Birthplace: Kotakot, Nepal
Years at gurukula: 6
On gurukula: "In other schools I went to in Nepal, the pupils did not respect their teachers. Nor did the teachers deserve respect; they were all just smokers and drinkers.
"People back home say, 'Why are you becoming a devotee at such a young age?' I just reply that the Srimad-Bhagavatam says,
kaumara acaret prajno
dharman bhagavatan iha
durlabham manusam janma
tad apy adhruvam arthadam
"You should practice this spiritual life from a young age. If you wait, you'll never practice, and you'll never remember Krsna. You could end up in a hellish existence in the next life. Not for me! I have the opportunity to serve Krsna now, so I should take advantage."
On the asrama (boys' residence): "Sure, there are some problems living with so many other boys, but that's half the fun: one minute you're laughing, then teasing, then fighting, then laughing again. I feel that time passes so easily here."
On Vrndavana: "Vrndavana is a very holy place. If ever you forget Krsna, someone will say to you, 'Radhe! Radhe!' In this way we're always remembering Krsna. We see peacocks everywhere, or the Yamuna, or the forests of Vrndavana. Wherever we go we hear, 'Krsna did this here, Krsna did that there.' It helps us a lot."
On the future: "I'm very interested in Ayurvedic medicine. I'd like to learn it and help the devotees with their health problems. On Sundays an Ayurvedic doctor comes, so instead of going off to play with the other boys, I like to go and help the doctor and gradually learn. It may take a long time. We'll see what Krsna's plan is."
Birthplace: Perth, Australia
Years at this gurukula: 3
On gurukula: "It wasn't easy to begin with. It was a different atmosphere, a new country, and new people. I got boils. I wrote letters to my parents saying that I wanted to go home. But my parents were firm in their decision. They knew what was best for me. I'm glad they did because now I have friends and my body has adapted to living in India.
"The best thing in the gurukula is learning Sanskrit. I want to know Sanskrit so that I can read lots of books. If you know Sanskrit you can teach with Sanskrit verses and understand the meaning.
Birthplace: Ridi, Nepal
Years at gurukula: 4
On gurukula: "We really learn a lot here. At other schools we learned nothing. What I learned up to grade 7 in Nepal wouldn't even get me into grade one here."
On the future: "My parents want me to be here, and I'm very happy to be here, so I'll keep on studying and do some service."
On chanting: "During my first year here I would chant eight to ten rounds of japa daily. In the second year I chanted twelve rounds, and this year every day I chant sixteen rounds sometimes forty or more on special holy days. I find that if you make a decision to start to chant you'll find the time to chant. If you're too lazy, even if you have one hour you'll just sit there, and you won't even finish one round."
Favorite activities: "Since I've been here at the gurukula, I've learned five chapters of the Bhagavad-gita by heart. I'm in charge of a group of boys, so whatever I learn I teach them. At my other school it would never have been possible for me to teach the other students. But these boys are devotees; they can control themselves. I like this system of learning and teaching."
On Vrndavana: "Vrndavana is a special place. Krsna appeared here; Krsna did many pastimes here; Krsna stays here; He never leaves here; it's Krsna's place. If the gurukula were in a big city, it would be harder for us to do our sadhana [spiritual practices] and remain brahmacaris. In Vrndavana it's easier for us; Vrndavana is a quiet place, and it's customary to worship Radha and Krsna here. Everywhere in Vrndavana people worship Radha and Krsna. If the ricksha driver doesn't have a bell he'll say, 'Radhe! Radhe!' "
Birthplace: Wabdif, Bulgaria.
Years at this gurukula: 4
On gurukula: "The good thing about gurukula is that while you learn, you remember Krsna. In English class you write about Krsna; in Hindi you learn bhajanas [devotional songs], in Sanskrit you learn the grammar with Krsna's names. You learn and enjoy at the same time."
On chanting: "About three years ago when I was in Bulgaria, my Guru Maharaja came and initiated some devotees. At the ceremony he explained that to be initiated you have to chant sixteen rounds of japa daily and give up meat-eating, intoxication, gambling, and illicit sex. So from that day I started following strictly. If ever I couldn't chant all my rounds in one day, the next day I would chant extra to make up for it."
On Vrndavana: "Vrndavana is the best place to practice Krsna consciousness. Radha and Krsna never leave Vrndavana. It's much easier to chant your rounds in Vrndavana. It's much easier to concentrate than in the West."
On the future: "I'd like to stay at the gurukula as long as possible. I'd like to follow the adult education courses here, too. I'd also like to help spread Krsna consciousness in Bulgaria. It's possible to preach in Bulgaria now. Before the government used to kill the devotees, but now it's O.K."
Birthplace: Ittawa (near Agra), U.P., India
Years at the gurukula: 5
On gurukula: "The teachers I had in other schools were really rough. They beat the boys. Teaching was just a job for them. They didn't really want the children to develop. They just taught and went home. Our gurukula is just like a family. There's no real fighting, the teachers like you, they give you sweets, they teach you nicely. When I first came I couldn't speak English, so it was quite hard, but the other boys helped me a lot."
On the good times: "Traveling around India with the gurukula is fun. Last year we went to Gujarat. We did a lot of preaching. We visited so many places even the zoo. We did theater and visited life members' houses. The prasadam was really good. We sold many books. It was a great time."
