The ISKCON Toronto Blog - News & Events!
Siva Ratri literally translates as “the Night of Lord Siva.” Lord Siva is described as “the greatest Vaishnava (devotee of Lord Krishna)"; as such, this week's Sunday "Love" Feast will be dedicated to honouring Lord Siva.
The tentative schedule is as follows:
6:00pm to 6:30pm - Arati6:30pm to 6:35pm - Welcome and Announcements6:35pm to 7:15pm - Class by HG Bhakti Yoga Prabhu7:15pm to 7:35pm - Abhisheka (bathing ceremony) for Lord Siva7:35pm to 8:00pm - Vegetarian Feast (Prasadam)8:00pm to 8:30pm - Arati
*Please note that the actual day of Siva Ratri is Friday, February 28, but the festival will be celebrated at the temple on Sunday, March 2.
The appearance day of Lord Nityananda Prabhu was celebrated at ISKCON Toronto on February 12, 2014. Lord Nityananda Prabhu, whose name literally means, “eternally blissful”, appeared around 1474 AD in the village of Ekachakra, near Mayapur, West Bengal. He is the eternal companion of Lord Caitanya and both are worshiped together as are Krishna and Balaram. In the same way that Lord Balaram is considered the original spiritual master, so is Lord Nityananda.
Click HERE for more pictures!
The Gopinath's Kids Camp has been a one-day annual summer event since 2006. This year, Krishna's Funskool is very happy to announce their first ever March-Break kids camp! We promise three full days of interactive spiritual learning, yummy prasadam meals and lots of fun. See attached poster for details.
You can register your child via this preliminary form
For further information, please contact email@example.com
Starting next Sunday, February 9, 2014, we invite you to join us in celebrating a month dedicated to chanting japa and relishing the nectar of the Holy Names. Nama-Ruci is all about developing a taste for the Holy Name. The following lines express this theme beautifully:
"I do not know how much nectar the two syllables 'Krish-na' have produced. When the holy name of Krishna is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. When that name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears. And when the holy name dances in the courtyard of the heart, it conquers the activities of the mind, and therefore all the senses become inert." - (Caitanya Caritamrta, Antya-Lila, 1.99)
Every Sunday, between 4:30 and 5:45 pm, we invite you to come and experience "Journey into Japa", a sanctuary for everyone to enliven their chanting. The sanctuary will have 108 lotus flowers to guide your walk through one round of japa, accompanied with Srila Prabhupada's sublime chanting in the background.
This month will host a series of Sunday Feasts that are specially themed around chanting:
- February 9 - Chant and be happy: Mantra meditation has now become extremely popular as more and more people have taken this age-old practice. Let's find out why and how mantra meditation can help you become a happier person.
- February 16 - There is no other way: The vedic scriptures prescribe many different ways to achieve the perfection of life. Let's explore why in this present age of Kali, there is no other way except the chanting of the Holy Names.
- February 23 - Avoiding offences in chanting: Chanting is most effective when done offencelessly. Let's learn how we can improve our chanting by avoiding offences.
- March 2 - Please engage me in Your service: What are we really saying when we chant the Hare Krishna mahamantra? Let's dive deeper into the meaning of this great mantra.
- March 9 - Sankirtana: The incarnation in the Age of Kali is Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who spread the worship of Krishna by the sankirtana movement (congregational chanting of the holy names. Let's understand why Lord Chaitanya declares Sankirtana as the life of all transcendental knowledge.
If you are new to mantra meditation, we welcome you to join Uttamananda Krishna Das as he leads a warm and friendly session of chanting on beads at 7:40 pm every Sunday. We will also have japa kits available to facilitate your nascent chanting experience.
For the month of February, the Toronto Sankirtan Book Club will be reading the book "Sri Namamrta - The Nectar of the Holy Name." If you would like to read along and don't have a copy, you can get a copy of the book of the month during the Sunday Feast. To register for the book club, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please don't forget to mark Wednesday, February 12 and Sunday, March 16 in your calendar as the appearance days of Lord Nityananda (Nityananda Trayodashi) and Lord Chaitanya (Gaura Purnima). More details will be posted shortly on our blog about the festival program.
We wish you all a blissful month of chanting! May the taste get sweeter!
This year, February 11th marks the appearance anniversary of Varaha avatar (Lord Krishna's boar incarnation). As described in the Srimad Bhagavatam, Lord Krishna assumed this form of a gigantic boar to lift the drowning planet Earth from the cosmic ocean with his tusks.
