What were you doing before starting studies at Bhaktivedanta College?
I had studied Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam for six years in India. Then, for another six years, I was a teacher of those scriptures, mostly at the Mayapur Institute and the Vrindavana Institute for Higher Education. I am originally from Brazil, and before going to India I was an officer in the Brazilian Army.
Why did you decide to study theology at Bhaktivedanta College?
I developed a desire to communicate the philosophical treasures I found through my studies and experiences in India. I also wanted to broaden my understanding of other religious traditions and become acquainted with Western philosophy, to be better equipped to teach in a Western context what I learned in India. My aim, however, is not to promote Hindu religion in the West, but to use the Vaishnava scriptures as a reference point to identify essential spiritual science, foundational to all religions.
This was the first year of our online study. What did you find most enjoyable about it?
I enjoyed learning about religious and philosophical worldviews, not least because these were presented by devotee scholars. I wouldn’t like to study under atheistic scholars, but I enjoyed studying Freud and writing an essay about his perception of religion. Above all, I enjoyed writing essays, because they entail research and make me think deeply about many interesting topics. Researching and writing are the best learning experiences.
What was your greatest challenge?
Sometimes, while researching, I had a hard time locating relevant scholarly books and articles online. Now, though, I have become more experienced in that. Another challenge for online students is the lack of personal interaction with the teachers and students. Also, there is a tendency to lose focus on the studies. I plan to move to Radhadesh whenever possible so that I will have access to the college library and will have the personal association of the teachers and students.
What can the college do to improve its delivery?
I am pretty satisfied with the online study I have done so far. I can’t think of any room for improvement.
Based on your experience and the high grades you got, what are the main principles for successful online study?
My overall learning experience has been great. In my short experience, it seems to me that the main principles for successful learning online are to listen to the classes, to take part as much as possible in the forum discussions, to select appealing essay topics, to find good reference books besides the ones suggested by the teacher, to thoroughly research, to take some time to reflect, and then write.
Did one module offer you the best learning experience?
I felt that all the modules were extremely relevant.
What are your career goals?
I hope that this degree course will equip me with the knowledge and the credentials to effectively contribute to a healthy religious dialogue in today’s society. My aim is to teach Religious Studies in a university. Thus I plan to continue my studies and get a Master’s degree and a PhD.