By Rasika Raman Das
The 1st of September, 2018 witnessed a momentous event in the history of Vaishnava education with the inauguration of the Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha Research Center (BVRC) by Honorable Education Minister of Maharashtra Shri Vinod Tawde and His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaj, Founder of the BVRC. Other prominent personalities who graced the event were His Holiness Bhakti Brhad Bhagavat Maharaj (Co-President, ISKCON Juhu), Shri Ajay Piramal (Chairman, Piramal Group), Shri Kushal Desai (Chairman, Apar Industries), Dr. Ravindra Kulkarni (Pro-VC Mumbai University), Dr. Vishnu Magare (Pro-VC SNDT Women’s University). More than 50 professors and administrators from the Mumbai University participated in the event while more than 500 people were also present in the audience.
The Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha which started as a two year study course on Srimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrta at Govardhan Ecovillage has now become affiliated to the University of Mumbai as a Research Center in the subject of Philosophy. With this affiliation, the BVRC shall be able to conduct PhD programs, Diploma courses and Certificate courses in affiliation with Mumbai University. The BVRC aims at facilitating the study and research of ancient Indian philosophy, arts and sciences for developing contemporary applied solutions in all spheres of life such as Ethics, Emotions, Environment, Entrepreneurship, Efficiency etc.
The introductory talk at the event was given by HG Gauranga Das, Chairman of the BVRC in which he quoted examples of China and the US in how these economic superpowers have of late patronized religious studies and philosophy in their educational institutions. He said that concerted efforts at demolition of ancient Chinese civilization in the 1960s led to severe moral decay and identity crisis in the Chinese populace. The Chinese government has of late beenactively promoting ancient Chinese culture and the Confucius philosophy to make China stand out as an ideological and cultural superpower and not just a manufacturing superpower. He also explained the evolution of the American education system which began with theological seminaries but later with emergence of science and technology became atheistic in nature. However as the society hit dead end with world wars, hedonism, broken families and depleted value systems, religious studies again became relevant and was catalyzed by the establishment of the American Academy of Religion in 1963, which now has 10000 professors and research scholars as members. He advocated the need for the Indian government and intelligentsia to realize and rise to the need of the hour of introducing academic study of religion and philosophy in curriculum. He said that the BVRC would work towards emerging as a world-class research center in the field of philosophy and it is our hope and prayer that the BVRC will eventually develop into a full-fledged Srila Prabhupada University, in fulfillment of the vision and desire of Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON.
Terming the Bhagavad Gita as a “way of life”, Honorable Education Minister of Maharashtra, Shri Vinod Tawde said that he wanted to introduce Bhagavad Gita in lucid language in schools from Class One so that its contents can be easily absorbed by them and they can apply it in their day-today lives. He said that the Vedas and Upanishads are scientific but are confined only to the temples and not part of mainstream education and so their knowledge needs to be introduced in the curriculum for benefitting the entire society. He said that between 2020 and 2045, India will be the youngest country in the World and will supply talented human resource to the entire World and if the kind of Diploma and Certificate courses being taught at the BVRC are made available to the youth then India will be able to export such professionals who are also experts in Vedic knowledge. Congratulating ISKCON for starting this much needed Research Center he said that Bhakti Vedanta is the ancient Indian knowledge that binds science and spirituality in one vein and with the opening of Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha Research Centre, ISKCON and Mumbai University are giving an opportunity for advanced research exploring the realms of spiritual sciences. He assured of all support to the BVRC in its endeavors and said that this successful pilot will soon be adopted all over India and then all over the World.
Leading Industrialist and Social Entrepreneur Shri Ajay Piramal shared how Bhagavad Gita has been a constant companion and guide for him in his journey and has helped him to navigate the ups and downs of personal and business life. A particular Upanishadic quote which has especially inspired him is, “We are what our deep driving desire, as is our desire so is our will, as is our will so is our deed and as is our deed so is our destiny.” He shared an anecdote from his own life about application of this verse. He said, “We were traditionally in the textile business but in 1988 we first time forayed into Pharmaceutical business by acquiring a British multinational which was ranked 48 in India that time. As a young enthusiastic entrepreneur I wanted to apply this Upanishadic quote and in one of the Board meetings committed that we will get into the top 10 in the next 10 years with the faith that if it is said in the Upanishad it must come true. By 2000 we did actually come in the top 5 in the Pharmaceutical business.” He said Gita’s emphasis on being action oriented and not result oriented is a key paradigm for being successful and stress-free in life. Gita says that the power is not what you are born with but what you do with it. Law of Karma is not fatalistic or defeatist but is the most positive law- based on what we do today the future is in our hand. He quoted the story of Panini to show that how by his determination he changed his destiny. He further added that knowledge of the Gita is very crucial for upholding moral and ethical standards in business.
Pro-VC Mumbai University, Dr. Ravindra Kulkarni and Pro-VC SNDT Women’s University, Dr. Vishnu Magare lauded ISKCON’s initiative of setting up the BVRC and assured all academic and administrative support to make it a grand success.
The event culminated with a talk by HH Radhanath Swami Maharaj in which he said that education is meant to develop character of a person. Arjuna and Duryodhana though studying in the same University under the same teacher had completely opposite destinies because of the antithesis of their inner character. He said that the Vedanta means the culmination of all knowledge which is Bhakti and thus the name Bhaktivedanta represents the purpose of the BVRC which is to blossom an individual’s character to be able to serve with love. He concluded by saying that, ”I am hoping and praying that this seed sown today when watered with proper integrity and devotion will grow into a tree and then forest with limitless fruits of knowledge.”
The inauguration was done by unveiling of a plaque by the dignitaries led by Shri Vinod Tawde and His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaj.