Since 1995, Manorama Das and his wife Jaya Sri Radhe Dasi of ISKCON Youth Ministry have taken youth on a Krishna conscious festival tour of North America. But this year, they’re changing things up a bit with an innovative new adventure.
They’ve partnered up with Janmastami Das and ISKCON Alachua’s new higher education school the Krishna Institute to offer From Your Heart to the World: A Traveling Kirtan Experience.
Running from May 21st to June 27th, the program will tour the east coast of the USA in ISKCON Youth Ministry’s familiar silver bus, stopping at major kirtan festivals such as the Sadhu Sanga Retreat, New York Rathayatra, Kulimela, and New Vrindaban’s 24 Hour Kirtan.
Youth next to their tour bus, which will carry participants on the Traveling Kirtan Experience
Along the way devotees who have taken kirtan as their life and soul will teach the mood and techniques of the service. Badahari Das will travel with the group for half the tour, Madhava for two weeks, and Amala Harinama and Nadiya Mani for the full duration. Sacinandana Swami, Bhakti Charu Swami, and Rama Raya Das will all contribute during stops.
Uniquely, this tour will be open to participants from 17 years old up to all ages. “I’ve often been asked, “Can you do a bus tour for older devotees too?” Manorama says. “This is it!”
And indeed, people of all ages and backgrounds are seeking to benefit, each in their own way.
Gurukulis are taking time off from college to dive deeper into the nectarean tradition they’ve grown up with.
Bhaktin Rosie from Portland, Oregon, who has been a devotee for just six months, took the plunge and quit her job so she could spend five weeks learning everything possible about kirtan, to be able to hold weekly Harinamas in her home town.
And longtime devotee and parent Rama Nityananda Das is imbibing skills and realizations to take with him to his native Cuba, where he wants to spread Krishna consciousness.
The program will start with a series of seminars in Alachua, Florida. From May 21st to 22nd, Sacinandana Swami and Madhava will facilitate their brand new Dharma Workshop, helping devotees become grounded by discovering their mission in life – what they are uniquely meant to do in this world as a service for Krishna.
On May 23rd, Madhava will talk about “The Qualities and Mood of a Kirtaniya,” drawing from his realizations after many years of 24-hour kirtan with Aindra Das in Vrindavan, India.
And on May 24th to 26th, Sacinandana Swami will offer his Holy Name Retreat, immersing and inspiring everyone in japa and kirtan.
Tour participants will then take the bus to the hugely popular Sadhu Sanga Retreat, which will be held at a retreat center in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Boone, North Carolina.
The festival is North America’s largest kirtan gathering of Hare Krishna devotees, and will include chanting by Agnideva Das, Badaharidas, BB Govinda Swami, Giriraj Swami, Indradyumna Swami, Radhanath Swami, and more along with delicious prasadam and uplifting association.
“The Swamis will also specifically put some time aside to give our tour participants their association,” says Manorama.
From Sadhu Sanga, the tour will go on to Washington D.C., where participants will spend two days at the Potomac temple delving into the bhajans of Bhaktivinode Thakur with Badahari Das.
After that, they’ll spend eleven days in New York City, doing daily Harinamas with Madhava and Rama Raya Das of the New York Harinama Ashram, who also spent many years with Aindra’s 24-Hour Kirtan program.
“During that time, Vaisesika Prabhu, one of the best book distributors in the world, will join us for three days to inspire and train us in how to distribute Prabhupada’s books,” Manorama says. “The idea being that book distribution is the greater kirtan, the brihat mridanga.”
The Sadhu Sanga Retreat
The tour’s time in New York will conclude with a three-day extravaganza as Rathayatra is held on Fifth Avenue and ISKCON’s 50th anniversary is celebrated with wild kirtans, feasting, and dramas by England’s Bhaktivedanta Players.
Next, it’s on to ISKCON’s first farm, New Vrindaban in West Virginia, and the 10th anniversary of Kuli Mela. This festival, which has ‘celebrating family’ and ‘building community’ as its main themes, will draw 1,000 people from the first, second and third generations of ISKCON to attend three days full of seminars, activities, bhajans and entertainment. During the event, a non-stop bhajan kutir will be staffed by Traveling Kirtan Experience participants.
Continuing through the weekend will be New Vrindaban’s huge 24-Hour Kirtan festival, with beloved Kuli chanters joining Srila Prabhupada disciples in calling out the Holy Name. It will be followed by a retreat with Bhakti Charu Swami, who will combine his famously sweet kirtans with talks on Lord Krishna and His Vrindavan pastimes.
Finally, on the way back to Alachua, the tour will stop to visit the new Gaura-Nitai temple at Prabhupada Village in North Carolina; and spend a day of relaxation and sharing realizations on the beach at Hilton Head, South Carolina.
In addition to the festivals and courses, there will be tutoring throughout the tour from Badahari Das, Madhava, Amala Harinama and Nadiya Mani on both practical musical skills and the internal mood of kirtan. This will be offered in not only group, but also individualized sessions, allowing participants to learn at their level, and to their interests.
“So if somebody wants to learn a particular bhajan, then Badahari Prabhu can show them, going from person to person and helping them out,” Manorama says. “We’ll have a lot of mridangas, harmoniums and kartalas with us too, so that people can practice.”
Manorama also reassures youth who are concerned that this tour will be too serious compared to previous tours. “We’re really going to cater to the needs of the individual,” he says. “If you want to dive deep into the nectar, there’s plenty of opportunity, but if you need a break, we’re not going to be super rigid on this tour. There’ll be lots of downtime at temples, sightseeing in New York and Washington D.C., beach relaxation and more. We want everyone to have a good time!”
At the same time, Manorama feels that people will leave the tour with realizations on how kirtan is about trying to please Krishna and His devotees; how in a broader sense kirtan means not just singing and playing instruments, but also any service that glorifies Krishna; and how no matter what their inclination, anyone can find a place in the kirtan world.
“Our hope is to impart Srila Prabhupada’s mood of kirtan – which he got from his guru and the parampara before him -- to the next generation,” he says.
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There are currently only 12 spaces left on the Traveling Kirtan Experience. To book your spot now and get an early bird discount, visit: http://krishnainstitute.org/offering/kirtan-tour-ticket/
For more information, visit:http://krishnainstitute.org/kirtan-from-your-heart-to-the-world/[ harinama ] [ kirtana ]