A review of Dhanurdhara Swami’s Waves of Devotion
Waves of Devotion comes close to my ideal of what a commentary should be. It is illuminating yet unpretentious, systematic but not dry–and you can read it.
As Srila Prabhupada’s subtitle indicates, The Nectar of Devotion is a summary study. It gives us the essentials of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, with considerable detail, and in one sense it is complete; one need not go beyond it. Yet one can go deeper into it, and Waves of Devotion helps us do just that.
It does not try to surpass Srila Prabhupada’s book; rather, it tries to assist us in appreciating what Srila Prabhupada is saying. Through lists and charts and explanations, Waves gets us deeper into the text. When Dhanurdhara Swami quotes from Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu itself, he does so to add detail or to show us precisely how The Nectar of Devotion presents what Srila Rupa Gosvami is saying. This is entirely right and proper.
Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu is a systematic book, a book that classifies and organizes, that puts things in their place. It maps out the territory of devotional life, showing where things stand, giving us our bearings in what might otherwise be a foggy seascape. In The Nectar of Devotion, this is apparent. Yet Waves helps us see still more clearly how things are organized, where we are going, where things fit. And so we read The Nectar of Devotion with clearer eyes and renewed appreciation.
As we read The Nectar of Devotion, Waves is a suitable companion because it seeks to point us in the same directions, keep us on the same course, see us through to the same goal. Like The Nectar of Devotion, it is scholarly and yet is not a work of mere scholarship. This is not someone’s doctoral thesis, written to advance a mundane career. Rather, Waves is a work of devotional service, meant to help sincere devotees as they move forward in Krishna conscious life. It is meant to help us “fully taste the nectar for which we are always anxious.”
And Waves of Devotion is written in good, sturdy plain English. The language here doesn’t show off or put on airs; it speaks to us in a normal voice and gets the job done. What could be more frustrating than a message lost amidst long, flowery sentences, impossible grammar, and divine words whose meaning can hardly be discerned? And what could be more pseudo than a modern American trying to come off like a nineteenth-century Bengali? Waves of Devotion doesn’t go in for any of that. It is not written in “Gaudiya purple.” You can read it.
And I recommend that you do.
Author: Dhanurdhara Swami
Hardcover: 470 pages
Publisher: Bhagavat Books (September 30, 2000)