“So in the association of devotees, if we read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam regularly, then your, our, material contamination will be dissolved, and our spiritual consciousness will come out, and that will make our life successful.”
– Srila Prabhupada
The Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya 22.131 describes how studying should be done in association of devotees, especially those with similar disposition.
āsvādo rasikaiḥ saha
sādhau saṅgaḥ svato vare
“‘One should taste the meaning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in the association of pure devotees, and one should associate with the devotees who are more advanced than oneself and who are endowed with a similar type of affection for the Lord.”
In the purport to the above mentioned verse, Srila Prabhupada elucidates how one should not study with professional reciters or with one who is not in the disciplic succession or with who has no taste for bhakti-yoga.
In a lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada shares his desire for systematic classroom study of the scriptures. He quotes the above verse from Caitanya Caritamrta to clarify his point of the importance of devotee association.
“So bhāgavata means the complete knowledge. Bhāgavata, from bhagavān it is called bhāgavata. From bhagavat-śabda it is called bhāgavata. So in the association of bhāgavata, devotees, if we read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Sajātīya snigdhasya. Sajātīya means people thinking in the same way. So that means devotees who are interested in bhagavad-bhakti, to understand Bhagavān, they should read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in the association. We should have regular classes. Just like school and colleges, eight hour, six hour. Be engaged always in reading Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, discussing amongst yourself. Then you’ll make progress. Otherwise, if you take it as an official routine work… You should take as routine work, but with consciousness that “We have to learn something,” not simply attending the class, but to learn something. In this way make your life successful. Because after all, everything is being done, daiva-coditāt, impelled by the Supreme Person. The Supreme Person is behind everything. So in the association of devotees, if we read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam regularly, then your, our, material contamination will be dissolved, and our spiritual consciousness will come out, and that will make our life successful.
– Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 3.26.41,
January 16, 1975 in Bombay, India.
kathayantaś ca māṁ nityaṁ
tuṣyanti ca ramanti ca
“The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.” (BG 10.9)
Classes & Study groups: As explained by the above verse of Bhagavad Gita, Krishna katha (pastimes of Lord Krishna) is best relished in the association of the devotees. At Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha, the students come together to hear Srimad Bhagavatam from an experienced teacher, and in their study sessions, they study in groups of 3-4 students.
Assignments & Presentation: The assignments that are given to the students after the completion of each canto of Srimad Bhagavatam are also executed by these study groups. This group execution of assignments helps to facilitate the student’s contemplation on sastric topics in the association of devotees. The groups also make a presentation of the assignments they execute. The students also give individual presentations periodically, which the teachers hear and comment upon. This ensures a strong association with devotees through the medium of hearing, studying, discussing and speaking Srimad Bhagavatam. As Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita 10.9,
Occasionally, sessions are organized where all of the students come together, play Krishna conscious games, such as quizzes, charades, spot–the-difference, etc., and even performing sankirtan (congregational chanting) together.
Get-together sessions are arranged for the students of both 1st and 2nd year batches once a month.
These sessions include games, quizzes, kirtans, bhajans & sharing experiences by the students/faculty.
Thus, they provide a refreshing experience for the students, and help to build healthy Vaishnava relationships among the students.
Therefore, the daily classes, sloka recitation sessions, study groups, assignments and presentations at Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha ensure a strong bonding among the students, creating a healthy vaishnava sanga.