Urban Monks

A group of six young brahmacharis, or celibate monks, living at ISKCON’s Bhaktivedanta Manor near London have had great success in attractively repackaging Krishna consciousness for the “Apple generation.”
Their project, Urban Monk (urban-monk.com) aims to conflate the two seemingly contradictory words of its title and present practical spirituality for a modern world.

The Urban Monk Team. From left to right - Ghanashyam, John, Ananda, Nrsimha, Ben, and Janakinath

The Urban Monk Team. From left to right – Ghanashyam, John, Ananda, Nrsimha, Ben, and Janakinath

The Team: Emerging from Cass Business School with a first class degree in Management Science, Ghanashyam turned down lucrative job offers in London to move into Bhaktivedanta Manor’s ashram full-time. Teaming up with five other young devotees, an excitingly varied blend of personalities, nationalities, ethnicities, and skill sets, who, despite their dedication to spirituality, are very much ‘of this world.’ Ananda Chaitanya Das, a Cambridge University economics graduate, worked as a banker and trader in Canary Wharf before becoming a monk.
Nrsimha Tirtha Das from Ivory Coast searched the world for answers to the deeper questions in life until he found Hare Krishna devotees in London.

Bhakta Ben graduated from University in New Zealand and came to London looking to make it as a rock star, before his interest in yoga brought him to London’s Soho Street temple. Engineering graduate Janakinath Das worked in marketing for the Cannes Film Festival and other major events, then spent five years at the ISKCON temple in Chowpatty, India, after being introduced to Krishna consciousness by the Pandava Sena. And finally, newest member Bhakta John is a London-based stage actor and teacher.

The team has been working together on relevant, accessible and innovative preaching for the past two years.
But their Urban Monk brand, launched just last month, represents another step towards reaching an audience that, just like them, hails from academic and corporate backgrounds.

“We wanted to present spirituality as something that can be lived by everyone and be relevant in everyone’s lives, rather than something that’s only practiced by some strange, unique breed of people,” Ghanashyam says. “To do that, we needed a cutting edge visual identity.”

Urban-monk.com reflects this identity. It’s a trendy, youthful website that taps into the modern interest in yoga, personal development and education and appeals to students’ sense of fun and adventure.

Catchphrases like “Uncommon Sense”—a way to describe the logic and rarity of Krishna consciousness—catch the attention of a generation that grew up on Apple products.

So do the blogs, quirky humor and social video experiements wherein Urban Monks ask people on the streets how they’d define success or what they’d do if they had 24 hours to live. In the future, regular video blogs and podcasts, “thoughts of the day” and a question and answer section will be added.

The numbers speak for themselves. In its first week, urban-monk.com received 10,000 hits, while the project’s Facebook page had 100 likes in 24 hours.

Ghanashyam teaches a typically packed class at City University London

Ghanashyam teaches a typically packed class at City University London

In previous years their seminars have been taught at the University of Cambridge, the London School of Economics, University College London, Queen Mary University, King’s College London, Brunel University, Hartfordshire University, and Imperial College London.

For more information, please visit http://www.urban-monk.com/
To connect with the Urban Monks on Facebook, please “Like” their page at http://www.facebook.com/UrbanMonkNetwork or add “Jay Ghanashyam Shetty”


Published onWednesday, December 12th, 2012

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