A group of twelve students took the Introductory Course to Bhakti-yoga that took place from February first through the nineteenth. For those three weeks, the courses were aimed at watering the bhakti seed lying dormant in all the students, and at weeding the fields in which it grows. Many in the course already had a healthy bhakti creeper growing and just needed some nurturing to help mature it.
Students were given mornings off to do services set-up by Bhakta Rick and Malati, such as maintenance or making garlands, which allowed them to experience the mellows of devotional service. Then, two one-hour classes were held in the afternoons. Often students were enjoying the wildlife surrounding the castle. Some, who have been at Radhadesh for a while, suddenly found themselves in an academic setting, which was unfamiliar but easy to adjust to.
“It was a nice clarification of what devotional life it is actually all about, because in the Bhakti Shastri course, it is too much all at once,” said Guy Notredame, from the Flemish part of Belgium, who has been a temple resident at Radhadesh since September. “But in the introduction course the teachers told me things no one else had told me before. There were more important details and practical stuff.” Guy, who is usually on Rick’s service team, enjoyed leading others in their service, whom he said were very enthusiastic and “really nice association.”
Frans, from Holland, who had not been in a temple academic setting before, but had some knowledge coming into the course, having studied the Bhagavad-gita on his own, was taking off from his work for a year to invest in spiritual exploration. He found inspiration to continue his process after doing the course. For him, the highlight was “to associate with all the other people.” Everyone was coming from a different angle, he said. “And I found it very good to have a course going on while at the temple, because it keeps you awake and keeps your mind applied to the matter.” This is the first time, he said, that he realized that spiritual life cannot be done merely from a rational perspective. It involves self-reflection and realization for a full understanding.
Facilities were arranged during the application process, with most students staying in the cozy guesthouse during the cold but pleasant winter days. They ate meals and spent time with the community members and got to know about their lives.
Some courses were: Home Deity Worship, Cooking, Respect, Vaishnava Qualities, and Sacred Texts. Vaishnava philosophy and culture (from the three aspects of the Absolute Truth to the three modes of material nature) naturally includes learning how to makechapatis. So the seminar students walked away with enough information to be confident in ISKCON and to inquire about more knowledge. For the facilitators, either faculty or students at the college, it was an opportunity to refresh themselves in different areas and give something worthy to eager and willing students.
Written by Kumari Sherreitt