We are delighted to introduce you to our “Bhakti Steps” program that will help you to progress progressively and naturally in Bhakti Yoga. You will recognize two aspects of the practice: the chanting of the Hare Krishna Mahamantra and personal development. For this, we offer you a complete program of courses and personalized accompaniment.
Chanting helps to transform and develop our character to a transcendent level. This can be compared to gardening. If we plant seeds in soil that is not fertile, they can grow, yet they will struggle and fight with weeds for nourishment. However, when the weeds are removed and the soil is fertile, the seeds will grow much faster. So the seed of bhakti grows much faster in fertile soil of good character, at the same time as the growing Bhakti vine uproots various weeds, which are identified as bad habits and negative qualities, in its path. Self-development is aided by ethical guidelines, also known in the yoga world as yamas and niyamas (rules and regulations).
BENEFITS OF COMMITMENT
Why is commitment important? In any discipline of life, to achieve success, a strong commitment is required. The same is true in Bhakti yoga. Pure love is a lofty goal, yet achievable when done with dedication. However, it requires responsibility and a sense of duty. Chanting is like taking a shower, which is a commitment to our physical cleanliness; if we neglect to shower daily, we become dirty and smelly. So chanting keeps us internally clean and helps us to rise to higher and higher levels of consciousness, thus improving day by day.
STEPS OF BHAKTI
This program has five certified levels. Each level covers progress in Mahamantra chanting and character cultivation, helping us to develop qualities very beneficial to our spiritual growth. The Vratas (Vows of Commitment) are those tools that will be our companions in our gradual advancement; they are allies in progress.
Everyone joining the Chant Now community begins at the level of Bhakti Explorer. There are no requirements for this level but it is automatically awarded on registering as a community member.
From this stage we invite you to join our progressive bhakti training program - Bhakti Steps described here.
As a Bhakti Explorer you will gain points for your participation in the site. These points will add up to various recognition awards to help motivate you on your path of bhakti.
Sraddhavan is the first of the Bhakti Steps levels, but it is a momentous step in your spiritual life. This step indicates you have reached a level of internal faith that motivates you to pursue bhakti in a systematic way. To enter this level there are some minimal standards and requirements listed below:
- 1 round of Mahamantra japa every day (preferably in the mornings).
- Self-knowledge - the spiritual soul
- 7 day Chanting Workshop
- Reading Bhakti literature.
- "Journey to Self-Knowledge"
- "Hare Krishna, the mantra, the movement and the Swami who started it all".
- Attend at least 4 Explorer group meetings
- Enroll in a Sraddhavan Group
- Enroll as a Chant Now Seva Member with a contribution. You may also obtain Seva Membership through the Seva Points system
- Have at least one personal coaching session with your chosen coach
Gaura Sevak is the next level in Bhakti Steps. In this stage you will have come to a point where your experience in bhakti and your study of bhakti philosophy has convinced you to personally commit to the path of Krishna consciousness under the guidance of Srila Prabhupada. In other words you want to be a bhakti-yogi
To progress to this level, you simply increase your devotional practices and adopt at least the most essential of the regulative principles of bhakti yoga. You are also required to take some additional courses and attend a minimum number of meetings as described here.
- 4 rounds of japa mala every day (preferably in the mornings).
- Ahimsa - non-violence – no eating meat, eggs and fish.
- Pana – Abstaining from drugs and alcohol
- Introduction to the Vedas
- Mantra meditation – Wisdom and Practice
- Your Chanting Sadhana
- Reading Bhakti literature.
- Two small books from the recommended list
- Attend at least 4 Sraddhavan group meetings
- Enroll in a Gaura Sevak Group
- Enroll in a volunteering program under the guidance of your Bhakti Steps coach
- Complete the course Curso de los vedas 1 time
- Complete the course Curso del karma 1 time
- Submit Introducing Yourself 1 time
- Earn 20 Meetings attended
- Publish an activity post on Bhakti Steps – Nivel Uno group 1 time
As you progress in Bhakti Yoga you will come to a point where you are ready to fully dedicate yourself to the path of Krishna consciousness and the core sadhana (practices) recommended for all committed sadhakas.
