Thursday, May 2, 2019

A visit to the Bhakti Center on 1st Avenue

Interview and photos by Stacie Joy

I walk by the Bhakti Center, 25 First Ave. near Second Street, all the time, especially on my way to and from the Second Avenue F stop, but I’d never ventured in before. I’d seen folks from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (sometimes colloquially referred to as Hare Krishnas) outside the building singing, chanting and dancing.

I was very curious about the space — it has ashrams, yoga and meditation spaces, at least one kitchen, a temple, a priest room and a rooftop deck among other spaces, including a ground floor Ayurvedic restaurant. I met with Syama Masla (director of yoga studies), who gave me a tour, and who also solicited the help of Jai Giridhari (director of meditation studies) in answering some of my questions about the Bhakti Center.

[Syama Masla]

There’s a lot going on — such as more familiar programming like yoga and meditation — on any given day. What are some of your offerings that people may not be aware of? How does the Center serve the community?

Outside of daily yoga and meditation classes, the Bhakti Center offers countless opportunities for all to join our community. Book clubs, kirtans [yogic chanting], and social initiatives like sacred ecology and end-of-life care services to name a few.

We offer community groups too. In these groups we provide a social and spiritual anchor for all faiths to come together and grow. One of the biggest problems in today’s society is social media, that we are connected via phones and disconnected in person. These groups help us to reconnect on a heart level!

[Vasudeva Das, Temple director]

What do you have to say to people new to the culture and practices of Bhakti yoga; people who may be too intimidated (or cynical!) to try it?

If you are looking for a spiritual home in NYC give the Bhakti Center a try. Whether you are someone who has no, little, or much spiritual are welcome here.

What is the Center’s relationship with Divya’s Kitchen on the ground floor, which New York magazine recently named one of the top-10 places in NYC to eat vegan food?

Divya and her husband Prentise are dear friends and community members of the Bhakti Center. We are grateful to have their wonderful and delicious restaurant on our ground floor. Divya’s Kitchen also runs a nonprofit ayurvedic cooking school out of the Bhakti Center called Bhagavat Life.

The neighborhood has changed quite a bit since Srila Prabhupada first brought the culture of bhakti to the West through kirtan in Tompkins Square Park. Does the East Village still seem like a spiritual home for you?

Yes, absolutely. The East Village is alive with open minded and adventurous people — the perfect type of people who appreciate the Bhakti Center.

What’s next for the Bhakti Center?

We plan to keep expanding our offerings to serve the community and beyond. Our programming is really starting to develop and each season we see rapid improvements in terms of the number of people coming through the center.

This summer we welcome back one of our spiritual inspirations Radhanath Swami for two full months! When he comes to town the atmosphere is always exciting.

[Dhyana Masla, left, director of community development, with her sister Syama]


You can keep up with Bhakti Center on Facebook and Instagram.


Anonymous said...

Its a great place, I take yoga there!

Anonymous said...

A fantastic place! Love all the teachers well as Stanton St. (By my house ;)

Kate & Tobias... said...

A lovely and welcoming place indeed. I've known Syama for years and she's one of the best people I've known. Good place to do yoga and have a good kirtan.

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed numerous wonderful yoga classes taught by Sayama and Dhyama. Their teaching is what all yoga should be: heart-opening, calming and joyous.