Venugopal Prabhu's offering of a Video Presentation
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
Ambarisa Dasa from Team Centennial interviewed Venugopal Prabhu about his offering for Srila Gurudeva‘s Centennial 2021.
Ambarisa Dasa: Hare Krsna Prabhu. Dandavat pranams.
Venugopal Dasa: Dandavats.
Ambarisa Dasa: We’ve heard a lot about your documentary project on Srila Gurudeva. Could you walk us through the theme, and how you arrived at this idea?
Venugopal Dasa: Sure. So the idea has been floating around Srila Gurudeva’s disciples for some years, to do a documentary project about his life and teachings. But what we are doing now is not strictly speaking a documentary. It is a presentation by his disciples. Because a documentary in my mind should be somewhat objective, with a kind of investigative quality to it, where people with some detachment from the subject are going in and checking out a topic or person. But this is really a presentation by his disciples, and we are defending the way in which he preached, and showing how that is linked with the parampara. In particular we are focusing in on his presentation of Mahaprabhu’s reasons for coming. So it’s been very interesting to work on it. It’s quite an involved project for quite a few people: devotees that we’ve interviewed. For me personally it’s been a really rich experience, coming deeper into his teachings.
Ambarisa Dasa: It is good that you clarified this, because so far we had been thinking of it only as a documentary.
Venugopal Dasa: We called it a documentary for a long time. It’s only recently I started to think it’s not exactly a documentary. I don’t want to give devotees the wrong idea that this will be the comprehensive documentary about his life and teachings. Rather it is a presentation by his disciples on some central key aspects of his teachings.And it does speak a bit about his life as well, but mostly it’s about his teachings.
Ambarisa Dasa: I hope it’s not restricted only to his followers or the disciples.
Venugopal Dasa: Our presentation is meant really for two groups of people. One is his followers and one is other devotees who are open to learning about him. So it’s not a presentation aimed at people who are not familiar with Krsna consciousness. We had to make that choice, because one presentation can’t really be for everybody. I think if somebody who is new [to Krsna consciousness] watched it, they would get something out of it, but a lot of it would be pretty hard to understand, because it doesn’t start at the beginning. Just like Srila Gurudeva, when he travelled the world, was speaking mostly to devotees who had many years of experience. So the video is also speaking to experienced devotees.
Ambarisa Dasa: Ok. There has been a lot of talk around Srila Gurudeva’s centennial, and there is a unanimous voice about wanting to do something significant. Like you have this aptitude for videography, this [documentary initiative] will surely encourage devotees around the world to introspectwhat they can offer to Srila Gurudeva for the centennial. As individuals or as a group, we get to offer to Srila Gurudeva in so many different ways. Just like a variety of flowers presented in a bouquet.
Venugopal Dasa: Yes, so Srila Gurudeva’s centennial is coming up in 2021 and many devotees are enthusiastic to make some special offering at that time. And some devotees also maybe skeptical whether we can work together, whether it is possible to all collaborate and make something.
So my feeling is that we don’t need to wait for everybody to collaborate, we can just start with something. There is such power in starting something, and we never know really who is going to come and help us. So if we have even a small group of people who are somewhat likeminded then we can make something with them. It doesn’t need to be a grand, huge offering. Gurudeva always emphasized – ‘It’s about the heart’. We are making offerings in our heart. It could be just thinking about what we want to speak on that day. Or there is a wonderful website now with devotees sharing their experiences with Srila Gurudeva, or teachings they remember. So it could be an offering on there, or a series of offerings on there. It could be telling someone else about Srila Gurudevas glories. It could be helping with his publications, with some proof reading or you could get in contact with some of the devotees from GVP.
There are many things, I think, according to inspiration of the heart and different talents and capacities and angles that we all have. There are so many different offerings that we can do. And I think nobody should be discouraged from the beginning, thinking “Oh, we cannot cooperate, oh I don’t have this ability or that ability.
Because Srila Gurudeva never really emphasized that everybody has to be doing the same thing together, or that we have to have some special ability. He always emphasized our individual devotion and that we are offering according to our mood, you know, to please him and to please our parampara and Radha and Krsna. So I think it doesn’t need to be huge. There shouldn’t be a wall keeping anybody from making an offering, from starting something.The process of making something can be very wonderful.
This presentation we’re making, it’s not going to be a top standard, ultimate production value thing. It’s what we can do with the cameras we have, the budget we have, but it’s very wonderful project to work on. I feel like it is helping me personally to go deeper into his teachings and I think that’s probably what’s most important to him, that his disciples, in doing these offerings, enter deeper into his teachings. Otherwise what’s the point? it’s all just stuff and projects.
Ambarisa Dasa: Focusing more on the essence than the externals of it…
Venugopal Dasa: That was always his mood, yes, to focus on the essence. You know, he wasn’t into huge things, to pound the drums and make huge projects. Do what you can that really fits. That doesn’t overwhelm you and try to do it with love.
Ambarisa Dasa: Having said that, one of the major aspects for this centennial would be to give Srila Gurudeva and his teachings to the world, and in that connection I feel that your presentation will make a significant contribution. Could you tell us some details about the presentation itself and the aspects that are being covered?
Venugopal Dasa: A group of us got together a couple of years ago, and talked about doing a documentary about Srila Gurudeva. What we quickly realized is that it is not possible to do a documentary about him, because his life and his teachings are so vast and deep. So we ended up with many, many topics that we could possibly make documentaries on, like many documentaries. Of those we decided to start with his presentation of Mahaprabhu’s reasons for coming.
He made a book called “Gaura Vani Pracarine”, talking about Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, how he brought the same thing that Mahaprabhu came to give. So the gist of the presentation we are making now is about what Mahaprabhu really came to give.This service to Radha and Krsna and especially to Radha, Srimati Radhika; these details are in there. So at first we were thinking this is one of many topics, but getting deeper into it, it is a very central topic in Srila Gurudeva’s teachings. Because what Mahaprabhu came to give is what all the Acaryas in our Gaudiya sampradaya came to give, including Srila Gurudeva. So, Mahaprabhu tasted the mood of Srimati Radhika and that’s part of the presentation. But as far as we are concerned and what’s most important for us is what He came to give us and what service He came to involve us in. So that’s really the main part of the presentation and getting into it, it seems that’s really the heart of Srila Gurudeva’s teachings, what he came to give as well.
Ambarisa Dasa: Especially for his disciples and followers it will be nostalgic when they see these aspects of the presentation. And really, as a disciple what you take back is to try and imbibe the mood of your Guru. Especially after his departure, that becomes the benchmark of your life. That we want to imbibe the mood that he left for us. It’s a gift that he left for us.
Venugopal Dasa: Yes, I can see in the interviews in the presentation how Srila Gurudeva impacted the lives of different devotees who heard from him over the years. He changed their understanding of Krsna consciousness and deepened their understanding, broadened their understanding. It is really remarkable. It’s a privilege to be working on it.
Ambarisa Dasa: In the scope of your interviews with devotees, have you ventured outside of our Gurudeva’s sangha, like into ISKCON, or any other senior devotees from other institutions? Or is it strictly confined to our sanga?
Venugopal Dasa: We haven’t gone outside the sangha. Not really because we were limiting ourselves to the sangha, but because that’s who we have easier access to. There is a bit of controversy in the documentary, different accusations that came against Srila Gurudeva, so I don’t have an intention to go and actually try to interview the people who made those accusations.
We’ve talked about for example interviewing Sripad Bodhayan Maharaja or others in other sanghas who had some contact with him and who’ve been touched by him in different ways. And we may yet do that, but haven’t yet. But really it is a presentation of interviewing people who are sympathetic to him, and in that sense it is not an objective documentary.
Ambarisa Dasa: Yes, you mentioned that before. And one of the last aspects I would like to cover is when do we expect this to be completed? Will it be before the centennial? Or right at the time of the centennial? How are you planning it?
Venugopal Dasa: When we first started it, I thought it will take a lot less time to make, but it’s quite involved to get it right. So I certainly didn’t think it would take us as long as it has and I thought we would be finished well before the centennial. But I think at least we will have it done by the centennial.
Ambarisa Dasa: Ok. Thank you very much Venu Gopal Prabhu. It was great talking to you and I hope it comes together in time for the centennial, and comes out as a wonderful offering. All the disciples and followers of Srila Gurudeva around the world are definitely looking forward to it, and I am sure they will love it.
Venugopal Dasa: Oh great. Thank you.