Monday, June 29, 2009

The Meaning of KuliMela, by Chaitanya Mangala

Chaitanya Mangala is a pioneer gurukuli (a second-generation devotee of Krishna), and one of the key organizers and a great inspiration to the KuliMela Festival. He wrote the following as a casual e-mail to the transportation team, but then sent it out to all the organizers of the KuliMela Festival.

With his permission, I have published it here for your inspiration.


I'd like to touch upon the meaning of "Kuli Mela."

As kids we were taught that the Sanskrit term "gurukula" meant the following:
Guru = spiritual master
Kula = school

So, in ISKCON, "gurukula" has generally translated as “the school of the spiritual master.”
The terms "Kula," and it's subsidiary "Kuli," are actually much broader in meaning:
Kuli = a member of a particular family, tribe, caste, clan, community, school, etc

Then, we have the second part of our group's name:

Mela = Gathering, Festival, Celebration, Congregation, Meeting, Pilgrimage, Reunion, Fair, etc.

"Kuli Mela" can be interpreted to include something as specific as "School Reunion," something a little broader like "Family Festival" and something as wide open as "Celebration of Community" and "Gathering of the Tribe."

These terms have evolved to accommodate the needs of our expanding and more complex and dynamic group.

For me, a Kuli Mela event represents three main themes: Sanga (association), Seva (Service) and Shakti (Empowerment/Inspiration).

First, we decide to get together (specific reasons and purposes can be as varied as the participants). This may be in a muddy cow field or in a 5 star hotel. Location is secondary to intent. [Sanga]

Second, while gathering we voluntarily do things to serve one another. [Seva]

Third, by seeing others doing so many interesting things, additional people feel inspired and in turn become empowered to do even more amazing things. [Shakti]

And we now have a healthier cycle that repeats itself, each time improving upon the last.

We are creating an atmosphere where a diverse international crowd can come together, at least temporarily, to share in a positive communal experience. We are developing a life style and mindset as much as we are developing a brand identity that conveys that mood.

It's this formula that has seen so much success over the past 3 years. It's not about spreadsheets. It's not about finances. It's not about location. It's about how people think and feel while they participate. It's the "come as you are" attitude that started 20 years ago with the Reunions that has transformed into something more.

Of course, money is an important element and it has to be handled properly. I am firmly convinced that if the above three elements are taken care of, people will come and they will bring resources with them. As soon as people sense that it's more about the money than it is about the experience, they'll stop coming. Let's make sure we focus first on the people and second on the finances.

In this endeavor we are all servants. People "lead" by having a strong vision, taking responsibility for it and being determined to figure out how to make it happen. They generally put in more time and resources than those they serve. This in turn trickles down to the attendees, which inspires the attendees to volunteer, which in turn inspires the organizers, and so on, and so on.


The Kulimela Festival will take place this year in Los Angeles, California.

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