Chakra Discussions

Bhaktivedanta Academy head defends BVPS gurukula involvement

by Sri Prahlad das

Posted November 5, 2003

As the administrative head of the Bhaktivedanta Academy in Mayapura, I am obliged to respond to an article entitled "BVPS at Mayapura Gurukula?" posted on Chakra on October 19, 2003.

Maharani dasi, the article's author, quotes part of the ISKCON Office of Child Protection's year 2000 ruling on Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja and then questions why Maharaja is now again involved with a gurukula three years later. As a complete reading of the CPO decision answers this question, I am posting the relevant sections for the author and her readers:

Bhakti Vidya Purna Maharaja won't serve in any capacity that is directly connected with children until January 1, 2002. After that time he may serve in a non-managerial and non-administrative capacity connected with children if the ISKCON Education Ministry agrees that he may do so. Bhakti Vidya Purna Maharaja may not at any time assume a managerial or administrative role in ISKCON, and especially not in connection with children. . . .

. . . Bhakti Vidya Purna Maharaja is fully encouraged to contribute to the intellectual and theoretical foundation of education in ISKCON. The ICOCP has great respect and appreciation for BVPM's extensive knowledge of Vedic culture, Vaisnava educational practices, and child psychology, and we hope he will continue to use this knowledge and experience in the training of educational staff and curriculum.

Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja's involvement with the Bhaktivedanta Academy is strictly within the above guidelines.

The author quotes a letter from Praghosh das prabhu (ACBSP) stating that Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja is the Academy's "principal Headmaster" and that the purpose of the school is to train the students to "love and respect" Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja. With all due respect to Praghosh das and the author, Praghosh prabhu is not the spokesman for the Academy, nor does he hold any position in the Academy other than that two of his sons have recently been enrolled in one of the Academy's schools.

The Academy has an administrative structure which is responsible for the policy of the Academy as well as its day-to-day administration. This structure includes myself as the overall authority, Priti Vardhana das prabhu as general manager and treasurer as well as other staff members. Staff meetings are held six days a week.

Additionally, the Bhaktivedanta Academy is accountable to two Mayapura co-directors who are the heads of Mayapura Educational Board. Further, the Academy is under the direct authority of the Mayapura Administrative Council. The local GBC has received reports on the Academy's administrative structure, policies and child protection programs and given his approval. The Academy also submits yearly reports on the same as well as its educational programs to the ISKCON Ministry of Educational Development.

As well as this formal administrative structure, the Academy also maintains an informal Parent Teacher Association. Frequent Parent Teacher meetings are held on campus to develop communication and trust between the school's administration and the parents.

Presently all the students residing in the Academy's schools are the children of devotees who live in the Mayapura community and, through the year, social gatherings are arranged for all of the children at the homes of the children's parents. Pilgrimages are also arranged and parents enthusiastically participate.

The general purpose of the Academy is as stated in the Academy's prospectus:

The Bhaktivedanta Academy aims to provide a facility for its members to study, practice, and disseminate the teachings of Srimad Bhagavatam, with corollary studies of the standard works of the Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas and the branches of Vedic philosophy, culture, and science in the context of Srimad Bhagavatam and Srila Prabhupada's teachings.

The article leads readers to believe that the Academy doesn't care for the directives of the Child Protection Office or child protection measures. Again this is untrue; the Bhaktivedanta Academy is in compliance with the CPO Policy which stipulates that every six months the students should be made aware of Child Protection measures.

In 2002, at the recommendation of Pancharatna das prabhu, the presentation of "No, go tell" was made to the students by Racitambara dasi prabhu and other teachers. At the beginning of 2003, at the request of the schools administration, Yamanuja dasi prabhu, a member of the CPT in Mayapura, made the Child Protection presentation to the students. Child Protection courses are also run for the Academy's staff members.

As a gurukuli I can confirm that any comparison of the "austerity" of the Academy's schools with the "neglect" that was inflicted on children in ISKCON's earlier attempts at gurukula is also erroneous. These children are well fed, clothed and loved and the proof is that both the children and their parents are happy.

Devotees who desire further information on the Bhaktivedanta Academy are welcome to contact me by e-mail at: Sri.Prahlada.hdg@pamho.net

Those who wish to see for themselves are welcome to visit the Bhaktivedanta Academy in Mayapura and speak with the staff, parents and students.