My name is Hemal P. Trivedi and I am a graduate student at Rutgers University finishing a Masters in Religious Studies with a specialization in Indian philosophy. From September 2016 to January 2017, I had the honor of living at Jīva Institute while completing my third semester and applying to Ph.D. programs in the United States.
Jīva Institute is a place where I was allowed to be myself. Indian by blood, I was raised in the United States disconnected from Indian philosophical knowledge. Born in a Brāhmaṇa family lineage, my father immigrated to the U.S in the 1990’s, unfortunately disconnected from the transmission of the Vedas. Understanding commonplace teachings like material desire leads to suffering, ātman, karma, dharma, were concepts I realized at the age of eighteen through the Bhagavad Gītā through self-study. A teaching so commonplace for a Hindu, was a treasure of knowledge for me to learn at a later age. I was always interested in the solution of the mind’s suffering. Why does the mind suffer? How does one defeat this suffering? After earning an Associate’s degree in Biology and Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, I understood two forms of alleviating mental suffering: psychiatric medicine and cognitive behavioral therapy. This was not enough, I wanted to learn more. Could the early Indian traditions have a solution to the issue of mental suffering? I decided to pursue the study of religion. It was through Rutgers University that I connected to Jīva Institute. I came to Jiva Institute to study “An Introduction to Hinduism” a three credit course, taught during winter break. For three weeks, I only got a taste of Vṛndāvan. I returned once more for a longer period of time.
The best experience about Jīva Institute was the company of like-minded individuals. I cannot stress the importance of keeping company that has similar goals, values and habits. When surrounded by others who are trying to pursue philosophical knowledge, you are given no choice but to dive deeper into your own thirst for learning. A bright institute of knowledge consists of the individuals. When the individuals are sincere and genuine, then the transmission of knowledge becomes sincere and genuine. This is the form of knowledge that I have received at Jīva Institute. Due to these circumstances, along with highly affable and caring staff, I can confidently say that I have found a home at Jīva Institute. It is not only an institute where people express their devotion through bhaktī, but also one in which the students engage in the rigorous study of Sanskrit, Nyāya, Yoga and many other subjects.
Satyanārāyaṇa Dāsa, commonly called Bābajī, is both a scholar and practitioner of Indian religious traditions (bhaktī ) and Sanskrit. I cannot express enough how rare it is to meet an individual who practices what he teaches. The beauty of the manner of teaching is that he answers each and every question with honesty and sincerity without a glimpse of pride in his answers. This manner of teaching is important because it forces a student to honestly look at what he is saying, not who is saying it. Then after the lecture has finished, when you have the chance to speak to him, you can easily tell that he is a humble practitioner and scholar. The beauty of this teaching style is this: Just listen.
One of the many memories I have of Jīva is interacting with the staff. My most precious memory is of being in the company of a devotee named Kamala. Her undying need to provide comfort for the students of Jīva, seems to be drawn from a spiritual source or at least from the devotion to her guru. In every moment of my stay, I was treated with genuine kindness and motherly affection from Kamala.
Jaya, who is the leading manager, working countless hours behind the scenes, is also another devotee who I vividly remember working tirelessly to guarantee that my stay in Vṛndāvan was worthwhile. While juggling between hundreds of people, Jaya had no problem making me feel special and certainly cared for. Outside of India, Vṛndāvan is spoken of with high regard and when visiting, it is people like Jaya that keep the reputation of Vṛndāvan’s comfort through her brilliant management.
Within Indian philosophy, there is a wealth of knowledge, but one needs sufficient resources to access it. Jīva Institute has provided me not only with an opportunity to access this knowledge, but an opportunity to discover myself as a student, and a member of humanity. I am proud to say that I have been accepted into a doctoral program in the United States and will hopefully be teaching Indian Philosophy as a professor of religion after my studies. Most importantly, I want to humbly thank Jīva Institute and the guru Satyanārāyaṇa Dāsa for not only helping me establish my career, but providing me with a foundation of knowledge. Jīva institute offers free classes for the public. I cannot imagine such a gift where a person who lives right across the street, can walk over and learn about the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, Nyāya, Bhaktī, Yoga, Sanskrit from an authoritative source. I am sincerely grateful to Jīva Institute, and I urge anyone reading this article to visit at least once. If you have even a water drop of interest in these philosophical concepts that apply to all of us, please visit, you may find another home at Jīva Institute.
-Hemal P. Trivedi