To present KC from a contemporary intellectual perspective which all books of Prabhupada’s followers can I read?
Question: I want to understand Krishna Consciousness from a more contemporary and intellectual perspective. Are there any other books written apart from Srila Prabhupada’s books, written by Srila Prabhupada’s followers that I can read? If yes, which all books would you recommend?
Answer: Srila Prabhupada’s books are the foundation for our understanding of Krishna Consciousness but Srila Prabhupada wanted his followers to write books and those books act as a bridge for us, because often those followers are brought up in a generation or have gone through the education which we have gone through or similar to what we have gone through. And therefore their thinking connects with us and their language and their presentation also gels with us, clicks with us much more. So certainly we can read their books if we want to understand Krishna Consciousness, as you said from a more intellectual or contemporary perspective.
Now there are many books. I will just make a short listing over here. “Searching for Vedic India” by Devamrita Maharaj is one of the best books for a … that covers a wide gamut of subjects related to Krishna Consciousness. It talks about science and Krishna Consciousness it talks about Hinduism and Krishna Consciousness. It talks about Impersonalism and then it talks about mystic siddhis. So most of the things which will strike the modern mind as unbelievable or illogical or mythological or metaphorical, they are dealt with in this one book. The language is a little bit high level but for those who are intellectual that is an attraction not a deterrent. Then, Ravindra Swaroop Prabhu has also written a compilation of his…called “Endless Love” which also explains Krishna Consciousness from a western perspective. As many Indians are also getting westernised and brought up in a westernised education, that is also quite appealing to understand the depth of Krishna Consciousness from that perspective.
Satyaraja Prabhu has written a book called “Essential Hinduism” which explains the relationship between Hinduism and Krishna Consciousness in a very sound and faithful way. And that has also become like a textbook for many people. So that is also a very good textbook for many universities in the west. It’s a very good book as an introduction to… as a bridge from Hinduism to Krishna Consciousness. Then if we want to go more into specific fields, so if you want to go more into…so similarly from the introductory field if one wants systematic introduction to Krishna Consciousness then Radheshyam Prabhu’s various course books “Essence of Bhagavad Gita”, “Discover Yourself”, like those course books are “Spirituality for Modern youth series” are very good for a systematic understanding.
For an introductory scientific understanding of Krishna Consciousness my book “Science and spirituality” is a start. Then little bit more serious are BhaktiSwaroop Damodar Maharaj’s writings. There are many books he has published. So, even more scientific if one wants then there is … recently the book has been published “Nature’s IQ” and before that there was a book on “Krishna Consciousness and Intelligent design”. These are by second generation Iskcon scientists. Then beyond that there is also…for a little more scientific book there is Drutakarma Prabhu’s books “Forbidden Archaeology” and “Human Devolution”. If one wants an introduction to the broad science or broad scientific perspective of Krishna Consciousness but slightly deeper then “Origins” is an excellent magazine. It was published almost twenty years ago and some of the specific theories may be…may be outdated but the broad principles are still valid and that is one of the best persuasive introductions to Krishna Consciousness.
Then if one wants to go deeper into theory of evolution then “Forbidden Archaeology” by Drutakarma Prabhu and Sadaputa prabhu, and then “Human Devolution”. Both these books are classic books for understanding the problems with the theory of evolution. “Forbidden Archaeology” focuses primarily on fossils but “Human Devolution” in the introductory chapters, deals with the problems with the broad theory and then goes into explaining how scientifically the Vedic wisdom offers a intelligible alternative.
If one wants to understand from a more scientifically, especially if one wants to understand Vedic Cosmology, fifth canto which is where often people have questions then Sadaputa Prabhu’s “Vedic Cosmography” is a classic book. It’s for those who want to understand Vedic cosmology it is an indispensible book. Without that we cannot understand the fifth canto, which seems completely absurd mythological or irrational. But that is a very persuasive presentation. And if somebody wants to go very deep or seriously into Vedic cosmography, vedic cosmology as given in the Bhagavatam then his further book ”Mysteries of Sacred Universe” is there. It is quite an intellectually demanding book to understand. But it is good book which helps us to understand how there are multiple ways of looking at the fifth canto cosmology.
Then if one wants to understand Bhakti-yoga specifically as a science then there is “Mechanistic and Non-mechanistic science” by Sadaputa Prabhu also, an excellent book when one wants to see how bhakti is itself a science and it’s in proper scientific language, very good book. If one wants to understand Krishna consciousness philosophy from the perspective of western philosophy then …Suhotra Maharaj’s “Substance and shadow” is a high quality book, excellent book again. He has written some other books also. “Dimensions of good evil” and “Transcendental Personalism”. These talk not so much from the western philosophical perspective but current western perspective, he talks about Scientism and various issues. These books of Suhotra Maharaj are a little demanding, not as demanding as Devamrita Maharaj’s book. But it deals with many different issues and there… is also a quite good book. These three books are also quite good.
If we want to understand Krishna Consciousness from a perspective of leadership and social transformation then Bhakti Teertha Maharaj’s books are excellent. His books are “Leadership for an age of Higher Consciousness”. They address contemporary issues in very appealing language using a lot of today’s statistics and anecdotes, current facts and issues…. and a very appealing presentation. Of course, he doesn’t go too much into the depth of Krishna Consciousness. He just skims on the surface because he is dealing more with contemporary issues. In the same lines, how to deal with contemporary issues, I have also written a book “Recession” how Krishna Consciousness can help us to deal with contemporary issues that’s what has been dealt with over there.
