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Aid during School Closures: Srimad Bhagavatam for Young Readers

By: for ISKCON News on May 29, 2020
Covid-19

 

Many devotee parents are often wondering how to meaningfully engage their home-bound children in devotional activities, which is especially relevant during the weeks of school closures. A great remedy could be a book series by Aruddha Dasi, entitled as Srimad Bhagavatam: A Comprehensive Guide for Young Readers.

About the Author

Aruddha dasi, a dedicated disciple of Gopal Krishna Goswami, is well known within the entire ISKCON community as the homeschooling pioneer, whose two sons - Radhika Raman das and Gopal Hari das - provide a compelling testimony to the educational methods she has mastered. She mentors thousands of parents across the globe in how to make Bhagavatam an inseparable part of their children's lives, starting from the womb. After having documented her homeschooling methods in the book Homeschooling Krishna's Children, her second publishing project is a monumental task. In line with Srila Prabhupada's desire to train children in the Srimad Bhagavatam, Aruddha dasi, at the age of 67, is undertaking an effort to provide a 19-volume study guide for young readers covering the entire 12 cantos.

Aruddha Dasi

The Inception

So how did Aruddha dasi conceive of such a mammoth endeavor? 

In her characteristically unassuming manner, she explains, "While conducting seminars on homeschooling and Krishna conscious parenting throughout the world, I met many parents who wanted to teach their children Srimad Bhagavatam, but needed more guidance on exactly how to do it. It was then that I started doing workshops, during which we would sit together with their children and I would demonstrate how to guide a discussion in a way that evokes the children's curiosity about the nature of the world, God, the self, and the purpose of life. Together, we would read the translations of a chapter of Srimad Bhagavatam and discuss the stories, main themes, and great personalities. We would talk about the relevance of Srimad Bhagavatam in our own lives - how to provide spiritual solutions to material problems. Both the children and parents were thoroughly absorbed in the discussion." 

"When I explained at seminars how I taught my boys Srimad Bhagavatam through interactive reading and discussion, hundreds of parents were inspired to follow. However, I also realized that many parents who wanted to study the Bhagavatam with their children were uncertain about how to do it. They needed a formal curriculum for studying Srimad Bhagavatam. I pondered how this would be possible, for it would take a long time to do this. This is when I decided to start a collaborative project, involving devotee parents from around the world."

An International Effort

Aruddha dasi then started an online coalition of approximately 15 parents from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States to create study resources for each chapter of canto 1. Every parent would send their creations to others in the group, who would then use the materials with their own children and offer feedback. All the parents brought special skills to the book. The team included English teachers, musicians, artists, and computer professionals. Aruddha dasi would offer directions on content, organization, and activity design, and when the materials were all compiled, send them for formal editing.

The result? An innovative collection of material on every chapter of Canto 1, which, besides providing spiritual nourishment, also meets cognitive and language standards outlined in the Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, such as acquiring knowledge, developing comprehension skills, applying knowledge, using knowledge to be creative, analyzing information, and self-evaluation. 

Canto 1 for young readers was one of the last projects that Yamaraja das worked on. A dedicated disciple of Srila Prabhupada, he served the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and Back To Godhead magazine for decades as a photographer, layout artist, designer, and proof reader. He made an extraordinary effort in designing the cover and the superb inside layout of the Bhagavatam Guide for Young Readers. "He has made a significant contribution in helping ISKCON's youth understand the Bhagavatam, and it's a real tribute to his dedication and design skills.", says Torchlight publisher, Advaita Candra das.

Making Krishna's Lotus Feet Accessible to the Young

Srila Prabhupada explained that Cantos 1 and 2 represent the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. Now Krishna’s Lotus Feet have been made accessible to young readers as well! 

Founder and owner of Torchlight, Advaita Candra das says, "This is one of the best book projects that we have been involved with since our inception 25 years ago. We are currently exploring creating multiple language editions." Torchlight has shipped bulk orders of both volumes around the world, which are highly sought after by parents and teachers alike. The Vrndavana and Mayapur Gurukulas have accepted the book as their main spiritual curriculum, and the book has also been made a required text in many Sunday Schools around the world.

Madhumati devi dasi, teacher from Vrindavana Gurukula says, "We, teachers at the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula and International School, have a wonderful experience teaching from the Srimad Bhagavatam guidebook, which has become our textbook and we have been able to plan a structured course based on it. We have planned our time table in such a way that every day we plan for the next class on Srimad Bhagavatam through writing instructional objectives and procedures that will help to meet those objectives. We then read Srimad Bhagavatam for some time since teachers need to read verses ahead of time along with purports. Teachers are as enlivened as students because of this integrated program of teaching English through Srimad Bhagavatam."

