Friday, June 30, 2017

Prabodhananda Sarasvati's Viveka-satakam Release

The book was published by the Bhakti Vikasa Trust and can be ordered HERE

Almost five hundred years after its composition, Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati’s Viveka-satakam (A Hundred Verses of Wisdom) has been published for the first time. Although an ancient manuscript of the text was listed among a private collection in 1883, its whereabouts was unknown for many decades. After locating the manuscript in the course of my research work, it was a joy to verify that it was at least four hundred years old. Upon analyzing the text, it became clear that it had many characteristics common to other works of Srila Prabodhananda. Yet there was a difficulty – it was a poor transcription into Bengali characters and a number of incorrect readings compromised the text intelligibility to some extent. I was fortunate to come across a manuscript in Devanagari that proved to be essential to determine the original readings.

In a quasi-autobiographical tone, Srila Prabodhananda tells us some of his experiences and impressions in life, his struggles in worldly affairs, his anxieties in family life and above all, his burning desire to give up everything to go to Vrindavan, which is glorified throughout the book. It is clear that at the time of composition the author was already an adherent of Lord Caitanya’s philosophy, as he expresses his desire to serve the Lord birth after birth, declares that Krsna, the Lord of Gokula, is superior even to Lord Visnu, and mentions Srimati Radharani’s name several times. He also mentions the name “Radha-ramana” a few times, which hints that this name had special significance to him.

The present edition features other two texts previously unknown among Srila Prabodhananda’s works: Caitanya-citrastakam and Nityanandastakam. Manuscripts of these texts were subsequently located in different places in India, and each of them is several centuries old. In these two texts, the author praises both Lords with selected poetical words.

This edition includes the original Sanskrit text in Devanagari, the transliterated Roman text with diacritics, word-for-word meanings, an English translation, a foreword by H.H. Bhakti Vikasa Swami, and an article by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura about the life of Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati. It also includes an extensive introduction that presents recent findings about Prabodhananda, and addresses several misconceptions, such as the idea that he was previously known as Prakasananda.

Foreword by Bhakti Vikasa Swami

As if influenced by the worldwide dominance of sudra culture, very few Gaudiya Vaisnavas today have even an inkling of the tremendous scholarly heritage to which they are heirs. And even if informed of it, very few take interest, as if it has nothing to do with them. But factually, service to the literary contributions of the previous acaryas is a major area of devotional service that if neglected by the whole Vaisnava community constitutes a collective offense known as guror avajna, neglecting the gurus.

There is practically unlimited work to do in collecting, preserving, reproducing, translating, and commenting on old manuscripts, and in many other scholarly fields also. It is regrettable that much of the Vaisnava world today is more inclined toward adapting Krsna consciousness to mleccha society rather than understanding and embracing our own glorious and fully spiritual tradition.

Symptomatic of this is that despite the ongoing massive recruitment achievements of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his followers, only a very few within his community have shown serious interest in Vaisnava scholarship –  and most of those few have opted to pander to the largely agnostic secular academia. Hence appreciation is due to Bhakta Demian (Dr. Demian Martins) for dedicating his life to one major area of research—the legacy of Gaudiya Vedantacarya Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana—which he is conducting in the straightforward traditional manner of a committed devotee, shunning the pretensions and prejudices of secular academia.

From my own dabblings in scholarly research, I came to learn what probably all serious researchers have experienced: sometimes while exploring in one area, one stumbles across another huge field of investigation in related or sometimes even distant topics. Thus it is that Bhakta Demian has taken an aside from his life’s focus on Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana to publish this important book, which brings to light some largely unknown writings of Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati.

Particularly valuable herein is Bhakta Demian’s research and analysis concerning the identity of Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati, which sheds new light on a long-standing controversy by making clear that the contention of certain polemicists has very little credibility. Followers of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura glorify him as rupanuga-viruddhapasiddhanta-dhvanta-hari, “the remover of the darkness of faulty conclusions that oppose those of the followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami” – which he did by establishing sat-siddhanta (proper philosophical conclusions), down to the minutest detail. It is in this tradition that Bhakta Demian has compiled this book, and naturally in doing so he also glorifies Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati and the subsequent acaryas who have glorified him.

Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati’s poetic adoration of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Radha, Sri Vrndavana-dhama, and Sri Navadvipa-dhama, in his famous works Sri Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi, Sri Caitanya-candramrta, Vrndavana-sataka, and Navadvipa-sataka, is unprecedented in its unique ebullience. Among his other works are Sangita-Madhava, Ascarya-rasa-prabandha, Sruti-stuti-vyakhya, Gita-govinda-vyakhyana, Kama-bija-kama-gayatri-vyakhyana, and a commentary on Gopala-tapani Upanisad.  The present book is actually a trilogy of Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati’s writings which were so far unknown to the public. In the longest of the three works, Viveka-satakam, the author repeatedly expresses his ardent desire to go to Vrndavana. In Caitanya-citrastakam and Nityanandastakam he delightfully employs selected words of unalloyed ardour for his worshipable Lords. Typical of Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati, his devotional ecstasy as if leaps from his heart into his words and therefrom to the heart of the sympathetic reader.

By traveling the length and breadth of India, often accepting very austere conditions in the course of undertaking perseverant, meticulous research, and by locating, translating, and publishing the manuscripts featured herein, Bhakta Demian has been able to perform this notable service of adding to the known canon of Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati. Gaudiyas should be grateful to him for these contributions. May our acaryas continue to bless him in his ongoing endeavours. We look forward to more such publications from him in the coming years.