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The featured on-site courses below offer students in-depth study in kirtan technique and japa meditation. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Dates: June 17th – June 24th, 2018
Tutors: Jahnavi Harrison (the main tutor), Krishangi Lila (harmonium and vocal), Surabhi Kunja (kartalas) and Balarama Nityananda (mridanga)
If you love kirtan and would like to dive deeply into learning about the philosophy and tradition of this practise, as well as gain some knowledge of traditional kirtan instruments – please join us for this 7 day immersion course!
Whilst the six-week summertime Kirtan Course course (listed below) welcomes those at all levels of practise, this course particularly facilitates beginners, either in instrument study and/or the bhakti yoga philosophy and lifestyle.
Students will gain skills in playing instruments and singing for kirtan, enhanced by a thorough exploration of the teachings that support kirtan practise.More info on Kirtan Connection
Dates: July 2nd – August 12th, 2018
Residential tutors: Gopal Anandini (assistant), Krisahngi Lila (vocals and harmonium), Surabhi Kunja dd (kartalas), Krsnadas (mridanga)
Visiting tutors (one week): Jahnavi Harrison, Kadamba Kanana Swami, Sacinandana Swami, Bhakti Ghamya and Bhuta Bhavana, Mahendra
Over the period of six weeks this course will uncover the basics of kirtan practice through the facilitation of experienced kirtaniyas, chanters, and teachers such as Sacinandana Swami, Jahnavi Harrison and others. The course covers historical, theoretical and practical aspects of kirtan, which includes an in-depth beginners study in singing, harmonium, kartalas and mridanga playing.
More info on Kirtan Course
Dates: June 27th – July 1st, 2018
Tutor: Sacinandana Swami
What can you expect from the Holy Name Retreat:
In short, increasing your Krishna Consciousness.
More info on Holy Name Retreat
Grihastha Vision team members, Partha and Uttama, both disciples of Srila Prabhupada, offer to share their wisdom of 46 years of marriage and their training and coaching experience to facilitate a 2-day interactive grihastha course, Strengthening the Bonds that Free Us, based on the 12 Principles of Successful Krsna Conscious Family Life.
The seminar helps couples, and those interested in marriage, develop skills to maintain healthy connections and navigate inevitable challenges while weeding out negative paradigms that may sabotage relationships and spiritual growth.
Partha and Uttama will be visiting Europe end of October and beginning of November. If you wish to host them in your yatra, please contact the secretary of Bhaktivedanta College for arranging the details by using the address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Bhaktivedanta College has invited them to record the online course which will be available in the next few months and we also thought that it would be wonderful if they can visit other places in Europe in person. Book your dates soon to not miss this opportunity!
Partha das and Uttama dd will be available during their visit to counsel individuals and couples after the seminar and to offer a variety of other relationship courses in the evenings. They can also offer Marriage Mentor Training (3-days) to long-term happily married couples to enable them to facilitate pre-marital education to those about to marry in your congregation. One of the goals of the GVT is to see every person in ISKCON who wishes to marry is offered 5 sessions of premarital education before marriage. This will enable your community to offer that service. The Strengthening the Bonds that Free US course is a prerequisite for that training.
Artists at all levels who want to connect with their creative and devotional sides, and experience bhakti through art, are welcome to attend the upcoming Transcendental Art Seminar at Bhaktivedanta College, Radhadesh.
Running from August 21st to September 2nd, the seminar will be taught by classically trained husband and wife team Dhriti Dasi and Ram Das Abhirama Das.Register
The couple are legends in ISKCON art, having painted in the BBT art department from 1975 to 1986, with the original core of BBT artists including Jadurani Dasi, Pariksit Das, and Murlidhar Das. They received personal instructions on painting from Srila Prabhupada, and their paintings are included in the Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, Nectar of Devotion, Caitanya-caritamrita and Krsna book.
They were also the BBT’s co-art directors together in Europe between 1980 and 1986. More recently, their art has been featured in many prestigious art galleries around the U.S.
“Our Transcendental Art Seminar will accommodate 15 to 20 students,” says Dhriti. “This intimate size will allow us to give instruction and attention to each student.”
The seminar will be an intensive program that provides a complete experience of art. It will include studying the figure, life drawing from a model, color, oil painting procedure, portrait painting, composition, values, painting the landscape from nature, principles of transcendental figures, and the study of cloth, tone, and values.
As they learn these techniques, students will get to develop and create their own original transcendental painting. Dhriti and Ram Das will painting alongside them, so that everyone can observe the process. Personal instruction will be given to students to guide and develop their artistic abilities.
“While we’ll cover many different subjects, our seminar will focus on Krishna’s beauty, face and expressions,” says Dhriti. “Our philosophy is all about rasa and feeling. The emotions of the Lord and His associates are so wonderfully described. So we will discuss how we can humbly and prayerfully approach this rasa, and then try to depict it visually.”
“We’ll also present the standards Srila Prabhupada gave to us in depicting the ‘Windows to the Spiritual World,’” says Ram Das. “He wanted us to make Krishna ‘real, not cartoon.’”
Since Dhriti and Ram Das began giving their art seminars several years ago, students have gotten a vast amount of education and inspiration from them.
“The teachers were excellent and very helpful,” said Anasuya from Melbourne, Australia. “They really went out of their way to assist us all, according to our needs and artistic levels.”
Anandini from the Netherlands commented, “We learned profound painting techniques in only two weeks. The paintings by the students were amazing.”
And Krishen Kanadia from London sums up the seminar’s transformational nature: “The experience was very sacred, something to treasure,” he said. “To meet the devotees who had preached to me through their artwork felt surreal, and they were supportive. A rich, fulfilling, inspiring experience. And a great way to meet other artists involved in Krishna consciousness. This is no exaggeration: these two weeks have been one of the biggest highlights of my spiritual life. The teachers showed us how to meditate on Krishna all the time in developing our paintings.”
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To register and get more info, visit: bhaktivedantacollege.com/events/transcendental-art-seminar/
This short film was made in Russia in October 2015, by a small team of filmmakers who are passionate about sharing the culture of bhakti yoga with the world. It was shot on location in Moscow and Sochi, and profiles Jahnavi Harrison, who grew up with bhakti yoga and serves in the capacity of a kirtan (devotional call and response chanting) leader.
Producer: Shaktyavesha Avatara dasa
Director of Photography: Raghunatha Prana dasa
2nd Camera: Hari Mohini dasi
Additional Camera: Nityananda Rama dasa
Postproduction: Tamal Krishna Dasa
Transport: Alexey Pigurenko
Writen by Gopal Anandini Schleusener
We have 22 students, all determined, sincere and serious. It’s been a real pleasure working with them so far. The first week, Sacidanadana Swami guided them in understanding the importance of doing kirtan in the right mindset and mood. Immersing them in the holy names, he got things off to a blissful start. The past two weeks, the teachers focused on teaching mrdanga mantras and kartala beats. Also, each student by now knows a melody on the harmonium. By next week they’ll be playing in and leading kirtan. All the students have their own styles, and it is a great experience to see it.
Moments of mercy flowed from Lord Jagannatha during His chariot procession. Holy names filled the air, and the mrdanga beats awakened each soul who heard them. We celebrated with kirtan and shared kirtan with others.
Radhadesh Summer Holi
After a month of study and a week of intense practice, the Kirtan Course students took part in the festival with a half-hour stage performance of mellow, choral chanting. Shivani and Cherl sang solos. Braja made a mrdanga presentation. With sweet tunes of Braja, the lead singers were Shivani, Cheryl, Paraschiva, Surya, and Murari. Their joyful mood helped the audience experience the glories of sankirtana, the congregational repetition of the maha-mantra.
In a kirtan tent, our mrdanga teacher, Krsna Das, led workshops on playing this instrument. Students demonstrated their skills, and the people could join in to learn the basics. Shivani, Cheryl, and Sam led workshops on voice toning and gong-sound healing therapy. The happiness of Holi spread to everyone. The weekend was filled with kirtan and devotion, relaxation and self-realization.
Moments to be remembered . . . relished . . . carried in the heart.
The Shamanic Festival in Namur
The Kirtan Course students, along with the teacher Jahnavi Harrison, spread the holy names around a bonfire. Dancing and chanting purified the hearts of many, and those who joined us became absorbed, letting themselves be carried away by the angelic voice of Jahnavi and the transcendental Holy Name.
