An Evening of Enlightenment and Community

21st August 2019

By Dr McComas Taylor

It was an evening on which any number of things could have gone wrong: the venue, the catering, the decorations, the audience, the VIPs, our star attraction. And yet it was an evening on which everything went right. On Thursday 15 August, ANU hosted a lecture by Bhadreshdas Swami, a leading traditional scholar of Sanskrit.

Bhadreshdas Swami underwent a classical Sanskritic education from a young age, memorising grammar and vast bodies of text. He has written commentaries on many important bodies of work, the most famous being the _Bhagavad-Gita_, and is now a widely respected interpreter and exponent of Hindu philosophy.

The Indian community put their collective shoulder to the wheel in exemplary fashion. Before the lecture, over 250 visitors enjoyed a vegetarian feast provided by the community. The venue had been transformed to resemble a divine realm as only Indian craftspeople can do, with flowers, divine images, music and decorations (only the incense was missing—we were worried about setting off Kambri’s smoke detectors).

The lecture was preceded by the local community’s _bal-mandal_: two groups of three young boys and one soloist beautifully done up in white kurtas and saffron dhotis chanted invocatory verses and prayers in Sanskrit—all from memory. (I have pencilled these young fellows in to enrol in Sanskrit at ANU in 2030 or thereabouts.)
Bhadreshdas Swami’s media team had prepared a 15-minute blockbuster video on his publications. I can say with complete confidence that no one has ever been that excited about my own or other colleagues’ Sanskrit-related publications. Swami-ji spoke for about 45 minutes on the Bhagavad-Gita and skilfully wove his personal experience and insight into his philosophical exposition.

At the heart of the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna, who is the Divine incarnate, assuages the misery of the great warrior Arjuna. Bhadreshdas Swami’s take-home message was that we are all Arjunas, in that we are subject to the vicissitudes of daily life, but we all have access to Krishna in the form of the _Bhagavad-Gita_.

This was an exciting opportunity for modern students of Sanskrit to hear the language spoken chanted and sung, and I was delighted to see some of our own students and colleagues in the crowd. Thanks to the pooled efforts of so many people—the Kambri support team, the BAPS members from the Indian community and everyone who came on the night—the event was a resounding success.

Full event slideshow can be found here.

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