BRC inauguration
5 July 2009

June 30 2009

Well, after 5 months of hard work in the heat and humidity of Kolkata, today we saw the auspicious inauguration of the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre (BRC) library. Taking advantage of the presence of both HH Jayapataka Swami and Bhakti Charu Swami in Kolkata for the Rathayatra festival, we conducted a successful opening ceremony of the library.

[please note that some of the photos in this report are incorrectly dated as 02/14/2008 due to a wrong setting on the camera]

The day started with the transcendental chanting of the young brahmanas from the Mayapur Bhaktivedanta Academy, led by Bhagisar prabhu.

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From 7.30 AM to 8.30 AM these young trainee priests expertly chanted ancient and modern mantras, filling the air with purifying smoke and sound vibrations in praise of the Lord and His devotees.

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With the scene thus perfectly set, we gladly received HH Bhakti Charu Swami at 1.00 PM. Sri Madan Chanda Shamsukha, our donor, along with his wife Geeta mataji, came to the entrance to offer Maharaja garlands and thanks for blessing this inaugural event.

Maharaja was then taken on a tour of the building.

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When he came on April 2, not much of the renovation was evident. However, this time he was able to see the completed library plus several rooms of the new guest house.

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Although we were not able to demonstrate the computer system yet, which still needs one or two key components, Maharaja was very happy with the progress and inspired enough that he offered a donation of Rs. 5 lakhs (about $10,800 at today’s rate) in September, which should cover the remaining renovations for the 7 guest rooms. We are very grateful for his generous support and his sharing our vision for the project.

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We took a brief respite in the VIP flat on the fifth floor, where Advaita Candra prabhu, the owner of Torchlight Publishers showed him some of their publications, including new title Where’s Hanuman? due to be released shortly.

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Soon enough it was time to go down to the front entrance to receive HH Jayapataka Swami. Once again Mr. Shamsukha and his wife along with Bhakti Charu Maharaja were delighted to form the reception committee to receive him with fragrant garlands and deep appreciation.

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Jayapataka Maharaja is the living epitome of the drdha-vrata mahatma. His determination to go on with his preaching despite multiple bodily failures caused by his stroke, leave the onlooker in awe and deep respect.

Despite partial paralysis in his arms and legs, and although the library is on the 2nd floor (3rd if you are American) Maharaja insisted on climbing the stone steps all the way up, even against the advice of his personal servants.

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Arriving at the new solid wood door entrance, the two Swamis grasped a pair of scissors and cut a red ribbon to officially open the library.

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Once inside they were delighted to see the fully fitted out library, its shelves replete with the first 500 books.

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The receptionist/librarian’s desk,

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the computer terminals,

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book scanner, air conditioning, carpet/vinyl flooring (which had only been laid the day before)

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and enough shelving to accommodate about 15,000 books impressed everyone and spoke of great things to come.

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We were blessed at that point with the arrival of HG Jananivas prabhu our head pujari from Mayapur.

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What better way to inaugurate this repository of transcendental literature than an arati to a full set of Srila Prabhupada’s books?

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The Mumbai BBT generously donated a copy of every book by Srila Prabhupada and with these set up on the reading table, HH Bhakti Charu Swami was invited to offer puja to them. Hari-sauri dasa lead the kirtana and a small but enthusiastic crowd joyfully marked the commencement of the library with the reverberation of the holy names.

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Acyuta prabhu, a BRC board member, collector of rare books, and chief book procurer for the BRC, showed our guests the array of books — Puranas, Mahabharata and Ramayan, the fledgling Vedic cosmology section, Sanskrit indicies and reference volumes, various commentaries, etc.

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From the library we went down into the temple room cum meeting hall cum Bhagavad Gita library. There, before an altar of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, and Sri Sri Partha-sarathi,

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Hari-sauri dasa gave a brief introduction of the project to the assembled guests.

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Using materials supplied by another board member, Sriman Pranava dasa from Sweden, he explained that both Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura 

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had incorporated the preservation and propagation of books into the aims and objectives of their respective organizations. Following in this line Srila Prabhupada had also included the same aims in his formation of ISKCON.

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Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura revived the plan of Srila Bhaktivinoda for the Vishva Vaishnava Raja Sabha (World Confederation of Vaisnavas), and this became the platform on which Srila Bhaktisiddhanta built his own institutional structure.

In the charter of the Sabha mentioned in the Sajjanatoshani, herein quoted from the Sarasvati Jaya Sri, he describes six areas of service (seva) that were to be developed by respective working committees (mandali), a plan that could be applied on a global scale:

1) Manada Mandali, making arrangements for worship of images (murti) and caring for Krsna bhaktas.

