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Sambandha refers to the eternal constitutional relationships between God, the individual souls, and matter. As we begin a spiritual quest, we first need to know our position and the purpose of life. In this module, students learn about the essential spiritual science underlying our present lives and are introduced to ISKCON; its Founder-Acharya: A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada; and the Gaudiya-Vaisnava tradition of bhakti-yoga.
Prayojana means the ultimate goal, or devotional love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You will discover, through a variety of resources, what it means to be truly liberated, and you will learn all about Krishna, who is the source of all existence and the all-attractive benefactor and enchanter of every living being.
Finally, in the abhidheya module, the process of bhakti yoga will be discussed: acting according to the real relationship between humanity and divinity. Once we understand our true identity and the goal, love for Krishna, we are actually ready to ask how to reach it. Spiritual predecessors have scrutinized Vedic texts and given a practical step-by-step process that helps us realize ourselves and our purpose in this life – offering our hearts in selfless devotional service.
The "Introduction to Bhakti-Yoga" program is open to anyone wishing to systematically study. The modules may be taken in a nonsequential order, since they were prepared as independent units. To accommodate various needs and schedules, we have two types of accreditation:
(1) Bhaktivedanta College Digital Attendance Certificate. This will be issued electronically by the end of each module. The study requirements are:
The questions Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? Why do I suffer? What is the purpose of my life? are considered to be the beginning of spiritual life. In this module we search for answers of those questions in the transcendental teachings of bhakti-yoga.
Maha-vidya dasi was born in Poland in 1982. She first learned about the teachings of Srila Prabhupada in 2004 during her year abroad while doing studies of classics in Germany. She received initiation from Ravindra Svarupa Dasa and looks after the educational development office of ISKCON Germany. She currently teaches a Bhakta Program online and develops new courses for the German temples. She holds a Ph.D. in Ancient Greek Literature from the University of Cologne, Germany and continues to deepen her understanding of the Vaishnava Philosophy especially in dialogue with students while teaching.
Who am I? In the first week we discuss the nature of the soul, the laws of karma and the concept of reincarnation.
Why is it so difficult to loosen the identification with the body? The three gunas: goodness (sattva), passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas) influence our ways of thinking, feeling and acting. Understanding the gunas can help to overcome their power.
What is the purpose of life? During this week we will discover the ultimate nonsectarian approach to this question.
The Vedic culture stands on a tripod of the spiritual master, holy people and the scriptures. These are the means to find answers to the meaningful questions of life.
The position of bhakti and Vaishnavism in India. The Gaudiya-Vaishnavism of Lord Caitanya and the yuga-dharma, or means of self-realization for this Age of Kali, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy: chanting Lord Krishna's holy names.
The mission of ISKCON and Srila Prabhupada as its Founder Acarya. What are the accomplishments of Srila Prabhupada? What does ISKCON offer us as seekers of spiritual knowledge?
Labangalatika Dasi completed a BA degree from the University of Arkansas, plus four years of post-graduate study in intellectual, religious, and social history at the University of Iowa, where she spent two years as a teaching and research assistant. She later worked at a Chicago-based consulting firm as an assessor, developer, and trainer for job-candidate selection processes. She encountered Krishna consciousness in late 2003 while reading Bhagavad-gita As It Is. In 2008 she earned a Bhakti Shastri degree, and in 2009 joined Vanipedia, a web project, where she has served as a content developer and a writer. She is now enrolled in the Theology and Religious Studies program at Bhaktivedanta College and provides independent tutorial and editorial services for devotees.
Our first week will lay the philosophical foundation for our study of Krishna by overviewing our constitutional position as individual souls with respect to Krishna and identifying the topmost goal of spiritual realization. In addition, we will learn about the three aspects of Godhead: impersonal Brahman, localized Paramatma, and Bhagavan, the Supreme Person whom we know as Krishna.
Next we introduce Krishna, the Cause of All Causes, the Supreme Controller and Supreme Enjoyer. Although Krishna is source and summit of all opulence and the original, Supreme Person, He also expands Himself into many forms and manifests His will and desire through His various potencies. In addition, Krishna descends or sends His representatives to the material world to fulfil specific purposes. During the second week of the module, we will learn about Krishna’s qualities, expansions, energies and avataras, and we will be introduced to His feminine counterpart, Srimati Radharani.
In the third week we take a peek into the wonderful world of eternal, loving relationship with Krishna. When we make Krishna happy we become unlimitedly happy, and in this lesson we learn about the five primary rasas, or flavours of devotional relationship, which individual souls enjoy with Krishna. We will discover, through Krishna’s pastimes, how He relates in a very personal way with His beloved associates and how His associates relate with Him. The spiritual world is our eternal home, and Krishna is inviting us to return!
The key to advancing in spiritual consciousness is to please Krishna, and through His infinite mercy, Krishna makes Himself available to us through the spiritual master, the pure devotee, His Deity form, His prasadam, and His holy names. In our fourth lesson, we introduce the principle of serving and pleasing Krishna, and we discuss the benchmarks of progress in Krishna consciousness – the twenty-six qualities of the devotee and the progressive stages of spiritual realization.
Festivals, observances, holy places. The fifth week, we will take a virtual tour through the Vaishnava calendar. We will discuss the observance of Ekadasi and give an overview of the major yearly festivals (such as songs. PhilosophyJanmastami and Gaura Purnima) and the auspicious appearance days of other important incarnations and of our Founder-Acharya, Srila Prabhupada. In addition, we will be introduced to the holy places where we can go to deepen our devotion and recharge our spiritual batteries.
For our final week, we will bring everything together with a study of selected songs composed by our acharyas, where philosophy and devotion merge into beautiful, evocative and instructive expressions of spiritual realization.
The practice of bhakti awakens eternal love and devotion to Radha and Krishna. Our spiritual predecessors named five practices that have the power to quickly awaken pure love in our hearts: (1) serving and associating with devotees who are advanced, like-minded, and affectionate, (2) hearing Srimad Bhagavatam, (3) hearing and chanting Krishna’s holy names, (4) serving Deities, and (5) residing in Krishna’s sacred abodes. We will examine these practices and discuss how to best apply them in our circumstances. Some questions we will discuss: What constitutes a spiritual practice on the path of bhakti? What attitude will best facilitate spiritual progress? Why am I progressing slower than I would like to? How do I properly interact with Vaishnavas and with people I work with? How do I worship Krishna at home? Why is chanting Krishna’s names important? How is Srila Prabhupada’s movement based on the greater tradition’s teachings?
Sudevi dasi first read Srila Prabhupada's books during her Indology studies in Berlin, in 2000. In 2003 she took the Bhakti Shastri course in Vrindavana, and from 2004 through 2007 she earned a Bachelor of Theology degree at Bhaktivedanta College, Radhadesh. She now teaches Bhakti Sastri and academic courses at Bhaktivedanta College, oversees the ladies' ashram, and is finishing her work for a Master's degree in Religious Studies from Lampeter University. She likes to study and teach Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy, especially with reference to Srila Prabhupada's books.
We discuss 64 devotional practices given by Srila Rupa Goswami in The Nectar of Devotion. Are they part of our daily program, and to what extent can we daily take advantage of them? Since the beginning of spiritual practice is marked by surrendering to a spiritual master, we consider our relationship with Srila Prabhupada and other mentors.
Chanting is the most important spiritual practice at this time, and it can elevate even the greatest materialist to the most exalted stages of Krishna-bhakti. We explore our relationship to Krishna’s holy names by discussing nama-tattva, the various levels of chanting and their respective results. We will assess our current level and explore tangible steps to improve our relationship with the holy names.
Our entire spiritual practice starts with, is maintained by, and reaches its ultimate goal by the mercy of Vaishnavas. Thus association with devotees more advanced than us, who are like-minded and affectionate towards us, is the key for making rapid spiritual progress. We discuss proper interaction with Vaishnavas and their reciprocation in fulfilling our spiritual desires. We look at obstacles in our interactions and ways to overcome them.
Devotees like Pariksit Maharaja became fully Krishna conscious by listening attentively to narrations about Krishna and his pure devotees, and so can we. We discuss some principles of hearing about Krishna and how to apply ourselves to this wonderful process. And we will hear a lot of the Krishna-katha in the Bhagavatam.
Srila Prabhupada writes that “if someone becomes attached to the ?r?-m?rti, or Deity of Krishna, by worshiping at home, then he will forget his relationships of so-called friendship, love and society. “ Through Deity worship we learn to offer our hearts fully in service to Krishna. We learn how to properly set up an altar at home and how to offer simple, sustainable worship. We also discuss Tulasi Devi.
Living in a sacred place where Krishna performed his pastimes may seem impossible. But we will learn how to transform our environment into a holy place. Since this is the end of the course, we will do an overall autumn-cleanse in our lives to replace objects, habits, attitudes, desires, and value structures that no longer serve us on our spiritual journey with those that we newly acquire in the course.
Discovers the world of yoga: physical, mental, and spiritual.
Michael Dreyer, Bremen, Germany, Sambandha: Our Path 2012.