Below You will find some of my presentations, classes and interviews as audio or video. I hope You will find them interesting.

Video

Review on “India’s Book of Wisdom: The Bhagavata Purana.”

By: David Shapiro Producer, Uplifting Cinema Pvt. Ltd

During a number of sessions, I had the privilege of watching the entire “India’s Book of Wisdom: The Bhagavata Purana.” The genre is that of an art film – mood and style reveal substance. The “culture of the Bhagavatam” is the hero of this story. We get bits and pieces of it , particularly dance, art, and music, throughout the movie. Philosophy mostly sits in the background while sentiments of bhakti take center stage. The approach of the female director is studied, deliberate, methodical, and revelatory – a gentle, feminine touch that is both confident and reassuring. There are no attempts at dramatic punctuations or three act structures. This is a path of discovery for both the host and audience. There is not much pretense in Krishna Ksetra Swami’s role as the inquiring host. His humble nature immediately puts the viewer at ease, and he is a credible ally in a mutual journey despite the fact that we know that he knows where this is all going. Actually, I wasn’t sure at times where the wandering was leading. It picks up speed as it proceeds and finally crescendos in the final twenty minutes to a predictable, yet satisfying, conclusion. We get the transcendental logic in bits and pieces which complete the puzzle as the theme progresses. Krishna is seen increasingly as the source of the light of the Bhagavat – as it should be. What binds this patchwork of cultural mileux’s together is a superb score by Kai Engel. He provides the waves upon which we undulate and move toward the shore. The director, Inci Mutlu, has obviously understood not only the profundity of the Srimad Bhagavatam, but it’s potential to liberate the soul. Main cinematographer, Filip Gour, has a sensitive and creative eye that takes its time to ponder, reflect, and contemplate. The entire presentation is a meditation that can elevate and inspire. Thanks to all involved; they should be very gratified with the result.

Click to watch the full documentary on YouTube

Sacred Journeys (online) Conference

The months of limited or no travel pass rapidly. I’ve been remaining (almost) completely in one place for the last year and two months as the Covid pandemic continues to threaten our well-being.

In the meantime, but already more than two months ago, I was fortunate to participate in the online Sacred Journeys global conference, an international group of scholar-pilgrim-enthusiasts from around the world, all contributing in a wide range of ways to the growing field of pilgrimage and religious tourism studies.

My own presentation, titled “Reinscribing Vraja (Part 2): A Krishna-centered pilgrimage replication in West Bengal, India (From a Local to an International Pilgrimage Site)”, continued my effort to call attention to the living tradition of pilgrimage to and within places associated with Śrī Krishna. My specific approach is to consider how the dhāma – the sacred land that Vaishnavas (Krishna-devotees) regard as sacred and indeed “nondifferent” from Krishna, becomes “replicated” in various locations. How does such replication take place (through sacred texts and narratives of saints who “discover” or otherwise envision places as extensions of the original Vrindavan)? Where are these replications to be found (not only in India)? And what new pilgrimage practices are to be seen (like participation by people from all over the globe)? Here is the abstract to my presentation:

The replication of Vraja-Vrindavan, the prototypical land of Krishna in northern India, has a history within India that goes back to at least the late sixteenth century. A particularly striking replication is an area some four hours’ drive north of Kolkata on the Ganges plain. Known as Navadvip (or Nabadwip, Sanskrit Navadvīpa) or “Nine Islands” due to the web of ever-shifting course of this branch of the Ganges, it is celebrated by the followers of the 16th c. saint Sri Chaitanya as the place of the latter’s birth, childhood and youth, but also as the “eternal abode” of him who, in turn, is regarded as a sort of re-appearance of Krishna, albeit absorbed in the mood of being a devotee of Krishna. A late-nineteenth-century revivalist of the tradition, Kedarnath Bhaktivinoda, after “rediscovering” the exact place of Chaitanya’s birth, tells of a vision of a grand temple being constructed near this place. In short, what is interesting is that Navadvipa has become a place of international pilgrimage in the late 20th and 21st centuries, as well as international settlement. In this presentation I aim to sketch some of the complexities involved in the changes taking place in Navadvip (especially it’s center area, Mayapur) to which two pilgrimage “guidebooks”—one from the early 18th century and one from the late 19th century, serve as background narratives.

There were 25 presentations altogether over the three days of the conference, in a very wide range of themes and geographic foci, from “Walking for Justice and Reconcilliation in Australia (Ian McIntosh) to “The Meditarranean Ancient Salt Paths and Marian Maritime Pilgrimages (Mirela Hrovatin) to “Graves as Pilgrimage Sites: A Case of the Novodevichy Cemetery (Moscow, Russia)” (Anna Bochkovskaya). A special highlight for me was my friend Hrvoje Cargonja’s presentation “Circumambulation by Prostration of the Sacred Govardhan Hill in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India”, in which he shared a video of Govardhan, showing the prostration practice, and in which he shared his own experience of performing the practice. There is so much to learn about and reflect on with respect to our broadly shared human impulse to seek and experience physical locations as special, as sacred. Now if only this impulse could tangibly serve a general recognition of the sacredness of Earth as a whole and our duty and necessity to preserve and protect it rather than to continue ravaging it as we are presently doing!

Cow Care in Hindu Animal Ethics. Kenneth R. Valpey. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020

By: Supratik Sen

Drawing upon a wide range of Hindu textual resources and thinkers, Valpey’s work explores our moral obligation to animals, and by extension, the non-human world. Valpey approaches the subject by focusing on a “constructive” approach to the ethics of what he terms “cow care”, the practice of keeping and caring for cows throughout their natural lives (Valpey, 2020, p. xvi). He uses the term bovinity to capture the pan-Hindu notion that cows are more than animals and are, in an important sense, privileged beings and therefore worthy of special reverence, care, and protection. Valpey writes that his treatise primarily functions as “an extended commentary” to the Bhagavad Gītā’s (5.18) characterization of a wise or well-educated person as one who sees all living beings with “equal vision”, and through his multi-faceted scriptural exegesis, he endeavours to highlight the implications of this worldview for animal ethics (Valpey, 2020, p. 3). Admittedly, Valpey’s book is a “wide-ranging overview” (Valpey, 2020, p. 5) of a sprawling topic; nonetheless, it makes a significant contribution to the burgeoning discipline of Hindu animal ethics (and Hindu ethics) for four reasons.

Read the whole Review [PDF]: Cow Care in Hindu Animal Ethics. Kenneth R. Valpey. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020

Audio

Review on “India’s Book of Wisdom: The Bhagavata Purana.”

By: David Shapiro Producer, Uplifting Cinema Pvt. Ltd

During a number of sessions, I had the privilege of watching the entire “India’s Book of Wisdom: The Bhagavata Purana.” The genre is that of an art film – mood and style reveal substance. The “culture of the Bhagavatam” is the hero of this story. We get bits and pieces of it , particularly dance, art, and music, throughout the movie. Philosophy mostly sits in the background while sentiments of bhakti take center stage. The approach of the female director is studied, deliberate, methodical, and revelatory – a gentle, feminine touch that is both confident and reassuring. There are no attempts at dramatic punctuations or three act structures. This is a path of discovery for both the host and audience. There is not much pretense in Krishna Ksetra Swami’s role as the inquiring host. His humble nature immediately puts the viewer at ease, and he is a credible ally in a mutual journey despite the fact that we know that he knows where this is all going. Actually, I wasn’t sure at times where the wandering was leading. It picks up speed as it proceeds and finally crescendos in the final twenty minutes to a predictable, yet satisfying, conclusion. We get the transcendental logic in bits and pieces which complete the puzzle as the theme progresses. Krishna is seen increasingly as the source of the light of the Bhagavat – as it should be. What binds this patchwork of cultural mileux’s together is a superb score by Kai Engel. He provides the waves upon which we undulate and move toward the shore. The director, Inci Mutlu, has obviously understood not only the profundity of the Srimad Bhagavatam, but it’s potential to liberate the soul. Main cinematographer, Filip Gour, has a sensitive and creative eye that takes its time to ponder, reflect, and contemplate. The entire presentation is a meditation that can elevate and inspire. Thanks to all involved; they should be very gratified with the result.

Click to watch the full documentary on YouTube

Sacred Journeys (online) Conference

The months of limited or no travel pass rapidly. I’ve been remaining (almost) completely in one place for the last year and two months as the Covid pandemic continues to threaten our well-being.

In the meantime, but already more than two months ago, I was fortunate to participate in the online Sacred Journeys global conference, an international group of scholar-pilgrim-enthusiasts from around the world, all contributing in a wide range of ways to the growing field of pilgrimage and religious tourism studies.

