Splendid Instructions to the Mind (Sri Manah-siksa) is at once both hopefully inspiring and blatantly honest. To read it well entails an authentic appraisal of the state of one’s heart and mind, an experience of recognition and acceptance that is at once sweet and sour, comforting and uncompromising. To read it well entails receiving many glowing gifts to triumph over our lower nature and reveal our true spiritual essence, so that all struggles and illusion become a distant dream. In this book, we learn about affection and attachment so we can gain genuine love of ourselves and others. Through respect and integrity, we escape the pitfalls of arrogance and deceit.

SMS2 Sri Manah-Siksa_871x1008These verses are a complete step-by-step guidebook on the inner path of spontaneous love for God, while being applicable for everyone. Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami liberally used metaphor, poetry, and literary ornaments to unlock our full potential. Bhaktivinoda Thakura has instructed, “Sri Manah-siksa has laid down a systematic procedure for one to enter into and become absorbed in the pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna; one should follow it without guile.” Each of Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami’s verses is followed by commentary by Bhaktivinoda Thakura—both prose and song.

This edition is the first time his song commentary has been published in English. The verses and Bhaktivinoda’s commentaries are richly illustrated with over a hundred drawings by various international artists.

This is a 2016 edition produced by Padma, Inc. and compiled by Urmila Devi Dasi. It includes commentaries by Jayadvaita Swami, Sivarama Swami, Sacinandana Swami, and Bhaktivijnana Goswami.

Where to purchase: urmiladevidasi.org/publications/ 


ravi_guptaIt’s a prestigious position that brings to mind a gruff, silver-bearded elder. But Radhika Ramana flips that idea on its head. At a youthful 34, he’s got a beaming smile of pearly whites and a full head of black hair. He’s also disarmingly unpretentious despite his astonishing academic journey.

Homeschooled by his mother Aruddha Dasi at his home in Boise, Idaho, Radhika followed a highly unconventional curriculum based mostly on Srila Prabhupada’s Srimad-Bhagavatam, from which he learned reading, writing, comprehension, grammar, and critical thinking skills. It clearly worked. At 13, Radhika Ramana attended Boise State University. At 17, he received his Bachelor’s degree in philosophy and math. At 22, he completed his PhD at Oxford. Immediately after that, in 2005, he got his first teaching job. From there, it was moving up the ranks from assistant professor to associate professor to achieving tenure at the age of 29.

Now, as full professor, Radhika holds the highest rank possible in academics, signifying that he has developed an international reputation in his field of study, through his research, lectures, conference presentations and teaching.

Moreover, as Charles Redd Chair of Religious Studies he is also an an endowed chair in his field, an opportunity few in academia get. And as Director of Utah State University’s fast growing Religious Studies Program, he is responsible for developing it into the future. Simply put, he’s ideally situated to make an impact. Here’s the thing: he’s not alone. A consistently growing number of brilliant Vaishnava devotee religious studies scholars, specializing in their own tradition, are coming up through the ranks.

Along with early pioneers like Hridayananda Goswami (Howard Resnick), Garuda Das (Graham Schweig), and later senior devotees like Krishna Ksetra Swami (Kenneth Valpey), these new young wunderkinds bring the total to about two dozen Gaudiya Vaishnava scholars. “And all of them are getting very good positions around the United States and across the world,” says Radhika Ramana. “It’s very, very exciting and heartening to see.” This is key, because according to Radhika Ramana, it’s important to have both outsider and insider perspectives for a fully-developed picture on any tradition. And academic scholarship on Gaudiya Vaishnavism has been dominated almost exclusively by non-practioners. Until now.

So what do these scholar-practioners bring? For one, they can dispel long-skewed perceptions. For instance, academic literature has always praised Gaudiya Vaishnavism founder Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as a great mystic who brought the emotional intensity within Krishna Bhakti to new heights. Which is true. But it has consistently left the Gaudiya tradition out of any descriptions of India’s intellectual heritage. “This despite the fact that Gaudiya Vaishnavism’s 500-year history shows an incredibly high density of great philosophers, astute thinkers, and prolific writers and poets,” says Radhika Ramana.

Radhika Ramana Dasa (on the right) speaks with one Bhaktivedanta College student in 2002

Radhika Ramana Dasa (on the right) speaks with one Bhaktivedanta College student in 2002

Radhika himself began remedying this with his PhD thesis and 2007 book about the philosophy of one of Gaudiya Vaishnavism’s greatest thinkers, Jiva Goswami. Others have alsomade their own studies on towering figures of Vaishnava thought. Next, scholar-practioners can bring to light great texts that have been ignored. Despite sister epics the Mahabharat and Ramayana being studied profusely in the academic world, the Srimad-Bhagavatam has been left by the wayside for over a century. So in 2013, Radhika Ramana, with Krishna Ksetra Swami, published “The Bhagavat Purana: Sacred Text and Living Tradition” with Columbia University Press. The book features chapters by various specialists demonstrating the Bhagavatam’s impact on numerous aspects of Indian and world history. And this October, a second book, “The Bhagavata Purana: Selected Readings” will follow. “Both will be marketed as a pair for use in university classrooms,” Radhika says. “We feel that the time is ripe now for the Bhagavatam to be taken seriously in the academic world.”

All these foundational studies on Gaudiya Vaishnava subjects by devotee scholars are important, because as Radhika Ramana says, “When you produce a foundational study on a subject that hasn’t been looked at before, future studies will always refer to it as the basis.” As well as shining a light on these gifts from the Gaudiya tradition, scholarship is also essential to the health of the tradition itself. One of the services it can provide in this regard is to study both the short term history (Prabhupada’s establishing it in the West) and the long-term (back to Chaitanya’s time and beyond) so as to better navigate problems already faced in the past.

Another service of scholarship is to identify how to keep the tradition both faithful to its roots, and relevant to today’s people. “We need to negotiate and be comfortable with both, “says Radhika Ramana. “And we need to realize that innovation is not the enemy of fidelity and vice versa – as Srila Prabhupada so expertly proved.” There will always be a tug between relevancy and faithfulness in every world religion, Radhika Ramana says, but this is in fact a symptom of a healthy tradition. “Without that tug, the religion will either become so mainstream that it loses its roots and withers away,” he explains. “Or so heavily stuck in the past, that no one can identify with it today, and it becomes inaccessible and irrelevant to people.”

With all these services and more being provided by Vaishnava practioner-scholars, Radhika Ramana is glad that his new position as full professor allows him to mentor new generations and ensure that Vaishnava scholarship continues to thrive. Because even a small group can make a major impact, he says.

“Scholarship is slow by nature, and its effects are not seen immediately,” he explains. “But once it’s developed, its effects are long-lasting and very powerful, changing the way the mainstream thinks on a fundamental level. Some of the biggest ideas that are now commonplace in the world, like the notion of equal rights for all human beings, began as ‘crazy ideas’ tossed around by thinkers.”

For his part, Radhika Ramana hopes to give the Vaishnava tradition ‘a voice and an active seat at the table’ when it comes to both public and academic intellectual discourse.

“For me, that would be a measure of success for the type of service that we do,” he says.


Bhaktivedanta College Belgium hosted the 2nd European Yoga Congress from May 27th to 29th, sharing insights and techniques with thirteen different yoga schools from twelve countries.

The seeds of the event were sewn in November 2014, when many different yoga organizations met at Yoga Vidya in Germany, Europe’s largest yoga ashram, to explore commonalities and possibilities for cooperation. That gathering resulted in the creation of the European Yoga Confederation, and an agreement to hold a European Yoga Congress every two years.

This year’s event in Radhadesh was held in a giant nearly 1,000 square-foot tent on the grounds, as well as a satellite classroom in the temple. Some 160 to 180 people attended.

Yadunandana Swami, Rector of the Instituto de Estudios Bhaktivedanta in Spain, and Vaiyasaki Das, a Prabhupada disciple and renowned kirtaniya,  represented ISKCON Belgium along with several other devotees.

Yoga 2016 RadhadeshJagat Guru Amrta Suryananda, whose Portuguese Yoga Confederation has forty centers in that country, brought 70 people. Sanatan Dharma, an organization from Spain that has sixty centers, brought 30 people.Other schools represented were Yoga Vidya from Germany; Yoga Surya from Czech Republic; Pauls Stradinš Clinical University Hospital from Latvia; the Russian Classical Yoga Federation; and the Association of Hungarian Yoga Teachers. Swami Nirliptananda from the London Sevashram Sangha in the UK also attended; as did Dr. Bhandari Chandra Mohan from the Sulislaw Institute of Yoga and Ayurveda, Poland; and Master Sricharan Faeq Biria – a Sri Vaishnava and direct disciple of B.K.S Iyengar – from the Paris Iyengar Yoga Centre in France.

Proceedings began with a “pre-opening” at midday on Friday, during which ISKCON devotee yoga teachers Anandini Dasi and Ekachakra Dasi taught yoga asanas, culminating in a Hare Krishna kirtan.The official opening followed with an invocation by the Omkara Choir from Portugal, who sang the Ganesh Sharanam to destroy any obstacles and create auspiciousness. Representatives from each yoga organization then spoke a few words, introducing themselves to the students.

The next three days included classes on hatha yoga, pranayamas, asanas, relaxation, meditation, karma yoga and iyengar yoga. There were also sessions on holistic health and wellness through a combination of yoga and Ayurveda; opening and harmonizing of chakras; and the physiological effects of asanas on the cardio-vascular and respiratory systems.

Other classes focused more on yoga philosophy. There were talks on conquering fear; self discipline and freedom; classical yoga education as an alternative to modern yoga trends; and the relevance of yoga for European society and world peace.

Some, like members of the Yoga Shivananda group, where more inclined towards worship of Lord Shiva, or had other differing approaches to ISKCON’s. Devotees, however, found commonality due to a strong message of cultivating virtue, spirituality and transcendence across all groups’ presentations.In his talk on “The Need for a New World Order,” for instance, Swami Nirliptananda of the London Sevashram Sanga spoke about Dharma and spiritual values; how sense enjoyment is the source of problems in society; and how youth should be educated in yoga principles for a better world.

“Many speakers also quoted the Bhagavad-gita in a nice, respectful way, so that was another common denominator,” says Yadunandana Swami.

eyc_2ISKCON, of course, emphasized Bhakti. In his well-received talk drawing from the Gita, Yadunandana Swami gave six reasons why Bhakti is powerful in yoga: it integrates karma and jnana; is the goal of karma and jnana; naturally fixes the mind; reveals all transcendental secrets; is easily performed; and invokes the blessings of God, which counteract any shortcomings.

Meanwhile Dhira Nitai Das from ISKCON Simhachalam, Germany, spoke about his Bhakti Yoga Teachers Association, an ISKCON-associated group that is trying to create a unified approach to presenting bhakti through classical yoga. Finally Vaiyasaki Das gave a seminar on japa and kirtan, and held three interactive kirtans that escalated from meditative to getting everyone up on their feet, dancing and chanting. These kirtans were a major part of the event’s cultural programs every evening, which also included performances by renowned flute player Hariprasad Chaurasia and Latvian master Bharat Natyam dancer Gaura Nataraja Das.

“Gaura Nataraja performed beautiful dances dedicated to Lord Krishna and His devotees, Suryadeva, and Lord Shiva,” says Yadunandana Swami. “He also did one on the verse from the Ishopanishads “Tamaso ma jyotir gamah,” going from the darkness into the light, that delighted the yogis in attendance.”

Meanwhile guests were thrilled at the hospitality and accommodation provided by Radhadesh devotees, and the delicious prasadam with vegan and gluten-free options prepared by Gundica Das from Barcelona and Shyamananda Das from ISKCON London. The cherry on top came when the hosts offered gifts of books to all the presenters and prasadam from the Radhadesh bakery to all participants during the closing session. “Many expressed that they were happy to have been hosted in such a friendly atmosphere, and that they felt very welcome,” Yadunandana Swami says. “Some yoga teachers said they want to come back to Radhadesh, and even bring their students for a retreat.”


