(iskconnews.org) – On April 21-23rd, Gopal’s Glorious Gang (GGG), a children’s club in Brisbane, Australia, gathered over 100 children (ages 4-16) at Tyalgum Ridge Retreat Centre, New South Wales, for a Bhakti Boost Camp. Gauranga Darshan Das, a well-known educator and author of over 30 books, was a featured guest. Fifteen volunteers and parents helped to organize and execute the event.
GGG aims to help each child become a well-rounded human being through intellectual, personal, and spiritual growth. The children are divided into various classes based on age where they can learn Vedic wisdom, practice musical instruments, act in dramas, play Krishna-conscious games, produce drawings, paint wooden artwork of the deities, engage in kirtan, harinam, book distribution, and more every Sunday from 9 30 am at Centenary State High School, 22 Curragundi Road, Jindalee. “The retreat center also offered an opportunity to experience the splendour of Krishna’s creation through daily outdoor activities, including archery, canoeing, rope courses, biking, raft building, and evening campfires,” said Yashasvee Singhal. Many of the camp’s activities were led by devotee youth who were former students of GGG.
Although early hours were often cold, more than 150 devotees participated in the daily morning program worshiping the Deities of Sri Jagannath Baladeva Subhadra, Sri Giriraj, Saligram Silas, many sets of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, and Srila Prabhupada on the altar. Much of the worship was done by the children leading the chanting. At the retreat’s closing, everyone agreed that the morning programs were the best way to start the day, truly “boosting their bhakti.” “The children felt extremely valued and a sense of accomplishment, as many of them performed deity worship and chanted 16 rounds for the first time,” said Rishi Vasani.
The dining hall at Tyalgum Ridge Retreat, which can accommodate up to 60 families, served Chinese, Italian, and Indian prasada to the devotees. “Honouring prasada together several times a day provided a sense of community and bonding, as all the groups came together to share in the feast and bond over their shared devotion,” said Uma Parmar.
The children enjoyed several sessions with Gauranga Darshan Das on various age-appropriate topics. Younger children heard stories from the Srimad Bhagavatam while the youth explored the importance of setting and achieving goals in a spiritual context. Commenting on the classes, Anwesha Jain said, “This class was especially meaningful because he emphasized the spiritual aspect while addressing the material aspect as well. The children listened attentively, participated enthusiastically in discussions, and asked many questions,” she continued, “A valuable takeaway was the practice of daily chanting to develop concentration and a deep spiritual connection with Lord Krishna.”
While the children were busy hearing from Gauranga Darshan Das, adults explored the glories of the holy name with Shyamananda Krishna Das during three sessions culminating in the chanting of 64 rounds on the final day. On day two of the retreat, the teens debated topics like “Does God exist?” The purpose of the debate was to learn to defeat atheistic philosophy and strengthen children’s faith in Krishna.
The retreat closed with an inspiring visit by Devamrta Swami, who gave an enlivening talk on the glories of the holy name, which along with the earlier classes, helped set the stage for the adults to chant 64 rounds of japa at the close of the retreat. “Many of the adults said they were previously struggling to focus on the chanting but were now able to chant for a longer time with attention,” said Anwesha Jain. “The retreat helped everyone form lasting friendships with other devotees, grow from daily lectures, engage in meaningful service with friends, nourish the body with prasada, and through it all become attached to Krishna’s holy name,” concluded Yashasvee Singhal.
A special thank you to Anwesha, Rishi, Yashasvee, and Uma for providing the event details to ISKCON News.