Urmila Devi Dasi (born 10 May 1955 in New York City) is an American educator. Her father was president, and later CEO, of the Manischewitz food company, founded by his grandfather. She joined the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in 1973 in Chicago and became a disciple of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON.
She and Pratyatosa, (Howard Best), married in 1973. They have two sons and one daughter; eight grandsons, six granddaughters, and two great-grandsons. In 1996 Urmila and Pratyatosa entered the renounced ashrama of vanaprastha (retired life).
Her primary work in ISKCON has been in the area of education. In 1982 in Detroit, she and her husband started ISKCON’s first day school, where she served as principal for eight years. She and her husband also founded a K-12 school in North Carolina in 1990, where she was principal for ten years. She taught children in nursery school, elementary (primary), and high school (secondary) for a total of 27 years. Urmila has compiled a guidebook for education in ISKCON and has been engaged in “writing and coordinating the development of a Krishna conscious academic curriculum for primary and secondary students”. For eight years she was the education columnist for Back to Godhead magazine, where she is an associate editor. In 2008, Urmila wrote a paper based on Īśopaniṣad about the philosophy of education to be followed at Krishna Avanti Primary School in Harrow, England, the first state-funded Hindu school in Great Britain. Urmila has also been involved in the debates on women’s place in ISKCON.
Urmila Devi Dasi has a Master’s of School Administration and a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Urmila teaches some courses, such as ISKCON History, Sociology of Religion, and Educational Research, at Bhaktivedanta College in Radhadesh, Belgium. According to the Bhaktivedanta College’s website, she has been on US television, including NBC, explaining various aspects of the Hare Krishna movement and its philosophy. Urmila is also the chair of the Sastric Advisory Council to the Governing Body Commission of ISKCON. She travels widely throughout the world teaching about spiritual life and education.
In September 2010, she published her three-volume set Dr. Best Learn To Read, a program consisting of a set of children’s reading books, teacher guides, and student activity books to take a young child from learning the English alphabet to fluent reading. The reading books are all stories about Krishna or related to Vaisnava/Vedic culture. Aimed at ages 3–8, The Talking Books have the text in English and can be listened to in the following languages, page by page: English, Hindi, Gujarati, Telugu, Bengali, Tamil, Kannada, Mandarin, Thai, Japanese, Persian, Hebrew, Afrikaans, Croatian, Finnish, Portuguese, Italian, Slovenian, Slovak, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Hungarian, and Dutch. She has also published a book on mantra meditation, The Great Mantra for Mystic Meditation. In 2016, she published a new edition of Raghunatha Dasa Goswami’s Sri Manah Siksa Available at these sellers. This two-volume set features 12 new full-color oil paintings and 120 new black and white drawings, Bhaktivinoda’s prose commentary, never-before-published Bhaktivinoda’s songs on Manah siksa, and commentaries by Jayadvaita Swami, Sivarama Swami, Sacinandana Swami, and Bhaktivijnana Swami. She published a spiritual novel, Essence Seekers.