Finland Summer Retreat 2006

Shyam Gopal Das - July 13, 2006 6:32 pm

Yes there was a retreat in Finland this summer (last week actually) and why am I not reading any memories by my godbrothers and godsisters? I felt it to be my task to invite all its visitors to share their thoughts here on this thread. I will write something myself this weekend as there is to much to write down.


All I can give away now is that Guru Maharaj lectured on the Brihad Bhagavatamrta. And you better make sure to get the lectures.


To be continued this weekend.

Shyam Gopal Das - July 15, 2006 8:05 pm

As all other retreat members must be happily engaged in service, I'll give you a snack before posting my experiences.






More photos of the retreat can be found at here

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - July 15, 2006 8:34 pm

Who is that in purple and what is happening?



Syamasundara - July 15, 2006 9:01 pm

Right, and you have Kusa grass in Finland??


And who is half of the people? And how could you cook on that stove? I couldn't even boil milk without burning it.

Bhrigu - July 16, 2006 7:43 am
Right, and you have Kusa grass in Finland??


Heh, heh, some mystery is always nice... Actually, what you see in those pictures is the upanayana-samskara for one Haridasa, the eldest child of Syamakunda Dasa, the person in the purple clothes. The homa took place on the Sunday before Guru Maharaja arrived, and before that I had been teaching Haridasa basic GV during the week. We studied the Dasa-mula-siksa verse (which he had to memorise) and then spoke about many different topics around that. His parents wanted him to have something like the confirmation Christian kids have at the same age. Some religious teaching, and something about growing up. It was all a great learning experience for me, as I have had next to no contact with 2nd generation devotees before. Haridasa had never tasted meat, for example, but had almost no idea why we don't eat meat. He was in many ways a typical 14-years old boy (mopeds were one of his main interests in life), but a quick learner and interested to know more about his religion. -- The samskara was perhaps even more important to his father, who seemed very happy with it all.


The "kusa belt" was made of ordinary reeds!


More on the retreat later, but let me say that I found it to be in some ways the best one so far. Guru Maharaja gave some amazing, extremely inspiring classes on the Brihad-bhagavatamrita.

Hari-priya Dasi - July 17, 2006 5:53 pm

I arrived at the island a couple of days earlier than the retreat would officially begin. Since the sea tends to bring its’ present year after year there were once again reeds to be gathered and plenty of other chores to do. Actually I like the days previous to some event almost as much as the event itself. There’s something special in the air, something to wait for, something to prepare oneself for.


On Monday afternoon finally came the moment we had been eagerly looking forward to. Swami arrived in a boat to the shore where we were waiting for him. Those are always special moments when separation flows into the union.


While describing the spirit of Brihad-bhavatamrita Swami spoke a lot about the generosity of Gaudiya-Vaisnavism and how the spiritual life is about happiness. For me that was very encouraging! If I am thinking my everyday life my religious "life" or practice is actually more about feelings of guilt and bad consciousness than happiness... I kind of know what I should be doing, the standard I should be reaching for. But I don’t have the motivation to do it and then as a consequence I feel guilty. Those are not very constructive feelings, since they don’t give me inspiration but instead of seem to paralyze everything. So finally I have even less motivation and feel worse about myself than to begin with...


Swami mentioned that feeling guilty is rather common problem in western world. Some remorse is naturally good every now and then, but one should not become neurotic in this regard. (As I guess I have become...) The solution is to learn to know the tradition more deeply and in that way understand more about Sri Krishna and Sri Caitanya and their kind nature...


Also one should not think that one has failed because of this kind of feelings. That is actually just a state in the process of bhakti, bhajana-kriya. In that phase like Bhaktivinda Thakura says "The seed of devotional service is present in the hearts of all spirit souls. In order for that seed to fructify and transform gradually into a tree, one must act as a gardener." There are ups and downs and sometimes the whole life seems to be like a roller coaster, but well... that’s life. That’s part of the process. If you fall to the ground you get up by getting help from that same ground. The same thing happens here. Krishna is everywhere. Where could we run from him? What else could we look for?


* * *


I wish to thank everyone who attended the retreat. Thank you for the inspiration, sharing part of yourself, listening ears and moments of joy! It was you who made those days special! :blink:

Rama-priya - July 19, 2006 6:24 pm

This summer retreat with Guru Maharaja and devotees was for me so amazing that I find even difficulty to express it by words. The only thing I regret is that I wasn't able take this opportunity fully. Sometimes conditioning is so strong and keeps so much on the ground and don't let me fly. But I believe that it is process and day after day after so many ups and down I'll overcome it.


The topic of the lectures as was mentioned earlier by others was concerned at Sanatana Gosvami and his very important book- Brihad Bhagavatamrta. Guru Maharaja very strongly showed us how important is for us deep and real studying of the scriptures. By such studing we can differ what is what and it gives us ability to ask good questions. And when we are able to ask such good and qualified questions the holy master or sadhu has an opportunity to reveal his heart. And what is in his heart is above all what we know in this world.


Guru Maharaja spoke about many things but this especially touch me because it is my problem to be steady in studying. I think that I can do more about it. after hearing this I felt that I really want to change it and this feeling is stronger than before. So therefore I tend to believe that some day at last I'll do it fully.


At the end I'd like to thank you for Your association that you accepted me at the retreat. You are so wonderfull devotees. Seeing this I am ashamed and I see what I heve to change in myself. Once again thank you.



Shyam Gopal Das - July 22, 2006 6:22 pm

I guess my entry is long overdue... so here we go


On Monday afternoon Guru Maharaj and Citta Hari arrivered at the shore. Kamalaksa and I had driven the sailing boat overthere to come and pick them up. They all stepped on board (Krishangi too, who had picked them up from the airport). After about 10 or 15 minutes we reached the island in the Finnish archipelago. The only trick was that in able to get to the island we needed a rowing boat, because the sailing boat couldn't reach it. So first I rowed over their baggage and Krishangi and then GM, Citta Hari and Kamalaksa. When they jumped onboard, CH and K were so nice to say that this would be my moment of stress and seva. So there came the wind with its strong currents blowing the rowing boat towards the grass. Once again I was reminded bhakti is not cheap, GM does not come here to please us, seva means hard work. Even if it was just rowing my GM to the island. We can rest on our oars, but that means we'll drift.


For some reason I got into the lectures much more than previous times, my attention drifted much less. there must have been some connection with the oars. The subject was as previously mentioned the Brihad Bhagavatamritam. We only got through the first verses, wherin Krsnadas Kaviraja Gosvami offers his obeisances, places its readers in their right perspective and introduces the two topics of the book.


As previous times, we followed a temple schedule, three times a day arati, two lectures, and readings from Encounters with Divinity (which I had brought with me and for some reason came the book we read after the aratis)


I don't know why but it felt like this was the shortest retreat so far which wasn't true. Time passed by so quickly.


Other highlights of the retreat:

* doing a quiz from the little book of bhakti yoga,

* the play performed by K&K, Brighu, Tadiya and Hari Priya called the King has no clothes, in 4 acts. Especially Krishangi in her movie hare krishna outfit got on the laughs of many. Bhrigu as the king scared everybody when he drew his sword. Nice play! perhaps others can eloborate on it even more. the poster design was also quite nice, did anybody take a picture of it?

* Kardama's short visit

* the rowing trip with Citta Hari when the wind decided to turn against us for the second time, making the travel twice as long and due to CH consistent rowing we were just in time for the lecture.

* The Finnish bearded guy who came over for a few hours attracted by an advertisement in Helsinki. He had lived all over the world and Gurunistha decided to see how firm he was when we picked him up by boat. Let's say waves and a boat at full speed make for an exciting adventure. Bhrighu mentioned how he had told him about his experiences of reaching samadhi. Nice guy though!

* Citta Hari making a door handle for the sauna, which didn't come about naturally. it took CH quite some reasoning power to convince Kamalaksa to be allowed to make the handle. It was a story where american pragmatism met finnish pride. Always interesting these cultural exchanges.


The retreat lasted untill Sunday morning when almost everybody had left and the remaining people took the sailing boat to K&K's city of residence with all their baggage, which took about 3,5 hours!


K&K, Mathuranatha and I took a trip to Helsinki and Tallinn a few days after.



possibly more later, this is it for now. GM always gives so much in his lectures that I'm waiting to listen to them again and be able to digest all that came to us during this week. GM told us last winter that the periods with him are probably the only real times that we feel some growth in our krishna consciousness. that message still rings.

Eija - July 23, 2006 1:34 pm

i've had some major difficulties in my life and after two years i felt i was ready to meet GM again. and the time was right. i got so much inspiration and love that i can never thank enough. i was so sorry that i had to leave the island only after 2 days. but looking forward the next time.

