From the Jacket
"Those early days in Gita-Nagari were difficult for both me, as teacher, and my students. I was untrained and inexperienced, and I lacked teaching skills. Among my many vows of that period was to help train teachers so they would not need to learn as I was learning-the hard way, through trial and error. One result, therefore, of those early days of teaching is this book, The Art of Teaching."
Back of the Book
The Art of Teaching weaves together contemporary teaching strategies and the traditional Vedic system. The book includes more than 500 references from Srila Prabhupada's books, conversations, and letters, resulting in a volume of theoretical and practical information in harmony with Krsna consciousness.
The Art of Teaching will assist all who teach Krsna consciousness to others: academic and asrama teachers, parents, administrators, and preachers in general.
"If the children are given a Krsna conscious education from early childhood, then there is great hope for the future of the world."
"Srila Prabhupada was an ideal teacher
His life and accomplishments trace the success of a teacher-exemplar, a master of the principles and techniques of effective teaching."
This volume titled The Art of Teaching by Bhurijana dasa is firmly grounded in Krsna consciousness as formulated by Srila Prabhupada. In addition to the weightier and more studied speeches and writings, Bhurijana dasa draws on Srila Prabhupada's letters and conversations, which gives his rendition of Srila Prabhupada's thought a welcome immediacy and accessibility. The anecdotal and other narrative illustrations, drawn from sacred literature and living experience also make the book very readable.
Many renditions of ancient thought are encapsulated exclusively in the original contexts in which they were formulated. Sometimes, it has been difficult to relate such substance and form to queries arising from a modern world. It would appear that Bhurijana dasa was aware of such a quandary, for in imparting the art of teaching of traditional wisdom and spirituality he has also judiciously taken up knowledge, skills, and sensitivities articulated in more recent times. He has skillfully carried out an exercise in discrimination. What he has done has been to sift through modern thought relevant to teaching and he has extracted only those elements that are appropriate for the exposition of traditional thought. This welding of ancient ideals with modern techniques and skills, in The Art of Teaching, is a major contribution to making the techniques of teaching Krsna consciousness a science to be learned by Srila Prabhupada's followers.
For the general public with a spiritual orientation, this book also has an appeal. Modern books on education, at the very most, speak of the Educated Man as the ideal. One searches in vain for statements to the effect that education has also to do with wisdom or God consciousness; and if at all one comes across such a statement, the accompanying discussion usually attempts to prove that nothing is really different because Higher Consciousness-all this in the name of "being one with the other", a breaking down of boundaries. The end-result is often a degrading of all ideals. So, for the spiritually oriented reader, it is a breath of fresh air to encounter a book that shows how it is possible to grasp the best that the modern world can offer and harness it in the transmission of God consciousness, and, in this instance, of Krsna consciousness.
In essence this book argues that the best forms of teaching are through both precept and example. It is a message that lies close to my heart. The most effective teacher, I believe, is one who has a clear view of the ultimate purpose of life, which is supported by deep knowledge and understanding and is manifested in his personal and social life. Any serious contradiction between his or her beliefs and practice will render that person ineffective as an exemplar of the purported spirituality and wisdom. This does not mean that teachers are born perfect; it means that to be effective teachers need to strive for congruence of belief and personal habit. Unless we embody the values we propound, youthful minds will quickly sniff us out and instinctively recognize the contradictions in us. More seriously, our students will stop believing in us even before they formally recognize they are doing so. And that would be a tragedy. But if they sense that we, as teachers, are ourselves actively groping towards living out the values we are trying to impart to them, they will respect us and wish to emulate us, while forgiving us our minor transgressions. In addition, if we are warm towards our students, always helping them up when they stumble, they will unconsciously learn to trust us with good reason, even love us. It always impresses me to hear the disciples of Srila Prabhupada talking of him with deep warmth and love, and I conclude that theirs must be a reciprocal warmth, that they, in turn are radiating what they received form him. The taught part of the teaching experience supports that which is caught in the process of associating with the teachers and elders. Students do learn even when no formal teaching takes place, for they are unselfconsciously and constantly learning form the example of the teachers' and other elders' lives.
The book's strongest point, in a sense, is to be found in the numerous direct quotations of Srila Prabhupada used to show what he really was a great teacher. Prabhupada's followers will be delighted to see their guru using expert teaching techniques time and time again to convey the principle of Vedic knowledge. These give the book both life and spiritual potency. In addition, it is also pleasing to see that Bhurijana has reminded us of Srila Prabhupada's specific instructions on teaching by including quotes compiled by His Holiness Jagadisa Goswami in his now out-of-print book: Srila Prabhupada on Gurukula.
The Art of Teaching is versatile and practical. Theoretical points are given practical application. As Prabhupada reminds us, "everything should be practical." The contents of this book have already been tested in classes given in the Vaisnava Institute for Higher Education in Vrndavana. The success of these lesions along with their active use by the very teachers trained by Bhurijana, have led to the demand for this book to be published in its present form.
The book can serve a variety of devotees interested in teaching Krsna consciousness. Beginning teachers with little other resource on which to fall back will find guidance. Bhurijana was himself in such a situation, when I first met him. He so much wanted to spread the teachings of Srila Prabhupada to gurukula students but felt inadequate to the task because, he felt, he had not had adequate professional training as a teacher. When put into contact with friends of mine who were in teacher training, Bhurijana proved from the start a sensitive and discriminating student. He absorbed the best and most appropriate and left aside, without negativity, that which was not useful. In the many discussions I was privileged in having with him both in Melbourne, and in Vrndavana, Bhurijana's passionate commitment to his teacher, Srila Prabhupada, and his teachings, was a reminder to me of what the correct orientation of pupil to teacher should be. One cannot be good teacher who has not first learnt to be a good pupil.
For his warmth and the living example of his struggle to embody the values he esposes, I am both humbled and honored to be his friend: I admire his mind, but first I admire his big heart.
In May of 1976, Srila Prabhupada instructed me to work with gurukula. I arrived in August at Gita-Nagari, ISKCON's farm in Pennsylvania, for my first teaching assignment. Jagadisa met me at the Harrisburg airport, and it was late at night by the time we drove past the ISKCON Farm sign, turned right up the slight hill at the entrance to the property, and pulled into the gravel driveway of a newly constructed house. We entered the building walked through a passage-like hallway, and flicked on the light in a room that served both as academic classroom and gurukula asrama.
I immediately beheld a large, wood-walled, linoleum-floored room carpeted with the whimsical pattern of eight young bodies, half in and half out of their sleeping bags. As we entered, several boys turned over in their sleep. I moved to a window, appreciating Gita-Nagari's fresh country air and wondering, "What will my new service be like? Can I really teach gurukula?" But these questions, nourished by the fragrant and cool air, were cut by a practical thought: "It's late and we have to wake up early to care for the boys." I then took rest.
At about midnight, Siddha Baba, one of the boys, suddenly stood up straight and threw up all over the room. Jagadisa and I also awoke, comforted the boy, and cleaned up. The others slept on, oblivious.
The next morning I awoke, eager to begin, and especially curious to meet Premananda, an eight-year old boy who was the first male child born to ISKCON devotees. We woke the boys and directed them to bathe. I then noticed Premananda struggling to tie his dhoti. "You're not a baby. You can do it, Prem," I joked. Premananda burst into tears.
Later, during mangala-arati, I observed Jagadisa admonishing the boys, "Chant! Chant!" A chill went up my spine. "Must I do that? During mangala-arati?"
Ten days later, alone and caring for the boys myself, I found I was in fact admonishing the boys to chant during mangala-arati, but without the seasoned patience of Jagadisa. The following days, weeks, and months were filled with agony and ecstasy. The boys were sweet, rowdy, energetic, and independent-minded. I tried to focus my mind on Prabhupada's order for me to work with gurukula as well as his vision that young boys and girls, if trained properly in Krsna consciousness, could save both themselves and the world. As I attempted to train the boys, they, all experienced gurukula students, began my first teacher training course-mostly by showing me what would not work. Yet gradually, our schools asrama life and academics began to gel.
But those early days of teaching in Gita-Nagari were difficult for both me and the boys. (O early students, please forgive me! I was untrained, inexperienced, and lacked teaching skill!) Few in our Gita-Nagari community appreciated the austerities of the service: teaching the asrama skills, supervising the morning program, organizing and teaching academics (with no standard schedule, no curriculum, and no textbooks), crowded and austere living and teaching facilities, and the help of only my wife (who was also caring for our 18-month-old daughter).
Among my many vows of this period, one was to help train gurukula teachers so they would not need to learn as I was learning-through trial and error. One result, therefore, of those early days of teaching at Gita-Nagari is this book, compiled after ten years of teaching in gurukula, eighteen years of associating with gurukulas, ten casual and three intense years of academic research (a complete bibliography is included after the appendixes), three semesters of running teacher training courses in Vrndavana, and twenty-seven years of practicing and teaching Krsna consciousness. In addition, I've spent considerable time observing and discussing teaching with patient and dedicated devotee and nondevotee teachers (my two sisters are both teachers-it's in my blood-and they were among the patient and the dedicated who helped). I also met with professors of teacher training at Colu7mbia University in New York, the University of London ("The trouble with you Americans is that you wish to convert everything into a scientific equation. Teaching isn't reducible in that fashion. It simply is effective communication between two individuals"), and especially in LaTrobe University in Melbourne.
The principles described in The Art of Teaching are widely applicable. After examining Srila Prabhupada's conversation transcripts as well as his books, such as Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta, I found ample examples of Prabhupada himself using these principles while instructing and training. I have therefore included many quotes from Srila Prabhupada to illustrate teaching principles and techniques. The inclusion of these quotes adds both spiritual potency and Sastric validity to The Art of Teaching.
Our hope is that The Art of Teaching will thus prove helpful for aspiring, new and experienced academic and asrama teachers. In addition, parents, temple administrators, and preachers will discover useful principles.
No book, including The Art of Teaching, will magically solve all the problems that confront teachers, especially new teachers. Teachers must still struggle through success and failure to gain experience and earn their expertise. We hope The Art of Teaching will add a fragrant and favorable breeze to shorten and lighten that journey.
Years ago, Indian passports included a space for the passport holder’s occupation. Therein, Srila Prabhupada noted his own occupation as Teacher. we followers of Srila Prabhupada, whether in the classroom, at home, on the streets distributing books, in the office managing temple, or even working privately as a businessman, aspire to follow Srila Prabhupada as teachers of Krsna consciousness. The Art of Teaching, therefore, is written in one sense directly to teachers and parents, yet, in an-other sense, it offers advice on teaching to all members of our Society.
Each of the five sections of The Art of Teaching can be read independently. Yet, our recommendation is that you read this book sequentially, in its entirety, and then refer back to specific sections as you find the need. Gurukula teachers and parents should find all sections relevant; other devotees-managers, preachers, etc.-may choose sections to read that are specifically related to their services.
The essential principle of Krsna Conscious teaching is the teacher’s Krsna consciousness. Teaching, therefore, is preaching-by words and ultimately by example. We establish this priority in the first chapter entitled, “Teaching By Example.”
Without discipline there is no question of being a disciple, and with-out fully accepting the position of disciple, there is no question of becoming Krsna conscious. Chapter 2, “Introduction to the Art of Discipline,” describes the three critical ingredients needed for maintaining proper discipline: qualified teachers, qualified parents, and a supportive culture. This chapter also provides an overview of Krsna conscious discipline by presenting a collection of quotes from Srila Prabhupada.
Chapter3 explains six management principles for teachers. As management in Krsna’s service is spiritual, not material, teachers should master these management principles to maximize the effectiveness of their teaching.
In chapter 4, “Clarifying the Goal of Krsna Conscious Training,” we discuss the goal of gurukula: that our children choose to serve Krsna. We include here an analysis of a child’s psychology at different stages of his development. We also present teachers with principles to help them discriminate between which factors of the child’s development are, and are not, within their control. The chapter concludes with a discussion on balancing structure and freedom in Krsna conscious education.
In chapter 5 we explore the three modes of material nature. Our dealings with students, specifically the methods of discipline we use, reveal much about which modes we are influenced by.
Acknowledging the goal of gurukula, as we did in chapter 4, we begin chapter 6 with the premise that a teacher’s duty is to help his students achieve self-discipline. Here, we begin our shift from theory to practice. We hear about keeping order in the classroom and giving effective instructions. We then begin our discussion on using consequences-what happens as a result of students choosing to follow or not follow given instructions.
We further explore consequences in chapter 7 by discussing the consciousness that makes our use of consequences effective or ineffective. We also stress the need to continuously evaluate their effects. This chapter concludes with a compendium of many effective consequences.
Lest our discussion on discipline and consequences leads one to believe that an effective school atmosphere must be negative or oppressive, chapter 8 examines the use of positive reinforcement in creating a healthy, encouraging atmosphere for learning.
Despite our best efforts to create the right atmosphere, there will inevitably be problems. Therefore, chapter 9 examines three points: Kali’s effect on educational systems, the need for Vaisnava etiquette; and types of difficult students and ideas on how to help them.
Chapter 10 concludes the discussion on discipline with a “Discipline Sutra”: Individual personality + mercy - pride = confidence + humility. We then discuss in detail how teachers can help their students achieve the delicate balance between humility and self-confidence. If we help them succeed in this, we have done a great service.
Part II, “Learning Theory”, could also be titled: “How Knowledge Is Acquired.” Chapter 11 analyzes the function of the senses, mind, and intelligence in learning. Both Srimad-Bhagavatam and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thaknra provide us with valuable insights into the theory of how we learn. We end the chapter by practically applying this knowledge to teaching.
Chapter 12 explains two keys to increased memory: celibacy and the proper presentation of materials. Teaching relevant materials with review, repetition, and order will help students recall what they have been taught.
Since learning is the goal of teaching, teachers must first plan what they want their students to learn. Then they can decide how to teach it. Therefore, Part III is entitled “Principles of Structured Learning.”
Chapter 13 details the five aspects of a lesson plan: lesson objectives, materials, preparation, procedures, and evaluation.
Chapter 14 explores objectives, both long-range educational objectives and one-lesson instructional goals. Writing effective objectives can be tricky, but it is crucial.
Once our teaching objectives are clear, a teacher begins proceeding towards the goal-the subject of chapter 15. This chapter discusses specific methods to accomplish a teaching objective: lecturing, role playing, and a variety of learning activities such as debate, small group work, and tutoring.
Chapter 16 focuses on lecturing. Here we learn how to begin and end lectures effectively. We also discuss “teacher-liveliness”-techniques to keep students attentive during a lecture.
Chapter 17 demonstrates the importance of example, analogies, and stories, all of which Srila Prabhupada used extensively in his own teaching.
Although discussion could have been included in Part III as a method of instructing, we have devoted an entire section to this topic. Acquiring Vedic knowledge is generally equated with hearing from authority, but Srila Prabhupada used discussion to train his disciples during his morning walks and room conversations. He also wanted the GBC to make decisions by joint discussion.
Chapter 18 defines discussion, and examines the many advantages to using it.
Chapter 19 explains the essential elements of discussion: choosing topics, beginning, controlling and monitoring, questioning, responding to answers, and ending.
Chapter 20 covers the elements of a good question. Questions should be clear, purposeful, naturally spoken, brief, and thought-provoking. The chapter ends by describing the four kinds of questions used when leading a discussion.
Chapter 2l takes question from the context of discussion and divides them into two general categories: lower- and higher-order cognitive questions. Higher-order cognitive questions test more than rote memorization; they probe a student’s actual understanding and push him to deepen that understanding.
Part V examines another role of the teacher: a concerned well-wisher and counselor of the student.
Sometimes a teacher has to be an assertive disciplinarian and some-times a concerned listener. Chapter 22 gives us guidelines to discern when to play each role. This chapter also deals with a difficult question: must we, as concerned teachers, feel anxious over a student’s problem which is beyond our power to change? We discuss acknowledging our limitations, especially when dealing with unsurrendered students. We also discuss stances we can take to help our students make progress.
Too often we give advice to troubled students before understanding the nature of their problems. Chapter 23 explains the need to first listen and then counsel. This chapter provides details on improving listening skills and creating a favorable atmosphere for open discussion and problem solving.
To complete The Art of Teaching, I have compiled seven appendixes :
In appendix I, “Srila Prabhupada’s Quotes on Gurukula,” you will find quotes from Srila Prabhupada’s books, conversations, and letters that were originally compiled by His Holiness Jagadisa Goswami.
Appendix II, “Preaching is the Essence,” describes the need for teachers to preach to their students by carefully studying and explaining the sastra. Included are many sample quotes from Srila Prabhupada’s books, useful for both spiritual and academic teaching.
“Elevation to Goodness.” appendix III, is an essay written about the relationship between cultivating the mode of goodness and teaching Krsna consciousness.
Appendix IV, “Becoming Gurus for Our Children,” requests those who train students-whether as parents or teachers-to view their responsibility as on par with guruship.
Appendix V explains the need for developing an asrama curriculum. Included is a sample curriculum I developed while teaching at Gita-nagari.
Appendix VI contains study questions for each chapter in this book. We have included these to help the reader comprehend and retain the lessons as well as to serve those using this to train their teachers.
Finally, appendix VII provides basic information we all should know about protecting our children from abuse.
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