My own presentation, titled “Reinscribing Vraja (Part 2): A Krishna-centered pilgrimage replication in West Bengal, India (From a Local to an International Pilgrimage Site)”, continued my effort to call attention to the living tradition of pilgrimage to and within places associated with Śrī Krishna. My specific approach is to consider how the dhāma – the sacred land that Vaishnavas (Krishna-devotees) regard as sacred and indeed “nondifferent” from Krishna, becomes “replicated” in various locations. How does such replication take place (through sacred texts and narratives of saints who “discover” or otherwise envision places as extensions of the original Vrindavan)? Where are these replications to be found (not only in India)? And what new pilgrimage practices are to be seen (like participation by people from all over the globe)? Here is the abstract to my presentation:

The replication of Vraja-Vrindavan, the prototypical land of Krishna in northern India, has a history within India that goes back to at least the late sixteenth century. A particularly striking replication is an area some four hours’ drive north of Kolkata on the Ganges plain. Known as Navadvip (or Nabadwip, Sanskrit Navadvīpa) or “Nine Islands” due to the web of ever-shifting course of this branch of the Ganges, it is celebrated by the followers of the 16th c. saint Sri Chaitanya as the place of the latter’s birth, childhood and youth, but also as the “eternal abode” of him who, in turn, is regarded as a sort of re-appearance of Krishna, albeit absorbed in the mood of being a devotee of Krishna. A late-nineteenth-century revivalist of the tradition, Kedarnath Bhaktivinoda, after “rediscovering” the exact place of Chaitanya’s birth, tells of a vision of a grand temple being constructed near this place. In short, what is interesting is that Navadvipa has become a place of international pilgrimage in the late 20th and 21st centuries, as well as international settlement. In this presentation I aim to sketch some of the complexities involved in the changes taking place in Navadvip (especially it’s center area, Mayapur) to which two pilgrimage “guidebooks”—one from the early 18th century and one from the late 19th century, serve as background narratives.

There were 25 presentations altogether over the three days of the conference, in a very wide range of themes and geographic foci, from “Walking for Justice and Reconcilliation in Australia (Ian McIntosh) to “The Meditarranean Ancient Salt Paths and Marian Maritime Pilgrimages (Mirela Hrovatin) to “Graves as Pilgrimage Sites: A Case of the Novodevichy Cemetery (Moscow, Russia)” (Anna Bochkovskaya). A special highlight for me was my friend Hrvoje Cargonja’s presentation “Circumambulation by Prostration of the Sacred Govardhan Hill in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India”, in which he shared a video of Govardhan, showing the prostration practice, and in which he shared his own experience of performing the practice. There is so much to learn about and reflect on with respect to our broadly shared human impulse to seek and experience physical locations as special, as sacred. Now if only this impulse could tangibly serve a general recognition of the sacredness of Earth as a whole and our duty and necessity to preserve and protect it rather than to continue ravaging it as we are presently doing!

Cow Care in Hindu Animal Ethics. Kenneth R. Valpey. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020

By: Supratik Sen

Drawing upon a wide range of Hindu textual resources and thinkers, Valpey’s work explores our moral obligation to animals, and by extension, the non-human world. Valpey approaches the subject by focusing on a “constructive” approach to the ethics of what he terms “cow care”, the practice of keeping and caring for cows throughout their natural lives (Valpey, 2020, p. xvi). He uses the term bovinity to capture the pan-Hindu notion that cows are more than animals and are, in an important sense, privileged beings and therefore worthy of special reverence, care, and protection. Valpey writes that his treatise primarily functions as “an extended commentary” to the Bhagavad Gītā’s (5.18) characterization of a wise or well-educated person as one who sees all living beings with “equal vision”, and through his multi-faceted scriptural exegesis, he endeavours to highlight the implications of this worldview for animal ethics (Valpey, 2020, p. 3). Admittedly, Valpey’s book is a “wide-ranging overview” (Valpey, 2020, p. 5) of a sprawling topic; nonetheless, it makes a significant contribution to the burgeoning discipline of Hindu animal ethics (and Hindu ethics) for four reasons.

Read the whole Review [PDF]: Cow Care in Hindu Animal Ethics. Kenneth R. Valpey. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020