ISKCON Jhb North

The Vedic City Project will be hosting a Mantra Meditation Seminar in Parkwood, Johannesburg from 10am to 3pm on Saturday 17 July 2010. A healthy Vegetarian Lunch will be served during the break. Twenty spaces are available


Course Facilitator

Mukunda Charan Das has immersed himself in rigorous spiritual practice and study for the past 14 years. He now shares his knowledge with seekers of truth at temples, yoga workshops, retreat centres and universities all over the world. Many of his students testify that their lives have changed after his courses.

Key Elements Of The Seminar

* The Vedas, Mantras and Mantra Meditation
* Different kinds of Mantras
* How to live a more Spiritual Lifestyle
* How to incorporate Mantra Meditation into our daily lives
* Learning how to meditate with the assistance of Japa Mala or sacred chanting beads
* Yoga and Mantra Meditation
* How to overcome unwanted habits and desires through Mantra Meditation
* Spiritual Discipline
* Awakening Love through Mantra Meditation
* Developing a broader Spiritual Vision
* Making the most of the Human Form of Life
* Kirtan

Venue: 102 Hy Len (above “David Krut Art Books”), 140 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Johannesburg

Time and Date: 10am to 3pm, Saturday 17 July 2010

The Seminar:

Session One (10am to 12pm): ‘An Introduction To Mantra Meditation’

Session Two (1pm to 3pm): ‘Chanting Hare Krishna On Beads’

A healthy vegetarian lunch will be served at 12pm

The Seminar is R250 (students R150)

While Bhakta Arne is saturating himself in bliss in Sri Vrindavan Dhama, MCD and G-Man (Gaura Sakti Das) are holding the fort here in Rosebank. We are still cooking up a storm with ‘Krishna’s Vedic Emporium’ foodstalls at the Killarney Mall Organic Market on Thursdays and The Wholefood Market at Blu Bird (Atholl Oaklands) on Sundays. Actually, we held a stall at Blu Bird today and Yelena, the wife of Branco, who sometimes fetches me from the airport, bought a Bhagavad-gita and took a whole lot of pamphlets on Krishna Consciousness. Another lady, Corinne, bought a Spiritual Warrior IV by Bhakti Tirtha Swami and another took a Higher Taste.

Prema Kishore prabhu led us on our third regular Harinam though the streets of Melville last Friday (see for details). I rounded off our very successful Cooking Course on Saturday with Pizza, Khichari, salad and salad dressing. We sponsored the chef, Joseph, from St James (a vegetarian school) and the headmaster wrote a letter praising Joseph’s new cooking skills. I realized that what we take for granted, in this case our training as chefs, is of great value to others. That evening we cut vegetables for Sunday’s market. On Sunday we sold Prashadam at Blu Bird again and held our weekly Sunday programme. It was very encouraging for me to have Gaura Das and some of his friends at the programme. Another friend, Marcelle, arrived just as the guests were leaving. Gaura Shakti showed her some basic mridanga beats, then she sat and chanted a round of the maha-mantra with us. Oh…and we also gave her some chickpea fudge (which she’d had before).

Monday. We teamed up with Nandarani – who was in the Temple with me in Cape Town – at the University of Johannesburg Bhakti Yoga Society (BYS) from 12-2:30pm. We taught the students how to chant on beads last time. This time we held a basic cooking demo: Simply Wonderfuls and Nimbu Pani. The demo went well. Prema Sarovara Mataji’s friend, Grace, bought a Bhagavad-gita. Seven students bought chanting beads at the previous session. That they took beads was a very positive sign from the point-of-view of chanting. They told me at this session that the chanting was really helping them find peace and happiness. I returned to the flat, took a brief nap, then Gaura Shakti and I went to Dwarakadish prabhu’s place for the Marlboro Namahatta. It was humbling to be with such hospitable and respectful devotees.

Tuesday. Market and shopping for the stalls in Fordsburg. We dropped in at “Cater Commercial” to pick up some kitchen utensils kindly sponsored by Bhakta Rakesh and his family. We got in at around 4pm. Gaura Das came in the evening for a Mantra Meditation Session. He brought some of his friends and people he’d met on book distribution – Lebohang, Matthew, Claudia and Mortaza. I delivered 30 pieces of Laddhu (Chickpea Fudge) to a juice-bar in Woodmead on Wednesday morning, rushed back to the flat, then gave a talk on ‘Jyotish And Its Relevance To Spirituality’ (Jyotish is Indian Astrology) at the Wits BYS at from 1-3pm. I bought some slop-chips at “Kara Nicha’s” before trundling back home, back to Pancha Tattva. That night Gaura Das invited us over to his mom’s place for supper (in honour of his wife Jamuna’s birthday). I still had to cut veg for Thursday’s stall when we got back to the flat. Thursday means Killarney Mall Organic Food Market. Self-explanatory. Mother Prema Shakti came to the stall and informed me that there was a GAD (Gauteng Administration and Development) Sub-Committee meeting about Education at her flat with Keshava Krishna prabhu and some other devotees. The meeting touched on various important areas of education – for children, youth and adults. Another late night. Friday, I went on Sankirtan at the airport and Eastgate. Saturday, Sankirtan at Menlyn. Sunday, Blu Bird and Sunday programme.

Tonight we read from Bhagavad-gita and then chanted Damodarastakam Prayers. This week has been quite a busy one, compounded by Arne’s absence. (All the guests left with Chickpea Fudge). We are offering lamps every night to Lord Damodara and chanting the Damodarastakam. Kartik is a month of mercy. May the Lord be kind upon us.

Your servants at the Vedic City Project.

A friend of mine, Emina, asked me, ‘What do you do?’ I don’t know why, but I had to think about it for a while (I am fairly busy believe it or not). ‘What did you do today?’, she asked. An easier question. I didn’t have to think. ‘I went to the market to buy vegetables and other goods for our food stalls’, I said. ‘Oh, and I was uploading pictures from my camera to my hard-drive.’

‘What do you do to become happy?’ I pondered this question a while, then gave my answer, ‘Well, I chant Hare Krishna.’ But then I thought that was not a complete answer. ‘Before I became a devotee I used to drink and smoke. And I had radical mood swings. But I stopped that after some time and I also became a vegetarian. Since then I stopped having mood swings. And the chanting also helps, of course’. I proceeded to tell her a story from my book distribution days in Cape Town. The one day I was distributing books in St. George’s Mall. It was a cold winter’s day. I wasn’t feeling that great. In fact, I thought I must have looked miserable. Then a person came up to me and said, ‘You look so happy!’ When I got back to the Temple I reflected on the day’s occurrences and realized that although I had not been in a particularly joyful mood, I was happier than most of the people around me. The gauge for this happiness was my former tendency to manic-depression and not a sense of smugness or superiority.

So what have I been up to? Well, on Thursday we had our vegetarian food stall at the Killarney Fine Food Market, which I helped set up with Arne from 9-10:30am, and I went out distributing spiritual literatures with Rupa Raghunatha Prabhu from 10:30-4:45pm. Friday, after two hours of chanting, I also sold books and raised funds at Sandton City, 10:30am to 5pm. On Saturday we went to the Yoga Camp at Zoo Lake and conducted a little Harinama Sankirtan (processional chanting with traditional musical instruments) from 9:30-11:30am, with Lerato doing firedancing and Poobal playing sax. Gaura Shakti and I taught our third session of our Vegetarian Cooking course from 12-3pm the same day. In the evening, I cooked kichari. Rupa and I took kichari with nkomasi (a kind of yoghurt), lemon and rotis. Sunday was Blu Bird Wholefood Market, prashadam distribution, followed by a simple Sunday Programme at the Vedic City project. Rupa and I went out on Sakirtan again, this time to Clear Water Mall. Rupa spoke, and the last of our guests left by around 7pm.

Monday, giving out kichari to my friends at David Krut, admin and a talk at the University of Johannesburg 11am-2pm. The talk was very nice as there was a good turnout of intelligent, spiritually inquiring youth. We then chatted with the devotee students and Nandarani, at Nandarani’s office. I bought some soya burgers and we had burgers and salad, and a cold drink. Went on facebook for a while and posted some e-mails. This morning we chanted from 5:30 for two hours, performed some worship and conducted a little class (this is our routine when we don’t have markets). I made some important calls and went online to see if there was any news of the consignment of books I ordered from America and received a call from Steve Newman, the accomplished guitarist and fellow yogi (we are going to have lunch at the ashram on Friday). I went to the market at 9:45 with Gaura Shakti, returned around 1pm, mooched around the hood a bit, went online, uploaded photos, chatted to Emina and now I am finishing this blog. Hare Krishna.