A demonic personality had thrown the planet Earth from her orbit into this ocean but the Lord came, as a boar, and saved the Earth. In honour of the appearance of Lord Varahadeva, fasting is observed until noon on Bhaimi Ekadashi (Monday, February 10th, 2014).
More information about the appearance of Varaha avatar can be found here; below is a summary of the pastime written by Urmila devi dasi:
“In Vedic cosmology, planets are conscious persons. The planet Earth once fell into the universal water when demonic persons disturbed her orbit by drilling for oil and upsetting her balance. Celestial beings, called devas, who control the universe in service to Krishna, wanted Earth to be rescued.
Responding to their desire, the Lord came to save her. He assumed the form of a splendid, gigantic boar (Varaha), dove to the bottom of the universal ocean, picked up Earth, and gently carried her on His tusks to the water’s surface. As He did so, a great demon challenged Him.
Lord Varaha then carefully placed fearful Earth on the water and gave her the ability to float. A fight between the Lord and the demon ensued within the great ocean. After defeating the demon, Lord Varaha returned to the spiritual sky.”
Lord Nityananda (also known as Nityananda Prabhu, Nitai, Nityananda Balarama) appeared as Lord Chaitanya’s principal associate for spreading the congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord. He is considered an incarnation of Lord Balarama.
This festival is a special one for ISKCON Toronto and often features very sweet, intimate and spiritually-soaked festivities! We are very excited to announce that joining us for the festival will be Her Grace Malati Prabhu.
The whole festival will be based on following verses: "The lotus feet of Lord Nityananda are a shelter where one will get the soothing moonlight not only of one, but of millions of moons. If the world wants to have real peace, it should take shelter of Lord Nityananda. Unless one takes shelter under the shade of the lotus feet of Lord Nityananda, it will be very difficult for him to approach Radha-Krsna. If one actually wants to enter into the dancing party of Radha-Krsna, he must firmly catch hold of the lotus feet of Lord Nityananda."
The program will be as follows (subject to change):
6:00pm to 6:30pm - Kirtan (Arati)
6:30pm to 6:40pm - Welcome & Announcements
6:40pm to 7:15pm - Class by Bhakti Yoga Prabhu
7:15pm to 7:35pm - Special Presentation by Krishna Funskool
7:35pm to 8:00pm - Vegetarian Feast (Prasadam)
8:00pm to 8:30pm - Kirtan (Arati)
Devotees are encouraged to come to the program wearing the colour blue, the colour commonly associated with Lord Nityananda!
As we prepare to celebrate Nityananda Trayodasi, the advent (appearance) of Lord Nityananda this Wednesday, February 12th, starting at 6pm. Click HERE for more information about the celebrations. We found this nice video of Srila Prabhupada singing the famous Bengali bhajan "Parama Karuna Pahu Dui Jana" (Official Name: Sri Gaura Nityananda Daya). This bhajan (devotional song) written by Srila Locana Dasa Thakura really encompasses the merciful nature of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda, see the translation of the lyrics below.
parama karuṇa, pahū dui jananitāi gauracandrasaba avatāra-sāra śiromaṇikevala ānanda-kanda
The two Lords, Nitai-Gauracandra, are very merciful. They are the essence of all incarnations. The specific significance of these incarnations is that They introduced a process of chanting and dancing that is simply joyful.
bhajo bhajo bhāi, caitanya nitāisudṛḍha biśwāsa koriviṣaya chāḍiyā, se rase majiyā,mukhe bolo hari hari
My dear brother, I request that you just worship Lord Caitanya and Nityananda with firm conviction and faith. If one wants to be Krsna conscious by this process, one has to give up his engagement in sense gratification. One simply has to chant, "Hare Krsna! Hari Hari!" without any motive.
dekho ore bhāi, tri-bhuvane nāi,emona doyāla dātāpaśu pākhī jhure, pāṣāṇa vidare,śuni' jāńra guṇa-gāthā
My dear brother, just try and examine this. Within the three worlds there is no one like Lord Caitanya or Lord Nityananda. Their merciful qualities are so great that upon hearing Them even birds and beasts cry and stones melt.
saḿsāre majiyā, rohili poriyā,se pade nahilo āśaāpana karama, bhuñjāye śamana,kahoye locana-dāsa
But Locana dasa regrets that I am entrapped by sense gratification. Since I have no attraction for the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, then Yamaraja, the superintendent of death, is punishing me by not allowing me to be attracted by this movement.
Advaitacharya appeared some sixty years before Lord Chaitanya’s own advent, over 500 years ago. It was Advaitacarya who asked Lord Chaitanya to descend. Before Lord Chaitanya’s advent, Advaitacharya had already begun chanting Krishna’s names in the streets with devotees and discussing scriptures on devotional service to Krishna. Advaitacharya’s name indicates that He is nondifferent (advaita) from Lord Hari (Krishna), and He is called acharya (spiritual master) because He taught bhakti.
To read more about Advaitacharya click HERE!
The redesign of our website has required a new format for posting Deity Darshan pictures, "Darshan" is a viewing or an auspicious audience with the Deity form of the Lord. Previously we would post pictures every Sunday of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, Sri Sri Radha Ksira-Chora Gopinatha and Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subadhra. While the redesign is still in progress and a permeant Deity Darshan solution is still pending; Deity pictures can be found on our Facebook Page, see the links below for the albums:
Deity Darshan 2014Deity Darshan 2013
(Please note you do not need a Facebook account to view the albums)
Here's a fun list of what we shouldn't be doing!
32 Ways to Not Chant Japa in 2014
From The Japa Workshop by Mahatma das
(For more classes on Japa, go to www.krishna.com/mahatma)
- To Do List Japa - Meditating on your to do and shopping lists, sometimes adding and deleting items between mantras. This may also include mentally balancing your checkbook or mentally going over which bills you have to pay. Caution: This process can cause you to lament about how many bills you have to pay, and thus changing your prayers from "Oh Lord, please engage me in your service," to "Oh Lord, please add a few more zeroes to the end of my bank balance."
- I Hate Him Japa - While chanting, meditating on who hurt you, how badly you were hurt, how much you hate that person, and what you’ll do to get back at him. By the end of 16 rounds your hatred has increased tenfold and you have developed excellent plans and strategies to take revenge.
- I am Right Japa - Meditating while chanting on how right you are and how wrong someone else is, and with every mantra you become more convinced how right you are. Also know as "Pump Your Ego Japa. "
- Watering the Weeds Japa - Chanting so poorly that by the time you finish you feel disgusted, depressed and miserable. Gone are the days of "Chant and Be Happy." Now it is, "Chant and Be Miserable."
- Beat the Clock Japa - You chant as fast as possible in an attempt to get those bothersome rounds over with, sometimes trying to break your previous record of one round in 3 minutes 59 seconds - which was formerly thought to be humanly impossible - until you proved it could be done if one is intensely motivated to get his chanting over with as soon as possible!
- Robot Japa - You chant like a robot. Chanting while totally disconnected from the mood of the mantra. You sometimes wish another devotee or a robot could chant your rounds for you.
- Firing Blank Mantras Japa - Krsna’s name is chanted, but your mind and heart are somewhere else - and so is He. The sound Krsna comes out of your mouth, but because there is no consciousness, it is like firing blank mantras.
- Killing Time Japa - Chanting, but thinking of things to entertain yourself with while you chant so you won’t be so bored just listening to the mantra. In this way you kill time while chanting and thus make chanting 16 rounds quite tolerable by making it much less painful than usual.
- Creative Japa - Using japa as a time for brainstorming, thus doing some creative thinking, generating new ideas, and finding solutions to your problems. It is useful to have a pen and paper handy to write down your ideas. Although you may get very few rounds done, and you won't get the nectar of the name - you have spent the past two hours in a such a high degree of passion that you will definitely have a long list of good ideas. (But is it really a good idea to ruin your japa to get some good ideas?)
- Novocain Japa - Your heart is so numbed that you feel absolutely nothing when you chant.
- Driving Japa - Chanting while distracted by the task of driving, sometimes accompanied by cursing at people who cut you off (i.e. the anti-trnad api sunicena mantra). Of course, the reason you chant while driving is that you get up late.
- No Japa, Japa - While holding your beads you converse with another devotee, moving your beads as you talk. In this way you sometimes finish a so-called round or two by the end of the conversation. (Oh God, help us!)
- Prajalpa Japa - You chant a few mantras and then speak a few words of prajalpa to your friend. You chant a few more mantras and then listen as they speak some prajalpa to you. Then you respond with some even more juicy gossip. This process often continues for the entire japa session.
- Call and Response Japa - You talk to someone, and while listening to you they chant japa. Then they reply and while listening to them you chant japa.
- Reading Japa - Reading and chanting at the same time. (Note: This would not be a problem if you had two or more heads.)
- Left Hand Japa - Chanting japa while doing something with your left hand (cleaning, cooking, tinkering, organizing, washing your car, etc.). This is very useful for developing left arm strength.
- Bubblegum Japa - Chanting in a way that sounds like you are chewing bubble gum while chanting Hare Krsna.
- New Mantra Japa - Chanting a new form of the Hare Krsna mantra, such as "here kitty, kitty, here kitty, kitty," or "nish, nish, ram, ram, ari, ari."
- Entertainment Japa - Chanting while watching TV or a movie. Note: watching TV while not chanting, but chanting during the commercials is also totally bogus! (And, Krsna conscious video is also included in TV Japa.)
- Internet Japa - A few mantras and a few emails, sometimes chanting and reading at the same time. Inevitably, the beads get put on the table and the right hand lands on the keyboard.
- Window Shopping Japa - Chanting while window shopping (this commonly happens when making the attempt to knock out some rounds while in the shopping mall).
- Boredom Japa - You are so bored while chanting that you feel like killing yourself.
- Relaxing Japa - Lying down or relaxing in a hammock while chanting (often accompanied by coconut water in your left hand).
- Slumber Japa - Taking advantage of japa to get a good nap. Another variety of "Slumber Japa" is trying to fight off sleep, but continually failing. This is also known as "Dive Bomb Japa" due to the head constantly rising and falling (diving).
- Bitter Medicine Japa - Your experience of the holy name is like bitter medicine and your face turns in disgust as you chant.
- Painful Japa - Your mind is so out of control that it is painful to try to control it. Thus, the expression on your face while chanting appears similar to the expression of a person with a knife in their back (or a person with severe constipation). This is often accompanied by banging your head with your hand, or in severe cases - banging your head against a wall.
- Shaking Japa - (Also known as "Ants in Your Pants Japa") - You chant as if you were a toy monkey that was just wound up.
- Radar Japa - Looking around at anything and everything - and everybody - while chanting.
- Audio Japa - Chanting japa while listening to a lecture, kirtan, song, or the radio. This is especially challenging while listening to the radio (unless, of course, it is one of your favorite songs or some juicy news).
- Sightseeing Japa - Walking or driving and chanting while doing some serious sightseeing.
- Shopping Japa - Nish, nish, ram, ram, ari, ari-ing your way through the supermarket or mall.
- Apathy Japa - Chanting with absolutely no desire or enthusiasm to chant.
The Town Hall will begin with a small presentation from the ISKCON Toronto Temple Council, highlighting the successes, challenges and financial developments over the last several months. After this, we will open up the dialogue to our entire community to share their thoughts, dreams, concerns and suggestions about how we can continue to grow our temple and community.
Please accept this as a warm invitation for you to come and attend our Town Hall. We continue to host these Town Halls every three months in an attempt to increase the communication between the temple management and our dear congregation.
If you are unable to make it to the Town Hall, but would like to share some ideas, suggestions or feedback, please feel free to email us at email@example.com.
We hope to see you on Sunday, January 19th - please feel free to pass along this warm invitation to your devotee friends! Hare Krishna!
The ISKCON Toronto Temple Council
"Whoever visits Navadvipa becomes freed from all offenses. Whatever a pilgrim obtains by wandering to all the holy places is obtained simply by remembering Sri Navadvipa. A person who simply sees Navadvipa gets the great fortune of love for Krishna, birth after birth."
Check it out:
Entrance Into Eternity Part I: Moonrise (trailer) from JP Lew on Vimeo.
As the rising moon dispels darkness, spreading its soothing rays in all directions, so too did the Golden Avatar Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appear in this world to bestow infinite light, hope, and love. Day by day, the worldwide bhakti revolution He ignited accelerates, as the background noise of doubt and fear is drowned by the vibration of sacred mantra. Entrance Into Eternity is a multi-part film series tracing this sankirtan movement back to its divine source, the epicenter of devotional ecstasy, the kirtan capital of the universe, Sridham Mayapur.
In Mayapur, the sweet melody of kirtan is never far, and hearts are awakened to the sacred flow of mercy. Men and women, boys and girls, from all corners of the world, pierce through divides of caste and color to harmonize their voices and deeds in service to the Supreme. They dance in His earthshaking kirtan, bathing in His limitless love and grace.