2) Sri Krishna Caitanya Pracara (missionary activities), a committee or mandali with three divisions:

a) Nama (sacred name). Travelling around the world and performing naga sankirtan–literally ‘community kirtan in   the village’–speaking the Bhagavata Purana to the masses, and serving the gurus of the movement. The members of this subcommittee would go to far off places for missionary purposes, lecturing and publicly singing the names of Radha and Krsna.

b) Sastra Pracara (mission related to texts). Collecting the texts of the Caitanya line and publishing, distributing and preserving them. This subcommittee worked to keep old writings in a safe condition and reprint them, as well as research the history of these books and their writers.

c) Sastra Siksya (textual instructions). Systematic study of bhakti literature. This subcommittee would give regular lectures to students about Vedanta, the art of devotion and held regular examinations as well.

3) Jijņasa (inquisitive) Mandali: for evaluating the character, background, and nature of a person before assigning a service for the movement.

4) Pasandadalan (deviation) Mandali: defending bhakti through written arguments supported by the general conclusions presented in the canonical Caitanyaite texts.

[Note: For the BRC, 2.b, 2.c and 4 are of particular interest]

The final two goals are:

5) Utsava (celebrations) Mandali: arranging large festivals on particular occasions related to sacred images, prominent Vaisnava personalities, etc.

6) Bhaktyanusana Mandali. Maintaining ancient sacred places and opening new temples and other facilities. This committee supervised also travelling for the sake of opening new Vaisnava centres.

From the above inspirations, the BRC board has formulated the following aims and objectives:

The Bhaktivedanta Research Centre has three areas of specialization in terms of its library:

1) To develop a comprehensive library of books on Indian astronomy from the classical to the modern period. The purpose is to explore the development of Indian astronomy and the perspective of Vedic, Puranic, and Siddhantic cosmology particularly of the Srimad Bhagavatam, based on original sources in various Indian languages.

[Note: this will serve to establish the cosmology presented in the new Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (TOVP) in Mayapur]

2) To develop a Bhagavad Gita library, which aims at collecting translations and commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita by Vaishnava acaryas from all over India, both in English, Sanskrit and vernacular languages like Bengali, Hindi, Tamil and Gujarati. The collection will also include translations of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita As It Is in all available languages of the world.

[Note: This Gita library has been especially championed by Mr. Shamsukha, and in fact, the building which houses the BRC is called the Gita Bhavan]

3) To collect, preserve and digitize literature of Gaudiya Vaishnavism from the period of Lord Caitanya to the present. This part of the project would include location of old manuscripts in the libraries and mathas of Bengal, Bangladesh and Orissa and other centers of Gaudiya Vainavism such as Vrndavana, Jaipur etc., and preservation of rare donated manuscripts at the centre. These will be digitized for access on the internet,

A further three aims will facilitate research on the above library:

4) To encourage and carry out the study, translation and research on the above texts, and publish literature of high academic and devotional standard from the Centre.

5) To create good facilities for scholars to stay at the Centre and study at the library.

6) To hold seminars, courses and lectures on the content of the library, publicizing the value of the knowledge thus collected.

[end]

After presenting these aims and objectives, Hari-sauri then offered thanks to the major donors of the BRC.

The principle donors are Sri Madan Chanda Shamsukha

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and his wife Geeta Mukherjee Shamsukha (on the right).

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Mr. Shamsukha built the building in 1973. In 2000 he offered it to ISKCON Mayapur. It was used for sometime for youth group meetings and Bhagavad Gita seminars and now it is reincarnated as the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre.

Not only did Mr. Shamsukha donate the building, he played an active roll in the renovations, helping to hire contractors, checking the agreements and the quality of work. Because he lives in the building he and his wife also had to tolerate five months of constant banging and crashing, the whine of drills and saws, crowds of workers and clouds of dust. At 78 years old that is no mean task and the BRC is extremely grateful to them both for their austerities in the service of the Lord.

None of the renovations and library construction could have been possible without the enthusiastic support of the Mayapur Vrindavan Trustees (MVT)Advaita Candra das (chairman), Jayapataka Swami, Gopal Krishna Goswami, Abhirama dasa, Gopal Bhatta dasa, Sesa dasa, and Hari-sauri dasa (secretary). They fully supported the proposal present by Hari-sauri dasa last October 2008 to the tune of Rs. 21 lakhs (approx. $46,000.00) with an additional emergency loan of 5 lakhs. This is the first major project the MVT has supported outside of its own projects since 1987 and the BRC is extremely grateful to the trustees for their vision and confidence as well as their tangible support.

