Celebrating One Million YouTube Views!
Giridhari das (Gustavo Dauster) is the leader of our flagship Krishna West project in Brazil. While holding various leadership positions in ISKCON, including Director of BBT Brazil and President of the ISKCON Brazil National Council, he has published three books on yoga and self-realization. In 1998, he built and established Pandavas Paradise, a yoga retreat center and eco-lodge located on a one thousand-acre ecological paradise in the heart of Brazil, where he lives with his wife and two sons.
In 2014, Giridhari started a YouTube channel to expand his Krishna West outreach in Brazil. After three years of steady content creation, his channel now receives over 80K views per month. Last week, he cracked the 1 million mark!
In celebration of his success, I asked Giridhari to share with us his realizations about presenting Krishna consciousness to Western audiences.
Tell us a little about yourself and the history of Pandavas Paradise.
My name is Giridhari Das, or Giri for short. I have been practicing bhakti-yoga, the yoga of devotion, and working with self-development for over 20 years.
I was born in Prague in 1969 as Gustavo Dauster, the son of a Brazilian diplomat. A few years later my family and I returned to Brazil, where we stayed until I was 9 years old. Then we moved to London, where I lived for the next 8 years and studied at an American high school. Later I spent a year in the USA at Brown University and, after permanently moving back to Brazil, completed my degree in economics.
My career was just beginning when I was introduced to the bhakti path through a business contact. He spoke to me about Krishna consciousness, and his wife gave me a copy of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. I was impressed with the knowledge I found there and I soon took up the daily practice (sadhana) myself.
In 1993, I met my spiritual master, H.D. Goswami. After developing a close relationship with him as his disciple, I took formal initiation in 1998, receiving from him the spiritual name, Giridhari Das.
For many years, I participated actively in ISKCON in various positions of administration and leadership in Brazil. For 10 years I was in charge of the Brazilian branch of the BBT, the publishing house of the Hare Krishna movement, and after that I served for several years as president of the governing body of ISKCON Brazil.
Today I own and run a yoga resort called Pandavas Paradise in the highland plateaus of central Brazil. I live there with my wife, Charana Renu Dasi (Rhiannon Dauster), and our two young sons, Bryn Govardhana and Macsen Krishna.
I enjoy teaching students and guests at our yoga resort and at other spiritual centers in Brazil. For many years I have also been teaching and guiding people through email, but I began to feel the need to reach out to larger audiences and in 2014 started a YouTube channel for that purpose.
Have you always been this popular in Brazil? If not, what changed? Why are people becoming more interested?
I’ve been inspired and dedicated to share spirituality for 20 years. Like many others in ISKCON, I had little to no success outside of ISKCON for most of this time, and I couldn’t understand why. I loved explaining Prabhupada’s teachings, stories from the Srimad Bhagavatam, the activities and teachings of our past gurus, the need for bhakti, the bliss of bhakti, and so on. And, basically, almost no one cared, outside the circle of those who were already practicing Krishna consciousness.
About three years ago I started my Brazilian YouTube channel, with the challenge of making short videos—about 5 minutes long, 10 minutes max. All of a sudden, my audience was not made of Krishna-bhaktas. My audience was the world in general. I now had to speak in such a way as to offer value to people with no previous contact with yoga or Krishna.
That alone makes an enormous difference and is something that is sorely lacking in ISKCON. We need more people reaching out to new people. Teaching devotees is sweet, but that’s the institutional comfort zone. We have to get out of it. It’s much more difficult to reach out to the world and give immediate value to newcomers in exchange for their valuable time. And getting someone to give you five minutes is a lot to ask today. Sixty to ninety minute lectures are only for the very, very hardcore of devotees.
Obviously, there is no point doing a five minute analysis of the Sanskrit of a Gita verse, or a summary of a Krishna lila. That won’t reach anyone not already committed to Krishna-bhakti. So, what can we take from yoga and Krishna consciousness that is immediately useful and easy to absorb in a few minutes? That was my quest.
Krishna inspired me and many ideas came to mind. As I presented them, more and more people started taking notice.
What topics seem to attract the most attention? What is your most popular video?
How to deal with our own and other people’s painful behavior is a big topic, like dealing with break-ups, anger, and anxiety. The power of being in the here and now is attractive, since mindfulness is a powerful and relatively unknown technique with enormous practical results for daily life. Explaining situations in the world, such as why there is so much craziness, suffering and violence, is also a popular topic.
You recently published a book that is also popular in Brazil. What is the premise of the book?
Over the space of two years the ideas I was presenting took shape in my newest book, The 3T Path. I became aware that our tradition had more to offer and we were limiting our presentation to jnana and bhakti, which are certainly the two highest and most important aspects of our path, but, because of that, also the most difficult to access.
