"The old system of gurukula should be revived as the perfect example of a system designed to produce great men, sober and responsible leaders, who know what is the real welfare of the citizens."
ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiya-Vaishnava sampradāya, a monotheistic tradition within the Vedic or Hindu culture. Philosophically it is based on the Sanskrit texts Bhagavad-gītā and the Bhagavat Purana, or Srimad Bhagavatam. These are the historic texts of the devotional bhakti yoga tradition, which teaches that the ultimate goal for all living beings is to reawaken their love for God, or Lord Krishna, the “all-attractive one”.
God is known across the world by many names including Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Rama,
etc. ISKCON devotees chant God’s names in the form of the maha-mantra, or the great prayer for
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Members of ISKCON practice bhakti-yoga in their homes and also worship in temples. They also promote bhakti-yoga, or Krishna Consciousness, through festivals, the performing arts, yoga seminars, public chanting, and the distribution of the society’s literatures . Although less than fifty years on the global stage, ISKCON has expanded widely since its founding by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda in New York City in 1966.Read more
ISKCON Gurukula is an institution dedicated to manifesting Śrīla Prabhupāda’s vision for Vedic education, a system meant to train its students in the philosophy and practice of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
The model of Vedic education is the gurukula educational system. In the world today, various social and political factors have caused the marginalization of gurukula education in favor of modern secular methods.
ISKCON Gurukula in Māyāpur has prevailed through a more than three decade long effort to push Śrīla Prabhupāda’s vision forward, and now it flourishes. Today, parents, teachers, students, and members of the broader Māyāpur community are proud of the remarkable school that ISKCON Gurukula has become, and are hopeful for a future where this kind of educa- tion can benefit a greater portion of humanity.
The way forward is made by small steps, yet its end is nothing short of magnificent— if we can create a class of highly qualified leaders who are pure devotees of Kṛṣṇa, then, in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words, “there is great hope for the future of the world.”Read more
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami - Srila Prabhupada was born Abhay Charan De on September 1, 1896 to a practicing Hindu family in Kolkata. A 1922 meeting with a prominent scholar and religious leader, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, proved most influential on Abhay’s future calling. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was a leader in the Gaudiya Vaishnava denomination, a monotheistic tradition within the broad Hindu culture.
He asked Abhay to bring the teachings of Lord Krishna to the English-speaking world. Abhay became a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta in 1933 and resolved to carry out his mentor’s request. He entered the port of New York City on September 17, 1965 .Before Srila Prabhupada passed away on November 14, 1977, at the age of 81, his mission proved successful.
He had founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and saw it grow into a worldwide confederation of more than 100 temples, ashrams and cultural centers.Read more
What is the Bhaktivedanta Academy?
The Bhaktivedanta Academy, established in 1984, is an educational institution that contains the Śrī Rūpānuga Pāramārthika Vidyāpīṭha, established in 1974 by Śrīla Prabhupāda at Śrī Dhāma Māyāpur as a school and library that now offers adult education, and the Śrī Sāndīpani Muni Āśrama, which offers primary and secondary education programs for boys.
What is the school’s administrative structure?
The Bhaktivedanta Academy is run by a Council of Deans who are responsible for all elements of the Academy’s operations and for the personal and academic development of every individual student. This Council includes H.G. Prīti Vardhana Mahāśaya and H.G. Mādhava Gaurāṅga Mahāśaya. See our Administration page for more details.
What does gurukula mean?
Gurukula means the place of the teacher. Literally, guru means teacher, and kula means family. So gurukula means more than just a school, but the place where a student comes to be part of the family of the guru for some time and learns the culture and etiquette of the Vedas, as well as the knowledge. In the Vedic educational system, the focus is always on progressive life, ultimately leading to service and surrender to the Supreme Lord. There are many gurus in one’s life, beginning from the mother, then father, then teachers, and finally the spiritual master. So the system of gurukula is very deep and significant in the life of a devotee and is one of the stages in accepting the authority of the spiritual master. For this reason, it is very important that there is a seamless transition between family and school and back again. If the student feels that the teacher and the parent are both to be respected and honoured, and if they feel that the teachers and the parents are on the same page about their education, then their conception of guru and spiritual authority becomes very healthy and natural, and they are easily able to understand the importance of accepting a spiritual master, and making tangible progress on the path back to Godhead.
Is this a school just for brāhmaṇas?
Śrīla Prabhupāda requested that all members of ISKCON take up brahminical culture. Therefore all activities are based on developing these qualities within the students and teachers. The basic principle of devotional service as given by Śrīla Prabhupāda is that all devotees are brahminical by qualities and culture, while they may have different varṇas by occupation. For example, all devotees will come to the temple early for maṅgala-ārati, practice cleanliness, chant japa etc, but during the day devotees may be engaged in different occupational activities: education, administration, business, or general work. Śrīla Prabhupāda accepted all devotees who were willing to follow a minimum of devotional or brahminical culture while allowing wide scope for the particular service or occupation of the devotees. In the same way, we accept all students who are willing to be trained under these criteria regardless of their natural inclinations for work. They are simultaneously trained in the brahminical culture, and also in the area of their occupational interest, which gradually develops over many years. Of course, prior to any differentiation of duties on the basis of varṇa or occupation, all students must go through primary and secondary educational streams to develop the basics of literacy, numeracy, geography, etc., that Śrīla Prabhupāda set down for his young devotees.
Gurukulas in ISKCON have had many bad experiences. Why do you persist in developing
The Bhaktivedanta Academy is predominately managed by second generation devotees. They are acutely aware of the problems that gurukula has faced in the past. Despite this, the system of gurukula as explained in śāstra has the potential to develop the foundation for students to achieve great success in varṇa and āśrama. Śrīla Prabhupāda has requested the members of ISKCON to develop this model of education as a primary goal of ISKCON. The dedicated devotees serving in the Academy have a firm belief (based on the study of śāstra and by seeing the actual results and changes of students enrolled in the Academy) that applying this highly developed system of gurukula will lead to success. We have the perfect system, based on śāstra, requested by Śrīla Prabhupāda, which was good enough for Kṛṣṇa. We see it as our responsibility, as Śrīla Prabhupāda’s followers, to make his vision a reality, and make the gurukula system work. To reject the entire system of gurukula based on previous bad experiences would be to “throw the baby out with the bath water” and turn aside from one of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s primary teachings. The questions then become, “Why aren’t more devotees endeavoring to understand and apply the gurukula system properly? Why are we throwing the baby out with the bath water?” We accept Śrīla Prabhupāda as the empowered ācārya for the age, and his teachings as the basis for our life. Śrīla Prabhupāda repeatedly gave, over many years, thousands of instructions on the importance of gurukula education for his followers and their children. He also wanted that gurukula education would be an exemplary alternative to modern education, which he described as a slaughterhouse, with its emphasis on sense gratification, its allowance for free-mingling between the sexes, and its foundation on atheism and impersonalism. From our own experiences also, we can see the benefits of the gurukula system in developing character and making ideal devotees. Many of the current Mayapur management, and increasingly, leading preachers and managers throughout ISKCON, are devotees who have spent time in ISKCON gurukulas. Of course, we have deeply considered the mistakes made in the past and thought about how to rectify these for the next generation. Many previous students and teachers report that the main issue with gurukula was the inexperience and lack of training of the teachers. Devotees with little or no training in education were forced to deal with large numbers of students, with little or no support from other experienced educators, nor informed by the experience of an established educational institution. In contrast, our teachers are either former students who have many years of experience in the gurukula system, experienced and qualified educators, or experienced parents. The external environment is also very different to ISKCON of the ‘70s. We now have many senior devotees to give us guidance, and a whole generation of devotees brought up in the movement to draw inspiration from, with several decades of education in ISKCON to analyze and see the results of the different approaches taken. Taking into account Śrīla Prabhupāda’s teachings, and this experience of education in ISKCON, the staff at the Academy share a strong conviction that the gurukula system, properly applied, is the very best educational system for the children of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
Are you certified with any government authority?
No. We take our authority from guru, sādhu, and śāstra, and the instructions of ISKCON Founder-Ācārya A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Why don’t you teach a conventional curriculum?
The western countries especially are filled with impersonalism and voidism, the primary aim of life being sense gratification. This analysis applies to all institutions including the educational institutions. Factually, we can see that there is only a study of material nature. This is presented through the arts and sciences which have no basis in authority: there is only empirical observation and inference. Consequently, there is no fixed direction of scholasticism; standards of what is acceptable knowledge are always changing. Modern knowledge has produced some useful gizmos that may be dovetailed in the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, but it has not produced any knowledge which can contribute to the development of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, our primary aim. It may be argued that one can take gold from a filthy place and that is true. But if you are sitting on a known gold mine, the veins of which can never be exhausted, then why go ferreting around in the sewer to see if someone dropped some gold there? Whatever is genuine knowledge will be found in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, and if we research with a genuine desire for guidance in any field, then we will find it. We must have that faith. The more we follow this principle the more that faith will be justified and the more it will grow. From the above considerations, we decided that to Kṛṣṇa-ize (that is, adapt to the needs of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement) a Vedic formula of education is more natural than trying to Kṛṣṇa-ize a modern one. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā: vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo, all the Vedas are ultimately directed to knowing Kṛṣṇa. Therefore the essential root principle of God consciousness is found all throughout the Vedas, but not in a modern educational system. In the Vedic formula, the necessary principles of purity and respect for authority which are required for realizing the success of gurukula training are axiomatic; whereas the fundamentals of impersonalism, voidism, and the pursuit of sense gratification found in modern educational formulas are difficult to circumvent, no matter how much Kṛṣṇa consciousness is introduced.
Is it true that you don’t teach academic subjects, or that little emphasis is given to
No, neither is true. The goal of the Bhaktivedanta Academy is to produce highly learned graduates. Rūpa Gosvāmī defines highly learned as the quality of someone who has exemplary character and deep knowledge. As such, academics are extremely important to the teachers and students of the Academy. However, what we do not subscribe to is that academic education alone will prepare the students for life. We have developed our own curriculum using the principals of the Vedas; what we have not done is “Kṛṣṇa-ized” a flawed modern curriculum.
What are the main academic subjects taught at the Bhaktivedanta Academy?
Our principal academic subjects are English, mathematics, philosophy, Sanskrit, mantra, and the natural and social sciences. We also teach mridanga, harmonium, Deity worship, yajña, cooking, and Kung Fu.
What are your child protection measures?
We have extensive policies and protocols in place to ensure child protection. All our teachers undergo thorough child protection training. All students, on at least three occasions annually and prior to any festivals or travels, are given full training in the child protection programs provided by the International Child Protection Office under the authority of the GBC. In addition to this, two members of the ISKCON Mayapur Child Protection Team are teachers in the Academy.
Where are you located?
We have two campuses in ISKCON Mayapur, District of Nadia, West Bengal, India. The gurukula campus (Śrī Sāndīpani Muni Āśrama) is off Taranpur Road, and the adult education campus (Bhaktivedanta Theological Seminary) is near the goshala.