As part of its online Bhakti Wisdom offerings, designed for people who want to dive deeper into their practice, the Bhakti Center in New York City is offering Pathways to Perfection, a 10-part series on the nine processes of devotion.
These key pathways to connect with Krishna are outlined by Prahlada Maharaja in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and include hearing about the Lord, chanting the Lord’s Name and glories, remembering Krishna, serving the Lotus Feet of Krishna, offering worship, offering prayers, becoming the Lord’s servant, friendship with the Lord, and surrendering everything to the Lord.
The series is co-hosted by ISKCON of New Jersey (Towaco); Central New Jersey; Bergen County, New Jersey; Brooklyn and 26 2nd Avenue in New York; Richmond, Virginia; and Gita Nagari Eco Farm, Pennsylvania. All centers are promoting the series and coordinating so that their community members can attend it as one family without missing any of their other many online sangas.
The series runs every Saturday from September 12th to November 14th, at 9:00am to 10:30am US Eastern Time on Zoom and Youtube. Nearly 2,000 people from all over the world have registered for it. Most are bhakti practioners, as well as some newer folks, including university students.
Pathways to Perfection is a 10-part series on the 9 Processes of Devotion
To guide them, the team of individuals who organize the series have selected some of ISKCON’s most engaging speakers, who can present bhakti philosophy in a very inclusive way. The speakers – a mix of men, women, and people of different nationalities and different ashrams (such as householders and celibate monks) – are expert at presenting bhakti wisdom in a manner that is relevant and interesting to all, including those who may not yet have a deep knowledge of the subject.
Launching the series with an overview of the nine processes of devotion was Radhanath Swami, an ISKCON guru, renowned speaker and author. In his presentation, Radhanath Swami emphasized that the purpose of the nine processes is to develop pure love of God. One can do so, he explained, either by following any of the processes, or by doing all nine to different degrees with a focus on one or two that one finds especially appealing.
He also cited personalities from the Vedic scriptures who exemplify each of the nine processes: Maharaja Pariksit for hearing; Sukadeva Goswami for chanting; Prahlada Maharaja for remembering; Laksmi Devi for serving the Lord’s Lotus Feet; Maharaja Prithu for offering worship; Akrura for offering prayers; Hanuman for becoming the Lord’s servant; Arjuna for friendship with the Lord; and Bali Maharaja for surrendering everything to the Lord.
Next on September 19th, renowned scholar Radhika Ramana Das spoke on the topic of Sravanam, or hearing. Pointing out that the path of bhakti starts with hearing, he explained how to hear, who to hear from, how to not only hear but to actively listen, and how to listen with intention and attention.
Renowned scholar Radhika Ramana Das spoke on Hearing
On September 26th, Sri Prahlada Das, a well-known kirtan teacher and chanter, followed with the topic of Kirtanam, or chanting the Lord’s names and glories. Among Sri Prahlada’s many interesting points, he emphasized that Kirtanam is not only chanting the Holy Names in congregation, but also reciting the Lord’s glories and pastimes. As a reference, he pointed out that the scriptures’ exemplar of Kirtanam is Sukadeva Goswami, who narrated the Srimad-Bhagavatam to Maharaja Pariksit.
Still to come in the series is Radha Devi Dasi, who will speak about Visnu Smaranam, Remembering Visnu, on October 3rd. A Harvard-trained lawyer who also works in the areas of child protection and helping victims of domestic violence, Radha serves as the International Vaishnavi Minister for ISKCON.
International Vaishnavi Minister for ISKCON Radha Dasi will speak on Remembering the Lord
On October 10th, Hari Parsada Das of the GBC Sastric Advisory Council will speak on Pada-sevanam, Serving the Lotus Feet of Krishna. On October 17th, Gauranga Das will discuss Arcanam, or offering worship. As well as being a prominent speaker and Director of the Govardhana Eco Village near Mumbai, Gauranga is known for his expertise and love of dressing deities. Next on the 24th, Amarendra Das, an exceptionally brilliant third-generation devotee who is regularly invited to speak on forums hosted by temples and centers worldwide and holds multiple degrees, will speak on Vandanam, Offering Prayers.
Meanwhile on October 31st, Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi, a learned Srila Prabhupada disciple, marriage counselor and Grihasta Vision Team member, will discuss Dasyam, Becoming the Lord’s Servant. Bhakti Rasamrita Swami, a renowned speaker and spiritual leader who runs a farm project and city temple in Belgaum, South India, will cover Sakhyam – Friendship with the Lord on November 7th. And finally on November 14th, Sacinandana Swami, an ISKCON guru and author who offers an array of bhakti retreats, seminars and workshops will speak about Atma Nivedanam – Surrendering Everything to the Lord.
Well-known kirtan teacher and chanter Sri Prahlada Das spoke on Chanting the Lord's Names and Glories
Prior to every session, registrants receive materials so that they can be prepared from a sastric point of view. Each speaker typically speaks for about sixty to seventy minutes, before answering questions sent in beforehand for about half an hour.
So far the series has drawn many viewers from North America, Europe, India and other parts of Asia. Radhanath Swami’s talk alone was watched by about 1,200 people live, with over 6,500 views later on Youtube. Many commented that they set time aside every Saturday for the talks, which are their spiritual rejuvenation for the weekend.
“It’s very nourishing, because it brings people together,” says Yasoda-dulal Das, a member of the series’ organizing team and President of the Bhakti Center’s Board of Trustees. “In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, it says that when devotees hear and chant the glories of the Supreme Lord together, it develops loving relationships amongst them. So yes, we are virtual, but we are hearing together, and there is a kind of real bonding, because we see the same names and faces again and again.”
Prior to Pathways of Perfection, the Bhakti Center ran A Life in Bhakti, a six-part series on the five most important limbs of Bhakti, with Sacinandana Swami. Looking forward, the plan is to continue partnering with other ISKCON centers and offering more different wisdom courses.
“We intend to keep it going into the future, even after COVID,” Yasoda-dulal says. “Because it’s just such a great way of nourishing people with Hari Katha.”
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Log in on Zoom to experience Pathways to Perfection on Saturdays from 9am to 10:30am EST at http://tinyurl.com/bhakticenter
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