Winter Hindu Family Youth Camp just got concluded at Radha Madhav Dham, Austin, Texas. Well, a little over two weeks ago but the memories are still fresh! I had the opportunity to get there a week before the camp started. It was a quiet week before the hustle-bustle of the camp and in a way my few favorite days. I usually spent the first half of the day catching up on work but after lunch, it was my time to soak in the divine atmosphere.
The weather was in the 70s, the week before the camp, encouraging me to explore. Long walks on the nature trails, feet dipped in cold Kalindi water, view of the Divine Raseshwari Radha Rani Temple – an afternoon that can’t get any better!
However, it can if you find your way to Shyam Kuti! The beautiful swing amidst trees with crooked branches (just like in Vrindavan), and the open sky will draw you towards itself. With gentle swinging, warm breeze and Prem Ras Madira kirtans playing on your phone, your mind is sure to wander into the groves of Vrindavan. And, even a non-singer will start to hum a tune:)
These few days passed quickly, and the campers grew. The camp days were blissful. Along with the youth classes, electives, projects and loads of other fun, the days got busy yet breezy as the place was packed with smiling faces and helping hands.
Kids had fun learning about their culture, and Hindu philosophy, while the adults enjoyed the spiritual lectures and workshops with Swami Nikhilanand Ji and Sushree Diwakari Devi. The youth also participated in character building classes, harmonium & dholak lessons, and showed their creativity in Prasad making, sewing, leelas, dance performances, and the band. Here you can see pictures of kids in classes and yet smiling! They undoubtedly had good time building long-lasting friendships.
The grown-ups schedule was equally exciting – we enjoyed taking harmonium/dholak lessons as well and attended very informative Ayurveda classes. Moreover, everyone contributed in seva projects, every day. Did I mention that there were morning yoga sessions and campfire for the kids? Did I talk about devotional dollars, game time or, parikrama? I possibly can’t list all that we did – the fun seemed to never end, you have to attend the camp to live it fully.
If you have been here, you would know what I mean when I say there is nothing better than the incredible feeling of ‘just being here.’ That is why this place is called the “Dham,” for Shree Maharaj Ji’s presence can be felt everywhere – on the walking paths, at the Govardhan hill, near Ras Mandal, at Kalindi, in the hallways. And of course in the Prayer Hall, where now He sits on His Jagadguruttam throne. Where the teachings of Hindu scriptures drape the walls, where the grace of Shree Radha Rani flows incessantly, and where we did many hours of chanting in His presence.
The morning and night chanting sessions during this winter camp were just divine. There was 24-hour chanting to ring in the New Year 2016. Next time you are here, be prepared. The resounding Radhey will captivate your mind, the sound of drums and cymbals will reverberate in your heart, the whole atmosphere will drown you in bliss, and your hands will inevitably go up, in surrender. Joining in the chants, mind absorbed, you will not want the kirtans to end! And, you will not want the week to get over. And, you will not want to go back home.
But we all have to. Only to come back again to our real home, Radha Madhav Dham.