Balarama Purnima at Radhadesh
It was a day filled with kirtan and dancing, swinging Deities, and offering one’s heart in blissful worship. Taking part in such temple programs and doing kirtans for Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha have become a natural part of the students’ everyday life. The sweet late-evening kirtan at Radhadesh is one activity that every student will miss after returning home.
First to Leave
Day by day we come closer to the end of the two-month Kirtan Course, which has given new skills and deep realizations to the students.
Some of these memories will last, as will friendships that formed by bonding in kirtan. Precious moments will stay with them throughout their lives. In gratitude we said goodbye to three wonderful students who had to leave a bit early: Paraschiva Florescu, Chih-Chen Chen, and Kuan Lee. We were blessed to have delicious donuts made by a cupcake master, Gopalanandini Schleusener, who has the sweetest talent for baking and decorating cupcakes. Happy we were to have nice chats on the grass before we all wandered in different directions throughout the world. As Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha were waiting to hear the kirtans of Paraschiva Florescu and Kuan Lee, we all joined them in the temple room, where their heart-melting devotion made it seem that the Deities danced.
The Kirtan Course’s graduation ceremony provoked tears and laughter, certificates and comments. We had ice cream and cold drinks. Knowing that each of us would feel strong separation from these relishable months we shared, connected by kirtan, we anticipated our friendships lasting when we are far away from one other. The staff will miss you and wishes you all the best on your kirtaniya path!
May you all flourish in the garden of kirtan and blossom with the holy names in your hearts! Kirtan Course 2016, ki jaya!
Sankirtana-yajna, ki jaya!
Interviewer: Can you tell us a bit about what you have been up to since you left Radhadesh a few months ago? How has it been adjusting to “regular life” again?
Ananta: When coming home, I rested for a week. Ashram life is challenging and by staying on the 5th floor, going up and down many times every day, puts a lot of pressure on the body and the mind. I’ve lost a few kilograms, which is good. Looking forward to doing it again if the opportunity arises.
Interviewer: What was the biggest highlight of the Kirtan Course for you?
Ananta: Leading kirtan in front of Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha on Janmastami. I felt very nervous but at the same time I knew that the ice breaking would bring me a lot of success in the future.
Interviewer: Have aspects of the Kirtan Course changed the way in which you spend quality time with your family? Do you ever do kirtan together?
Ananta: Yes, we have kirtan evenings now every evening. Sometimes I sing for a while even during the Bhoga Offering. The kids play karatals as well.
Interviewer: How have you been able to incorporate what you learned during the course into your local devotional community?
Ananta: I help one of my friends with his Mantra Lounge here in Stockholm. Sometimes we drive to the temple and have a kirtan as offering.
Interviewer: How did the Kirtan Course help you further develop your relationship with the holy name? Have you found there have been changes to your sadhana since the course?
Ananta: Yes, of course. The chanting is increasing. Before we had only japa and sometimes kirtan and we clapped our hands. Now we do nice melodious kirtans, which sometimes last longer than planned. It’s a wonderful feeling.
Interviewer: You have quite the open-minded and humorous personality. How did this help you to inspire your fellow students during the course?
Ananta: Tough one… I encountered a few incidents caused by frustration. The tutors have put a lot of pressure on us to learn and practice a lot. My attitude was: let’s just take pleasure in learning the instruments and have some fun as well. People have different personalities and they are inspired in different ways. I always take it easy and go with the flow…
Interviewer: What is your favourite instrument? Have you found yourself continuing to develop your skills in certain areas of the practical aspects of kirtan since the course ended?
Ananta: My favorite instrument is harmonium. Since coming home from the course, I continuously learn new melodies. I ask devotees who have mastered the art of kirtan to teach me new things all the time. I must admit, it’s not easy and it takes a lot of practice and dedication. To be able to learn how to play the harmonium in order to make a pleasing offering to Krishna can take many years. It’s not just the skill; it’s the Bhava as well. Actually the attitude of having Nama Yagna is the most important, but the skill of the instrument completes the offering.
Interviewer: What is your favourite thing about kirtan and why?
Ananta: As we know, kirtan means the congregational glorification of the Lord. As I personally did, I used kirtan to engage people who were never, not in the wildest of their fantasy, would take to the chanting or listening of the holy name. Kirtan is a powerful tool, which knowingly and unknowingly connects people with Krishna. The real meaning of Yoga.
Interviewer: What advice would you give to future Kirtan Course students?
Ananta: Take the course seriously; take to your heart the teachings from the first week of the course, meditate always about the meaning of Kirtan, learn the instruments to your best ability and make nice offerings to the Lord. Srila Prabhupada says: Facility comes from chanting. By making this offer to Krishna by engaging your time, money, senses, mind and intelligence in learning how to sing His holy name your life will change forever and many wonderful things will happen in your life.
by Cintāmaṇi Mādhavī Devī Dāsī (Kirtan Course Alumna 2014)
In 2014 I had to move from the town where I was born in Chile to the capital, Santiago, to continue with my studies of journalism. I rented a little room in the downtown of the city. When I arrived, a student living there warned me: “This place is nice. The only thing that may annoy you is that your window is right next to a Hare Kṛṣṇa temple, and they chant the whole day.”
Maybe he’s exaggerating, I thought. But the first week, I knew he was telling the truth. From early in the morning I would hear people singing, bells ringing, and some strange deep, thunderous sound (the blowing of a conch shell, I later leaned). I also smelled incense, as well as captivating food being cooked with ingredients I couldn’t figure out. I was curious.
What’s behind this that can keep these people chanting every day of the year?
The strangest thing was that they were always singing the same words: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma Hare Hare.
Months later I went to the temple for the first time. And after reading Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, I knew I wanted to be Kṛṣṇa conscious. But the mahā-mantra remained a mystery for me. Even after experiencing big changes in my life by chanting the mantra on my beads, I couldn’t understand deeply what was behind these sixteen words. With time, chanting my sixteen rounds became a mechanical duty, especially after I started to work in the rushed world of the media. Most days I would find myself chanting the last rounds at night, hoping to finish quickly to go to sleep. This negligence was silently and seriously undermining my enthusiasm for spiritual life. To revitalize my enthusiasm, I decided to take a time off from work, and I made the Kirtan Course at Bhaktivedanta College in Radhadesh, Belgium, my first stop.
The course started with an introductory workshop by Śacīnandana Swami, who made us dive into the holy name for a week, with philosophy, meditation, and kīrtana. “Worship Kṛṣṇa with the flower of your attention” was his advice the first day of class. After having chanted my rounds for so long with my mind wandering far and wide, I felt he was talking directly to me.
In the Harināma Cintāmaṇi, by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, it is said that pramāda, or inattention or carelessness while chanting the holy name, is the offense from which all other offenses arise. There are three types of inattention: indifference, inertia or laziness, and restlessness of the mind. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda instructs that one should always be careful to not only dutifully chant one’s rounds but to chant them properly. The remedy for improper chanting is to associate with devotees who have a taste for the holy name, because by seeing Vaiṣṇavas’ attraction for the name, one will be inspired to give up indifference.
The Kirtan Course was nine weeks of this type of association. We had the opportunity to learn about the history and meaning of the saṅkīrtana movement from scholarly and senior devotees, as well as leading exponents of kīrtana. Kṛṣṇa Kṣetra Swami taught the importance of sound, citing Vedic texts, and the different traditions of devotional music. Kadamba Kānana Swami drew us deep into the meaning of Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s Śikṣāṣṭakam, which includes instruction on the appropriate mood with which to chant the holy name. Mahātmā Dāsa explained how humility is the main component of kīrtana, and with Jahnavi Harrison we sang prayers by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, trying to understand the mood of an exalted devotee. Mahendra Dāsa took us on a journey through quotations and explanations about kīrtana in the sacred literature. Finally, Hridayānanda Dāsa Goswami gave us some ideas on how to present all this knowledge in the Western world.
In the purport to Bhagavad-gītā 12.8, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains, “The holy name of the Lord and the Lord are nondifferent; therefore when a devotee chants Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa and His internal potency are dancing on the tongue of the devotee.” To be able to realize this through great devotees who can transmit their blissful connection with the holy name was a transformative experience.
In addition, we seventeen students – from all over the world and from all kinds of backgrounds – learned harmonium, mṛdaṅga, and kartālas from the best teachers in a friendly and supportive atmosphere.
