Seventy-eight years after the last issue of The Harmonist – the legendary academic magazine produced by ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati – all its issues have been lovingly restored in a new eight-volume set dubbed “The Harmonist As It Is.”
The Harmonist first appeared in Bengali under the name “Sajjana Toshani” in 1879, published by Bhaktisiddhanta’s father, the Vaishnava saint Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura.
After Bhaktivinode passed away, his son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta began his preaching mission, the Shri Gaudiya Math, and established a printing press. In 1927, he launched an English version of Sajjana Toshani entitled The Harmonist.
The magazine, which ran until he passed away in 1936, included new articles by Bhaktisiddhanta as well as Bhaktivinode Thakura’s original articles translated into English.
Over the years, these precious magazines became dilapidated and very rare. But thirty years ago, Argentinian Prabhupada disciple Sadhudas Anudas began rigorously collecting issues of The Harmonist from the Gaudiya Math’s main branch in Bagh Bazar, Kolkata.
Sadhudas photographed each of the 5,000 pages of the magazine, many of which were so old they were practically unreadable. He then carefully cleaned all the spots and broken texts on the negatives, bringing each page to new life.
“It was an artisan labor that would have been impossible in the Western world due to its prohibitive cost,” says Isvara Das, who is distributing the work through his company Touchstone Media.
Sadhudas compiled all the issues into eight volumes, and also created a separate index booklet to facilitate easy reference. The index divides the philosophical topics discussed in the magazine into different categories such as jiva-tattva, guru-tattva, Krishna-tattva, rasa-tattva, the history of the Vedic and Gaudiya Vaishnava traditions, Vaishnava Literature, comparative religion, Vaishnava behaviors and etiquettes, historical events, articles on social, economical and political issues, and divine poetry.
“Apart from the index, the whole collection is exactly as it was edited and published under the direction of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati,” says Isvara. “Not a single word, not one letter, not even a comma has been changed or added. That’s why, following in the mood of Srila Prabhupada, who named his translation of the Bhagavad-gita the ‘Bhagavad-gita As It Is’, we have named this reprint, ‘The Harmonist As It Is.’”
According to Isvara, The Harmonist contains the clear conclusions of previous Vaishnava teachers on some of the philosophical subjects most important to devotees.
In addition, the collection can corroborate the veracity of existing English translations of important Vaishnava works such as Jaiva-Dharma and Chaitanya Bhagavata, as it contains partial translations supervised and sanctioned by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati himself.
The Harmonist also contains guidelines for the four orders of life – brahmacharis, grihasthas, vanaprasthas, and sannyasis -- as well as strategies on how to behave in society through articles on social, economical, educational and political subjects.
“Although these articles were written more than ninety years ago, their insights are still as relevant today as they were in the past for all serious seekers,” says Isvara.
He feels that the books will be an excellent resource for research scholars and divinity students of all religious affiliations.
Of course, they’ll be especially precious to Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
“Several devotees have expressed their desire to dive more into the spirit of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s preaching and activities,” he says. “Through these collections, which were the main venue for his preaching in English, they will understand better the background of the founder-acharyas of the Gaudiya Maths and ISKCON.”
Isvara Das and Touchstone Media are currently working on making The Harmonist available in e-book formats.
“That will take some time, of course,” he grins. “It’s a huge body of work.”
There are limited stocks of The Harmonist As It Is. To order now, visit:
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