Here is just a little update, dear readers, of the activities of ISKCON Johannesburg North. The highlight was, naturally, Deena Bandhu prabhu’s visit on Saturday the 22nd August. Otherwise, just fighting the good fight, I suppose…

The Janmasthami/Prabhupada Appearance Day weekend blew the wind into our sales, then promptly out again. All those late nights. A weekend of loss for my devotee friends: Jacques’ ex, a single mother of a seven-year old boy, was mercilessly shot by thugs; Krishnadas and his family lost their beautiful home; and the South African Vaishnava Community lost Madan Mohan prabhu, one of my dearest friends, on Janmasthami morning (Friday 14 August).

In the wake of Janmasthami, we were blessed with three programmes by His Grace Deena Bandhu prabhu – Krishna-Balarama Youth Group, Tuesday 18; Nandakishore’s Nama Hatta, Friday 21; and our very own ISKCON Rosebank on Saturday 22nd August. Hansa, “Krishna’s Florist”, kindly made a garland for Deena Bandhu prabhu. On each occasion, Deena Bandhu prabhu shared heart-warming stories of Prabhupada, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nandalala, Krishna. On Saturday night, he said you can go to Vrindavan without paying airticket or visa. Too true. There was a fair turnout of about 15 devotees and friends. I was thinking that the pastimes of Krishna in Vrindavan might be a little too much for the newcomers, but they were very appreciative of Deena Bandhu prabhu’s charming descriptions of Vraja and his sweet brijbasi bhajans.

Gaura Shakti and I gave our second Cooking Class that Saturday morning, much to the delight of our students. We kind of flopped the panir, but more than made up for it with the puris. Gaura made a perfect dough, got the students to roll their own puris and then had them throw the puris in boiling oil. It was one of those “Kodak moments”, with everyone cheering and exclaiming…nearly all the puris came out perfectly.

Gaura and myself went through to Lenasia again, to get darshan of His Holiness Bhakti Caru Maharaja on Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25. It was thrilling, but a little sad also, to hear Krishnadas and Sharm matajis realizations after the fire in their house. I was amazed how bright-faced they looked considering the trauma they had been through. Krishna certainly favoured them. Thursday night we went to the Temple for Radhastami. Nrsimhananda prabhu gave a wonderful class, we took the feast with our friends Giridhari and Estelle, and left. Another hectic week, with food stalls wedged inbetween.

We had an intimate programme on Sunday the 30th August with Damian, Janine, Tamar, Lungile, Arne and Gaura. Janine said she had chanted with the devotees in Cyrildene about 20 years ago. ‘They would chant for hours. I loved it’, she said. It was very encouraging to have such an enthusiastic chanter in our midst. I kept the talk simple, explaining the Vedas and the importance of sabda-pramana. Tamara, a yogi in her own right, was also very enthusiastic. ‘Thank you very, very much’, she kept on saying to me. Lungile described some of his personal Kurukshetres with us…he is a spokesperson and representative for the National Postal Services…which was recently on strike. It was nice to chant in the association of such sincere souls.

When we are not going out on Sankirtan or to the market, I cook and invite neighbours and friends for lunch. That is how I spend my downtime (aside from internet or reading). Premkishore and I are planning to conduct weekly Friday night Harinams in the northern suburbs of Joannesburg, like Melville and Parkhurst. In honour of World Holy Name Week we will be having a Harinam procession at the Zoo Lake Yoga Camp on Saturday 5 September.

Forthcoming attractions at The Vedic City Project (ISKCON Johannesburg North) include: His Grace Partha Sarathi prabhu speaking on his experiences as a soldier and a monk on Sunday 20 September; and His Grace Vrishabanu prabhu speaking on Sunday 27 September.

Bhakta Arne is off to India at the end of September. We are also expecting Radhanath Maharaja’s Autobiography, ‘The Journey Home’, to arrive any day now. ‘The Journey Home’ is R250.

Jaya Srila Prabhupada! Jaya Sri Sri Panchatattva! Jay Sri Sri Nitai Gaurahari! Ki Jaya!

Vedic City Project, Parkwood, Johannesburg, South Africa

A little feedback for my friends. Thank you all of you for encouraging me to keep my blog running. Let it roll…forever…Rolling. Rolling. Rolling down the river…

We had a nice lunch of soya burgers, salad, avocado dressing and french fries (‘chips’ as we call them in our beloved South Africa). The reason? Well, Monday is our space-out day, after a busy weekend of The Vedic Emporium (our food stall). It is also a rest after the Sunday Programme. Yes, that is the ‘traditional’ part. And Tirtha Raja called. And Rupa was here. And Karabo, an old acquaintance from Grahamstown National Arts Festival, had caught up with me through the blog. To cut a long story short: We had an occasion.

