Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sexuality in the modes of material nature.

I find it a bit unfortunate that though the Gita (chapters 14, 17 and 18) and the Bhagavata (11.25) describe various phenomena and categorize them according to the three guṇas of material nature, they did not make any analysis of sexuality according to this method. This has fed the bias in some circles that there is no room whatsoever for sexuality, that it is by default in the modes of ignorance or passion, and if it could ever be in the mode of goodness, it would only be such sex as is engaged in for the sake of procreation.

The Bhāgavata adds the nirguṇa category to the discourse, by which it is to be learned that in the Bhāgavata view, the same activities that are conducted in the various modes of nature can also be free from the modes, if they are somehow dovetailed into bhakti. Thus residence in a whorehouse is tāmasika, in a city, rājasika, in the forest sattvika, but living in a temple of the Lord is nirguṇa.

Human sexuality is extremely complex and takes countless forms. Any categorization of sexuality according to the modes will require lengthy study, but the broad lines to follow are made quite clear. So let us try to make a preliminary effort that may be helpful for later understanding what might be meant by nirguṇa sexuality.

Naturally, your sexuality will mirror your general situation in the gunas.

Tāmasika sexuality is clearly that which is furthest from the ideal image we have of erotic or romantic love. It is where power and violence dominate the act and loving intimacy between the two people is altogether absent. Rape is clearly the archetype of tāmasika sexuality, but almost all perversions that have an etiology in aberrant psychology could be considered of tāmasika. In other words, where the primary amative function of the sexual act is absent, and where it serves other, distorted and often violent purposes, is of tamas. Where it is not therapeutic but rather serves to deepen one’s psychological and spiritual malaise, it is tāmasika.

Rājasika sexuality is somewhat more difficult to discern and has a large spectrum of subdivisions. However, most of what goes in the name of popular sexual culture can be categorized in the lower rungs of rajas. The Olympian sexuality that is so admired by many men and is the meat and potatoes of both hard and soft-core pornography is rājasika heavily tinged by tamas.

Performance is one aspect of that, but other aspects like social advancement, etc., also play a part. But rajas has a strong aesthetic component, as well. Arranging the external environment, courtship... these are normally in the arena of rajas.

The essence of both of tāmasika and rājasika sexuality in both men and women, however, is the orgasm. Orgasm is the payoff. In ignorance it is mainly the overwhelming animal drive and need for relief of an urge that leads to the act, whereas rajas is primarily goal-oriented, seeking refined and maximal pleasure.

But as sexual activity and orgasm is connected to procreation, so even sex leading to procreation should be seen as primarily rājasika, although it may be possible to make some distinctions here, as procreation—the desire to produce offspring—may itself be considered in the light of the three modes. And this is how we mix the gunas.

A tāmasika person has tāmasika reasons for wanting children, etc. People in tāmasika and rājasika modes will be less likely to follow prescriptions like the garbhādhāna, which is a sign of sāttvika culture. The interpretation of Krishna statement dharmāviruddha-bhūteṣu kāmo'smi envisions this sāttvika manifestation of procreational sex.

But since there are ample references to all kāma being essentially in the mode of passion, all procreative has an element of worldliness. On the other hand, since the conquering of kāma lies in resisting the push to orgasm, we can consider sexuality that accomplishes this goal to be sāttvika. In other words, that love-making which is true to its name, where communication between the lovers goes beyond the physical body and penetrates into ever subtler aspects of their being.

This is the sexuality of Tantra and Tao. It has a spiritual dimension. But ithout ever having studied either of these two famous sexual yogas, John Humphrey Noyes, the founder the Oneida community in upstate New York, put forward many persuasive arguments in favor of "male continence." Noyes' ideas seem to be benefiting from a revival of interest in the recent past and an Internet search will result in a rich amount of material including the original document. I strongly recommend reading this short work.

Noyes was a religious man who felt that human beings had an obligation to repair not only their relation with God, but also that which exists between the sexes. His diagnosis was that uncontrolled sexual activity (in those days before other forms of contraception) leading to frequent pregnancies was abusive to women.

His analysis was that the sex organs had three functions—urinary, procreative and amative. Of these, the latter was not simply a kind of bait leading to the genitals' true, procreative function, but was in itself the true, spiritual purpose of these organs. He considered the amative function to be as far beyond the procreative as the procreative is from the urinary. He felt that it was not hard for men to learn how to withhold the orgasm and so they should learn it as a birth control method and way of enhancing the pleasure of love-making for couples, with all the benefits that would accrue.

Noyes, of course, experimented with this discovery in his Oneida Community, where “special love” was discouraged and partners were exchanged on a regular basis. This ultimately proved to be a failure, due on the one hand to the opprobrium that fell upon the community from moralists, but also from the natural human tendency to seek “special love.” There is an important parallel here to the situation in Sahajiyaism also, which will necessitate more detailed discussion at some future date.

