May 6 2009

“A priceless treasure house of Vaisnava lore…” Srila Prabhupada 1972

An exciting new ISKCON project is taking birth in Kolkata, the city of Srila Prabhupada’s birth.

The location is four-story building in the heart of Kolkata.

resize-of-rotation-of-img_4646.JPG

The building was donated to ISKCON in 2000 by Sri Madan Chanda Shamsukha and his wife Srimati Geeta Mukherjee Shamsukha.

resize-of-100_0032.JPG

Praharana dasi, Ravindra Svarupa dasa, Mr. MC Shamsukha, Hari-sauri dasa, Mrs. Geeta Mukherjee Shamsukha.

resize-of-100_0084.JPG

Mr. Shamsukha getting the blessings of HH Jayapataka Swami for the project.

Known as “Gita Bhavan” the building is being transformed into a major research centre and guest house. The Bhaktivedanta Research Centre (BRC) is an exciting new facility aimed at providing a ‘one-stop’ resource for the world-wide academic and Vaisnava community concerned with Vedic studies and in particular, Gaudiya Vaisnavism.

The library has five main sections:

•    Vedic library, containing the Vedic literature and the commentaries of the leading acaryas along with all Srila Prabhupada’s books.

•    Gaudiya Vaisnava original literature and commentaries

•    Vedic cosmology

Old manuscripts and rare books identification and preservation

•    Bhagavad Gita library with all language translations of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is, plus the commentaries of the previous acaryas.

resize-of-100_0592.JPG

HH Bhakti Charu Swami visited the work in progress on the library on April 2 2009—seen here with Acyuta dasa (center) and Mr. Shamsukha.

As well as the library there is a temple cum meeting hall for seminars etc.

resize-of-100_0688.JPG

and three other floors are dedicated to a guest house for visiting scholars to stay.

Srila Prabhupada’s desire

Vedic Library

The inspiration to establish the BRC was born out of the direct desire of Srila Prabhupada. In August of 1976 Srila Prabhupada met with the temple president of Bombay, Giriraja dasa Brahmacari, and his former servant Nitai dasa, to discuss the establishment of a library in the new Bombay Juhu temple:

Hari-sauri dasa recorded this meeting in Volume 4 of his Transcendental Diary series:
August 15 1976 – Bombay

“There was no darshana this afternoon, although Srila Prabhupada did go up onto the roof to sit for a while with a few devotees. Then it began to rain so he returned to his sitting room. There he met with Giriraja and Nitai prabhus to discuss requirements for a library for the new building. Nitai has been given Rs. 4,000 by the temple to purchase books for it. Srila Prabhupada said the library should contain all his own books, those of all the acaryas, as well as the Upanisads and other bona fide Vedic texts. He said even those of Sripad Sankaracarya could be included — but not anything from Gandhi, Vivekananda or Rama-tirtha. “They are all rascals,” he said. “The Vedas instruct us that we should not even look at their faces.”
I was puzzled. “Doesn’t Caitanya Mahaprabhu instruct that if anyone read’s Sankaracarya’s books he is doomed?”
“Not if he reads with proper understanding,” Prabhupada said. “We can read to know what is their philosophy.”
[end quote]

Later in 1976 in a meeting with Dr. Theodore Kneupper, professor of oriental philosophy at Slippery Rock University, Arkansas, the idea of this Vedic library was again mentioned:

November 6 1976 – Vrndavana
[Srila Prabhupada’s secretary Jagadisa dasa is reading a news article about ISKCON to Srila Prabhupada and Dr. Kneupper]

“In fact, many Westerners come here to discover the real India for themselves, (indistinct) life experience. For this reason we are building a model Vedic community at our Juhu center in Bombay, providing all the modern amenities for scholars, students, and sophisticated inquirers from abroad as well as from India who can study the original Indian culture and practice. The center will include a Vedic library, theater, prasadam restaurant, gurukula school, an international guesthouse, as well as a temple and asrama.’
[end quote]

Unfortunately for various reasons the work was never completed. To this day ISKCON has no such library facility and this will be a major provision of the BRC.

Vedic Cosmology

The necessity for a library dedicated to Vedic cosmology became apparent as soon as Srila Prabhupada started talking about building the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (TOVP) in Mayapur. Ravindra Svarupa prabhu recalls discussing the planetarium concept with Srila Prabhupada in Mayapur and then going into Calcutta to study the idea further. He had the realization that unless we have a library of all materials dealing with Vedic cosmology, the TOVP would not be taken seriously by the very people it was meant to attract–scholars and cosmologists from around the world. The history of delay in the building of the TOVP need not be dwelt upon here, but after many years, the realization of Srila Prabhupada’s dream seems immanent and the need to establish the library is imperative.

resize-of-100_0608.JPG

Purchase of cosmology books has already begun

Several years ago a cosmology team was formed to begin the research for the TOVP. With funding from Ambarish prabhu the team began talking seriously about establishing a library and last year in February 2008 the cosmology team were given the facility of a large 1100 sq. ft. hall in the building in Kolkata.

Gaudiya Vaisnava studies

Another aspect of the center was developed in conversation with Sriman Pranava dasa from Gothenburg Sweden who is completing his dissertation on the life of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura this summer (2009). He has had a long held ambition to establish a center for studies related to Lord Caitanya and the Gaudiya Vaisnava movement.

Pranava prabhu has proposed the following:

“To initiate an ongoing and long term project for the mapping, collection, digitization, translation and study of literature belonging to or dealing with the Vaishnava tradition that developed from Caitanya (1486-1534) from the 16th century up to the present.  The literature is written mainly in Bengali, Sanskrit, Hindi and English. The first aim is to collect a body of resources and bibliographies of primary and secondary literature at the BRC. The second is to conduct research and translation of these resources. The third is to make available these materials to the larger academic community and the general public. The project may facilitate research in a number of more specific areas as theology, sociology, history of ideas, philosophy, gender studies, anthropology and science. The project may also result in closer cooperation between a properly run center such as the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre and relevant academic departments and universities in India and around the world.”

The BRC is now working with Pranava prabhu to make this proposal into a reality.

Manuscript preservation

The inspiration for the final component for the center came from an exchange of letters between Srila Prabhupada and his disciples in 1972 regarding some hand-written manuscripts of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura which at that time were in the hands of his son, Srila Lalita Prasada Thakura:

ct61-163.JPG

Srila Lalita Prasada Thakura, Acyutananda Swami, Gurudasa and Srila Prabhupada

In a letter to Acyutananda Swami dated  12 June, 1972 Srila Prabhupada told him:

“I am especially pleased that you have stayed some days and got the tapes of Lalita Prashad Thakura for posterity. If you send them to Syamasundara. immediately he has all facilities here to transcribe them, and get them printed immediately. As for the manuscripts, you can call Satchidananda from Vrndavana, he can write in Bengali very nicely and can type also with Bengali typewriter. Tell him to bring the Bengali typewriter with him and type everything on good paper.

“But best thing is, I have asked Yadubara to come there to Birnagar from Bombay for photographing all of the manuscripts in the possession of Lalita Prashad Thakura page by page very completely before it is too late. The pages are in very decrepit condition, so best thing is to request Lalita Prashad if we may take care of them by treating them against insects and storing them in a tight, dry storage place where they may be preserved for future generations of Vaisnavas to see the actual handwriting and words of such great saintly persons.

“Treat this matter very seriously and thoroughly, and take all precautions to protect this wonderful boon of literatures forever. Yadubara may photograph every page, never mind Bengali or English or any other language, and later we shall see where to send the copies to different places. You also write to Yadubara at Bombay in this connection and request him to join you in Birnagar immediately. I have also written him.

These items are very, very priceless and are a great treasure house of Vaisnava lore, so be very careful in the matter and take all precautions to guard them.

A little over a week later Srila Prabhuapda wrote to Yadubara, on June 20 1972:

“N.B. I have just now got one letter from Acyutananda Maharaja from Mayapur, and his plan is to photograph all of the original manuscripts of Bhaktivinode Thakura which are held by his son, Lalita Prasad Thakura, in Birnagar. This is a very, very important work, so I think you are just the right man for going there with Acyutananda to make photos of each and every page of the old manuscripts as they are in very bad condition.”

Yadubara responded immediately to Srila Prabhupada’s request, and proceeded to Bir Nagar where he spent a week taking hundreds of photos of the materials made available to him by Srila Lalita Prasada Thakura. He informed Srila Prabhupada and on July 13 1972 Prabhupada replied:

“You may develop the films of manuscripts from Birnagar and inform me what you have done and which manuscripts are with you, then I shall inform you where to send them for translating, etc.

