These temples, they are just like oasis in the desert for the conditioned souls to quench the thirst of their desire for real happiness.
— Śrīla Prabhupāda
In the countryside of Hertfordshire, England, there is a spiritual haven where people from all walks of life can learn how to elevate their consciousness to a higher level, known as “Krishna consciousness”, and experience the lasting happiness that their soul has always yearned for. This special place is called Bhaktivedanta Manor, or “the Manor” for short, and was donated to ISKCON by George Harrison of the Beatles.
ISKCON, or the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was established in New York in 1966 by Śrīla Prabhupāda, a pure devotee of the Lord who travelled from India at the age of 69 in order to bring Krishna consciousness to the Western world.
Krishna consciousness looks beyond labels like Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Indian, British or American, and is instead concerned with understanding and loving God, and realising our true nature as His eternal servants. The purpose of human life is to re-establish this eternal relationship with the Lord and ultimately return to Him.
The prospect of being a servant may not seem appealing at first glance, but even in our daily lives we get much more happiness from doing things for our loved ones than we get from doing things for ourselves. And when we do things for the Lord out of love, we can experience unlimited happiness.
On 7th February 2016, during my first visit to Vrindavan (the holiest place in India), Krishna (or God) mercifully revealed His existence to me for the first time, even though I had done nothing to deserve such mercy. It was a very personal experience so I’m not going to give details, but it changed my life forever. From that day onwards, my heart and mind have become more and more absorbed in Krishna.
By becoming closer to Krishna and becoming more aware of His presence in my life, I have experienced a happiness unlike any other. But it would be selfish of me to keep it to myself, especially when there are countless people out there who are suffering. I want to spend my time sharing spiritual knowledge with others so that they can experience the same happiness.
Every year, the Manor runs a seven-month “Sabbatical” programme in order to give newcomers and existing practitioners an opportunity to dive deeper into the limitless ocean of spiritual life. This programme involves travelling throughout India for roughly two months, and then staying at the Manor on a residential basis for the remaining months.
After months of deliberation, I decided that the best way for me to start advancing towards my spiritual goals was to leave my office job for good and take part in this year’s Sabbatical. During the India segment of the programme, I kept a diary to document my experiences and personal reflections. I will be sharing my diary entries on this blog in order to give others a good idea of what the Sabbatical is like, and maybe even inspire them to dive in and try out the water for themselves.