Easter holiday in the Retreat for communion with Krishna
By Arthur Lederer
I have a confession to make. The experience in the Retreat for Communion with Krishna really surprised me. In a very good way, that is.
Lets stat from the beginning – I should introduce myself. I am what you might call an experienced practitioner of Yoga, a teacher of Yoga and meditation and I even organize various yoga workshops and camps. You could say that Yoga is my passion, the system which gives the best solutions to my needs and to the needs of Humanity as a whole. In Natha Yogacenter I found this system taught in its totality – including all its esoteric elements which grant it great efficiency. Finding what I naturally consider a great treasure of spiritual knowledge I of course aimed to benefit of it as best I could, partaking in many spiritual retreats, and they were all marvelous experiences full of life lessons indeed. Yet, with time, the numbing anesthetic which is the feeling of familiarity crept into my heart. It is like doing something you love, again and again, until after a while it becomes somewhat mechanic and less joyful. So when I heard that Natha will hold a Retreat for communion with Krishna – there was no question whether or not I will participate. I knew it would be great. I knew what to expect. I was wrong.
Isn’t it great to be still surprised from time to time? Isn’t it great to experience things for the first time? That is what this retreat was like for me – a constant surprise, a perpetual wonder.
Who is Krishna and what does he have to do with us?
In the opening lecture of the retreat the purpose of the retreat was clarified, removing confusion or superficial dogmatic misunderstandings.
Krishna is what is called in Sanskrit an ‘Avatar’ – meaning an incarnation or embodiment of the Supreme Consciousness (just as Jesus was in another time and place). Through him humanity has received an important spiritual teaching aiming to set humanity on its course to harmony and the fulfillment of its full potentiality – the uplifting of the individual consciousness to unite with its origin. In every age a teacher comes to show the way- and Krishna’s message is of great relevance today as it ever was. But Krishna is not just the mouth through which these divine teachings were delivered – he also embodies them in his being, he is the living example of following these teachings, the example of the crowning achievement when one reaches success through these teachings. The teacher shows the path, and in the same time he is the path himself. Therefore, in this retreat we aimed to tune our being to this mysterious reality of Krishna, allowing the enlightening teachings which he embodies to grow within us, expanding our consciousness beyond the ego perspective into the Divine Spheres.
Well, isn’t that a mouthful? And yet, so it was.
First day went by in a bit of a blur. Chalk it up to coming tired to the retreat. An introduction to the reality of Krishna was given and I started to feel that I am not entirely present, that my energy is low. Then I was initiated into a secret Mantra that can be used in meditation to tune in with the sphere of consciousness of Krishna. After the initiation we all meditated with this mantra together. Now it was obvious – I am tired. This will not do. Yet, this is nothing a good meal and a good sleep in a comfortable bed won’t cure. And that is just what I got in Paradise Retreat Center where the Krishna Retreat was hosted.
Next day I was a new man.
The day started with a special tantric way of practicing yoga in a couple. In this modality called ‘couple asanas’ the yogic positions (‘Asanas’ in Sanskrit) are made by a couple of man-woman, the energy flowing in a circuit between the two persons and the effects are amplified and shared between them, the woman integrating the masculine qualities and the man integrating the feminine ones. I arranged with another participant in the retreat, a lovely woman, to practice together. I have practiced couple-asanas before, but this time there was a new twist: within the practice of each yogic position was evoked the specific energy of Krishna. Well, that did it. I am awake and I don’t want to miss out on any moment – this was my feeling in this practice. It was the feeling of waking up after a long winter-sleep with a hunger for life. From one yogic position to another the energy woke in my being, I felt my being expanding ever so slightly yet gradually with joy and I wanted to be nowhere else then here and now.
A light yet delicious breakfast out in the sunlight and back inside to a session of initiatic theoretic revelations about the Reality of Krishna. This time I am more present. I will not say what was said but I will say that beyond the words I perceived something else, an idea, a vision of life or maybe more exact a vision of living. ‘I want to live’ my heart started to whisper to me, but how?
The answer did not take long to arrive. The theoretic session was followed by a one hour meditation with the Mantra for Communion with Krishna that I have been given the previous day. Sinking deeper and deeper into the meditative space, like a rock sinking effortlessly toward the bottom of a lake, I noticed one by one the veils of my mind melting away, the bars of my mental prison dissolving. Then it donned on me – love, love is the answer.
When you shout in the mountains and your voice echoes off the cliffs, gradually fading - does it ever truly ends, or does it echo forever? This meditation echoed throughout the day and beyond. ‘to live, to love’ my heart whispers through the lunch – finding joy in the simple things that so often go unnoticed. Then off we go to the beach, ‘live the moment, love the wind on your skin’, and there is joy. The waves kissing the beach, the conversation with those with me on the sand – it is joy. Even the cold water of the Baltic sea on my skin as I plunge into them is joy. I am alive.
Back to Paradise Retreat Center. Another theoretic session. Ideas and notions gradually crystallize in me. The words are the words of Gregorina Bivolaru, the founder of Natha yogacenter with all its international sister schools and the author of its system of spiritual growth. I cannot but feel admiration to the man who put down such a remarkable synthesis of information and ideas and infused it with energy so it becomes a fertile seed that may grow into a great tree. And gratitude, that I feel as well. The notions are presented at times by Advaita Stoian, the coordinating teacher of Natha and direct disciple of Bivolaru, in other times by his wife and right-hand Adina, and on occasion by Catalin Balilescu who I know to be an appreciated yoga teacher. At times they stop and clarify some ideas, give examples, answer questions. What is clear to me is that the mysterious Reality of Krishna is alive in them. I see it glowing in their eyes and vibrating on their voices. Advaita especially seems to radiate this reality – I suddenly realize that he seems to be relaxed and joyous in every one of his actions, embodying one of Krishna’s teachings called Karma Yoga which can be summed up as ‘Act without acting’.
In the evening we watched the first part of a film called ‘the Mahabarata’. This is an adaptation to film of the ancient epic text by the same name, which was written thousands of years ago and describes the event surrounding a great war between good and evil – this was the stage on which Krishna originally appeared and gave his teachings. I say ‘adaptation to film’ because the original text is enormous in its magnitude, so much so that even after the adaptation the movie is almost 6 hours long. But have no fear – we did not watch it in a single night, but split it over several evening. Advaita starts with an introduction to the film: the author is telling the story to the Soul of Man, and in the same time it is the story of the Soul – its origin and its journey into creation and back to its origin. The author writes the story while he is telling it and the listener transforms in the process – in the words of the author ‘'if you listen carefully, at the end you will be someone else’. And so I did, and so I was. Advaita stops the movie from time to time to comment and explain the symbolism. The legends come to life, and I feel something steering deep within me.
The Divine Life
The days follow one another, a new routine take place: couple-asanas in the morning, theoretical initiatic lectures, meditation, more lectures. But no feeling of routine is felt. On the contrary, after each meditation the world looks more luminous, as if born a new. In the breaks sometime I go with others on trips to forest, lake or meadow, other times I practice yoga on the sunlit grass in the garden of Paradise Retreat Center. On some evenings we watch the continuation of the ‘Mahabarata’ and I discover myself in the great tale. One evening we lit a bonfire and around it we gather, baking bread on a stick while Louise (a tantric teacher form Natha with beautiful eyes and sweet voice) tells stories and recites poems about the life of Krishna. Here is a fragment of a poem which in particular is my favorite:
‘’ Sweet are His lips and His mien is sweet.
Sweet are His eyes as His smiles are sweet.
Sweet is His heart as His bearing is sweet.
The Lord of sweetness is entirely sweet.
Lord Sri Krishna is entirely sweet.
Sweet are His words as His actions are sweet.
Sweet is His dress as His posture is sweet.
