By Antony Brennan
Last night I participated in The Japa Room, an online japa class given by Navasi devi dasi in the USA and Rasa Rasika dasa in Australia.
Others participated in the class from places around the world such as Trinidad, the Canary Islands and It was the first in a series of ten stages to be held over the coming weeks. This was the second presentation of the first class. Two presentations were given to allow people in different time zones to participate.
It was easy to log in and join the group. You need some free software, headphones and broadband Internet. Full instructions had been given on the Japa Room web site, http://japaroom.com., about how to get yourself ready to join in.
I logged in to the virtual class room and I could see others logging in and their screen names appearing in the list. We greeted each other using an internet chat function available on screen in the free software While we waited for the rest to join in we were entertained by a video with images of Srila Prabhupada and a recording of him chanting the Mahamantra.
The class got underway. First we heard from Rasa about developing quality japa, quoting Srila Prabhupada and telling us about his own experience. Then we had a very interesting video presentation encouraging us in our chanting with more references to support the instructions. Then we asked questions using the chat function and we heard the voices of Navasi and Rasa as they took turns giving us answers. Toward the end we were asked if we would like to speak into the virtual microphone with any further comments or questions. Some typed that they had no microphone, and I was too shy.
I was surprised by how effective the class was considering the distance between the participants. Even though I bought the cheapest headset the sound quality was great, it helped keep the class on a more personal level. Rasa and Navasi spoke to us and we responded using the Chat function. This way we could ask questions, give feedback and participate in the class in real time. The video added another dimension to the whole presentation.
This is no replacement for attending a class in the real world. Although there is a degree of association available in the class between the presenters and the participants there is nothing like associating directly, in ‘the real world.’ Having said that this class was not so much different than other japa classes I have attended in ‘the real world.’ I could see immediately that this kind of technology could significantly benefit people who in remote locations and those with no opportunities for association otherwise.
Rasa Rasika told me the material used I the Japa Room was developed to be used on line. Navasi said “The thing that’s so great about The Japa Room, is that it’s an active 10 stage program for improving japa, each stage gradually leading to better japa practices and improved chanting, and understanding of the importance of chanting.”
Partha-sarathi dasa, the devotee soldier in Iraq is also producing an online audio discussion Bhagavad Gita class. You can email him at Partha-sarathi.KKS@pamho.net for details.
A variety of free software downloads are available which allow free telephone conference calls using the Internet.