Château de Petite SommeA Brief History
A Repentant Donation
The earliest record of the Chateau dates back to the 11th century. In 1065, the Chateau was owned by Gozelon de Montaigu. He plundered the property of Saint Hubert’s Abbey. After his death, his widow felt guilty about her husband’s wrongdoing. She offered the Chateau, the church, and her subjects to the Abbey of Saint-Hubert to make amends. As a result, the area then belonged to the Bishop of Liege. Later that century, the Château became part of a defensive territory for North Luxemburg.
Home to Aristocrats
The Chateau passed through the ownership of many aristocrats, notably the Hamal and Favereau families and several families from Benelux.
Louise Marie Eulalie, who was related to Baron Victor Albert de Favereau, inherited the property in 1877. The new owners demolished the brick mansion built by Charles de Favereau and rebuilt the present Château in 1888. All that remained of the original Chateau was part of an outbuilding and a pointed door with the crest of the de Hamal and de Grane families. Its majestic neo-gothic exterior is a striking sight against the rolling hills of Ardennes.
A Wartime Safe Haven
During World War One, the de Vaux family used the Château as a hospital to take care of the wounded. Several houses in the village of Petite Somme were destroyed during the fighting. Villagers sought shelter in the Château and some of the Château’s outbuildings burnt down.
In World War Two, during the battle of Von Rundstedt, American soldiers occupied the Château. Many of the resistance fighters who were operating nearby were killed.
Philanthropic Youth Camp
In 1946, the Château with its 400 acres of forest was sold. From 1948-1949, a group of philanthropists worked to establish the Château as a holiday centre and rest camp for students and scholars. This included a school, a youth hostel, a camp site, a hotel, and a restaurant.
A Spiritual Oasis
The Château was sold in 1975 to Serge Fransevitch, a broker from Brussels. It remained unoccupied for nearly 5 years. In 1979, it was bought by leaders of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness. They initiated renovation work and transformed the place into a peaceful ashram for meditation and spiritual community local to Durbuy. The Chateau has become a pleasing tourist attraction showcasing both the Chateau’s rich history and a simple, more mindful lifestyle in the countryside.
ISKCONInternational Society for Krishna Consciousness
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), otherwise known as the Hare Krishna movement, includes five hundred major centers, temples and rural communities, nearly one hundred affilated vegetarian restaurants, thousands of namahattas or local meeting groups, a wide variety of community projects, and millions of congregational members worldwide. Although less than fifty years on the global stage, ISKCON has expanded widely since its founding by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda in New York City in 1966.
ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiya-Vaishnava sampradāya, a monotheistic tradition within the Vedic or Hindu culture. Philosophically it is based on the Sanskrit texts Bhagavad-gītā and the Bhagavat Purana, or Srimad Bhagavatam. These are the historic texts of the devotional bhakti yoga tradition, which teaches that the ultimate goal for all living beings is to reawaken their love for God, or Lord Krishna, the “all-attractive one”.
God is known across the world by many names including Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Rama, etc. ISKCON devotees chant God’s names in the form of the maha-mantra, or the great prayer for deliverance: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Many leading academics have highlighted ISKCON’s authenticity. Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University, describes the movement as “a tradition that commands a respected place in the religious life of humankind.” In the 1980s Dr. A. L. Basham, one of the world’s authorities on Indian history and culture, wrote of ISKCON that, “It arose out of next to nothing in less than twenty years and has become known all over the West. This, I feel, is a sign of the times and an important fact in the history of the Western world.”
ISKCON’s founder, Srila Prabhupada, has drawn appreciation from scholars and religious leaders alike for his remarkable achievement in presenting India’s Vaishnava spiritual culture in a relevant manner to contemporary Western and worldwide audiences.
Members of ISKCON practice bhakti-yoga in their homes and also worship in temples. They also promote bhakti-yoga, or Krishna Consciousness, through festivals, the performing arts, yoga seminars, public chanting, and the distribution of the society’s literatures. ISKCON members have also opened hospitals, schools, colleges, eco-villages, free food distribution projects, and other institutions as a practical application of the path of devotional yoga.
Founder of ISKCONSrila Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada (1896–1977) is the founder-acarya of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness). Srila Prabhupada was born in Calcutta, India. He studied in British schools under colonial rule and finally went to university in Calcutta where he studied English, Sanskrit, philosophy, and economics. At university, he became a supporter of Gandhi’s independence movement. As a measure of his support he dressed only in white handloom cloth (woven in India) and declined to accept his degree from the university. In 1918, to support his family, he began work at a large pharmaceutical company, then established his own business (the Prayag Pharmacy) in Allahabad. He met his spiritual master (Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati) in Calcutta in 1922 and took initiation from him in 1932.
In 1936 Srila Prabhupada wrote to Bhaktisiddhanta asking if there was anything in particular that he could do for him. Srila Prabhupada received the reply that he should ‘spread Krishna consciousness in the English speaking world’. This was the last instruction he received from his spiritual teacher, as Bhaktisiddhanta left this world soon after. This instruction made a great impression on Srila Prabhupada and formed the focus for the rest of his life.
Subsequently, Srila Prabhupada wrote an English commentary on Bhagavad-gita and assisted Bhaktisiddhanta’s mission (the Gaudiya Matha) in its work. In 1944, during WWII, Srila Prabhupada began a magazine called Back to Godhead. Single-handedly he wrote, edited, oversaw the layout, proofread, and sold copies of the magazine.
In 1950 Srila Prabhupada retired from business in order to devote himself full time to his studies and writing.
In 1959 he entered the renounced order of life (sannyasa) and began his masterpiece – an English translation and commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam. Working alone he bought paper, gathered funds, and arranged for the printing. Within a few years, he had completed the first of the 12 cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam in three volumes. He sold the books himself and through agents in the larger Indian cities.
In 1965, at the age of 69, Srila Prabhupada travelled by ship to America and, once there, began teaching people about the Vaishnava tradition. Between 1966 and 1968 temples were established in several American cities. The first Ratha-yatra, a traditional festival that Srila Prabhupada had copied as a child, was held in 1967 in San Francisco.
From 1971 to 1977, Srila Prabhupada and his students developed ISKCON into a worldwide organization. Temples, restaurants, and farm communities were established, along with the Bhaktivedanta Institute and Food for Life.
Between 1966 and 1977, Srila Prabhupada travelled around the world fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents. In spite of his rigorous schedule he wrote prolifically and his books form a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, and culture. His writings have been translated into over 50 languages and his publishing house (the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) became the world’s largest publisher in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.
More information on: www.founderacharya.com
Audio lectures: prabhupada.krishna.com/audio
What do the followers of ISKCON and Srila Prabhupada follow?
Vaishnavas believe that the type of activities one performs effects one’s state of mind, so one can elevate consciousness by elevating the nature of activity. An activity is thus considered spiritual if it helps to purify the consciousness and direct one towards God.
In this light, the regulations of spiritual life are not restrictions but are ‘regulative principles of freedom’ – tools for advancing personal development and spiritual consciousness.
The four basic guiding values are:
- Cleanliness – of body, mind and soul.
- Mercy – to help others (materially and spiritually).
- Austerity – to take only what we need, without greed or violence.
- Truthfulness – an honest deed is the best gamble in the world and a sure winner.
According to tradition the great sage Vyasa wrote down the Vedas 5,000 years ago. They were divided into the Samhitas (Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda), Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Sutras, Puranas and Upanishads. Vedic texts contain information on many different subjects including spiritual development, medicine, farming, astrology, and governmental organization. According to tradition the great sage Vyasa wrote down the Vedas 5,000 years ago. They were divided into the Samhitas (Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda), Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Sutras, Puranas and Upanishads. Vedic texts contain information on many different subjects including spiritual development, medicine, farming, astrology, and governmental organization.
Not all the Vedas survive intact, the main ones remaining are:
Spoken by Lord Krishna 5000 years ago, Bhagavad-gita is the main source book on Vaishnava philosophy and contains a concise summary of India’s Vedic wisdom.
Bhagavad-gita is the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna just before the onset of a devastating battle. Arjuna, setting aside his duty as a warrior, decides not to fight. Arjuna inquires from Krishna about the meaning of life and what happens after death.
- The process of how to achieve lasting peace and happiness
- The distinction between the body, soul, and consciousness
- The benefits of yoga and meditation
- The value of knowledge and selfless action
Bhagavad-gita is the essence of India’s spiritual wisdom, discussing questions posed by philosophers for centuries.
Srimad-Bhagavatam is an epic philosophical and literary classic which touches upon all fields of human knowledge. Vyasa was inspired to present the profound essence of Vedic knowledge in the form of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Known as “the ripened fruit’ of the tree of Vedic literature, Srimad-Bhagavatam is the most complete and authoritative exposition of Vedic knowledge.
Srimad-Bhagavatam begins by declaring that – because it is intended for people serious about spiritual development – it will not deal with sectarian religious ideas, philosophical conjecture, or worldly concerns.
The Mahabharata, one of the world’s great epics, has been interpreted in three main ways. As a story of a royal family that becomes involved in a fratricidal war. On this level the Mahabharata describes the value of qualities such as courage, heroism, and saintliness. Ethically the war is seen as the perennial conflict fought in daily life between good and bad, justice and injustice, right and wrong. Spiritually it focuses on the battle between the higher self and lower self, the war between man’s spiritual calling and the demands of the body, mind, intelligence, and ego
Reincarnation literally means ‘to be embodied again’, and is the process by which the soul travels from one body to another in successive lives. It is a commonly held belief in many of the world’s spiritual traditions – especially those of the east such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism.
Reincarnation is elaborately described in Vedic Literature, particularly in the Bhagavad-gita:
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones. — Bhagavad-gita 2.22
Changing from one body to another is similar to the experience we have even within our present body as we grow up and our body changes from a baby-hood, to a childhood, to a youth, and finally to old age. As these changes happen naturally, so we also pass into another body at death.
It is described that when someone finds tranquility with this process, and comes to realise him or herself to be a spiritual being residing in “the city of the body” then he or she is not bewildered by the transformations of the body and attains real peace.
However, since the soul is eternal then unless this process of reincarnation is stopped it can go on eternally. Therefore, according to the Vaishnava tradition reincarnation is a cycle that needs to be broken. Getting caught up in this cycle of birth, death, and rebirth is not the point. Thus, when the subject of liberation is discussed, it means liberation from this perpetual cycle.
The process of Krishna consciousness is aimed at attaining liberation from the natural difficulties that life brings, and of attaining an eternal spiritual life.
If you would like to learn more about reincarnation there is a very good book on the subject called Coming Back.
As we live through thousands of dreams in our present life, so is our present life only one of many thousands of such lives which we enter from the other more real life, and then return after death. Our life is but one of the dreams of that more real life, and so it is endlessly, until the very last one, the very real, the life of God.” — Count Leo Tolstoy
To fully understand the process of reincarnation, it is essential to also understand karma.
‘Karma’ means ‘activity’. The law of karma is the natural law of action and reaction – in physics this is expressed by Newton’s third law, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”.
‘Karma’ means ‘activity’. The law of karma is the natural law of action and reaction – in physics this is expressed by Newton’s third law, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”.
It should be noted here that all souls are essentially good. This means that just because someone gets a bad reaction it does not mean that they are a bad person. Another important point is that karma is temporary. This means that although we may be experiencing a particular set of circumstances right now, good or bad, those circumstances will change in the future.
Not only is karma temporary, but it is also possible to change one’s karma, or even get rid of it altogether.
Karma (good or bad) creates a cycle by which one is entangled in repeated action and reaction. As long as one is in this cycle one will experience both happiness and distress. The Vaishnava tradition teaches how one can break this cycle and achieve real liberty and real happiness.
In the Vaishnava tradition the concept of karma is intimately related to Reincarnation.
In many societies there are special ceremonies for celebrating the different stages of life. The Hindu tradition is no exception, where many different ceremonies are performed. Below is a list of the main types of ceremonies.
Such ceremonies are said to:
- Sanctify the atmosphere and relationships.
- Increase auspiciousness.
- Eliminate bad karma and purify the body, mind, and soul.
- Smooth the path of spiritual progress.
- Provide a ceremonial focus for spiritual processes such as chanting sacred mantras.
- Help support one socially, culturally, and spiritually for elevation in life.
These ceremonies are performed for the benefit of both the individual and the family, and can be performed either in one’s home or at a temple. The first ceremony is considered to be that of marriage, since the family is given its birth through the union of husband and wife.
- Name giving
- First grains
- New dwelling
- Invoking auspiciousness
Radhadesh has space for up to 200 guests to accomodate guests both for the ceremony itself and for a delicious vegetarian meal after the ceremony.
VegetarianismInternational Society for Krishna Consciousness
Food is an important part of Vaishnava culture, with cooking considered one of the fine arts. Since Vaishnavas are natural vegetarians and their culture is Eastern, their cuisine contains an abundance of spiced vegetable dishes and exotic flavours.
As in many cultures, cooking is an important part of Vaishnava hospitality – as anyone will know who has visited a Vaishnava temple (especially during festivals). Srila Prabhupada, the founder acarya of ISKCON, also loved to cook. He used his considerable culinary skills to make delicious preparations for the visitors who came to see him and also taught others how to cook.
Those who visit an ISKCON temple will also notice that we only cook vegetarian preparations. Vegetarianism is an integral part of the basic living principles within Vaisnavism. The are two principles that are developed when vegetarianism is practiced:
- Ahimsa (non-violence)
- Service to God (Krishna)
‘Krishna’ is a Sanskrit word that means ‘the most attractive person’. It is one of the names that Vaishnava Hindus use to refer to God. Krishna is considered the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the pinnacle of all truths.
Krishna is the supreme controller. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, for He is the prime cause of all causes. – Brahma-samhita 5.1
Understanding that God is spiritual, people sometimes conceive of Him as having no qualities. But although Krishna has no material qualities, He is full of unlimited transcendental qualities, and those qualities attract us to Him.
One of the names to describe Krishna is ‘Bhagavan’, which means ‘one who is full in the six opulences’. Only when someone possesses these 6 opulences in full can that person be accepted as God.
These opulences are:
What is God Like
Everything about God is fully transcendental, or spiritual. Unlike ordinary souls, who possess a temporary material body, Krishna’s body never changes – He is an eternal youth.
Because God is absolute, there is no difference between Him and His name, form, activities, qualities, and so on. Contact with any of these gives the same spiritual benefit, namely the purification of consciousness.
Krishna appeared in India 5,000 years ago, staying there for 125 years. Although His activities were human-like they were also unparalleled in opulence and power.
A Complete Conception of God
Many people have a hard time conceiving that God can be a person. But the Vedas describe God’s unique personal identity as His highest aspect. The following analogy describes how God has three main features – impersonal, localized, and personal:
“When we look at a mountain from a distance, we can only make out its size and shape. (This is compared to comprehending God as Brahman, His impersonal energy, which emanates from Him just as light shines out from its source.)
“If we move closer, we will start to make out more of the mountain’s characteristics – for example, the colour of the foliage of the trees on its slopes. (This is compared to understanding that God is within our hearts as Paramatma, or Supersoul.)
“Then, if we travel to the mountain itself we can see its vegetation, rivers, and other features in great detail. (This is compared to understanding God the person, or Bhagavan.)
“Therefore, Bhagavan is the source of Brahman and Paramatma and is one with them, although He always maintains His personal identity.”
Although Krishna is invisible to us in our present state, we can perceive His presence through His energies, which are everywhere. Although innumerable, His energies fall into the three main categories:
- internal (eternal spiritual)
- external (temporary material)
- marginal (souls that interact either with His spiritual or material energies).
In contemplating the above, the reader may ask, “Where are you getting this information from?” Apart from Lord Krishna’s own words in Bhagavad-gita, the ancient Vedas (scriptures) of India extensively describe God in detail, His expansions, incarnations, and pastimes.