Monday Morning Greeting 2024 #25 – Metro Mantra Sanga

June 17th, 2024

During the Memorial Day weekend, I held several programs in the New York/New Jersey area. The events were accommodating to newcomers, but for the most part they were gatherings of like-minded people with deep, longstanding bonds. There was no dearth of volunteers, and the many services were all done expertly, especially the Memorial Day feast—chapatis, rice, sweet potato soup, koftas in tomato sauce, creamy paneer subji, bhel puri, handva, coriander chutney, potato patra, cupcakes, ladoo, kheer, mango lassi, and nimbu pani.


There was such a strong sense of community. I was impressed, and right after kirtan, at the beginning of my class, I made a simple point based on what I had just seen: “Bhakti is easy. Just chant Hare Krishna with people who like each other.” Like Christianity, the Hare Krishna movement must offer different “churches” for different people—eventually more localized, to bring nearby like-minded people together and provide community to the maximum number of those interested in devotion.


The modern world is increasingly exploitative, and it does not provide sufficient genuine community to give people respite from our dog-eat-dog modern society. As the Catholic social activist Dorothy Day said, “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.” More than ever, people need gathering places that can foster a deep sense of care and belonging, where one is inspired by the community’s service mood to serve others before themselves, the first step in spiritual life. It’s with this vulnerability, this letting down of the guard of self-centeredness that covers the soul, that one’s heart can be open to God’s grace—essential to experiencing the divinity of the holy name.


Bhakti is best expressed through seva, humble service, and genuine community inspires and offers opportunities for service; it is one of the most attractive and powerful tools to draw people toward devotion and keep them within the association of devotees. So, this week I am sharing a very simple realization: We need more of what I saw on Memorial Day—devotees who know and like each other gathered with a sense of belonging and care in genuine community expertly and selflessly engaged in service.


To address this need, I have started Metro Mantra Sanga. It’s a simple idea: I am organizing a yearly calendar of events—home programs and festivals—in the metropolitan area to provide more opportunities for participation and service in devotion and thus bring like-minded people together in spiritual community. On occasion we will also invite other devotees to enlighten us—some of whom are close to us but don’t have local platforms to share their wisdom.


Many of my students and followers render service and/or participate in other communities’ gatherings, events, and online groups, and I encourage them to continue to do so. Metro Mantra Sanga just adds another resource for in-person community and devotional service.



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