ISKCON’s Bhakti Yoga Society (BYS) operates on campuses at some of the most prestigious universities in South Africa and is program dovetailed for university students. This year the society was awarded the accolade for the Most Outstanding Student Society for 2014 at the University of Witwatersrand (WITS), one of Africa’s leading universities at a sepcial event earlier this month.
The award was handed over to the BYS Chairperson – Jyotika Heerabhai by the University’s Vice Chancellor Prof. Adam Habib alongside prominent public figure Advocate Thuli Madonsela who holds the office of Public Protector in South Africa. She was gifted a Bhagavad Gita As It Is.
This is the second time in four years ISKCON’s BYS has received the award, as the society was the winner of the inaugaral award in 2011. With firmly fixed and excellent leadership taking WITS BYS forward we have every hope and ambition to continue to be seen as a significant contributor to this prestigious academic institutiion.
The idea of establishing a BYS at the University of Witwatersrand was initiated by Srila Prabhupada who gave a lecture at the University’s famous ‘Great Hall’ in 1975. The devotees later on established a student society which has been active for many years.
The BYS through dynamic programs focuses on helping students tackle the typical problems and obstacles they are confronted with, and attempts to develop the spiritual character of the members by introducing many new concepts which include reincarnation, karma, sense control and practical yoga. Using the ancient Vedic scriptures as a reference point, the society attempts to establish a spiritual foundation for interested students. The Vedic texts emphasize the differences between the body and the soul, and this is the focal point behind all the societies’ meetings, workshops and activities.
Many students confess how they had initially been very skeptical, yet how they had evolved had now become so much more satisfied in their lives by engaging in this all-inspiring mantra meditation. Other students showed great appreciation for the Bhagavad-Gita As it is, and explained how its transcendental words had changed their lives.
BYS is open for all students to register as members for a nominal fee. As a member students gain access to the world of body, mind and spiritual rejuvenation. This year BYS has over 250 registered students at WITS University alone. Students are welcomed into the enlivening array of:
- A-year-long hatha yoga class twice a week
- Morning mantra meditation sessions three times a week
- Monthly kirtan programs
Keynote addresses on Krishna conscious philosophy – Some of our distinguished keynote speakers during the year included His Holiness (HH) Bhakti Caitanya Swami, HH Bhakti Vasudeva Swami, HH Bhakti Narasimha Swami, His Grace (HG) Nanda Kumar Prabhu and HG Lalitanatha Prabhu.
In addition, BYS exposes students to vegetarian cuisine, engages in vibrant and lively kirtans on campus and has a Vedic library in the tranquil ‘yoga lounge’ for students to take advantage of Vedic wisdom.
One of the major ways of creating a lasting impression and a commitment to bhakti-yoga for students is by hosting retreats. This year BYS had 2 major retreats – one at ISKCON Sandton, Johannesburg (the home-base of the BYS), which was organised by WITS and had HH Devamrita Swami as the main facilitator. The second retreat was a national initiative with students from all over the country congregating at ISKCON South Africa’s flasgship Sri Sri Radha Radhanath Temple in Durban.