And the Oscar goes to….a Vaishnava animator was on the team that made the award- winning short animation
I’ve just completed my three days of teaching at the Bhaktivedanta College in Belgium. My students were all kind to me and stayed keen right to the end and seemed to find the subject genuinely interesting. I tried to make it all topical, relevant and fast-paced for a thoughtful and lively 18-25 group.
We did a role-play called “Not the Best Bhagavad-gita Study Group” in which all the eight participants exhibited ‘bad group member behaviour’ and the observers tried to guess what was going on, and how it might be corrected. As well as discussing styles of preaching, different modes of sanga, and helpful systems and structures, we also spent time on the contemporary issues in ISKCON that our members might find disappointing – and therefore an obstacle to our growth.
Many of the students are on a three-year course which will gain them a Bachelor of Theology degree from the University of Wales. Some ISKCON members have described this level of study and formal accreditation as a controversial innovation. They reason, quite rightly, that bhakti does not depend on prolonged study of comparative philosophy, Sanskrit, or university recognition.
While this is true, it is also true that Srila Prabhupada wanted us to challenge the contemporary philosophical worldviews, and was not opposed to devotees learning more in order to do that. Certainly some former students – all respectable and practising devotees – are using their new qualifications to communicate our messages to audiences they might never have met previously.
Speaking of bright young people and audiences, I learned this morning that one of our devotees over in Hungary was a main artist on the team that have just won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film (Foreign). Suzi Templeton and Hugh Welchman won the most coveted prize in the film industry for their British-Polish production of Peter and the Wolf.
A couple of summers ago, I remember Bhakta Kasha at the Manor. At that time he was trying to get a job with Ardman Animation, makers of Wallace and Gromit. A fellow animator from Hungary, his former student, was already there. He was unsuccessful but I told him that Krishna had given him a great gift – he’d shown me a few short films he’d made – and that he should keep trying and aim high. And keep on chanting. Now he is overwhelmed with job offers, so my hearty congratulations to him.
Devotees are talented people, and their friendliness, spirit of service, and offering of their work to Krishna all seem to help them get where they want to be. I have known many hundreds of Vaishnavas who regard their spiritual life not as a chance to opt out of society, but as a means to become more innovative and make an even greater contribution to society. To all our young students everywhere – good luck and Krishna’s blessings!