The hills of New Vrindaban were alive with festival cheer for our two-day Christmas retreat! Community members were constantly strolling around the picturesque grounds and the sounds of devotees greeting each other with “Hare Krishna and Happy Holidays!” brought a warmth to the heart that beat out the wonderful weather which even reached into the 60’s one day! The entire atmosphere felt pleasant, calming, and comforting both to the mind and the heart.
From the time of the morning program, all throughout each day, each deity darshan saw wonderful turnouts of eager hearts who came filled to the brim with prayers to offer to Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra who presided over Their very own winter court. In turn, it seemed as though the deities spread Their own kind of holiday cheer by bestowing upon everyone in attendance, the gift of Their causeless mercy and sweet smiles as They glanced over every single worshipper who gathered despite any and all obstacles to come and see Them.
The feeling of gratitude and upliftment filled the air and for those who came, they left feeling renewed and reinvigorated in body, mind, and spirit.
“You have written that your temple is like an oasis in a desert. Yes, it is a fact that our temples are providing shelter from the burning forest fires of material existence. It does not matter poor quarter or richer quarter, our temples are nothing to do with any material situation. They are situated in the Spiritual sky and as such they are the only alternative offering relief from the miseries of all kinds of material conditions of life. So encourage people to come and spend time with us in the temple and become purified from all contaminations and anxieties. Everyone is suffering from thirst for spiritual life or Krishna consciousness and it is the temple which can offer them Krishna Consciousness to satisfy their thirsting.”– July 9th, 1970
From this letter written by Srila Prabhupada, we can see just how important these gatherings were to him and the impact he believed they would have on Krishna consciousness and the spiritual lives of others. The feeling of being a spiritual oasis was extremely prominent during the Christmas retreat, and while it is a holiday that could be considered apart from the Vaishnava calendar, using any excuse possible to come together and glorify our dear Supreme Lord, we gathered to successfully celebrate the season for blessings and a season of prayer.
We had a kids camp for one day, breathed and stretched together during a yoga class, performed a special yagna to pray for the blessings of the beloved Lords of New Vrindaban and had a fantastic feast that had everyone completely filled with love for Krishna and appreciation for one another. Many of the community members also hosted smaller gatherings at their homes filled with gifts, realizations, amazing company and wonderful prasadam.
The icing on the cake of this retreat, however, was the cleaning and mucking-out of the cow barn. A number of pilgrims came together to help clean out the barn for the cows so that our dear friends and vedic parents could feel comfortable in the coming days, and they all loved it! Spending time sharing in mutual service was the best way to bond and build a sense of deep trust between everyone. It is such an important time to care for the cows because that service does more than just enrich the environment of New Vrindaban, it changes the spiritual climate of the whole Earth for the better.
“When Lord Krishna appeared, He purposefully became a cowherd boy and showed personally how to give protection to the cows and calves. Similarly, He showed respect to Sudāmā Vipra, a real brāhmaṇa. From the Lord’s personal activities, human society should learn how to give protection specifically to the brāhmaṇas and cows. Then the protection of religious principles, fulfillment of the aim of life and protection of Vedic knowledge can be achieved. Without protection of cows, brahminical culture cannot be maintained; and without brahminical culture, the aim of life cannot be fulfilled.
The Lord, therefore, is described as go-brāhmaṇa-hitāya because His incarnation is only for the protection of the cows and brāhmaṇas. Unfortunately, because in Kali-yuga there is no protection of the cows and brahminical culture, everything is in a precarious position. If human society wants to be exalted, the leaders of society must follow the instructions of Bhagavad-gītā and give protection to the cows, the brāhmaṇas and brahminical culture.”–SB 8.24.5 purportNew Vrindaban Christmas Retreat 2109
Everyone involved in the seva to the cows felt this point potently and the spirit of caring for the cows and for one another carried throughout the entire community.
Although we are the caretakers of this place, New Vrindaban is your home. We urge you to take full advantage of the spiritual oasis that is this beautiful place of pilgrimage. Find some stress relief with us and take a break from the fast pace of city life as you journey to the countryside to unplug materially and reconnect spiritually. Breathe in the fresh air, but more importantly, bask in the special blessings that Sri Krishna has in store for you. We look forward to ringing in the New Year with you during our New Year’s program and we can’t wait to see you in even greater numbers in the New Year and New Decade!