Walk into the Bhakti Center just minutes from the University of Virginia grounds and you’ll find yourself in a cozy, welcoming place that a growing number of people identify as their home away from home, a spiritual oasis.
On Sunday evenings a mixture of mostly students, a few faculty, and some local community members from all backgrounds fill the Center for kirtan, a practical talk based on the Bhagavad-gita, a free vegetarian dinner, and conversations about living a conscious life. For the students who attend, it is at once a spiritual retreat, a warm family-like environment, and space to talk about how to live consciously and deliberately in a world that increasingly encourages the opposite. The Center includes a comfortable lounge where guests can relax to chat, watch a spiritual video, or peruse the library and read.
The Bhakti Center is home to the Bhakti Yoga Club, an official UVA CIO for over 20 years. Scores of students have benefitted from the introduction to Bhakti Yoga philosophy and the supportive family atmosphere the directors and members foster.
Rides are available from Grounds, and everything is always free of charge.
Here are some Bhakti Yoga Club members comments about their experience:
Kunal (Karunavatara das): Words fall short if I try to describe how the Bhaktivedanta Center has changed my life. It has redefined it completely, opening doors to a finer appreciation of life and inner character that I didn’t even know could exist. It acts to purify and revitalize us at the very core of our being, thus enabling all our actions to flow from a deeper place and a higher consciousness..
Himanshu: The Bhakti Yoga Club gave me a purpose to exist and direction for my life’s journey. Bhakti has allowed me see things in their correct perspective and act accordingly. It has given new meaning to relationships and has strengthened them by raising them from the material platform to a spiritual platform. What I have learned through attending the club meetings has opened my eyes to a whole new set of opportunities the benefits of which are just incomparable to any reward imaginable. Amit Acara and Mayapriya have given me so much love and affection, which is almost non-existent in today’s profit-oriented world. I am now more human than I ever was. Thank you fellow BYCers, Amit Acara and Mayapriya.
Kevin (Rasaraja Syama das): Having graduated from UVA with an engineering degree in Computer Science, I consistently heard the same advice given to become a successful engineer. Find a mentor. They will guide your learning process, provide you with opportunities, and push you further than you thought possible. If mentorship is that important for a career, what makes us think that it isn’t equally as valuable or less so for every day life? The Bhakti Yoga Club provided me perfect mentorship for living a balanced and productive life. When first coming to the club, I was struck by the qualities I saw in its members. Compassion, patience, sustainable living, kindness, and even-headedness. I saw these qualities and immediately wanted them for myself. Having gone through the club, I have seen those qualities develop in myself. Coworkers and family constantly ask how I am so calm and collected even through the most stressful times. This club provides so much to students and community members, much more than I could possibly list here. For such a great service to the community, what does it ask for in return? Nothing. My wife and I were so moved by this fact that we both decided to stay in Charlottesville after graduating to help with the club. At the end of the day, this club provides the nourishment for a happy life.
Priya: I now know that I came all the way from India to discover Bhakti Yoga and the Bhagavad Gita here in Charlottesville. The Bhakti Yoga Club turned my life around. It gave me the opportunity to have the best friends, come into contact with genuine spiritualists, come into contact with college preaching pioneers Amit Acara and Mayapriya. It allowed me to gain an interest in cooking and gave me confidence to face this material world with the objective of coming closer to God along the way.
Xavier: The Bhakti Yoga Club is like a recharge for my spiritual battery. The kind people, loving wisdom, and yummy food consistently provide a deep satisfaction.
Natasha (Gandarvika Keli dasi): In all my years of schooling, including my first year at UVA, no one ever told me who I really was—the body? the mind? the intellect? When I came to the Bhakti Yoga Club and opened up the Bhagavad Gita, I found all the answers to the questions I had been asking and answers to questions which hadn’t even occurred to me. We’re the imperishable soul, I learned, pure consciousness. Suddenly, I not only had firm answers to deep philosophical questions, but I had a practical spiritual path to follow and a truly meaningful existence of service ahead. After graduating from UVA, my husband and I stayed in Charlottesville to help pass along this wonderful bhakti process to others.
Sandy (Assistant Dean, UVA): When I first walked into the Bhakti Center I was filled with a felt sense of love. I have come to learn about this love as devotional service. I have enjoyed my association with new Bhakti friends each week and I have learned so much – and I have much yet to learn. Book club Wednesdays and Sunday kirtan, lessons, sometimes japa and prasadam are important times in my week. I look forward to long association and spiritual growth and I am grateful for the gifts my new spiritually-atuned friends share.
Tessa (Jayanti Radha dasi): I will never forget my first introduction to the Bhakti Yoga Club, when I was told that Bhakti Yoga wasn’t simply for stretching the body… but rather for stretching the consciousness. During my time at UVa., I have learned that Bhakti is a lifestyle, the foundation for a sustainable existence, and the opportunity to offer ones heart in loving devotional service.
Aksheetha: The BYC provides answers to life’s greatest existential questions and is the source of real knowledge. Of the knowledge that I have acquired at UVA, the knowledge that I have gained from the practice of Bhakti will last beyond this time or place, it will remain with me forever. This knowledge is perhaps the most profound that I will have ever attained, for it speaks to the soul. From mantra meditation to reading the philosophy, the practice of Bhakti is holistic and with the association of pure-hearted individuals, the doubts and anxieties will cease to remain and the truth will be revealed. My experiences at the BYC are those that I will always value and cherish and the BYC has truly become my home away from home.
Sara: Bhakti Yoga has taught me to let go of material worries. So many things cause distress in our daily lives, it is very easy—especially in college—to lose sight of our real goal while worrying for the immediate gratification of our senses. Being in association with the Bhakti Center members is a constant reminder that I can achieve both my material and spiritual goals without losing peace.
Prachi (Kishori Radha dasi): Bhakti Yoga has redefined my life. I had always been a type A personality, a workaholic with nothing more to look forward to than the fleeting pleasures of life. Bhakti Yoga has truly opened my eyes, it has made me appreciate the finer aspects of life and realize the spiritual self. There is an indescribable sense of happiness and an inner joy that I experience each time I associate with the Bhakti Yogis! We are so lucky to have Amit Acara and Mayapriya for their mentorship and love!
Ben: The BYC is the most genuinely accepting group of individuals I’ve ever met. No matter who (or what, or how, or why) you are, you are always welcome and appreciated when at the Bhakti Yoga Club.
Swapna: For me the Bhakti Yoga Club is actually my home away from home, since I come from Hyderabad, India. When attending the club meetings, I never feel far from my family. This home has given me the opportunity to grow as a human being, according to the spiritual principles of the Bhagavad Gita. As a doctor I know how to cure physical illness, but the Bhakti Yoga Club has shown me the path to cure spiritual illness. Once you learn how to cure spiritual illness, everything else falls into place.