On Tuesday, May 31st, after the Congress, all the participating organizations also attended a session at the European Parliament in Brussels on what yoga and spirituality can contribute to the betterment of society. Speakers included many of the same yoga masters who spoke at the Congress, as well as MEP Carlos Zorrinho, Indian Embassy Councelor Ankan Banerjee, and General Secretary of the Quality Council of India Ravi P. Singh. They discussed how yoga could help solve today’s problems like the environment, corruption, wars, and terrorism; the benefits of yoga practice in physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual well-being; and how it can help people develop virtues like compassion, a spirit of selfless service, and peacefulness.

“More than one speaker also mentioned the principle of service to God as an essential to success in transforming society from the present difficult situation of degrading values, to an experience of peace and happiness for individuals and communities,” says Yadunandana Swami.

Ultimately, despite any differences in approaches, it was this that bonded all the participants of the 2nd annual European Yoga Congress.

for ISKCON News on June 3, 2016


Dear friends of Bhaktivedanta College, as we are always exploring new ways to upgrade our educational offer and as we were approached many times from your side to introduce a degree in yoga studies, we wanted to get an insight into your needs and preferences in order to offer you the best possible experience. Please take 2 minutes of your time to answer 5 simple questions HERE – it will help us a lot! Thank you in advance!

KatharinaInterviewer: How has everything been for you since the Kirtan Course 2015? What has it been like having to resume high school immediately after you left?

Katharina: I think I can say that the kirtan course was a very significant event for my devotional life. It made me understand to which extent devotional service (and especially the chanting of the Holy Name) can, and should be a part of our everyday life. When I went back to high school, I felt myself in the wrong movie. This feeling was very strong. I was sitting in the lessons and tried to pay attention but my mind was always busy with something I later called the “kirtan course consciousness”. I always thought that this is not the place I want to belong to.

Interviewer: Has your sadhana changed at all since the course? If so, in what way has it changed?

Katharina: Definitely, my sadhana improved during and also after the course. Before the kirtan course, I wasn’t always chanting regularly and with the right understanding of what I am actually doing there. Especially the first week with Sacinandana Maharaja had the impact of an exploding bomb in my consciousness. I understood that my chanting was very superficial and from there on, I concentrated more on the quality of my japa.

Interviewer: Do you feel like there have been any changes in your relationship with the Holy Name? Can you please describe them?

Katharina: Looking back, I have the feeling that my relationship with the Holy Name just began to develop when I started to apply what Sacinandana Swami taught us in his seminars. Earlier I thought, that Krishna is somewhere above me, very far away but now I am so much more aware of how close He is to me in every situation in the form of His name.

Interviewer: What do you feel has been the biggest transformation that happened within you during the course?

Katharina: I became serious about Krishna consciousness. Although it’s not always easy to practise at home, due to family members or just my own mind, I became fixed in my goal and determined to keep on working on myself.


Interviewer: How did the relationships you had with your fellow students help you in your own musical and spiritual development during the course? Have you continued to keep in contact with any of the other students from the course?

Katharina: Of course, one of the best parts of the whole course was the association of all the other students. To be surrounded by so many wonderful people for two months, or in my case for six weeks, who are as eager to learn about kirtan as you, is one of the best experiences one can have. Sure, I tried to keep in touch with the other students. Especially during the time where I had to return to school and the course continued. It was a great help and support for me. After everyone returned home, it turned out to be quite difficult to stay in contact. The geographical distance seems to also disconnect the kirtan course students, which I find really sad. I would love to stay in a big community of kirtan students.

Interviewer: What was it like for you being the youngest student in the course and one of the most talented musicians?

Katharina: For me, it was really a great thing to be the youngest. I felt myself very comfortable in the association of the others, who where ten, twenty or even forty years older than me. I feel I can learn more from people who have lived longer than me. Concerning the musical side, I was very happy that I seemed to be a fast learner, so that I could take as much as possible with me in the short time I had.

Interviewer: What is your favourite thing about kirtan?

