This year’s MAN-tra Retreat, held from November 12th to 14th, explored “The Hero’s Journey,” a common story template that involves a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a crisis, and comes home transformed. The retreat applied the template to the life of devotees, who often see a similar awakening or call to adventure, followed by trials and transformation.
There were over 100 registrants from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries for this fourth annual MAN-tra Retreat, the second held online due to the pandemic. Organized by Bhaktimarga Swami, ISKCON Communications Director Anuttama Das, and Canadian devotees Rajarshi Ray, Mangalananda, and Bader Soma, the event was MCd by the energetic Vallabha Hari Das.
Speakers included Yogesvara Das, who gave a keynote speech on The Hero’s Journey from a Krishna conscious perspective, and Radhika Ramana Das, who spoke about the need to enlist the help of guides, gurus, and mentors on the path, and to play those roles for others.
In “The Call to Adventure: Marrying the Mission,” panelists Madhvacharya Das, Yugal Kishore Das, and Chaitanya Charan Das spoke about responding to the call and giving the mission one’s all. Each of the three are highly accomplished professionals with advanced degrees, who also give their full hearts to teaching Krishna consciousness in different ways.
In “Being a Hero in Marriage / Making an Ally,” Partha Das of the Grihastha Vision Team gave practical tips on how to be a better partner, and how a grihastha’s spouse is the ally they need to be successful in the hero’s journey.
In “Stand and Fight: Facing our Fear,” panelists Jagannath Pandit Das, Tamohara Das, and Tota Gopinath Das shared how they had overcome tremendous trauma in their lives, and spoke about the importance of both going deep into sadhana and taking shelter of Krishna, and of caring for our emotional, physical and social needs.
In “Big Heroes DO Cry,” professional chaplains Rambhoru Dasi and Ghanashyam Das spoke about men and grief; about how setbacks, crises, and problems are a part of life; and about how to deal with grief and learn from it rather than burying it. And in “Heroes Forgive,” Mahatma Das spoke about the healing power of forgiveness, the need for forgiveness, and forgiving ourselves.
In addition, Gaura Vani and Bada Hari Das delivered sweet kirtan, Dravida Das performed “Mantra Raps,” and professional comedian Yadunath Das presented two comedy sketches, “The Bhakta” and the “Fanatic,” as well as a moving one-man play entitled “On the Bowery with Srila Prabhupada.” Finally the world premiere of “The Embassy,” a film depicting “an intense display of emotional clashing between Duryodhana and Krishna, where peace and aggression come together,” was presented by Bhaktimarga Swami and company.
Anuttama Das hopes that many will gain practical insights on how to be better devotees and better men by watching the sessions on YouTube and that Man-TRA can serve as a prototype for other men’s groups around the world.
“Man-TRA has developed into an in-depth sanga among men, talking about some of the real issues we face,” he says, “Such as responding to and overcoming our own fears, understanding our emotions and how we can use them in Krishna’s service, and the importance of sanga to help us address the challenges of having material bodies and minds.”
Bhaktimarga Swami adds: “At MAN-tra we speak about subject matters that we normally don’t talk about. The content is deeply penetrating, healing, and very enriching. The subject matter lays down a great foundation for building up your Krishna consciousness. We are planning for future sessions, physical and virtual. If you’re in a KC guy’s body, we’ll see you there.”
Watch all the videos from the MAN-tra retreat here:mantra-retreat ] [ online-education ] [ retreat ]