A common observation by both the secular media and internal critics about ISKCON today is that while it is providing a home away from home for many Indian nationals, it is reaching less young Americans, as Srila Prabhupada desired.
New introductory magazine “Spirit Soul” is one of several efforts to connect with this audience by speaking to them in their language and offering ways that bhakti-yoga can improve their day-to-day lives.
The magazine, full of practical how-to-guides on the essential practices of bhakti is set to be an indispensable resource for temples and preachers.
Spirit Soul was launched at this May’s Sadhu Sanga Retreat in North Carolina. Starting as a one-off publication, it is the brainchild of Ranjit Das of Back to Godhead magazine and Mayapriya Dasi.
Mayapriya brings a wealth of experience to the project, having run a bhakti-yoga club near the University of Virginia with her husband Amit Acara for the past twenty-five years.
During their weekly program, an average of fifteen students from the University do kirtan, chant a round of japa, and study a structured curriculum that covers the basics of Krishna consciousness. At the end of the school year, most of them buy japa beads to chant on over the summer, along with the Bhagavad-gita to read.
“One of the things we found early on was that there was a need for something small and digestible that presented the essence of bhakti-yoga and intrigued them enough to want to study further,” Mayapriya says. “Nowadays, if someone is not sure they’re interested in bhakti yet, it’s going to be hard to get them to startby reading a 200-page book.”
So when Ranjit presented the idea of Spirit Soul to her, Mayapriya was eager to get involved.
The resulting full-color 32-page print magazine sees some of ISKCON’s best writers and teachers – including Visakha Dasi, Hridayananda Das Goswami, Chaitanya Charan Das and Satyaraja Das – present bhakti-yoga’s philosophy and practices in a way that’s truly relevant to sudents’ modern lives.
“Students are so busy, that if they’re going to spend their time on something, it has to feel like it will be an important addition,” Mayapriya says.
So Mayapriya herself writes about how when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, the park’s whole eco-system improved; and how similarly, when we take on spiritual practices, the effects will trickle down through many aspects of our daily lives. Another one of her articles provides five life lessons from the Bhagavad-gita in a very applicable, Psychology Today style.
Visakha Dasi writes about the selfless quality of true love. Hridayananda Das Goswami describes the four different steps of the yoga ladder – karma, jnana, dhyana and bhakti. Chaitanya Charan dissects the complexities of free will. And Ranjit explains the basics of reincarnation. There’s even a section about near-death experiences.
There are also practical how-to-guides. Satyaraja clearly lays out the meaning and practice of kirtan and japa meditation, explaining how japa not only controls the mind the way silent meditation does, but also purifies the consciousness. Other sections explain how to spot an authentic guru, and where to find Govinda’s restaurants, vegetarian cookbooks, Srila Prabhupada’s books, and nearby ISKCON centers.
All of this is presented in an accessible manner. “I learned long ago that as devotees we have a language of our own that we often don’t even recognize,” says Mayapriya. “We just start talking in devotee-speak, and leave people behind. So we’ve tried to make the language in this magazine accessible and low on devotee lingo.”
Spirit Soul is available for ISKCON devotees to purchase in bulk and give out at bhakti-yoga clubs, yoga studio kirtans, book tables and even temples as a quick easy way to spark interest in delving deeper.
“A temple visit can be very confusing and unusual, but if people can take away a magazine that speaks their language, and where everyone isn’t wearing a sari or dhoti, they might think, “I could do this,’” explains Mayapriya. “I could be one of them.”
If there is enough interest in Spirit Soul, it may become an annual or biannual release.
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Please click here to purchase a single copy:http://store.krishna.com/spiritsoul-magazine/
For bulk orders for temples, please phone BTG direct at 1-800-800-3284.
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