Katharina: My favourite thing about kirtan is that it’s the easiest way to get an experience of devotional feelings. Of course, there are so many nice services we can do, but to actually realize our position as a very small part of this creation, serving the big creator, there is no better method than being in a crowd of enthusiastic devotees who sing the Holy Name with all their heart.

Interviewer: Since the kirtan course, has kirtan become a part of your everyday life and if so, in what way?

Katharina: Yes, kirtan definitely became a part of my everyday life. Since I returned home from Radhadesh, I do kirtan now almost
everyday at home. In our temple community, on the request of the devotees, I started to share what I’ve learned and during the day, I don’t do anything without listening to kirtan. An outside person would say I am crazy. I also started listening more attentively, often even analysing what the instruments are doing and how every kirtaniya turns a melody into something personal.

Interviewer: What’s your favourite instrument to play in kirtan? Have you found yourself continuing to develop your skills in certain areas of the practical aspects of kirtan, since the course ended?

Katharina: I think everyone who got to know me during the course would expect me to say that the mridanga is my favourite instrument to play. And in a certain way it is. But sometimes I just feel myself more comfortable with the harmonium, because I feel unsure while playing mridanga, as my skills are very basic. Of course I try to learn more and more, since you can never have enough kirtan!

Interviewer: What advice would you give to any future kirtan course students?

Katharina: Use the time as much as you can! Such a unique opportunities don’t come along so often. These two months offer a chance of full absorption into the subject of chanting the Holy Name and they are over so quickly. Please don’t get sidetracked but give your full concentration and attention.

vu brussels

Presentation by Mrs. Ana Knez – Program director of Theology and Religious Studies and a lecturer on World Religions at Bhaktivedanta College

Written by: Sive Mjindi

As the sun set on Thursday, April 14th, Vrije Universiteit, in Brussels, opened its doors for a dialogue with the East. Students and staff from Bhaktivedanta College in Belgium delivered presentations on Eastern and Hindu philosophy and religion for the first time at Vrije Universiteit. Graciously hosted by Professor Werner de Saeger (Dept. of Religious Studies), the event was attended by a small delegation of academia and students, and it sparked a lot of discussion between the two Religious Studies programs.


Interactive and informative presentation – overview of Hinduism

The audience was introduced to Eastern religion and philosophy by Mrs. Ana Knez. She is the program director of Theology and Religious Studies and a lecturer on World Religions at Bhaktivedanta College. Her interactive and informative presentation gave excited listeners an overview of Hinduism. She highlighted the roots and beliefs of Eastern religious and philosophical thought, along with contemporary beliefs and practices. Also, her comparative interface between Eastern and Western religious thought gave everyone a chance to relate the two and gain insight into devotional aspects of Eastern philosophy.

After these sessions of information and interaction, a short video showed what Bhaktivedanta College has to offer as part of the Radhadesh community located in the ruggedly serene Belgian Ardennes. The new video was produced by Martin Gurvich, who runs the Museum of Sacred Art at Radhadesh.

He also gave a short, insightful talk on ISKCON in Belgium, its history and its current achievements, as he is the director of ISKCON Communications in Europe.

A short discussion by guest art-curator and writer, Sushma Bahl, gave the audience the opportunity to see how influential religious thought has been on art worldwide.

vu brussels4

Discussion between the two Religious Studies programs

Rounding out the event, scrumptious snacks of samosas and sweets delighted all and made for a light ending to an evening of learning and new experiences. It was a successful event, as attendees of both Vrije Universiteit and Bhaktivedanta College departed with newfound friendships and partners in religious dialogue.

Sacred Texts: The Bhagavata Purana

Dates: 04/04/2016 – 15/04/2016
Mode of Delivery: Online
Teacher: Krishna Kshetra Swami

Enrol now

or read more…

Introduction to Bhakti Yoga

Dates: 04/04/2016 – 15/05/2016
Mode of Delivery: Online
Teacher: Prema Manjari Dasi

Enrol now

or read more…

ISKCON Disciples Course

Dates: 04/04/2016 – 22/05/2016
Mode of Delivery: Online
Teacher: Dinadayal Dasa

Enrol now

or read more…


II European Yoga Congress – 2016
Radhadesh, Durbuy and European Parliament, Brussels – Belgium
‘The Relevance of Yoga for the European Society and for World Peace’

It is our great pleasure and honor as the hosting Organization for this year to invite you to participate in the II European Yoga Congress, which will take place on 27th, 28th and 29th May, 2016 in the headquarters of the ISKCON Radhadesh Ashrama located in Durbuy, Belgium.