At any rate, Noyes had, it seems to me, an insight into what is sāttvika sexuality. The terms we use for the love organs are very revealing, just as are the terms used for the act of lovemaking. These terms reveal the mental state within the modes of nature of the speaker. Noyes’ term “amative” is very pleasing.

Now, as we know from the Third Canto of the Bhagavatam, the modes of nature can penetrate bhakti as well. The key to all those definitions of bhakti in the modes of nature are the terms pṛthag-dṛṣṭi and bhinna-dṛk (see Chapter 3.29). Ideally, a devotee should also cultivate as far as possible the sattva-guṇa along with bhakti, though bhakti itself is not dependent on the sattva-guṇa to manifest.

The devotional concept is that no activity should be seen separate from God. Even the mode of goodness is an inadequate response to the problems of life, because it does not go beyond the limits imposed by the material world itself. If the activities of the senses can be used as a springboard to transcendental consciousness, then we must become adept in the art of dovetailing.

This dovetailing will be amply explained in this blog. But for the time being, try to objectively assess your own sexual nature in the three guṇas and learn how to proceed towards sattva. And if you have the good fortune to be a devotee, and have the good fortune to have some love for Radha and Krishna, then please take shelter of the Holy Names while using the amative function of the love organs and start to have direct experience of the nirguṇa.

Sexuality in the modes of material nature.

I find it a bit unfortunate that though the Gita (chapters 14, 17 and 18) and the Bhagavata (11.25) describe various phenomena and categorize them according to the three guṇas of material nature, they did not make any analysis of sexuality according to this method. This has fed the bias in some circles that there is no room whatsoever for sexuality, that it is by default in the modes of ignorance or passion, and if it could ever be in the mode of goodness, it would only be such sex as is engaged in for the sake of procreation.

The Bhāgavata adds the nirguṇa category to the discourse, by which it is to be learned that in the Bhāgavata view, the same activities that are conducted in the various modes of nature can also be free from the modes, if they are somehow dovetailed into bhakti. Thus residence in a whorehouse is tāmasika, in a city, rājasika, in the forest sāttvika, but living in a temple of the Lord is nirguṇa.

Human sexuality is extremely complex and takes countless forms. Any categorization of sexuality according to the modes will require lengthy study, but the broad lines to follow are made quite clear. So let us try to make a preliminary effort that may be helpful for later understanding what might be meant by nirguṇa sexuality.

Tāmasika sexuality is clearly that which is furthest from the ideal image we have of erotic or romantic love. It is where power and violence dominate the act and loving intimacy between the two people is altogether absent. Rape is clearly the archetype of tāmasika sexuality, but almost all perversions that have an etiology in aberrant psychology could be considered tāmasika. In other words, where the primary functions of the sexual act are absent and where it serves other, distorted and often violent purposes, is tāmasika. Where it is not therapeutic but rather serves to deepen one’s psychological malaise, it is tāmasika.

Rājasika sexuality is somewhat more difficult to discern and has a large spectrum of subdivisions. However, most of what goes in the name of popular sexual culture can be categorized as in the lower levels of rajasa. The Olympian sexuality that is so admired by men and is the meat and potatoes of both hard and soft-core pornography is rājasika heavily affected by tamas.

The essence of both tāmasika and rājasika sexuality in both men and women, however, is the orgasm. In ignorance it is mainly the overwhelming animal drive that leads to the act, while rajas is primarily goal-oriented. As a result, sexual activity that has procreation as a goal should be seen as rājasika, although it may be possible to make some distinctions here, as procreation—the desire to produce offspring—may itself be considered in the light of the three modes. A tāmasika person has tāmasika reasons for wanting children, etc. People in tāmasika and rājasika modes will be less likely to follow prescriptions like the garbhādhāna, which is a sign of sāttvika culture. The interpretation of Krishna statement dharmāviruddha-bhūteṣu kāmo'smi envisions this sāttvika manifestation of procreational sex.

But since there are ample references to all kāma being essentially in the mode of passion, all procreative acts have an element of worldliness, while on the other hand, the conquering of kāma lies in resisting the push to orgasm, we can consider sexuality that accomplishes this goal to be sāttvika.

I found the arguments put forth in 1848 by John Humphrey Noyes, the founder the Oneida community in upstate New York, to be very persuasive. His ideas seem to have found a recrudescence of interest in the recent past and a search for “Noyes Male continence” will result in a rich amount of material including the original document. I strongly recommend reading this document.

Noyes was a religious man who felt that human beings had an obligation to not only repair their relation with God, but also that which exists between the sexes. His diagnosis was that uncontrolled sexual activity (in those days before other forms of contraception) leading to frequent pregnancies was abusive to women. His analysis was that the sex organs had three functions—urinary, procreative and amative.

Of these, the latter was not simply a kind of bait leading to the true, procreative function, but was itself the true, spiritual purpose of these organs. He considered the amative function to be as far beyond the procreative as the procreative is from the urinary.

Noyes, of course, experimented with this discovery in his Oneida Community, where “special love” was discouraged and partners were exchanged on a regular basis. This ultimately proved to be a failure, due on the one hand to the opprobrium that fell upon the community from moralists, but also from the natural human tendency to seek “special love.” There is an important parallel here to the situation in Sahajiyaism also, which will necessitate a more detailed discussion.

At any rate, Noyes had, it seems to me, an insight into what is sāttvika sexuality. The terms we use for the love organs are very revealing, just as are the terms used for the act of lovemaking. These terms reveal the mental state within the modes of nature of the speaker. Noyes’ term “amative” is very pleasing.

Now, as we know from the Third Canto of the Bhagavatam, the modes of nature can penetrate bhakti as well. The key to all those definitions of bhakti in the modes of nature are the terms pṛthag-dṛṣṭi and bhinna-dṛk (see Chapter 3.29). Ideally, a devotee should also cultivate as far as possible the sattva-guṇa along with bhakti, though bhakti itself is not dependent on the sattva-guṇa to manifest.

The devotional concept is that no activity should be seen as separate from God. Even the mode of goodness is an inadequate response to the problems of life, because it does not go beyond the limits imposed by the material world itself. If the activities of the senses can be used as a springboard to transcendental consciousness, then we must become adept in the art of dovetailing. It should be remembered that the concept of God that one works with is also relevant, for any God of this world is also within the world as long as one is absorbed in material concepts and desires.

This dovetailing will be amply explained in this blog. But for the time being, try to objectively assess your own sexual nature in the three guṇas and learn how to proceed towards sattva. And if you have the good fortune to be a devotee, and have the good fortune to have some love for Radha and Krishna, then please take shelter of the Holy Names while using the amative function of the love organs and start to have direct experience of the nirguṇa.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Detour into Self Pity

I have been having difficulty finding the time writing on this blog. But more serious than that is that there is a serious gap between what I preach and what I practise. So either I change my message or I change my life. Until that problem has been resolved, I am going to have to keep quiet and devote myself to prayer and meditation. Since I cannot put up, I must shut up.

There is hope here, and there is faith here. But charity falls short. So when things have been righted, I will return.

The Ten Offenses to Love


If Radha is Love, all love her shadow,
no love can be any other.
So the first great sin against Love, my friends,
is not to love the lover.

There is but one object of love,
for Love loves no one but him.
Confused by his many names and forms,
we commit the second great sin.

Love also him who teaches love spells,
or takes you to the trysting place,
or the one who turns your head with wine--
not doing this, the third disgrace.

All revelation leads to Love,
so don’t despise the lover’s song,
nor his poems, nor his books of rules,
to do so is the fourth great wrong.

The fifth is to think they exaggerate
when they say Love conquers all.
Creation comes from Love, in Love it lives,
and into Love will be recalled.

The sixth sin is to distort Love's sense,
its essence not the Divine Yugal.
Love's not formless, it's never divorced
From people and the personal.

Augustine said, “Love and do what you will!”
How easy ‘tis to make the claim
that love justifies everything we do:
Do not do evil in Love’s name.

No religious act stands on its own,
no God, no prayer, no rite;
All things have their end in Love:
Number eight is to lose this sight.

Don’t proclaim Love to those whose ears are tin,
who have no faith, who undermine
your own faith in Love when you speak to them:
This aparadh is number nine.

Those whose hearts don't change, not even when they melt,
after being touched by Love's bright flame,
who remain attached to this, that, I and mine,
make offense ten: to stay the same.

Now dwell a moment, friend, upon this song,
Understand it and you won't go wrong.
The Truth, Radha Shyam, the Holy Name,
and Love are One, the very same.


Jagat - GD (07 Dec 2004)

The Flower Garland and the Sword

The flower garland and the sword,
From safety to the brink,
It’s all a case of binaries,
For that is how we think.

The flower garland and the sword,
As old as yang and yin:
One is all about going out,
The other, going in.

Ah, but it’s not such a simple thing
This business of yang and yin,
It’s not as clear as black and white,
Or piety and sin.

Brahma is the God without,
Atma, God within.
Women look for Brahma God,
The Atma is for men.

But that’s because what each one owns
Is the other’s secret need,
The man has always held the sword,
While woman holds the seed.

And so, the woman wants the world
The man, he wants repose.
The woman yearns to wield the sword,
The man to hold the rose.

Now please don’t get all huffy, folks,
I don’t want it on the chin.
Sexual identities in themselves,
Are not of gold, but tin.

The identity of Brahma and Self
Is where the Srutis end;
And the unity of opposites
Is where the genders bend.

