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Bhaktivedanta College’s online three-year BA in Theology and Religious Study (TRS) is going to start a little earlier this year than our usual academic year. It begins on August 11, 2014.
We are doing this to be able to offer you smooth course delivery without any overlap of the modules. In other words, a new module is not going to start until the previous one is delivered and assessed.
The program is offered fully online, which means that you are not at all required to come to Belgium. The TRS program is offered under an exclusive partnership with the University of Chester (UK). Being so accredited, this degree is well accepted and officially recognized worldwide, which gives our graduates the opportunity to continue in postgraduate education or to find employment in the fields of education, consulting, practical theology, and so on.
We are accepting online applications for the TRS online-degree program until August 1st 2014.
Please contact us if you need more information.
With best wishes,
A new academic work by ISKCON scholar and guru Krishna Kshetra Das (Kenneth R. Valpey) aims to give both devotee practioners and an educated general audience a deeper understanding of deity worship, specifically in the Chaitanya Vaishnava tradition.
Attending Krishna’s Image: Caitanya Vaisnava Murti-seva as Devotional Truthdiscusses how the ancient historical tradition was brought from India to countries all over the world. It shows how it has taken firm root today in both India and the West. And in a study comparing two temples – one Radharamana in the North Indian pilgrimage town of Vrindavana, the other Bhaktivedanta Manor just outside London – it paints a nuanced picture of deity worship and the theological reflection supporting it.
First released in 2006 by academic publisher Routledge and intended mainly for academic libraries, the hardbound edition of the book cost an astronomical $160. But this year, it has been published in a paperback edition priced just €20 (27 USD), making it decidedly more “affordable for the average mortal,” as author Krishna Kshetra jokes.
Krishna Kshetra intends his book to be an intellectually rigorous work that can be taken seriously by other scholars, as well as an answer to questions by educated people such as “What is the temple worship that Hare Krishnas do?”
“I wanted to be able to hand them a book that would satisfy them that this is a very rich tradition with a deep intellectual background,” he says. “It’s also for the wider devotee community, because I think there is room for deeper reflection and appreciation of our tradition.”
Krishna Kshetra is uniquely qualified to explain the topic of deity worship, as he is not only an academic scholar but also a long-time practioner of the ancient tradition ofmurti-sevahimself.
He first began serving as apujari, or priest, in Germany in 1975, two years after joining the International Society for Krishna consciousness, and did some of the society’s first research on how to worship the Deity of Nrsimhadeva.
In 1995, he produced the Deity worship manual Pancharatra Pradipa, which became an invaluable resource to temples all over the world. And soon after, he helped form the ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry and became its first Minister.
Meanwhile Krishna Kshetra also studied the Sanskrit language in depth and became an academic scholar of religion, receiving a Masters Degree on the subject at Graduate Theological Union in Berkely, California. He also received a D. Phil at Oxford, where he wrote the Doctoral ThesisKrishna-Seva: The Theology of Image Worship in Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
His new book is a direct revision of the ideas in his Oxford Doctoral Thesis, and is in many ways the culmination of all his years of study and practice.
Attending Krishna’s Imagespans four chapters. The first, “Texts as Context: core textual sources and patterns for Caitanya Vaisnava image worship,” gives the scriptural background of the tradition of deity worship. This includes an explanation of Pancharatra, a genre of Sanskrit literature containing many texts – seventy have been recovered so far – that give step-by-step instructions on the rituals of deity worship.
Chapter 2, “Temple as Context: the Radharamana temple as embodied community,” goes into detail about the daily worship at the ancient Radharamana temple in Vrindavana.
“I spent four months living next door to the temple, because I had learned that [ISKCON’s founder] Srila Prabhupada had instructed some of his pujari disciples to study how they do deity worship there,” says Krishna Kshetra. “No one had really done that yet, so I thought, let me do this as a service for ISKCON. While there, I was able to get a copy of their daily worship procedure, which is only eight pages long and is in handwritten Brajabasha Hindi. I got it translated, and I’ve included a portion of that, detailing how they do their middaybhogaoffering, in the chapter.”
In Chapter 3, “Krishna’s new look: a worship tradition faces West,” Krishna Kshetra tells the story of deity worship moving West. He begins with the intellectual preparation by Bhaktivinode Thakura, then Srila Prabhupada’s guru Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and then tells how Srila Prabhupada realized their plans by physically bringing deities to the West.