– 27.-29.5. (Friday to Sunday) 3 days of workshops, lectures and classes
– 29.5. (Sunday evening) pre-closing ceremony in Radhadesh
– 31.5. (Tuesday) closing event in the European Parliament in Brussels


yoga smallWe expect an exciting array of lectures, workshops and presentations given by the following invited

– Portuguese Yoga Confederation, Portugal
– Sulislaw Institute of Yoga and Ayurveda, Poland
– Yoga Vidya, Germany
– Sanatana Dharma, Spain
– Federación Española de Yoga Satsanga, Spain
– Russian Classical Yoga Federation, Russia
– London Sevashram Sangha, UK
– Association of Hungarian Yoga Teachers, Hungary
– Yoga Surya – Academy of Yoga & Meditation, Czech Republic
– Helenic Assoctiation of Hatha Yoga, Greece
– Centre Santosha, Belgium
– Pauls Stradinš Clinical University Hospital, Latvia
– ISKCON/Bhaktivedanta College, Belgium


Given prices are valid until the 1st of May. After this date, we will charge additional 5% for late registrations.

yoga mats smallIn this price are included:

– participation in the congress
– accommodation
– meals
– shuttle bus
– bus to Brussels for the Yoga Federation representatives at the European Parliament
– yoga mat, if needed

Accommodation will be provided in the Radhadesh facilities (guest-house and ashrama) and Sunclass bungalows (near-by bungalow park). Transportation for those residing in the bungalows will be secured.

Everybody is required to fill out the Registration Form, presenters and participants alike. For accessing the form, please use this link

For more info, please contact us at: nitya@bhaktivedantacollege.com.


You can make the payment in two ways, whichever is more convenient for you:

1. through the bank, details are given below

Account holder’s name:
Bhaktivedanta College
Petite Somme 10
6940 Septon-Durbuy

Bank name:
Belfius Barvaux, Belgium
Route de Marche 6, 6940 Barvaux-Sur-Ourthe

Bank account number: 068-2456949-63
IBAN: BE40 0682 4569 4963


2. through paypal@bhaktivedantacollege.com

Prices for participation in the conference are:

Please indicate the name and the last name of the person for who the payment is being made with the note ‘Participation in the Yoga Congress’.


Please see the instructions here.

Next Kirtan Course: read more and registrations

Kirtan Course

Our favourite thing about kirtan is how powerful it can be to connect you with the Holy Name and the other souls participating in the kirtan.

Interviewer: Can you tell us about what you are up to these days and what you have been up to this past year? We understand you have been travelling quite extensively lately. Please tell us a bit about that.

Abigail: We have just travelled to many places around the world over the last year, visiting ISKCON temples and seeing how different cultures imbibe Krishna Consciousness and doing Kirtan with devotees wherever we went. It was amazing to realize how much we really do have a worldwide family as everywhere we went, we were welcomed with open arms (and prasadam!)

Davide: Well the trip was needed due to a travelling bug I carried inside for so many years. Abigail wasn’t even so keen on the idea but she was very pleased once we left. Kirtan has been the best icebreaker in many places and devotees –and even some non-devotees, love it. We got to play in many special places and with many special people.

Interviewer: How has your life changed since the kirtan course? Are your sadhanas any different? If yes, in what way have they changed? What about your relationship with the Holy Name?

Abigail: Our sadhana has changed in the way that we listen. We now have many more techniques for hearing the Holy Name.

Davide: When I first arrived at the Kirtan course I wasn’t chanting regularly and didn’t really have a clear understanding of what sadhana was as well as many other terms the community uses. The course helped understand what all of those words were as well as given me the chance to be surrounded by splendid devotees and, guess what, by the end of the course I was chanting my 16 rounds.

