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A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Pranada Dasi’s “Wise-Love” Nominated for Prestigious Eric Hoffer Book Award
By Madhava Smullen   |  Mar 11, 2019

“Wise-Love: Bhakti and the Search for the Soul of Consciousness,” by Srila Prabhupada disciple Pranada Dasi, has been named a 2019 Finalist for the prestigious Eric Hoffer Book Award, and specifically its Montaigne Medal. 

One of the largest international awards for independent books published by small or academic presses, the Eric Hoffer Book Award is given in honor of the American philosopher Eric Hoffer, who reflected on the human condition.

The Montaigne Medal is a special distinction under the Eric Hoffer award umbrella that recognizes “the most thought-provoking books . . . that either illuminate, progress, or redirect thought.”

“The Montaigne Medal is given in honor of the great French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, who influenced people such as William Shakespeare, René Descartes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Eric Hoffer,” reads the award’s website. 

Whether or not the book wins, the distinction as a Finalist is significant. If Wise-Love does become the Montaigne Medal winner, it will receive acknowledgement online at “The US Review of Books” and the Eric Hoffer Awards’ website, and will be eligible for the Eric Hoffer Grand Prize of $2,500. 

“Of course, the idea of awards is that readers may trust the author—and therefore buy the book–which is especially important for new authors,” says Pranada. 

Described as “a handbook of the essence of bhakti written for a modern, Western audience,”  Wise-Love was released in March last year and takes a different approach, removing ISKCON-isms and replacing them with more accessible terms for philosophical concepts.

 “Wise-love is the term I use for bhakti,” Pranada explains. “Bhakti means love that’s grounded in reason and philosophy, and an ancient system for cultivating that love.”

The essential theme of Pranada’s book is love – how our current experience of love is unsatisfying, because we lack wise-love, unconditional and grounded in a relationship with the Supreme Person.

The fact that a work on this topic is being recognized thrills Pranada.

“The meaningful wisdom of Gaudiya Vaishnavism had to touch the evaluators looking at the book at multiple stages that lead to this Finalist position,” she says. “That is significant to me. Wise-Love is undiluted philosophy and theology. Though theology, especially theology outside the Judeo-Christian framework, is seen as suspect, looked down upon by—or unknown to–secular Western society, the judges must have appreciated the friendly tone of Wise-Love, the universal appeal of our bhakti gems that are unique–even extraordinary–in the philosophical/theological world, and the care I took to present a comprehensive, yet concise and understandable, overview of our complex thought-heart system. I also think it helped that there were many book reviews by notable people who graciously lent their name to Wise-Love.

Pranada says that her hope in writing Wise-Love was to lend credence to the prema-bhakti of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu for intelligent people of the West, specifically Americans and Europeans, who largely see Gaudiya Vaishnava followers with prejudice as “those crazy people.” 

“Additionally, I wanted to show why bhakti necessarily is krishna-bhakti to edify and inform those in modern yoga circles, where bhakti has entered as a vague notion of devotion to Durga, Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Hanuman and others, like your girlfriend, boyfriend, children, etc,” Pranada explains.

“I also wanted to show thoughtful people, many of whom have embraced a neo-Advaita and Buddhist worldview, bhakti’s novel metaphysics that uniquely describe consciousness and Supreme Consciousness. I have wondered if those who identify with these well-known philosophies know these systems’ promised goals, or even that there are laudable options from the East.”

Pranada hopes that Wise-Love continues to make an impact. 

“I have long hoped to see many books that led the Western mind toward the gifts Srila Prabhupada brought the world, including his translations of our source texts,” she says. “I know Wise-Love can do this for our children, friends, extended family members, acquaintances, colleagues, and spiritual seekers. I would love to see it translated and printed in other countries and gifted by devotees to others.”  

Pranada is already planning her next book, but remains tight-lipped and mysterious about it.  

“I can say it will target a similar audience and seek to clarify a concept that has entered the yoga world in a bit of a confused state,” she teases. “It’s a very important idea central to bhakti theology, and is explained by our philosophy in a unique way not touched on by any other philosophy or theology. I’m quite excited about it.”

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