The final chapter, “Migrant texts, migrant images: resettling Krishna in the West,” focuses on the deity worship at Bhaktivedanta Manor in England, and makes a comparison between it and the Radharamana temple in India. Using terminology coined by the scholar Barbara Holdrich, Krishna Kshetra calls Bhaktivedanta Manor a “missionizing community” as opposed to Radharamana’s “embodied community.”
He also discusses Bhaktivedanta Manor’s ten-year legal battle with the local council for the right to public worship, and how the presence of the deity may have affected the outcome. And he talks about Vaiddhi Bhakti – the rules and regulations of worship – and Raganuga Bhakti – spontaneous devotional service, and how the two may not be mutually exclusive.
Finally, in his conclusion to the book, Krishna Kshetra reflects back on the topics discussed and the academic purpose of comparison, and discusses the notion of “images of religious truth.”
Overall,Attending Krishna’s Imagewill help devotee readers delve into the rich tradition behind their practice, get a better understanding of how rules relate to devotional emotions in the context of deity worship, and become better equipped to explain deity worship to interested persons.
“My hope is that devotees who read it will think more deeply about our tradition, and get a richer sense of just what it is we’re doing when we go into the temple, offer obeisances, offer arati, and all the other things that we do,” says Krishna Kshetra. “I also hope it will inspire some more writings by other devotees.”
Next up,Attending Krishna’s Imageis scheduled to be published in Spanish soon. Meanwhile, Krishna Kshetra is also working on the second in his two-volume Bhagavata Purana series. The first, subtitled “Sacred Text and Living Tradition” is a collection of articles by twelve scholars introducing the Bhagavata Purana’s key themes and examining its extensive influence on Hindu thought and practice. It was edited by Krishna Kshetra with Radhika Ramana Das (Ravi Gupta) and was published by Columbia University Press in March 2013.
The second volume, which will be an abridged translation from the original Sanskrit by the two scholars, is forthcoming.
“We are hoping the book, which is part of the Bhagavata Purana Research Project at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, will come out in the next year or so,” says Krishna Kshetra.
VTE Bhakti-Sastri Teacher Training Course in Goloka Dhama – Abentheuer, Germany: October 16th-19th.
Bhaktivedanta College in collaboration with Vidyanagara (the Educational Office of ISKCON Germany)
cordially invites you to attend the
VTE BHAKTI SASTRI TEACHER TRAINING COURSE AT GOLOKA DHAMA, ABENTHEUER, GERMANY.
Thursday 16th – Sunday 19th of October 2014
Facilitator: Yadunandana Swami
Only 10 participants admitted! Please register NOW!
Registration: Damodara-priya dasi: Damodara-priya.SNS@pamho.net
Deadline: 15th September 2014
Cost: 108 Euros (includes ashram accommodation, prasadam and course fee)
Requirements: The VTE Bhakti-Sastri, TTC1 and TTC2 Certificates (or equivalent)
Venue: Goloka Dhama, Böckingstraße 4a-8, D-55767 Abentheuer, Germany
Telephone: 0049 – (0) 67 82-22 14
Learning and teaching sastra is one of the most important aspects of any Krishna conscious education. Srila Prabhupada’s books form the foundation for ISKCON’s activities and therefore ISKCON devotees hold the study of these books as essential to their spiritual growth. Bhakti Sastri study has become an essential anga of Krishna conscious life.
In order for ISKCON to offer excellent opportunities for devotees to study sastra qualified teachers are necessary. VTE, recognizing the need for these qualified teachers, established TTC1 and TTC2. These courses offer training in basic knowledge, skills and values required of an effective teacher.
Bhakti Sastri Teachers’ training is specifically designed to further build on the learning of the previous two teachers’ training courses with the aim of equipping teachers of VTE Bhakti Sastri courses with the specific skillset necessary for teaching sastra systematically.
The Bhakti Sastri Teachers’ training course offers potential teachers training in lesson planning, analyzing the aims of sastric study, effective assessment as well as the practical details of organizing a bhakti sastri
An important note: This course is available only for devotees who successfully completed Bhakti-Sastri, TTC1 and TTC2 courses and are seriously interested in teaching sastra.
