VISION OF THE MINISTRY
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.
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,
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.
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)
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.
Updated October 27, 2003
© 2003 Rupanuga Vedic College
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Founder-Acarya: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami