A Weekend of Spiritual Development
On the 6th February 2015, over a hundred eager devotees were ready to attend a three-day retreat to the ‘Hidden Secrets of Bhakti’, led by one of the most special souls around, His Holiness Sacinandana Swami. And a group of inspired youths were fortunate enough to organise it.
On the eve of the Friday, seated and ready to leave, it looked as if we weren’t going anywhere because as luck would have it, the coach battery went flat. With no heating, no light and being unable to find an engine big enough to jump-start the coach, we were stuck in the cold for what seemed to be three very long hours.
Though during all this, no one complained. No one whined but rather humbly accepted what was happening. I’ve been on school trips before where there have been constant delays and constant complaining about there being constant delays. Here, there was nothing of that sort. It showed me the true nature of devotees: their tolerance and patience throughout everything. Finally, we were able to start the engine and set off.
We arrived at Buckland Hall later that evening. What was needed first and foremost was a good night’s rest so that we were ready for seminars the next day.
Given the four-hour sleep, waking up the following morning was proving to be a mission. What motivated us was seeing HH Sacinandana Swami. As 7am approached, all the devotees were in the main hall and sure enough, at 7.10am, HH Sacinandana Swami gracefully walked down the main staircase. It seemed as though the sight of him woke us all up. It was almost as if the tiredness just drained out of us.
As the day grew brighter, I was in awe of the place we were staying in. Buckland Hall is stunning. It overlooks acres of beautiful land, the accommodation is second to none and the staff are so incredibly helpful and friendly. Everything we needed was there and everything we asked for was given. It is truly the perfect place for a spiritual retreat.
At 8.30 am sharp, having eaten well, we started our class. Maharaj introduced his dharma life model where he explained that in order to find our unique purpose in life, we must follow the four pillars of the dharma house: truthfulness, compassion, discipline and inner and outer purity. This doesn’t just mean thinking about them but acting and understanding the need for them. Maharaj stressed that it is better to follow your own path of dharma imperfectly than to follow someone else’s perfectly. This resonated with me. Being a student in central London, it’s so easy for us to try and fit in with everyone else. What we don’t realise is that by doing so, we forget how to stay true to ourselves.
Throughout the two days, it was evident that everyone was just so happy being with one another. There was a family-like feel. It was a time for everyone to relax and be spiritually encouraged with the added factor of the association.
Srila Prabhupada said, “By association with pure devotees, dirty things within the heart are gradually washed away by the grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna.” By serving on the trip team, I have realised just how true this is. As humans, we are easily influenced by our peers and our elders, but being influenced by the devotees has such a positive effect on our lives. They say that your persona is made up of the five people you spend the most time with. If the five people you spent time with the most were all devotees, just imagine how pure your qualities would be.
Krishna Consciousness gives us a platform to share our spiritual realisations with people just like us. This retreat provided an opportunity to look deeper into the type of identity we want to have. It not only created new relationships, but also strengthened the ones that were already formed. I found out just how special being in the presence of devotees is and how it truly helps us on our path to spirituality. Planning and organising such an amazing retreat was the highlight for me, as through all the glitches, we still managed to stay anchored and focused in the service we were doing.
Since then, I am fortunate enough to now have a mentor to share my spiritual realisations with and every week I set goals for myself on each dharma house pillar. The mentorship retreat has honestly been one of the best experiences I have ever had and to share this unique time with amazing devotees has made it even more wonderful.
“Live by the dharmic code and be that unique person you were created to be.” HH Sacinandana Swami
– Neha Pankhania, studying Mathematics with Finance at King’s College London