Q: Please tell us about your background?
I live on the East Coast of the United States, outside the city of Philadelphia with my husband, Vamanadeva. We have one daughter, Rajani, who is 27. I am a retired Registered Nurse, certified in Hospice and Palliative Care. After writing a book, “The Final Journey: Complete Hospice Care for Departing Vaishnavas” (Torchlight), I co-founded the nonprofit organization Vaisnavas C.A.R.E. (Counseling, Assistance, Resource and Education for the Terminally Ill and Their Family).
For more than ten years, I traveled to various states and countries to care for terminally ill devotees in our Krishna consciousness movement. I also gave seminars to train others to do this work. Additionally, I co-founded the Hare Krishna Sunday School at ISKCON Philadelphia and taught many children there for eleven years. I also assisted with the writing of a Krishna conscious Sunday School curriculum now being used in temples and communities worldwide.
Q: You joined an ashram while very young. How did that happen?
I first met devotees at the age of 14 in San Francisco. I was searching for God, but at first did not appreciate what the devotees told me. For the next two years, I kept meeting the devotees in Philadelphia and finally surrendered after writing to Srila Prabhupada and receiving a very wonderful letter from him. This was in 1972. I mostly lived in the Los Angeles temple and the temple in Honolulu and was extremely fortunate to see Srila Prabhupada in both places many times.
Q: What inspired you to take Bhaktivedanta College’s online Bhakti Sastri program?
I was living in the holy dhama of Vrindavan for two months and spent a lot of time listening to Srila Prabhupada’s classes. I realized I needed to take more seriously the study of Srila Prabhupada’s books. I researched my options online and came to the Bhaktivedanta College website. I decided on this program because it seemed so organized and professional. I was not disappointed. I have completed the Bhakti Sastri degree program and plan on continuing in April, 2013 when the Bhakti Vaibhava program begins, which is a study of the first six cantos of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Q: Was it a demanding program? How did you manage your everyday life and study commitments?
I took the program very seriously. I organized my day around reading and studying to keep up with the courses. After breakfast I would study the required reading in Srila Prabhupada’s books, read and review the resource material presented on the Web site, and then begin to answer the required homework assignments. In the afternoon, I would set aside time to participate in the Forum and, often, I would communicate by e-mail with other students. Every Sunday morning at the scheduled class time I attended the LIVE class via the Web site. In this way there was a lot of interaction between all of us–the other students, the instructor, and me. Their association and enthusiasm inspired me to continue in this way.
Q: What was the most valuable thing you learned?
I learned that it is never too late to systematically study Srila Prabhupada’s books. The instructors at Bhaktivedanta College are very knowledgeable, patient, and understanding. That makes it a lot easier to take this course at any age. Also, since Srila Prabhupada’s books are “ever fresh,” I have learned many new things by carefully rereading them and answering the assignments and taking the tests. The instructors know which questions to ask to help us realize the essence contained in the books. Several times a week, the teachers also sent us quotes to read that pertained to the curriculum. This increased my understanding of that week’s material.
Q: Practicing bhakti-yoga for so many years, you must have known many of the subjects.
I already knew the philosophy. However, carefully studying Srila Prabhupada’s books with the instructors and other Vaisnavas from around the world helped me gain a deeper understanding of many important points within Srila Prabhupada’s books. Sharing stories and realizations with them via e-mails and during LIVE classes was very inspiring.
Srila Prabhupada desired that we seriously study his books to gain a proper understanding and to be able to teach this knowledge to others. I would encourage everyone to take advantage of the online coursework offered by the Bhaktivedanta College to gain a better understanding of the Krishna consciousness philosophy.
Q: Which new programs would you like to see offered online by Bhaktivedanta College?
I am looking forward to the Bhakti Vaibhava degree program. After that, I would like to see the college offer the next two degrees, which would include studying the second half of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and then the Caitanya-caritamrita. Srila Prabhupada encouraged this degree program ending with the Bhaktivedanta degree and I am very grateful to the staff and leaders of the Bhaktivedanta College for making these courses available around the world by offering them online.