Australia’s first all-Hare Krishna Year 12 class is shunning traditional Schoolies Week celebrations in favour of a trip to India, while vowing to forgo sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling and meat.
The seven students are the first to graduate from Australia’s only Hare Krishna school, Bhaktivedanta Swami Gurukula, at Eungella near Murwillumbah in northern New South Wales.
Principal Vinod Biharidas said he was proud of the students for choosing a different path to many other Australian school-leavers who favour Gold Coast getaways characterised by heavy drinking and late night doner kebabs.
“We have not told them ‘Don’t go to Schoolies’. Our idea was to help them develop values and a sense of what’s right and wrong but to leave the decisions to them,” Mr Biharidas said.
“These Year 12s are making their own decisions rather than thinking ‘Just because everyone does it, that’s what we should do’, and that’s a true sense of independent thinking — you critically analyse what’s happening around you.
“They’re setting a standard, and it’s not ‘To go, or not to go to Schoolies’, but making choices that are not subject to peer influence and broader society.”
It is not compulsory for Bhaktivedanta Swami Gurukula students to be Hare Krishnas, however all of the seven graduates identify as devotees.
Year 12 graduate Rasamandali Vodopyanova said devotees followed what are known as the Four Regulative Principles: No meat, eggs or fish, no gambling, no use of intoxicants and no sex outside of marriage.
“There are a lot of kids who come from the outside and are not part of the religion so they have a choice whether to participate,” she said.
“In the morning we do prayers and we have scripture classes, but you’re not forced. A lot of it is based around living your life in a better way.”
Tulasi Manjari Robson said the group did not feel as though they were missing out by not drinking alcohol.
“We have parties, but non-drinking parties,” she said.
“We know how to have a lot of fun, but we’re not teenagers who go out and drink. We get together and hang out. We don’t need intoxication to have fun.”
The Hare Krishna movement was introduced to the Western World in 1966 when Indian monk Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada incorporated the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
Bhaktivedanta Swami Gurukula was established by Hare Krishna devotees in 1980 with about 20 primary school-aged children.
The school now has 125 students and a secondary campus.
Year 12 graduate Premanjali Dejager has attended the school all of her life and said it did not appear to be too different to other private schools in the region.
“The religious culture that surrounds this community has helped us develop strong moral and core values,” she said.
“We’re surrounded by like-minded people and we’ve been able to maintain our views on life and it’s given us a great sense of belonging and self.”
Regular teenage dreams
Graduate Balaram Vodopyanova, who is a budding music producer, said they experienced the same study and career pressures as other teenagers.
“We’ve still got exams, we still stressed over the HSC [Higher School Certificate],” he said.
“I’m going to make a lot of music, send it to labels and stuff, do tours around the world, and it’s going to get loads of plays.”
Gour Magriplis said he aspired to be a wealthy social media star.
“I’m going to become a millionaire while running a YouTube channel and have my own clothes design company and be in the 2020 Olympics for athletics,” he said.
“Every school has it’s class clown, and that’s me.”
Topics: secondary-schools, primary-schools, religion-and-beliefs, other-religions, youth, lifestyle-and-leisure, alcohol-education, drug-use, alcohol, community-and-society, eungella-2484, murwillumbah-2484, tweed-heads-2485, surfers-paradise-4217, lismore-2480, india