It’s New Year. 2017. But my heart is still in 2016.
Not because I did well professionally or traveled extensively or had a good personal life. But because I ended the year with sheer joy, hope, and bliss. I traveled to Radha Madhav Dham for a week-long Winter Family Camp. Located on over 200 acres of scenic land in the Hill Country south of Austin, Texas, it is one of the largest Hindu temple and ashram complex in America and home to Shree Raseshwari Radha Rani’s temple.
We got there two days late from my scheduled arrival time due to weather issues at Chicago, finally arriving late in the night on Monday (a week before the camp was to start and a few days before Christmas). That night I went to bed without darshan but I knew I was Home. The two weeks that followed offered me more than what the year gave me.
We were there for a week long ‘Winter Family Camp’ at year end that offers a unique opportunity for the whole family to evolve their inner spirituality. Like us, many families flew in from various parts of U.S. The camp week was well-structured for the Youth, with every day beginning with Arti & Chanting and flowing into the classes on Hindu Philosophy, Electives, Games, Seva Projects. You would see kids buzz around from one class to another, guided by volunteers and mentors, happy and content. Yes, content. The interactive classes keep the deep spiritual learning simple and fun; the role playing, skits and team projects help them make connections to the real world and build long-lasting friendships.
Simultaneously the week offered Sadhana (meditation) time for adults. The day began at 6.00 am and was filled with classes, meditation sessions, chantings, trail-walks, parikrama and seva opportunities for grown-ups, ending at 11.00 pm. You would think the 17-hour day is going to take a toll on you especially if you are on a vacation! But the effect is contrary.
The time just flies there, the day ends and you want to hold on to the night for it will be a day less. The highlight for me is always the Sadhana time – to immerse myself in the glorious chanting of the Lord’s divine name, form, and pastimes. And, not just the day but your whole being is filled with chants. Whether you are walking down a hallway, doing seva in the kitchen, eating your meal or sitting in the prayer hall, the melodious divine sankirtans drown every pore of your being with Radhey naam. When everybody gets together at Sadhana, and participates in the chanting with just one focus – uniting your mind with Radha Krishna – the collective feelings of devotes purifies the air and increases its benefits many fold. The roopdhyan as taught by Jagadguru Shree Kripalu Ji Maharaj can take a devotee to highest level of surrender and divine love, you just need to be willing to accept.
The words can’t do justice to what you feel. If you were there, you know what I mean. And if you weren’t there, I sincerely hope you will come to Radha Madhav Dham next year. Get glimpses here. I also didn’t get a chance to thank the organizers and volunteers for organizing such a wonderful Family Camp. It takes many volunteers and hours to plan and execute all details like classes, meals, seva, chanting to perfection. So, here is my chance to say thank you to each one of you for all you did.
The New Years’ eve arrives, bringing the excitement and devotion to its peak. 24-hour kirtan has just started. More people have joined in just for the weekend to welcome the New Year amidst chanting and divine presence. The divine atmosphere heightens and Hari Bol starts an hour before midnight. The chant touches deep in your heart, the eyes drink the beauty of Radha Rani dressed in Her finery, some hands are folded in surrender and others raised high, and the mind is absorbed in the divinity. Even the cymbals, drums, Harmonium, flute – all play in perfect unison and call out to Radha Rani. Your whole being – body, mind and soul are drenched in the divine bliss.
The simple thought that it will soon end and New Year will embark was heart-wrenching. It’s already 2017 but my heart is still in 2016.