As many of you know, our beloved deities, Sri Sri Radha Ksira-Chora Gopinatha are named after the famous deity found in Orissa. When the deities arrived in Toronto, devotees wrote to Srila Prabhupada that Krishna was a bit chubby. Srila Prabhupada then named them Sri Sri Radha Krisa-Chora Gopinatha after the deity in the Orissan village of Remuna, our Temple also became known as "New Remuna Dhama." "Ksira-Chora" means "one who stole sweet condensed milk" and there's a special pastime (see below) about how He received this name. Recently we came across some rare photos of Ksira-Chora Gopinatha in Remuna, normally photography is not permitted so these amazing photos are a rare treat! (Photos courtesy of Arjun Bhattacharyya Photography).
More information about Remuna and Ksira Chora Gopinatha can be found inf the Back to Godhead Magazine Article "Remuna – The Place of Pleasure" by Bhakti Vikasa Swami. Below is an excerpt from the article on how Gopinatha got the Name Ksira-Chora:
The Name "Ksira-chora" means "one who stole condensed milk." When Lord Caitanya visited the Gopinatha temple in Remuna, He told the devotees traveling with Him how the Deity had come to receive that name. Lord Caitanya had heard the story from His spiritual master, Isvara Puri, a disciple of Madhavendra Puri. As related in Caitanya-caritamrta, it is Madhavendra Puri for whom the condensed milk was stolen.
Madhavendra Puri was a highly advanced devotee of Lord Krsna. While living in Vrndavana absorbed in remembering the pastimes of the Lord, he saw Krsna appear in a dream and tell him He had been buried for a long time in a jungle nearby. Krsna wanted Madhavendra Puri to dig Him up. Following the Lord's instruction, with the help of the local people Madhavendra Puri discovered a Deity of Krsna named Gopala.
Madhavendra Puri built a temple for Gopala and served Him for two years. Then again one night Gopala appeared to him in a dream and asked him to go to Orissa to get sandalwood to smear on His body.
On the way to Orissa, Madhavendra Puri stopped at the Gopinatha temple in Remuna. He asked the priest what kind of food was offered to Gopinatha, thinking he could offer the same preparations to his own Deity, Gopala. The priest mentioned the condensed milk (ksira) known as amrta-keli, which was famous because its taste was nectarean.
That evening, while the priest made an offering to the Lord, Madhavendra Puri thought that if the priest were to offer him some of the condensed milk he could taste it and then be able to prepare it for Gopala. He then at once became ashamed for thinking of tasting the Lord's food during the offering. Feeling he had committed a great offense, he left the temple and went to a vacant marketplace to chant the names of the Lord.
Later that night, the Gopinatha Deity appeared in a dream to the priest and told him He had hidden a pot of condensed milk behind His cloth. Gopinatha told the priest to deliver the condensed milk to a saintly person named Madhavendra Puri. The priest did as told.
Madhavendra Puri felt ecstasy to learn that the Lord had stolen condensed milk for him. After drinking the milk, Madhavendra Puri kept the pot, and every day he would eat a little piece of it.
take care of our health, manage so many social relationships and have many obligations to take care of.
Amidst all of this, we know that preserving and strengthening our connection to Krishna is our ticket to preserving our sanity amidst all the craziness around us. Still, making time for Krishna, giving our attention and energy to Krishna and His devotees is often the last thing we can get done in our busy lives and sometimes, this link to Krishna breaks or becomes weaker.
To learn how to remain sane in a crazy world, join us for a seminar by His Grace Sriman Sankarshan Das Adhikari, a travelling teacher and mentor to thousands of busy professionals and active families in over 100 countries around the world. Also an initiating spiritual master within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, he is a direct disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and has been practicing and sharing Krishna consciousness in a crazy world for more than 43 years.
Location: Toronto's Hare Krishna Centre (ISKCON Toronto)
Date and Time: Saturday, January 11, 2014; 6:00PM - 9:00 PM
Prasadam (vegetarian meal) will be served after the seminar.
To register, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/sanitycrazyworld
We hope to see you all there!
Eastern Canada’s Krsna Culture
The traditional chanting, dancing, and worship are all going strong, but there’s much more.
by Amogha Dasa
About a decade ago the Hare Krsna devotees in Canada bought two churches—one in Toronto and one in Montreal—and caused a bit of consternation. Their neighbors wondered just who they were and what they were going to do.