Indeed, these weeks were life changing, because you had the opportunity to appreciate the holy name from when you woke up till you went to sleep. When you feel connected with the holy name by chanting attentively, the whole day has a different taste – the sweet taste of Kṛṣṇa’s company. When we singing the mahā-mantra fully conscious, we water a plant that at some point will produce a flower that will bloom within our hearts. As stated in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 19.152): “When a person receives the seed of devotional service, he should take care of it by becoming a gardener and sowing the seed in his heart. If he waters the seed gradually by the process of śravaṇa and kīrtana [hearing and chanting], the seed will begin to sprout.”
Now I remember the days when the mahā-mantra first came through my window and I asked myself what could be the meaning of those words constantly repeated by my special neighbours. I could not have suspected that it was Kṛṣṇa Himself and that in the most merciful and simple way I could approach Him in these hard times of so much pain and quarrel. I hope many devotees can take advantage of the Kirtan Course and help the holy name open the windows of thousand of hearts.
“We were able to convince the leadership across the country that we don’t want to just perform marriages anymore – we actually want to support and nurture marriages,” says Partha. “We’re trying to create a culture where premarital education is an integral part of marriage in ISKCON.”
“It’s important that you look for someone with similar values, personality and lifestyle,” says Uttama. “For instance, someone who shares your work ethics, family values, and the way you practice Krishna consciousness.”
Of course, she acknowledges, it is fine and natural to have small differences in values, and couples should support and encourage each other in these areas for a healthy marriage. Partha and Uttama also emphasized getting to know a prospective partner well before trusting them, and making sure you trust them before you commit. The communication skills part of the course, meanwhile, was largely based upon two of Rupa Goswami’s six loving exchanges between Vaishnavas: revealing one’s mind in confidence, and inquiring confidentially, or reworded here as “listening in confidence.”
“We’re trying to help devotees realize how important that exchange is, especially in household life,” says Partha. “We teach simple communication techniques that keep dialog from escalating into the modes of passion and ignorance where people end up having arguments, or isolating themselves in the relationship.”
Partha and Uttama feel that Krishna conscious marriage done right is something very special. If we truly stayed aware that Krishna is being worshipped in our homes, and is in our spouse’s hearts, they explain, we would never use unkind words or treat them harshly.
The counselors also talked about negative paradigms sometimes touted in ISKCON that cause damage. “One is the misunderstanding that your marriage and your children are not devotional service,” says Uttama. “Because then devotees don’t work on their relationships, minimize them, and sometimes don’t even meet their children’s needs.”
Happy, caring marriages and family lives are devotional service not only because our children and spouses are devotees, Partha adds, but because the general public observes how devotees live and conduct themselves. “So just having a good marriage is a big contribution to Prabhupada’s movement – what to speak of having happy, well-adjusted, protected children.”
Another area commonly misunderstood that Partha and Uttama made an important distinction between is the difference between Vedic marriage – where the wife is often seen as subservient to the husband – and Vaishnava marriage.
In this connection, they cited an article on Vaishnava marriage by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati in his magazine The Harmonist. “The cardinal principle of grihasta ashram is that no one may be the owner of any property or service of another,” he writes. Everyone is only a servant whose activities are ever in the service of the Lord.”
He continues, “Marrying and giving in marriage do not give rise to any rights of a master either to the husband or to the wife. Men and women are joined in wedlock for the purpose of serving each other in the performance of the joint service of Krishna. The wife is not an object of enjoyment of the husband, nor vice versa. They do not marry for gratifying their sexual appetites. They marry for pleasing the Lord, not for pleasing themselves.”
He concludes, “Neither the husband nor the wife should claim the services of his or her partner on their own account. Both of them are only to offer their services if and when their partner is pleased to permit them to share their service of Hari. None of them can force their partners to serve them….This system of household discipline has its roots in the joint worship of the household deity by all members of the household.”
Next, Partha and Uttama are working on preparing an online version of their course that will be offered to everyone soon through Belgium’s Bhaktivedanta College Online Campus website.
Preparing as well as taking the course takes time and effort – but so does having a healthy and happy marriage, they remind us.
“Sometimes devotees look for an easy fix, saying, ‘Can you give us your blessings?’” Partha says. “But our blessings are to tell them, ‘Marriage doesn’t make you happy, it makes you married. And once you’re married, then you can do the hard work of becoming Krishna conscious and happy in your marriage. If you do the work, it is very satisfying. But you have to do the work.”
Article written by Madhava Smullen from ISKCON News
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.
These 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.