The first semester of the Jiva Bhakti-tirtha course has been successfully completed. Babaji started this program in the autumn of 2016 with around 30 students from different parts of the world. The goal of this five-year course is to get a thorough understanding of the philosophy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as presented by the Gosvamis.
Gaudiya Vaishnavism is deeply rooted in shastra. It is the essence of the Vedas, because it is based on Srimad Bhagavatam, the mature fruit of the Vedas, the last work of Sri Vyasadeva. To understand the Bhagavatam one has to have basic knowledge of all the six schools of thought of India. The Bhakti-tirtha course has been designed to cover these topics, along with the core literature of the Gaudiya School.
“It is the rare wealth of knowledge,” Babaji said in his concluding speech, “which we got from our teachers in paramapara. It was a great moment of happiness for myself to receive it from my own teacher. His anxiety was that this knowledge may get lost. All this is available in our books, but not many people are interested in studying them from a teacher. And those who are interested may not find a qualified teacher. This is why I want to teach this course. We have to preserve this knowledge and apply it in our own lives. If we experience it then only we can truly share it with others. This is what love means.”
The program for this first semester, which was inaugurated by Acarya Srivatsa Gosvami, Acarya Sri Acyutalal Bhatta and Sri Ananda Gopal Panditji, was quite packed.
After our morning kirtan, where Babaji lead us through prayers from the Bhagavatam in beautiful traditional melodies which were followed by the Mahamantra, classes started at 10 am. Jagadananda Das taught the Sanskrit course, for which he developed his own syllabus and material. At the end of the course, it turned into a book which he will continue to use in the next semester. He also read from Jiva Gosvami’s literary master piece Gopal Champu in the afternoon.
Prof. Matthew R. Dasti taught part of the Nyaya Sutras, the fundamental text of ancient Nyaya. After Prof. Dasti left, Babaji took over the Nyaya course. He started with a primer of Navya-Nyaya, which introduces the basic concepts of the new school of knowledge that developed in Navadvipa. This was followed by a study of Tarka Sangraha, an entry level book that is a systematic overview of Nyaya/Vaisheshika in its newer (navya) period.
Prof. Edwin Bryant discussed part of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for three weeks, taken over by Rama Krishna Dasa, who completed the first two chapters – Samadhi Pada (Meditative Absorption) and Sadhana Pada (Practice).
For the second part of the Bhakti-tirtha course, Babaji taught Jiva Gosvami’s Tattva Sandarbha. This first book of the Six Sandarbhas provides the essence of what is to be elaborated upon in the following Sandarbhas. It lays the foundation for entry into the Bhagavata Purana. After we completed Tattva Sandarba, Babaji continued with the first chapter of Bhakti-rasamrita Sindhu by Rupa Gosvami.
On weekends Babaji gave classes on the Bhagavatam and Jiva Gosvami’s Hari-nāmāmṛta-vyākaraṇam for those who wanted to experience a devotional approach to Sanskrit grammar.
We further had special weekend classes on Vedic Psychology by Babaji and Joshika DD, and on feminine spirituality by Jaya Devi. Sarva Darshi from France gave a communication seminar. JagadanandaPrabhu offered guided meditations, Kubara Das gave a workshop on introspective writing, Malati-manjari DD gave an introduction on Vaishnava Etiquette and Anada Mohan Das taught how to visually parse English grammar.
Throughout the course, we also had several guest speakers. Krsna Kinkari Devi, a scholar of the Vallabha-sampradaya from London who has translated many books into English, introduced us to the poetry of the medieval Muslim saint Ras Khan. Although a Muslim, he was a great devotee of Sri Krsna who wrote many beautiful poems in Brajabhasa.
Professor Jack Hawley from Columbia University in USA, who is one of the leading American scholars on Hinduism, and specifically the devotional traditions of North India, spoke on the life and poetry of the famous blind poet Surdas, which he illustrated with beautiful paintings.
Koenraad Elst, an Independent Belgian scholar of Hindu history and politics, gave a talk explaining various aspects of India’s ethno-religio-political configuration.
Brahma Muhurta Das spoke about the history of Hari Bhakti-vilasa and some of the important ritual aspects described there.
We also had visitors from Siberia who gave an introduction into the Theogony of Sound, which is an ancient practical science that combines movement, rhythm and primordial sound.
Further highlights and special events of this course included the 20-day visit of the Rutgers Students from the US. Babaji delivered to them daily classes on Hinduism, a summary study of Bhagavad Gita and Krsna-lila and the importance of darshana. Bhakti-tirtha students were invited to participate in their program and excursions. Besides other places students visited Radha Kunda, Govardhan, Varshana and Gokula.
We also had cultural programs during that time, i.e., Odissi Dance, and a Sitar concert by Acarya Sri Trigunatit Jaimini. In their spare time students had the facility to take Vedic psychotherapy consultations with Joshika, and Yoga lessons and Shiatsu treatments from Anna, apart from the Ayurvedic massages offered by the Jiva staff.
With so much going on, to also allow time for sadhana, introspection and meditative absorption, halfway through the course it was introduced that we observe silence on Ekadasi and focus on our japa. This also gave us time to digest what we had learned.
My gratitude goes to the whole staff of Jiva and all the people with wonderful minds that made and make this place happen. I am thankful for this opportunity to study in such a place, which I believe to be quiet rare, and I wish that this opportunity is available for many others, because I believe it to be a human experience that can go beyond the describable.”
“After leaving my job as a psychotherapist at an addiction treatment center in the USA, I was unsure what to expect of the Bhakti Tirtha course, other than that I would be fortunate enough to hear Babaji’s lectures live every day for almost half a year. That was enough for me to drop everything and come to Vrindavan. However, with no background in Sanskrit or Hindu philosophy, I struggled with most of the course content. But I continued to attend Babaji’s daily lectures, trying to learn what I could. What I realize now after reflecting on these past six months is that what I got out of this time was a lot more than I could have ever expected. I learned more about myself, what is the goal of life, and how to be in loving relations with others, despite their faults and my own. I learned how to be a kinder, more tolerant person – both to myself and to others. Even though I can’t say that I have mastered the course material, I still feel very happy with the experience that Babaji gave to me because I learned about my own heart. What more could I ask for? I am truly grateful to Babaji and to all of the people involved at Jiva who nurtured and supported me during my stay.”
“Unlike academic institutions and universities, at Jiva all professors and presenters were attending each others sessions, which allowed open discussions from various angles of Vedic perspective and showed diversity in different philosophical teachings, and at the same time unity in Vedic teachings. The participants were in bliss.”
“I would like to show my gratitude to Babaji and our other teachers, who have sacrificed their precious time to teach us these invaluable teachings of our predecessors. I also wanted to thank all those who have courageously asked thought provoking questions, which have improved my understanding of our lessons. Also thank you to the more able students who have supported and encouraged me in my journey of learning.
My husband Krishnananda and I as parents, would confidently and strongly recommend the course to other parents who have children/young adults in our daughter’s age group. Studying at Jiva would allow them to get a clear conception of the teachings of the Goswamis. The Jiva Institute offers a very safe, clean and non political environment for learning that is also family friendly. My husband says that Jiva is the only school where enjoys the term time and feels sad in the holidays! He and all of us already miss it and we look forward to returning and learning more next year.”
“For many years Babaji was speaking about his vision to have such a Bhakti-tirtha course and I did not want to miss this unique opportunity to get systematically trained not only in Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy but also a broader spectrum of Indian Schools of thoughts. I felt that this was the culmination of 25 years practicing Bhakti yoga. It was worth quitting my job for this education.”
J iva Institute has become my home
A fter many lives and detours
I have finally come here to take up this course.
B y the grace of Guru and Krishna
H ere is what I have been looking for.
A nādyvidyā cannot bother us any more.
K ṛṣṇa is the essence of all our studies.
T ogether we try to understand until we get to the core
I n the association of wonderful sadhus.
T arka, Sanskrit, Tattva, Rasa –
I t is getting better the more we hear.
R elishing the nectar which is so near
T horough understanding has opened a new door.
H ow can I repay what I have received from you here?
A ll I can say is: Babaji, it was wonderful, let us have more.