November 25, 2010

Meetings with the Ghosh Family

In November 2010, 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.

October 1, 2010

BRC is Entrusted with Sundarananda Vidyavinoda's Private Collection

BRC's first significant and very exciting acquisition has been the gift of the private collection of Sri Sundarananda Vidyavinoda. Sundarananda Vidyavinoda was a Sanskrit professor, disciple, and leading editor of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, the Founder/ Acarya of the Gaudiya Matha. He was responsible for the publishing of the "Gaudiya," the monthly publication of the Gaudiya Mission.

By the very generous and magnanimous gesture of His Holiness Bodhayan Maharaja, the current Acarya of the Sri Gopinatha Gaudiya Matha, the BRC was extremely fortunate to be given custody of this priceless collection consisting of over 2,500 items.

This achievement has been possible as the result of six years of negotiation by Pranava das from Sweden as part of his research on the life and works of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. 

Krishnabhishek das was essential in settling the terms of the custody agreement and access to many precious titles belonging to the private collection of Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaja, who was one of the editors of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura's newspapers and magazines. 

Krishnabhishek das also collaborated with the State Central library, Kolkata for professional digitization of some of the important journals and newspapers. Among the SVV collection, we found some rare treasures and out of print titles.

top image (above): Bhaktivinoda Thakura's edition of Padma Purana in Sanskrit 

bottom image (above) : an original print of Bange Samajikata, the first book written by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati in 1899 (aside from his astronomical works)

top image: 400 year-old hand written copy of a page of Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya Lila
bottom image: samples of the handwriting of Bhaktivinoda Thakura 

August 30, 2010

Postcard found that was written to Srila Bhaktivonode Thakura from his daughter

A postcard sent by the daughter of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura to her father in 1904. This was discovered in the Sundarananda Vidya Vinoda collection, gifted to the BRC in 2009.

May 31, 2010

Summary of General Meeting, Dec 2010

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) Publishing
High on the agenda was a discussion of the BRC’s 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) 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) 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 BRC’s 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 Prabhupada’s ISKCON and the Gaudiya Vaisnava movement in general.

4) 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 BRC’s 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