June 30th, 2007

Here are some reviews of Srila Dhanurdhara Swami’s published work.

On Greetings from Vrindavana

“Greetings from Vrindavana” published
A look at Dhanurdhara Swami’s Greetings from Vrindavana by Jayadvaita Swami.

My latest reading: “Greetings from Vrindavana” by Dhanurdhara Swami. This 206-page book, smartly designed, consists of entries from a journal Dhanurdhara Swami kept in 2000 through 2003 and shared with friends and followers.

The entries are full of deep, thoughtful insights into Vaishnava philosophy and practical spiritual life. Dhanurdhara Swami takes us on tour with him as he leads friends from New York on pilgrimage in Mayapur and Vrindavana. What a zesty mix—America and India, metropolis and village, modernity and eternity, New York and Vrindavana! The pilgrims encounter saintly pujaris, biting mokeys, thugs who beat up their driver on the road, and Krishna Himself in the form of His sacred land, His literary revelation, and His holy name.

We all have a relationship with Krishna, and the truth of that relationship is finally the deepest truth in our lives. But how are we to find it and “make it happen” for us and dedicate ourselves to it with a pure and full heart?

It all happens in Vrindavana. And Vrindavana happens for us—reveals itself to us—in the company of spiritually advanced souls.

Such is the company we find here, as Dhanurdhara Swami takes us on tour of Vrindavana, shares with us his own experiences and realizations and those of the pilgrims traveling with him, introduces us to colorful spiritual people in Vrindavana who’ve been his friends and acquaintances over the years, and fills us with what he has heard from close lifelong companions who, like him, have dedicated themselves to the service of Srila Prabhupada.

I highly recommend this book.

On Waves of Devotion

Diving into “The Nectar of Devotion”
A review of Dhanurdhara Swami’s Waves of Devotion by Jayadvaita Swami.

Waves of Devotion comes close to my ideal of what a commentary should be. It is illuminating yet unpretentious, systematic but not dry—and you can read it.

As Srila Prabhupada’s subtitle indicates, The Nectar of Devotion is a summary study. It gives us the essentials of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, with considerable detail, and in one sense it is complete; one need not go beyond it. Yet one can go deeper into it, and Waves of Devotion helps us do just that.

It does not try to surpass Srila Prabhupada’s book; rather, it tries to assist us in appreciating what Srila Prabhupada is saying. Through lists and charts and explanations, Waves gets us deeper into the text. When Dhanurdhara Swami quotes from Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu itself, he does so to add detail or to show us precisely how The Nectar of Devotion presents what Srila Rupa Gosvami is saying. This is entirely right and proper.

Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu is a systematic book, a book that classifies and organizes, that puts things in their place. It maps out the territory of devotional life, showing where things stand, giving us our bearings in what might otherwise be a foggy seascape. In The Nectar of Devotion, this is apparent. Yet Waves helps us see still more clearly how things are organized, where we are going, where things fit. And so we read The Nectar of Devotion with clearer eyes and renewed appreciation.

As we read The Nectar of Devotion, Waves is a suitable companion because it seeks to point us in the same directions, keep us on the same course, see us through to the same goal. Like The Nectar of Devotion, it is scholarly and yet is not a work of mere scholarship. This is not someone’s doctoral thesis, written to advance a mundane career. Rather, Waves is a work of devotional service, meant to help sincere devotees as they move forward in Krishna conscious life. It is meant to help us “fully taste the nectar for which we are always anxious.”

And Waves of Devotion is written in good, sturdy plain English. The language here doesn’t show off or put on airs; it speaks to us in a normal voice and gets the job done. What could be more frustrating than a message lost amidst long, flowery sentences, impossible grammar, and divine words whose meaning can hardly be discerned? And what could be more pseudo than a modern American trying to come off like a nineteenth-century Bengali? Waves of Devotion doesn’t go in for any of that. It is not written in “Gaudiya purple.” You can read it.

And I recommend that you do.

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