Author: Janne Kontala, PhD (Jayananda das)
Introduction to Yoga Philosophy online course at Bhaktivedanta College

Yoga helps us to use our freedom in the best

Yoga helps us to use our freedom in the best way so that our freedom can grow. Freedom to choose is there, but it should not be misunderstood. Yoga does not advocate unlimited freedom; we are constrained in our choices by our karma and destiny, which we have created by our past choices. We can exercise our will to choose in the present context, and depending on the choices we make now, we can increase or decrease our future freedom. Yoga is meant to totally set us free from the bondage of material nature.

Exercise our freedom guided by the teachings of yoga

For a yogi, this is essentially the same as becoming free from the bondage of the mind. But we need to exercise our freedom guided by the teachings of yoga and experienced practitioners. That will save us a lot of time, compared to if we were to reinvent the wheel through trial and error. But if we choose otherwise, and let our mind run its course rather than following the teachings of yoga, then our consciousness will be molded and affected by things external to itself.

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The self can rejoice in its own nature, fully satisfied

In advanced meditational practice, it will at one point be useful to psychologically contemplate the self as a passive witness, as opposed to being an active participant in worldly events. That will help the yogi detach from the last attachments that bind the pure consciousness to the mind’s activities. In that last step, the yogi moves from the state of contemplating one object to an objectless state of samadhi. Even this last step, however, involves a conscious choice made by the self, but paradoxically, it is easier to take that step by thinking oneself a passive observer, as opposed to an active meditator. After that final step has been taken, the self can rejoice in its own nature, fully satisfied and feeling no lack of any kind.

Author: Anupama Devi Dasi, teacher of Bhagavad-gita (Chapters 13-18) at Bhaktivedanta College

Knowledge means to understand oneself in Krishna Consciousness

The middle 6 chapters of the Bhagavad-gita, and especially the 12th chapter, appear as the crescendo of Krishna’s glorification of Bhakti. Therefore, one may question: “Why are the last six chapters known as the Yoga of Knowledge?”
An answer is to be found in the 13th Chapter wherein Srila Prabhupada writes: “Knowledge and development of knowledge mean to understand oneself in Krishna Consciousness.” And throughout the entire Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna is progressively understanding himself in Krishna Consciousness.

Develop knowledge and understanding

The 15th chapter’s amazing analogy of the banyan tree gives us an insight into the process of developing knowledge and understanding. First of all, Krishna asks Arjuna to become a spiritual dendrologist: “One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas (veda-vit)”. Then, he is instructed to, like a lumberjack, cut down the tree with the axe of detachment sharpened by knowledge and discrimination.
Arjuna’s next role is that of a seeker: “Thereafter, one must seek that place from which, having gone, one never returns.” Finally Arjuna is advised to surrender: “…and there surrender to that Supreme Personality of Godhead from whom everything began and from whom everything has extended since time immemorial.”

 
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 Preparing to act according to Krishna’s instructions

To further facilitate Arjuna’s search, in chapters 13 to 18 Krishna unfolds new depths and breadths of transcendental knowledge. After attentively hearing these, Arjuna utters his final statement of surrender by declaring, “My illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy. I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.”

Author: Ananda Vrndavan dasi, teacher of Madhurya Kadambini course at Bhaktivedanta College
The first series on Madhurya Kadambini course

Nine stages of pure devotion to Krsna

Rupa Gosvami delineates nine stages of pure devotion to Krsna, in which spiritual emotions first awaken and then gradually intensify to the point of unalloyed love:

  1. Persons develop pure faith (sraddha)
  2. Associate with pure devotees (sadhu-sanga)
  3. Perform unsteady devotional service to Krsna (bhajana-kriya)
  4. Under the guidance of a bona-fide spiritual master, they give up their unwanted habits (anartha-nivritti)
  5. Firm faith awakens, by which devotional service fixes itself in the devotees’ character (nistha)
  6. A strong taste for devotional service appears (ruci)
  7. Attachment (asakti)
  8. Ecstatic emotion (bhava)
  9. Pure love of God (prema).

 
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As we can see, spiritual life is actually a very precise, progressive and coherent type of science. With the knowledge of the symptoms of these different stages, we are being enabled to honestly detect where we are now and where we are going next in our spiritual life, which is essential for our further proper development. If we do not understand at what level we are at presently, we might assume that we are at another level and that we should do certain things that in reality might not be relevant or fit for us. People would tend to think that they are more advanced rather that they are less advanced.

 

‘Attending Krishna’s Image’ is an invaluable resource for pujaris and for all who want to explore the ancient sacred tradition of serving Krishna in His merciful murti form. Our founder-acarya, Srila Prabhupada, was deeply concerned that our worship of Sri Vigraha does not deteriorate into galagraha or a sense of burden. This book can not only prevent that from happening but also further inspire worshippers on whichever level of practice and realization they may be.

VIDEO: Krishna Kshetra Swami about the book


Attending Krishna’s Image

Subtitle: Caitanya Vaisnava Murti-seva as Devotional Truth

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Author: Janne Kontala, PhD (Jayananda das) based on Yoga-sutra 1.2
Introduction to Yoga Philosophy online course at Bhaktivedanta College

Achieve a deeper concentration

Our mind is in a constant state of flux: sometimes restless, sometimes dull, yet at other times focused, calm and clear. The process of yoga is meant to gradually elevate one from dullness to activity, and then from activity to clarity. Activity is not a stable platform: it easily relapses into dullness, or if activity increases too much, one becomes restless, unable to concentrate on one thing for any length of time. But by right endeavour we can bring the restless mind to focus momentarily on something. Then, with regular practice, we can achieve a deeper concentration. That is the beginning stage of yoga.

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Stillness of mind

The advanced stage is achieved when the mind is completely still. When this stillness is perpetuated, two trancelike states follow. These states are called samadhi. In the first samadhi, the consciousness is aware of one object, and nothing else. In the second, more advanced samadhi, the consciousness is devoid of all objects. Then the consciousness has no other object than itself. This state is called objectless samadhi, because the consciousness resides in itself, without any external object. The one who achieves this kind of samadhi is close to the goal of yoga.

Our inner world has three main departments

It is not easy to come to such a platform because of the mind’s constant changing states. Our inner world has three main departments that combine into a uniform experience. The first is mind (manas), the instrument that receives input from the knowledge-acquiring senses. The mind decides to focus on one sense-input at a time, rejecting all others. It does this based on whether the particular sense-input feels good or bad. If this were all we had, we would be like little children, never able to get to the other end of the room, since so many impulses would steal our attention on the way.

The second department is intellect (buddhi) that enables us to see the bigger picture, recognize patterns and focus attention beyond what is immediately pleasant. Intellect helps us to perform any long-term activity that requires us to set aside immediate pleasures. The third department has ego, ‘I-ness’, (asmita) and ‘I-maker’, (ahankara). It is the relational part of our inner world, which causes us to identify as someone and with something. Equally, it tells us what we are not. For example, I am from this nation, not that; I’m a supporter of this team, not the other. Ahankara helps us to feel a sense of identity, which can be healthy – or unhealthy in a variety of ways: narcissistic, low self- esteem, I must do such and such.

Yoga will help us to gradually understand the healthy and unhealthy ways of how these three departments work. Then, we can develop a healthy and powerful mind, with whose help we can in due time endeavour to seek our truest self, which now lies in the background.

Beautifully structured course

Astrud Castillo, the student of Kirtan Course, 2018

When I signed up for the Kirtan Course I had been leading kirtan for several years, had studied with some lovely teachers and yet felt something was missing. I had longed to dive deep into Mantra as well as develop my music skills. So, I decided to join the Kirtan Course at Radhadesh and was completely humbled by the experience.

We were an intimate group of 12 students from around the globe and some came from as far as Argentina. There was a resident devotee who was able to advise us and answer any questions we had from the temple etiquette to where to buy groceries, and, in general, everyone was very warm and welcoming. The course itself was beautifully structured made of daily classes, practice time, philosophy and kirtan. The pace was very manageable and allotted plenty of time to practice, explore the surrounding area and rest outside of class time. My desires were met beyond any expectations!

A typical day and week of the course

The day started with breakfast and, for me, a walk through the forest. You were always welcome to attend the morning program at the temple if you liked to get up early.

Each day we had mrdanga, karatal, harmonium and/or voice classes. Everyone was fully supported and met where they were skill-wise. The teachers were incredibly knowledgeable, patient and available. Each week we had a private class and had an opportunity to work on whatever we liked – you could emphasize any aspect of the course you wished.
 


Kirtan Course – Teachers Stories video


Highlights

We were very fortunate to have some amazing guest teachers who took us deeper into the experience of the maha-mantra and the philosophy in a very accessible way, which I deeply appreciated.

Also, a true highlight for me was driving one weekend with the group to Amsterdam to see Madhava for kirtan. We had been working on some of his music so hearing him live was amazing! The other highlight was everyone having an opportunity to lead for 30 min in the kirtan tent. It was so lovely to see and hear all the progress and confidence that each student had developed.

Today, my voice is much stronger, I am branching out musically, and I am discovering a sanga near where I live. Many wonderful things have happened since my time at Radhadesh!

I have recommended many friends, students and acquaintances to come and experience the Kirtan Course and I myself am hoping to be back sooner rather than later. I am eternally grateful for what we shared over the 6 weeks together and for all that I learned.

Astrud Castillo, the student of Kirtan Course, 2018

For more information about this course, please visit Kirtan Course

Authentic Yoga Teacher Training Course

In case you haven’t noticed, yoga and particularly yoga teacher training courses have become the aerobics of the new millennia. But, there are very few authentic yoga teacher training courses available and a lot of research is required to find the right one. So, having practiced yoga for many years, I was delighted to learn that Bhaktivedanta College at Radhadesh would be holding their first 200-hour registered Yoga Teacher Training Course in June 2018.

In addition, there was also a 6-week online Yoga Philosophy course where you could delve deeper into the true meaning of yoga and it’s many benefits. When I signed up for the course in February 2018, I was already a 300-hour RYT and had been teaching for more than 2 years, but the proximity of the course and the curriculum offered were so enticing – there was no choice but to go.

The interest was overwhelming

This was the first time Bhaktivedanta College had held a Yoga Teacher Training Course and the interest was overwhelming. For Krishna devotees, this was the opportunity to learn more about yoga whilst carrying out spiritual duties and for non-devotees, like me at the time, there was the possibility to immerse completely in a yogic community with no distractions from the outside world.

The course consisted of a daily 7 AM practice, practical yoga teaching skills, and assists, as well as yogic philosophy, meditation, and reflection. This is not a course for the faint-hearted, there is a lot of work involved, but the benefits far outweigh the time invested. 

International course

As a small group of around 20 persons, we were really on an international course; we had yogis from Lithuania, China, USA, Colombia, etc. Sundays were the weekly ‘day off’ although there was always the optional 7 AM yoga practice. The area around Bhaktivedanta College encompasses beautiful villages like Durbuy, Huy, Marche etc. and as a group, we made time to socialize together and organize outings or evening walks to some of the nearby villages. It’s very easy to fall in love with this peaceful area of the Belgium Ardennes!

The Yoga Teacher Training Course at Bhaktivedanta College isn’t something superficial to ensure your part of the growing ‘Yoga Trend.’ It is a complete programme which will provide you with the foundations for a long and continuous journey into yoga. Embrace the opportunity; I am so glad I did!

Namaste.

Alix Rassel-Burton, student of Yoga Teacher Training Course 2018

For more info about this course please visit Yoga Teacher Training Course event

 

Reflection – Day 1

Sacinandana Swami giving a brief overview of the teachings of the first day…

A post shared by Sacinandana Swami (official) (@sacinandanaswamiofficial) on

Reflection – Day 2

Reflection – Day 3

The featured on-site courses below offer students in-depth study in kirtan technique and japa meditation. We look forward to seeing you soon.


