My first month in India

It’s hard for me to believe that 2012 has come to an end already. It seems like just a few months ago that I was in NYC for the annual NYE event at the Jivamukti School, getting geared up for week of Master Classes with my beloved teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life, and, of course, for the Advanced Certification Board Exam. What an amazing start to the year that was! The year has gone by so quickly and so much has happened that I hardly feel like I’ve had time to process, but New Years’ is a good excuse to pause a moment and reflect and consciously set my bearings for the year ahead.

After much delay, I just wanted to share with you what I’ve been up to these past several weeks here in Sri Dhama Mayapur, India. I was off to rough start when I first arrived. I was really sick for a few days and also I had difficulty accessing the internet, but I’ve since settled comfortably and deeply immersed in my studies and simply surrendered to ecstatic embrace of the Holy Dhama. I told my roommate that I’m pretty sure this is the closest thing to heaven on Earth.

ISKCON Mayapur has an amazing community, with devotees coming from around the world to study, serve, deepen their sadhana, or even live. The grounds are enclosed to separate it from the rest of the village, though every day hundreds of villagers visit. The complex is centered around the temple which is really big with HUGE beautiful deities. Outward from there are shops, eateries, guest houses, gardens, classroom buildings, founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi temple, a community hall, a school and a goshala (cow sanctuary)!

An average day, in summary: Wake up at 3:15 am, attend the morning program at the temple from 4:30-9:00 am (4.5 hours of darshan, puja, singing bhajans and kirtan, dancing, japa, and a lecture), breakfast prasadam, class from 10:30-1:30, rooftop lunch in a pandal (bamboo tent), in the afternoon I study, read and run errands, in the evening I practice mrdanga (yes, I’m taking lessons), practice asana, have a snack, connect with friends and family back home, and hang out with my roommates, bedtime at 8:00 pm.

So it’s pretty busy schedule, but I am loving it. My course, Bhakti Sastri (the scriptures of Bhakti Yoga), is fairly intensive and is my primary focus here. My teachers thus far (Anuradha devi dasi, Su-gita Vani dasi, Urmila devi dasi and Shyamala Sakhi dasi) have all been outstanding. We finished three books in three weeks (Nectar of Instruction, Sri Isopanisad and Nectar of Devotion) and now we are diving into the big one that we will be studying for the next 2 months: Bhagavad Gita.

We do not generally have classes on the weekends, but there’s always studying and homework to do, but sometimes I manage to squeeze in an outing. This area is called “Navadwip”, which means “nine islands”, so if you want to get to another island, you have to take a ferry boat across the Ganges or Jalangi Rivers. I’ve been to the city/island called Navadwip for shopping, and also on a parikrama (pilgrimmage) to Godrumdwip to the home of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, an important guru in the Gaudiya Vaisnava lineage and his family’s home at Surabhi Kunja. Though I rarely leave the campus here since I am already so busy, which is for the best since my primary focus is on study.

It is absolutely wonderful to be immersed in ashram life this way. It is certainly a purifying experience and I am having many personal and spiritual realizations. I still have much to process, but shifts are in the works and I am looking forward to being able to share with all of you.

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