Last Saturday, I attended the MIND BODY SPIRIT (MBS) festival held at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre along with a devotee friend, Vaishnav Charan Das. The day couldn’t have been more perfect. I woke up in time for attending the mangal aroti, the deities were once again beautifully decorated, an enlivening Srimad Bhagavatham class followed and then finished the early morning with a super sumptuous breakfast prasadam. As I stepped out, the Melbourne sun fell on me with all its glory. The summer is almost here. Vaishnav Charan prabhu met me at his house later in the morning where I had spent the previous night and took the noisy tram to the city. As we stepped out, we could see many people walking into the venue.
The Melbourne Exhibition Centre is a beautiful venue with fantastic facilities for conducting huge events. The moment you enter the venue, you are ready to participate in the program.
After paying the A$16 entry fee, which affected my mind, body and spirit, we entered the festival hall with much enthusiasm. At the door front were big displays of what we were to expect inside – SPIRITUALITY. As per a website article, “The Mind Body Spirit Festival is the leading well being exhibition devoted to the pursuit of a healthier, more spiritual and fulfilling lifestyle. The festival showcases the most comprehensive profile of well being living options available including natural therapies, medicines, health products and services.”
When we went in, we were greeted by bright lights, plenty of stalls and even more people. It already looked like it was a successful event for the organizers. After picking a copy of the festival guide, we decided to check everyone of the stall there. It was going to be a long day for us. But I am highlighting only those stalls that took our interest.
The first stall had a computer screen that roared at us with the message, “Who do you think you are?”. A bold statement. This stall belonged to Personality Insights Inc, who claimed to be the “World Leader in Communication and Relationship Development”. Basically, they prepare a “Discovery Report” which analyses the kind of person you are, your strengths, weaknesses and areas you need to work on to improve your relationship with others. They do all this by getting you to answer some questions. After thinking much and listening to the sales pitch, we decided to give them our name and email id for a sample test. The full one costs over thousand dollars! Once entered into the computer, I was asked a few questions and quickly designated an alphabet, “I”. I was asked to look a chart nearby which indicated that my basic motivation in life was “Recognition, Approval and Popularity”. That explains why I have this blog ! Vaishnav Charan prabhu was assigned the alphabet “C”. Such people had the basic motivation of “Quality answers, Excellence and Value”. That explains why he has no blog and cooks well at the temple !
Another interesting stall was that of The Walking Company
Basically, these guys make footwear that will :
– help in better breathing
– maintain a better posture
– create stronger core muscles
– enable tighter thighs
– ensure a better leg and calf toning
and more importantly burn more calories with every step !!
The sales girl asked me to “come on in” and try out the varieties. I told them that I was a “Hare Krishna” and I wouldn’t wear any leather based products. To which she said, “Oh you are a Hare Krishna? I think I have the right foot wear for you” and she pointed to the Vegan Shoes. 100% no leather. Perfect for devotees, I thought. This brand is even certified by the Vegan Society, just in case you don’t believe it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the right type or color that suited me. However, the lady asked me to check their city store out and handed me a discount voucher of A$ 25 !
A few stalls later was that of another shoe shop. These guys were called MBT
Their website declares, “In the early 1990s, Swiss engineer Karl Müller realized that both shoes and backache are unknown to the Masai tribesmen – and that there is a causal connection between these two facts. By walking barefoot on the natural, soft, uneven ground of their East African homeland, the Masai activate also those muscles that atrophy when on walks on hard, even surfaces wearing conventional shoes. MBT would like to help people all over the world lead a healthier, more active and happier life. MBT is convinced that human fitness and health are significantly influenced by the way we walk“. And I was thinking, the only way was, to follow the regulative principles of “No alcohol, No meat, No gambling and No illicit sex” and chanting 16 rounds of the names of God. Looks like its as easy as wearing a shoe.
The next stall – The New Me
‘The New Me’ program runs on a 2 week cycle, having all guests arrive on a particular Sunday and leave Sunday the fortnight after. I believe they all live at a particular location away from their homes for this program. They claim that many guests have chosen to stay for longer periods of time with several staying as long as 12 weeks. They implement the weight-loss program through a variety of avenues such as :
• Cooking classes
• Self cooking
• Group therapy classes
• One on one counseling
• Motivation seminars
• Education classes
• Group personal training
• Self training time
• Dinner outings
The program is built on Adro’s philosophies of Eat Smart, Move More, Think Thin.I thought our temple prasadam did the same thing. By the way, “Adro” (pictured left) is the 2006 winner of the popular TV series, “The Biggest Loser”.
We felt quickly at home when we came across HASTH
This stall had a few Indian people who sold very colorful ethnic products such as bedspreads, wall hangings, bags and cushions.
HASTH (hands) founded in 2008 as a part of GRAMSHREE shares the excellent work of underprivileged women artisans. Gramshree is a collective effort that encourages the holistic development of the mind, body and soul of women and artisans through a variety of initiatives that promote self-empowerment and economic self-reliance.
Gramshree believes that every individual has the right to a life filled with dignity and self respect. They aim to remove lines of prejudice, injustice and poverty through by focusing on health care, proper nutrition, income generation, education, family welfare, savings, credit and more. Their motto is, “Designing our Destiny”.
This was one stall that stood out the most for me – WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals)
There was a young volunteer here who impressed me much with her dedication towards the purpose of saving animals. She had so much of enthusiasm in ensuring that whoever visited this stall was given a good lecture on the state of animals in the hands of humans. For a good non-stop 10 mins, she spoke about abuses to dogs in Afghanistan to bull fighting in Spain to bear farming in China. I asked her, “What about the killing of cows in Australia?” – This talk between us lasted a good 45 mins !
I explained to her how animal social workers were spending so much money and efforts in saving all kinds of animals and birds but were not showing enough compassion towards saving the cow, which is so important to the human species. I made her see how efforts put in while saving the cow can not only save all the animal species but also uplift human behaviour towards animals as a whole. I asked her how many of her volunteer companions, including the director of the organization were vegetarians. To which she replied that many do consume beef, chicken and fish. I asked her how she can preach compassion towards animals when the very supporters were contributing to the 55 billion animals slaughtered for the taste of the tongue. Pointing to Vaishnava Charan prabhu who was patiently watching the whole episode, I said, “We are the Hare Krishnas. We believe strongly in God and hence we see the unity in all things diverse….and that includes all animals, birds, fish, insects…we do not eat meat of any sorts. We understand that they also have the right to live a complete and fruitful life…that they are also creations of nature…we can have a healthy life by just eating the variety of vegetables and fruits available….”
She was taken aback I think. I told her that I was interested in arranging a meeting with their senior directors and supporters where I would like to bring in an experienced devotee from the temple to explain the importance of saving, protecting and caring for animals for a sustainable future. After receiving the relevant details, I made a monthly donation towards their cause hoping that my action was more on the mode of goodness and not passion. I think, I truly appreciated the efforts this young person had put in and who decided to spend the weekend helping people be aware of the plight of animals. Its a good start. The above pic and other activities for cruelty prevention at WSPA website.
Before we left, she said that she enjoyed dining at “Crossways”, the Hare Krishna Vegetarian food joint on Swanston Street. This made us very happy. In fact, we found that many of the stall volunteers had been to either of the two veg restaurants in the city. That was a nice feeling. We felt as if we owned the joints – proud and successful.
Another stall whose presence I appreciated very much was that of NEW HORIZONS BOOKS
This stall sold books and products related to the Christian faith. The volunteer and I had a very nice chat here about religion and spirituality in general. The discussion started when he saw me admire the above display.
He : ” Do you know what this is about?”
Me : “Yes…its related to the birth of Lord Jesus Christ”
He : “That’s right…do you much about Jesus?”
Me : “Yes, of course..we are the Hare Krishnas…”
He : “Oh the Hare Krishnas?! I think I saw another one in a train with his hand in a pouch…is that Hare Krishna too?”
Me : “Yes…his hand was in a bag which contains beads…you saw him chanting”
He : “What was he chanting?”
Me : “The name of God and His energy”
He : “Hmmm…this is the Indian faith isn’t it…..how can there be hundreds of gods….”
Me : “We don’t believe in hundreds of gods…we believe in one God only”
He : “Really? This is interesting….coming from Christian faith…we also believe in one God”
Me : “All true religions believe in one God. And the only way we can connect to Him is by calling out His names which is non-different from God Himself. It has all the potency. The person you saw in the train was chanting the names of God as Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Hare Hare”
He : “I see…you believe Krishna is the name of God”
Me : ” Yes…all our scriptures and teachers from generation to generation have confirmed this. Basically, Krishna means all-attractive…the most beautiful…He has unlimited opulence….”
He seemed to be lost in thoughts. You could see he was seriously thinking about what I had said. I was so thankful to Srila Prabhupada because of whose books I had the knowledge to comment something on God.
Me : “Here you have represented Lord Jesus as a Shepherd. We see Krishna as a cowherd. And in this display, we can see 3 important animals around Lord Jesus and his family – the sheep, the donkey and the horse. The sheep would have been used to produce warm cloths during harsh winter, the donkey perhaps to pull heavy load and the horse for the fields and transport. So, here is a representation that shows that we must remember animals also during Christmas and other holy occasions. Similarly, we respect the cow because its very dear to the Lord, not to mention its immense use to the human society. Hence, we are very much against the killing of animals, especially the cow. Its the greatest sin. Animals are also God’s creation and we must cherish their presence too.”
He : “Interesting…I never saw the display like that…”
Me : “We must see the hand of God in everything…..”
With that we decided to leave the stall. I am not sre whether he enjoyed the conversation or whether he was against what I said. Anyways, I did my duty. Before I left the stall, an old lady handed me a gift pack that contained postcards, book marks and a copy of the bible.
Another interesting exhibitor was from the Muslim association. They had a nice stall whose intention was to educate people on Islam. They handed out free booklets and DVDs that focused on the teachings of their faith and the reasons behind the various customs they follow. I had a quick read of their most popular booklet and after the first few pages of introduction, they talk about Hinduism which included key words such as brahman, Krishna, Srimad Bhagavatham, caste system, idol worship etc. I left this book over at Vaishnav Charan prabhu’s home. When I pick it up next time, I shall share some of their views on the Hindu faith which I am sure you will find interesting.
We also noticed numerous stalls and tables set aside for psychic workshops. Here people can ask about their deceased loved ones and the psychics would elaborate on what the dead person’s spirit wanted to convey. I can assure you it seemed pretty scary especially when the participants held their mouths open with wonder when accurate predictions were made. The crowd for this program was immense. And the majority of the people gathered for their chance turned out to be women. Many asked about their mums and dads. We saw some ladies crying and others acknowledging. There was one particular instance when the presenter exclaimed her amazement that the spirit of the dead of a particular audience member who participated was right next to her !! At that time, I decided to quickly head to other stalls. These things scare me, man.
One of the other interesting stalls belonged to THE GREEN LINE ORGANIC DIRECT
The Green Line Organic Direct delivers quality certified organic, bio dynamic, fair trade and environmentally friendly to their customers door through their website. Looks like they have all the right words in that sentence to ensure they get their customers. Good job, guys !
Of course, there were stalls and rooms set aside for Yoga and massage therapists. They all had the same theme of using the body to channel the thoughts for more peace. We found these stalls to be packed as well. There were people trying out various yoga postures and back massages for those quick reliefs for the rest of the weekend. Some of the yoga joints told customers that they would teach people all about meditation, ensure they are welcomed to a place of relaxation, feel enriched and be a “dynamic soiree leader”.
After a good 4 hrs, we had wandered through over 190+ exhibitors and thousands of people. Clearly, it was a super hit for all those involved. In these 4 hrs, we were bombarded with concepts and products that aimed at the body and to entertain the mind. There were softwares, yoga workshops, physic reading, weight loss, Tibetan monks, massage clinics, chiropractors, books, candles, how to have better sex, organic food, better water purification systems, shoes, clothes, health insurance brokers, wines, jewellery, organic hair cleansers, aromatherapy oils, crystals, health college, motivational speakers. You name it, it was there. So, what was missing in the Mind, Body, Spirit festival?
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness. We were not there. We could have been the only ones who could have shared the true knowledge about the Mind, Body and Spirit. The great science. We could have had the best stall featuring Krishna art, Srila Prabhupadas books, spiritual music, a video playing the early years of ISKCON in Australia, vegetarian food cooking clinics, hand out prasadam, incense etc etc etc. We should have been there in our fullest glory – 20-25 devotees in dhotis, decorated with tilaka, armed with kartalas and drums…on the stage getting all those who were present to the dance floor. We could have had a nice lecture followed by questions and answers. What about a section for educating people on cow slaughter? How many would have expressed their support? Perhaps a few, but that’s a treasure. I was told by the devotees that we had participated in this event in the past but we didn’t this year. I was aware that a few of the devotees who are involved at events were away to cater food for a rock music festival.
Personally, I felt that the MBS festival could have been a better choice because the people here were already close to the mode of goodness compared to those in the mode of passion at the rock shows which also reports heavier numbers of people. However, the MBS show had a qualified crowd who were ready to be preached to. They were curious about spirituality and hence they were there. But instead, all they got were products that aimed at making them happy for the short term. These companies were there to improve their market share. We should have been there to gain their mind share. At some point in their lives, when they fully reach the interest to know about god and spiritual sciences, they would have remembered us and not a shoe shop or an organic tomato.
Yet, for the time being we were pleasantly surprised to see Sri Krishna, Srimati Radha Rani and a devotee manage to have some kind of presence at the event.
This is Radha Charan Das prabhu representing his company, Velina Designs that deals with Indian artifacts.
That’s it. Its been a long article but I am kinda happy I wrote this. I learned so much about so many things while attending and even more recollecting and putting them here. Anyways, once again, I am sincerely hoping that we participate in next years Mind Body Spirit festival which I shall attend with great pride.