Interviewer: Word on the street is you are interested in starting up some preaching programs or something to that effect in London. Can you please expand on that and what it might entail?

Abigail and Davide together: For now, we are going to help with some wonderful existing projects that are going on in London such as Mantra Lounge and Kirtan London. We will be leading one of the Mantra Lounge nights in November. There are also some other projects in the pipeline but we’ll keep them under wraps for now…!

Kirtan Course

Kirtan changed our daily lives by changing our way to approach life.

Interviewer: Since the kirtan course, has kirtan become a part of your everyday life and if so, in what way?

Abigail: Since the kirtan course, we have understood just how important kirtan is to our daily lives, either by playing kirtan or listening to it. We even travelled around the world with a small harmonium.

Davide: Kirtan changed our daily lives by changing our way to approach life. It has also been the reason for which we chose the route we took during our travels. For example, we went to the Mauritius Kirtan Mela in April this year and the trip was mainly arranged so we could be at the very first Mela on this gorgeous island. We only heard about it a few weeks before so we changed the original trip and started from there. Kirtan is a mindset.

Interviewer: What is your favourite thing about kirtan?

Abigail: Our favourite thing about kirtan is how powerful it can be to connect you with the Holy Name and the other souls participating in the kirtan. I was at Mantra Lounge last night and seeing how this process really transforms people and opens their hearts is quite extraordinary.

Davide: Kirtan is happy. You can feel it.

Kirtan Course

Focus on Krishna and your heart. The technical preparation is necessary to give you confidence but kirtan is not about that.

Interviewer: What’s your favourite instrument to play in kirtan? Have you found yourself continuing to develop your skills in certain areas of the practical aspects of kirtan, since the course ended?

Abigail: For me, my favourite instrument is the harmonium and I continue to learn and practice new melodies and ragas as much as I can.

Davide: I am trying to get Abigail to teach me more about harmonies even though I am yet to learn properly. Our road trip from Yosemite National Park to Seattle was a whole big kirtan singing session, so I’d say my voice is my favourite instrument. However, the mrdanga is really cool.

Interviewer: What advice would you give to future kirtan course students?

Abigail: I would say to come prepared to really try and absorb yourself in every aspect of the course. The two months go so quickly but there is so much nectar to be had. The kirtan course makes you understand that leading or playing any of the instruments in kirtan is not a performance, it is a glorification of Krishna and you are there as an instrument to do that, nothing more.

Davide: Focus on Krishna and your heart. The technical preparation is necessary to give you confidence but kirtan is not about that. The better your sadhana the better is the connection you can create with Krishna.


Katelin Knapp

Katelin’s Kirtan Course 2015 diary

Written by Katelin Knapp


Opening week

The class of 2015 has been launched into the kirtan course with blissful kirtans, deep insights and meaningful experiences. From Vancouver to London, the 18 students come from all different backgrounds to one peaceful place in order to chant the Holy Names, learn the basic instruments and unlock the nectar. Week one lays a h4 foundation for the temple of the heart, beginning with Sacinandana Swami’s mercy, stories and humour. Before even picking up an instrument, he was there to ensure that we had a proper understanding of what goes into the chanting of the Holy Name. Maharaja focused heavily on concepts such as developing a relationship with the Holy Name, chanting in a prayerful mood and being fully present for each syllable of the mantra.

Kirtan Course 2015 Kirtan Course 2015 Kirtan Course 2015 Kirtan Course 2015 Kirtan Course 2015 Kirtan Course 2015 Kirtan Course 2015 Kirtan Course 2015 Kirtan Course 2015 Kirtan Course 2015


Week 2

After a successful lift off with Sacinandana Swami, we began our journey through learning melodious harmonium, h4 mrdanga and clear kartals. As the main aspect of the kirtan course, many enjoyed this first and challenging introduction into the subtleties of instrumental music in kirtan. One of the students, a professional singer, led us through the theory and techniques of singing. This week has only been the first steps onto a journey with colourful ice cream, loud instrument practice and singing from the heart. Hopefully the Radhadesh community will forgive us for the relentless practicing that’s been going on.

kcw2_1 kcw2_2 kcw2_3 kcw2_4 kcw2_5 kcw2_6 kcw2_8 kcw2_9 kcw2_11 kcw2_13


Week 3

This week we were fortunate enough to have the association of Krishna Ksetra Swami, who gave a five-day seminar entitled, “Sounding Out Devotional Traditions.” His aim was to look at different types of devotional music with a wide-angle lens. By the end of the week, our knowledge of kirtan’s roots had expanded exponentially and we have a greater appreciation for different traditions classified as kirtan.

