Travel: Brisbane Bhakti Yoga Retreat
After a short stay in Brisbane the devotees headed off to a retreat center two hours out of town on Mount Warning, Murwillumbah, NSW. The center had been shut down for many years, but the owner wanted to get it going again. However, fixing it up was a big job, which he could not have managed on his own. So, the devotees offered to help. It took many weekends of hard work to clean out the dirt and numerous living entities that had taken up residence in the abandoned buildings. Now however, looking at the results, one would never know. It is a very nice setting.
The bhakti yoga retreat was a wonderful program of getting up early, finding one's way to the main building in the darkness of the night using a flashlight, having a nice morning program, chanting the maha-mantra on beads, having another nice program, listening to inspiring classes by Devamrita Swami, having a nice healthy breakfast, resting, attending an occasional seminar, having a sensational lunch (taking into account all the devotees' health needs) and a nice evening program that usually lasted deep into the night and exhausted everyone with hours and hours of blissful chanting.
I finally got the opportunity to meet some devotees in person who I had previously only known and communicated with online. Plus, of course, all the great enthusiastic practitioners of Krishna consciousness I met for the first time.
The last day of the retreat was a particularly memorable one. We did a one and a half hour trek over the mountain to the New Govardhana temple. New Govardhana is a huge community of devotees, complete with wild peacocks, poisonous snakes and beautiful deities. The pace of the walk was hard and fast, yet Sitapati led a transcendental kirtan all the way (while carrying his son on his shoulders and accordion strapped to his chest). I had a hard time just walking!
Near the end of the walk the heavens opened and 15-minute rain storm swept over all of us. Everyone was drenched. However, we dried off soon enough when we reached the temple and carried on chanting for what must have been another two hours of kirtan. Then Devamrita Swami arrived at the temple, gave the Sunday Feast lecture and proceeded to have another 1-2 hour long kirtan. This one even more intense than the previous ones. Then, finally, a hugely opulent feast. What a day! (If only every day could be this wonderful...)
Many, many pictures of the retreat are viewable here.