Sweet is His gait as His gestures are sweet.
The Lord of sweetness is entirely sweet.
Lord Sri Krishna is entirely sweet.
Sweet is His flute and His foot-dust is sweet.
Sweet are His hands, as His blue feet are sweet.
Sweet is His dance and His friendship is sweet.
The Lord of sweetness is entirely sweet.
Lord Sri Krishna is entirely sweet.’’
Some of the lovely women spontaneously rose and started to dance, and I could not but think to myself ‘this life is full of wonders’.
On another evening Adina guided a ritual of adoration of Krishna. For me that evening did not take place on earth. It was as though the entire event took place on some other dimension, where the air was made of love. Step by step I discovered the presence of Krishna within me and within all else around me.
At other times, on some breaks some participants in the retreat took out guitars and stated to play, on other times still couples withdrew to hidden corners of the garden to embrace. A life full of wonders indeed.
On Easter eve we made a special meditation to evoke the moment of the Resurrection of Christ and the next day we shared at noon a joyous Easter meal in the garden of Paradise.
Yet for me, the days are not marked by the procession of these events but rather by a growing feeling of a continuous miracle. More and more I let myself go and let my mind cease its relentless chatter. More and more I find in the peace that now grows in me the presence of my heart. More and more I chose to be alive in this moment. And then – the moment revels itself in front of me with colors so vivid, things that I never noticed appear with splendor and a joy of life takes over me. I find that loves guides my actions and joy fills them. Above all these, I notice a mysterious presence, it is the sphere of consciousness of Krishna I know. Life was made to be divine it is the very act of the supreme consciousness manifesting itself and becoming aware of itself. A thought came up in me ‘Can I always live like this?’ I smile and answer to myself ‘How can I not?’
In this state of being everything is discovered as having depth and meaning. How can it not be when everything is connected to everything – all things being entwined in the string of Life? God, it seems, continuously talks to us, though we rarely listen. Yet, sometimes he raises his voice a bit louder – I noticed two such instances right in the middle of the Krishna Retreat. Two clear signs which are mentioned in various traditions as messages from the Divine. On Thursday the 17th of April, we woke in the morning to witness a rainbow around the sun, in the skies above Paradise. In all traditions and cultures the rainbow has been associated with divine harmony, beauty and goodness, and seen as a bridge or a means of communication between God and man, between spirit and matter.
The very same day, during the lunch break a completely white dove landed among us as we were eating, and stood just inches away from us for over 30 minutes, un-moving and unafraid. The white dove symbolizes in christen mysticism the Holy Spirit. This sign for me was especially clear since just the previous evening in a discussion a friend of mine mentioned the special significance of a completely white dove. Just to be clear – doves are not a topic I speak about every night.
As we stood there and watched these signs the state which filled me was one of wonder, of the mystery of God’s existence in every atom of the Universe and within my own heart, and the realization that by loving Life I love God.
3 days past
Three days have passed since the end of the retreat. I am sitting putting my thoughts and feelings into writing. A great smile spreads on my face and warmth in my heart as I remember these experiences.
I have the mantra, and I meditate with it every day. The question I asked myself during the retreat rises again in my mind ‘Can I continue to live the Divine Life every day?’ and I again answer ‘Can I not?’.
After experiencing the joy and wonder of life, why should anyone chose to go back to sleep. Yet I know this is not the end of the road, nor is it its beginning. It is but another turn in the path of life, another lesson. And I know, to be truly alive is a choice that must be taken again and again in every moment, a choice that must be practiced and deepen, is not a theory but a way of life. Luckily, I have the tools for that, given over courses and camps in Natha. From this perspective, this retreat is not finished for me, it continues in my heart.
How does one ends a review of something which never ends? The best way I can think of is the final words of the Mahabarata – itself a story without end:
‘’You have known neither Paradise nor Hell. Here there is no Happiness, no punishment, no family, no enemies. Rise in tranquility. Here words end, like thought. This was your last illusion’’.