Labor Day weekend programs with Br. Shantamrita Chaitanya

After more than a year, the major renovations to Amma’s Dallas-area ashram are finally complete, and over the weekend of September 1-3, 2018, devotees came from all over the region to celebrate and take part in various activities and programs at the beautiful rural property located just north of Denton, Texas.

Local Satsang members took advantage of the many opportunities for karma yoga, or selfless service, by cleaning and preparing the main house and outside property, including decorating the newly expanded temple hall, for hosting overnight guests and locals who came for the programs. There was so much to be done, but with Amma’s grace and much sincere self-effort, it all came together!

On Saturday morning, Br. Shantamrita Chaitanya opened the program and inaugurated the new space by performing a beautiful puja. Afterwards, he gave a talk in which he compared the birth, or re-birth of the Dallas ashram, to the birth of a baby, albeit one that had a rather long gestation of a year! Developing that theme, he encouraged everyone present to care for and love the ashram as we would care for our own child, nurturing it and helping it to grow and thrive. He also noted that Amma has said that the ashrams are her own body, and that serving the ashram is the same as serving Amma herself.

Following his satsang, he led the assembly in bhajans, leading off with “Yavarkkum Tayana Amma Ni” - “Oh, Mother, how will I describe you?” and ending with an inspiring rendition of “Jai Jai Janani,” a hymn of praise to the divine feminine.

After the offering of the arathi flame before the altar, Swamiji led the peace prayer “Om Lokaha Samastaha Sukino Bhanvantu,” (May the whole world be happy), and then distributed prasad to all assembled.

A delicious vegetarian lunch, lovingly prepared by local volunteers, was then served. Swamiji spoke about the recent devastating floods that had affected the Indian state of Kerala where Amma’s home ashram at Amritapuri is located. The proceeds from the lunch will go to benefit Kerala flood relief.

On Sunday morning, Swamiji guided 23 retreatants in a one-day silent retreat. Sessions of seated meditation alternated with walking meditation. A light lunch was taken mindfully in silence. A session of karma yoga, or seva followed lunch as the participants all took different areas in which to serve, including cleaning and doing projects.

At the end of the day, Swamiji talked about the goddess Saraswati, who governs speech, and said that we should strive for the first words that we speak in coming out of silence to follow these principles: Be brief or succinct, be true, or be sweet. Participants came out of silence and some shared insights or experiences that had come to them during the day.

An air of celebration hung in the air as the silent retreat came to a peaceful and fulfilling end, and the MACD's Krishna Janmashtami celebration began in the evening. It started off with the 108 names of Sri Krishna resounding through the spacious satsang hall, followed by Shantamrita Swami's talk which included vintage photos of Amma's Krishna Bhava and anecdotes of Krishna's various antics as a little boy.

Upbeat bhajans kept spirits high, helping the participants imagine the joy and excitement of the Lord being born in our midst. The evening ended with a wholesome potluck dinner prepared by the satsang devotees.

May we all continue to experience the spirit of Sri Krishna in our daily routine.

On Monday, Shantamrita Swamiji facilitated a meeting to discuss future plans, programs, activities and visions for the MA Center Dallas. A number of devotees were present from the Dallas area, Austin, Houston, Kansas, Oklahoma, San Antonio, either in person or by conference phone. All were encouraged by Swamiji to share their ideas, concerns, and comments. The meeting was followed by lunch, and more sharing.

We were all very grateful to have had such a full, inspiring, and celebratory weekend with Br. Shantamrita Chaitanya, who will return for the next major program - Amma’s birthday celebration on September 22, 2018!