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The Unabridged Lilamrita Audiobook Project

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For the first time since its initial publication forty years ago, the complete, unabridged Śrīla Prabhupāda Lilamrita—the foundational, comprehensive biography of Śrīla Prabhupāda by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami—is becoming available as a series of professionally produced audiobooks commissioned by the author himself.

Five volumes (A Lifetime In Preparation, Planting The Seed, Only He Could Lead Them, In Every Town and Village, and Let There Be A Temple) are already completed and available on bbtmedia.com. A small amount of financial help from the community of devotees is sought so that the project may be finished.

In December of 2022, Satsvarupa Maharaja asked me to narrate and produce this audiobook series. I’d had audio recording experience (Yama Niyama Dasa Brahmachari, Shelter, 108, Planet Cow Orchestra, Badahari Prabhu), and reading experience (as the editor of krishna.com and associate editor of BTG), plus I’d made a personal habit of reading the Lilamrita every year. Thinking I could potentially be of service in narrating devotional audiobooks, I sent Satsvarupa Maharaja a short sample of me reading part of the Lilamrita’s Introduction, to see if he might like the idea of some of his books being recorded.

He responded almost immediately, saying that he loved my reading and that he wanted me to record the entire Lilamrita. He asked what I would need to get the project done. He offered to send a monthly stipend so I could put aside all other work and focus on audiobook recording. “… I think you are the perfect person to do it. You have your heart in it, and you pronounce everything exactly right. Please let me hear from you how much you need.”

I realized that this would be a huge job. I didn’t know how huge. I estimated it would take me at least a year, maybe longer. A month and a half after I started working on it, my voice became hoarse and painful, which slowed the recording considerably and forced me to develop a much more creative, careful and conservative schedule. I had to train myself to breathe properly while speaking so as to not damage my voice. I went to several specialists and took part in a Syracuse University study for “muscle tension dysphonia” (the technical term for the vocal condition I’m still working to overcome).

I kept on recording, working for short stretches throughout the day when my voice sounded OK, and doing much more extensive editing so the narration would sound natural. I’m finding that each chapter requires between 1,000 and 1,500 edits to maintain the proper rhythm and cadence required of a pleasant narration.


All along the way, I sent Satsvarupa Maharaja progress reports and audio samples. He would write back,

“I just wanted to write you again and tell you how much I appreciated and approved of your reading… Your voice is very good, so was your diction, and you are no-nonsense. I am rooting for you! Please take care of your health and pace your self in the reading so you don’t damage your voice (which you mentioned is fragile).”

…and:

“I have completed listening to your reading of the entire Jhansi history. Your recording is excellent! The story reads so dramatically and you have told it as-it-is. No music, no melodrama, just straight reading SPL. I liked it very much. Your voice is very professional and comforting. You get involved with the story and tell it well. I encourage you to go on at the pace you are doing and work at the whole project. This is a great endeavour. It is not just for me or you; it is for the whole world.”

Since accepting this responsibility, my only income has been from whatever donations Gita Nagari Press was able to collect for the project. GN Press agreed to find donors to cover the twelve month period I had initially estimated. Satsvarupa Maharaja himself was the first to donate. This past January, due to his increasing health challenges, his assistants asked me to also take over the fundraising efforts, so they could focus on Maharaja’s day-to-day care and I could complete the remaining portion of the SPL.

As Maharaja said, this project is not just for him or for me, it is for the whole world, for future generations to hear about the life of Śrīla Prabhupāda.

It takes me around three months to completely record and edit a single volume. I receive no royalties from the sale of these audiobooks. All proceeds go to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. I would prefer to continue recording the Lilamrita and not have to put it aside while seeking other work. Any donations received from this effort will be used to cover basic living expenses, and any funds raised over and above the goal will be sent to SDG to help with his own healthcare costs.

Despite Satsvarupa Maharaja’s recent health challenges, his latest letter to me included this:

“This [Śrīla Prabhupāda Lilamrita] is the heart of my life’s work and preaching…I am sure the devotees will support this project if they are given the opportunity…this is an honest plea to just please get it done. Thank you.”

If I can raise $10,000, I will likely be able to complete the final volume of the original printing, Uniting Two Worlds. If I can raise $20,000, I will also be able to record the additional volume Prabhupada-Lila, which was included in the second printing of the Lilamrita. Any funds raised beyond $20,000 will be sent directly to SDG.

I thank you for listening, and especially thank you if you choose to make a donation. Hare Krishna. Your servant, Ekendra dasa

PS:

As the “Founder-Acharya” of ISKCON, Śrīla Prabhupāda taught both by words and by example. His words live on in his books, which he intended his followers to regularly, thoroughly study and widely distribute.

His example—how he lived, what he said, what he did—lives on in the hearts of those fortunate enough to have met him personally or to have had the benefit of hearing about his life. The time is now upon us when those who encountered him during his manifest presence—or who experienced a world with Śrīla Prabhupāda physically walking around in it—are themselves leaving this world behind.

He wanted his followers, present and future, to become just like him—to fully internalize both his written instructions and the implicit example of his life—so that Krishna consciousness could be spread all over the world.

Just as his books require careful and repeated study, his life’s document also. Śrīla Prabhupāda Lilamrita remains an essential life document of Śrīla Prabhupāda, one which bears repeated reading (or hearing) as much as any of his own written works. Personally witnessing or hearing about the example of a pure devotee of Krishna can itself give anyone solid faith in Krishna consciousness as a feasible—and desirable—way of life.
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Eric Dailey
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Cicero, NY

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