Rasamandala dasa has offered us this article to help clarify some of the concerns and reservations that many of us may have with educational approaches to Vedanta and Hinduism. He reassures us with his positive treatment of the subject and with his obvious experience in the field of teaching Hinduism and Vaishnavism in British schools. He has systematised our objectives very well and marries this to the difficulty in interpretation experienced between members of the tradition and those non-practitioners who attempt to teach the tradition to others. This article is essential for those in our society engaged in the religious or academic fields.

 In my last article1, I applied modern communications theory to explore how presentations to school audiences can improve public perception of ISKCON. We also discussed how, within the statutory educational framework, there may be legitimate scope for teaching about Krishna Consciousness. We also heard how, in Britain, our Society has been fortunate to enjoy both these benefits.

However, right from the start, there were a couple of notable challenges. Firstly we were assumed, and required, to represent one of the principle world religions2, namely Hinduism. This raised pertinent, and sometimes controversial, theological questions about the identity of ISKCON and its members (we’ll come back to this later). Secondly and subsequently, this also meant that ISKCON Educational Services staff were required to make presentations not just on ISKCON and Gaudiya Vaishnavism, nor on broader Vaishnavism, but on the whole spectrum of Hinduism itself. I began to question whether this supported our Society’s aims or was even consistent with them. As I pondered, and read more school textbooks on Hinduism, I considered and noted down some of the possible benefits of speaking and writing about the subject. However, I also noticed in many school textbooks room for considerable improvement.

This concerned me. We were, whether we liked it or not, strongly identified with the broader tradition and any misrepresentation of that could reflect badly on ISKCON. On a positive note, it was evident that a large percentage of our presentation material on Hinduism per se was congruent with Krishna Consciousness, giving us ample scope to redress such errors. In other words, I concluded that the reputation of ISKCON, at least within the educational world3 , depended significantly on public perception of the broader tradition, which we had ample opportunity to influence.

What I intend to do here, therefore, is to discuss the educationalists perspective on the Hindu tradition, identifying areas of apparent misunderstanding or misrepresentation. This subject is presented mainly through the experience of our schools programme in the UK, though it naturally has implications on higher academic levels. Indeed, I hope this article, presented here principally for Krishna devotees, will form the basis of an extended study of interest to scholars (in both Religious Education and Religious Studies). My comments here are not intended to be a criticism of the educational and academic worlds, where there is increasing sensitivity towards multi-cultural issues. I hope, though, that by identifying possible shortcomings, in methodology, this article will be constructively challenging.

The subject is discussed in terms of the ten objectives which ISKCON Educational Services has formulated in teaching about Hinduism. Each objective (in bold type) is followed by a brief explanation including practical information for devotees making presentations in the educational sphere.

Read more: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=31800

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