International Shravanam Week, run by the ISKCON Ministry of Education from September 3rd to 9th, has facilitated and encouraged devotees worldwide to regularly read ISKCON Founder-Acarya Srila Prabhupada’s books by providing resources, inspiration and guidelines. The Week is part of a larger effort, “Books Are the Basis,” to “enhance the culture of reading Srila Prabhupada’s books globally.”
Shravanam Week was officially added to ISKCON’s calendar, after the society’s Governing Body Commission (GBC) accepted a proposal from the Ministry of Education during their Annual General Meeting in February.
A GBC resolution also supported the initiative, stating that “at the 2017 edition of the Sanga for Gurus, GBCs and Sannyasis (SGGS) it was felt there should be a worldwide effort to increase reading of Srila Prabhupada’s books.”
“At the SGGS the Gurus, sannyasis and GBCs felt that the one thing that could make maximum impact for ISKCON’s future generations and ISKCON’s sustainance would be if devotees read Srila Prabhupada’s books,” says Ministry of Education Executive Director Tapana Misra Das, who spearheaded the Books are the Basis and Shravanam Week initiatives.
Krishna Premarupa Das interviews Sacinandana Swami
The Ministry of Education and the GBC also points out that Srila Prabhupada often emphasized the importance of his books (which contain translations and purports to the vast library of Vedic literature) and requested the leaders of ISKCON to read them and train others to systematically study them.
“All of my students… should read our books very diligently at least one or two hours daily and try to understand the subject matter from varieties of angles,” Srila Prabhupada wrote to Madhudvisa in June 1972. To Ekayani, he wrote, “I am very glad to know that you are reading our literatures and you are very thoughtful about them,” and to Bahurupa he added, “In my books the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness is explained fully so if there is anything which you do not understand, then you simply have to read again and again.”
To facilitate and encourage this practice, Tapana Misra Das reached out to GBC zonal secretaries, zonal supervisors, temple presidents and other leaders around the world, asking them to celebrate Shravanam Week using several simple pandemic-safe steps, along with the required resources.
Based on these steps leaders first announced the week by sharing with their congregations a Ministry of Education appeal letter, a Shravanam Week poster, a video address by the GBC Chairman Ramai Swami, and a video of a two-hour webinar by Vaisesika Das, entitled Be A Sage Page by Page. Impressively produced with custom animation and soundtrack, the webinar provided inspiration and practical steps on how to overcome challenges in reading Prabhupada’s books.
Secondly, leaders circulated amongst their congregation daily videos produced by the ISKCON Ministry of Education and published on ISKCON Desire Tree’s Hare Krsna TV Youtube channel, which reaches an incredible 1.2 million subscribers.
Tapana Misra Das interview Bhakti Chaitanya Swami
Tapana Misra Das worked hard – 8 to 10 hours a day – creating, editing and posting the videos, which came in two forms. There were short clips recorded pre-pandemic of over 108 devotees from a wide range of locations and Krishna conscious experience levels, sharing their realizations about reading Prabhupada’s books and how it transformed them.
“If people – women, men, and children from different parts of the world, different nationalities –speak and share with others in their own languages, I’m convinced more and more devotees will feel encouraged to take shelter of the Bhaktivedanta Purports,” Tapana Misra says. “So that’s what we’re setting out to do.”
There were also daily hour-long Zoom interviews on reading Srila Prabhupada books with senior devotees, GBCs and Gurus such as Sacinandana Swami, Kadamba Kanana Swami, Chandramauli Swami, Badrinarayana Swami, Praghosa Das, Bhakti Chaitanya Swami, Prahladananda Swami, Keshava Bharati Swami, Ramai Swami, Bhanu Swami, Radheshyam Das, Gauranga Das, Devakinandana Das and more.
During Shravanam Week, some regional leaders and Ministry of Edcuation representatives also conducted their own online interviews.
Tapana Misra Das interivew Devakinandana Das
In addition leaders gave Power Point presentations on Srila Prabhupada’s instructions about reading his books, and conducted online study groups, which devotees around the world participated in daily. A list of links to about twenty-five of these, which will continue to run daily or weekly in many different languages, are available at https://iskconeducation.org/books-are-the-basis/.
Devotees around the world also conducted online inspirational talks, sangas and live reading sessions, shared their realizations and activities at the ISKCON Ministry of Education Facebook page, and used the Ministry website’s free summary study guides on the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita.
Finally leaders asked their community members to complete a short survey on the Ministry website which will allow the ISKCON Ministry of Education to develop a detailed online training program for ISKCON devotees related to reading Srila Prabhupada’s books. The Ministry hopes to deliver this online training before Gaura Purnima 2021.
Meanwhile, the Ministry will continue releasing inspirational videos once a week on its Youtube channel to keep everyone excited about reading Srila Prabhupada’s books regularly. There’s also a plan to hold Shravanam Week again next year “with more resources, more inspiration and on a wider scale.”
According to Tapana Misra, reading more has given devotees “the most precious association of Srila Prabhupada.” He explains, “I have received responses where devotees have said it’s been a lifechanging experience for them to be able to read every day, and they wish they had done it before. And I’ve received responses from leaders where they said it was strengthening their spiritual practice, giving them clarity of thought, and giving them determination to recommit themselves with full vigor to Srila Prabhupada’s movement.”
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To watch all the inspirational Shravanam Week interviews, clips and webinars, along with new weekly inspirational videos on reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, visit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjRim7Waasu_Q-aX9wBpYGQ
For summary study guides and Srila Prabhupada’s instructions on reading his books, as well as to take the Ministry of Education survey, please visit: https://iskconeducation.org/shravanam%20week/
For a list of links to online study groups, a methodology guide to establishing your own study group, and a list of link to existing study groups, please visit: https://iskconeducation.org/books-are-the-basis/
Jun 25, 2022
Radhapriya Chawla, ISKCON Toronto Communications