A new website, http://www.iskcondisciplecourse.com/, has been launched for the ISKCON Disciples Course. Throughout the world, the course has been inspiring a family togetherness amongst devotees, as well as a strong dedication to Srila Prabhupada, their gurus, and Lord Chaitanya’s mission.
The Disciples Course is a training program designed to deepen devotees’ understanding of guru tattva (the meaning of guru) and guru padasraya (taking shelter of the guru). It was developed under the direction of the Guru Services Committee, with the combined efforts of leading educators in ISKCON.
In August 2015, the course was made mandatory for all new initiates in ISKCON, and recommended for all devotees. Since then, over 20,000 devotees have graduated from the course, which is taught several times a year by over 350 teachers around the world. Another 5,000 to 10,000 devotees are expected to complete it in 2017.
The three-and-a-half-day Disciples Course is based on the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and gives reference to writings from the broader Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition. Its 14 lessons include Powerpoint presentations, interactive workshops and assessment exercises.
Bangladesh leaders graduating from IDC in Dhaka
“The course fulfills a lot of important needs,” says ISKCON Communications Director Anuttama Das, who has taught it over a dozen times. “The first is that it’s a systematic way of ensuring all new members of ISKCON understand Srila Prabhupada’s pre-eminent position and their relationship with him. There may be a hundred gurus today, or a thousand tomorrow, but Srila Prabhupada will always be the Founder-Acharya and pre-eminent siksa guru for everyone.”
The Disciples Course also explains the Guru Parampara system (chain of teachers), types of gurus such as diksa (initiating) and siksa (instructional), and how to select a guru.
“The course emphasizes the need, given in scripture and Prabhupada’s teachings, for the individual disciple to make their own decision about which guru to take,” says Anuttama. “Sometimes in our ISKCON society, because of our social networks, we may feel some pressure to accept a certain spiritual master. But the course clarifies that we must be free to make our own decision, even if everyone in our temple is initiated by the same guru.”
Once initiated, the course teaches devotees how to work together cooperatively in a multi-guru society. “There’s no ‘you’re with that group, I’m with this group,’” says Anuttama. “No – we’re all under Srila Prabhupada, serving Lord Chaitanya’s mission together as one family.”
The course also clarifies the need for disciples within ISKCON to make a serious commitment to follow the instructions of their guru, as well as the previous acharyas and Srila Prabhupada; and to place an emphasis in their lives on carrying out Prabhupada and Chaitanya’s mission.
ISKCON Disciples Course, Dallas, taught by Nrtya Kisori Dasi and Rupanuga Das
Along with this emphasis, however, the course teaches balance. “It helps devotees think maturely about the need to balance their many obligations in life,” Anuttama says. “Taking initiation and promising to chant 16 rounds and follow the four regulative principles is a major commitment. But it’s not that ‘Now I’m a disciple, so I don’t have time to take care of my health; or I don’t have time to spend with my kids.’ We teach how to balance the responsibilities of being a disciple with family, financial and job responsibilities so that nothing is neglected.”
The Disciples Course also teaches how to serve the guru in both his physical presence and through his instructions; what to do if the guru deviates or has spiritual difficulty; and the relationship between ISKCON gurus and other ISKCON authorities.
“Devotees who took the course have said they felt much more enthusiastic about accepting a spiritual master, because they had more of a sense of what their responsibilities are,” Anuttama says. “They also felt more comfortable taking their time to accept a guru.”
Meanwhile ISKCON leaders around the world have said the course has left attendees feeling more cooperative and united as a society; more committed to the bhakti path and to ISKCON; and more deeply connected with Srila Prabhupada.
The ISKCON Disciples Course is now available in English, Hindi, Bengali, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, French, Polish, Tamil, and Malayalam. Translations in ten other languages are underway. Most ISKCON centers around the world offer the course at least once a year, so everyone can take it in their own local area.
A certificate of complete for the ISKCON Disciples Course
The contact addresses of nearly 400 registered teachers worldwide are available on the official website, http://www.iskcondisciplecourse.com/. The website also provides a general description of the course, and a free downloadable students’ handbook.
Meanwhile the course is also available online at http://bhaktivedantacollege.com/events/disciples-course/, and will run next from January 22nd to March 11th, 2018.
Students in India can take the course at bhakticourses.com/iskcon-disciple- course-material
“I feel that every devotee in ISKCON should take this course -- whether they’re new, or have been in the movement for five, twenty, or forty years,” says Anuttama Das.
* * *
For enquiries, please write tot heISKCON Disciple Course Secretariat at email@example.com[ disciple ] [ education ] [ guru ]