Friends of the BBT Newsletter - November 07
Posted November 6, 2007
Spotlight: Translators in Training
by Madhava Smullen
In a small town where Krishna once protected his devotees with the holy Govardhana Hill, a major part of the future of Vaishnava culture and learning has been born. Srimad Bhagavat Vidyapitham, ISKCON's version of the traditional vidyapitham Sanskrit language school, focuses its work around the cream of all Vedic literature, Srimad Bhagavatam.
Gopiparanadhana Dasa, a BBT Sanskrit editor and translator for thirty-five years, has long seen the need for a school that will provide the BBT and ISKCON with a new generation of translators, editors, and competent Vaishnava scholars. But there's more to his plan than intellectual knowledge. "We need to provide special training for devotees to learn how to function as brahmanas," he says.
While the BBT morally and financially supported Gopiparana-dhana's early attempts at starting a Sanskrit school, it took him time to realize the magnitude of his project. "The facility needed to be extremely well organized and disciplined," he reasons, "To make it possible for ISKCON devotees, with less than brahmnical backgrounds, to rise to the standards of character and skill required for translating, explaining, and researching the books of our acharyas."
But Gopiparanadhana stuck to his goal. And in 2005, after several meetings with visionary and Friends of the BBT co-chair Gopal Bhatta Dasa, the Sanskrit school he'd always imagined opened its doors.
For the school's brahmachari (celibate) students, life is spiritual, regulated and full of learning. After the temple morning program, they chant Bhagavatam verses, followed by classes on Jiva Goswami's Sat-Sandarbhas, the science of poetry by Kavi Karnapura, how to read, understand and explain acharya's commentaries on Srimad-Bhagavatam, and even a course on spoken Sanskrit.
"They also undergo intense training in Sanskrit grammar, mainly using Jiva Goswami's Harinamamrita Vyakarana," says Gopiparanadhana, who is also one of the school's five teachers. "But that's only used to promote the study and teaching of the Bhagavatam."
With such a full schedule, Srimad-Bhagavat Vidyapitham is the perfect place to focus on learning. One of the students, Vishnukanta Dasa, tells me that their non-academic activities include typical ashram services such as cleaning the temple room, serving prasadam, and washing their own clothes. "Considering the duration of time spent in classes, preparation for next day and services, we hardly have any time to think about anything else," he says. But his enthusiastic tone suggests that this is a good thing...