Vaisnava Ecumenism in Germany
Posted May 24, 2008
Meeting Vaishnavas from different communities, from May 9 to May 11 a breakthrough took place in Goloka Dhama, Germany: over 100 devotees of different gurus and maths from all over Germany and Switzerland came together for the first time in history. Dina Sharana dd, the GBC representative for Germany, also attended.
Right from the beginning the atmosphere was very cordial and nice. The open and honest gatherings with all the devotees were so exciting that even after hours no one wanted to leave, although breakfast prasadam was already waiting. One devotee after another in the big circle was invited to say something, whatever they felt in their hearts, about their experiences and realisations. Many spoke about their problems to follow all the regulative principles and about their former fears to be punished by God. Many expressed their heartfelt desire to practice Bhakti with joy and without fear.
Together with many ISKCON devotees, there were disciples of Narayana Maharaja, Sadhu Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada, Bhakti Pramod Puri Maharaja, Tripurari Maharaja, Ananta das Babaji and other Gurus. Many of them have practised Krishna consciousness for over 30 years. We experienced how simply and harmoniously we can work together without the unnecessesary boundaries of institutions.
Already in 1930 Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had written in his famous "Putana" article: "The churches have always proven to be representatives of the most gross forms of worldliness. The former intention of these established churches (religious iinstitutions) may not have been always doubtful, but we see that no religious institution was successful in spiritually uplifting the masses. Indeed, the idea of an organised church marks the end of a living spiritual movement."
Therefore, I find it important that there are free Vaisnava meetings, independent from any religious institutions. We are happy that we could also revive and contribute substantially to the project Goloka Dhama.
We had a seminar called "Free Bhakti" from Ram das (author of several interesting books on this subject matter, backed up by many astonishing quotes from the scriptures) on how we can practice bhakti free from neurotic fears. facilitated a seminar called "Liberation from painful beliefs and thought patterns", whilst Krishna Candra spoke about "Fundamentalism and the interpretation of the scriptures in Krishna consciousness".
Evening bhajanas went on for hours. The cooking, the prasadam distribution and the cleaning up scarcely needed to be organized, since all shared the spirit of serving together. No one felt overburdened, and everyone donated generously.
The final "talking circle" on Monday morning was especially moving, and devotees expressed their feelings that the Vaisnava community has grown out of the institutional boundaries into a new era of cooperation. It is unnecessary to defend the truth, since it is self-effulgent. All reported they felt the strong urge to have exchanges with other devotees irrespective of which line they came from. Our common ground is overwhelming, and those who had been worried about how this could take place in peace and harmony soon felt that no one had any bad intentions.
This "Meeting of Companions on the Journey" was certainly an important step towards reducing fears through having deep exchanges with others and towards a positive Krishna conscious future.
Spiritual sanga flourishes when those who come together have enough integrity ant maturity not to be threatened by the developed individuality of the others. For some on the spiritual path, the individual learning-and-growing process of other souls is perceived as a threat, and human beings can get aggressive when they feel attacked, especially when they are fundamentalist and fear that their religious dogmas are being questioned.
Having association based on these principles, the ongoing judging of others does not take place, because individuality is really experienced, so that of others is not felt as a threat. This enables one to really openly search for the truth, for Radha and Krishna. In religious institutions the other group members are often experienced as restrictive and judgmental; thus one's own thinking and feeling becomes restricted.
For fulfilling exchanges and personal developement one has to overcome the feeling of being dependant on a group or institution, but rather develop one's indivudual relationship with God. It requires a strong basis of one's own experiences and respect for the inner track of life, internal conscience (The Latin word for being deaf to the inner guidance is ab-surdus). The conscience of the heart is likely to go beyond the norms and forms of religious institutions.
Many senior devotees expressed that they had practically lost hope but that this gathering was a breakthrough that had greatly encouraged them. Unanimously, the desire was expressed to have more such free Vaisnava meetings. The next one is already planned for Radhastami, from Sept. 5 to Sept. 7, 2008.