Written by Nimai
The Drakensberg Mountains are about midway between the cities of Durban and Johannesburg. Spiritual retreats with Kadamba Kanana Swami started there in January 2005 and took place for three consecutive years. After a nine year break, devotees from all over South Africa gathered again for five days of great association.
We arrived at the Mont Aux Souces hotel on Sunday, 03 January and stayed until the 7th. Soon after reaching the hotel, Maharaj gave a class to introduce all the devotees to the retreat. He spoke about the two realities – the physical/material reality and the spiritual reality. He explained how we have to put our energy into spiritual life to make progress and to visualise this, he used the analogy of the material and the spiritual leg, where we take a step forward and shift the weight towards the spiritual side.
In the days that followed, Maharaj gave a many inspiring talks and there were some ecstatic kirtans as well!
On the second day, the class was based on the Priti Sandarbha, a wonderful book written by Jiva Goswami, with quotes from the Bhagavatam. The following day, Maharaj went on to explain the three types of devotees, namely kanistha (neophyte), madhyam (intermediate) and uttama adikhari (topmost). We learned about the kanistha, who has weak faith and many material desires, and about the madhyam, who has strong faith and therefore does not pursue his material desires. In the evening class, Maharaj finished off the topic by describing the uttama adikhari. Then he spoke about Uddhava, who was sent to Vrindavan as a messenger of Krishna and was just amazed by the love the gopis showed for Krishna. But Uddhava went as an outsider and Maharaj pointed out how this is also our situation. We cannot fully enter into Vrindavan yet, therefore we must take shelter of the philosophy and of the mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
During the retreat, we went for two morning walks/hikes. It was lots of fun, even though on the way back from the first walk, it became really hot and exhausting. Because of this, a smaller group of people ventured out the next day. The second walk led to what used to be a big waterfall. It had turned into a small trail of water due to the severe drought currently being experienced in South Africa. Maharaj gave a wonderful talk when we reached the ‘waterfall’, saying how we should learn from nature instead of living such artificial lives. He also spoke about ‘counting our blessings’ which means that we should appreciate all the good things we have in life. It was indeed very inspiring!
On Wednesday evening, there was a special program since it was the last evening. We had an ecstatic kirtan and then Maharaj mentioned amongst many other things, different types of intelligence. The lecture was followed by several performances, one of them being a professionally performed drama showing the struggles in life with the three modes of material nature. Then devotees re-enacted some incidents which happened during the retreat, in a funny way! One of them showed the situation, where Maharaj almost walked into a snake.
Before we left the hotel on Thursday, Maharaj gave a final class where he thanked everyone for coming to the retreat and then we drove back to Durban. On Friday and Saturday, Maharaj did evening programs in Pietermaritzburg and Phoenix. On Sunday morning, we travelled to Johannesburg for a double dose of programs – the first was a mid-morning one at the Lenasia temple, followed by an afternoon one in Midrand which brought an end to the January visit to South Africa. On Monday (11 January), we left for Europe and we are currently in Czech!