By Gaurav Sharma
February 15th 2010, saw the graduation ceremony for the newest Bhaktisastri graduates at the Mayapur Institute (MI) Sri Dham Mayapur Campus. The ceremony was graced by many senior ISKCON leaders and educators. About 75 Students hailing from 34 different countries were welcomed with a very different type of invocation prayers led by Prema Vikas Das from South Africa. Prema Vikas a multi-talented artist, a rap singer & song-writer and now a Bhaktisastri, sang “If you really wanna know what the Gita’s all about… ” with chants of “Govinda Gopala” to set the ceremony start on an electrifying note! This was followed by a drama – Life of Srinivas Acarya, enacted by the Bhaktisastrinis, the female graduates of the latest batch of students. HG Padmanayana Das, Director – MI cordially appreciated the ladies’ effort calling it “a purely sattvik experience”.
By now all senior sanyasis and GBC’s arrived at the venue to congratulate all the newest pass-outs with blessings and encouraging words. His Grace Janmastami Das, founder of MI, spoke about the power of Sri Dham Mayapur and its significance on the students who undertake studies here. “Everyone who takes the courses at Mayapur has a transformation of the heart!” The students could not but agree. They had been living at Sri Dham Mayapur for 3 months now and studying Srila Prabhupada’s books in association of exalted Vaisnavas, attending Mangal-arati and Srimad Bhagvatam class every day, relishing Sri Radha-Madhav prasada for lunch at the institute and participating in the various on-going activities in the dham like parikramas, 24 hour kirtans, seminars on self-improvement, various sevas, etc. In the Bhakti-Rasamrita-Sindhu Sripad Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada explains the 64 items of Devotional Service and being deeply integrated into these activities as students everyone has a story of “change of heart” to tell!
His Grace Praghosh Das took the opportunity to thank Janmastami Prabhu for his dedication and commitment to serve Srila Prabhupada. He said “he [Janmastami Prabhu] went through a lot of trials and tribulations to keep MI going. MI is actually the seed or the beginning of a University in Mayapur”. His Holiness Radhanath Swami said that over the years he has observed how varieties of people become connected with ISKCON and they all are transformed coming to Sri Dham Mayapur. He said, “It [Mayapur] really has a very powerful influence and divine facility to deeply impress Krsna Consciousness in their hearts.” Maharaj showed how blessed are those who come to Mayapur to study Srila Prabhupada’s books systematically by saying, “Most of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and even I myself never spent so much time here… the Ganga, the holy dust, the Vaisnavas…” His Grace Jai Krsna Prabhu also spoke on the same note of transformation of heart. He pinpointed the 3 main objectives of coming to MI for studying Bhaktisastri: to study Srila Prabhupada’s books in the association of devotees, to make new friends and to take full opportunity of residing in the holy Dham.
His Grace Anuttama Prabhu (ACBSP) said the students of MI are a testimony of ISKCON maturing. “Our tradition is the deepest and the richest. We have to allow our devotee members to show them the depth of our sampradaya and bring a new wave of future to ISKCON.” HH Loknath Swami emphatically expressed how important it is for devotees to read Srila Prabhupada’s books. “Our movement is that of education. When you come you have sraddha – faith, but that is not enough. It can lead to punar mushika bhaav [become a mouse again]. Faith is good but that is not enough, you have to have Nistha! And how will you get that? Nityam bhagvata sevaya… if we don’t then we run a risk!” Maharaj being one of the faculty members at MI, assured the students that Srila Prabhupada is pleased with them and showers his blessings on all who are engaged in this service!
Her Grace Urmila Devi Dasi (ACBSP), who taught at MI for the first time, emphasized again the importance of Srila Prabhupada’s books. She said “these books are our anchor, our refuge and our shelter. Whenever there is upheaval and fire of ordeal, it is very nice to turn to Srila Prabhupada’s books. But it’s hard to turn to them if you haven’t read them.” His Grace Sesha Prabhu pointed out that academically studying Srila Prabhupada’s books alone will not have the same effect. He said “how do we transform – by reading from sastra, by coming to the holy dham and by serving, not just by academic endeavor.” He indicated the wholesome benefit of doing this, “it is meant to transform our [whole] life!”
His Holiness Bhakti Purusottama Swami mentioned that Janmastami prabhu has transferred the reigns of MI to Padmanayana prabhu, as successor, and stepped down for personal health reasons. He mentioned that education is of prime importance in ISKCON as stressed in the current GBC meetings. He also thanked His Grace Atul Krsna Prabhu for his valiant efforts as a teacher and facilitator.
Subsequently, certificates were awarded to the successful Bhaktisastri students. Also, for the first time in MI’s history, four Bhaktivaibhava graduates received their degrees. The Bhaktisastri graduates looked very keen on coming back soon to undertake the studies at the Bhaktivaibhava level.
His Holiness Bhakti Brhad Bhagwat Swami, His Holiness Bhakti Vighana Vinash Narsimha Swami, His Holiness Param Gati Swami, His Holiness Bhakti Vaibhava Swami, Her Grace Laxmi Moni Devi Dasi, Her Grace Shyamala Sakhi Devi Dasi were also amongst other senior vaisnavas who graced the ceremony.
The program ended with a vote of thanks by Janmastami Prabhu. He thanked Atul Krsna Prabhu as “the unsung hero!” and complimented him for his highly entertaining and interactive teaching style. He also lauded Padmanayana prabhu’s efforts and success in the short time since he took over management of MI. Janmastami Prabhu concluded by saying “the growth and development of our students makes it worth going through all the troubles and tribulations.” He expressed his delight and satisfaction at the success of the students at MI. He said that with the new temple coming up and education going up, Srila Prabhupada will be very pleased.
At the end of the program prasada was distributed to all attendees.
Bhakti-Shastri, Sri Dham Mayapur
BIT, Sydney, Australia