The sexes are our greatest clue
To Sri Jugal Kishor,
Where contrasts are at last resolved,
And One makes love not war.


From GD. Again, see the Rabindranath poem.

Several shorts

Call this the flute’s fault, or call it his name,
Call it his form, or my own past fate;
Call it God if you will—still this flame
burns not with ecstasy, but with pain.

++++

A little heroism, Arjun,
a little less moping in corners.
Wherever heroes die,
there are always joyful mourners.

(From GD)

++++

The Moguls come, the Moguls go.
The British come, the British go.
We take the best and leave the rest.
We still eat curry, our women wear sari,
We live real close and arrange to marry.
So East’s part East and now part West,
That’s globalizing at its best.

Based on a quote by Jerry Rao. (CEO of MphasiS) quoted in The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.

++++

The brain and the heart had a fight
that lasted a day and a night.
The heart said, "It's dawn,"
the brain looked forlorn
and said, "I still can't see any light."

++++

Our Sri Roopah is soopah doopah.
If you don't like her,
You're a bheng in a koopah.

The Raganuga Trail and Other Classics

I.

This website is a cheat? That's pretty neat!
Who here's the culprit who must take the heat?
So go ahead, sell books out on the street--

That's where shastra tells us we shall meet
a rasika guru at whose lotus feet
bhakta bees taste the raga honey treat.

II.

kṛṣṇa-bhakti-rasa-bhāvita-matiḥ 
kriyatāṁ yadi kuto’pi labhyate |
tatra laulyam api mūlyam ekalaṁ 
janma-koṭi-sukṛtair na labhyate ||

O friend, if you should find it anywhere,
that heart absorbed in Krishna rasa so rare,
be quick to buy, how much the soul’s in need!

In that bazaar is posted just one price;
millions of pious works will not suffice,
the cost is to be paid in coins of greed.

III.

You should have asked your GBC
before you came and talked to me.
Then you’d have known I’m dangerous--
you know--the Sanskrit knowledge curse.

And then I went and made things worse
by giving answers just in verse.
So now you think, “That’s aparadh.
He thinks he’s better than Prabhupad.”

It’s silly just to write in rhyme.
Sorry, promise I won’t next time.
But you be good, do what you’re told,
and stay away to save your soul.

That’s good advice: just stay away
from asat-sang like me, and pray
to Radha, then you’ll be O.K.

But I think it may be too late,
the horse is gone, why lock the gate?
The fish has swum off with the bait.

IV.

O Great Fish!
My sakhi baited the hook of her heart
with the delicacy of love just to catch you,
casting it into the ambrosial waters.

Not only did you swallow up
both bait and hook,
but you broke the string of her reason--
Alas, what can the poor girl do now?


(GD Aug. 14-15, 2004)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

More on the Lalita Sampradaya

Vamsi Ali was born in a well-to-do Vaishnava brahmin family in Vrindavan in 1708 (1764 Vikram), Ashwin Shukla Pratipat. He had a famous forefather named Mishra Narayan, who lived in the 16th century in Braj and earned his reputation by speaking on the Bhagavatam. Vamsi Ali was his ninth generation descendant. His birth name was Vamsidhar Mishra. His father, Pradyumna, was quite well known in the court of Bahadur Shah, Aurangzeb's oldest son.

Vamsi Ali was something of a child prodigy and became quite a Bhagavata speaker in his own right. He even spoke at the Maharaja of Jaipur Savai Singh's palace, answering his questions with such ease that the Maharaja was quite impressed and bestowed many gifts on him.

At fifteen, Vamsi Ali was married and he had his first child five years later. His main duty at home was to take care of the family deities, temple and temple-related property. He spent most of the money on the annual Radhashtami festival. He kept on speaking the Bhagavata, overwhelmed with prema. By the time he was 30, he left home. Four years later he began well known as a devotee in sakhi-bhava. He died at the age of 58, in 1764 at Lalita Kunj near Govinda Ghat in Vrindavan.

Vamsi Ali's disciplic line belongs to the Vishnuswami sampradaya. So they have the nupur tilak that extends halfway down the nose, usually made out of gopi chandan. They place a bindu between the eyes, but they print the devanagari letter for Sri (श्री) higher up on the forehead between the upright lines. (Krishna-bhakti kavya men sakhi bhava, 691-2)

His understanding of Krishna is a little unusual. The following is a translation from the Hindi of Babulalji Goswami (p.83)

"Radha is full of compassion. She only grants her presence to devotees in their meditations. She is herself without form and pure light, but being under the sway of her devotees, she manifests a form for their sake. The purpose of her expanding her pastimes is to give pleasure to her devotees and to increase their attachment for her. She is always under the control of her devotees. For these reasons she is always fixed in her pastimes and especially with her supreme devotee Krishna, with whom she enjoys (ramana) in a state of oneness (samatā-bhāva).

