A Collection of Contemporary Vaishnavi Poetry
edited by Krishna Kanta Dasi (Catherine L. Schweig)
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Inspirational & Religious Poetry | Love | Spiritual | Women Poetry | Devotional
Featuring the voices of 108 contemporary female practitioners of Bhakti from all over the world, this rare and beautiful anthology illuminates some of the endless treasures that stir in devotional hearts.
Whether playing a drum, walking through the woods, cooking or absorbed in mantra meditation, these modern Vaishnavi poets prayerfully reflect on the various aspects of their spiritual journeys toward divine love, echoing the spirit of their ancient lineage. Composed by new and experienced practitioners of Bhakti alike, their poems present a wide range sentiments and perspectives divided into eight themes including their individual relationships with themselves, their gurus, and the divine, as Krishna. Although we find the collective feminine voice—that of the divine cowherd maidens called Gopis—at the heart of ancient Bhakti texts, the voices of women on the Bhakti path have typically remained in the background. In solidarity with other efforts that are being made all over the world to restore honor to feminine divine and her servants, regardless of gender, this book unites women from various sangas, or spiritual communities, to spark a resurgence of the feminine voice in the modern Bhakti movement through poetry.
The publication of Bhakti Blossoms marks a watershed moment for contemporary Hindu literature generally, and this tradition’s devotional canon in particular. This anthology presents, perhaps for the first time, a collection of female practitioner-poets who draw from and honor centuries old tradition, but also articulate devotion in their own personal and refreshingly modern voices. The fact that these poets hail from a diversity of ethnicities and backgrounds speaks to a dynamic transnational and intergenerational approach that is quickly becoming a hallmark of 21st Century Hinduism. The result is a fine collection of poems that serve as thought-provoking spiritual reflections and heartfelt love songs to the Divine Beloved.
—Vineet Chander, Director of Hindu Life Program, Princeton University
This much anticipated volume of beautiful poetry was written by serious practitioners of Bhakti. Many of these incredible women entered the tradition through birth, while others began practicing Bhakti during late teens and early adulthood, embracing it at various degrees of depth as their path in life. The authors’ combined experiences have resulted in this extraordinary first-of-its-kind-masterpiece. I found myself surprised by my own eagerness to immerse myself in their Bhakti-filled experiences and adventures—devouring the poems. I am confident that others will also.
—Malati Devi Dasi/ Melanie L Nagel, Senior Initiated Disciple of A. C Bhaktivedanta Swami, First female member of ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission, the largest institutionalized Bhakti society in the world
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ABOUT THE EDITOR
Krishna Kanta Dasi (Catherine L. Schweig) has been practicing bhakti yoga since 1986, and was initiated into the Chaitanya Vaishnava tradition in 1990. Passionate about inspiring women to honor their voices, she founded the Vaishnavi Voices Poetry Project. In 2012 Krishna Kanta started the Journey of the Heart: Women’s Spiritual Poetry online community, for which she has edited and published four anthologies of women’s writings.
Q & A with Krishna Kanta Dasi (Catherine L. Schweig)
What does the word Bhakti mean?
Bhakti is a Sanskrit word derived from the verbal root bhaj, meaning “To offer love to the divine.” It denotes the power of love to transform our hearts and connect us with each other, with all life around us, and with divinity.
It denotes the power of love to transform our hearts and connect us with each other, with all life around us, and with divinity.
Is Bhakti related to yoga?
Bhakti is a most ancient type of yoga. Yoga is that which connects us to divinity. Bhakti yoga connects us to divinity through love. Although the Bhakti yoga tradition originated in India, Bhakti is practiced all over the world throughout cultures in many different ways. Nevertheless, the traditional Bhakti yoga culture revolves around the injunctions found in the main Bhakti yoga texts, like the Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavata Purana, which illuminate the nature of Bhakti, and offer guidelines to those dedicated to a formal Bhakti yoga practice.
Yoga is that which connects us to divinity. Bhakti yoga connects us to divinity through love.
In what ways is the woman’s voice important in the Bhakti tradition?
Because for many decades the voices of women in the Bhakti tradition have remained somewhat muted, it is especially important at this time in history for women’s voices to be heard. Unfortunately, gender prejudices were imported into parts of the Bhakti culture which systematically deprived women of the respect they were due. Sadly, some Bhaki organizations even prohibit women from becoming initiating gurus or teachers who carry forth the tradition.
This book emerges as part of an ongoing, worldwide effort towards cultivating healthy egalitarian attitudes within the Bhakti culture that will help it thrive. Without the valuable contributions of women, or—for that matter—without honoring the contributions of people of all genders or ethnicities, any tradition is bound to lose its relevance, its ability to continue to touch the masses, its lure.
Without the valuable contributions of women, or—for that matter—without honoring the contributions of people of all genders or ethnicities, any tradition is bound to lose its relevance, its ability to continue to touch the masses, its lure.
How did you select the themes for the anthology?
With the help of the other editors, we noticed that the poems naturally seemed to fall into certain themes. These themes reflected the very lifestyle of the participants—who identified as practitioners of Bhakti—and what their minds and hearts were attuned to. Consequently, we were given beautiful glimpses into their prayers, pilgrimages, worshiping rituals, gurus, deities, families, dances, chanting sessions, struggles, etc.
When I first began this project several years ago, I was especially curious to see the types of subjects that would arise in the poems. Would the poems mirror those of the ancient Bhakti poets? Would the women participating in this project express themselves in original, unique ways or would they imitate the style and phraseology of the Bhakti teachers of the past? Which parts of their Bhakti practice would they feel comfortable publishing for others to read? Would they really reveal the contents of their hearts? I am happy to announce that the contributors did indeed share much of their lives with us and pour their hearts into their poetry!
We know you have edited a few anthologies before, in what ways, if any, was this anthology different?
This anthology took much longer to produce than any others I have worked on. Perhaps, this is because the subject was so specialized and only drew from a relatively small potential group of participants (women who were cultivating Bhakti).
I first attempted the anthology in 2003 and had a very difficult time finding women willing to share their poems with others. Unlike my experiences in producing other poetry anthologies by women, it wasn’t unusual while endeavoring to publish Bhakti Blossoms for me to encounter resistance accompanied by self-deprecating phrases like: “Who am I to share my poems?”
Sadly, overall “disqualification” was most often cited as the reason for refusing my invitation to participate in the project. Consequently, the anthology took thirteen years to produce. That long period of time represents how difficult it was for me to find women who believed in this project—for whatever reasons—and were generous enough to contribute their courageous and inspiring voices to it.
In the end, the book features the writings of 108 valuable vaishnavis (Bhakti practitioners), unto whom I am most grateful, as I firmly believe that publishing their voices makes a truly unique, spiritually nourishing contribution to the greater international Bhakti culture.
Incidentally, all the proceeds of this project will be donated to non-profit charities that support women and girls in their practices of Bhakti.
…the anthology took thirteen years to produce…
…all the proceeds of this project will be donated to non-profit charities that support women and girls in their practices of Bhakti.
What are you working on next?
I am on the verge of completing a manuscript titled: Goddess: When She Rules, which includes a wide array of reflections by contemporary women on their understanding of—and relationship to—the goddess. It’s a jointly edited volume with Tammy Takahashi, Sandra M. Allagapen and Julia W. Prentice. I am very excited about this project as it’s drawn in some wonderful, award-winning writers who present very colorful and intriguing views of the eternal goddesses, the mythical goddesses and the goddesses we find within ourselves: our book’s three themes. A handful of the vaishnavis from the Bhakti Blossoms book will have their work featured in this book as well. Goddess; When She Rules will be released December 12th, 2017 with Golden Dragonfly Press.
Other books by Catherine: