Welcome to the first quarterly newsletter of the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre. In this edition we cover October through December 2010, our first year in operation.
At the outset, we are very pleased to recognize His Grace Akrura dasa, temple president of ISKCON Vancouver, who became our second Patron Member in March 2010
And also His Grace Mahesh Advani of Dubai, who became our third Patron Member during on October 2010.
May these kind devotees and their families receive all the blessings of Srila Prabhupada and our acaryas for their enthusiastic support.
Sri Sundarananda Vidya Vinodas collection
We are happy to have completed the initial cataloguing of this valuable collection of almost 2,500 items. The many rare and old volumes have also been fumigated and are now on the shelves.
Central Library link up
By the arrangement of Krishnabhishek prabhu the entire collection of Gaudiya Matha periodicals published under Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada i.e. Nadia Prakash (daily newspaper), Sajjana Toshani (weekly newspaper) and Gaudiya (monthly newspaper), which Sundarananda Vidya Vinoda had bound into large volumes, were sent to the Central Library in Kolkata for scanning. About forty percent of these have now been scanned and returned. Further scanning will continue throughout the year.
Many of them are in quite poor condition and we are grateful to the Central Library for their kind help in doing the scanning, thus preserving these valuable sources of Gaudiya Vaisnava history.
These have been fumigated and placed on the library shelves.
Fumigation of all inventory is essential. The older materials are riddled with destructive insects of various kinds and some of the oldest works are seriously eaten away.
Our fumigation program is simple but effective. Acting on advice from the Asiatic Society library we obtained the necessary chemicals to ensure that all the destructive bugs were eliminated. The books are enclosed in special steel almiras which allow the fumes from the chemical cocktail to circulate. Three weeks is the standard fumigation period.
Once on the shelves of the library the books are surrounded by naphalene balls to keep out any possible new infestations.
Meetings with the Ghosh family
In November we were fortunate to meet with Srimati Srilekha Bose, the daughter of eminent Bengal politician Sri Tarun Kanti Ghosh, and grand-daughter of Mahatma Sishir Kumar Ghosh, at her home in Mumbai.
Sri Sishir Kumar Ghosh was a prominent Vaisnava, publisher and personal friend of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
It was he who named Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur the seventh Goswami. From 1890 to 1898 he published Sri Visnu Priya O Ananda Bazar Patrika under the editorship of the Thakura on a fortnightly basis, and later it became a monthly.
In 1897 Sishir Kumar Ghosh published a two volume glorification of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu called Lord Gauranga or Salvation for All. Smt. Srilekha Bose very kindly donated her personal set of this long-out-of-print book plus two other rare volumes by her grandfather to the BRC.
HH Bhakti Charu Swami receives the rare books from Smt. Srilekha Bose, with BBT Trustee Bhima Dasa and Juhu Temple President Braja Hari prabhu looking on
Then in mid-December we were fortunate to have further discussions at the BRC with Smt. Rita Dutta and Sri Tamal Kanti Ghosh, the great-grand children of Sishir Kumar Ghosh.
The Ghosh family at one time had an extensive library inherited from Sri Sishir Kumar Ghosh but it has now become scattered. Rita and Tamal Kanti have vowed to help us track down the collection and our hope is that we may find some rare Vaisnava books by the Mahatma and other Vaisnava authors and even correspondence or works connected directly to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
Annual General Meeting
Our academic directors, Sriman Pranava prabhu and Sriman Krishnabhishek prabhu were both in Kolkata during December affording us the opportunity to hold our second annual general meeting. In attendance were Pranava dasa, Krishnabhishek dasa, Smt. Bharati Roy, Smt. Hena Basu, Sm. Sunil Gupta, Janakaraja dasa, Acyuta dasa and Hari-sauri dasa.
Here is a highlight of the topics discussed:
1) AGM – Publishing
High on the agenda was a discussion of the BRCs publishing strategy. With so many old books from Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura still not translated into English and other languages, the BRC is keen to begin this important service to the Vaisnavas.
Apart from being involved with supporting the publication of works by universities and academic institutions aimed at the academic community, the BRC it will have its own publications which are written in a way that appeals specifically to the sensibilities and perceptions of the devotee audience.
The goal is to contribute to a precise understanding of the roots and ancient tradition of the movement for the benefit of its members and well-wishers. One of the first books we hope to translate and publish is Padma Purana by Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
2) AGM – Mission statement
Succinctly stated, the purpose of the BRC is to provide a complete philosophical and theological back up to Srila Prabhupada’s books. It will be repository of every primary and secondary source* of Gaudiya Vaisnava literature thus providing a complete set of evidence to prove that all his statements are entirely bona fide, on the basis of our sampradaya. Accessing the original writings of our sampradaya will also help researchers solve complex issues that Srila Prabhupada only adressed briefly.
* Primary Source works are defined as original works from acaryas in our guru-parampara as well as commentaries on these works by our acaryas.
Secondary Source works are defined as commentaries on primary source material by scholars outside of our line.
3) AGM – Broader educational scheme
Our academic director, Pranava prabhu has proposed an integrated vision of education and research for the future generations of Vaisnava scholars. ISKCON leaders have long discussed the creation of a university in Mayapur and a full educational system with links to main stream educational institutions. The BRC will play a major role in providing resources for the students.
We are very excited to hear that a new branch of the Belgium-based Bhaktivedanta College is being planned for Mayapur, and is expected to begin its operations in 2012. It will offer a Bachelor degree in Theology and Philosophy, including language courses in Sanskrit and Bengali. The new College will be accredited with a University in the UK.
At the same time, in Kolkata, Jadavpur University, one of the best in India, will have an area of specialization dedicated to Gaudiya Vaishnavism, giving the option to apply for a Masters in Sociology of Religion.
For those who wish to go further, they will have the option of entering a Ph.D. course at Jadavpur, or for the very brightest, to apply for a scholarship at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies in the UK. The University of Oxford is ranked number one in the world in the Humanities, and offers also a Masters in Theology as a preparation for a Ph.D.
The implications of the above are that for the first time, it will be possible for students of Gaudiya Vaisnavism to have a full fledged, first class academic education in Theology/ Philosophy/ Sociology/ History beginning in Mayapur, West Bengal, which may lead all the way up to the highest academic degree in the public educational system.
Graduates will then be eligible to work in an academic institution in India or in the West, to contribute to the growth of the Mayapur College, and/or to support the development of world-class scholarship about our tradition. It will also create the basis for having highly qualified students that may contribute to the development of ISKCON in many important ways in the future.
The BRC is meant to provide resources on all levels of these studies, and particularly at the Master and Ph.D. levels. It will be an important resource for any student who wants to study and research the Gaudiya tradition represented by Srila Prabhupada and his movement and also the Gaudiya Mathas.
We envision the BRCs task as four-fold:
First to collect all literature referred to directly or indirectly in the books written by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. They will be of direct relevance for illuminating in full the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness as Srila Prabhupada presented it.
Of great importance is to collect and preserve the works of the acaryas of our disciplic succession going all the way back to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. That means the works of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Vishvanatha Cakravarti, the Six Gosvamis of Vrindavan and so on. This is the core library of the BRC.
Secondly, as per the instructions of Srila Prabhupada in Bombay in 1976, BRC will collect the essential works of other Vaishnava acaryas, particularly Madhva and Ramanuja, and even Shankara, which will place our tradition in the broader picture of Vaishnavism in India.
Thirdly the BRC will collect, according to resources, secondary works, i.e. academic literature, that deals with the Chaitanya tradition, in the fields of History, Philosophy, Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, Gender Studies etc. This will provide an additional resource for a systematic research about our tradition within the framework of what earlier scholarship has achieved.
Fourth, the BRC will provide a comprehensive library of academic literature in religious and related studies for consultation on-site at the BRC facility. This will allow students in Bengal to access world class academic literature, which otherwise would be entirely out of reach due to their high cost.
The location of the BRC at the heart of Kolkata is ideal for fulfilling these purposes, considering that Kolkata has some of the best research facilities in India and some of the most prestigious institutions for higher education at a very close proximity.
The BRC can play a crucial role within this larger frame of a comprehensive higher education program and bring credit to Srila Prabhupadas ISKCON and the Gaudiya Vaisnava movement in general.
4) AGM – Finances
Essential to all operations is of course, the funding. In its first year of operation the BRC was given a grant of Rs. 50,000 per month by the Mayapur Vrindavan Trust. This was a huge help and guaranteed our development. This grant expired in September and from October 2010 onwards we have been relying on membership fees, donations, plus a small income from the guest house.
Participants agreed that the guest house income could and should be boosted considerably since this is currently the BRCs only way of generating income outside of our membership program. The guest house will be advertized in time to reach the attention of international devotees visiting Mayapur for the Gaura Purnima festival.
Making members is our main source of income. We have currently three tiers
Subscriber members Rs. 15,000 per year;
– Yearly Members US$501.00 p.a.;
– Patron Members US$10,000.00 (one time)
New Membership level – NITYA SEVAKS
Pranava prabhu suggested a new tier of membership which we have termed Nitya Sevaks continuous contributors.
The Nitya Sevaks membership is aimed at covering the monthly running costs of approximately Rs. 70,000 (US$1,555.00). It is not a huge amount for an operation like the BRC and what we need is 20 enthusiastic supporters to give regular monthly amounts as follows:
11 donors giving $1 per day – $31 per month
5 donors giving $2 per day – $62 per month
2 donors giving $5 per day – $155.00 per month
2 donors giving $10 per day – $310 per month
Pranava and Krishnabhishek prabhus immediately volunteered to become our first $1 per day Nitya Sevaks.
H. H. Bhakti Charu Swami, who is already our first Patron Member, has pledged Rs. 10,000.00 per month ($222.00) beginning January 2011.
Now we need 17 more Nitya Sevaks to sign up to keep this exciting and important project afloat.
If you would like to become a Nitya Sevak you are invited to contact BRC Director Hari-sauri dasa email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or
General Manager Janakaraja dasa email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Head Librarian Acyuta dasa
We are very happy to announce the appointment of Sriman Acyuta dasa as our new head librarian.
Acyuta prabhu has been involved from the BRCs inception but now he has made himself available for full time work. Acyuta brings with him 28 years of devotional service. He has been engaged in research for almost 20 years in the major libraries & cultural/academic institutions of Kolkata. He has studied Library Science and all its connected subjects, in two Indian universities (IGNOU and ICFAI), and has his own personal library of over 11,000 books. He has acquired expertise in the use of computer tools and web resources connected with books & library science and his addition to the team is a very welcome plus.
Beginning January 1, 2011 he will focus on setting up our computer system, professional library software and website. Our goal is to have the website up and running by March 2011. The website address is www.brconline.co.in
We have also hired a new assistant for the library, Ashish Chakroborty.
General Manager Janakaraja dasa, chief researcher Smt. Bharati Roy, assistant Ashish Chakrobarty
Ashish is a B. Sc. and is engaged in scanning the many hundreds of books in our library at a current rate of about 400 pages per day. This is about the limit for the simple book scanner we have and our plan is to apply for a grant to upgrade to a professional semi-automated model that can do 700 pages per hour. More about that in our next newsletter.
Another important acquisition is a dozen new fire extinguishers. With so much wood and paper around these are a necessity for any library.
Thats it for now. We offer our thanks to everyone who has supported the BRC and we invite everyone else to participate in this humble attempt to fulfill Srila Prabhupadas desire.
Your humble servant, Hari-sauri dasa Director BRC