Yadunandana Swami has been the Principal of Bhaktivedanta College since its opening, in 2002 until May 2014. He joined ISKCON in 1977 in Spain and received initiation from Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami and later sannyasa initiation from Jayadvaita Swami (both disciples of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada). He has performed leadership and educational services in ISKCON since 1982. The latter include ministering spiritual education and counseling to many persons; teaching scriptural, academic, and vocational courses; and lecturing in more than twenty universities. He holds a MA in the Study of Religion from the University of Wales. He is also the Rector of the Instituto de Estudios Bhaktivedanta in Spain.
This year’s Kirtan Course in Radhadesh will open with a training in the secrets of the Holy Names given by HH Sacinandana Swami. It is based on Harinama Cintamani (the touchstone of the Holy Name) by Srila BhaktivinodaThakura.
This seminar takes place from 30th June to 6th July. We also welcome students who cannot attend the whole two months course.
The teaching sessions are called: “Mining the jewels of the Holy Names”.
* The best type of sadhana and how to perform it for best results
* The secrets of attentive chanting
* Shadow chanting (namabhasa) and how to move on to the next stage
* Entering a substantial relationship with the Holy Name and the Holy Named
* The eigth offense and its remedy
* The difference between belief and faith
* Tasting ecstasy – a guideline to ecstatic nama-bhajan
* Srila Prabhupada’s amazing relationship with the Holy Name and lessons we can learn from that
In addition to the discovery lectures in the mornings there will be many experience-oriented workshops, lila kathas and kirtans.
The teaching of Harinama Cintamani will guide and inspire the saintly devotees who stay in this world, but who have developed the desire to live in the higher connection with Sri Sri Radha and Krsna.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes:
“The touchstone of the Holy Name is an unlimited mine of necterean jewels. Those fortunate souls who find them by the blessings of Lord Krsna will always experience the fullness of joy, for they will be lead to worship Krsna in spontaneous love” (HNC, Conclusion of chapter 15).
One practical tip from Sacinandana Swami: if you wish to experience the next level in your chanting then just listen to yourself chant sincerely!
All the best,
More about the program:
You did your Bhaktivedanta College studies in two periods.
Yes. I started in 2007, did two years, then took a two-year break. I started my third year in 2011 and graduated in 2012. I took a break because I wanted to travel and do other things. But since I like to finish what I start, I returned to earn my degree. Coming back was great, because of the improved facility and academic standards. The college had opened its new building, where I had a single room, and had become affiliated with Chester University. Some great new teachers lived on campus, such as Rasamandala and his wife, Abala.
What is your most vivid memory of your time studying?
I first remember the friends that I met. We truly became like a family. They all play an important part in my life even today. I remember with equal feelings the highly qualified teachers who visited the college and their courses. I remember deep, thoughtful discussions we had in the classroom and the interactions between students and teachers. At the same time, Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha stole my heart from day one and arranged many experiences and learning opportunities for all of us. I also remember the many smiling faces of devotees who dedicated their lives to the deities or the community.
What is the most precious thing you gained?
Along with the lifelong friends I made, the most precious thing was the college courses. These courses are unlike anything else offered in our movement, except perhaps at the other devotee college in Budapest. The teachers are all highly qualified, insightful, devotional, and in touch with modernity. They shared their knowledge and hearts with us. Learning about our siddhanta in that light was unique and enriching. It is hard to describe how important these precious courses actually are for the education of the members of our movement (or even anybody outside it who wants to understand Chaitanya Vaishnavism). At times it felt like we were making history together as our minds opened to the vast possibilities of establishing Srila Prabhupada’s movement on many levels in the broader society. Additionally, I gained so much faith in our acharyas and their genius. This was exactly what I needed to feed my intellectually inclined mind and a heart eager for devotional progress. I really hope that many devotees will study at the college. The experiences and knowledge are priceless. Although at times I felt that three years would be too long, I now see the positive impact it had on me. It’s like baking bread: You need to “stay in the oven” of the college long enough to be properly baked for Krishna’s pleasure.
Please tell us about your fellow students.
I was always impressed with the students who came to the college. Those who were serious about studying showed in time just what great souls they actually are. I remember sitting among them my first year, looking around the classroom and feeling safe in their association, and safe about the future of Srila Prabhupada’s movement if these students were to become its leaders. The fact that these students decided to dedicate their lives, money, and interests in studying at the college, while also being active in the community and preaching, showed me that these were future leaders of a certain kind.
What are you doing now?
I am doing a teaching degree at Southern Cross University at the Gold Coast, Australia. I am doing it together with my fiancé, who was also a Bhaktivedanta College student. I chose to do this degree because I would like to contribute to the field of education both in our movement by teaching and by developing educational programs useful to all kinds of schools. Some may think it is a cliché to speak about investing in youth and future generations, but this does not lessen its importance. Their devotional lives and dedication may very much depend on the quality of education they receive. I saw first-hand what an impact educated devotees have in the broader society. I just finished my first five-week teaching practicum at a high school in Australia, where the kids are coming from pretty low socio-economic backgrounds. Krishna opened up many opportunities for me to inspire these kids in various ways, even to discuss with them spiritual and moral values and challenge them to change their thinking. These kids then ended up writing protest poems on themes like animal cruelty and materialism, and we did pranayama exercises before their exams. I could see how tangible it is to change someone’s perspectives, even just slightly, by investing in his or her education. The biggest part of my own success is owed to the education I received, so I truly hope that Bhaktivedanta College will flourish by receiving the support it needs.
How did the college help your career development?
Successful students will develop very good research and writing skills. Furthermore, they will develop higher order thinking skills, and a range of ways to express their thoughts creatively and effectively. These are only some of the external skills that can be measured. Another way the college helped me was internally, because studying there was like making a journey. On this journey I had to learn so much more than I thought I would. I learned about communication, interaction, and how to find my own dharma and act on it. Hence studying there will challenge static thinking patterns and make students find out what is important for them and then how to go for it with determination and conviction. Even though theology may not be a promising “career,” studying Vaishnavism was never my career choice. It was an inner calling and an investment in my spiritual life. What I gained from it was very fulfilling. I developed practical skills that help me in my current studies. I had contact with devotees who have successfully established their lives in their dharma and service, and this allowed me to thoroughly think about how I want to use my short life in Krishna’s service. Thus I am grateful that I had a chance to be a student and really believe that it is a privilege to study in such devotee association.
Do you have a message for the present and future students?
For the present students, I would say give your best and use all you have in your learning experience. Try to find and hold onto the opportunities you will get to develop your own life. And seek positive learning experiences and think of ways that you can use what you have gained to make someone else’s life better. Have faith that Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha know what is best for you and that all the experiences will end up being positive and enriching. For future college students, I would say that success is measured on many levels: financially, socialy, spiritually, and internally. The success of your studies will therefore depend on your own readiness to independently seek the success you are looking for. Bhaktivedanta College can open up many doors, if you are ready to find them. Studying theology may not seem like a practical career choice externally, but theology was never about this anyway. It is about developing the right internal attitude toward your future, a life that is not only a career path but an offering of service. Therefore if you seek something unique, which will help you develop a deep and vast understanding of spirituality, then the college may be the right place for you.
Our general policy for devotees joining the course on a part-time basis is that they can join part time during the weeks when one of the five main guest teachers are teaching. But the practical courses during those weeks with the resident teachers (who teach the instruments and singing) are open only to full-time students (about 2-3 hours a day). Part-time students are welcome to audit these sessions and even take part to some extent if the teacher is ok with that. But if they wish part-timers not to take part, then that wish should be respected, as it is difficult to teach more than fifteen full-time students at the same time.Per week for the course we ask for a donation of 108 EUR to cover costs. This does not include prasadam and accommodation, which need to be arranged separately. Dinadayal Dasa is taking care of the lodging, meals and fees.
More about the program:
Radhika Ramana Dasa (Ravi M. Gupta) is an internationally known Vaishnava scholar who has been on the faculty of Bhaktivedanta College since it opened, in 2002. He teaches Sanskrit and a module on Jiva Goswami’s Sad-sandharbhas. He holds the Charles Redd Chair of Religious Studies at Utah State University. In this video he is sharing his experiences of being associated with Bhaktivedanta College.
I had studied Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam for six years in India. Then, for another six years, I was a teacher of those scriptures, mostly at the Mayapur Institute and the Vrindavana Institute for Higher Education. I am originally from Brazil, and before going to India I was an officer in the Brazilian Army.