On Vrndavana: "Vrndavana is the best place in the world. Time just flies past. A semester passes like just a month. Life is so orderly."
On celibate life: "In Vrndavana we don't even think of girls. There are no girls here. And the other boys in the gurukula don't even talk about girls. We're talking all day about our classes, about the Bhagavad-gita, or about the kirtana. It's not that we're afraid of women; we talk if we have to. But we have heard from our teachers that the material body is not important just a bag of flesh. We know."
On the future: "I'd like to teach Krsna consciousness. By Srila Prabhupada's mercy I hope to be able to. I have seen videos of preaching all over the world. It's a huge world and we really need more preachers."
Birthplace: Gujurat, India
Years at the gurukula: 8
On gurukula: "In other schools they don't teach spiritual life. They don't teach Bhagavad-gita or how to rise early. They only teach material subjects. Although material knowledge is important it's not the main thing in life."
On Vrndavana: "Vrndavana is a very peaceful place. It's an ideal place for study. You can remember Krsna very easily here; He did all His pastimes here. One of the five principal activities of bhakti-yoga is to live in a holy place. So Vrndavana is the best place."
On the future: "I'd like to continue studying Sanskrit. I'd also like to help in the preaching. But the future is in Krsna's hands it all depends on what He wants."
Birthplace: Adelaide, Australia
Years in this gurukula: 4
On gurukula: "When I first started going to state school, I hated it. I complained to my parents, and they put me in gurukula in Australia and moved into the asrama themselves. When I first came to gurukula in Vrndavana, I found it very difficult. I was expecting India to be just like Australia, but I got a big surprise: life was simpler, and the school was stricter. I missed my parents and thought about going home. Then I started to make friends and appreciate the full education I was receiving. I've been here four years now, and I think it's the best school in the world. Now when I go back home I get bored; there's nothing to learn and just my little sister to play with.
"I came here because my father asked me to. I understand now that he cared for me and wanted me to get a full spiritual education. Also, I want to be trained properly so that when I grow up I can travel and preach with Indradyumna Swami."
On chanting: "I've been chanting sixteen rounds of japa every day for the last year and a half. In the future I'd like to get initiated. Maybe when I grow up I'll be busy doing so many things, but I think I'll always find time to chant my rounds. My father often has to work all day, but he always chants his rounds. So I think I'll also be able to."
Birthplace: Split, Yugoslavia
Years at gurukula: 3
On gurukula: "We're busy from morning to night. There's no time for day-dreaming, so we don't lament and think about our families. I know from experience what happens: the boys carry on and cry at first, but afterwards they make friends, and in the end they don't want to leave here. We're lucky to be living with so many Krsna conscious boys of our own age."
On language: "Although I had studied English in Yugoslavia for two years, I still couldn't speak a word when I arrived here. Because everyone here always speaks English, I learned really quickly. My mother taught me Japanese when I was young. Of course, I can speak Yugoslavian. I'm also learning Sanskrit and Hindi. Soon I'll be able to preach in so many different places."
On chanting: "I've been chanting sixteen rounds of japa every day for the last few years. For a beginner, being regular may be difficult, but when you make chanting a part of your daily program, it becomes a duty. A duty means you have to do it. If I didn't chant, my Guru Maharaja would be unhappy, so I just do it."
On the future: "There's no doubt about the future for me. I know I am going to preach, that's all. That's why I'm studying here: to get trained up to preach."
Years at the gurukula: 5
On gurukula: "When I first came here I was real young. I was crying so much. But the boys and teachers were really kind to me, and I soon settled in. I like living with so many boys. We just play and mess around all day. The boys here aren't rough; they never use bad words and they're never rude to the teachers."
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas
Years at this gurukula: 3
On gurukula: "I spent two months at an ordinary school in New York. I hated it. The boys were rough; they beat me up. I like this gurukula. I always say that to have a good gurukula you need good boys and you need to be strict. It can't be too free; otherwise the boys go bad. Boys need to learn discipline. I like it when there's a regulated timetable of things to do all day. It's not good to be idle or to waste time."
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Years at this gurukula: 2
On gurukula: "I had been to Vrndavana before and I had seen the gurukula boys dancing and chanting in the temple. They looked happy. When I found out that my two best friends in America were coming here to stay, I thought, 'If they leave, what will I do?' So my parents and I decided I'd come here too.
"In gurukula you have so many good friends. Life would be so bad if you had to be alone. You need to have friends. The best friends are devotee friends because they can really help you; they help you to become Krsna conscious."
Birthplace: Melbourne, Australia
Years at this gurukula: 3
On gurukula: "My mother's Guru Maharaja asked her to send me here. I was six. My mother brought me here, but she only stayed a few days. When she left I only cried once, because Krsna helped me. I had a dream: Krsna came to me and told me not to worry. He told me to chant Hare Krsna and that He would protect me. So I chanted, and Krsna protected me.
"When I'm in Vrndavana I have so many friends. We play together, we chant and dance together, we go to the Yamuna River and swim together. When I go back to Melbourne, I don't have so much to do. I just think about Vrndavana, my friends, and Krsna and Balarama."