A new 10-session course on Bengali Learning – Beginner Level will be offered online on Zoom or Google classroom by the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre (BRC); the course will run Monday to Friday for two weeks from September 28th to October 9th 2020.
About fifty participants are expected to attend from around the world, primarily practicing Gaudiya Vaishnava devotees, although all are welcome. The course is designed for students over fifteen years of age, and will be taught in English.
BRC Course Coordinator Aradhya Bhagavan Das explains the benefits of learning Bengali for Gaudiya Vaishnava devotees:
“Srila Prabhupada writes in the Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi-Lila 8:39 that ‘If one reads the original Caitanya-caritamrta in Bengali he will relish increasing ecstasy in devotional service.’ And Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada said, ‘The time will come when the people of the world will learn Bengali to read Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.’”
Aradhya Bhagavan adds: “Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, just like many other Gaudiya Vaishnava texts – including Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat and Sri Chaitanya Mangala – were written in choice poetry, or kavya format. So, as both Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura point out, the readers will relish increasing ecstasy in reading the original composition of these divine poetic texts in the Bengali language.”
The new Bengali course is a cohesive piece of the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre’s broader efforts. Established in Kolkata in 2009, the BRC was founded by Trustee Hari Sauri Das and Academic Director Pranava Das to preserve the work of the previous Vaishnava Acharyas, and to create a library where scholars and philosophers can study Vaishnava texts. The library currently contains over 20,000 books, including more than 3,000 books and journals from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s personal library. There is also an online library where digital copies are available on demand.
In addition to the preservation work at the library, the BRC team has made significant strides in conducting pioneering research in the field of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in collaboration with international universities, led by reputed devotee scholars worldwide. Over the last two years, they have also started MA and PhD programs on Gaudiya Vaishnavism in affiliation with Mumbai University, with students being guided by international devotee scholars.
As well as the Kolkata branch, the BRC also has centres in Mumbai and Pune. The Mumbai branch is already affiliated with Mumbai University, and there are plans to affiliate the Pune Centre with Pune University and the Kolkata Centre with Calcutta University.
The flyer for Bengali Learning Beginner Level, presented by the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre
All this is in accordance with directives from Srila Prabhupada, who according to Ravindra Svarupa Das’ 2019 Vyasa Puja offering, showed him a plan in 1976 to establish an “ISKCON Bhagavata College” that would be a “degree-granting graduate research institute” and would be affiliated with Calcutta University. In a June 1975 conversation, Prabhupada commented, “We want to give degrees, at least B.A., M.A., and Ph.D.”
Srila Prabhupada also liked the idea of having academics favorable to ISKCON teach at such a Bhagavata College. In the same 1975 conversation, when asked if devotees could have Dr. J. Stillson Judah, a Professor of History and Religions, teach courses on behalf of the movement at Graduate Theological Union in Berkely, Prabhupada replied, “Oh, yes. If he appreciates our movement, then he can become.”
Thus Bhaktivedanta Research Centre’s Bengali course will be taught by Dr. Kausheyee Banerjee, who completed her graduation and post graduation in Bengali from Presidency College, Calcutta University, and received her PhD from Visva Bharati in 2016. Based out of Kolkata, Dr. Banerjee works as Assistant Professor, Bengali at Adamas University. She prefers a student centric approach to education and emphasizes student participation in her classes, ensuring that language as a subject is grasped quickly through interaction.
Dr. Banerjee’s highly interactive Bengali Level 1 course will be taught evenings live from 6:30 to 8:00pm IST. It will give students an introduction to Bengali as a language, and teach them how to pronounce and use basic Bengali words in conversation, as well as how to write simple words and read basic Bengali passages. E-certificates will be provided upon completion.
Continuing students’ Bengali language learning, a total of seven levels are planned, following the same short course format, although dates for the remaining six have not yet been finalized. Successful completion will leave studious devotees with a lot to look forward to.
“Most of Gaudiya Vaishnava texts and songs by our Acharyas such as Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Srila Narottam Das Thakur are written in Bengali language,” says Aradhya Bhagavan Das. “These include daily prayers such as Gaura Arati, Guru Puja, Tulasi Arati, Prasadam prayers, Mahaprabhu Sringar Arati and more. Our primary texts like Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Shri Chaitanya Bhagavat, Shri Chaitanya Mangal, Harinama Chintamani, Jaiva Dharma and many more were written in Bengali. So devotees will relish them more by singing and reading them in the original Bengali.”
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Register for Bengali Learning – Beginner Level before the course starts on September 28th, here:
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