Around 300 devotees gathered at Sri Sri Radha-Kalachandji temple in Dallas on Sunday, June 24th, to celebrate the book launch of A Living Theology of Krishna Bhakti, Tamal Krishna Goswami’s posthumously released PhD thesis, published by Oxford University Press in New York.
Subtitled “Essential Teachings of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,” the book presents the unique contributions of ISKCON’s founder in a “carefully conducted theological study” that can be seriously considered and appreciated by the academic world.
The book launch took place the day after Tamal Krishna Goswami’s Vyasa Puja, or birthday celebration, which was attended by many of his disciples. The book launch was hosted by a professor of religious studies, Garuda Dasa (Graham M. Schweig of Christopher Newport University).
After Tamal Krishna Goswami passed away untimely in 2002, at fifty-six, leaving his dissertation near completion, Garuda, a friend of Goswami’s, eventually submitted it to Oxford University Press, edited it, wrote an introduction and conclusion, and readied it for publication.
Other devotees speaking at the event—many of them Goswami’s close friends and scholars in their own right—included Anuttama Dasa, Giriraja Swami, Guru Prasad Swami, Hanumat-Preshaka Swami, Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, Keshava Bharati Dasa Goswami, Ravindra Svarupa Dasa, Rukmini-devi Dasi, and Vedavyasapriya Swami.
Tamal Krishna Goswami’s younger brother, Carl Herzig, also spoke. Carl is a professor of English at St. Ambrose University and is active in ISKCON. Their mother, Lore Garrick (who lives in the Houston ISKCON community), and Carl’s wife, Stella, also attended the event.
The book launch began at 8:00 a.m., with new books being presented to the presiding Deities, Srila Prabhupada, and Tamal Krishna Goswami. Then Garuda read, from the classic Gaudiya Vaishnava text Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, a unique verse that he quotes in his conclusion to the new book. This verse (1.17:75) constitutes the ultimate theological statement for the Chaitanya school. He shared his reflections, displayed the new book’s contents to the audience, and discussed the substance of connecting with the academic community.
Garuda Das chants while Tattvavit Das offers the book to Srila Prabhupada
After breakfast, he continued presenting an overview of the book and gave a brief history of the road to its publication. He also expressed his appreciation for those who helped make the publication a reality, including his associate editor, Tattvavit Dasa, who attended the event, Dr. Julius Lipner of Cambridge University, Goswami’s dissertation advisor, and Rasikendra Dasa, who is with the Tamal Krishna Goswami Memorial Foundation.
Following Garuda, a panel of senior devotees, who had received copies of the book a few days before, shared their reflections on passages that struck them and discussed Goswami’s devotional and scholarly life.
First up, scholar Ravindra Svarupa Dasa spoke about one of the book’s main themes: Srila Prabhupada’s maha-vakhya or “great utterance.” This was his use of the phrase “Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead,” repeated nearly 8,000 times in his books and teachings. This phrase “does more than merely extend previous conceptions of God,” writes Goswami. It “offers a disclosure of a new kind.”
Next, Hridayananda Dasa Goswami praised Tamal Krishna Goswami’s mastery of a new culture—academese. Academese is the kind of discussion and deliberation that is expected of a research scholar in training. He said that Goswami’s presentation of Prabhupada’s essential teachings will help scholars better value the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. The book itself points out that while many scholars have given Srila Prabhupada credit as a charismatic religious leader, few have understood his theological contributions.
“Goswami’s book helps to clarify Srila Prabhupada’s role in bringing together the best of the East and the West,” Hridayananda Goswami said. “Also, it looks at academic criticism of Srila Prabhupada in a fair-minded way, while further establishing Prabhupada’s glorious contributions.”
The book’s cover
Dallas temple president, Nityananda Dasa, a disciple of Tamal Krishna Goswami, said that the book demonstrates his guru’s intense loyalty to Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON and his dedication to education as a means to attract people to Lord Chaitanya’s movement.
Giriraja Swami said, “Prabhupada taught us that we need to preach Krishna’s message in a way that will appeal to all classes of people. This publication demonstrates Tamal Krishna’s loyalty to the tradition and shows that he extended himself to make it accessible to others.”
Overall, the devotees at the book launch learned how Goswami’s new book will help scholars and theologians as well as ISKCON’s members better understand and appreciate the “theological” Prabhupada.
Of course, this is already happening. The back cover of the book contains several endorsements. Francis X. Clooney, SJ, of Harvard University comments that from the book “we learn a great deal about the Vaishnava theological tradition.” Rachel Fell McDermott of Barnard College says Goswami delights in “highlighting Prabhupada’s brilliant Vaishnava theologizing.” And Barbara A. Holdrege, of the University of California in Santa Barbara, says, “Through this work Goswami, as a master mediator between religious and academic worlds, helps open the Hindu studies guild to new voices and alternative discourses and challenges us in the academy to provide hermeneutical and institutional space for the contributions of scholar-practitioners.”
Devotees at the book launch, looking forward to absorbing Goswami’s illuminations on Prabhupada’s teachings, picked up 250 discounted copies of the 300-page hardcover book. Artist B. G. Sharma adorns the cover with a beautiful painting of Radha-Krishna and the gopis, from the collection of Henry Schoellkopf. Years ago, Goswami commissioned from Sharma large wall paintings for the Dallas temple room. The book’s official release date is July 17th.
The event concluded with a special lunch in honor of Tamal Krishna Goswami.
“It was a very enlivening event because it drew attention not only to Goswami’s unique academic contributions but to the depth of scholarship that exists within our Gaudiya tradition,” said Anuttama Dasa.
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To order A Living Theology of Krishna Bhakti at the discounted price of US$20.00, plus shipping, please contact Rasikendra Dasa of the TKG Memorial Foundation at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks should be mailed to: TKG Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 10070, Houston, TX 77206.
To purchase a copy of A Living Theology of Krishna Bhakti from Oxford University Press, please click here:
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies