"The Brahmins must practice cleanliness, internally by chanting the Lord's glories and externally by bathing regularly. In addition the brahmanas should study carefully, especially Gita, Isopanisad, Nectar of Devotion and Nectar of Instruction as well as all the small paperbacks. Soon we will have yearly examinations for brahmanas based on these books and those who pass will be awarded Bhakti-sastri titles."
Bhakti-śāstrī DELUXE 2022-23 was conceived as an intensive version of Bhakti-śāstrī to teach the above-mentioned books of Prabhupāda while referring to Prabhupāda's source texts. There were to be six hours of classes a day, six days a week, for ten weeks. The medium of instruction was to be English, the classes were to be interactive by dealing with students' questions promptly during the classes and the fee was to be of the pay what you want type. Closed-book assessments and śloka assessments were to take place once a week, open-book assessments would have to be submitted before the closed-book assessments, there would be a final assessment that matched Prabhupāda's rigorous criteria for a Bhakti-śāstrī exam, and students would have to pass in all of these assessments; those who didn’t would be given three opportunities for reassessment.
According to ISKCON Board of Examinations, the candidate for Bhakti-śāstrī should be chanting 16 rounds, following 4 regulative principles and be recommended by an ISKCON authority who knows the candidate well, certifying that the candidate is engaged favorably in the mission of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu for at least the previous twelve months. Those who fulfilled the above criteria and were interested in taking up Bhakti-śāstrī DELUXE filled up an online registration form. Those who had been tentatively accepted for the study program were then notified via e-mail after which they attended an interview. After the interview, those whose acceptance had been confirmed were notified of the same.
The classes took place from 23 October 2022 to 3 January 2023 in Mayapur. Six young students assembled, participated in the study program, completed all of their assessments and received their certificates. They were happy and we were happy too!
The classes were recorded, and the video recordings have been uploaded to YouTube. There were three teachers: (a) Vidvān Gaurāṅga dāsa, (b) Bhāvagrāhī Nandanandana dāsa and (c) Dharmātmā Nimāi dāsa. The links to the uploaded recordings with indications of who taught what are noted below.
Bhagavad-gītā As It Is with the purports of Prabhupāda, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura (Vidvad-rañjana), Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, and selections from Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura (a)
Śrī Īśopaniṣad with the purports of Prabhupāda, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and selections from Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa and others (b)
There was also an overview of Nārada-bhakti-sūtra every week with selections from the purports of Prabhupāda and his disciples. (b)
(The text of Prabhupāda's books are at www.vedabase.io and www.vanisource.org.)
We gave two supplementary texts to our students: one for Īśopaniṣad and one for The Nectar of Instruction. They contain translations of purports by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura respectively.
Bhakti-śāstrī DELUXE 2022-3 was the result of the efforts of these devotees:
Śyāma-rasika Prabhu provided, organized the infrastructure and supervised the operation. Dīptimaya Gaura Prabhu with the help of Purandara Gopāla Prabhu worked hard to set up the classroom and students' residence. Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Prabhu conducted a homa to invoke auspiciousness. Śyāmasundara Prabhu helped with creation of content for advertising the course. Abhinava Prabhu was the primary force behind the creation of the student handbook; he handled the assessments with the help of Rasapriya Gopikā Mātājī. Hemasundarī Rādhikā Mātājī helped in the creation of the student handbook. Rādhā Golokanātha Prabhu organized and provided prasāda and organized the tour to Godrumadvīpa. Kāmyavana Govinda Prabhu cooked and provided prasāda. Īśvara Purī Sevaka Prabhu invigilated three assessments. Padmamukha Nimāi Prabhu hosted the course under his Paratattva Catuṣpāṭhī and spoke to the students.
The six students -- Mohan Rādhāpati Prabhu, Śacīdulāla Caitanya Prabhu, Sundara Gopeśvara Prabhu, Cittamohana Kṛṣṇa Prabhu, Anant Gaonkar Prabhu and Subham Toraskar Prabhu -- lent their hands one way or another.
All of the above were local contributors. We had an overseas contributor: Śrīdāmā Prabhu donated for the monitor and some other expenses.
The teachers would like to thank everyone who participated in this educational endeavor.