Swami arrived in North Carolina on the third of April to what felt like an entire state in eager anticipation of his month-long visit. The tour began at the Kindred House in Winston-Salem with a lecture on “Three Moments of God: Being, Knowing, and Loving,” preceded by a Bharatnatyam dance by Gaurangi-priya devi. The audience, coming from as far as Kansas, spilled into other rooms of the house.
The following morning, Swami and a seemingly growing entourage of locals headed to Sandy Ridge for three days of kirtana and lectures. Maharaja spoke on a wide variety of subjects, exploring everything from an essential understanding of scripture’s descriptions of the material world, to the significance of the three primary deities of Vrindavan, to Sri Baladeva’s rasa-lila. On Saturday the seventh, several devotees received harinama and diksa initiations at the first initiation ceremony to be held at Radha-Kanailal’s Krishna Road Mandira. During the initiation, Swami recounted a number of charming histories involving Srila Sridhara Maharaja, including how Swami was awarded the epithet “Bhakti Vedanta.”
Jason became Subalananda dasa
Stacia became Jayasri dasi
Kevin became Krsnacandra dasa
Nantatma became Sevanandi dasi
Nantatma, Indranuja, Nandini, and Gopala all received diksa.
After four days of hearing and chanting, Swami and crew were anxious to get out to the land at Saragrahi, the developing eighty-acre community and retreat center outside of Asheville. During a picnic held the first day in the area, Swami spoke informally about his vision for Saragrahi as both a retreat center and a service directly to the Gaudiya community. He then went around the crowd and spoke in praise of a number of the devotees and their various roles in Sri Caitanya Sangha of North Carolina throughout the years and culminating in this wonderful project.
At that point in the month there were three devotees living nearby the land and working long hours to establish the organic farm that will be a major component of the future community. Additionally, three more devotees had just bought a house (now, Ananda Ashram—on Joy Lane) and were moving in as the April tour began. Ever a visionary, Swami quickly set to work putting in a road, surveying, and clearing land plots to help members of the sanga get a glimpse of what their future life at Saragrahi could be. Apparently it was an effective approach as Swami returned to Audarya at the end of April with five out of the six preliminary lots sold to enthusiastic families looking to begin building their homes as soon as July. In less than a year since the acquisition of the raw property, Saragrahi now has preliminary roads, cleared building sites, initial subdivisions, an organic farm, milking cows, ten devotees living within minutes of the property, and, perhaps most noteworthy, lots of momentum. Plans are already underway for adding more parcels to the land as it becomes increasingly clear how much interest there is among the wider community of bhaktas.
With the Saragrahi community functioning as a sort of base camp, Swami and the other devotees ventured out for lectures and kirtanas around the state, returning again to Winston-Salem and Sandy Ridge and visiting Cary and Hillsborough as well. The enthusiasm for sanga and for the Saragrahi project itself was palpable throughout the state, causing more than one visitor to comment on the inspiring sense of community at all the functions. The entire month saw a steady stream of visitors from up and down the East Coast, as well as a few from the Midwest and even the Pacific Northwest.
The tour concluded with a series of lectures continuing Swami’s ongoing classes on Srimad-Bhagavatam. Although overjoyed by Swami’s longest stay in North Carolina to date, the devotees were sad to see the month end and are looking forward to Swami’s return in the fall and to the ongoing developments at Saragrahi.
At the end of April, Swami returned to Audarya, where the summer garden preparations are in full swing. He will be there, excluding a brief visit to Portland the weekend of May 13th, until he heads to Madhuvan, Costa Rica for the month of June.