nityaṁ bhakta-parādhīnā tena rādhā vihāriṇī
sāmyaṁ bhajati bhaktena rase kṛṣṇena līlayā
Radha, the enjoyer of pastimes, is always under the thrall of her devotees. In her pastimes she becomes one with her devotee Krishna in relishing rasa. (Rādhā-siddhānta, verse 21)
vṛṣabhānu-gṛhe janma kṛpayā sādhakān anu
līlāvirbhāvatas te vai nānā-bhāvādhikāriṇaḥ
Radharani takes birth in the home of Vrishabhanu Maharaj in order to give her blessings to her devotees. This is because her appearance gives so many persons the opportunity to develop the various different moods of devotional service, such as dāsya and vātsalya. (Rādhā-siddhānta, verse 28)
Those who worship Radha in the kunja, i.e. her most intimate and erotic pastimes, say that there are four elements that make this lila (also known as nitya-vihāra possible. (1) Radha and (2) Krishna's absorption in their intimate pastimes, (3) their friends and sakhis, (4) Vrindavan, the place of their activities.

"In the previous discussion, Krishna's name came up again and again, which has in great part made his position clear. Nevertheless, it is necessary to elaborate a little more on his identity (svarupa). According to the Lalita Sampradaya, Krishna has no standing at all in Vraja lila. [* Vamsi Ali divides the lila into Vraja, ] Even in the Maharasa, he is present in a hidden form and not directly. (pp. 88-89)

In Vamsi Ali's conception, Radha is the "pati" of Lalita, Visakha and the other sakhis, who consider themselves her "brides" (suhagavati).


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Nitya-vihara and Achintya-bhedabheda

Those of you who follow this blog might wonder why there is so little activity. The fact is that I have started working, from morning to night,divā cārthehayā rājan, kuṭumbhābharaṇena vā.

I have said in the past that the monastic or eremetic lifestyle is really for those who have strong self-discipline. Those who do not have discipline ultimately have it imposed on them from outside. This is what is happening to me.

In a way, I am not unhappy, though I said to my wife that I did not find any fulfilment, nor did I expect to find fulfilment in the work I am doing. I do it, it is not strenuous. Indeed, I got a laugh today as I did a lengthy session of envelope stuffing--so it has come to this...

But I get an hour in the bus going and another hour coming. I chant. I am eating less and better. I am not less Krishna conscious, just less productive. I have these few hours left at the end of the day, when I am tired and dull, and I have to think, what project will I work on? Now that time is no longer available, what can I do about the Grantha Mandir, which is sitting there with hundreds of documents that need correcting or updating or adding.

I am correcting Bhagiratha Jha's commentary to the Gopala Tapani in the hope of completing my edition eventually. Since I am working on the section in Uttara Tapani where Durvasa tells Gandharvi that "Krishna is verily your husband" I have been reading Bhagiratha's lengthy refutation of parakiya rasa, which is even more elaborately expressed in the second chapter of Vrindavana-rasa-samiksha.

This evening I got back from work and was lying down listening to Prahlada's soothing album "Love Divine", which is really a homage to Nitai Gauranga. It made me realize just how different Gaudiyas are from the Nimbarkis. Bhagiratha just does not get separation. At one point he even says that the Gaudiyas concept of Radharani is inferior to even Durga because Durga can experience all of Krishna's lilas, whereas Radha is stuck in her particular lila and unaware of anything else! He is very expert in refuting all the arguments with scriptural quotations, and he says of Rupa Goswami, admiringly I think, but sadly, that one should not listen to devotees whose siddhanta opposes the scriptures.

Other aspects of Bhagiratha's disagreements lie in the concept of Yogamaya. He refuses to accept that yogamāyām upāśritaḥ means that Krishna subjects himself to the Yogamaya potency in order to experience another kind of joy. He says, "No one wants separation any more than anyone wants poverty."

The Nimbarkis, like most Vrindavan Vaishnavas, are worshipers of the nitya-vihāra. Krishna is Kunjabihari and he not only does not leave the Braj, he never leaves the kunja. Basically, there is a place in the cosmos where Radha and Krishna are making love without any respite for eternity. And there is a place where Radha and Krishna are conscious of their countless expansions and their infinite activities of creation, destruction and maintenance of the unlimited universes.

But those who have been blessed by Gauranga and washed in his tears, understand that the entire creation is built on a base of binaries, including not only Male and Female, but also union and separation. Just being is not enough, not even for God. Therefore God becomes. Becoming means that there has to be an unknown, even for the all-knowing, there has to be lack, even for the one who lacks or wants for nothing, there has to be obstacles even for the one who creates and destroys everything.

In fact, we really have to understand the deeper realms of acintya-bhedābheda here. Gaudiya Vaishnavas are not theists in the way that Muslims, Jews or Christians are. Vaishnavism was born in the land of the Upanishads, Buddha and Shankara. It is steeped in the concept of Oneness, ekam evādvitīyam, tat tvam asi. We are all a part of that Unity. The Creator God, Brahma, was long ago relegated to a secondary role, even though in early scriptures he is "brahma." The heavenly gods are relegated to mere big jivas. Who is this Krishna? Is he Jahweh or Allah, lording it over a world he creates out of nothing, ex nihilo?

In the Upanishadic concept, God is all things. He is the whole, and yet a part, and yet again he stands apart. Om pūrṇam adaḥ pūrṇam idam.

So old Bhagiratha Jha does not understand the Yogamaya concept, in which God sacrifices his divinity, not for any other purpose than to experience finitude. Of course, Radha and Krishna ARE in the kunja all day and all night for all eternity. But sometimes they have to separate themselves from all that in order to appreciate it, at least in one, superlative manifestation somewhere.

Rasa is not rasa without amazement. How can anyone, even God, enjoy without becoming amazed? So could Bhagiratha Jha write a verse like this one--

aparikalita-pūrvaḥ kaś camatkāra-kārī
sphurati mama garīyān eṣa mādhurya-pūraḥ
ayam aham api hanta prekṣya yaṁ lubdha-cetāḥ
sarabhasam upabhoktuṁ kāmaye rādhikeva
What is this amazing form that springs before me, so deep and full of sweetness!
Never before have I seen anything like it, so wondrously does it amaze me.
Seeing it has suddenly fill my mind with desire to enjoy, just like Radha does. (Lalita-mādhava 8.34)
This is called mādhurya.

Of course no one wants misery or separation. But Sanatan Goswami must have had some crazy realization when he puts these words into Krishna's mouth in Dvaraka--

tathāpi sambhoga-rasād api stutaḥ
sa ko'py anirvācyatamo manoramaḥ
pramoda-rāśiḥ pariṇāmato dhruvaṁ
tatra sphuret tad-rasikaika-vedyaḥ
Even so, more praiseworthy than even the joy of union is separation, which is beyond explanation, full of charm. It ultimately transforms most assuredly into an abundance of joy. Only those who have relished this rasa can understand such matters. (Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta 1.7.126)

That first part of the Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta is a real eye-opener as it builds to this conclusion.

So, I who am so easily detoured, will make yet another detour, into chapters 46 and 47 of the Tenth Canto. I have to type these out for the Grantha Mandira eventually, but there is someone out there for whom I want to do this.

Everything is of course connected. Especially here, where all these millions of thoughts are flowing through my brain all day long, and yet they all come back to this eternal duel between oneness and difference. Yes, we are separated from God, and yet how can that be? He is as close to us, as Muhammad once said, as our jugular vein. Krishna's message, transported by Uddhava, is this--

bhavatīnāṁ viyogo me na hi sarvātmanā kvacit
yathā bhūtāni bhūteṣu khaṁ vāyv-agnir jalaṁ mahī
tathāhaṁ sa manaḥ prāṇa-bhūtendriya-guṇāśrayaḥ

Ah! No wonder the gopis were so angry with Krishna for his arrogant messages! How could he tell them to wait! How could he tell them that he was always present with them in some other divine brahmic manifestation, or in some other nitya-vihāra kuñja when they KNEW he was far away in Dvaraka. Even his sphūrtis, which he said were real--those visions in dreams and hallucination when they felt Krishna in their arms--were not enough. They only added to this suffering. I cannot explain this suffering--it is tad-rasikaika-vedyah.

When Krishna takes off in the rasa dance, on one level he knows what he is doing, on another he is helplessly in the thrall of Radharani. Call it Krishna, call it Yogamaya, call it lila, whatever. It is divine grace that throws us into the misery of separation, where we cannot think of anything else, just like the poor man who wins the lottery and then loses his ticket. He cannot think of anything else. Total absorption.

And he himself had to make excuses--I cannot help it, my dears, there are a few more demons to kill! I just have to satisfy Vasudeva and Devaki and the rest of my relatives. This duty, that duty--what about your duty to our love, Krishna! Don't you have anything to say about that?

And then, does he come back? For Jiva Goswami in the Gopāla-campū, he comes back. But in the Bhāgavatam, it is not so clear. Does he come back? Friedhelm Hardy starts his book on viraha bhakti with Forster's Godbole, singing "Come, come." But when asked by the Englishman, "Does he ever come?" the interestingly named Godbole says, "No, he never comes." He never comes, because he has always been there.

Try to stop thinking of Krishna. Bilvamangal challenges Krishna to get out of his heart. It's no big deal for you to throw down my hand and disappear from me. I am old and blind, after all. But you just try to get out of this prison where I have you locked up. Who is the doer here? Is it Bilvamangala, or is it Krishna, or is it some other force?

