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THE VISION OF THE MINISTRY

During the nineteen seventies and early eighties, almost every ISKCON center recruited and trained its own new devotees in-house. Centers served as unofficial seminaries providing ministerial education and training for their male and female student priests. In those days, centers provided a basic regimen of mandatory regulated sadhana bhakti, full engagement in services, two formal scripture classes daily, experienced counseling, deity worship and a vibrant atmosphere for attracting and training newcomers in residence. Some centers additionally incorporated a three month introductory training course such as the Bhakta Program with more intensive training. It has been seen, however, that in order to prepare students to become competent long-term devotee priests, a more systematic and thorough educational training curriculum is required.

Today’s ISKCON centers, especially in the West, offer less training and education than formerly. Without such facilities, fewer newcomers join and thus we face the ominous reality of brahmacaris classified as an endangered species. Without brahmacaris, the varnasrama institution collapses. In the absence of brahmacari students, there is no need for brahmana teachers. With no brahmanas there will be no good ksatriyas or vaisyas…only sudras. Lacking first-class brahmacaris there will be no first-class grhasthas, vanaprasthas or sannyasis. With no brahmacaris, the movement’s preaching, especially book distribution will decline drastically.

Mainstream youth today, especially in the West in particular North America and Western Europe, entrench themselves in secular institutions of so-called learning and seldom give up their materialistic lifestyles in order to experiment with Eastern meditation. Consequently, it is rare that ISKCON attracts such candidates to become full-time devotees. Among those youth who do join ISKCON in the 21st Century as resident devotees, it is not uncommon for them to be lured again back to Western colleges for degrees of sense gratification.

There is hope however. Here is an example. A few weeks ago, an eighteen year old man enrolled in the Rupanuga Vedic College. His parents are both Yale professors. He came in contact with Krishna consciousness less than a year before. The young man and his mother visited the RVC several months prior to see the college and meet the staff. Both mother and son were so impressed that despite the father’s hopes for his son’s mundane academic future, the young man began at RVC on the very day he turned eighteen. This young man is the cooked grain of rice indicating that the whole pot of rice is cooked, i.e. the world is ready for Krishna consciousness.

But, using another analogy of Srila Prabhupada’s, ISKCON must change the label on the bottle from “cult” to “college” and keep distributing the same transcendentally intoxicating nectar. As we all know, joining a “cult” is not fashionable. On the other hand, enrolling in a college, even a Vedic college, is an entirely different thing. I seriously doubt whether that young man would have joined an ISKCON center if there had not been a degree-awarding college available.

In other words, when ISKCON provides a viable alternative to mundane colleges and universities by creating its own degree-awarding Vedic colleges and universities, we will again be able to attract the cream of youth.

“But I do not think it is necessary for you to return to your university for taking further education…Your education is to be found in our books, the material education is finished. If you want to teach in universities and colleges, they must accept us on our high degree of Vedic learning, not on our so-called [mundane academic] credentials. They must accept our system of scholarly learning from the spiritual master.” (Letter from Srila Prabhupada; August 5, 1972)

Many typical ISKCON centers today, serve primarily as temples for a congregation. Consequently they may not be sufficiently equipped to provide curriculum, staff, atmosphere and facilities for proper training and education of young ministerial students. I believe that, in addition to its present recruitment and training infrastructure of temples and communities, ISKCON must establish first class seminaries to attract new youth and train them to be future leaders. Such seminaries should be exclusively meant for educating students in Srila Prabhupada’s books. The Vedic college seminary is also the perfect place for children of devotees to earn their bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees of Divinity in Vaisnava philosophy, Vedic sciences, etc.

Now we have got so many books--almost 50 books of 400 pages--so this institution can be affiliated with some nearby university. Then the students will get their degrees of Bachelors and Post Graduates Pd.D. We have enough matter to qualify a person in academic career. At least we can offer the degree of DD--Doctor of Divinity by affiliating ourselves with some neighboring recognized university. (Letter to: Tusta Krsna -- Bombay 9 November, 1975)

Vedic colleges should interface and transfer credits between all ISKCON institutions. This will assist students in acquiring a quality Vaisnava education and in achieving academic degrees.


ISKCONPage Updated October 27, 2003
© 2003 Rupanuga Vedic College

International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Founder-Acarya: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada