Now young readers have a lavishly illustrated volume of "The Beautiful Bhagavatam" just for them.
Srila Prabhupada's translation, with commentary, of the eighteen-thousand-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam is perhaps his greatest literary contribution. Following his predecessor spiritual masters, he had such faith in the spiritual power of the Srimad-Bhagavatam that he made its study one of the main spiritual practices for members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Every morning in every Hare Krsna center around the world, devotees conduct a class on Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Prabhupada wanted to give everyone the chance to benefit from this great scripture, so he encouraged his disciples to distribute it as much as possible. By his inspiration, volumes of the Bhagavatam are in tens of millions of homes around the world.
Srila Prabhupada wanted children also to study Srimad-Bhagavatam. He would sometimes say he wanted the children of the Krsna consciousness movement to learn to read just so they could read the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
To help children read this most important book, a group of devotees in Europe recently worked together to bring out a volume of illustrated stories from the Srimad-Bhagavatam. We spoke about the project with its main organizer, Ajamila Dasa.
BTG: What inspired you to take up this project?
Ajamila Dasa: I could see that devotee children need Krsna conscious books. Our children seem to have voracious appetites for reading. They see that their parents have beautiful books like the Srimad-Bhagavatam, but there is virtually nothing like the Bhagavatam on their reading level.
The boy saint Prahlada Maharaja taught that one should learn and practice the teachings of Srimad-Bhagavatam from childhood. So I wanted to find a way to make the Bhagavatam's teachings more accessible to children. After researching Srila Prabhupada's instructions on how best to serve our youngsters' needs for Vedic literature, I found that in essence he said this: If we condense and simplify the many stories in theBhagavatam and other Vedic writings, and illustrate them with lots of color pictures, children will love them.
I wanted to complete the first volume during Srila Prabhupada's centennial year, 1996, and by his mercy we offered the first book to His Divine Grace on the auspicious anniversary of his passing.
BTG: Will you do more books like this?
Ajamila Dasa: We plan to produce an eighteen-volume series so that young readers can begin tasting the nectar of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Each volume will also be available on an advanced interactive CD-ROM. This year we'll produce a dramatized narration of the first volume, interwoven with music and sound effects. The eighteen volumes will follow the eighteen-volume edition of Srila Prabhupada's translation and commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam. We hope the books and CD-ROMs will encourage young people to take up an introductory study of Srimad-Bhagavatam and then progress further and study the entire Srimad-Bhagavatam in full detail.
BTG: How long did it take to produce the first book?
AD: I thought it would take two years, but it took four. Now that I have a solid system in place, the next volumes should come out more quickly. The second volume is now in production and will appear around the end of this year. Two volumes on the Third Canto will appear around the end of 1998. Some volumes will come out quicker than others, but on average we should be able to produce two volumes every eighteen months.
We'll work hard to keep improving the quality. We want to draw the minds of our young readers away from all the nasty allurements of the material world and nearer to Srimad-Bhagavatam the literary incarnation of God for this age.
BTG: What obstacles did you face in bringing out the first volume?
AD: Lots. As with any large project, an obvious difficulty was getting the needed money. And of course there are hundreds of details that have to be taken care of. So we sometimes felt overwhelmed. But we took heart from the words of the great devotee Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who said that struggles in the service of the Lord are a great source of joy, because they destroy the darkness of ignorance.
We also gained great inspiration from Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. And we prayed to Srila Prabhupada, begging for his mercy.
In short, we worked and prayed and depended on Krsna, and things came together. Perhaps not always in the way we wanted them to come together, but Krsna certainly provided the necessary determination and the results.