Dear disciples and friends,

Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Here is an update of what I have been doing for the last few weeks.

After returning from Sri Vrindavana Dhama via Mauritius I spent some days in Johannesburg and then went back to Mauritius to spend about a week there with my disciples and doing some preaching programmes. Particularly I attended the Rathayatra there, in Mahebourg over the weekend of December 12-14.

It was a very nice programme, although fraught with a few problems which are typically Mauritian. Mauritius is a wonderful place and there are many wonderful devotees there, although there is a tendency among some to have a very easy going attitude which sometimes translates into a type of inefficiency.

For example, when I was there a year ago for the same Rathayatra, we were told it was going to start at 2pm and that we should be there on time. We were, but when we got there we found there was not a single person there. The place was completely deserted.

So this year we were not in such a rush to get there on time, and even though it was meant to start again at 2pm, by the time 3pm came we were still in the house of my disciple Harideva prabhu and his wife Manasi Ganga, where I was staying, and I was becoming a little anxious. Harideva phoned the devotees at the starting place and they said they were going to start in 5 minutes and that we should get there as soon as possible.

So we drive there, which was about 45 minutes or a little more, and arrived at 4pm, to find out they had started about 5 minutes before we arrived.

Such is Mauritian time!

Anyway, the Mauritian devotees are very nice indeed and I hope they don’t
feel offended when they read this. I apologize if they do.

The programme was very good, particularly on the last day, Sunday the 14th, when we took the small Deities of Radha Golokananda from the altar in the main temple in Phoenix on a boat ride. Mauritius is surrounded by a big coral reef, and inside it there is a lagoon, sometimes almost a kilometer wide, and only about 2 metres deep.

So little Radha Golokananda were placed on a swan boat which was towed behind another boat, and about 500 devotees got on about 40 other boats, and we went out into the lagoon for boating pastimes, something like when Radha and Krishna go boating on Manasi Ganga in Sri Vrindavana Dhama.

For some time we drove around here and there, and then the main boat, towing the Deities, stopped and the other boats drove around Them with kirtana. It was really very nice. Next year the idea is that each boat will approach the Deities’ boat and offer bhoga and then arati, and then distribute the prasadam. It is going to be ecstatic!

The rest of the time I visited some Nama Hattas and did even programmes with them, which is something I always enjoy doing.

I arrived back in South Africa on 19th and did an evening programme at the house of Anil and Sheena, a nice couple from Durban, and then on Saturday the 20th we went to Pietermaritzburg, about an hour’s drive from Durban, and took part in a Deity installation at the house of Krishna Prasada and his wife Radhika Prasada,

As usual it was a wonderful programme, and particularly the kirtana was great. At one point I got a little carried away and dived onto the devotees who then carried me around over their heads! Perhaps I should be a little more conservative in my older age!

On Christmas Day, the 25th I flew to Cape Town for the annual Rathayatra there, which was to be on the 26th. It was a smaller programme than previous years, with maybe 400 people attending. After that I stayed on in Cape Town, working on my latest DVD, of festivals I’ve attended this year in the former Soviet Union, and then I returned to Durban on the 31st for the annual New Year’s Even festival in the Phoenix temple, New Jagannatha Puri.

(One note: there is a Phoenix in Durban, where we have a big temple, and there is also a Phoenix in Mauritius, which I’ve referred to above, where we also have a fairly substantial temple.)

Before the programme I made my yearly visit to the house of Madhumangala prabhu, a disciple of Partha Sarathi Maharaja I have known for many year.  This was the 12th time in a row that I’ve been to his house on New Year’s Eve.

We went to the temple just before 7pm and took part in the final part of a 24 hour kirtana the Phoenix youth group had been having, and then we got into the main programme. I gave a class based on Bhagavad Gita 9.14:

satatam kirtayanto mam
yatantas ca drdha-vratah
namasyantas ca mam bhaktya
nitya-yukta upasate

“Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.”

There’s a practice in the western world of making New Year’s resolutions in which people vow to improve themselves and live better lives etc, but generally nobody fulfills them, and it all ends up being a bit of a joke. But I stressed that in Krishna consciousness it is natural to take vows – after all we take vows when we are initiated, and in general devotees maintain high personal standards and are trying to advance and become more purified and serious in their devotional service.

So I suggested to the devotees that they could consider what might be a reasonable vow they could take. They should review how they’ve done for the last year, and see what direction they would now like to go in, and what particular qualities they might like to develop, and then pray to Srimati Radharani and Lord Krishna to help them work in those directions.

The highlight is always the harinama, and this year was no exception. We’ve been doing the New Year’s Eve programme every year since the new millennium came in, and each time I have led the harinama from beginning to end. But this time Madhumangala started leading it, and I only took over after about 15 or 20 minutes. He was in very ecstatic form and the devotees were chanting and dancing in ecstasy. Then I took over and Madhumangala was dancing wildly amongst the other devotees. At one point he got so carried
away that he collapsed and we were afraid that something had happened to him, but then he got up an continued.

Later other devotees led the kirtana, and particularly Gaura led very nicely.

About 500 devotees went out at about 10pm for almost 2 hours, arriving back at the temple around midnight for the midnight arati and kirtana.

So now it is January 1st 2009. on Monday the 5th I’m flying to Vilnius, Lithuania, for the annual winter festival there with BB Govinda Maharaja and Bhakti Nrsinga Maharaja from South Africa. I will let you know in a while what happens there.

Hoping this meets you well.

Your ever well wisher,

Bhakti Caitanya Swami

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