The Hare Krsna church-turned-temple stands proudly on Avenue Road, one of Toronto’s busiest thoroughfares.Today these fears are gone. Krsna consciousness has become firmly established in eastern Canada—not just in Toronto and Montreal but also in the nation’s capital, Ottawa—and the large incandescent HARE KRISHNA sign on the high stone walls of the Toronto temple raises hardly an eyebrow among the people in some 25.000 cars that pass by each day.
Still, for many Canadians the questions remain: What do the Hare Krsnas do? And why?
Nandikesvara dasa, president of the center in Montreal, explained, “We live according to the Vedic scriptures, such as Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. These books were introduced here in the late sixties and early seventies by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual guide of the Hare Krsna movement. He translated them from the original Sanskrit and explained them in elaborate purports. To understand our activities here in eastern Canada, you have to understand something of the principles laid down in these scriptures.”,
The Deity forms of Lord Krsna and His consort Srimati Radharani (far left) stand on Their altar before a sylvan backdrop painted by Visnu dasa. (The devotees know the Krsna Deity as Ksiracora-gopinatha, a name explained on page 12)And what are those principles? “In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says, ‘All that you do, all that you eat, and all austerities you may perform should be offerings to Me. In this way you will become free from karmic reactions and come back to Me in the spiritual world.’ Everything we do is guided by this principle of making it an offering to Lord Krsna. This is he basis of the whole culture of Krsna consciousness.”
For several weeks last summer I lived with the Canadian devotees and saw how they put these principles into practice.
As in all Hare Krsna temples, the devotees in Canada begin the day at 4:30 in the morning with a formal arati ceremony. Accompanying themselves on drums and hand cymbals, they sing prayers to the spiritual master, a pure representative of Krsna and the devotees’ spiritual guide and source of inspiration. Then they chant the Hare Krsna mantra in chorus.
Devotees follow the lead of temple president Visvakarma dasa (beating the blue drum) as they chant Hare Krsna in downtown TorontoArati is a ceremony for greeting the Lord, who dwells in the temple in His Deity form. (To the uninitiated. He looks like a stone statue.) Visvakarma dasa, president of the Toronto center, explained, “Krsna is eternally manifest in His spiritual form in the spiritual world, far beyond the material universes, and He is within the heart of every living being in another spiritual form, the Supersoul. But we can’t see His spiritual form with our material eyes. So for the benefit of us conditioned souls and aspiring devotees, Lord Krsna appears in His spiritual form within a form made of matter so that we can see and serve Him. A bona fide spiritual master installs the Deity in the temple and prays to the Lord to please appear there. And when we come before the Deity of the Lord and worship Him and chant His name, we feel Krsna’s personal presence.”
For an hour and a half after the arati softly on beads (see page 4 for more details). Then it’s time for a class in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Laksminatha dasa, president of the center in Ottawa, told us of its significance: “By hearing the Bhagavatam every morning, we feel tangible spiritual improvement. The Bhagavatam is the foremost of all Vedic literatures because it deals with nothing except the instructions and activities of Lord Krsna and His devotees. The Lord is within each of us, and, as the Bhagavatam itself explains, He purifies our heart and gives us transcendental knowledge when we regularly hear about Him. Ultimately He reveals Himself to us. So the morning Bhagavatam class is a vital part of every devotee’s practice of Krsna consciousness.”
Before initiating new disciples at a recent ceremony in the Toronto temple (above), Srila Gopala Krsna Goswami (on red velvet seat of honor) explains the relationship between guru and disciple in Krsna consciousness.During the Bhagavatam class the temple cooks are busy at work in the kitchen, listening to class via loudspeakers. Krpa-sindhu dasa, a cook at the Montreal center, explained the philosophy behind cooking for Krsna: “As Krsna says in the Gita, ‘Everything you eat should be an offering to Me.’ So the food we cook in this kitchen is all for Krsna’s pleasure. That’s why we cook only vegetarian food—because that’s what Krsna asks for in the Gita. When the meal is ready, a priest will arrange it on special plates used only for Krsna. Then he’ll take the plates into the Deity room, place them before the Lord, and offer Sanskrit prayers asking Him to please accept the offering. Devotees eat only food that has first been offered to Krsna. Such food is called prasadam, ‘the Lord’s mercy.’ “
After the class, everyone rises to sing more prayers glorifying the spiritual master. Then it’s breakfast time, followed by the start of the day’s devotional activities.
