Its good for devotees to get together for some strategic planning, and assessment of strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a wartime picture of an RAF operations room where the strategy depended on the newly invented radar. Our Vaishnava weekend gathering was near Bawdsey, where the first radar was developed.
We had a little get together/ spiritual retreat last weekend. My wife Padma, son Mali and myself went up to Bawdsey Manor, a remote place on the coast of Suffolk, not too far from Ipswich. The place is quite historic in that for a few years – 1936 to 1939 – it was home to a top secret research and development team. Robert Watson-Watt and his team were working on the idea that through the use of measured electromagnetic waves someone might be able to detect the position, speed and location of enemy airplanes.
Luckily for Britain they were right. The team developed the first radar and Britain had a technological advantage at the outset of the war, despite having fewer planes.
Our team of 20 devotees were there for a distinctly non-military purpose, yet no less strategic. We’d decided to have a gathering so that all the devotees from around the region known as East Anglia could get to meet each other. The towns of Norwich, Ipswich and Cambridge are the main places where devotees gather either monthly or bi-weekly. They all lead busy lives and so its good for them all to meet each other and discuss their mutual experiences and challenges.
Organisation and prasadam was generously provided by Michelle from Cambridge, cooking in a rented seaside cottage over in Aldeburgh. Sejal and Dipti offered their hospitality and some excellent bhajias at their home the following day. Later still, Vinay welcomed us all to his home, which is also the venue for the Ipswich group.
Small groups such as these only happen by each member contributing something essential to the groups healthy survival. Each member is therefore very important for the establishment of Krishna consciousness in that particular town.
When two or three groups get together we call that a Maha-Sanga and it serves to broaden everyone’s understanding of the scope of the devotee population in a particular region and how we are all prospering.
Of course, for a movement like ours to grow, we need the book distributors to also become interested in the people who actually read the books as well as those who buy them. We also need them to be interested in someone who, after reading one of Srila Prabhupada’s books, decides to take up the practises of bhakti-yoga such as chanting the Hare Krishna mantra and offering food on their home altar.
Whilst it is tempting for any of us to simply be a book distributor, it defies logic if, after a person reads the book you gave them, for us to then not be interested in that newcomer’s welfare. It defies logic but it does happen sometimes. Unfortunately, there are not enough devotees for some of us to ‘only’ be book distributors. Each of us must also be well-rounded teachers and encouragers to everyone who takes up our Vaishnava path.
And for those of us who do a lot more teaching and encouraging than others, well, the same logic applies. We must also distribute books.
Just like in war time, we may all have our specialities, but each of us must be prepared to be well-rounded members in the great effort to take Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission to every town and village. And if that effort can be compared – as Srila Prabhupada did sometimes – to a ‘war on maya,’ then the war is not over yet. In fact, its only just begun.