FaithTech Series: School of Bhakti takes spirituality to cyberspace
In the second edition of our FaithTech Series, ‘iGlobal’ explores how the School of Bhakti transformed its mission during the coronavirus lockdown. The spiritual school is an educational hub and vibrant community, delivering lessons rooted in the Krishna tradition of Bhakti-yoga, and based on the teachings of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada – the Founder-Acharya of the Hare Krishna Movement or the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
The school was founded at Bhaktivedanta Manor, the historic spiritual sanctuary donated by Beatle George Harrison in the Hertfordshire countryside of England, and functions across multiple locations – even in cyberspace.
Depths of self
It has been said that the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find your purpose in life. Albeit, that is not a simple or a straight-forward journey. The School of Bhakti helps to ease that transition and offer a wide variety of courses – many of which are philosophically inclined and for the material body – mindfulness, meditation, and yoga.
“The School of Bhakti is an offering of education and propagation of spirituality and spiritual ideas. It allows people to connect more with themselves, whereby the journey is internal, and you help people understand what the real purpose is and meaning of this human form of life”, says Sankirtan Priya Das, service programme manager.
Situated at the Bhaktivedanta Manor in Watford, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the School of Bhakti ran a number of in-house courses and retreats. In response to the lockdown, the School launched its first virtual Easter retreat followed by a Bank Holiday May retreat ‘Adversity Through Fear’.
Its “Going Inside – connecting with the Supreme (Lord)” offered a variety of courses, digitally connecting from 20 countries and offering the opportunity to utilise the period of quarantine as a time to connect with self over the Easter period.
“We offered a variety of courses to ensure the retreat appealed to and was for everyone, not just for the congregation (Hare Krishna followers). Some were geared towards spirituality and the Hare Krishna teachings, and some towards generic type of offerings,” explains Sankirtan Priya Das.
General courses included workshops on how to grow your food, healthy eating, and Ayurveda – a 5,000-year-old system of natural medicine from India. These teachings are based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a balance between the mind, body, and spirit. With Covid-19, a global pandemic affecting the population in all aspects of their life, an ayurvedic approach can help to alleviate or hone the negative aspects of the mind as well as improve one’s physical wellbeing and immune system.
Adversity Through Fear
The ‘Adversity Through Fear’ retreat, which ran from May 8-10, consisted of a series of interactive workshops, focusing on providing spiritual solutions and conscious remedies for coping with Covid-19.
Harika Sharma, from the School of Bhakti, says: “The agenda for the School of Bhakti was very prudent, which was to bring a ray of light and optimism into the lives of people across the world. Our aim was to help individuals maintain their relationship with their faiths.
“To cultivate this mood and spirit we offered a variety of seminars offered by several different motivational speakers across the globe who spoke on the teachings from our Founder, Prabhupada and His personal experiences, tips and motivations in times of great adversity.”
The retreat also explored compelling stories from ancient scriptures like the ‘Srimad-Bhagavatam’ and the ‘Bhagavad Gita’, allowing participants to dwell deep into philosophy to find practical applications to global health and inspire faith in the midst of adversity.
“Our workshops encouraged individuals to work through easy simulations from activities to keep children engaged, cooking and online games to instil a new paradigm of preventive care and spiritual lifestyle. We focused on creating a universal platform for all individuals to come and find some merit in a variety of practices that are commonly celebrated in the Bhakti tradition” adds Harika.
Power of tech
Part of the package of quarantine is discovering how to navigate this time with family members around, whilst carrying out responsibilities and some time for ourselves. Tech portals such as Webex meetings and Webex events are effective tools that the School of Bhakti has been making use of in the lockdown.
Webex Events allows the user to schedule a programme, grouping related events together around a specific project.
Sankirtan Priya Das reflects: “For children we had a separate session running, which was in parallel to the retreat. Therefore, children are also engaged whilst parents participate in the retreat.”
Through utilising these cyberspaces, religious and spiritual practices provide not just the place to benefit from this knowledge and the know-how to apply these ancient teachings to our own lives but also deliver something special – a deep sense of community and connection with communities across the world.
by Preeti Bali
*Info on the School of Bhakti and its online courses, here
More from iGlobal’s FaithTech Series here