Ceremony aside, I soon had Arne, Karabo, Tamal and myself fast at work at those burgers. Once offered, we feasted lavishly and sat around chatting on those big, white cushions that Mr Spisto so kindly donated to us. I was too tired to get into the intricacies of chanting with Karabo, so Arne did the talking (and the chanting) and Karabo left, some time later, with books and beads. Yup. The chanting is our mainline.

Karabo reminded me of our first encounter at the Grahamstown Festival in the winter of 2004. She told me how she had been somewhat dismissive when I showed her Prabhupada’s books that year. The next year, however, she was vegetarian and took two books. She has a formidable memory. I used to take breaks (from book distribution) at her stall. I used to give her and her friends pieces of laddhoo from our Govinda’s food stall. She googled my name, found my blog and we got back in touch again. Karabo asked me why I hadn’t updated my blog. Well, Karabo, here is your answer.

I also met Father Urbani, an esoteric Christian with extraordinary faith in Nrsimhadeva, during my periodical peregrinations in Sandton City Mall. He also asked me about my blog. Father, here is your answer. Mukunda is back online! (Be warned: one of these days I am going to figure out how to upload photographs!).

You will be pleased to know, dear readers, that we now have four Pure Vegetarian Food Stalls at different Fine Foods Markets in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. The Venues are: Killarney Organic Market, Thurs 9am-2pm; 44 Stanley (Stanley Road, Millpark), Fri 5-8pm; Jozi Fine Foods Market, that is occasional so see (Cnr 7th Ave and 3rd Ave Parktown North), Sat 8:30-2pm; and Blu Bird Wholefood Market (Atholl Oaklands), Sun 9-2pm. The stalls have been well-received. Krishna conscious literatures and natural incense are also available at the stalls. Please avail yourself of the opportunity to taste the immaculately divine cooking of the multi-talented Gaura Sakti Das. Yeah!

And the Preaching Centre?

We are currently hosting programmes on Sundays at 102 Hy Len Court, 140 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood. We are on the block where Bolton Avenue intersects Jan Smuts Avenue. Quite close to the Exel Garage. The programmes run from 3:30-6pm. There is (relatively) secure parking by the Woolworths Food Stop at the top-end of the block. RSVP to my contacts which are given on Thank you. The programmes are standard ISKCON format – chanting accompanied by traditional Indian instruments, a short class and prashadam.

We also read from Sanatana Goswami’s Brihad Bhagavtamrta on Wednesday evenings from 7-9pm. The readings are followed by hot milk.

We have a gift shop with a variety of Murtis, incense, incense holders, innovative Vaishnava t-shirts and a variety of transcendental literatures. Vedic Emporium also caters to functions, large and small.

That is the news, folks.
Your humble servant,
Mukunda Charan Das (ISKCON Jhb North, SA)

First Programme of Vedic City Project, ISKCON Johannesburg North, Parkwood, Johannesburg, Sunday 22 February 2009.

Our project was born on Sunday 22 February 2009.

Prabhupada was fond of saying that Krishna had taken birth within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. And this is how it feels with our little project in Johannesburg.

We are simply servants of Krishna. Not perfect servants. But servants no less.

Saturday afternoon was a little frantic. Thanks to Tirtharaja prabhu I was able to fetch our guest, Sankirtan das, from the airport in a car. Our previous guest had to navigate the back roads of Johannesburg with me from O.R Thambo International, Kempton Park taxi rank through a commodius vicus of recirculation to Park Station and environs. Am I getting too Joycean now? Anyhow, we basically schlepped back to the flat that time…

I heard Sankirtan was fluent in Chinese, but got a real taste of it when he actually spoke to a Chinese traveller in the car park. This wasn’t book distribution Chinese (ni hao, che che, ‘buy book’ etc.). This was the real thing. (Sankirtan, in co-operation with Chinese travel agents, takes Chinese yoga students on pilgrimages to India. He explains to them the spiritual dimension of yoga as expressed through Krishna consciousness).

Sankirtan set his baggage down at the flat and offered obeisances to the Pancha-Tattva and Garuda. To my delight, he gave me some Giriraja Saonpapri – a delicious sweet from Govardhana,in Vraja. We then took tea, bread and date syrup on the otherwise empty floor of our Temple room. That was special.

