If you have ever wanted to dive off a two-story high, cliff-side waterfall with the heavy breeze swaying you to-and-fro as you look down the edge again and again, where the water is hitting the pool below in such a roaring sound that it deafens your ears as you stand above it reassuring yourself that Krishna won’t let you die in such an inhumane way, well… go to Hawaii and pray for your luck. But, if you are just as daring or maybe just intelligent, you can dive into a deep crystal clear, refreshing pool of nectar burrowed in the mercy mountain of Mayapur dham: the Bhaktivaibhava (BV) course, without even booking a flight.
I would like to make it clear that I am not enlightened, very sincere, or an intellectual devotee as that would be untrue and just scare away those people from taking the course who are just like me, just trying to figure it out, one day at a time. I came to Mayapur this time to run away from my “real” life for a little while unlike when I came five years ago for Bhakti-sastri; naively confident that I would get all of my answers solved and that the life of a serious devotee was one that was peaceful. What I found this time around, with many more life experiences behind me (maybe a little wisdom?), was an unexpected rainbow of knowledge and satisfaction on my then monsoon season of life uncertainty.
On the first day of class we were each asked, “why did you come for the course?” As much as my reason was for taking a “sabbatical” (or more like a vacation), I can truly say that I felt the need to get to know Krishna better. It is a simple concept really, but sometimes simplicity is the most complex: the more we know Krishna, the more we love Him. Taking the course to teach it, for required institutional purposes, and for meeting with like-minded people are all excellent reasons, but for me it was simply that I love to hear the pastimes of Krishna and anyone related to Him. Specifically what I found was that I actually really like to hear stories of His devotees, maybe more so than the Lord, as their lives are roadmaps for my own daily struggles with balancing devotional life in a material world. The fulfilling nature of reading and studying the Bhagavatam is really self-evident and the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and the taste was delicious!
You know they say that Srila Prabhupada put all of the philosophy into the first (three) canto of the Bhagavatam, well, it’s no joke. But it’s a relief and a bargain if you are like me: trying to get into the 400 level class with only 100 level class prerequisites (for all you university students). The BV1 (Cantos 1-3) is probably sufficient in itself for self-realization, so how do you ever say you “been there, done that” and not be a total fool number one? Basically, the first three cantos are in themselves enough to take you out of the wheel of birth and death, but you have to be awake (as in the mode of goodness and fully surrendered to the Lord) to get that type of grade or mark, so settling for a pass is really no let down here.
A few Life Lessons from BV:
- Life is full of calamities and every devotee will have to face them—period.
- Being a devotee does not equate to a “Pass Go and Collect $200” card like in Monopoly, sometimes getting past “Go” equates in losing $200 or, like everything.
- The Lord’s mercy cannot be simplified into one category that fits for you or for me: that’s why there are so many stories of devotees in the Bhagavatam, to give the varieties for us to not feel alone.
- So if you are like me and like to escape your ordinary life by living in another world (this time it just happens to be the true existential reality) where can you get more serious drama (or action for the guys) than in the Bhagavatam? Ie: Ashvattama, the end of the Kuru dynasty, and anything that involves Narada Muni.
- There are 400,000 thousand species of human life. That’s a reality check for generalizing anything, ever.
- From talking to my mom during the course I realized she knows a lot more of the philosophy than she ever told us growing up… or maybe I just wasn’t listening?
Tips for Taking the Course:
- Read in the summer in advance of the course if you have the luxury. Download the preliminary self-study pack and get to work. Or get the SB audio like me.
- Nowhere will sell you the Bhagavatam past the First Canto unless you are going to buy the whole set. So bring your own books or ebook reader etc., and save the frustration.
- Find a study partner for the weekly tests and feed them sweets to keep their interest on your SATURDAY morning before the test cram session.
- Do not make any plans to do anything other than BV during BV. That means even trips to Navadwip, there is just no time, and to be honest no desire either.
- Listening during the discussions with your fellow classmates could be your saving grace for the rest of your life: it can get real and deep, and, I might add, is missing in many other avenues.
A dive or a dip into the pool’s deep end will be an experience you will never regret. The insights and knowledge shared about the pinnacle foundation of our Krishna conscious society, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, has no “loss or diminution”, this life or the next, and is actually the best escape from an ordinary life that anyone could ask for.