on Feb. 15, 2008
Eighteen international students have begun an intensive course at The Mayapur Academy, ISKCON's deity worship training school. The Academy, which opened its doors in December 2007, offers classes on deity dressing, cooking, performing fire sacrifices, and more.
Students are given practical training and deep insights into deity worship by Jananivasa and Pankajanghri, twin brothers and dedicated priests to ISKCON Mayapur's Radha-Madhava deities for over 30 years.
Another priest, Kurma Chaitanya, teaches how to dress the Deity. "In our first class, we concentrated on how to put on Krishna's turban, one of the most difficult tasks," says Ramachandra Kaviraja from Alachua, Florida. "But Kurma made it easy by presenting it as an art. I never knew that you could learn how to put together a turban in such a way as to emphasize different parts of Krsna's face, such as His eyes or smile."
The course has a broad scope to give students a rounded and practical education. Saci Kumar, who hails from South Africa, says that he was pleasantly surprised to see it focus on all aspects of brahmical life, not just deity worship. "I found the discussions on community cultivation through brahminical activity particularly inspiring," he says. "That's something we really need in our ISKCON communities worldwide."
The course's brahminical training includes learning how to cook Vedic style – using mud pots and cow dung fuel in a natural setting – and how to set up a fire sacrifice and perform oblations. "Before the course, I didn't have any theoretical or practical knowledge of how to perform even simple initiation fire sacrifices, although I'd seen them done so many times," says Kavi Karnapura from Nigeria. "But now, I feel confident enough to perform them anywhere, any time."
Nrsimha Kavaca Dasa, ISKCON's Deity Worship Minister and The Academy's director, says that the teachers and organizers are trying their best to facilitate everyone's needs. In years to come, he hopes, the program will grow and become the premium training course for aspiring pujaris.
To find out more about Mayapur Academy, write to Mayapur.Academy AT pamho.net or visit www.mayapuracademy.org.