Kirtan Connection / 7-Day Immersion Course

Dates: June 17th – June 24th, 2018

Tutors: Jahnavi Harrison (the main tutor), Krishangi Lila (harmonium and vocal), Surabhi Kunja (kartalas) and Balarama Nityananda (mridanga)

If you love kirtan and would like to dive deeply into learning about the philosophy and tradition of this practise, as well as gain some knowledge of traditional kirtan instruments – please join us for this 7 day immersion course!

Whilst the six-week summertime Kirtan Course course (listed below) welcomes those at all levels of practise, this course particularly facilitates beginners, either in instrument study and/or the bhakti yoga philosophy and lifestyle.

Students will gain skills in playing instruments and singing for kirtan, enhanced by a thorough exploration of the teachings that support kirtan practise.

More info on Kirtan Connection

Kirtan Course

Dates: July 2nd – August 12th, 2018

Residential tutors: Gopal Anandini (assistant), Krisahngi Lila (vocals and harmonium), Surabhi Kunja dd (kartalas), Krsnadas (mridanga)

Visiting tutors (one week): Jahnavi Harrison, Kadamba Kanana Swami, Sacinandana Swami, Bhakti Ghamya and Bhuta Bhavana, Mahendra

Over the period of six weeks this course will uncover the basics of kirtan practice through the facilitation of experienced kirtaniyas, chanters, and teachers such as Sacinandana Swami, Jahnavi Harrison and others. The course covers historical, theoretical and practical aspects of kirtan, which includes an in-depth beginners study in singing, harmonium, kartalas and mridanga playing.

 

More info on Kirtan Course

 


Holy Name Retreat

Dates: June 27th – July 1st, 2018

Tutor: Sacinandana Swami

What can you expect from the Holy Name Retreat:

  • Strengthening your inner connection to the Divine Couple.
  • Gaining new insights and techniques in relation to chanting the Holy Name.
  • Developing a stronger commitment to offense-less chanting of the Holy Name.
  • Experiencing breakthroughs in chanting the Holy Name.
  • Learning how to expand the boundaries of your spiritual life so that you can have deeper and more rewarding spiritual realisations.

 

In short, increasing your Krishna Consciousness.

 

More info on Holy Name Retreat

Grihastha Vision team members, Partha and Uttama, both disciples of Srila Prabhupada, offer to share their wisdom of 46 years of marriage and their training and coaching experience to facilitate a 2-day interactive grihastha course, Strengthening the Bonds that Free Us, based on the 12 Principles of Successful Krsna Conscious Family Life.

The seminar helps couples, and those interested in marriage, develop skills to maintain healthy connections and navigate inevitable challenges while weeding out negative paradigms that may sabotage relationships and spiritual growth.

If you wish to find out more information please follow the links:
vaisnavafamilyresources.org/seminars/
vaisnavafamilyresources.org/twelve-principles/

Partha and Uttama will be visiting Europe end of October and beginning of November. If you wish to host them in your yatra, please contact the secretary of Bhaktivedanta College for arranging the details by using the address: secretary@bhaktivedantacollege.com. Bhaktivedanta College has invited them to record the online course which will be available in the next few months and we also thought that it would be wonderful if they can visit other places in Europe in person. Book your dates soon to not miss this opportunity!

Partha das and Uttama dd will be available during their visit to counsel individuals and couples after the seminar and to offer a variety of other relationship courses in the evenings. They can also offer Marriage Mentor Training (3-days) to long-term happily married couples to enable them to facilitate pre-marital education to those about to marry in your congregation. One of the goals of the GVT is to see every person in ISKCON who wishes to marry is offered 5 sessions of premarital education before marriage. This will enable your community to offer that service. The Strengthening the Bonds that Free US course is a prerequisite for that training.