- At least 8 rounds of japa mala every day (Preferably in the mornings).
- Santosa: no gambling
- Eating only food first offered to Krishna
- Observance of the ekadasi vow
- The Bhagavad Gita As It Is
- The Science of Self-Realization
- Nectar of Instruction
- Bhagavad Gita – Directed Reading
- Sadhana course
- Growing Bhakti Course
- Attend at least 4 Gaura Sevak meetings
- Enroll in a Gaura Sadhak Group
- Set up a home altar
- Learn how to perform a basic arati ritual and incorporate this into your daily practice
- Learn the prayers and songs used for offering food, and performing other rituals
- [All of this is taught in the Sadhana course]
- Increase volunteer service with guidance from your Bhakti Steps coach
- Submit Introducing Yourself 1 time
- Complete the course Bhagavad-Gita: A Directed Reading Guide. 1 time
- Publish an activity post on Bhakti Steps - Nivel Uno group 1 time
After practicing at the level of a Gaura Sadhaka for some time the experience of bhakti and the study of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings will inspire you to fully adopt the practices and commitments of a dedicated shiksa (student) disciple of Srila Prabhupada and commit your life to this path. At this point once coming to the standards listed here you have entered the stage of full shelter of Srila Prabhupada as your shiksha guru. This stage is called Srila Prabhupada Ashraya
- To be dedicated to taking divine shelter of Srila Prabhupada by following the principles of Krishna Consciousness.
- To practice Krishna Consciousness with strong conviction.
- To chant a minimum of sixteen rounds of the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra every day.
- To strictly refrain from meat eating (including fish, egg, onion and garlic), intoxication (including coffee and tea), gambling, illicit sex and activities detrimental to progress in devotional service
- To be familiar in the basics of Krishna conscious philosophy by reading the books of Srila Prabhupada systematically and is actively engaged in sharing Krishna Conscious principles (according to his/her capacity) to others
- To do some responsible service (however simple it may be), on a regular basis.
- To rise early in the morning and follow a program similar to the temple as far as possible.
- To attend at least one Srimad Bhagavatam/Srimad Bhagavad-Gita class every week.
- 12 rounds
- Read Big Books
- Principle of Non-Violence Ahimsa, No Encouragement, No Unlawful Relationships, No Gambling
- Course: sadhana bhakti
- Take prasad and follow the ekadasis
- Altar Photos & Minimal Worship
- At least 16 rounds of japa mala every day (Preferably in the mornings).
- In addition to drugs and alcohol, to abstain from all forms of stimulants including caffeine (coffee, tea etc.), and nicotine (tobacco, vaping, etc.)
- Srimad Bhagavatam – 1st canto
- Sri Isopanisad
- Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita
- Growing Bhakti Course – Level 2
- Attend at least 4 Gaura Sadhaka meetings
- Enroll in a Prabhupadanuga Group
- Attend Srimad Bhagavatam class at least once a week
- Rise early and perform a daily morning program including some participation in arati or puja
- Regularly engage in responsible service in sharing bhakti with others
To complete one’s entrance into the lifetime of bhakti yoga, one requires a formal link to the sampradaya and to come under the full shelter of an advanced devotee by accepting diksa (Vaishnava initiation) along with the vows of a disciple. The beginning of this process is to prepare yourself for initiation by going deeply into the philosophy and principles of guru disciple relationships. This then prepares you to identify a devotee with whom you desire such an eternal spiritual relationship and begin the process of developing that relationship.
The Bhakti steps program Includes courses and personal coaching to help you reach the level of being qualified for receiving initiation once you have established your chosen guru relationship.
After this it is is a highly personal process and may take many months or even many years until you feel you’ve come to the confidence of accepting another devotee as your Initiating guru.
The core requirement to enter this level is to have practiced at the level of Srila Prabhupada Asraya for at least 6 months. Other requirements are:
- ISKCON Guru Disciple Course
- Pass the Diksa Adhikara Examination
- Receive recommendation letter from the relevant ISKCON authority
Completing this level is not initiation itself but simply the prerequisite qualifications for accepting initiation in ISKCON.