EVALUATION OF ISKCON SASTRIC STUDIES
(rev. 2019 January 13)
With years of dialog and practical experience, among many members of ISKCON in various positions, we are making the following suggestions for standards and techniques of evaluation of candidates for the Bhakti-vaibhava and other ISKCON diplomas. We feel that this may be a step in the right direction but it is a continuous program of adjustment and improvement.
1. Our eternal relationship with God can be revived in the human form of life, and that should be the goal of education. Indeed, that is the perfection of life and the perfection of education. https://www.vedabase.com/en/sb/7/6/2
2. The BOEX, Ministry of Education, should be able to certify the character development by at least 20% and maybe 100% if its members have the chance to associate deeply with the candidates. Otherwise the Board will have to develop practical techniques for acquiring information from others such as Temple Presidents and senior devotees.
To this end we should obtain the standards and techniques used by the Ministry of Sannyasa Services in evaluating candidates since Srila Prabhupada indicated the Bhakti-vaibhava (BhV) diploma as being for Sannyasis.
3. Students might graduate Cum Laude, Summa Cum Laude or Magnum Cum Laude, and optional lines should be developed by Varna Ashrama situation eg. Ladies, Gents, Brahmanas, Ksatriyas. Some may be good at Slokas others at essays and others at songs.
4. In the matter of direct Sastric knowledge we would suggest that:
a. Evaluation should be done by globally standard semester divisions eg. BhV might be grouped into four years or eight semesters. The students would have to be registered with the BOEX at the start of each Semester with their name, e-mail contact, and local contact person. Passing the Semester evaluation would then be centrally recorded and if they complete all eight Semesters within (?) 8-years then they receive the glorious diploma!!
b. All related ISKCON BhV centers et al should develop and continually improve a common Question Bank of several hundred good, interesting, short-answer, questions on Cantos One – Six. Of course, these would be grouped by Semester and could be weighted from 1-5 points in terms of their importance. Semester tests could be selected from this Bank and anyone who can answer the questions without taking a BhV registered course would be quite a Venerable Dude.
c. Three Open Book Short Essay Questions from maybe seven alternatives could be presented and the candidate could use all personal notes, indices etc. with full access to all of Srila Prabhupada’s literature. Of course this would be a timed evaluation of maybe 30-minute.
d. Essays written at the candidates leisure but then presented in a discussion forum where they would have to defend or enhance their presentation.
e. Sloka Memorization should include texts used by the Acharyas from the first six cantos of the Bhagavatam, but should also include relevant texts cited in the purports even if not in the text of the Bhagavatam itself eg. Candidates for Bhakti-sastri should know nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām even though it is not mentioned in the texts of the BhS syllabus.
The total number of Slokas may not be so high.
The candidates for BhV should be re-evaluated on verses from the BhSastri syllabus. This of course would be related to training the students how to develop techniques to refresh and deepen their memorization of relevant texts.
Daily and Annual songs and prayers can be included in the evaluation eg. For first initiation one should be able to follow the full morning program. For second initiation and BhS one should be able to lead it from memory and for BhVai one should know the word for word meanings to good extent. Testing could be offered for festival material such as Dasa-avatara-stotra, Radha-stava and Mangala-arcana.
Candidates should select some texts for their own memorization and then be tested eg. One may like to memorize the prayers by Queen Kunti in Canto One and another by Hanuman in the Fifth Canto.
f. Relevant texts can be included eg. Nectar of Devotion Southern Division, Waves of Devotion, Surrender Unto Me.
Thank you for your attention and consideration and please contact us with comments, complaints, questions and donations.
Anjana Suta Academy