At Bhaktivedanta College, following the ideals for Vedic education, the students practice a strict life of penance and hardship while studying Vaishnava philosophy from an academic prospective.
This description, obviously, is a little facetious. Don’t worry, I was posing for the picture. In fact, the situation is quite the contrary at the college. We students are a bit pampered and get all of our necessary comforts, and our studies are more than intellectually fulfilling.
Here are a few aspects of the college that I appreciate most.
First and foremost, we are immensely blessed to have the association of our principal, Yadunandana Swami. His first sannyasa-initiation anniversary was celebrated on March tenth. He is a wonderful role model for the students’ devotional lives. I feel very inspired by his example, and it is a great treat to observe how he preaches on academic turf. He shows us that the real purpose of our academic study of Gaudiya Vaishnavism is to spread the glories of Srila Prabhupada’s mission, and he embodies the purity spoken of in our scriptures. Maharaja is very dedicated to Srila Prabhupada. Thanks to him and all his colleagues on the staff, this college continues.
The second thing I appreciate is our courses. The academic courses are always unique and individually educational. The academic courses pertain to our accredited Bachelor of Theology degrees. The academics are just one of three strands. There are also vocational courses, such as teacher training and communications, which help us develop preaching skills. And then there are spiritual retreats about Chaitanya-caritamrta and Srila Prabhupada and so on. These are blissful highlights of our school year.
For many courses, a devotee-teacher visits Radhadesh. The academic teachers are not only very learned scholars in their fields but are also devoted followers of Srila Prabhupada, committed to sadhana-bhakti. Some of our academic teachers were Urmila, Radhika Raman and his brother Gopal Hari, and Pranava. Some techers of our vocational courses were Laxmimoni, Kripamoya, and Anuttama, who each teach about their own specializations within ISKCON. For our spiritual courses we received lessons from Kadamba Kanana Swami, Hanumat Preshaka Swami and others. This year we had the great fortune to hear about Srila Prabhupada from two renowned senior Vaishnavas, Dhananjaya and Vishakha. We receive so much good association and education from visiting teachers that it is a problem reciprocating with them.
The community at Radhadesh is a key factor in the continuing success of the college. Radhadesh started in 1980. At the time, it was a flourishing community, and there were many devotees from all over the world serving and preaching here. Eventually, there was havoc in the community caused by unavoidable circumstances, and it seemed that the community would no longer be able to maintain itself. But a legendary devotee named Hrdaya Caitanya remained in his position as the temple president through all the hardships, and even to this day he has not forsaken the community. Because of his immoveable dedication, the community emerged from its adversities and again flourishes wonderfully. The atmosphere in Radhadesh is calm and relaxed, and simultaneously there is a strong feeling of Krishna consciousness.
At the foot of the Ardennes hills, Radhadesh is peaceful and secluded, the perfect place for absorbing oneself in studies. When the weather is not so bad, we can take prasadam outside and enjoy the beautiful view of hills and forests. The students get to live in a castle, and a new dormitory will be ready in September of 2010.
Till now I have described many positive aspects of the college, and this could understandably lead some people to think, “Perhaps it’s too good to be true.”
I must admit that not everything about living and studying here is rosy. There is a bit of stress coming from studies, and, yes, things are sometimes a bit unorganized, and, yes, the weather is terrible, and, okay, the prasadam is sometimes a little funny. But you can’t have everything you want in life, can you? The good aspects of the college more than compensate for the bad.
I am very happy to be a student at Bhaktivedanta College. I’m from the New Raman Reti community in Alachua, Florida, and until I came to the college I didn’t know much about it. I must say, however, that the college is dynamic and enlivening. The college is on the verge of becoming a great establishment. There are many opportunities for its growth. So if anyone is interested, now is the time to get involved. As ISKCON grows and spreads, it is necessary and inevitable that education will play a prominent role. Already there have been many steps taken toward providing better education in ISKCON, and Bhaktivedanta College is a giant step among them.