Krishna is God because he is rasa, raso vai saḥ. He is paramānanda, supreme bliss. He is paired with the supreme joy, his divine partner Radha, whose expansion is Yogamaya, to whom she also submits so that she will become angry with Krishna, even though he is never really unfaithful to her--how can he be when every woman is just a fragmentary part of Radha? Who can understand these things? Their inexplicability makes them a source of joy.

Does anyone understand what God really is? He is infinite in his wonder. But this little corner of God's infinite wonders is what has been given to us by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The Christians understood a little bit when their God died on the cross and they insisted, against all the naysayers and philosophers, that it was indeed God, who had indeed become man, and had indeed experienced the cruelty of the crucifixion. And though he rose from the dead, it was his dying that was the real miracle. This too is a glimpse of rasa. What Christians call mystery, and what we call acintya.

And just one footnote--more acintya-bhedābheda. The lilas of Krishna and those of human beings are intertwined, like two colors of thread bundled together in one big, tangled ball.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Kāma and Rasa

Listening to Radhanath Swami's lecture on the Internet radio. Looking at form rather than content, I can almost feel that Protestant preacher mood when the Prabhupada cadences don't start peeking through. Since Radhanath is Jewish in background, perhaps he picked it up from Kirtanananda Swami.

It's amazing, actually. I have heard Radhanath Maharaj speak two or three times, and it seems that he repeats several things that make it clear just how close to the orthodoxy this Sahajiya doctrine is. I see that what I am saying here is not really so radical after. It is just one small step, one small piece of the puzzle.

The concept of perverted reflection... The idea of transforming this world through consciousness... The idea of yukta-vairägya. It is all there. All that is needed is taking that one vital step that links these ideas to the spiritual power sexuality, that allows for the transforming power of love in this world. Unfortunately, without that, no madhura-rasa. None.

On another note, I came across the following nice verse by Bhagiratha Jha--

tasmāc chṛṅgāra-bījatvaṁ vṛkṣatvaṁ phala-rūpatā
pratiṣṭhitā ca śrī-kṛṣṇe yugma-rūpe sanātane

Therefore, the seeds of the erotic mood, its tree-like form, as well as its manifestation as fruits are all present in the form of God as the eternal Divine Couple. (Yugala-tattva-samīkṣā 1.76)

The idea here is that Radha and Krishna are the seed of the erotic sentiment as it manifests in this world. They are also (as the tree) the true form that this erotic mood possesses. And furthermore, they are the fruit of eros truly understood and manifested.

Here are some more in the same vein:

kāmasya rasa-bījatvaṁ kecid āhur manīṣiṇaḥ
rasasya kāma-bījatvaṁ anye prāhur manīṣiṇaḥ
tayor anyonya-bījatvaṁ nirvācyatvaṁ ca vidyate
ity anye prähur ācāryā rasa-tattva-vicakṣaṇāḥ

Some thinkers say that kāma is the seed of rasa, while others say that rasa is the seed of kāma. Yet other acharyas who are well versed in the nature of rasa say that these two have a mutual cause and effect relationship. (1.100-101)
He then goes on to quote Chāndogya Upaniṣad 3.14.4: sarva-kāmaḥ sarva-gandhaḥ sarva-rasaḥ: "God is all desire, all fragrance, all taste (rasa)." And raso vai saḥ. "God is rasa." (Taittirīya Upaniṣad 2.7)

atas tu kāma-rasayor vibhedo naiva mūlataḥ |
camatkāra-prabhedas tu vijñeyas tattva-vedibhiḥ ||104|
yathā rasatvaṁ yugmasya sākṣād evopapāditam |
tathā manmatha-rūpatvaṁ sākṣād eva nirūpyate ||105||
prākṛtasya tu kāmasya dhātor vikṛti-kāriṇaḥ |
na praveśo nirvikāre sākṣād amṛta-vigrahaḥ ||106||
svataḥ prakāśa-rūpatvāt sūryāntara-nirarthakaḥ |
svataḥ kāma-svarūpatvāt kāmāntara-nirarthakaḥ ||107||
tasmād rasaś ca kāmaś ca sākṣāc chrī-puruṣottamaḥ |
camatkāro ratiś cāpi svataḥ śrī rādhikā ramā ||108||

Therefore there is no fundamental difference between desire (kāma) and rasa. A distinction can be made when it comes to the element of wonder (camatkāra). It has been established that the Divine Couple is rasa itself (raso vai saḥ), so too have they been described as Kama himself (sākṣāt manmathaḥ). The material god of desire corrupted Lord Brahma, but cannot enter into the divine and eternal form of Radha-Krishna, which cannot undergo such transformations. The sun is light itself, so it has no need of another sun to illuminate it. Since Radha and Krishna are the very form of desire, there is no need for another Kamadeva to light their desire. Therefore Krishna is himself both rasa and kāma. Amazement or wonder (camatkāra) and love (rati) are manifest as Srimati Radharani.(1.102-108)

Kāmo'smi bhāratarṣabha

I recently rediscovered the following article, which came about as a result of a discussion on Gaudiya Discussions centered around the Gita verse (7.12, dharmāviruddha-bhūteṣu kāmo'smi bhāratarṣabha) that Madhavananda mentions in his refutation of Sahajiyaism and referred to earlier on this blogsite. Since this is all a part of the general theme of this blog, I have decided to repost it here.



The statement, "I am desire (kāma) when it does not go against religious principles" is found in one of the vibhūti-yoga sections of the Gita, where Krishna is describing his own glories. Desire is one of the most glorious and powerful manifestations of the creation and, as Krishna says at the end of Chapter 10, wherever such glorious manifestations are to be found, they are he. At least, they are clues pointing to his existence and his glory.

As such, the extremely narrow definition of kāma given by the Gaudiya commentators seems inadequate. Though sexual desire as procreative act is definitely a miraculous manifestation and a locus of the Divine, surely this cannot be the extent of what is being said here.

I don't see why scriptures written 400 or more years ago cannot be reinterpreted in accordance with the broader understanding coming from the sciences. My problem with quoting shastra in general is that we often don't really know why a certain injunction is given. Why, really, are prohibitions against sexuality so strong? Though I feel strongly that a devotee should lead an ethical and moral life, I don't see how a normal married sex life would disrupt that. When Raghunath Das was told yathā yukta (dharmāviruddha) viṣaya bhuñjo (kāma) anāsakta hoiyā. What exactly did that mean?

Actually, it is rather surprising that the lines dharmāviruddha-bhūteṣu kāmo'smi bhāratarṣabha have inspired so little commentary, especially in view of the various complications associated with kāma in the devotional process.

The terms used are sufficiently broad to allow our imagination to roam around these great concepts of dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa. I like Tripurari Maharaja's equation of kāma with ("material") love, which is perfectly legitimate. Krishna is present in worldly love, where such love does not lead to abuse. Where it leads to selfless acts, love is certainly one of the most glorious features of the creation.

Dharma here could be understood in its wider sense as the true inherent nature of a thing. This might be seen, for instance, as a condemnation of homosexuality (to use an example of something traditionally considered an "unnatural" act), or bestiality. But there are many other possible interpretations.


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Zaehner, as is often the case, seems to have hit this nail squarely on the head by quoting a very relevant and insightful passage from Mahābhārata:

Shankara...confines desire to the craving for what one does not possess (?). This is plainly to whittle away Krishna's words... In MBh 14.13.9-17 Krishna explains to Yudhisthira, a natural sannyasi if there ever was one, just how He is desire--

kāmātmānaṁ na praśaṁsanti loke
na cākāmāt kā cid asti pravṛttiḥ
dānaṁ hi vedādhyayanaṁ tapaś ca
kāmena karmāṇi ca vaidikāni

vrataṁ yajñān niyamān dhyānayogān
kāmena yo nārabhate viditvā
yad yad dhyayaṁ kāmayate sa dharmo
na yo dharmo niyamas tasya mūlam

atra gāthāḥ kāma-gītāḥ kīrtayanti purā vidaḥ
śṛṇu saṁkīrtyamānās tā nikhilena yudhiṣṭhira
nāhaṁ śakyo 'nupāyena hantuṁ bhūtena kenacit
yo māṁ prayatate hantuṁ jñātvā praharaṇe balam
tasya tasmin praharaṇe punaḥ prādurbhavāmy aham
In this world, men do not commend a man whose very self is desire, and yet there can be no progress (pravritti) without desire, for the gift of alms, the study of the Veda, ascetic practice, and the Vedic sacrificial acts are all motivated by desire. Whoever knowingly undertakes a religious vow, performs sacrifice or any other religious duty, or engages in the spiritual exercise of meditation without desire does all this in vain. Whatever a man desires, that is to him his duty (dharma). It cannot be sound to curb one's duty.
This is the song which knowers of ancient lore celebrate as having been sung by Desire. Listen to me, Yudhisthira, I will recite it to you in full—

yo māṁ prayatate hantuṁ yajñair vividha-dakṣiṇaiḥ
jaṅgameṣv iva karmātmā punaḥ prādurbhavāmy aham
yo māṁ prayatate hantuṁ vedair vedānta-sādhanaiḥ
sthāvareṣv iva śāntātmā tasya prādurbhavāmy aham
yo māṁ prayatate hantuṁ dhṛtyā satya-parākramaḥ
bhāvo bhavāmi tasyāhaṁ sa ca māṁ nāvabudhyate
yo māṁ prayatate hantuṁ tapasā saṁśita-vrataḥ
tatas tapasi tasyātha punaḥ prādurbhavāmy aham
yo māṁ prayatate hantuṁ mokṣam āsthāya paