Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Word Is Out!


The response to my new book Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest has been streaming in: 

“Wonderful! Your storytelling art – which quickly gets to the essence of everything – has opened the world of Mahabharata to me , for it has opened up the world of the feelings and emotions of Mahabharata.” Sacinandana Swami

"Got the books. Already finished the first chapter....really nice. Have a friend who teaches comparative religion classes at the University here, I'll give her a copy.” Trivikrama Swami, FL

"Reading your book! Such a great job – deep and flowing. You are truly gifted to share this profound story the way you have. Outstanding!” Krsnanandini Dasi, OH 

“Thank you Andy for this wonderful book. As I sit here reading I feel whole regions of my mind and heart awaken. Soul food for our times.”  Rasika Walkingfeather


“I could not put it down…. I am going to give it out to others who I think have an interest…. It’s a landmark work….. How difficult it must have been to reduce the volume of the text and not loose the threads of the story, nor the essence of the philosophy! Magnificent!” Josef Lauber

“I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for your unbelievable gift of Mahabharata:The Eternal Quest… I found myself picking it up only minutes after putting it down and reading it all in every spare moment I had…… a great telling of the classic…… When I came to the chapter where you condensed the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, I found tears in my eyes. It was wonderful, concise, and exceptionally powerful.” Emil Sofsky

“Thank you for this engaging rendering of Mahabharata. You’ve performed a great service.” Dr Vicky Jenkins, IN 

"Wow, what a wonderful book. We just finished it this morning ... i'm sad it's over...we'll have to read it again!" Mohanasini Lighfoot

"I just finished reading Mahabharata. Wonderfully done. Except I started to do the math to calculate the years of Kali-yuga remaining and...think I'll just keep playing my flutes. Thank you a great read." Lou Boden

“Hare Krishna. May you live for many years and keep producing wonderful stories that lift the spirits of all who hear them. " Vegavati DD  

“The book has brought Stephanie and I so much joy, we couldn't put it down and read it to one another so we could both enjoy together. We also love the cover artwork. Our complements to the artist.” Luke Kopyar

“I am almost finished reading the book. Very mesmerizing.” Dheeraj Handa, CA 

“I couldn’t put it down.” Vidya DD 

“Andy Fraenkel’s Mahabharata is a transcendental experience on every page.” Steve Howard, CO

“The book and website look really good. I'm excited that this important subject is getting attention.” Roi in Israel

“Very well written. You have kept the meaning of Mahabharata and have given life to the major and minor personalities.” Appa Roa Gollamudi, Hyderabad, India

“His book is an incredible rendition of one of the oldest written books on the planet. I highly recommend it if you want to immerse yourself in the most amazing drama and intrigue ever recorded.” Darrell Martin, Blue Boy Herbs


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Krishna, The Joking God

Various religions often  talk about God's compassion, God's wrath and that God is just. But God, like everyone else, has a well rounded personality.  There is a lot  more to Him then these particular qualities. For instance, what  religious traditions describe how God likes to play jokes and tricks?  Today being April Fools Day, is an appropriate time to talk about this characteristic of God. Krishna is the supreme joke maker and trickster.  He and friends, both the gopies and cowherd boys, delight in playing jokes upon one another.  This is part of their loving, playful exchange.  Krishna is forever engaged in loving pastimes  with His devotees.

These activities are described in Krishna Book(Srimad Bhagavatam) and categorized in Nectar of Devotion. Sometimes the boys would come to Yasoda's house early in the morning and wait for Krishna while she got Him ready for the day. Mother Yasoda would call to one of them, "Visala, why don't you come over and help."  And when the boy came and bent down to put on Krishna's ankle bells, Krishna would playfully hit him with His flute. Descriptions of Krishna smiling and joking abound in both His childhood and adult pastimes.

Prabhupada is giving us a profound understanding of a personal God,  our dearmost Friend, and by doing so, inviting us to develop a love for that Supreme Person.

 Sankirtana das is author of Mahabarata: The Eternal Quest -  www.Mahabharata-Project.com       

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mahabharata & Our Generational Challenge - #2


Dharma has various nuanced meanings. It could mean one’s religion, or occupation, or moral responsibilities to family and society. It could mean ‘the Path.’ On a deeper level, it means who we are and our purpose in life and our eternal relationship with the Divine.  All these are addressed in the Mahabharata.

To maintain the Dharma in society requires good leadership. The pillars of Dharma are honesty, compassion, cleanliness and self-sacrifice. In all fields, especially in spirituality, politics and business, leaders need  to understand and practice these qualities. 

To whom much is given, much is expected. The people who have the most to lose have to make the biggest sacrifices  – not just the regular person on the street. The spiritual, political and business leaders have to lead the way. But where is such leadership? This is one of the important generational concerns before us today: to understand what is real leadership and to train leaders who can tackle the formidable challenges of the 21st century.  Justice. The environment. The economy. Moral inspiration.  We’re mired in some serious problems that are not going to go away soon. 

My rendition of Mahabharata addresses these issues. If we don’t know what real leadership is, then it’s a case of the blind leading the blind. Examples of good leadership are very rare in these times. Without it, the philosophy of ‘greed is good’ runs rampant.  If the leaders can’t be examples of self-sacrifice, then it becomes OK to give way to our desires, to secure material wealth and pleasure by any means.  When we lose sight of the Dharma, greed becomes dominant and society begins to unravel. Understanding the dharma is pivotal to what Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest is all about.

For reviews and more info see: www.Mahabharata-Project.com


Mahabharata & Our Generational Challenge - 1 of 2



In 2012-13, as I was bringing my book – Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest - to completion, I kept asking myself: what about the Mahabharata would be most relevant to today’s readers.  The book has endured for thousands of years. It’s revered by millions of Hindus all over the world. But what does it have to say to anyone else?  Is Mahabharata just for Hindus or does it have a place in world literature, or in the very fabric of our diverse cultures?

The German poet Goethe coined the phrase “world literature” in 1827, and he used it in the context of books transcending national themes.  To put it more emphatically, it means literature that speaks to all peoples. Mahabharata is the first of books. The Dharma teachings, the responsibilities of leadership, and warnings of the impending Kali-yuga (our age of darkness) are described as the five thousand year old epic unfolds.  It’s not only the first of books, but it’s also the first that can be said to be in the class of world literature. Mahabharata belongs to all of us.

Why? The book itself tells us that what is not found within its pages is found nowhere else. That’s a bold claim to make. Plato commented on two books we consider classical literature – Iliad and The Odyssey. At the time of Plato, those classics were already seven hundred years old. He regarded the books as beautiful poetry and great stories. But he lamented: Where was the philosophy and the moral standards to help guide people to live better lives?  

Plato would have liked the Mahabharata. It’s not only good poetry and a great story, but Mahabharata is also the embodiment of dharma.  The book exists just to help us understand what is dharma or, in other words, what is  our collective moral compass.  When we understand the Dharma we can live a life of wellness. That means we live in a balance of both the spiritual and the material. In this way, both the individual and society as a whole prospers.

For reviews  and more info on my book Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest visit: www.Mahabharata-Project.com

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Power of Story (3)


The storyteller has to be a jack of all trades. You are the script writer, the director and the actor. As such, you have to make a variety of decisions, beginning with choosing a story for your repertoire.  Then, how is your story is going to begin and how is it going to conclude. You have to be very clear on that. Know exactly what note your story is going to end on. The fun part is getting from point A to point B. That’s when you take the audience on a little journey. You can weave this way and that, sharing the philosophy here and there. Of course, you should know your story inside and out. Then only can you present the story and make adjustments based on the nature of your audience and how much time you have.
You also have to decide on what the story's focus. What’s your story going to convey?  Also, in the hands of different speakers, a story can sound and feel totality different.  The same story will even take on different meanings or evoke laugher at a place where an audience has never laughed before. Very often, all these elements fall in place over time.  You can’t rush it.  Through repeated tellings, deeper levels of the story, and way to share the story, open up. Very often these insights emerge from the responses of your audience. An audience can tell you a lot about how to improve your story. Prabhupada also comments, “Krishna will give the intelligence how to execute. Strictly adhere to Krishna's instructions and He'll give intelligence how to execute them from within your heart.” The thing is, a good storyteller is first of all a good listener.
See www.Mahabharata-Project.com for info and reviews of my book Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest –  a ‘cinematic’ rendition of India’s ancient epic.