Jananivasdas - July 24, 2006 9:06 am

yeah.it was great to see you all...i survived camp-leka for couple days! miss ya all.

i didnt see the presentation of the SAUNA DOOR HANDLE...damn... :)


punks not dead and jay jay gaura hariiii!!!


ys.jananivas das



Syamasundara - July 24, 2006 10:57 am

I loved the parallel between keeping the boat on route and staying more focused in class. Bhakti works very much like that, it's the whole point of the gundica-marjana-lila, or when GM had everybody weed the grounds, with the excuse that we needed to renovate the property, vith a view to weed our own heart from anarthas, and with the result that shortly after the ashram crew also got naturally weeded out.

As Vinoda said we need to do the philosophy. I appreciate his post particularly, because last time we talked about posting on TV his attitude was more like one who waits and sees if he gets better before going to the doctor, whereas now he's personifying what he is talking about.

Welcome at last!


I guess I really have an issue with cross-posting and not sticking to one thread :)

Tadiya Dasi - July 31, 2006 3:42 pm

I meant to come here and write some kind of a “report” from the Retreat…but then the everyday busy-ness of life distracted me :lol:. Not to mention that I was away from home (and did not have an access to the Internet :D) for two weeks. Two weeks is a long time for my Kali-yuga memory... So, I can’t give you guys a detailed summary of the retreat & all of the lectures… but luckily, they are all on tape B).


I think I have to echo Bhrigupada in that this was an amazing retreat in many ways (and I’m such a veteran, right, with my two retreat’s worth of experience :P .) I think that the fact that it was Summer and it was beautiful and sunny the whole week added to the charm of the experience (the outdoor toilet was much, much easier to tolerate this time!) Plus, this time, I knew what to expect. It was also easier to adjust into the retreat-shedule etc. because A.) I knew all the devotees better B.) I knew how the system worked and C.) the sun made waking-up a whole lotta easier!


In fact, I was a little surprised how easy it was to adjust this time. I think it was Krsangi (or maybe Kamalaksa) who said to me – after I told her that I didn’t even need to nap in between the lectures this time and that I was finding the whole experience much easier than in the Winter – “So, you see, there’s a little girl-scout in you after all!” Mother Nature truly blessed us with the best possible weather and I really liked being surrounded by the sea. It was nice to sail back to Porvoo with the boat when the retreat ended. Shyam Gopala was joking around, telling us that he’ll wake-up again in December, when he sees Gurudeva again. Even though he was joking, I guess all of us in the boat could relate to that melancholy, surreal feeling that I can now identify as a symptom of post-retreat depression. It’s a feeling of disbelief: Is Guru Maharaj really gone? Is the retreat really over? I’ll have to get back to my “normal life”?!


I can also relate to what Shyam Gopala said in his post about being able to focus better during the classes this time. Once after a lecture, some devotees were speaking about some helicopter flying over us (”circumblating Guru Maharaj” :D ) during the lecture, and I realized that I had been so focused on what Gurudeva was speaking about that I hadn’t even noticed.


I think I’ll follow Shyam Gopala’s example and only talk about those things that were the highlights of the retreat for me personally, things that especially impacted me. One of things that touched me the most was the way Guru Maharaj talked about the Bhaktivinode-parivare and Sanatana/ Rupa Goswamis. Prior to the retreat I had wished that Gurudeva would talk about how to catch a glimpse of Sri Guru’s heart, and the hearts of the pure vaishnavas. On how to get to know them intimately, like a close, dear friend/well-wisher.


My heart’s desire was more than fulfilled. Guru Maharaj explained that the way to know their hearts is through their writings that describe the place that exists beyond time and place, but is a place nonetheless –the land of the Krishna-lila. Guru Maharaj even once said that: “My heart is in my books. If you want to know me, study my books.” And he stressed the fact that his books, as well as the other books written by our tradition’s saints, are spiritual books that are meant to be studied again and again. We need to bring these books close to our hearts; use our intellegence to soften our hearts and to bring about a change in our angle of vision. We need to give our ability for logical thinking to Krishna’s service: to hear about Him and how to serve Him from the sastra. Studying the Scriptures means so much more than just memorizing passages and repeating them like a parrot without even truly understanding what we are saying ourselves.


Guru Maharaj was encouraging us to look at the Scriptures and studying them not as a boring, dry duty but as an exercise of heart, as an act of devotion. Reading the books of, for example, Sanatana Goswami is about getting to know him intimately. Through their writings the saints & sages allow us to come close to them. They allow us to catch a glimpse of their hearts and their consciousness. What a charming, exciting opportunity the study of the Scriptures becomes when you think of it like that!


I was also touched by the way Gurudeva was talking about the Bhaktivinoda-parivara. He explained that the word “parivara” actually means “family” –the family of Bhaktivinoda. Then he went on to talk about what an amazing thing it is to have any kind of connection with this glorious parivara. And that we should take advantage of this connection we are blessed to have. Therein is our greatest hope and wealth. Guru Maharaja said that everything will come from our connection to Sri Guru, he said that that had been his own experience with Prabhupada. Good guidance is everything. The whole idea of being part of Bhaktivinoda’s family was charming to me –now when I go in front of my altar and see the faces of Srila Prabhupada, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, Gaurakisora babaji and Bhaktivinoda, I think of them as my family…and I see them more like affectionate, well-wishing grandfathers and great grand-fathers than distant and even a little scary (Again, you need to read the Little Book of Bhakti-yoga to get what I mean ;)) figures of the past.


Another nice thing about the retreat was that my new friend from Sweden, Madhavi, came there and got to hear from & meet Gurudeva. I admire her courage and willingness to come all the way from Sweden. Lots of people from Helsinki complain that the island is too far away and thefore choose not to come. She was very inspired by Gurudeva’s talks and the whole retreat-experience. I was also happy to have Krishna-vallabha there for a few days. She and her friend Kumudini are always inviting me to programs at Kumudini’s house; to sing bhajans and share a little prasadam. They both offer me much needed sadhu-sanga and positive opportunities to practise Krishna-consciousness together. Krishna-vallabha was also a great help in spreading the posters advertising Gurudeva’s public program, which, unfortunately, was cancelled. She’s truly a lovely dasi. And she sings like an angel! It’s always a blessing to have like-minded devotee friends.


All in all, as others have said, it was a wonderful retreat ;). I, too, can’t wait to listen to the CDs…and catch all those gems that I missed the first time. Everyone, thank you for your association. A special thank you to Krsangi & Kamalaksa –you guys are amazing. I don’t know how you do it. :D

Bhrigu - August 22, 2006 7:21 pm
More on the retreat later


I just realised it is already quite a bit later! Anyway, it is interesting to write so much later, and see what still sticks in my Kali-yuga memory. First comes the emphasis Guru Maharaja put on reading and studying the scriptures. He spoke about it during several classes, but it was more than that: something he lives and breathes all the time. I am happy to have been able to carry a fragment of that with me from the island.


Another thing that struck me this time was the importance of sadhu-sanga. Immediately after the retreat I flew off to a conference of indologists, and seeing all those big experts on the Veda, Mahabharata and so on drunk and foolish on the first night of the conference was quite a culture shock...


Guru Maharaja was the perfect sadhu on the island. He accepted all the service he did for him, no matter how imperfect. Take the play, for example. Kamalaksa told me that Guru Maharaja had asked in advance whether it was an original play or not, and being happy with the answer that it was. The play may not have been the best -- I'm kind of disappointed with my own acting, especially the end, I didn't take it as far as I could have -- but Guru Maharaja accepted it as the offering of love that it was. Similarly the cooking (on the island our favourite and speciality dishes usually don't turn out quite as well as at home) and everything else.


As during previous years, Guru Maharaja mostly kept to himself in his cabin, answering Sanga questions and doing his own bhajan, but he of course gave classes every day and also darshans to anyone who wanted to meet him. Many devotees (including me) were nervous about going to see him, but everyone seemed so happy about their darshan. I certainly was. Meeting Guru Maharaja felt like meeting a friend you hadn't seen for a couple of days, there was so much affection. He also went swimming with all of us one afternoon, playing "king of the raft" and other water-sports with us in the surprisingly cold water.


Krishangi has famously drawn Guru Maharaja as a cow in her comics, and that really is true. The more we milk him, the more he will give us. Some of the milk may not always taste that sweet (I got "the sauce" in a couple of the classes, mostly for that "isn't Gaura-lila boring?" question last winter) but it sure is nutritious and wholesome.


But the sadhu-sanga wasn't limited to Guru Maharaja alone. It was great to be able to spend time with so many sweet devotees, experts or experts-to-be in their own devotional fields, and genuinly concerned with each other's well-being. I got some very good advice from Mathuranatha, for example (not that I followed it, sorry!), and was happy to see how much progress the devotees had made, for example Gurunistha and Tadiya. The value of a week's association with all of these devotees cannot even be measured.


I wish to thank everyone for making the retreat so unforgettable, especially Guru Maharaja, but also our hosts, Krisangi and Kamalaksa, who once again made all of this possible. Without them, where would we be here in Finland?