Chakra Announcements

Hare Krishna Youth Retreat Empowers Second Generation

by Vyenkata Bhatta dasa

Posted August 18, 2005

Washington, D.C. - As the first hints of Back to School sales appear at local malls, some young people will have little more than mosquito bites and sunburn to show for their time off. Sixty high-school and college students, however, may soon find themselves filling their "How I spent my summer vacation" essays with tales of empowerment, inspiration, and even spiritual fulfillment. For four activity-packed days - July 21st to July 25th - these members of generation-Y participated in "Empower," a retreat held in the Washington D.C. area, and organized by Pandava Sena, a youth corps affiliated with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

"I have never been so motivated before in my life," exclaimed Priyanka Tyagi, a 16-year-old from Maryland. "There are so many things that I've always wanted to do, to help the world and to improve my own spiritual life. Thanks to this retreat, I feel like I finally have the tools I need to actually do them." Like her fellow retreat-goers, Priyanka took part in workshops led by motivational speakers and senior devotees from the worldwide Hare Krishna community, on the subject of personal leadership and empowerment.

In addition to the seminars, the retreat featured recreational and team-building activities, like canoeing, hiking, swimming, and a rousing skit competition. A scavenger hunt pit groups against one another as they raced through Washington D.C.'s finest museums for clues; freshly cooked meals, ranging from pancake breakfasts to an authentic vegetarian barbecue, kept the campers energized throughout the scorching days.

Named for the five heroic brothers of the Mahabharata, Pandava Sena started over ten years ago as a task force to prevent the closure of Bhaktivedanta Manor, a large Krishna temple in Watford, England. The highly publicized campaign to keep the Hindu house of worship open, which included a record-breaking demonstration march of over 36,000 people, was a success. Group members kept the momentum going by turning their energy towards organizing festivals, discussions, and get-togethers-all with the aim of sharing their spirituality with their peers. Since then, chapters have been started in several countries around the world, including the North American chapters that hosted this retreat.

For Krsangi Dasi, one of the organizers of the retreat, the theme of empowerment was what set this retreat apart from a host of other religious summer programs in the community. "This wasn't a summer camp run by the adults to preach to their kids. This was a retreat for youth and by youth," she explained, "Our goal was to give [the participants] an opportunity to connect with their leadership potential and own their faith." Discussion topics included "Balancing Individuality and Groups," "The Art of Prayer," "Leadership and Communication," and a lively Q & A session.

"I really liked the fact that I met so many new friends from so many places," Amul Sutaria, a college sophomore from New Jersey, shared. "I felt like because we were all helping each other to grow spiritually, we were able to 'click' really well." Amul added that he planned on keeping in touch with his new friends even once the school year resumed.

For at least one young person, the retreat helped to clarify a few doubts."At first, I was really skeptical about attending a Krishna retreat," he admitted, "But everyone was so open minded and ready to make friends, to learn about each other and Krishna consciousness. I have to say, attending this retreat was one of the greatest things I have ever done."

For more information about the Empower retreat and Pandava Sena in North America, please visit

"A flyer for 'Empower,' a youth retreat by Pandava Sena." (design credit: Pragnesh Surti)

"Pandava Sena youth relax outside of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C." (photo credit: Brijesh Malkan)

"Pandava Sena members enjoy a youthful Hare Krishna kirtan at Avatar Studios." (photo credit: Geeta Joshi)

"Some of the 60 Pandava Sena youth retreat participants." (photo credit: Amul Sutaria)