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Devotee Academic Wins $10,000 Bhagavad-gita Essay Prize

By: for ISKCON News on March 6, 2015

Bhakti Charu Swami and Gaura Nitai Das present Padma Dasi with the $10,000 prize

In Australia, devotee academic Padma Dasi was chosen to receive first prize in a Bhagavad-gita As It Is Essay Competition amongst 200 university and tertiary education students across the country.

The competition was organized by Satya Armstrong and other disciples of ISKCON guru Bhakti Charu Swami to encourage people to delve more deeply into the ancient spiritual text, and particularly into ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s edition, which presents Krishna’s message “As It Is.”

Padma received her $10,000 reward at an event at ISKCON Sydney’s Radha-Gopinath Mandir on January 27th.

Bhakti Charu Swami began the evening with a lecture on the importance of studying the Bhagavad-gita. He then presented Padma with her prize along with competition judge Gaur Nitai Das (Gambhir Watts), president of the Australian branch of educational institution Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

In her acceptance speech, Padma thanked the organizers and Mukunda Goswami, who had guided and encouraged her in her writing. “Actually this award belongs to Srila Prabhupada, whose teachings I one hundred per cent depended on in writing the essay,” she said.            

Padma Dasi (in red) with competition organizer Satya Armstrong

She added, “Beyond that of course, the knowledge itself comes from Krishna, and I feel that Krishna helped me to win this competition. I definitely feel that He had a hand in making my essay take the shape that it did.”

The essay competition imagined a year 2050 wherein world leaders had decided to implement Lord Krishna’s strategy for peace and happiness. It asked candidates to write a pamphlet that would motivate people to apply Krishna’s teachings in their lives and societies.

In her 2,800 word response, Padma proposed that world citizens would become happy and peaceful by centering all their activities around Krishna and understanding that he is their original Supreme Lord; their dear-most friend; and their best well-wisher. By developing Krishna consciousness, she wrote, all living beings could put an end to their suffering in the material world.

“I presented a four-stage plan by which these goals could be achieved,” she says. “These were 1) raising the consciousness of the population; 2) offering educational courses in Krishna consciousness; 3) providing training programs in devotional service; and 4) ongoing monitoring of the spiritual progress of the population. I also discussed the importance of societies accepting non-human beings, such as animals, as also being world citizens.”

Padma Dasi joined ISKCON in 1989, and served in Deity worship and cooking at the New Govardhana Farm in New South Wales before going back to university to complete her PhD, which involved an in-depth study of the three modes of material nature described in the Bhagavad-gita.

Padma Dasi gives her acceptance speech

She is currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Psychological Science and started a mentorship program for devotees and congregational members at New Govardhana, where she still lives.

Padma’s main focus, however, is writing. She is working on several publications in different formats – from small booklets for street distribution to large textbooks for academic reading – that show how Lord Krishna’s knowledge, as presented by Srila Prabhupada, is relevant today and can be applied to everyday problem solving.

“I hope winning the competition will help me much better promote these upcoming publications,” she says.

For Padma, the Bhagavad-gita is her life support, the most important thing in her life. “Krishna gave us this knowledge to guide us through our material lives and to nurture our spiritual lives,” she says. “But I also feel that the Gita is Krishna’s way of extending his friendship to us.

“I hope that all living beings will somehow come into contact with the Bhagavad-gita, through the mercy of devotees who apply its teachings. It is for all living beings, regardless of species, nationality, religion etc. It is for everyone.”

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