Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Saturday, July 30, 2016
The foreboding age of Kali approaches. A troubled dynasty hovers on the brink of destruction. An epic story from ancient India, Mahabharata reflects the passions and longings of the human spirit.
This highly acclaimed rendition offers a good literary read that can easily be studied in classrooms. "Fresh, fast-paced and cinematic! Andy Fraenkel's book captures the scope and breath of this great epic." Subhash Kak, PhD, Author & Professor (from his Foreword) "
As the 3rd anniversary of the publication of Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest approaches, I have finally made the book available on Amazon. During the last few years the book has gone out to both public and college libraries, is being used in college courses, by book discussion groups, and several yoga studios have it available for sale as well. I have received hundreds of emails of appreciation. For those who have read the book, I invite you to go to the following site and leave a comment. Thanks so very much for your encouragement and support....
The book is still available at www.Mahabharata-Project.com where you can also read an excerpt.
Monday, May 2, 2016
For many years I used my background in theater to write, act and direct Krishna Consciousness dramas. Today, I offer dramatic storytelling programs in a variety of venues. The following interview was conducted by Abhay Charana Dasa at New Vrindaban Communications.
Q: What do want to accomplish with your cd’s and books?
SKd: I see my work as a bridge in presenting Krishna Consciousness to the general public. Through my storytelling programs, books, cds and slide shows, I want to do two things: present it in a way to inspire devotees and to make Krishna Consciousness interesting and relevant to people in general.
Q: You recently won a Storytelling World Resource Award for your CD Hanuman’s Quest. What did this mean to you?
SKd. I’ve been involved with the national storytelling community for 25 years now. At one time I was the West Virginia liaison for the National Storytelling Network. I’m also with the WV Storytelling Guild. So it’s certainly an honor to be recognized in the field of my peers. Besides the international storytelling community, the Storytelling World Resource Awards are also of great interest to teachers who use storytelling in the classroom. The Awards are a way of acknowledging important resources for these communities.
Q; You are also an award-winning writer and storyteller. Which do you identify with more?
SKd: Whether you’re focused on the written word or the spoken word, it’s all about storytelling. My background is in the performing arts. I enjoy being in front of people. But I also enjoy writing and the challenges it presents. I enjoy using whatever creativity I have in Krishna’s service. Basically we are all creative beings. People need to be encouraged to connect with that and use it in Krishna’s service.
Q: So what's your secret about storytelling?
SKd: First of all, storytelling is a vital tool for anyone who wants to present Krishna Consciousness. Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, Ramayana – these books depict transcendental knowledge through stories and they are especially meant for us conditioned souls of the Kaliyuga. Basically, storytelling is about using words to create images and action. Images can impact people's minds. Ideas and concepts only to a lesser extent. In Krishna Book, Prabhupada explains that we have a natural aptitude to hear stories through reading literature and seeing dramatic performances. When we redirect our hearing to Krishna’s pastimes we can more easily attain transcendence.
Q: Why do you think you won this award?
SKd: For one thing, the story of Hanuman is a fantastic, engaging story. And Hanuman is an endearing personality. Also, the musical background on the CD really compliments the storytelling, and I think that helped sway the judges' decision. The exciting musical score is by Tommy Raga and Sada Ruchi. Sada Ruchi also did the recording and mixing. I am indebted to them.
Q: But what did you bring to the telling?
SKd: Krishna has kindly helped me develop a dramatic sensibility. The elements of tension and suspense; of creating a scene or character with a minimum amount of description; of pacing and moving the story along in a clear and concise way which the listener can easily grasp. These are all part of the storyteller's, and the writer's, craft.
Q: When did you know you had this talent?
SKd: Well, you didn't really know. Uncertainty can be a compelling force. It keeps you on your toes. But just like a carpenter - you do have to know the tools of your craft. You have to work at it. You have to sweat. You have to piece it together. It's both a craft and an art. And finally you have to pray that it all comes out right. Man proposes. God disposes.
Q: Do you have anything in the works you would like to share with us?
SKd: For the 50th celebrations, both last year and this year, I’ve focused on taking my slide show Journey To The West: Why & How the Hare Krishna Movement Came to America to colleges and other venues. I’m also working on two new books. I have nothing to say about them at this point. Usually, I like to have a few things in the works that I can bounce back and forth to.
Q: Thank you for sharing your craft with us.
SKd: And you know, I want to offer more workshops and coaching sessions to pass this craft along to others. Thank you.
Photo: My recent dramatic storytelling performance of Mahabharata at University of Cincinnati
Photo: My recent dramatic storytelling performance of Mahabharata at University of Cincinnati
For more information on my award-winning CD and book visit www.Mahabharata-Project.com
Friday, July 10, 2015
The cover of the recent Time is intriguing - The Answers Issue - with dozens of little cubes, each asking questions about some of today’s most important concerns, and looking like some information terminal. I thought that this would surely be a breakthrough in journalism. I thought that maybe I could find some answers to our troubled existence and why so many of us feel burdened all the time, or about breakthroughs in curing the common cold and societal ills, especially the perpetual political and economic problems which plague us today.
SPOILER ALERT!!! The magazine contains no real answers. The issue is just mostly filled with data and statistics, as if they could provide any real solutions to problems (or answers to life’s persistent questions – sorry, Guy Noir).
But if you want to know what outer space smells like, or the average distance of a home run, or the best cities for singles, or if you like to dream about what you could buy with $18 trillion (our national debt), The Answers Issue is for you.
If you’re planning a trip to the beach, the mag will let you know the best ones. It will also be comforting to know that hardly anybody dies of shark attacks, but that each year 200,000 deaths are attributed to snails and 755,000 to mosquitoes. So watch out for those snails and mosquitoes.
The Effective Workout page is promising but skimpy. And two whole pages are dedicated to the likely ways we can die at different ages in our lives. I guess that’s good to know since we’re all going to die sooner or later.
The Answers Issue might make you feel guilty if you drive over 13,400 miles a year (the average), since it claims that car emission is the biggest factor to our individual carbon footprints. Eating meat comes in second. Something to consider for those who want to make an impact on their carbon footprint but can’t bring themselves to give up driving. Other lessor categories are our use of air conditioning, air travel and beer drinking, etc. The interesting thing is that the mag is silent on the carbon footprint of our purchases of goods from overseas, since we can hardly buy anything that’s’ manufactured in America anymore.
If you’re a filmmaker or singer, it might be important to know of potential movie remakes people are eager to see, or the makings of a great summer song. You’ll find that in the mag. And for those who are planning to cut school budgets, you can read about how art and theater can change our lives for the better.
And maybe it’s important to know that you can’t buy alcohol in Indiana on Sundays, or that Mississippi gives the biggest tax refunds, or that Texas has the largest bat colony, and that California is the biggest supplier of milk and New Mexico has the most wanted bank robbers – 59 (although the mag neglects to mention how many bank robbers actually work in banks, whether in New Mexico, Wall Street, or elsewhere). But I guess these are all good things to know if you’re planning a move or a career change.
The most fundamental questions asked in The Answers Issue: Is world peace possible? Questions we should be asking? What defines us? In regards to the latter two, the subsequent questions posed for consideration are dismal. It’s seems that journalists nowadays don’t know how, or feel too uncomfortable asking the probing questions that should be asked. Or is it because they don’t understand the nature of the problems to begin with?
As for the first question - Is world peace possible? - rather than look at the sacred literatures of the world, the best they could come up with are a few random quotes from contemporary thinkers. Yoko Ono thinks it’s possible “if all of us think it is possible.” Someone else says it’s ‘theoretically possible.” By far the best was a quote by James Baldwin – “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” OK. The Answers Issue has spoken. Now what?
Unfortunately there was no deeper probing of the core problems to world peace. Our misidentification with the body, our unregulated senses, our personal and corporate greed, the wholesale slaughter of animals, our inability to view the world around us as personal & sentient and that we all spring from a common source and have a common father are all ignored.
Ultimately, The Answers Issue does not provide the reader with any real knowledge. On the other hand, a few simple verses chosen from Sri Isopanisad immediately addresses the question of world peace:
“Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.” Mantra 1
“He who sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord, who sees all living entities as His parts and parcels, and who sees the Supreme Lord within everything never hates anything or any being.” Mantra 6
“One who always sees all living entities as spiritual sparks, in quality one with the Lord, becomes a true knower of things. What, then, can be illusion or anxiety for him?” Mantra 7
We all have the same hopes and joys and fears. We all breathe the same air and make use of the earth’s God given resources. We are all truly connected. And indeed, we are all spiritual beings. Such knowledge is liberating. With knowledge, we can become proactive. In contrast to the flimsy, scattered approach of The Answers Issues, the Vedic literatures – the Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, and Sri Isopanisad – understand that our time is precious. Thus, they provide concise knowledge in a tangible, straight forward way for our consideration. It is up to us to simply apply it in our lives.
See www.Mahabharata-Project.com about my award-winning book Mahabharata; The Eternal Quest
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Second anniversary of my award-winning book is coming up. Below is praise from around ISKCON Also hailed by scholars from around the USA - see more at www.mahabharata-project.com
“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
“Andy Fraenkel's very readable and insightful narrative allows immediate entrance into the Mahabharata, an epic known for its inscrutability. His deliciously distinct version of this martial text conjures up images of an ancient storyteller, sitting at a campfire surrounded by listeners who rightfully hang on his every word. Not to be missed!” --Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa), author of 31 books & founding editor of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies, www.sjrosen.com
“Andy Fraenkel provides us with a remarkable story in his adaptation of Mahabharata. . . He captures the essence of the epic and relates the unfolding action in a most interesting and exciting way.” Stephen Knapp, Author (Books on India’s ancient Vedic culture)& founder of Vedic Friends Association, http://www.vedicfriends.org
“Such a great job – deep and flowing. You are truly gifted to share this profound story the way you have. Outstanding!” Krsnanandini Dasi, Author & Workshop Leader
“(This is) The first Mahabharata I can read aloud, placing me in the drama with Krishna, Arjuna, et al. Andy Fraenkel is today’s Sanjaya, the Gita’s reteller and seer of the Kuruksetra War. The book is lyrical. I am reminded of the verse in CC Adi-lila 1:106 - ‘Essential truth spoken concisely is true eloquence.’ The path to transcendence has never been brighter!” Suresvara Das, Workshop Leader
This 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,