Chakra Announcements

Railroad Square Project Needs Help

by Garuda das (Tallahassee, Florida)

Posted March 18, 2009

For seven years, I've been living on 40 acres in Tallahassee, Florida, two hours northwest of Alachua, Florida. At Bliss Farm we hold spiritual events and festivals, and I assist rainbow/travelers who need a place to stay by teaching them farming, the bhakti-yoga lifestyle, and I offer programs to quit smoking and drugs, and various types of personal help that are part and parcel of giving shelter to others. As you know, the world is in a precarious position and that position will not improve any time soon. The "horse pill" needed to heal our crippled world consists of three ingredients:

(1) Get back to the earth (in the Vraja spirit);

(2) Get back to each other (forming spiritual communities); and

(3) Get back to Godhead (devotional service to the Lord).

I am writing to ask for advice and help with my preaching projects and to share my inspiration in these matters.

Besides the above mentioned Bliss Farm project, my urban preaching strategy is firmly established, full of potential and gaining momentum. There are difficulties with my urban project which I will share, but I need creative ideas and practical help in managing it. There's an "art park" in Tallahassee called Railroad Square. This art park is in a wonderful locale, being situated midway between Tallahassee's two major universities, Florida State University and Florida A & M University. It is also in a direct line to the city's community college, thereby giving us access to three colleges, totaling 70,000 students.

For two semesters last year, I offered free yoga/bhakti-yoga classes in someone else's back door (not store front) yoga space at Railroad Square, and the response was overwhelming. We made several devotees, and hundreds of new individuals attended the classes. I passed out thousands of fliers on the campuses to accomplish this. In these classes we do achman, tilaka (with mantras), teach general yogi and sattvic lifestyle, and dress in a practical wardrobe (kurta, yogi pants). I also teach a rigorous program of hatha-yoga (which I'm certified to teach), mantra-yoga (kirtana and japa), and classes on daily Vaisnava practices (including Vaisnava songs and prayers). ABhagavad-gita sloka/class is part of the mix, with discussion, all wrapped up in one to one and one-half hours' class time. I send the advanced students home with a Bhagavad-gitastudy assignment.

Because I could not maintain the rent at the previous location, I unfortunately had to shut down these classes. Since that time I have been pining to get a store front in Railroad Square (it is really a warehouse row, but they're all artistically decorated), and though the demand is high to get into Railroad Square, the lady who manages it wanted to help me out and placed me at the head of the list to get me in. This happened on February 1 of this year. The storefront we were offered is in one of the most visible and centrally located spots.

I have a strong desire to see this center continue and thrive and am reaching out to those who have a strong desire to help souls in this world and wish to offer some financial (or personal) help and advice. My plate is totally full with service: keeping the 40-acre farm project stable is practically a full-time job. In these uncertain times I still work to generate survival income, simply doing house painting (but customers and jobs have slackened considerably). My steady preaching efforts have a 20-year history. I have reached out in innovative ways that have brought good success. Because I have a strong desire to do urban preaching, I am asking for help or advice with this cause. I am trying to figure out how to manage to pay the rent on the Railroad Square store front so we can maintain the free yogi training (yoga) classes.

One may ask: "Why not charge for yoga classes?" My strategy has been: to advertise and teach for free, because, from my experience, if I widely advertise the classes as free,vastly more people seem to come through the doors. Classes run seven days a week, and many of them are packed. As a spiritual teacher, now 42 years old, meeting all these kids and teaching so many seekers is a great joy for the soul. I am trying to preach by following in the footsteps of the mood that Srila Prabhupada exhibited in the early days while bringing so many lost souls to Krishna consciousness, and I try also to follow Srila Prabhupada's standard by not watering down the teachings. The intensity of our strict Vaisnava teachings, offered in a kind way, sifts out those (among the hundreds) who are not serious and keeps those who are attracted coming back for more. I do have a donation jar (which I emphasize), but so far this scarcely covers printing costs for the thousands of fliers needed to reach out to the students, what to speak of the utilities, gasoline (commuting from the farm is expensive), books, etc. I have hopes that, in time, the city and country preaching projects will become fully self-sufficient, but I am unsure as to how to move things in that direction. For the present, I'm just hoping to keep the doors open and continuing to expand a congregation.

Besides being just blocks away from large college campuses and being situated in an ultra popular, easy-to-find location (everyone in town has heard of Railroad Square), there are 1,000 to 3,000 or more people walking by the spot on the Square's big event nights. This place is "hopping" on event nights, and there is much exposure to the center. To set up a higher profile, we have built a 14-foot deck and a 16-foot-high sign visible from a block away, and the interior has been decorated in a way that is awe-inspiring to our guests (thanks to some skills I have acquired in interior decorating). Inspired by Srila Prabhupada's and Krishna's peace formula, we call the place "Peace on Earth Center."

I have a strong desire to preach in a friendly way, and, by Krishna's grace, I have the physical energy and experience to do this effectively. I have the skills to build and nicely decorate the center, and I have the connections that got my foot in the door, but I am not sure how to secure steady rent money that will make this outreach to the needy jiva souls continuous. We have a few regular monthly sponsors that help a little each month, but we still fall drastically short. If someone feels inspired to see our farm continue, as well as to help with an incomparably strong outreach preaching program to help souls, then, penny-for-penny this program can be a very direct and effective way that one could effectively help introduce new people to Krishna consciousness.

By Lord Caitanya's mercy, I've been able to convincingly share the message of our founding guru, Srila Prabhupada, and his ISKCON, with this generation of young people. If this sounds interesting, please come for a visit and see the programs in action for yourself and become convinced to take part, either by donations or directly by service. Donations should be made out to Railroad Square. If you require, I can supply references from ISKCON temple presidents and well known senior devotees. Email: garudadasa@yahoo.com