Nandikesvara dasa, leader of the Montreal center, play a traditional Indian tamboura as he sings the glories of Lord Krsna.Visvakarma told us how the devotees offer their work to Krsna thoroughout the day: “Some manage the temple accounts, some maintain the temple grounds and clean the temple itself. Some go out to distribute Krsna conscious literature—BACK TO GODHEAD magazine or books by Srila Prabhupada or his followers. Some go to high schools and universities to tell students and their teachers about our philosophy and way of life. In Ottawa and Montreal we have vegetarian restaurants that serve prasadam to hundreds daily, and many devotees work in them. Then there are our acting troupes, who put on Krsna conscious dramas. We also have artists and musicians and dancers who create or perform for Krsna. And, of course, we send out a group of devotees every day to chant Hare Krsna on the city streets so that everyone can hear and benefit.”
Visvakarma also told me about his large congregation of Indian life members. They’ve seen that the devotees are following the genuine Vedic culture, so they enthusiastically support the temple. Two members, Syama-Krsna dasa and his wife, Kunti-devi dasi, recently took spiritual initiation from Srila Gopala Krsna Go-swami, who oversees the movement’s affairs in Canada and initiates new disciples there.
At a shopping mall in downtown Ottawa, Gaura dasa interests some youngsters in the latest issue of BACK TO GODHEAD.Kunti-devi explained how they decided to take the step of accepting formal initiation: “When we started reading BACK TO GODHEAD, we used to read about everyday people pursuing Krsna consciousness. And that made us think, ‘Well, what is there to stop us? If ordinary people like us can do it, why should we hesitate?’ Reading BACK TO GODHEAD was wonderful.”
Her husband added, “What inspired us was that we saw that we didn’t have to give up our regular life. We could carry on with that and yet advance spiritually and make Krsna the center of our life. We could do everything for Krsna and help spread Krsna consciousness.”
Mrs. Elizabeth Mohar, one of several thousand members of the Toronto temple’ s congregation, prays to Lord Krsna during an outdoor festival last summer.To find out about the Krsna conscious drama being performed in Canada, I talked to Nanda-kisora dasa in Montreal, He’s been putting on plays about Krsna for ten years, and now he’s directing a production based on the Mahabharata, India’s great epic poem of 110,000 couplets. The Mahabharata relates a complex scries of political events that culminated fifty centuries ago in the Battle of Kuruksetra, a devastating war of royal succession in which Lord Krsna Himself took part. The Bhagavad-gita is part of the Mahabharata.
Newly initiated Syama -Krsna dasa and his wife, Kuntidevi dasi, throw grains into the fire during a ceremony held last summer in the Toronto temple.“Dramatizing the Mahabharata is like sculpting,” said Nanda-kisora. “The entire story is like a large stone that must be cut and formed into a play that presents the essence of the work. Ideally the finished production should be so absorbing that the audience should forget they’re watching a play. They should be drawn into what’s happening onstage as if it were real life.” The production I saw did just that: the members of the audience were transfixed by the play, fully absorbed in Krsna consciousness.
I also learned that another troupe, in Toronto, puts on a play based on the Ramayana, the epic about Krsna’s incarnation Lord Ramacandra. And I heard that one devotee performs ballet and classical Indian dance to portray the Lord’s pastimes.
A drama unfolds onstage at the Montreal center. In a production of the Vedic classic Mahabharata, the wise Vidura played by Nanda-kisora dasa) warns King Dhrtarastra (played by Gopisvara dasa) of the dangers inherent in a rigged gambling match.I knew my visit wouldn’t be complete without stopping at one of the prasadam restaurants. Nandikesvara showed me around Chez Govinda in Montreal. He suggested I try the Tofu Burger, a favorite among patrons.
Bhakta Luc pantomimes someone trying to control the earth.I could hardly hold it in my hands, let alone fit it into my mouth, but somehow I chomped into it. Wonderful! Between light, homemade whole-wheat buns was a base layer of sour cream sauce, then lettuce, a slice of tomato, a half-inch-thick fried tofu patty, alfalfa sprouts, thick melted cheese, and then tomato sauce—all bulging out. It was exquisitely delicious!
Deep in creative concentration, Visnu dasa puts the finishing touches on the backdrop for the altar in the Toronto temple.“That’s just for a start,” said Nandikesvara, laughing as I grappled with the expansive munchie. “Now this is the Cosmic Special.” It was an eight-inch-wide capati (a round, whole-wheat tortilla) decked with thick avacado puree, tomato slices, melted cheese, sunflower seeds, and fresh alfalfa sprouts.
“What do you think of that?” Nandikesvara asked.
Mahavirya dasa sings of Krsna in Montreal.Next I asked Punyakirti dasa, who manages Chez Govinda, about the restaurant’s interior.
“The devotees did it all themselves,” he told me.” Abhay Charan made the wrought-iron table legs and matching chairs, Dana-keli did the plumbing, wiring, and kitchen installations, and Visnu dasa hand-painted the wall mural.” This monumental piece of artwork consists of seventeen panels separated by hand-cast columns and arches.
A warm glow of bonhomie radiates from the entrance to Chez Govinda, the vegetarian restaurant run by devotees in Montreal. And not only arc there fine cooking and natural ingredients, but everything is offered to Krsna – which makes eating at Chez Govinda a spiritual experience.“As the mural shows,” Punyakirti continued, “the kingdom of God is a place of beauty and peace, where everyone lives together without trouble—unlike the material world, where there is constant fear, strife, and exploitation. But when we make Krsna the center of our lives, even this world can be peaceful and harmonious. All up and down the street there are many restaurants, but they’re full of violence because they’re serving meat—dismembered carcasses. Here we serve only vegetarian foods offered to Krsna. So the mural isn’t just an expression of wishful thinking. This actually is a place of peace, and because all the food is cooked for Lord Krsna and offered to Him, all our patrons get incalculable spiritual benefit as well.”
Two patrons toast each other’s health with apple juice. The ornate columns and arches, as well as the mural depicting Krsna in the spiritual world, are all products of the devotees’ own artistryUnfortunately, I never did get to visit the Back Home Buffet, the devotees’ restaurant in Ottawa, where I heard they serve a different national vegetarian food every day: Italian food one day, Indian the next, Mexican the next, then Oriental, then American. Maybe I could go back and do a special article just on the Ottawa restaurant. Of course, I’d have to sample all the national dishes . . .
Devotees dish out plate after plate of prasadam (sanctified food) to eager celebrants at a festival in MontrealIn any case, from what I saw of the Hare Krsna devotees in eastern Canada, far from bringing consternation to their neighbors, they’re winning congratulations. The temple programs, the restaurants, the art, music, drama, and dance, what to speak of the summer celebrations like The Festival of the Chariots and Lord Krsna’s Appearance Day, all add up to a multifaceted expression of Krsna culture that has something to please everyone.
Dreamstime is one of the world leaders in stock photography and a reliable supplier of high quality digital images. Online since 2000 as a Royalty-Free stock photography website, Dreamstime has evolved into a powerful and active community-based site. Their database is renewed with thousands of fresh images and titles on a daily basis.
Check out the images that show up by clicking here!
Have you seen this photo before? Care to take an educated guess where this is from? We're curious to know if any of our readers might be able to help us source this photo. Leave a comment with your thoughts or guesses!
As the new year begins, Gaura-Shakti would like to make a special offering to our beloved Deities, Srila Prabhupada and all the assembled devotees of our community in a form of bhajans and kirtan!
Since 2009, Gaura-Shakti has been presenting kirtan throughout Toronto and the GTA. Sharing the sweet sounds of kirtan at yoga studios, expos, conventions and more, thousands of people have been introduced to the sweet sounds of kirtan!
On Sunday, January 5th, Gaura-Shakti will present a magical night full of the sublimely sweet sounds of bhajans and kirtan accompanied by different beautiful instruments! We hope to see you there!
In the video, Gaura-Vani presents a delightfully beautiful rendition of the classic Vaisnava Song, "Udilo Aruna Purave Bhage". Mixing the traditional singing of the bhajan (along with a unique chorus) with a poetic translation and combined with a dance performance depicting the soul-stirring lyrics, this video is one that shouldn't be missed!
There were over 50 contestants applied from 14 different countries, and shared their inspiring short films of various subjects, including festivals, spiritual retreats, Deity worship, outreach and artistic programs.
The judges evaluated the films’ topic, camerawork, editing and overall artistic impression. Here are the three winners:
First Place - Sri Isopanisad: Mantra One by Mikey Jay (UK):
Second Place - Bhakti Immersion Retreat by Hilary Tapper (Australia):
Third Place - Bhaktivedanta College Radhadesh by Filip Cargonja/Gaura Govinda Das and Suravarya Das (Croatia):