On October 15th the Mayapur Institute of ISKCON opened its first classroom kutir, or hut, which creates the perfect atmosphere for study of the Vedic scriptures.
Built with natural, environmentally-friendly local materials like bamboo, bricks and thatch, the kutir makes students feel like they have stepped back in time to learn with the sages of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
But the hut doesn’t eschew modern facilities either – electricity inside provides power for ceiling fans and wall projectors to give Power Point presentations.
“The mixture of ancient and modern is ideal,” says Mayapur Institute Director Padmanayana Das. “Many students have commented that ‘Just by entering the kutir, we feel like studying.’”
Mixing the ancient and the modern inside the new kutir
The kutir is currently home to the men’s Bhakti Sastri class, in which 55 students take part. Altogether, 125 men and women from all over the world – eighty per cent are from outside India – are now taking Mayapur Institute’s Bhakti Sastri, Bhakti Vaibhava and Bhakti Vedanta programs. Taught in two semesters of four months every year, these delve deep into ISKCON Founder-Acharya Srila Prabhupada’s books.
“Srila Prabhupada wanted us to establish an international education institute in Mayapur, where his books could be taught in a systematic manner,” says Padmanayana. “So to fulfill his vision, we have embarked on a mission to construct a campus dedicated to teaching this literature.”
The Mayapur Institute was launched in the year 2000, but is now reaching another level. Bengali and Russian versions of its core courses have been added, as well as extra classes on everything from Krishna conscious married life to the guru-disciple relationship to ISKCON management.
Meanwhile as well as the kutir, the Institute inaugurated the first building in a new ten-acre campus back in July, formally offering it to Srila Prabhupada in an elaborate ceremony.
The first building constructed for the new Mayapur Institute campus
The attractive salmon-pink building with arches and wrap-around verandas is currently being used for multiple purposes, including classes, offices, and students’ and teachers’ accommodation.
Eventually, however, it will be used as the faculty accommodation building only, as over time, fourteen other planned buildings rise. These will include separate classroom and residential buildings for men and women, many more kutirs, a prasadam hall and kitchen, and a small temple with a hall where programs can be held and visiting sannyasis can give talks.
As per Srila Prabhupada’s desire, all these facilities will be provided at a minimal cost, so that regardless of their financial situation, devotees can receive the best spiritual education in an ideal environment.
For instance, individual accommodation for each student with its own private bathroom, hot water (not taken for granted in Mayapur), and a private balcony runs at only 200 rupees (3 US dollars) a day. And the entire cost of a four-month study course is just 12,500 rupees, or 193 dollars.
Student Accomodation costs only $3 a day
Being able to study the sastras in sacred Mayapur, of course, is priceless. “When students come to study at Mayapur Institute, they automatically get the mercy of the Ganga; the association of all the senior Vaishnavas of ISKCON who congregate here; and the unparalleled temple program ISKCON Mayapur holds every day,” says Padmanayana.
In return, he hopes students will return to their countries to give back to Srila Prabhupada’s mission with new knowledge and inspiration.
“In regular universities, people will study a particular subject, get a degree and go out to earn money,” he says. “But in Mayapur Institute, we want to train our devotees to become first-class Vaishnavas. When they become first-class Vaishnavas, they will go out into the world and behave very sweetly. And whoever they meet, they will be able to genuinely convey the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to them, in a very happy mood. So this is what we are creating in Mayapur Institute – and I hope the whole of ISKCON will benefit from our graduates.”[ education ] [ kutir ] [ mayapur ]