When I arrived at Bhakti Fest 2012, I was nervous and excited. Nervous because it was my first Bhakti Fest and I found out when I arrived that I was set up to interview the founder. I realized I didn’t even know what Bhakti meant. What a noob. Thankfully (and very surprisingly) there was plenty of cell service out in the desert (in Joshua Tree, California), so I quickly did some research.
Bhakti Fest is festival which celebrates the devotional path that has its roots in yoga, kirtan (chanting), and meditation. It embraces ancient and modern sacred wisdom and traditional and non-traditional spiritual practices. The festival is a vehicle for evolution of human consciousness through a heart-centered revolution. Bhakti Fest builds a community of people drawn to follow the path of the heart – a devotional, prayerful, loving, healthful, respectful family.
Ok. Cool. I got this.
I made my way to the outdoor green room behind the stage, and next to the free shots of liquid Vitamineral Green, I found the creator of Bhakti Fest, Sridhar Silberfein, surrounded by other press people covering the event. We all sat around him on a couch while he talked freely about Bhakti Fest and we held out our iPhones to record it. He’s a wise, friendly and very peaceful-natured man – and he had some really interesting thoughts to share! Read on!
So, what is this Bhakti Fest all about?
This is bringing you back to the source, to the love, to the devotion that we all had in our lives, but it got lost in translation. Lost in the translation of our peers, our fathers and mothers, our sisters and brothers and our educations and schools and colleges.
All this love and devotion gets lost because we have to be a certain way. We can’t be who we really are, which is love, because we’re caught up in having to make money, get a job, get an apartment, pay rent, get a car – I consider all of that living in this “box” that society has built up, which is controlled by the government and big corporations. They control the big box, and we just live in this little box every day. We get up in our houses or apartments – our box. We go to the kitchen – to our box, to the cereal, the refrigerator – our box, we get into our car – our box, we go to our office – our box, and we come home at night…and this is it, every day.
We’re not happy because we think we have to be something at a certain age. I gotta be working, I gotta go to college, I gotta get a husband, I gotta get a wife, I gotta have kids. Really, you gotta go inside yourself. You just have to empower yourself and stay in that space. It’s very important.
Stepping out of that box and saying “wow, I want more in my life,” you start practicing yoga and meditation and you get into chanting. You get all these beautiful feelings and you say, “wow this really does work.”
People start off just to get their physical body together when they start doing yoga, then they turn around and say “what else is there? I’m feeling so great, I know there’s more.” Then they start meditating and then all of a sudden they start chanting. Chanting is the key. Yoga is the beginning part of the way, but without the rest of the stuff you’re not going to have the complete package.
How is Bhakti Fest changing?
I see it changing because I see more and more people coming. They know that here, they’re not going to get the meat, the alcohol, the drugs or the rock and roll. More and more people are coming out for that. The yoga classes are all packed. You walk into the workshops, they’re all packed. At 7pm, you won’t be able to find an open seat at the mainstage evening event.
What’s the importance of having healthy food at this type of event?
We all live an interesting lifestyle. I’m very disciplined in mine. I do yoga, meditate and chant every day. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 40 years. I started very young. The only reason we don’t eat good food is because we’ve been taught the wrong way. I grew up in a house with steaks, lamb chops, potatoes, BBQ. We all grew up like that. We have to step out. When I was very young, I went to a slaughterhouse in upstate New York. They gave us a tour. I never touched a piece of anything after that. It’s awful. You have to maintain a good diet, there’s no doubt about it. By eating a meat-based diet, there’s a lot of anger and fear and violence that goes into your system. When the animals get killed, they are filled with anger, fear and frustration. Where does that stuff go? You eat it. It goes into you and accumulates and accumulates and you say, “wow, why am I so angry?”
You try yoga, then you realize there’s other things – you start changing your diet, drinking more juices…we tell everybody to drink a gallon of water every single day. Water is very, very important. We just went through 3,000 gallons of water in 2 days. Our water here has gone through reverse osmosis treatment, this water is free 24 hours a day the whole time.
We choose our food vendors very carefully. The same way we choose everybody. Everything comes through a committee, we look over everybody, we invite back people we know. The food is always within the framework of vegetarian – raw or cooked.
For someone new to kirtan (chanting), how can they start?
Start off by getting the CDs and listening to the music. It’s really great. Play it in your car as you’re driving along. Start going to events. It’s a nice night out. It keeps you out of the bars that night. Go to yoga classes. You know that everyone that’s going to yoga or kirtan just wants to be absorbed in love. That’s what everybody wants. Dive into our web site. There’s a lot of material on there.
Why is the kirtan at Bhakti Fest going on for 24 hours a day, for 4 days straight?
It doesn’t matter if there’s 2 or 3 or 4 people out here in the middle of the night. It’s the energy and the vibration that permeates the land constantly for 4 days.
Will Bhakti Fest expand to other parts of the country?
Yes – Northeast, Southeast, Southwest – that’s our big ambition. We want everything to be perfectly aligned before we go someplace new.
Any last words?
Develop your empowerment. Develop your process. Don’t worry about anybody else. Everybody’s always thinking they have to be a certain way. You’re not changing anybody, and nobody’s changing you. It’s all about unconditional love. I accept you for who you are. You accept me for who I am. We get together. We try to help each other. That’s it.
This was really fun. Learn more about Bhakti Fest here.