I’m tickled to let you know that award-winning author Vrinda Sheth has written the Foreword for Wise-Love. I’m honored that Vrinda is part of this project. Here is your first sneak peek at Wise-Love.
“This life is not a dress rehearsal,” Pranada concluded with quiet urgency. The deep emotion of her voice created a gravitas that even my distracted teenage mind could not ignore. She spoke at a ceremony honoring her guru, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Most of the youngsters and I hung about in clusters at a distance from where she spoke. I was a junior in college interacting with the “real world” for the first time and actively distancing myself from the faith I’d grown up with. Perhaps, therefore, Pranada’s solemn words made an impression. They alluded to Shakespeare’s famous line: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” For that moment, the appeal of this sensual world was muted. This is not a rehearsal, I thought. The “play” of life is happening now. I – a reckless and confused teen – had seen Pranada as a person of poise and elegance who also faced life challenges. Giving voice to my own impression of her, one of Pranada’s peers said to me, “There’s nothing she can’t do.” Twenty years later, I was reminded of that prediction as I began reading Wise-Love: Bhakti and the Search for the Soul of Consciousness.
With grace and formidable insight, Pranada skillfully introduces the reader to the ancient and complex Vedas and bhakti yoga. In the first few pages of the prologue, the reader will at once notice and be drawn into Pranada’s exceptional ability to deliver mystical truths in a modern and relevant voice. You will feel an awakening and resonance in your heart, the litmus test of any noteworthy text. Seemingly without effort, Pranada conveys, with clarity and conviction, the intriguing story of the Bhagavata as she masterfully homes in on the passages and truths that are most important. She writes that the author of this sacred text “knew that spiritual experience evolves in an illumined heart and that there the teaching remains relevant and viable.” In other words, bhakti is a living tradition, not something archaic or inaccessible. “The mystic’s powerful inner home,” she writes, “is available to each of us when we decide to do more than philosophize. True mysticism is active and practical, not passive and theoretical. It’s a life process that engages the whole self.” At every step, Pranada seems keen on inspiring the reader to deeper thought and action, investing us with agency: “The self is situated in the heart and is the ultimate agent of choice.”
For years, I applauded Pranada’s pioneering work empowering women in the modern bhakti tradition. Bhakti holds that every person, regardless of gender, race, or nationality, has the intelligence and inner guidance required to mature spiritually and transcend beyond the material. We know that every tradition (and secular society) benefits tremendously not only by participation of women but by hearing from them. Hearing about the tradition from a female perspective is of special interest because bhakti is the path of the heart – or the path of heartfulness as Pranada calls it – full of feminine sensibilities, which she highlights in her afterword, “The Feminine Divine.” Yet, though bhakti, or divine love, is feminine in nature, within the history of the tradition we find almost no published works by women writers. And in modern times, Wise-Love is one of the first philosophical treatise written by a woman presenting bhakti in a way that synthesizes current thinking with ancient teachings, thus opening doors to all.
I want to emphasize something you will yourself undoubtedly discover: the content of this work is neither female nor male in tone or style. Pranada writes with sensitivity, often seen as feminine, only to ground her ideas in examples of football or the latest in medical science – examples often seen as masculine. There is very little in the work that suggests the gender of the author. This is very much in line with Pranada’s heartfelt and intellectual contribution: a search for consciousness and wise-love that trumps any bodily designations.
Wise Love will be much appreciated for its elegant summation of authentic bhakti. Its wide-spectrum appeal may enchant even those who are simply curious so they too can experience the joy of bhakti. Chances are that, like me, you will feel moved by Pranada’s intellect and elegant voice as she shares bhakti’s profound and ancient truths.
I’m proud and humbled to read Wise-Love, a seminal work by a highly intelligent woman whose wisdom and love permeate these pages of her offering to the world.
Award-winning author of Sita’s Fire Trilogy
January 29, 2018
The thirteenth day of the waxing moon
on the bhakti calendar
celebrating the One who is ever joyful