Climbing the hill, weekend retreat organiser Gail out in front, Buckland Hall visible on the wooded hill behind (top of the tree on the left)
Haribol! After some healthy exertion we reach the summit
Our congregational Vaishnava Retreat has gone well. I am happy and just a little relieved. Because we all live in different parts of Britain, we try to come together to help each other along in Krishna consciousness when we can. So these times together are precious to us. Our event this year – ‘A Weekend of Blessings’ – involved 75 devotees learning together in a large Victorian house in the Brecon Beacon hills of south Wales. We came from all over the country to enjoy classes and kirtans, presentations and discussions, some team building and the friendship of fellow spiritual travellers.
Our venue, Buckland Hall, a recently refurbished conference centre, was known to J R Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, who lived over the valley for a time and included the place in his map of Middle Earth. We certainly felt we were way out in the Shires when we climbed the nearby mountain and saw the landscape stretching out beneath us.
Some truly excellent cooking was offered by Isha Avatara, who caters for all the various spiritual, yoga, and health regimen groups who hold their retreats at Buckland Hall. Arjuna, our former Vrindavan Gurukula boy offered sessions on yoga and the breathing techniques of pranayama; Ranchor Das gave talks on ‘Srila Prabhupada in England’ as he is writing a book on the subject right now.
Bhaktivedanta Manor temple president Gauri Das spoke on Nectar of Devotion and Sanskrit Slokas for Dummies which enabled eight members to learn and recite their first sloka. Jivadoya Das, a tall, enthusiastic brahmacari, gave powerpoint shows and uplifting presentations on selected verses from Nectar of Instruction and Daily Sadhana of a Vaishnava.
Tribhangananda Das offered Secrets of Reading with Srila Prabhupada, his tips for improved study and retention of our main books; while I provided some histories and reflections surrounding Bhajans of Bhakti and a ‘Japa Surgery.’
Musical entertainment and enlightenment this year was provided by Jayadeva Das and his talented friend Colin who gave a lively rendition of the first nine chapters of Bhagavad-gita, complete with audio-visuals, followed by new devotional songs and celidh style kirtans. The dancing on the Saturday night being particularly lively!
Like any gathering of the Vaishnavas, this one will have enduring effects long after the event and will further help us all to develop the network of Krishna conscious practitioners all around the country. May we all have many more occasions such as these.