By Madhava Smullen
The Vice Principal of an ISKCON school in Dallas, Texas, is offering online bhakti courses for teenagers during the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching them The Nectar of Instruction using Srila Prabhupada’s purports and Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Along with her other classes, Gopi Gita Schomaker of TKG Academy shifted her Bhakti Leadership series to the video conferencing platform Zoom when COVID-19 struck in March. Current online courses include “The Child Saint Prahlad” for students aged 9 to 12, and “Nectar of Instruction” for students aged 12 to 16.
The Prahlad course, which is part of a festival series that also features units on Jagannath and Krishna Balarama, teaches leadership and practical life skills through various pastimes from the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
“For example, Prahlad spends a lot of time discussing friends and enemies,” Gopi Gita says. “So we use that to learn about conflict resolution and empathic communication, skills that kids can use every day with their friends in school.”
Teenagers aged 12 to 16, meanwhile, are learning Rupa Goswami’s Nectar of Instruction (Sri Upadesamrita), with a potential for qualified students to move on to Bhagavad-gita and then a full Bhakti Sastri certificate afterwards.
The Nectar of Instruction course includes four modules lasting six weeks each, and takes participants from “self awareness” all the way to “your spiritual destination.” Along with Prabhupada’s purports, it draws parallels from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Nelson Mandela’s biography The Long Walk to Freedom, and Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s Leadership for An Age of Higher Consciousness.
There are currently 55 students in three different “sessions,” or groups of 12, studying Module 1, which covers the first three verses of Nectar of Instruction and lasts six weeks. Each “session” is staggered, with a new group starting every two weeks. The next available session has a registration date of June 12th, orientation on June 17th, and live one-hour Zoom classes with Gopi Gita every Tuesday from June 23rd to July 28th.
Enrolled students hail from all over North America. Ninety per cent are children of practicing devotees, while several come from Hindu families who are interested in Krishna consciousness.
In Week 1 of Module 1, students learn how to be proactive rather than reactive, and how to practice willpower, drawing from the first verse of Nectar of Instruction which exalts “A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak.”
In Week 2, they cover Steven Covey’s “The Circle of Control” and connect it with the second part of Verse 1, which describes how one who can tolerate “the mind’s demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world.”
“We discuss how students can control these urges in such a way that they’re feeling strong in their own identity and are able to increase their circle of influence,” says Gopi Gita.