In 2008, devotees founded the Bhakti Academy in Gainesville, Florida. This live-in space facilitates students to learn and practice bhakti-yoga while in many cases continuing their university studies. Since its inception, over 250 students have attended the Academy and many have made a formal commitment to Krishna consciousness and are actively involved in ISKCON full-time or part-time in America, South America, Europe, and Asia.
Now, after months of planning and coordination, Bhakti Academy’s Kalakantha Das visited Toronto and conducted a review of the facilities, and green-lighted the launch for mid-May. The recent renovations conducted by ISKCON Toronto’s Building Improvement Committee played a large part in providing the capacity to add facilities for Bhakti Academy. “A couple of years back we planned to add new facilities, washrooms, devotee lounges, a prasadam facility and classrooms. At that time, we did not fully understand Krishna’s plan to send bright young men and women to get trained up in bhakti and make full use of these facilities”, said Indresh Das who is heading up the temple renovations and assisting in the launch of Toronto’s Bhakti Academy.
Brihat Mrdanga Das, from Houston, Texas, and a graduate of Bhakti Academy Gainesville will lead the Bhakti Academy program in Toronto. He will be joined by an assistant from Houston and the search is also on for someone to help with the women’s program.
The Bhakti Academy is an educational program that is open to all who seek to learn, serve and share in a community of like-minded friends. The program provides university and college students or recent graduates with an immersive experience in a temple atmosphere.
Students will live in a dedicated Academy ashram within the ISKCON Toronto temple for one to two semesters where they will practice bhakti yoga by studying the Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, and other prominent scriptures. In addition, students will learn about japa and mantra meditation, the practice of kirtan and bhajans, cooking prasadam, and the mood of devotional service. Students will participate in the daily morning program as well as temple services and outreach including kitchen assistance, cleaning and maintenance, temple gardens, Govinda’s, Harinam, and book distribution.
The Bhakti Academy at ISKCON Toronto will officially launch on Nrsimha Caturdasi, Sunday, May 15th with preparations for up to a dozen students to eventually join the program. The first term will begin the last week of May and conclude on August 26th and thereafter will follow general university semester scheduling. Applicants are required to have a strong desire to practice bhakti yoga in a drug free environment and applications are rigorous to ensure a determined commitment to the program. In exchange for room and board and training, students will pay nominal tuition and/or render full-time service to the temple.
Bhaktimarga Swami said, “The Bhakti Academy is an important step in the infusing of 243 Avenue Road as not just a temple but also a learning centre. People can come and participate and have a really wonderful time in a beautiful setting. We are very pleased and honoured to have our devotee friends from south of the border helping in getting this launched. We are excited to see this come to fruition!”
Students are already expressing interest in joining the Bhakti Academy and it is anticipated that the program will steadily grow in interest and participation. This new and exciting initiative for ISKCON in Canada will help expand and cultivate young and energetic new members for Srila Prabhupada’s mission.
For more information, check out BhaktiAcademy.ca
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