Archive for the tag 'retreat'

Monday Morning Greetings #23 – The Perfect Vacation

June 6th, 2016

I just finished our 2nd international bhakti retreat at our beautiful Shyam Ashram in Cali, Colombia. On our first day I posited reasons for taking a spiritual retreat:

  1. Recreational: You may just need to get away, especially if you live in the city, to relax in a more spiritual atmosphere, especially where there is kirtan and the devotees.
  2. Educational: There is a specific subject you want to learn, like meditation or the Gītā, and the retreat is based on that.
  3. Experiential: There is no specific educational objective, but a variety of activities keeps one immersed in devotional service and gives one a deep devotional experience.
  4. Transformational: We have certain life patterns that inhibit our spiritual growth. The retreat is organized to help us confront them, often by taking us out of our comfort zone. For one who is not familiar with the path of bhakti, just being in a retreat based on devotional objectives may be challenging in a transformative and healthy way.

There can be many reasons for a spiritual retreat, from recreational to transformative, but the main purpose that ties all of those reasons together is that we need to find times of the year to move from our day-to-day life to exclusively focus on God. A good example of this is the story of the elderly sage Vidura. He was deeply insulted and then physically thrown out of the kingdom by his evil nephew, King Duryodhana. However, Vidura was spiritually astute enough to see the hand of God. He thus heard his tribulation as the voice of God telling him that it was time to leave his kingdom. His response was like a mantra for pilgrimage:
vratāni cere hari-toṣaṇāni — “I make a vow, only for the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa.”
One advances in spiritual life when his meditation or devotional service is focused. The yoga sūtras specifically defines spiritual practice as the effort to concentrate, which bears fruits when that concentration is prolonged without interruption and with an understanding of it sacredness or importance.
Just as we need times of the time of the day for this type concentration, sādhana, and times of the month, ekādaśī, and even times of the life, vānaprastha or sannyāsa, we need retreats or pilgrimage — times of the year exclusively reserved for God.
In modern life, where it is often difficult to find even the time of day for concentration, finding times of the year, pilgrimage, is essential. The realizations gained by a prolonged and uninterrupted focus on the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa can last a lifetime.
Back to our 2nd international bhakti retreat at our beautiful Shyam Ashram in Cali Colombia — the beauty and food of this place is unparalleled, but it seemed our visitors more than enjoying the beautiful atmosphere, they were deeply transformed by its spiritual focus.
It was pilgrimage — the perfect vacation.