“Event Happiness” at Melbourne University

By Patricia Retuya - 4.4 2017

On the 6th of March, an audience of over 500 filled the University of Melbourne’s Carrilo Ganter Theatre for a seminar offering a unique insight into the universal topic of happiness. Looking out into the full lecture theatre, the first observation one would make is to notice the variety of people present from different backgrounds, age demographics, and walks of life. Guest speaker, Devamrita Swami aptly and humorously sets the tone of the event with his opening quip, “I didn’t think there were this many people interested in the topic of happiness.”

The Carillo Ganter Theatre is filled to the brim with an audience composed of individuals from all walks of life.

Devamrita Swami, a spiritual monk and author of the book Hiding in Unnatural Happiness, draws from his background as an Ivy League graduate from Yale University to infuse a refreshing sense of intellectuality to spirituality – offering a newfound way of thinking that bridges the connection between the relevance of ancient yogic texts and the modern world, which then in turn proposes an in-depth perspective towards genuine happiness.

Looking every bit the part of a spiritual monk as he takes to the stage dressed in orange robes and a yellow mark drawn vertically from the top of his forehead to the tip of his nose, Swami speaks in a modern day accent native to that of a man born and bred in New York with the intellectuality of a scholar, the presence of a professor, and the timing of a comedian.

Devamrita Swami, all smiles as he spoke on the Bhakti yoga philosophy of happiness.

Beginning and ending the talk with a taste of a kirtan session that engaged the crowd in the traditional practice of singing the Hare Krishna mantras, a subtle yet palpable sense of awareness changes the mood of the room. As the shyness and hesitation from those completely unfamiliar with kirtan ebb away, there came a realization that this was more than a stagnant lecture where information would be dispensed, nor was it a sermon preaching religious ideals; this was a collective experience wherein everyone could turn to their neighbors and validate the resonance and peace they were feeling. Almost as if in silent confirmation, you could see it in the eyes of those within your periphery: this is real, this is valid, and this matters. And, in my opinion, it was an example of how true education should be- honest, non-didactic, and eye-opening.

As one would expect from an event collaborating with Mantra Lounge, the night was not complete until each and every guest was well fed with delicious vegan platters served by kind-hearted volunteers. The event ended on high spirits with a long line of people waiting to have their copies of Hiding in Unnatural Happiness signed by Devamrita Swami, and the halls of the Sidney Myer Centre filled with people sharing animated discussions about the seminar over an amazing plate of food.

Volunteers serving an all vegan dinner to guests after the talk.