort put in by everyone to make the retreat a success. I will say it here and now: no retreat would have been possible without all of you. And I am not referring to mere attendance: Everyone took part in the practical side too, be it heating the sauna, cutting the wood, carrying the water, peeling the potatoes. And so forth. You who attended know what it takes, but better that we don't brag too much about it, lest it might serve to scare away some future attendees.


* * *


Everyone was to get their fair share, and no one was to be hungry. Ramapriya and Mikko serving as waiters, Mathuranatha demanding more. Growing boys need lots of food!


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 7:27 pm

T H E . S A U N A


We used to have the sauna heated in the afternoons, and had turns for the different groups. First came Guru Maharaja, then us boys, after which the ladies took over. So a few hours after the evening arati Bhrigu and I headed for the sauna. When entering we were quick to notice Guru Maharaja still bathing. We asked wheather or not we were disturbing, and as an answer he called us in. He told us he was just finishing up, and that we well could bathe as he washed up.


So we climbed up on the upper benches and started enjoying the warmth from the stove. But at some point either Guru Maharaja or Bhrigu struck up conversation. While replying Guru Maharaja moved toward the benches on which we sat and took a seat on a lower bench by our feet.


To my mind flashed an image from the Chaitanya Caritamrita. It is the one in which Lord Chaitanya as young sannyasi sits on the floor in a meeting of big mayavada sannyasis.


The conversation continued, but as in Chaitanya Caritamrita positions quickly changed. Externally it was the heat which drove me and Bhrigu to sit on the floor, while Guru Maharaja climbed upwards, but the internal truth looked different. The elements clearly had their way of showing whose who in the hierarchy.


Another reason I cherished the following the conversation was Bhrigu's presence. As one who is not to prominent verbally I find it a great treasure to rely on him. I just feel deaf and dumb in these situations, while he rolls on completely naturally. I am happy listening to those wiser talking, snapping up something here, something there.


The discussion went from here to there following its own logic. From a further answer to a question about why the wives of the brahmanas couldn't enter ther rasa dance to the pro-German sentiments held by many Indians around the second world war and everything in between. With some lovely humorous recollections from Guru Maharaja's days in Eugene with eccentrics or crazies disturbing the classes.


And as the conversation moved from one topic to the other so did we. From the sauna to the dressing room. Literally sitting at the feet of Guru Maharaja, freezing our butts off, we intently tried to collect every word said. After a good while we had to call it quits, and with Guru Maharaja's lead headed towards the big house. Where we encountered Krishangi upset for us taking so long to be done. We had taken up not only our own time, but almost half of the ladies' time. Oops.


But when we spoke with Krishangi, she could not deny that she too would have acted exactly in the same way had the opportunity arisen. 1-0!


* * *


Not in the sauna, but still leading the talks. Guru Maharaja singing bhajans before the morning class.


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 7:32 pm

A . R E F R E S H I N G . V E G A N . D E B A T E


I will confess to cringing when the debate about Krishna people drinking milk and vegans not drinking milk ignites. So many times have I seen vegans being treated as pariahs, and accused of being deprived the intelligence born out of the finer brain tissue developed by milk. While the other side consist of born again vegans who with great fervor offer only fire and brimstone to anone whose lips milk has touched after breastfeeding ended. In my personal life I've opted for a peaceful co-existence. Should vegans come over, I will prepare vegan prasadam. But any vegan debate falls on deaf ears in my kitchen.


So when our young Visa ventured to pursue the subject I grinched. This time however we didn't see the futile debate in which roads never cross when Guru Maharaja broadened the spectrum from mere abstinence from milk to abstinance from exploitation. He also introduced the new term "qualified vegan" to the joy of the crowd. (A qualified vegan means a person who is considerate as to where the milk origiates from, trying to steer away from so called cruel milk.)


In his answer Guru Maharja probed deeper, looking for the root that causes the problem vegans oppose, instead of merely attacking the symptoms. And how, when fixing the leaking pipe at one joint, the next joint fails. Ad nauseum.


The next time our group met Guru Maharaja continued on the subject, having clearly given it more thought. Asking the vegans in the crowd about the vegan philosophy, Guru Maharaja received vague outlines, but something short of a wholesome philosophy.


The talk continued about exploitation, and how we need to comprehend our place in this world and in relation to Krishna as an end cure for the exploitative mentality. As long as we are on the take, we will continue seeing problems such as this arise around us in a rapid pace. And while the vegan philosophy was given its due credit, it was certainly also relegated to its position of a noble ideology, as it still fell short in many ways.


And as an endnote I will inform the reader that these discussions too took place in a friendly fashion, and that Visa who raised the question was very satisfied with the answers he received. So much that he in fact was heard saying that he learnded more in the week he spent listenening to Guru Maharaja, than he had done in all of his seventeen years. I pray for one day having the same firm conviciton as he did.


* * *


Visa meeting a worthy opponent for a discussion on vegan philosophy. -Now there's something to think about!


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 7:36 pm

G R E A T . M I N D S . . . A N D . S O . F O R T H


I can imagine that our beloved Jananivas' post containing a reference to a comment made by me left many in the dark. It was an appreciation for an off-hand quote, and most probably has no redeeming value whatsoever. But as I wish not to be part of creating an atmosphere of insiders and outsiders, I will explain the reference, albeit it serves me no glory to do so. Nor is the humor of the situation conveyed in writing. So, with the disclaimer that you really had to be there, I continue.


The incident in question took place just after one of our evening classes. While Guru Maharaja was putting on his jacket and his woollen hat he noted a batch of cup cakes left over from breakfast. Turning to Krishangi, who was in charge of his morning meals, he asked her whether she was the one who has baked them.


When she replied affirmatively, he revealed that lemon cup cakes where in fact his favorites, and that he enjoyed them very much.


Taken a bit aback by the sudden and unexpected appreciaton from her Guru Maharaja she stuttered that they in fact were Kamalaksa's favorites too. At which Guru Maharaja turned to me. Equally perplexed at the attention directed towards me I quickly mustered up the phrase by which I would be known for the rest of the retreat:


"Great minds think alike!"


It took a few seconds for the crowd to comprehend what I just said and its preposterous purport, and soon the room was filled with laughter. Aimed at me, without a trace of doubt.


Well, seen trough philosophical eyes I was able to give some pleasure to the assembled devotees, so I could have fared worse. In the corner of my eye I saw Guru Maharaja chuckle too.


* * *


Picture of those responsible for the described incident. (Or actually more like a picture of their cousins, as these one are blueberry cupcakes...)


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 7:41 pm

S M A L L . G L I M P S E S


During a week this intense, memory serves me very selectively. There are a few moments that have generated strong impressions, for one reason or another. I would hesitate to call these moments highlights, as they more often than not are very ordinary occurances. I'd rather refer to these pictures as small glimpses of what took place on an island right after Christmas.


One glimpse involves Hari-Priya giving me the evil eye for questioning her decision to wear a woollen hat in the kitchen. In her very controlled outburst she made it clear that the hat was not for adjusting the temperature, but rather to keep hair from ending up in the soup. I politely escaped.




Krishangi's hissy fit also makes my top ten. It seemed that her tolerance was at an all time low for Bhrigu's and my ubiquitous discussions about World War II. These discussions dealing with everything from glorifying fighter pilots to discussing more general strategies did make my wife very nervous. (It probably has to with not having the war-gene, usually found in pre-school aged boys.)


As much as it is in opposition to vaisnava etiquet I blame Bhrigu for the mild temper tantrum we encountered. It ws he who brought a book about one Finnish sniper from the winter war. Of course the contents of the book had to be dealt with i groupsessions. Krishangi had a different opinion.




The look on Guru-nistha's face when I made it clear to him that he under no circumstances would be allowed to wash his own laundry also stands out. He bravely stood up against this idea, which involved Visa functioning as his valet. Unfortunately his opposition was in vain, while Visa got to perform some vaisnava seva.


That he then in turn stood by Visa doing this, both dressed for blizzards all while standing in a sauna where the temperature had long past the 200 mark is another interesting twist.


And why did I forbid him from washing his own laundry? Well, kiddies, that's another story...




One memory which also always makes me smile is remembering Mikko upstairs. Lying on his backpack, a Yankees hat over his eyes listening to who-knows-what indieband from his iPod. He looked so content. The evils of the world seemed far a away for a short moment.




A scene so saturated with Finnishness that it could take no more follows. When time for departure for some of our guests either Guru-nistha or I functioned as drivers. It was a 20 kilometer drive, but took much longer than what one would have guessed due to adverse weather.


That morning I was to take Mathuranatha, Shyama Gopala and Hari-Priya to the train station. It was a gray overcast day, like the days prior to it and following it. We packed the car, everone got in. A few light snowflakes fell.


We drove for half an hour and then some. During the trip no one spoke a word. We sat quiet, others watching the monochromatic landscape through the closed windows, me trying to keep my eye on the slippery road. People a minute ago so upbeat, even wild, were magically transformed into somber and tired.


It was a time for goodbyes, and we all knew it. Many of us would not see each oter for half a year. We did'nt cry. (As boys don't cry and as Hari-Priya is twice as tough and scarier than any boy.) And more snow kept falling.


Either Shyama Gopala or Mathuranath broke the silence, when we were crossing the bridge. "O my God, this is like a scene from Fargo". (Very popular movie by the Coen brothers. Rent it, then you'll understand the mood.)


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 7:46 pm

T H E . F I N A L E


As has been stated so many times during the talks given initiation is not something that ends when the name is received. Initiation is thus an ongoing process.


The same holds true for a retreat. It does not end when the guests leave the building. What remained when the door was closed, and Guru Maharaja taken to the airport, was the end inspection conducted by my father.


This was not really unfair, as the place in truth is his place. So this was one thing that kept me on my toes for the week following the end of the manifest retreat.


Fortunately, my father's worst fears were not realized. The house was still standing more or less intact, not in smoking ruins, as he had envisioned. Also, he could to his great satisfaction note thet no one had touched his Gin and Tonic. (Which he asked me to hide prior to the guests arriving, disregarding my efforts to convince him that no one was probably going to touch it.)


As the proper Finnish man he is he could not of course convey his feelings of relief finding everything OK, but had told my brother that everyone seems to have behaved well, and that the place was in better condition than before. To which my brother replyed that those were probably the best-behaving guests that the house has ever seen. (Those better aquainted with the Finnish way of partying can understand this point. The rest of you are advised to refrain from imagining anything, as reality is probably much worse.)


And at the end he asked if the same gang would return next winter.


My reply: Probably, but until then we have a new summer retreat to take care of. See all of you then!


* * *


The boys cleaning up piror to departure. Happy in the knowledge that the big cleaning would take place when they were taking it easy back home.


Kamalaksa Das - January 11, 2006 7:52 pm

A . C L I F F H A N G E R


Much cannot be said about the upcoming events for now. Things are still very hush-hush, but one thing can be disclosed: negotiations for a place to hold a public program at in the summer have successfully been going on. Enclosed a picture. We will keep you informed as the deal is closed.


Bhrigu - January 11, 2006 9:57 pm
What is he doing in Thailand?



He's teaching Sanskrit and philosophy on an international yoga retreat organized by a Finnish astanga yogi.



Krsangi Dasi - January 12, 2006 7:32 am
what determines if one is a mouse or a duck?


My duck/mouse policy is very simple: Kamalaksa is a duck and everyone else is a mouse, except for Guru Maharaja who's a cow. I have a few unused characters in my sketchbook, waiting for the right moment. A very cute polar bear for instance. Maybe we should organize an ice swimming competition and the winner would thereafter be drawn as a polar bear? :)

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - January 12, 2006 1:28 pm
Maybe we should organize an ice swimming competition

I'm in! :)

Mathura-natha Das - January 12, 2006 4:26 pm

So here´s a testpost of some movieclips that I took from the retreat. Hopefully they will work, if not, thet one of you computer genius could maby help me out. The first clip is from a Kirtan, and the second is from Tadiyas initation. And the last two are, well the boys are having some fun in the nice Finninsh winter landscape.

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - January 12, 2006 4:44 pm

I'm getting the following error:



(0) The file you are trying to access has not been made publicly available, and cannot be downloaded by anyone but the owner of the file.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Tadiya Dasi - January 12, 2006 5:35 pm

Wow, thanks everyone for your warm welcomes & kind words! :)


Mathura-natha...I couldn't see those clips either :(


Kamalaksa, I enjoyed reading your "cover-story" from the retreat --you're a talented writer, and a funny one too :D Thanks again, for being the "leader" & organizing the retreat ( not that I am dismissing your effort, Krsangi ;)! )


Krsangi, you're little pictures are great! I was laughing so hard. You're right...I'm such a clueless city-girl :P:D But hey, with a little training...who knows, I might surprise all of you ;) Not that I would learn Swedish...that's beyond my abilities ;):)

Mathura-natha Das - January 13, 2006 7:07 am
I'm getting the following error:



(0) The file you are trying to access has not been made publicly available, and cannot be downloaded by anyone but the owner of the file.

Sorry for the inconvenience.




Shyama Gopal I need your help!!!!

Shyam Gopal Das - January 20, 2006 5:07 pm

My apologies for replying so late. I found another service for hosting files, you can download the files from the following locations, these files are best played with an updated version of Apple's Quicktime.


http://www.savefile.com/files3.php?fid=8568432 Swami's kirtan


http://www.savefile.com/files3.php?fid=2530628 Tadiya's initiation


http://www.savefile.com/files3.php?fid=3457213 Mathuranatha on a sledge


http://www.savefile.com/files3.php?fid=3344804 Full throttle sledge

Bhrigu - January 23, 2006 3:44 pm
He's teaching Sanskrit and philosophy on an international yoga retreat organized by a Finnish astanga yogi.


I returned yesterday. It was a very good experience. A very different Winter Retreat -- spiritually of course in a completely different world without our Swami, but nice nevertheless. As I had expected, the students did not have much stamina for learning Sanskrit, but many of them were quite interested in the philosophy part, and also when I spoke about bhakti yoga. And almost all of the Finnish participants signed up as subscribers to Ananda! I had two copies with me, and they were both almost worn out when I returned. Several persons remarked that it must have been the first time they read every single article of a magazine.


Yours truly posing a couple of metres outside my bungalow:


Bhrigu - January 23, 2006 7:03 pm

I feel like having little to add after all the wonderful postings about the Finnish winter retreat we've had on this thread, but there is one thing that I feel nobody else has brought up so far. Kamalaksa mentioned how I asked about the "boring" nature of Gaura-lila in relation to Vrindavana-lila and how Swami got back to me a couple of times after that. I received similar special mercy during a couple of other times as well, such as when Swami spoke about the effects of nama-aparadha, that one will get material opulence. "So don't worry, Bhrigu, just one more lifetime!", he said, and I felt that he had seen right through me. Yes, I wouldn't mind having (at least a bit!) more opulence in my life. As with the joking about the "boring lila", I felt that Swami trusts me more now, that he has faith in that I can take more than just patting on my head. That was a nice feeling, even though the words may not have felt that good when I first heard them!


One point that Swami kept returning to in the classes was the need to go past the kanistha mentality of only I and God, to understanding that the guru and the Vaishnavas in many cases are more important than God. For me this is a rather difficult point to grasp, especially since seeing how this principle has been abused in different places. But I feel that Swami can say this with integrity: While upholding the principle of the importance of service to the guru, he nevertheless keeps a low profile himself with regard to the kind of service that he will accept from his disciples. My main spiritual gain from the retreat was a better understanding of this point.