The third annual MAN-tra men’s retreat, and the first to go virtual, will feature international speakers and sanga live on Zoom, with the theme “Unlocking A Man’s Dharma in a Locked Down World.” The retreat will take a look at challenges and opportunities through different stages of life from a Krishna conscious perspective, covering topics like fatherhood, marriage, brahmachari life, examples of healthy masculinity, and overcoming pornography.
Participants can sign up at https://mantraretreat.org/, and will receive a Zoom conference link several days before the event, which will take place from November 20th to 22nd.
The MAN-tra retreat this year has been organized by ISKCON guru Bhaktimarga Swami, ISKCON Communications Director Anuttama Das, Partha Das of the Grihasta Vision Team, and younger devotees Rajarshi Ray from Toronto, Marshall Daley from Nova Scotia, and Ananda-Madhava Das from Toronto.
Previous events have drawn about 150 devotees each, and have been an opportunity for men from across North America to benefit from each other’s association, strengthen friendships, and “Learn to become better people, better fathers, better husbands, and better sons,” says Anuttama Das.
While participants this year won’t get to share the MAN-tra Retreat’s usual in-person service like gardening or splitting wood together; and won’t be able to “give each other the ol’ manly slap-on-the-back,” as the promo material quips, the online medium will allow virtual offerings from favorites like comedian Yadunath Das, kirtaniyas Gaura Vani and Amala Harinam, and drama director Bhaktimarga Swami.
A teambuilding exercise at the 2018 MAN-tra retreat
Participants will also get several hours of presentations and workshops from top speakers on a variety of practical topics. Days will be scheduled so that people can either attend all sessions, or choose the ones they’re most interested in.
Among the topics, marriage counselor Partha Das will speak on “Men, Marriage and Myths,” giving an interactive look at truths that support, enigmas that bewilder and negative paradigms that hinder. “We will explore developing a healthy mindset to navigate the voyage of marriage and develop a balanced footing,” Partha says, “To create a peaceful, happy, and stable atmosphere in which to integrate the spiritual aspects of our lives.”
Bhuta Bhavana Das, a professional management and leadership coach based in the UK, will speak on “Empowerment: The Inner Fuel for Spiritual Progress.” The session will explain how to develop more enthusiasm, inspiration and determination in life, as well as how to keep and increase the inner energy we call empowerment, how to move towards the future in a spiritually progressive way, why we get stuck on our journey and what to do about it.
Mahatma Das, a Srila Prabhupada disciple well known for his workshops, will speak on “Porn: Pernicious and Prevalent.” He explains: “Pornography is addictive, and due to its proliferation on the Internet, the addiction is spreading to young boys, pastors, and many of our own devotees.
We will discuss how pornography destroys the individual, affects families, and devastates relationships with the opposite sex. We will explore what we, as devotees, should be doing to protect ourselves from this insidious enemy and how to help those addicted.”
Meanwhile, a panel featuring Anuttama Das, Bhumi Global Director Gopal-Lila Das, and medical doctor Madhvacharya Das will discuss Vaishnava masculinity. In a time when conversations around traits of unhealthy and toxic masculinity abound, they will discuss what qualities are desirable to develop, and which Vaishnava examples to look to, such as Arjuna, who simultaneously exhibits both strength and vulnerability.
Devotees dance for joy at the 2018 MAN-tra retreat
In a first for the MAN-tra Retreat, there will also be a presentation on brahmachari (celibate monk) life by mentor, speaker and author Chaitanya Charan Das from India, and mentor and counselor Sutapa Das, who oversees the School of Bhakti in the UK. Both have been brahmacharis for around two decades. Their presentation will be entitled “Brahmachari Ashram: The Spirit Still Matters, And So Does the Form.” The discussion will revolve around the relevance of brahmacharya and the brahmachari ashram in promoting individual spiritual growth and social spiritual awareness.
A panel on Krishna conscious fatherhood will be organized by Namarasa Das, host of The Late Morning Program with Namarasa podcast.
There will also be a presentation by co-minister of Congregational Development Kaunteya Das entitled “Varnasrama Without Gurukula? Just a Hobby,” in which he will look at the roles of men and traditional education.
Some presentations will feature small breakout groups with seven or eight people each, providing a more interactive experience.
In addition, along with comedy by Yadunath Das and kirtan by Gaura Vani and Amala Harinama, there will also be a special world premiere drama directed by Bhaktimarga Swami entitled “Rolling the Dice,” a slice of the Mahabaharata that takes a contemporary look at greed, toxic tricks, and resolve.
Previous MAN-tra retreats have elicited such effusive praise from participants as, “MAN-tra is one of the highlights of my year;” “I personally get very exhilarated when MAN-tra comes around;” and “Something is there for every man who gravitates towards responsibility, wholesomeness, and balance.”
Anuttama says that such retreats are important for going deeper and self-growth. “We all go through different challenges and opportunities in our different stages of life,” he comments. “Some of those are shared whether we’re women or men; and then there are other things where men have a unique role to play as fathers and male role models. Women’s retreats, youth retreats, and japa retreats are all opportunities for people to step back from the fast pace of day to day life; to go a little deeper as chanters, or as women, or as youth, to strengthen themselves and get more clarity on who they are and what they want to do in life as devotees. So in the same way, this is an opportunity for men to get together, hear from each other, learn from each other, and strengthen each other, so that we can be better men and better devotees.”
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Please register (donation requested according to your means) at: https://mantraretreat.org/
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