As Krishna West gains popularity, we like to introduce talented devotees and out-of-the-box initiatives. With pleasure, this week, we feature Isana Gaura das, whose service has been a contribution to ISKCON. Originally from the UK, he currently resides in Denmark with his family. Being a long time devotee, he has inspired many, helping people to deepen their spiritual practice. Within his seminars on Srimad Bhagavatam he gives valuable insights into the most complex concepts such as time, space, and the atomic and cosmic structure of the universe. His books The Rising Sun of the Holy Name, The Underlying Principle of Everything, and Introduction to Sankhya-yoga are a great addition to anyone’s book collection. Critically acclaimed, his upcoming novel Spiritual Prophecy 1 – Rajuna is currently rising in the Amazon charts. Comprising a dynamic plot that incorporates the philosophy of Srimad Bhagavatam as well as techniques of contemporary storytelling, his book looks set to enter the best sellers list for 2016. Here is what he shares with us about the process of writing, and his hopes for his work.
Please tell us more about yourself?
To speak about myself means to speak about what I believe in. As we are interested in preaching the glories of the Lord, I’d like to answer this question in relation to this.
Although I’ve been trained in the standard Iskcon temple structure, I have the feeling that in order to reach out to the youth of today, who will become the devotees and sannyasis of tomorrow, we need to go out of our comfort zones and paradigms on how our preaching could be conducted. The idea of Krsna-West is in many ways is a revolutionary idea that will help to shape the way we reach the youth in days to come.
It’s not that the youth of today cannot understand our philosophy; rather it’s that there’s so much competition for their attention that we need to up our game and preach in ways that reflect the time period we live in. My motto is written on the back of my latest novel as follows: “Knowledge is empowering and should be given to the youth in ways they can assimilate according to their inbuilt nature as optimistic dreamers.” At present we must compete for the attention of people by offering something they can associate with.
My humble suggestion is that we need more books that will lead people the first few steps without having them turn away because of other, more shiny-things, which are on offer. Let’s understand that we’re in the age of imagery with unlimited videos on youtube and fast texts and messages on mobiles, twitter, facebook, and a myriad of others mediums which are popping-up by the month.
So this is something about myself, because this is what I believe in as my service to Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement. In fact I believe so much in altering our way of preaching that every book I write is in some way reflective of this.
What is your main inspiration to write this book?
Twenty three years ago I read the book called the Hare Krsna Explosion. In the introduction to that book a quote from Srila Prabhupada expressed that we should constantly find new and unique ways to propagate the science of Krsna consciousness. He also mentioned that devotees like to write books to glorify Krsna and His pure devotees. This inspired and gave me some kind of authorization.
Who is Rajuna and what is the story behind the main character?
Rajuna is the son of Deanabandu, and Deanabandu is the reason for writing the series. The character of Deanabandu is based on Srila Prabhupada, and indeed the series began twenty-three years ago. At that time I’d just read Krsna-book and I so much wanted to glorify Lord Krsna and Srila Prabhupada. As I was not adept in writing at that time, it took me three more attempts over the years before I finally took two chapters from the original book and from them formulated the book about Rajuna, which now comes before the original book called Deanabandu.
Rajuna is actually a code for the mode of passion, and Sattva (his older uncle) is a code for the mode of goodness. You’ll see, by the nature of Rajuna, that he’s passionate, and when he’s separated from his better-half (Sattva), in the way of goodness or his clear intellect, he invariably finds himself in trouble. There’s also another identity of Rajuna and Sattva that I prefer to keep quiet, however, I do hint at this throughout the book. His actual identity will be revealed at the end of book 3 or in book 4.
There are other characters whose prototypes are based on the ones from the Vedic scriptures. How did you manage to achieve their authenticity?
The book itself is full of Bhagavatam stories and indeed one of the main reasons for writing the series was to bring attention to the fantastic stories of the Bhagavatam and the Vedas in general. Sometimes I run sections in line with the Bhagavatam characters and pastimes, and at other times I simply give a hint of this and alter the teachings so as not to make a direct copy. It’s my intention to glorify Bhagavatam, not to rip it off. However, after saying this, at times I wanted to stay true to the Bhagavatam, thus there are some descriptions and prayers that run closely with those found in the Bhagavatam. As the process of writing a novel includes lots of chopping out in the editing stages, I’m sure that much of my writing in Book Two will be edited out by the time it comes to print. This is sad for me, as a lover of philosophy, but in these days the storyline needs to remain punchy in order to keep the attention of the reader. In the critique stages of writing Rajuna one content-editor commented that the book could be a novel or a philosophical text-book, but it could never be both.
The book has a solid spiritual and philosophical foundation combined with a dynamic plot. What is the fine line between the two?
I think I have answered this somewhat in the above question. I must say however, that novel writing is an art that I had to work at. I had to apply tried and tested methods of novel-writing to the classics of the east which I desired to bring to the youth. At times it was painful to cut many of the teachings from the work, but in the end I feel happy that it‘s come closer to the desired audience. It’s hard to add too much philosophy and scientific detail to a book that’s for entertainment purposes and a wide audience.
At first I wrote the book for a devotee audience, but over time I tried to aim for a wider audience. I even added names of Greek and Norsk gods so as to not make the book polarized towards the Vedic literatures. I also had to add a few mild swear-words and tension to add zest and conflict. At one point my critiques mentioned that all the ladies were dripping in gold and looked like beauty-personified, thus they were all stereo-typed. To me, angles look beautiful and have good manners, but this does not make for exciting reading, thus I had to work at giving individual characteristics which had faults and peculiarities. A book without conflict and resolution is not exciting to today’s youth, thus I had to alter my original manuscript in many ways. As my identity is a spiritual person devoted to Sri Krsna, this aspect could not be taken out of my work at any cost.
What are your hopes for the book?
My wife has just finished reading the book and her opinion was that this book is so amazing that it should be given to everyone. As it reads like a film, I really do hope that at some point it will be made into one. I also hope that via the golden-lotus-press joined with the BBT as distributers, it can be put in the hands of all sankirtan devotees in order to assist the preaching to a specific target audience. The point is that the book is extremely exciting and good preaching, thus as the series progresses those who take the book will come back for more and emotionally invest in our Vedic way of life.
If the book is mass-printed there is no reason why it cannot be offered at a cheap price in order to facilitate preaching. What’s more, this is just the tip of the ice-berg. I have twenty-two other books which follow a discipline and which are intended to lead people further and further on the path of Krsna consciousness. This book is not a one-off dreamers attempt at making it rich, rather it pours from my heart as an aspect of my love for our dear Lord. Admittedly, it’s kind of undercover, but there is a strategy in my work.
What is your message to our readers?
In relation to Krsna consciousness, my message is that they should study Bhagavatam and obey the orders of their spiritual master as the very essence of their life. In relation to the book, I request that they please read it.
From March 14-21st the e-book will be on offer for $0.99 on Amazon (and it can be gifted to others). It’s an extremely easy and likable read that contains esoteric information on the universe and other things that will be new to everyone. It’s a book that can be equally enjoyed by devotees and non-devotees alike, and as the series progresses everyone will see that it has a real purpose and message to give.
I thank Krsna West for giving me this opportunity to answer questions as the author of Spiritual Prophecy 1 – Rajuna. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and to Sri Hridayananda dasa Goswami.