If one wants to go more into the historical perspective then an introductory book is “Elements of Vedic thought” which is now being republished as “Readings in Vedic literature” by Satsvarup Maharaj. Actually Devamrita Maharaj’s “Searching for Vedic India” goes much deeper. It is actually a very good book for those want to go from endology to Krishna Consciousness. And beyond this devotees are even now doing a lot of study and a lot of research and they are coming up with more and more books.
So if one wants to understand the Gaudiya tradition itself, Pranav prabhu has written his whole thesis on Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Of course Bhakti Vikas Maharaj has written “Bhakti Siddhanta Vaibhav”, but Pranav prabhu’s thesis is also an excellent book. And then there is, Krishna abhishek Prabhu is just completing his thesis on Bhaktivinoda Thakur and that which comes out will be a very very good book. And much more foundational than this is … if one wants to understand Gaudiya Vaishnavism as Srila Prabhupada has presented it, the best book for that is Tamal Krishna Maharaj’s thesis which is being published, very very excellent…very very good book to understand Prabhupada from a very intellectually deep and also sufficiently critical perspective.
So there is a wide variety of books like these. This is by no means an exhaustive list. And if you want to study previous Acharyas’ books, Bhanu Maharaj is translating many of those books also. And Kushakrit Prabhu has translated many of the previous Acharyas’ books but those translations were not edited so they are not of a very high quality but as an introduction they can serve a good purpose. And as I said devotees are keeping on writing newer and newer books and there is …Srila Prabhupada’s books themselves are oceanic but along with that there are many other books which are there. And we can absorb ourselves in Krishna Consciousness from a contemporary intellectual perspective through these books.
So our idea is that when we want to study we can have concentric circles. The core is the circle of Srila Prabhupada’s books and the books of previous Acharyas or current devotees which focus primarily on the core principles of Krishna Consciousness which are presented to devotees. The communication can be four ways. There can be insider-insider, there is insider-outsider, then there is outsider-outsider and there is outsider-insider. We are devotees and we want to learn to advance in Krishna Consciousness. That is our primary focus of studies. So that requires insider-insider. Prabhupada’s books like Bhagavatam and Caitanya Caritamrita, after we study Bhagavad Gita of course, they are directly written for devotees about how to focus on the core principles of Krishna Consciousness. That should be our primary reading in terms of what gives us nourishment and then the previous Acharyas’ books can also help us in this insider-insider nourishment.
And there are many books which are written for insider-outsider. So the books that we talked about are mostly insider-outsider. They are written by devotees to an outside audience and they can help us also to learn how to do this insider-outsider preaching. And then there are books which are written… so ideally speaking, whatever our needs are or whatever we need to know so that we can present Krishna Consciousness effectively, to large extent that is provided by the devotees who are followers of Srila Prabhupada and we can derive most of that knowledge from this literature, insider-outsider. Of course many of Srila Prabhupada’s books are also insider-outsider. But we are focusing more on a contemporary intellectual perspective.
Now apart from that there is outsider-insider. You know there are outside scholars who may write books which they want Iskcon devotees to read. And they may want….generally the outsider-insider are not very faithful. They should be read only if it is essential and they should be read very cautiously because they often are hyper-critical and some of them may be misinformed and some of them can be misleading. And there are outsider-outsider. There are Hinduism scholars who may write books about Hinduism for a western audience or there are Hinduism scholars who may write books about Iskcon…how Iskcon is a new cultural movement in the west. So those books are not very relevant for us.
So as devotees we focus on reading the insider-insider literature. Then to equip ourselves for preaching we can read insider-outsider literature. Both of these are safe readings. And then beyond that we can also have …very carefully read the outsider-outsider literature. So atheists may write book about atheism. But if we want to refute those books, if we just go directly and read atheist books we may get overwhelmed by those kind of readings. So we cautiously read devotees’ writings of how atheism can be refuted. And that way we can move forward in our understanding of Krishna Consciousness.
So, I said…first circle will be the devotees’ books that are there, devotees’ books that are meant for our devotional nourishment. Then there are devotees’ books meant for outreach. And then there can be non-devotees’ books which can also help us in outreach. But these should be read very carefully. Especially if you want to read about current scientific development there is a website Krishna science which is quite a good website for staying abreast of current developments and so we don’t have to go to non-devotee sites or non-devotee books for staying abreast of current developments. But we can go … there is a discovery institute site called discovery.org. So that’s also a good resource for knowing about scientific preaching. So the second circle will be outsiders but they are not anti-devotional outsiders. They may Christians, they may be other religionists and they can also give us content. Beyond that would be neutral scholars. Of course nobody is neutral, everybody has their perspective, but neutral scholars would be one perspective in the sense that they are not belonging to any institution. But beyond that is atheists. So their writings we should not read at all because they have so much poison that their sanga will spoil us. So if we are cautious then we can… when we are sufficiently advanced we can read them so that we can refute. But generally within the devotee circle, in the inner circles itself we can get adequate nourishment. So the books which I have suggested, you read those books, you will get more than adequate nourishment for most of the outreach that we want to do. Thank you! Hare Krishna!
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