The ISKCON Studies Institute held its first annual ISKCON Studies Conference at Prabhupadadesh, in northern Italy, on 27-30 July. The Conference, which brought together some of ISKCON's best thinkers, led to the ISKCON Studies Institute becoming one of the few initiatives to be recognised and approved by ISKCON's Ministry of Educational Development.
The theme of the Conference was "ISKCON and Interpretation: Context, History, Theory, Practice". The aim of the Conference was to create a space where ISKCON thinkers can come together and engage in open, intelligent discussion in a devotional atmosphere. According to one of the organisers, Krishna-ksetra Dasa: "When I joined ISKCON, in Germany, the questions were fairly simple: whether to eat seconds or thirds of dessert, which town to go to for chanting, and so on. The answers to some of our philosophical questions, though, were sometimes stereotyped, and [ISKCON's founder] Srila Prabhupada taught us that Krishna consciousness is not stereotyped. So I began to think that we needed to go deeper into our tradition to secure more thoughtful answers to the questions we asked."
Presenters at the conference included Braja Bihari Dasa, Federico Squarcini, Jayadvaita Swami, Krishna Ksetra Dasa, Kumari Priya Dasi, Pranava Dasa, Ravindra Svarupa Dasa, Radhika Ramana Dasa, Rembert Lutjeharms, and Sesa Dasa. The special guest speaker was Massimo Introvigne, the founder and managing director of the Centre for Studies on New Religions, an international network of scholars.
The Conference is a direct development from the groundbreaking ISKCON Communications Meetings (ICELT), which began in 1993 and are responsible for fostering initiatives including the Bhaktivedanta College at Radhadesh, the ISKCON Communications Journal, and ISKCON's Child Protection Office. The ISKCON Studies Institute is also a product of these meetings. As well as holding the ISKCON Studies Conference, it is publishing the ISKCON Studies Journal (a relaunched ISKCON Communications Journal) and has a large ISKCON Archive. The Institute's declared aims are to develop the field of ISKCON studies and related areas of interest; develop forums for academic exchange; and promote relevant research and facilitate publishing about ISKCON in various disciplines.
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