The show is called “The Late Morning Program,” a wry take on late night talk shows. The tongue-in-cheek poster shows the host dressed in a suit and assuming an overly serious pose. And a fake testimonial calls it “Borderline Prajalpa.”
But there’s a lot more depth to what might be ISKCON’s first video podcast show, and its host Namarasa Das, than at first may be evident.
A brahmana-initiated young devotee, Namarasa works as a project manager for a small IT company in Manhattan. Keeping busy in his spare time, he’s assistant to the head pujari at ISKCON Towaco, New Jersey and helps coordinate Thursday night kirtans at the Bhakti Center that draw 80 to 100 people weekly. He and his wife Tulasi are also expecting their first child.
“The video podcast has two elements,” he says. “One is to introduce interesting devotees that I know, talk to them about their life story, their passions, and what they want to contribute. The other is to create a forum for topics that are controversial, or not widely discussed – such as homosexuality in ISKCON, or Krishna West, or the Hinduization of ISKCON. The idea is not to name any names, but just talk about the topic itself, in a very neutral, respectful way, keeping in mind that there are devotees on either side of the issue.”
The show will be available to watch every two weeks on Facebook and Youtube, on Sundays at 9:00am U.S. Eastern Time. The first episode features a one-on-one 40-minute chat with Jaya Jagannath Das, a former professional dancer who now teaches Bhakti Yoga courses at the Bhakti Center. In the engaging conversation, Jaya Jagannath shares the story of how he became a devotee, his approach to studying Srila Prabhupada’s books, and how he explains Krishna consciousness in a relatable way to the modern millennial.
Namarasa’s next guest will be Venkata Bhatta Das, who will dicuss the current controversy of “the Hinduization of ISKCON.” Venkata is in a unique position to tackle the topic, as he is currently the Director for Hindu Life at Princeton University, and prior to that served as ISKCON’s North American Communications Director.
Other future guests will include artist, photographer and purohit Brahma Muhurta Das, and Bhakti Center director Virabhadra Das, who will discuss why the Bhakti Center is one of the most successful preaching programs in North America at present.
“I’ll also talk with my friend Vrajabhumi Das, who is a doctor, about health in ISKCON,” says Namarasa. “How the 1970s cuisine of halava and puris is catching up with devotees after 40 years, and what we can do to improve the way we eat.”
Dream future guests include Sankirtana Strategist and inspirational leader Vaisesika Das, and a two-hander with kirtaniyas Gaura Vani and Ananta Govinda.
Whoever he’s talking to, Namarasa’s interview technique is to have no technique. “I just want to make the person feel comfortable chatting with me, as if there were no microphones or cameras,” he says. “As if we were just having a conversation.”
With his wide variety of guests, Namarasa hopes to reach an internal ISKCON audience of all demographics – from senior Prabhupada disciples to new bhaktas; from Indian devotees to African Americans.
“I hope all of them will hear a guest and think, ‘This person’s saying exactly what I’m thinking, or what I’m feeling,’” he says. “ ‘And that inspires me to have similar conversations in my own life and to open up.’”
While Namarasa may spoof himself and have a reputation as a bit of an online jokester, he also has a sober side that genuinely aspires to be an agent for change in ISKCON.
“I think the way we can bring about change is to be more open, non-judgemental, and accepting of others,” he says. “And I think if we can do that, if we can care for the devotees that we already have, instead of just trying to push on the mission without thinking about them, that could be a very good thing. And I hope this podcast can get the ball rolling.”
In the future, Namarasa aims to make “The Late Morning Program” available as an audio-only podcast as well, so that devotees can listen in the car or while they’re busy with chores or service.
For now, head to https://www.facebook.com/TheLateMorningProgramWithNamarasa/ or https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdx42Nztrpnl2sz8p4sE99g to watch.[ it ] [ namarasa ] [ podcast ]