In my book, I present yoga as the path of enlightened life, where bhakti is the ultimate goal, but not the only practice. The message seems to resonate well with non-sectarian people, in part because it gives immediate results and its components (mindfulness, dharma—being true to yourself, inner peace—positivity/gratitude, sattvic lifestyles) are scientifically proven to be effective.
The outlying “avenues of perfection,” as I call them, namely sattvic lifestyle, mindfulness, dharma and inner peace (psychology tips on developing positivity, dealing with anger, etc) are all scientifically proven and the number of people interested in them can only increase more and more, as they bring immediate and guaranteed results in the form of greater peace, harmony, well-being, etc.
In the inside there is jnana, in other words “the philosophy,” which we can “prove” with philosophical debate to people inclined to philosophize. Lastly, the highest and most difficult, Krishna-bhakti, which must be experienced directly to be proven and can only come to those who have imbued “the philosophy” or were born into the culture of Krishna-bhakti.
How does your approach improve the reception of Krishna consciousness among Western audiences?
In terms of outreach, by presenting Krishna consciousness as part of a package, and showing how the different "avenues" fit together, the invitation for people to seek out jnana and bhakti reaches a much greater audience. Once people experience the immediate effects of the outlying "avenues of perfection," they are more inclined to take the time to go deeper. Jnana takes hundreds of hours of investment to have any effect and Krishna-bhakti is even more difficult to achieve.
I propose that ISKCON is failing in the West not just because of the use of Indian-ethnicity which Krishna West hopes to rectify, but because of trying to present the most difficult parts of KC only—jnana and Krishna-bhakti. Spiritual philosophy is vastly unpopular and it takes a lot of mental effort and time to imbibe it and then fully accept it as real.
Devotion to God is accessible within one’s own culture, but generally more popular with the poorer, less intelligent section of society. Devotion to God in a foreign culture, in other words, Krishna-bhakti for Westerners, is practically speaking a non-starter, in the sense that it’s literally not available to them right away.
The people who have bhakti in the West are happy with their Christian or Muslim version of it and are usually indoctrinated to NOT have the open mind needed to seek out God in another tradition. And those who are not experiencing bhakti have little motivation to invest in hundreds of hours of study of our philosophy to then put it in practice and finally experience Krishna-bhakti. That path is just not on their mental map.
By presenting yoga as this big package, from lifestyle to Krishna-bhakti, we give a path people can follow, with immediate benefits and long-term goals. We effectively place jnana and Krishna-bhakti on their mental map, in a way that makes sense, in a place of honor. Not only is it more effective for preaching, but it actually works and is faithful to the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and the Bhagavad-gita. It’s not a watering down, or a bait-and-switch routine. I understand this as being yoga as it really is.
Can you share any advice with us regarding teaching Krishna consciousness and online outreach?
First: let’s stop preaching to the choir. Let’s find out what the world needs and give them solutions from our tradition for those problems, along with the deeper aspects of jnana and bhakti for those ready for it.
Second: let’s be humble enough to understand that we have to keep learning from those who are successful in taking their messages out—what platforms are they using, how do they do it, how frequently, what style, etc? I’m simply amazed how few books have been written by ISKCON preachers reaching out to the world at large. Practically zero. And YouTube? Almost nothing. I believe my YouTube channel in Portuguese is the biggest in the ISKCON world. Hurray for me, but that’s not good.
There are so many brilliant preachers out there, why don’t they take the time to learn how to use this gigantic platform? What about Facebook and Instagram? And good ol’ regular blogging? There is no way around it. If you want to get your message out these days you need it all—regular blogging, Instagram presence, YouTube and writing new books.
I’m now trying to take my work to the rest of the world, by creating content in English. Currently, I record a new video every week in both English and Portuguese (different themes). For each video I write a blog, so that’s one blog per week, in each language. With Instagram, I create a short message with a beautiful picture and post one every 48 hours in each language, which means one every day.
That’s what I’m doing. Constant and steady content creation, always directing people to read The 3T Path, which will then direct them towards H.D. Goswami's and Prabhupupada’s books, japa, vegetarianism, sobriety, etc.
Like other teachers in our tradition, what I’m doing is emphasizing different aspects of Krishna consciousness. I’m not changing anything, nor watering it down. I’m just presenting it in a way that I believe makes more sense to the world today, is more accessible, and gives faster results.
Purchase The 3T Path in print or e-book via Amazon HERE!
Ali Krishna dasi is the former Director of Media for Krishna West. With a graduate degree in Religion & Ecology and a minor in Nonprofit Leadership, she is formerly the Director of Media at the University of Florida’s Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions (CHiTra). She lives in Kyoto, Japan.