How Things Begin (conference-call classes about Indian philosophy)

Waiting for a BART train I met Krishna Kashyap, a San Diego businessman, who teaches classes on Indian philosophy by conference call. He was born in India and studied philosophy there before he came to America.

There are many such classes. About 15 years ago, a Berkeley student named Mani Varadarajan started a listserv called bhaktilist, which allowed people who were interested in Vaishnava Vedanta to contact each other and exchange ideas. This is how the conference-call classes began. Bhaktilist no longer exists, but many lists came from it, including and There are several thousand people on these lists.

Kashyap himself recently stopped teaching classes so that he would have more time to learn. He is now taking classes with a teacher named K. S. Varadachar. He dials his number in India at a particular time. Other people can dial in as well. They listen and ask questions. “I got isolated from my community when I came to this country 20 years ago,” Kashya said. “Reading books is not enough. There wasn’t any other way to communicate [besides the conference calls]. When I wanted to learn I had to get teachers from India.”

Now there are 4 or 5 classes simultaneously; they meet by phone once/week, using The Indian lecturers don’t get paid or at least such is the convention. They are given an end-of-term “gift,” called sambhavana, that is $200-$1000.

A vast amount about Indian philosophies is here.

How different from American higher education! People learn easily, without coercion, without threats, without punishments, without external rewards, if they see their teacher as a guru. The American term for guru, of course, is motivational speaker.

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