I was freaking out because our cushions had not arrived. Luckily my parents were on holiday so we got some blankets from their house for the programme (I hope you not reading this, Mom).

Where were we? Ah, yes. Sankirtan. We had put out invitations – mainly to people I’d met in the course of my wanderings in the shopping malls of Johannesburg. It was quite exciting though I was also in a anxiety over last-minute details. Would our books arrive in time? Would our cushions arrive? We had gone to much trouble painting-up the place. Rasika Rai had spent the whole week embellishing the Temple Room walls. I didn’t want anything to go wrong.

Sankirtan, however, was very relaxed. Not at all demanding. The last thing I needed was a fussy guest. There was just too much to do, too little time and too little money. Sankirtan had called me from India and we had made all our arrangements by e-mail. We agreed that he would speak on ‘The Yoga of the Self.’ I had mentioned to him that we were going to invite several members of the Yoga Fraternity to the programme and, since he had written a book on the subject for Chinese yoga students, it would be nice if we could speak a little on the topic of yoga. One of the main functions of the Vedic City Project is education so I was happy we were kicking off this way.

I spent the next day running around…looking for plastic covering for the toilet floor…looking for couscous and vegetables to offer to the Lord and our guests…looking for heaven knows how many other things. Looking. Luckily I had the supermellow Tirtharaja tagging along my crazy trail. Thank you for being such a calming influence, Tirtha.

So, while Gaurashakti cooked, Arne cut out patterns for the toilet-floor, Tamal cleaned, Sankirtan freshened-up, Tirtha looked for the karatalas, early guests arrived…I was on the phone seeing who was coming, who was not coming, and thinking of anything we might have left out.

The programme ran quite smoothly. We had 16 guests. Hansa, who owns a florist downstairs, kindly sponsored flowers for the programme. And the guests liked the walls! Paisley patterns and mantras of ‘Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya’ in Sanskrit and English.

The Programme

Tirtharaj led kirtan (congregational chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra) for 15 minutes or so. Then Sankirtan spoke.

Sankirtan prabhu spoke a little about the Centre and how it was for the guests and for the devotees. He spoke about devotional service and various things we could do in terms of service to Krishna and Krishna’s Centre. While he was speaking I was thinking of the spontaneous offerings some of the guests had already made. There was Hansa and her flowers and dhokla; Giridhari and Estelle’s contribution of spoons and cutlery; and Richard’s gift  of a beautiful framed picture of Ganesh, the Destroyer of Obstacles.

Sankirtan then asked us to introduce ourselves and to tell everyone something about ourselves. I said, ‘My name is Mukunda Charan das and I like making friends with people.’ Sankirtan looked at everyone and said, ‘Is this true?’ Lungile said he liked, as I would have known, Prabhupada’s pastimes in New York City in the 60’s. Giridhari said he liked reading Bhagavatam. Govardhana liked being with devotees. Hansa liked cooking. Richard liked the Vedas. And so on. Sankirtan handled the group well. Everyone appeared relaxed.

Since I was up and down seeing to guests, seeing to prashadam – basically managing things – I did not get to hear all of the class. And Bhakta Arne, unfortunately, only captured 20 minutes on his phone. But I did catch the gist of the presentation. There were many processes by which spiritualists approached God, including varieties of yoga practice. These practices, however, brought the practitioners to the platform of Bhakti or devotion to Krishna. Sankirtan gave a simple, though scholarly, analysis of Patanjali’s Yoga sutras in relation to Swami Prabhupada’s presentation of Gaudiya Vaishnavism or bhakti yoga. Patanjali’s sutras give clear teachings about the physical dimension of yoga. But they are wanting in terms of the actual goal of yoga which is to ‘link’ with the Divine or Krishna/God (that is the literal meaning of the Sanskrit term ‘yoga‘). Sankirtan also encouraged us to work on our connection with Krishna as opposed to connecting with the Temporary. His talk was encouraging. There was some debate over the purpose and usefulness of Christianity during the question-and-answer-and-comment session. I was in the kitchen at the time, but heard that it was resolved on the Vaishnava platform ie. everyone was in agreement at the end. We served prashadam and the guests slowly, slowly took their leave.

Srila Prabhupada Ki Jaya! Sri Sri Pancha Tattva Ki Jaya!