On a warm Sunday morning, in a city bereft of people who are away to enjoy a long weekend, a stream of devotees in Vaishnava attire trickle out of a small building in a quiet Wellington suburb, carefully hugging their books. Their faces are lit with serene contentment as one more part of their existence is explained, one more aspect of their life given meaning and purpose. The devotee congregation in the ISKCON temple at Wellington, New Zealand is small, but tightly woven. The quaint single story building adorned with floral beauty is home to the deities of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai. It also serves as the primary venue for the Bhakti Sastri classes. Around forty devotees are taking the next step in their spiritual growth through an in-depth study of the Bhagavad Gita, Isopanisad, the Nectar of Instruction and the Nectar of Devotion. They eagerly digest the scriptural knowledge from Srila Prabhupada’s books, clearing any doubts they have towards the goal of applying it in their lives.
With the blessings of H.H. Ramai Swami Maharaj and H.H. Devamrita Swami Maharaj, ISKCON Wellington undertakes several programs such as the Journey of Self Discovery (JOSD), Bhakti Vriksha, Balvikas and Sunday feast. These programs attract nearly a hundred devotees to meet for congregational activities regularly. The need to address the interest shown by a growing group of avid devotees led to the centre being certified by the ISKCON Board of Examinations to conduct the Bhakti Sastri course in Wellington. Speaking on the importance of the Bhakti Shastri course in the development of devotees, temple president H.G. Jagjeevan Das said, “Not only does it provide a practical approach for dealing with problems in our material conception of life, it also builds a strong spiritual foundation to cement our higher goal to develop love for Krishna.”
H.G. Praneshwar Das from ISKCON Indore (previously with ISKCON Juhu) is the lead teacher for the Bhakti Sastri course. He has graciously agreed to conduct an intensive three week session to take the devotees through the Nectar of Instruction during his visit to Wellington. The tutelage for the remaining course modules is addressed by H.G. Ambarish Maharaj Das and H.G. Anang Manjari Devi Dasi. It has taken their unwavering determination and over two years of dedicated and meaningful association through programs like JOSD and Bhakti Vriksha, to attract more than fifty new souls to Krishna Consciousness.
The wheels of ISKCON Wellington continue to turn in the service of Lord Govinda and sow the seeds of devotion, thanks to the prodigious effort of committed temple devotees. This journey has now advanced to Bhakti Sastri under the inspiring teachings of Srila Prabhupada to carry out his wish for devotees to undertake a scrutinizing study of the scriptures, for the purpose of advancing in Krishna Consciousness.