Urmila Devi Dasi, Illumination Education

“Soon after I became a disciple of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1973, I became interested in promoting a high quality of spiritual education for children, their parents, and teachers. For three decades I taught primary and secondary students, and longed to have learning resources with themes of vegetarianism, reincarnation, ecological living, and transcendental divine love of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. Finally, with the help of about 200 people worldwide from various disciplines, we produced the first world-class learn-to-read program with spiritual stories from the Vedic tradition. We have also produced a number of other spiritual educational books and dozens of articles on education, parenting, mantra meditation, and school administration. All these materials, many of them free, can be found here. Padma Inc has offices in the United States. I also travel internationally to promote kirtana in various media—song, discourses on sacred literature, drama, mediation, as well as seminars and workshops on self-improvement, education, and management from a spiritual perspective. I have been in the renounced order (vanaprastha) since 1996. My husband, Pratyatosa dasa, and I have three married children and fourteen grandchildren. You can download audio and video of classes and seminars here.”
—Urmila devi dasi, MSA, PhD (Dr. Edith Best)

My Favorite Projects at Govardhana and Radhakunda

“When I go to Vrndavana, I especially spend time at some of the sites we are cleaning and restoring. Some of my favorites are Manasapavanaghat, Caitanya Bhaitak, and Sakhi Kunda.
Manasapavanaghat is at Syama Kunda, very close to the sangram. In fact, when we go down the stairs to bathe, we can swim to the sangram, walk over it to Radha Kunda, take a dip, and then cross again to Syama Kunda to swim back to Manasapavanaghat. It is a relatively quiet place there, as not so many pilgrims come. It is bit off the parikrama path. The Pandavas are there as trees—at least my favorite Pandavas, Bhima and Arjuna, are visible there. Radharani and her friends bathe here at noon, and it is said that she offers the benediction of love of Krishna to whomever bathes here at that time. Yet, this spot is not part of her own kunda, but of Krishna’s kunda. At the top of the stairs, are the bhajana kutirs of Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura, Raghunatha dasa Goswami, and Krsnadasa Kaviraja. The later wrote the Caitanya Caritamrita here in consultation with Raghunatha dasa. So, the place is amazing on so many levels—connected with Krishna lila and the those of Lord Caitanya’s followers. At the bottom of the steps a person can be alone and yet see the pilgrims going to and from the sangram. I’ve been personally closely involved with the cleaning and renovation here for many years. It’s such a pleasure to sit on the benches on the top of the stairs, to see the new greenery and the beautiful walls where previously there was only rubble.”
—Urmila devi dasi 9/14/15

Caitanya Baitak is a well-visited place directly on the parikrama path. Almost all visitors to Radha Kunda come here, and it is not uncommon for groups to stop here for a discussion or some meditation. This place is at Syama Kunda, next to the area where Krishna plays various funny games with the cowherd girls at mid-day. Lord Caitanya sat near Radha and Syama Kunda on his visit to Vrindavana, and it was at this spot that Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura installed a carving representing Lord Caitanya’s footprints. There is a small altar and a structure surrounding those footprints, adorned with paintings of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes. This place is particularly important because it is mostly Lord Caitanya’s followers who have taught the world about Radha Kunda and Syama Kunda. How beautiful and well-kept Caitanya Baitak is directly reflects on the devotion of his followers and is crucial to spreading his message to the world. I feel very blessed to have personally worked on the restoration here, so that there are now benches, plants, and a general beautification of the walls. Certainly there is much more that could be done, and I believe should be done, so as to properly glorify Lord Caitanya here. It’s a good place to chant and meditate. As groups come here frequently, it’s also a good place to get a surprise visit from someone you know.

—Urmila devi dasi 10/20/15

It was so sad when walking on the parikrama path around Govardhana to pass Sakhi Kunda, also called Lilavati Kunda. Here is one of several places where Uddhava gave Krishna’s messages to the gopis. Here many gopis meet with Krishna to sport with him in his divine pastimes. The small kunda right next to the road was mostly a dumping ground for trash, although some local residents also did laundry there. Every time I walked or rode past, my heart would break. Finally we got a donor who was interested in a restoration. This would be our most ambitious restoration project as the kunda had to be drained, cleaned, walls re-done, and then filled. Additionally we would restore the surrounding area into a garden as we were doing in several other places in the area. The restoration took much longer than expected, and the results are very gratifying. Lilavati Kunda gives us an idea of what the whole area can look like—cleaned and beautiful—as our project here progresses.
—Urmila devi dasi 3/13/16

Urmila devi dasi's Learn to Read Project for poor and disadvantaged children