Recently the principal of ISKCON's Bhaktivedanta College in Radhadesh, Belgium was approved to enter the renounced order of life known as sannyasa in the Vedic tradition. Below is an interview conducted by Dina Dayala Dasa that highlights the reasoning behind his making such a committment.
Dina Dayala Dasa: Tell us something about your devotional career.
Yadunandana Swami: I came in contact with devotees in 1977 when I was fourteen years old. Soon after, I started to regularly chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and to study Srila Prabhupada's books. I went to live in the ISKCON temple in Barcelona when I was fifteen years old. Since then, I have been dedicated to serving within ISKCON in many ways. My main field of service has been Krishna conscious educational development. I started offering introductory courses (bhakta programs) in Spain as early as 1982. During the nineties, I was involved in establishing a bhakti-shastri centre for ISKCON Spain. I also have been part of the VTE (Vaishnava Training and Education). In 2002, I became the principal of Bhaktivedanta College in Radhadesh, Belgium.
Dina Dayala Dasa: Why did you decide to accept sannyasa?
Yadunandana Swami: There are different reasons. Firstly, I wanted to formally commit to serving Krishna until the end of life. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that after living as a brahmachari in the guru's ashrama, the student should move on to one of the other ashramas. I see the transition from brahmachari to sannyasa as a natural one in my case. I intend to remain a lifelong monk, and I have leading responsibilities in ISKCON. In addition, the propagation of Krishna's message is essential, and I wish contribute something. The sannyasa ashrama is very conducive for these purposes.
Dina Dayala Dasa: We heard that you already wanted to accept sannyasa twenty years ago!
Yadunandana Swami: Yes, the call for lifelong monasticism and preaching started many years ago.
Dina Dayala Dasa: You are now forty-five. Is it not a bit too early to accept sannyasa?
Yadunandana Swami: After thirty years of living as a brahmachari and more than twenty years with leading responsibilities within ISKCON, I think it is not too early.
Dina Dayala Dasa: What is going to change after taking sannyasa?
Yadunandana Swami: I'm not a clairvoyant, but I hope that this step will help me to increase my focus on serving Krishna, especially hearing, chanting, and remembering. I also hope that this decision will spiritually contribute to other people's lives.
Dina Dayala Dasa: What are your main services at the moment?
Yadunandana Swami: I serve as the principal of Bhaktivedanta College, as an executive member of the ISKCON Ministry for Educational Development, and as the chairman of the ISKCON Board of Examinations. I also regularly visit ISKCON temples and congregations in different countries, especially Spain, where I was born, and where I lived until 2002.
Dina Dayala Dasa: Is it possible to be a sannyasi and a college principal? What will change in this regard?
Yadunandana Swami: The position of head of an educational institution grounded on spiritual values is compatible with the sannyasa ashrama. Srila Prabhupada wrote that sannyasis could teach in varnashrama Colleges. I don't see the need to make a big change in this regard.
Dina Dayala Dasa: Perhaps more relevant is the question of why you have decided to remain with the College, even after taking sannyasa. What is so special about the College?
Yadunandana Swami: Many successful spiritual and religious institutions grew and consolidated through schools and universities. In my opinion, it is essential for ISKCON's success to integrate systematic education with spiritual missionary work or preaching. Bhaktivedanta College is an excellent facility for educating our members and youth. I trust that many College graduates will be mature persons and devotees, able to make a substantial contribution to the world and to ISKCON.
Dina Dayala Dasa: How do you see the future of Bhaktivedanta College?
Yadunandana Swami: By Krishna’s grace, Bhaktivedanta College is growing, little by little, every year. Bhaktivedanta College would like to offer a degree in Spiritual Economics and Management; it will be available onsite when our infrastructure is adequate. The first building of our campus is under construction.
I trust that more of ISKCON’s mature members will gradually understand the importance of actively supporting systematic education for the worldwide community of devotees. Such recognition can naturally be helpful to the College's development.