I developed a desire to communicate the philosophical treasures I found through my studies and experiences in India. I also wanted to broaden my understanding of other religious traditions and become acquainted with Western philosophy, to be better equipped to teach in a Western context what I learned in India. My aim, however, is not to promote Hindu religion in the West, but to use the Vaishnava scriptures as a reference point to identify essential spiritual science, foundational to all religions.
I enjoyed learning about religious and philosophical worldviews, not least because these were presented by devotee scholars. I wouldn’t like to study under atheistic scholars, but I enjoyed studying Freud and writing an essay about his perception of religion. Above all, I enjoyed writing essays, because they entail research and make me think deeply about many interesting topics. Researching and writing are the best learning experiences.
Sometimes, while researching, I had a hard time locating relevant scholarly books and articles online. Now, though, I have become more experienced in that. Another challenge for online students is the lack of personal interaction with the teachers and students. Also, there is a tendency to lose focus on the studies. I plan to move to Radhadesh whenever possible so that I will have access to the college library and will have the personal association of the teachers and students.
I am pretty satisfied with the online study I have done so far. I can’t think of any room for improvement.
My overall learning experience has been great. In my short experience, it seems to me that the main principles for successful learning online are to listen to the classes, to take part as much as possible in the forum discussions, to select appealing essay topics, to find good reference books besides the ones suggested by the teacher, to thoroughly research, to take some time to reflect, and then write.
I felt that all the modules were extremely relevant.
I hope that this degree course will equip me with the knowledge and the credentials to effectively contribute to a healthy religious dialogue in today’s society. My aim is to teach Religious Studies in a university. Thus I plan to continue my studies and get a Master’s degree and a PhD.
Written by Ananda Murti (the first year student).
Who would have thought that taking a field trip with my seven classmates, all girls except me, and three adult teachers to two Benedictine monasteries in Belgium’s Ardeen region would be enlivening and eye-opening?
As usual, we were an hour and a half late (following our ashram time), and so the priest, Pere Luque, who had to show us around Maredsous Abbey was unavailable. We waited for a bit before he finally came and engaged us in an extremely wonderful conversation regarding his monastary’s founder, followed by questions from us on traditions, rules, and values.
Surprisingly, he was more interested in our culture than we were in his, and thus we students answered his questions.
Lunch was simple yet satisying. We had a few other brothers from the church join us, and they were extremely friendly and open to talk. I personally loved talking to the head father of the monastery as he was so overly confident of himself and took joy in having us inquire about his personal spiritual practice and the monastery rules and schedule. It goes something like this:
The second monastery was shared by the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. It is called an ecumenical church. They see it as a way to do research into other religions and let all the different paths meet at certain points and topics.
To sum up, they were very open-minded, and what we liked the most was their attitudes toward other religious groups. To be honest, we are usually a bit closed, but they were not at all like that but rather inclusive. Although their philosophy, for some of us, is not as deep as our own, their attitude is what struck us the most. To end the day we drove back to Radhadesh eating whatever ladoos were left over. We really learned a lot about this two-thousand-year-old religion.
It is because of an expansion of existing schools in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and India, and the proposed opening of more than fifteen primary and secondary schools in the UK, North America, Africa, Central Europe, South America, India, and other southeast Asian countries. If our movement can meet this demand for teachers, it will develop in an unprecedented way.
If you are looking for this sort of stable devotional career, enabling you to substantially contribute to ISKCON’s development, please consider enrolling at Bhaktivedanta College at Radhadesh to get the educational training you will need. Our BA (Hons) in Theology and Religious Studies (TRS) can lead to such positions as primary or secondary school teachers, ISKCON leaders, sastric teachers, preachers, counselors, and university professors specializing in education, philosophy, theology or religion. With the demand for so many primary and secondary teachers, we will need more and more professors to train them. All our graduates will be well-versed in Chaitanya Vaishnava philosophy.
With Online Education you can increase your qualifications from your home. The Bhaktivedanta College Online Campus offers a dynamic, convenient way to learn. Under the motto “swift access to lifetime success,” the Online Faculty provides innovative, easy-to-access programs focused on the relevance of ethics and spirituality today. The online community includes three thousand registered users from ninety countries.
The College now offers interest-free loans to qualified candidates.
…more programs coming online
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