“The study of theology in general enhances one’s awareness of and sensitivity to religious values.”
The Certificate in Vaishnava Studies provides students with a profound understanding of the Vaishnava culture, heritage, and theology, from traditional and scholarly perspectives. Students will consider both historical and contemporary issues related to theological thought, which can have a major impact on present social, religious, and political situations.
A Distinguished Scholarly ProgramThe Certificate in Vaisnava Studies offers a unique opportunity to advance one’s study and understanding of the Vaisnava tradition through an intellectually challenging program.Students of this program will gain access to:
- our esteemed faculty members, many of whom have published on their topics with renowned publishers such as Rutledge and Columbia University Press
- our online library containing scholarly and traditional resources for research and study
- an experiential learning module to prepare and train all students for directly applying their education in outreach activities
Join our upcoming class of Vaisnava Scholars!
Program FormatOur asynchronous classrooms allow students to study where and when they are most ready to learn. Teaching is structured as short-term modules followed by individual study time. Through each module students will:
- undertake self-directed study while also engaging in thoughtful discussions with other students;
- make use of scholarly reviews and primary sources (e.g. refereed research articles and/or original materials appropriate to the discipline such as writings of theologians, and historical sources and writings) to expand their field of study;
- demonstrate detailed knowledge and critical understanding of the major religious, philosophical, and ethical ideas within Vaishnavism
History of religion in India (Introduction to Hinduism)Module aims to explore understandings of Hindu and Vaishnava identity by giving students a broad introduction to the beliefs and practices of the Hindu traditions. Highlights of the module: The Vedas and Vedic ritualism, The Upanishads and the renouncer tradition, Dharma-shastra, caste and gender, yoga, Vaishnava, Shaiva and Shakta traditions. Tutor: Yugal-Kishor das (Jasminko Kontrec, MA)
Bhagavad Gita, Readers and PerspectivesAll of humanity converges in one person – Arjuna — to hear the divine instruction disclosed in the Bhagavad Gita. However, to understand, apply, and disseminate this teaching, the entirety of humanity diverges to produce a vast spectrum of multiple translations and interpretations. To understand the rationale behind these numerous interpretative approaches we will consider theological backgrounds, socio-political contexts, and dynamics of religious insider/outsider reading of a text. Tutor: Anupama dd (Ana Knez,MA)
Indian Sacred Biography: The case of the Chaitanya-caritamritaCaitanya-caritamrita is a rich repository of the vision, philosophy, theology, and early history of Caitanya Vaisnavism or Gaudiya Vaisnavism. It is essential reading for followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Our aim is to gain essential understanding of important themes of the CC, enabling a fuller appreciation of the text and greater access to reading and relishing it. Approach will be largely thematic and analytic, with attention to historical considerations. It is not meant to be a devotional presentation as such: sometimes we must assume “scholarly distance.” Tutor: Krishna Kshetra Swami (Kenneth Valpey,PhD)
Modernity and Indic ReligionsThis module focuses on the transformations of Hinduism during modernity and late modernity, while covering, as background, the development of Hinduism and the bhakti movement during Islamic rule. One of the key objectives of the module is to understand the history of modern Hinduism as part of the cultural, social, and philosophical contexts of its time, attending especially to how the tension between nondualistic and personalistic worldviews take varied shapes in these contexts. Central to our historical approach will be attention to the growth and development of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Tutor: Pranava das, PhD
Sacred Texts: The Bhagavata PuranaThis module aims to provide an overview of the text as a whole: what are the main contents, how does the Bhāgavatam hold together, what are some structural features. We will call attention to major themes and motifs characteristic of the Bhāgavatam, note issues in scholarship and consider the ways to present the Bhagavata Purana in the contemporary world. Tutor: Krishna Kshetra Swami (Kenneth Valpey, PhD)
Pre-modern Indian Theologians: Rupa and Jiva GoswamisJiva Goswami In describing his accomplishments, S.K. De calls Jīva Gosvamī “the highest court of appeal in doctrinal matters so long as he lived” Our main aims will be to gain a basic understanding of the six Sandarbhas and develop a clear understanding of acintya-bhedābheda—the doctrine of inconceivable difference and non-difference. Tutor: Radhika Ramana das (Ravi Gupta, PhD) Rupa Goswami The highlights of the module are: An examination of the structure and contents of the Bhaktirasamrtasindu, noting in particular the theory of bhaktirasa and the interpretation of the Vedantic ideas of ‘brahman’, ‘jiva’ and ‘moksa’. A consideration of the role of the Bhaktirasamrtasindhu as a commentary on the Bhagavata Purana of the theological contributions of Rupa to Chaitanya Vaishnavism, noting the similarities and differences to other schools of Vaishnava thought. Tutor: Gopinatha Acharya Das (Rembert Lutjeharms)
Advantages of EnrollingWhen you enroll in the Vaishnava Studies Certificate, you'll have the opportunity to:
- gain a broad yet profound understanding of Vaishnava heritage, culture, and theology.
- become competent, exemplary and independently-thoughtful representative of your tradition
- get trained to differentiate uncritical religious insider from objective representative of a religious tradition.
- expand your knowledge, skills and disposition to make Vaishnava teachings relevant to contemporary issues and audiences.
- evaluate Vaishnavism from the respective viewpoints of (a) the tradition itself (b) the scholarship, and to develop mature, balanced and reflexive approaches towards ‘faith and reason’
- learn from seasoned devotees and teachers trained at some of the world’s best universities
- start lifelong friendships with creative, reflective, and motivated people
- apply theological insight to all aspects of personal growth and transformation, and to develop the commensurate values and attitudes.
AssessmentAppropriate forms of delivery and assessment will be offered to Distance Learning students to ensure comparability of learning opportunity. A variety of assessment methods will be available according to each module’s aims and learning outcomes. Formal assessment may include essays, book and article reviews, project reports, reflective writing, case studies, quizzes, forum participation, and other suitable assignments. Bhaktivedanta College adapts the UK higher education marking scheme. Students are required to review the marking criteria (induction module) to understand better the quality of work expected for different levels of mark ranges.
Succesful Online StudentHigh drop-out rates are a common challenge with on-line programmes. Two study skills areas that may influence drop-out rates in on-line courses have been identified:
- the ability to identify main ideas.
Student Support and GuidanceBhaktivedanta College Online Campus (BCOC) gives maximum priority to rapidly responding to students’ needs in terms of academic, technical, personal, and administrative support. Tutors generaly respond to students’ email or forum questions within 24 hours. Moreover, computer experts are ready to support both students and tutors with any technical issues that may arise. During the induction week students are introduced to the essentials of academic study, and equipped with basic academic and technical skills. Throughout the year, programme leader will provide personal guidance and tutorials. Digital course readers and other study materials will be available in the moodle learning environment. Recommended online research libraries and bookstores links will be similarly made available in the virtual learning environment.
Apply now!Application form
Programme dates and deadline
Duration: 9 months
Intake: Autumn and Spring term
Autumn term: 09.10. 2017
Spring term: 05.02.2018
Deadline for admission:
Autumn term: 02.10.2017
Spring term: 29.01.2018