Ambarish prabhu has for the last two years supported the TOVP cosmology team and he consented to a donation via the cosmology team of $10,000.00 which was used in the purchase of the computer equipment.

The TOVP cosmology team, consisting of Ravindra Svarup prabhu, Sraddhadevi dasi, Carana Renu dasi, and Antardwip dasa provided the initial impetus for the establishment of the library.

The Mayapur temple generously gave over the use of most of the building for the BRC and the Kolkata temple managers Radha Raman and Vrndavan Palika prabhus gave constant and practical support.

On the day of the opening we were also fortunate to hear from the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International directors of a generous donation of Rs. 1,20,000.00 for the procurement of books. We are grateful for their support and encouragement.

After this introduction, HH Jayapataka Swami and Bhakti Charu Swami were invited to unveil two granite commemoration plaques, one to honor Mr. Shamsukha and his wife, and the other to mark the inauguration of the BRC.

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HH Jayapataka Swami then spoke a few words, strongly appreciating the establishment of the facility. He had previously pointed out that the Ramanujas have a wonderful library in Melkote in S. India where they preserve all their important writings and do research in defence and propagation of their line. Jayapataka Maharaja described the BRC as an important new development for ISKCON and pledged his full support.

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HH Bhakti Charu Swami, a graduate of Calcutta university and Calcutta native who was born not too far from the BRC, brought the program to its conclusion. He expressed his delight at seeing the transformation of the building into a scholarly facility and his promise of five lakhs rupees was a solid testiment of his support.

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Prasadam was then distributed to all the guests, and although HH Jayapataka Swami had to return to the Kolkata temple for his physio-therapy sessions, he took a sample of the subji with him.

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HH Bhakti Charu Maharaja and Jananivas prabhu took their prasadam in the top floor flat before departing for another program.

We are very happy to have received the blessings and been graced by the presence of these noble souls. It marks an auspicious beginning. However there is still much work to be done to get to the point where the library actually starts its work. The computer systems have yet to be fully installed, and we now have to begin acquiring the thousands of books the facility was built for.

As an indication of how important this facility can be, Sriman Pranava prabhu informed us that to date there is no single center either in the Gaudiya Mathas or elsewhere, where all the works of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura can be found. This is both surprising and even shocking.

Further, Pranava also informed us that there are at least four encyclopedias of Bengal Vaishnavism that are a basic
reference library for our tradition and they are:

1) Vaishnava Manjusa, edited by Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati, 4 vol.

2) Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidana and Jibana, by Haridas Das, Haribol Kutir, Navadvipa, 2 vol.

3) Gaudiya Vaishnavadarshana, by Sadhana Prakashan Nath, Kolkata, 9 volumes

4) Samkshipta Vaishnava Abhidhana, by Kumudranjan Bhattacharya, KLM Pvt. Ltd., Kolkata, 1978.

All the above are since long out of print, and thus the study of Gaudiya Vaisnavism is quite weak. It shows that the condition of Vaishnava studies in Bengal is in dire need of revival. The Bhaktivedanta Research Centre would be a resource for such a revival through the preservation and translation of such literature, whenever possible. It is our intention to have as complete a body of Gaudiya Vaisnava literature as possible, both physically and digitally. The best way to preserve knowledge is to distribute it.

The reader may thus understand that if we can establish a center containing all the Gaudiya Vaisnava literature it will be a great service to our entire disciplic succession, both past and future. We humbly beg the blessings and support of all Vaisnavas for the success of the BRC

We have almost arrived at the beginning. Much work still needs to be done. If any reader feels inspired, we still need substantial support both for completion of the renovations, and the on-going operations.

For instance, to name but a few items, half the guest house rooms are still mid-renovation and stalled until further funds arrive; we would like to establish a proper kitchen and dining facility for visitors and guests; we need a first class uninteruptable power supply as backup for the computer servers; all the windows need metal security frames; the stairwell needs recladding and the front entrance needs repaving.

As for the running costs, a budget of 8.5 lakhs (approx. $20,000 a year) has been calculated to cover the basic expenses to run the centre. We will be developing a donor scheme and eventually we will also be applying for grants from foundations, government and educational institutions. In the meantime if anyone feels generously disposed and is looking for a project that will support the entire Gaudiya Vaisnava mission, kindly consider that this may be the best project to invest your hard earned wealth in.

Any help or advice is always welcome and interested readers are invited to correspond with the BRC general manager, Hari-sauri dasa:

email: hari.sauri.acbsp@pamho.net
or        harisauri@gmail.com
PH: 09830120437

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