Sunday, May 26, 2013

MOOCs in Pushtimarg

Education is going through a transformation these days with the help of technology. There are many online learning platforms such as Coursera and EdX that provide us the opportunity to learn almost any subject in higher education from the convenience of our sofa. Because of the large number of students (sometimes 100,000+) registering for their courses, they are also called Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs.

If we take a look at the 500+ years history of Pushtimarg, we can see that Shri Vallabhacharya, his descendants and many learned scholars (Shastrijis) had conducted mass educational programs in subjects of spirituality and religious practices. These programs are traditionally referred to as Katha or Pravachan and generally last a week or so. In today's terminology, they could be called Massive Open Courses (MOCs).

With the rise of the internet, Pushtimarg has also become modern and now we can learn about various topics online from many websites. However, has been at the forefront in this transformative time. First, it offered the text material of various precious books, then offered the audio of the various courses conducted by Shri Shyamubava and his team and recently also started offering the video lectures. It is a great service to the Pushtimargiya community spread across the world who can now learn about Pushtimarg through the visual interface of a MOOC.

In the recently concluded spring MOOC on the Sarvottam Stotra (a hymn composed by Shri Vitthaleshji to glorify Shri Vallabhacharya, his father and the founder of Pushtimarg), Shri Shyamubava explained the meaning of the four of the 108 names.

In particular, he explained the name  सान्निध्यमात्रदत्त  श्रीकृष्णप्रेम  (Saannidhya maatra datt Shri Krushna Prem) very well by comparative analysis between Hindu and Persian philosophies. He also quoted the religious philosophers such as Zarathustra, Moses, Buddha, Mahavir, Mohhammad and Christ to explain how they also exhibited the same quality as that of Vallabhacharya of giving love of the Lord to anyone who comes close to them. During the course, Shyamubava also clears the misconceptions and malpractices among some Pushtimargiya vaishnavs and aacharyas of staying away from understanding other religions or even other branches of Hinduism.

Let there be more MOOCs spreading the knowledge and love and let us all keep learning.