An Interview with Sriman Jnana Sakti Prabhu [Vancouver, Canada] for www.jaivadharma.org by Sripad BV Tridandi Maharaja:
Sripad BV Tridandi Maharaja: What is it about Jaiva-dharma that you find so special?
Sriman Jnana Sakti Prabhu: Just as “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” was our Srila Prabhupada’s “flagship” book, in the same way, I think Srila Gurudeva’s Jaiva-dharma translation can be seen as his flagship book, the book that is put forward foremost in his preaching mission. Since, as Srila Gurudeva has stated, Jaiva-dharma contains the A-Z of the science of bhakti, we accept this invaluable sastra as foundation for all devotees.
Our Param-gurudeva Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja has stated in the introduction that “In brief I may say that this little book is filled with the essence of all the sastras of India, like the ocean contained in an earthen pitcher. It is no exaggeration to say that unless religious-minded people read this book, there will certainly be a dearth of philosophical knowledge regarding spiritual truth in their lives.” He has also recommended that Jaiva-dharma be studied in the same sequence as it’s been composed. That is to say that this online course follows the sastric convention of analysis of the Table of Contents, followed by the three divisions of sambandha, abhideya and prayojana, in that order. Critical for all to bear in mind is how Srila Gurudeva’s translation not only makes the tattva-siddhanta clear, but also conveys the intended mood of the heart as well.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada has explained that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura must be correctly understood as a pure devotee, rather than as a contemporary scholar of his time, otherwise one will miss the entire purport of his teachings. Srila Gurudeva’s translation stays true to this principle. He also makes the book easier to understand as it does not unnecessarily burden the reader with an excessive bias towards jnana, which would make the study experience mentally cumbersome.
Sripad BV Tridandi Maharaja: What has motivated you to enter more deeply into Jaiva-dharma?
Sriman Jnana Sakti Prabhu: At the time of my initiation, Srila Gurudeva instructed me to read Jaiva-dharma repeatedly. He said he also very much liked the audio book. So hearing the audio narration was a method of study that I found easy to digest, especially in combination with reading the text. Likewise, I recommend that students adopt this study technique as it engages both the eye and ear simultaneously.
Reading Jaiva-dharma over and over simply increases the taste. Gurudeva has given an analogy, that when we eat an apple, it’s finished at one sitting, whereas when we eat a mango, we can keep extracting more and more juice for a long time.
The taste that arises from reading, hearing or discussing Jaiva-dharma, produces a desire to share it with others. While this holds true with all bhakti-sastras, Jaiva-dharma in particular is easily promoted as a compact version representative of all bhakti-tattvas. That is why I feel that it can never be over-rated or over-promoted.
Sripad BV Tridandi Maharaja: What are your preferred methods of sharing Jaiva-dharma?
Sriman Jnana Sakti Prabhu:
In person with individuals or in small groups
Online, live or in time delayed messages or audio/video recordings
In a classroom setting using Power Point.
The underlying principle is personal interaction in every case.
Sripad BV Tridandi Maharaja: Regarding sharing, tell us about the planned website.
Sriman Jnana Sakti Prabhu: JaivaDharma.org will offer a self-paced learning environment where time zone challenges associated with international online classroom settings are no longer an issue and where devotees learn at their own speed due to personal learning style, time constraints, etc. Still, within the various learning modules, there will be opportunities for studying with other devotees in a live albeit online environment.
By studying together, we engage in sankirtana. One can perform kirtana alone, but kirtana with other Vaisnavas is sankirtana and is a more complete experience. So that aspect must be there.
Sripad BV Tridandi Maharaja: While the full range of siddhanta is contained in Jaiva-dharma, it is not easy for an average practitioner to decipher it. Do you think your project will address this in any way?
Sriman Jnana Sakti Prabhu: The Overview Course will assist by illustrating the structure of Jaiva-dharma by providing visual diagrams and audio summaries of the Divisions and Chapters. In this way devotees can grasp the basic content flow before venturing deeper.
The Full Course will provide students with an in-depth study of each chapter. Each division will be studied in sequence. Various teaching tools will be used, like flow charts, conceptual mapping, quizzes and other visual aids. There will be chapter discussion blogs, peer to peer social media conversation and live online group interaction where questions can be resolved.
These techniques will encourage students by helping them to ‘put it all together,’ making the full range of Jaiva-dharma much easier to digest than if they were to approach it unassisted. This will hold true in the majority of cases.
Sripad BV Tridandi Maharaja: The third division of Jaiva-dharma deals with Rasa-tattva. This subject requires some adhikara to comprehend it compared to the first two divisions. How would you assist others to approach it?
Sriman Jnana Sakti Prabhu: Gurudeva used the phrase, “All for All.” That is to say, adhikara is required for all sections. If we are devotionally sincere, we will understand the topics to the degree that our current adhikara allows. Our acaryas have cautioned us in terms of misunderstanding rasa-tattva by applying material conceptions to spiritual subjects. Since Jaiva-dharma has been presented in the manner it has, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has assured us that there is little to fear when Jaiva-dharma is approached with sincerity, with faith in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and without the tendency for knowledge with the objective of liberation from matter.
Sripad BV Tridandi Maharaja: How would the website be relevant to those already knowledgeable in Jaiva-dharma?
Sriman Jnana Sakti Prabhu:
They will surely obtain further joy in studying this continually revealing sastra in the association of like-minded souls.
They can share their insights with junior students, thereby assisting them.
Sripad BV Tridandi Maharaja: When will the website be ready for devotees to take the courses?
Sriman Jnana Sakti Prabhu: We will likely launch the first phase by Aksaya-tritiya (April 25/26), 2020. Divisions one and two will likely be ready by then. Division three will follow.
Most importantly, the website is an offering to Srila Gurudeva for his 2021 Appearance Centennial. Our hope and prayer is to be fully operational by then.
Sripad BV Tridandi Maharaja: Thank you very much for your time and all the very best for your initiative. One last question – Do you have any selection criteria in mind?
Sriman Jnana Sakti Prabhu: There is no set selection criterion for registering as a student aside from having faith in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His bhaktas. That said, I encourage those who want to register to be of a mind of commitment to the study. There is a lot of volume to cover, therefore a deep sense of commitment will be very helpful to them. Sanskrit terminology often does pose a challenge to many, especially newer devotees. However, Sanskrit scholarship is unnecessary. Throughout Jaiva-dharma there are often quick explanations in the text itself, either adjacent to the terms, or in context to reflect the meanings following each term given. If one reads patiently, most often the terminologies are resolved this way. I must also mention that there are glossaries for terms, places, and names of personalities in the back of the book. I can also assist personally when needed, or students can put forth questions in the chapter discussion forums found on each chapter page. Considering all these provided resources, students should be able to get through the Full Course easily with applied patience and diligence.