With a jam-packed schedule, we have continued to learn and practice the instruments. Some beginner students have started to lead their first kirtans whilst others play along with the accompanying instruments. At this point, we’re really starting to understand and appreciate what goes into a proper kirtan through the observation and participation of the daily evening bhajans in the temple room.

kcw3_1 kcw3_2 kcw3_3 kcw3_4 kcw3_5 kcw3_6 kcw3_8 kcw3_9 kcw3_10 kcw3_11


Week 4

This week brought Lord Caitanya into our midst with the descriptive, dramatic and delightful stories told by Kadamba Kanana Swami. Reading from the Caitanya Bhagavata, we delved into the detailed pastimes of the Lord using the Siksastakam as an anchor to revisit and analyze throughout the readings. Whilst our practical knowledge increases, we learnt about the ecstatic kirtans from Yamuna devi and Vishnujana Swami in ISKCON’s past. Some of the musically orientated students came together to compose and perform some beautiful songs as part of a service to Radha Gopinatha and the Summer Festival.

kcw4_1 kcw4_2 kcw4_4 kcw4_5 kcw4_6 kcw4_7 kcw4_8 kcw4_9 kcw4_11 kcw4_12


Week 5

The incredibly inspiring, humble and talented Jahnavi Harrison was our guest teacher this week. She gave a seminar on the prayers of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura where in which we spent the week diving deep into a collection of songs in one of His most popular works, “Saranagati.” There’s no doubt that all of us felt a much deeper connection with these poems and felt great inspiration to start to learn these bhajans on our own.

kcw5_1 kcw5_2 kcw5_3 kcw5_4 kcw5_5 kcw5_6 kcw5_7 kcw5_8 kcw5_9 kcw5_10


Weeks 6 & 7

During these last couple of weeks, it has really started to hit us that there isn’t much time left in the kirtan course; therefore, for many of us, this has inspired us to really push our limits in regards to practicing instruments. However, this was not always easy with about 200 young visiting devotees from the UK hanging around for just over a week. However, the distraction was definitely worth it due to the uplifting kirtans that took place throughout the week with incredibly talented kirtaniyas, such as Ojasvi Prabhu. In addition, we took a day trip to Cologne for the Ratha Yatra festival, where we had the good fortune of meeting with Sacinandana Swami, who shared some nectarean wisdom with us with the intent to inspire us for the remaining weeks of the course. Most recently, we were given a surprise three-day seminar by Sarvatma Prabhu, who shared some of his kirtan expertise with us in hopes of expanding our boundaries of where we take our musical inspiration from.

kcw6_7_1 kcw6_7_2 kcw6_7_3 kcw6_7_4 kcw6_7_5 kcw6_7_6 kcw6_7_8 kcw6_7_9 kcw6_7_11 kcw6_7_12


Week 8

Along with the continuation of instrument classes, this week’s visiting teacher Mahendra Prabhu gave a seminar entitled “Kirtan as Sadhana and Sadhya,” where in which he spoke about how kirtan is both the means and the ultimate goal in spiritual life. He supported these claims with a multitude of references from the Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Caitanya Charitamrita, Caitanya Bhagavata and different quotes from the acharyas.

On Saturday, most of us went on a day trip to Aachen to do harinam and to visit one of the kirtan course students who had to leave the course early. It was a blissful reunion jam-packed with energetic kirtan, enthusiastic passersby and an absolutely delicious feast prepared by the Aachen devotees to finish off the day.

Back to top

Next Kirtan Course: read more and registrations