Radha-Priya Devi Dasi

Radha-Priya Devi Dasi

BEFORE I JOINED ISKCON I was a kindergarten teacher in Zurich. I vividly remember one boy who used to come to school with a red cape around his shoulders and proudly declare, "I'm Superman." Here in the Radha-Madhava preschool at the Hare Krsna community in Mayapur, West Bengal, the children playfully imitate Krsna and Balarama, or Ramacandra, Laksmana, and Hanuman. Seeing the children playing like that, one can easily understand that Krsna consciousness is the most natural thing for every living being, and that it is also a lot of fun. Recently Bhakta-avatara, just three and a half, said, "You know, Krsna is in my heart as Supersoul, and if somebody wants to do something to me, Krsna will come out and snap him!"

I take care of eight three- to five-year-olds. Their parents live in Mayapur, but the group is truly international: Govardhana and Sita are from Switzerland, Sacisuta from Armenia, Rasarani from America, Bhakta-avatara is half Italian and half Indian, and the others are local Bengalis.

Children at their age have a hard time sitting still, and they can't concentrate for long. Unless taught through activities both constructive and interesting, they'll tend to wander about, make a mess, and fight with one another. So I come to school with a lesson plan.

Today we begin with a game designed to teach the ABCs.

Then I ask the children, "Who is Krsna?"

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead," the kids shout enthusiastically.

"And He appears in many different forms," I add.

We then sing a song of the ten incarnations of Krsna.

Now the time for arati has come. We have a small altar, and every day a different child offers incense, a ghee lamp, water, a flower, and a camara fan, while the others chant together in kirtana.

Tomorrow is Lord Ramacandra's appearance day, so after our little arati I tell them the story of Ramacandra, the ideal king who protected His wife, Sita, and killed the demon Ravana. Then, because we are learning the letter B (as in "bow"), I have them draw Lord Ramacandra's bow on their little blackboards.

At 11:30 A.M. we have a fifteen-minute break. While the children eat prasadam snacks their mothers have packed for them, I correct yesterday's homework and assign more.

There is one hour left, and we are going to use it for free play. Govardhana has chosen to look at the picture dictionary, while Kausalya, a little Bengali girl, wants to make a pearl garland for decorating the altar. Rasarani and Bhakta-avatara are building a temple from wooden blocks, Sita is drawing Krsna with colored pencils, and Pramila is dressing dolls with saris and dhotis.

Of course, the children need to be supervised so that they cooperate with one another and their play is disciplined and Krsna conscious. When I give a sign for cleaning up (I ring a particular bell), the children put their games or toys back on the shelf and sit down again.

To end the school day, we sing a song about the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya, by whose mercy we are able to reside happily in His wonderful holy place. Now each child receives his or her homework, and I explain individually what they have to do. Finally, I have the children close their eyes while I play the flute for a few moments. I want them to leave the school in a peaceful frame of mind. While they sit with their eyes closed, I go from one child to another, touching each head, giving permission to stand up and go to their mothers, who are already waiting outside.

Radha-priya Devi Dasi graduated from the Menzingen kindergarten seminary in Switzerland in 1983. She joined ISKCON in 1989 and moved to Mayapur with her husband in 1994. In November 1994 she began the Radha-Madhava preschool.