Two days later he sent another letter to Acyutananda Swami:

“Regarding the manuscripts, you may photograph all of the pages, then we shall type them later. If there is shortage of film, I have instructed Karandhara to send you a large supply of the appropriate films for photographing the pages. Or you may purchase there and we shall pay from Book Fund. These are important works and they must be preserved forever, so what is that expense?”

At the end of the same month Prabhupada wrote again to Yadubara:

72-07-29
Yes, that is nice, you may continue to photograph all of the manuscripts of Bhaktivinode Thakura and other great acaryas in our Vaisnava line, but for now do not photograph anything of Lalita Prasad’s manuscripts. When I go there I shall see. First of all let us see Bhaktivinode Thakura’s works, then we shall see further.”

Yadubara prabhu recalled the service late last year:

Oct. 8 2008
“Sometime in 1972 Srila Prabhupada instructed me to go stay with Lalita Prasad, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur’s son for the purpose of copying rare books and manuscripts left by his father. Srila Prabhupada thought it was very important that these be preserved. I spent 8 days in his home at Birnagar and took hundreds of photos page by page of the books that Lalita Prasad gave me. I sent those pictures to the BBT. I assume they still have them. Lalita Prasad said he had many more such volumes but wanted me to come back another time which never happened. That’s another story.”

After some inquiry to the BBT and the Bhaktivedanta Archives, these photos of Yadubara prabhu’s have recently been located.

35mmbengalidoc.jpg

Unfortunately Yadubara prabhu never returned to Bir Nagar. Some years later when the Matsya project was in full swing Gopiparanadhana prabhu and others tried to get copies of the remaining materials but by that time they had become scattered and were not available. Whether they are still extent in someone’s house or temple is unknown but it emphasizes the need to act when the opportunity arises. There must be many more such manuscripts scattered in the old temples of Bengal, Orissa, Vrndavana, Jaipur and other centers of Vaisnavism, and the BRC would like to initiate an active campaign to locate and preserve them.

Physical and Digital

All the works which are procured in the coming years will be digitally scanned and made available to scholars and students around the world through the BRC’s website (currently under construction). Through network specialists Tridandi das and Bhakta Fabio from Italy, the BRC has purchased two servers and storage capacity up to 10 terabytes. Four terminals will be available on-site for researchers, and two others for data input purposes. Thus the BRC will have both physical and digital libraries, with off-site storage backup in case of any mishaps.

resize-of-100_0690.JPG

Ganga dasa and Krishna Kumar dasa are doing the computer and cable installations

Renovations under progress

Extensive work has been done since late January 2009 to renovate the building and create the library facilities. The main library has been fitted out with floor to ceiling wooden shelving:

resize-of-img_0001.JPG

resize-of-dsc00086.JPG

resize-of-img_4723.JPG

resize-of-100_0050.JPG

Guest House

Eight bathrooms have been gutted and rebuilt with new showers, toilets, basins and tiles:

Before and after:

resize-of-rotation-of-img_0057.JPG

resize-of-100_0698.JPG

Each of the eight rooms have air conditioning so that scholars and students can comfortably stay in the centre at a reasonable cost while conducting their research. Wi-fi and cable connections will give broadband access to the main server from anywhere in the building.

Opening soon

The BRC is scheduled to be opened on June 13 2009, immediately after a 3-day conference hosted by the Department of Sociology, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, and in cooperation with the OCHS. It will mark the inauguration of the first Centre for the Sociological Study of Religion of Bengal and India, to be located at the same university.

Service opportunities

The BRC is being developed by a committee of Ravindra Svarupa dasa, Sraddhadevi dasi, Acyuta dasa, Pranava dasa and Hari-sauri dasa.

resize-of-100_0039.JPG

left to right: Caitanya dasa, Sraddhadevi dasi, Ravindra Svarupa dasa, Hari-sauri dasa, MC Shamsukha, Acyuta dasa, Hena Basu

Opportunities exist for service in the management of the library and the general management of the project. Any readers interested in participating this exciting new project are invited to correspond with the acting general manager, Hari-sauri dasa.

Your servants,
BRC Committee



| Log in
Home  |  Blog  |  Books  |  Audio  |  Video  |   Photos  |  Links  |  Contact