January 20, 2000 VNN5303 Comment on this story
Encyclopedia Of Hinduism Project
BY MADAN-MOHAN DASA
NEW YORK, USA, Jan 20 (VNN) As the world moves into the Twenty-first century, the world of Indian spirituality will make huge steps forward. As Lord Vamanadeva took three steps that engulfed everything in existence, I would like to analogize the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Hinduism project with three similar steps.
Approximately ten years ago, Dr. K. L. Seshagiri Rao, Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia, was asked by one of his students to recommend an encyclopedia of Hindu studies for a class project. Realizing that such an encyclopedia did not exist, Professor Rao decided to embark on the mammoth undertaking himself. After all, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism all have multi-volume encyclopedias. But Hinduism knows no such luxury, and Rao decided to fill the lacuna.
Assembling a team of scholars, and working in conjunction with India Heritage Research Foundation (IHRF), Rao worked diligently to get the project off the ground. He established offices in the United States, Canada, the UK, France, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, and India, coordinating the finest academics and scholarly practitioners in the world to write and edit what would amount to 18 volumes of over 750 pages each. It would be the largest and most authoritative network of Hindu materials in the world. This accomplishment is tantamount to the first of the three major steps under discussion.
After achieving much of this material, working closely with his chief executive officer, K. K. Sinha, and his senior academic advisor, K. R. Sundararajan (Professor of Theology at St. Bonaventure University), Rao succeeded in securing a major academic publisher and supporter for the projectathe University of South Carolina Pressawho not only signed a contract stating that they would publish the mammoth work, complete with over 5,000 full-color illustrations, but agreed to publish it by the year 2002. They also gave Rao an entire floor of their huge campus building in which to set up his main office. This constitutes step two of this Vamanadeva-like achievement.
Finally (and this is how it relates to ISKCONas future in the Twenty-first century), Rao realized that he needed a steady editor for the project. Up until this point, he had many scholars free-lancing, doing some editing here, and some there. He decided to phone his old friend, Tamal Krishna Goswami, and ask what to do. Goswami said that he knew the perfect person for the job. His godbrother, Satyaraja Dasa (Steven J. Rosen) was publisher and editor of the Journal of Vaisnava Studies, which has, after eight years of publication, become one of the premier academic journals in the field. TKG told Rao that Satyaraja was definitely his man.
Rao and Satyaraja spoke at length, and Rao convinced Satyaraja to come to South Carolina to see the operation first-hand, and to discuss coming on board. When he arrived, Rao and Satyaraja discussed, among other things, the misconceptions prevalent about Hinduism in the world today. With the publication of the encyclopedia, many of these misconceptions can be corrected. No longer will it be said that Krishna is "the eighth avatara of Vishnu," or that Caitanya Mahaprabhuas ecstasies are "a form of epilepsy," or that Prabhupada is "a business entrepreneur turned guru." Acknowledging the possibilities of righting these wrongs, and impressed with what he had seen at the Encyclopedia of Hinduism offices, Satyaraja immediately agreed to become the full-time editor for the project. Rao was delighted. "Satyaraja has proven that he can be objective and work with academic material," said Rao. "Over the years, he has published with all of the major Indian publishers, such as Firma K.L.M., Motilal Banarsidass, and Munshiram Manoharlal. His books are used in universities throughout the world, and he is an acknowledged expert in Vaisnava studies. We are proud to have him on our team."
What are the results of Satyarajaas involvement thus fara Satsvarapa Maharaja is writing the encyclopedia entry on Prabhupada, and other scholarly devotees, such as Shukavak Prabhu, Garuda Prabhu, Bhakti Svarapa Damodara Maharaja, Rasaraja Prabhu, and many others, are writing the entries for other subjects that have meaning for ISKCON devotees. Satyaraja himself is writing numerous articles for the encyclopedia, including those on Narottama Dasa Thakura, Gaudiya Matha, and the League of Devotees. In all, the Encyclopedia of Hinduism project will undoubtedly right many wrongs that ISKCON has faced in the past. And with Satyaraja Prabhu at the helm, it is likely that Vamanadevaas third step will bring ISKCON into the new millennium.
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