During Kartik, 2009, fifteen ISKCON diksa and siksa gurus gathered at ISKCON Ujjain for a first ever "Guru Retreat". The pilot four-day event, organized by the GBC's Guru Services Committee to help support the spiritual health of gurus and disciples in ISKCON, stimulated valuable ideas in a surcharged atmosphere of sanga and memorable kirtans, classes and realizations.
An ISKCON guru once compared the challenging service of providing siksa and diksa to "being a single outlet for a thousand plugs." And, unique in Gaudiya Vaishnava history, gurus in ISKCON are asked to serve within the framework of an international institution, and under the leadership of the Governing Body Commission (GBC). The group discussed Srila Prabhupada's vision of thousands of ISKCON gurus serving harmoniously throughout the world, and the challenges in achieving that. The demand for spiritually advanced devotees to undertake this service remains high; it was reported
that in some parts of the world devotees may wait years for initiation due to lack of diksa gurus in the area to guide them.
Under these circumstances, how are those dedicated souls performing this difficult service to remain enlivened and strong? Scripture advises sadhu sanga. The retreat aimed to facilitate and stimulate such sanga in three ways: Hearing, chanting, honoring prasad and remembering Srila Prabhupada together; brainstorming strategies for helping disciples; and sharing ways to remain spiritually healthy.
The assembled Vaishnavas systematically discussed a variety of related topics, including strategies for:
The most important duty for any ISKCON guru--now and in the future--attendees pointed out, is to connect the disciple to Srila Prabhupada through precept, example and personal care.
The attendees spent an entire session in glorifying Srila Prabhupada through personal reminiscences and selected pastimes and instructions from His Divine Grace. This and a hearing-and-chanting excursion to the nearby and historical ashram of Sandipani Muni helped fulfill the Retreats' purpose of providing stimulating spiritual recreation for the assembled leaders.
The rejuvenated attendees left Ujjain with a conviction that all diksha and siksa gurus in ISKCON should take advantage of such retreats. They also submitted suggestions to the GBC for improving the smooth interaction of gurus, managers and disciples within ISKCON.
Future guru retreats are now being planned as annual events.