Purnesvari Radha devi dasi, a teacher at the Mayapur International School states, "The books are being accepted really well. They have been introduced both in primary school for the sastra classes, and in the middle and high school for the morning Srimad Bhagavatam classes. I can see that the children are very, very happy. The results are very, very positive. The children are enjoying studying the Bhagavatam, the teachers are liking teaching it and overall, there is a very nice atmosphere in the school now due to this. As a parent, I especially feel ecstatic when my younger one, who is 6 years old, comes home joyfully brimming with so much knowledge and information about the Bhagavatam lessons. Even though we study at home, she is so happy to study at school too with her teachers and friends!"

Amazing Range of Learning Tools

It was Srila Prabhupada's great desire that our children be educated in Srimad Bhagavatam from the very beginning. "If you study Srimad-Bhagavatam very carefully, then you get all knowledge completely.” said Srila Prabhupada on July 12, 1974 at Los Angeles. 

The books are primarily geared for children between the ages of 6 and 14, but much of the material can be adapted for children younger than 6, or older than 14.  It gives parents discussion questions to ask their children, followed by various innovative written and oral exercises - including writing, comprehension, vocabulary and grammar, key themes, character descriptions, word searches, language puzzles, arts, crafts, and songs.

The Perfect Teaching Aid

Srila Prabhupada's books inspire critical reasoning and creative thinking, which are the main elements of academic education. Srimad-Bhagavatam is pure and perfect and can equip one with the highest knowledge, both material and spiritual. Parents and teachers who have taught their children Srimad-Bhagavatam from their early lives have experienced how easily they pick up English language skills, especially reading, comprehension, and analytical reasoning. Srimad-Bhagavatam is full of analogies, allegories, figurative speech, and metaphors. Even a seven-year-old child can understand difficult and sublime concepts because the subject matter of Srimad-Bhagavatam encourages highly-developed thinking skills. 

Many parents find that Srimad-Bhagavatam is a perfect book to teach from because it gives the philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita through stories, and children love stories. These stories are not considered to be fictitious by the Vaishnavas; rather, they are the lives of great saintly personalities and the pastimes of Krishna and His avataras. By reading these, one directly associates with the great personalities and their teachings. By such association, one begins to develop the character of these same personalities and starts to see the world from their eyes. As children grow older, they learn to appreciate the instructions given by Queen Kunti, Prahlada Maharaja, Dhruva Maharaja, Kapiladeva, and so many others. In fact, many of the devotees described in the Bhagavatam, such as Prahlada and Dhruva, are children themselves, so our own children have perfect examples and heroes to follow. The scriptures tell us that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu heard the stories of Dhruva Maharaja and Prahlada Maharaja hundreds of times. The example and instructions of these saints are so valuable that no other moral book can compare with them. Children develop good character, saintly qualities, and pure bhakti by reading Srimad-Bhagavatam. Indeed, Srimad-Bhagavatam is the very essence of Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement. 

"The goal is to provide parents with a practical way to make Srimad-Bhagavatam a central part of their children’s education. Regardless of whether parents are homeschooling or sending them to school, we hope they will find renewed confidence in studying this great literature with their children." submits Aruddha dasi.

Testimonials from ISKCON Leaders

GBC Emeritus and Initiating Guru, Romapada Swami says, "I am an ardent supporter of Aruddha Devi Dasi and the models of education which she develops and promotes through her books. Srimad-Bhagavatam: A Comprehensive Guide for Young Readers' main objective is to provide children with a Bhagavatam-centered education, with lots of activities created by parents and teachers that are geared toward different learning styles, while meeting devotional, cognitive and language objectives of a growing child in Krsna consciousness. This innovative and systematic compilation of various activities in book form is a great resource for any parents who want their children to go deeper into the messages of Srimad-Bhagavatam."

Core Committee Member of the Ministry of Education and Initiating Guru, His Holiness Hanumatpresaka Swami writes, "Srimad-Bhagavatam: A Comprehensive Guide for Young Readers, to our reading, and from all reports, is an unsurpassed resource for teachers of Srimad-Bhagavatam, both in families and in schools. The variety of materials and amount of work that went into producing the book as a gift to Srila Prabhupada are astonishing." 

Aruddha dasi, through her book Srimad-Bhagavatam: A Comprehensive Guide for Young Readers, "is fulfilling Srila Prabhupada's desire that our children get the best Krsna conscious education.", says Narayani Devi Dasi, long-time disciple of Srila Prabhupada and teacher with VIHE.

* * *

Amazon.com is selling Canto 1 in two volumes, canto 2 in 1 volume, and volume 1 of canto 3. Click here to order:

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=aruddha+devi+dasi&crid=3T3LT3GR733JG&sprefix=arudd%2Caps%2C163&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_5

Future cantos are currently under production, and will be available soon via Amazon.

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[ aruddha ] [ bhagavatam ] [ education ] [ homeschooling ]
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