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the man behind bhaktifest
Have you ever wondered what the story is behind the largest Kirtan and Yoga festival in our country? Founder of Bhaktifest, Sridhar Steven Silberfein, has been on a personal spiritual quest for over thirty years, while quite handily blending a life as a pioneer businessman. In 1970 he established the first health food store in Southern California, The Food Chakra, in Topanga Canyon and followed with Desert Essence, a skin care company that brought quality natural products with jojoba and tea tree oil to America for the first time. He went on to co-found the Triloka recording label which helped to launch the careers of today’s most popular kirtan artists such as Krishna Das and Jai Uttal.
Yogi Times: How are you raising consciousness in your community?
YT: Why did you choose this work?
YT: What is the vision of Bhaktifest?
Sridhar Silberfein: Some of the most difficult moments for me in my journey is being able to relate the vision to so many that help us. It does not come out in a wonderful way some times, and I find it to be misunderstood by a few. Coming from a New York Jewish background, we tend to jump in and get the job done as quickly as possible, without too much dialogue. A lot of folks these days are more into the yoga “yadiyadas” as I like to call it, and think that their work is the most important aspect and not appreciating that it is the whole, the entirety that makes it all successful.
Sridhar Silberfein: Business and commerce are two very extremely difficult aspects to maintain together. One is that you need to be able to pay the bills so there is concerns over spending and not bringing in the amounts needed to fulfill that level, as well as being able to separate the two and know that at the end of the day, the higher forces are in control anyway. My favorite saying is “set up the stage and get out of the way” which means let the grace take hold.
Sridhar Silberfein: The key element of Bhakti Fest’s success is we do our own thing, meaning we do not copy any other festival. While we have many imitators who copy our website and our talent, we even have our name copied sometimes to make it look like we are involved with a project. We have to continuously monitor that situation. We welcome collaboration with other festivals that are true to their words. It is a shame that more folks cannot get along.
Sridhar Silberfein: Bhakti Fest has influenced a lot of the community that attends. Through our ”˜veterans for yoga’ free entry program we are seeing an increase of many veterans coming and being able to work on their PTS and other ailments of violence and mental disarray. We are the first festival in the country that has made this plan for the veterans. We are also now leading pilgrimages through India twice a year with visiting and well-trusted yoga teachers as part of our “Bhakti Yatras.” On these trips we are able to guide people who want to experience and dive deep into the teachings of India, with trusting guides who have traveled and even lived in India before. We have many contacts and dear friends all throughout India and it is amazing to be able to share that with people who are seeking but want to feel safe in their journey.
Sridhar Silberfein: The most important part of our work is to maintain our integrity no matter what aversion comes our way. We have a goal in mind to reach as many folks as we can with clean living, yoga teachings, wisdom workshops and with the biggest kirtan voice in the world.
Sridhar Silberfein: People chose to come to Bhakti Fest over other festivals because we deliver. We give them every unique experience that we commit to, we provide fresh water free, we provide the best in vegetarian vendors, we maintain a 24 hours-per-day, 4 day-a-week schedule, non-stop on two stages. We have 3 yoga halls going from 7am to 7pm everyday. We have workshops going from 9am to 7pm everyday and we have a breath work hall during the same hours. We are cutting edge and introduce new kirtan stars and create a forum to come and showcase their talents.
Sridhar Silberfein: My main advice to newcomers is just to relax. For kirtan and yoga aspirants, I say never give up your day job. Nowadays, everyone is a yoga teacher, everyone is a kirtan artist. Both of these areas require many years of practice and dedication. My good friends Krishna Das and Jai Uttal have been touring for over 25 years on a constant basis all over the world. Ask yourself the question, ”˜are you willing to give up family, friends, children home and do that?’ If so, that is the only path to success. However, if you want to have a personal practice of yoga and a practice of kirtan that is not set up for a monetary return, this is much better. This is what I have been doing for many years myself. We still get over 10-20 submissions per week from all over the world to play, teach or talk at Bhakti Fest, so the field out there is getting very crowded, and one has to be exceptional in what they are doing.
Sridhar Silberfein: I leave you with best to be quiet, do your own work, follow your own path, and try to do as much ”˜seva’- service work for the less fortunate. Then you will wake up everyday with a new spirit, a new understanding, and say thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me another day on this beautiful path.
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