As part of the ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry’s expanding regional training strategy, a nine-day temple worship course will be taught at ISKCON New Vrindaban, West Virginia for all of North America.
Between fifteen and thirty devotees are expected to take the course, which will run from May 29th to June 6th this year. Participants will hail from the US, Canada and Mexico and will comprise of current and aspiring ISKCON temple pujaris who have at least first initiation and are recommended by their temple authorities.
The training is an intensive version of the three-week Temple Worship 1 unit offered annually at Mayapur Academy as part of its 16-week international diploma course.
“Such detailed training was only offered in Mayapur for the last twelve years,” says North American Deity Worship Minister Jayananda Das. “This is the first ISKCON training I’m aware of in North American that is of this duration and includes written and practical assessments. We realized that not everybody can come to Mayapur and spend weeks there, so we needed to branch out and start offering more systemized training worldwide.”
Facilitating the course will be Jayananda Das; Global ISKCON Deity Worship Minister Nrsimha Kavacha Das; Krsna Dasi, Ministry Representative for Trinidad and Guyana; Murli Manohara Das, Ministry Representative for UK and head pujari for Radha Londonisvara; and Rasa Dasi, a Mayapur Academy Graduate.
An assessment in Mayapur
The course will begin with an introduction discussingthe benefits of deity worship and the reasons why we do it; and establishing that deity worship is integral to devotional service and ISKCON’s mission.
During the program, students will learn the importance of cleanliness and purity in Krishna consciousness and deity worship; how to prepare for worship; how to do the acamana and samanya arghya procedures; what materials paraphernalia should be made from and how to clean worship paraphernalia; and the significance of the maha-mantra and other mantras in deity worship.
In “The Form of the Lord” they will learn what is a deity, which deities we worship and why, what is the mood of temple worship, and the role of guru in deity worship.
In “Authenticity” they’ll learn how it is that deity worship is an authorized process capable of giving us the highest spiritual success.
In “Bhoga offering,” they’ll study why and how to offer bhoga (food), and how we know if the Lord accepts our offerings.
A bhoga offering offered during the assessment
Meanwhile “Sambandha” will look at our relationship with Krishna and how we can cultivate it; “Arati and Skills” will teach what arati is, why we offer it, what the items mean and what skills we need to perform it; and “ Sodasopacara Puja” will delve into how to offer puja to the Lord.
The course will utilize a range of teaching approaches including interactive and experiential learning.
“We find that if the students actually get to do the various worship procedures themselves, rather than learning from demonstrations, the educational outcome is much greater,” says Nrsimha Kavacha Das.
Components towards students’ final grade will include homework assignments, written exams, acamana assessment, bhoga offering assessment, attendance, and classroom etiquette and participation.
Finally there will be a practical assessment of performing sodasopacara puja (sixteen-item worship) of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, with students working in teams and being both supported and peer-assessed by one another.
This sixteen-item worship usually happens in the morning between mangala arati and darshan arati at ISKCON temples, and includes bathing and dressing the deities, putting on ornaments and garlands, offering flowers to their lotus feet, and offering them something to eat.
The sodasopacara puja assessment includes peer feedback
The ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry plans to continue offering this nine-day temple worship training on an annual or biannual basis in North America. It has already provided the training in the UK in summer 2018, and plans to offer the same program in many other regions of the world such as South America, Russia, Lithuania, Spain, Africa, Australia, and Malaysia
If the Temple Worship unit is successful, the Ministry hopes to also teach other units of the sixteen-week Mayapur Academy diploma around the world, such as brahminical culture and ethics, cooking, dressing, mantras, samskaras, festivals, tulasi care and worship, dress design, flower-arranging and astrology.
With Nrsimha Kavacha funding the training out of his own pocket so far, the Deity Worship Ministry is asking for financial support to help make all this a reality. And it will be worth it.
“After doing the training for twelve years in Mayapur, I’ve seen the effects it has had,” Nrsimha Kavacha says. “One of our regional representatives was telling us how he has seen substantial improvements in the worship in Lithuania, just due to the fact that people are coming for training in Mayapur. So if devotees can help us offer that training everywhere, it’s going to naturally improve the standards of worship in ISKCON temples around the world.”
With education in deity worship stepping up to the next level, the Deity Worship Ministry feel that their training could be a pilot program for education in ISKCON general.
“In North America, these kinds of traings have been limited to three-day weekends,” says Jayananda. “This is going to be a trial to see if the demand, interest and ability is there — given many devotees’ busy lives – for week-long courses. If so, this could be the beginning of in-depth training in book distribution, management, whatever it may be. It all depends – are ISKCON members willing and able to step it up and take education to the next level?”
In the meantime, Jayananda and Nrsimha Kavacha are excited to give devotees first class training in Deity Worship.
“The whole point of training in deity worship is to learn how to please Krishna,” Nrsimha Kavacha says. “Because the prime purpose of deity worship is to cultivate a loving relationship with Krishna. So if we can learn the process of deity worship as given by the authorities, then it’ll help us immensely to worship the deity in a way that satisfies the Lord, and helps to develop our love for Him.”
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To apply for the North American Temple Worship Training in New Vrindaban and get more info, visit: https://sites.google.com/iskcon.org/temple-worship-training-2019/home.
To find out more about the Mayapur Academy, visit www.mayapuracademy.org.
To financially support ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry training [ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry is a registered 501 (c) (3) non-profit], or for questions or comments please contact Jayananda Dasat firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies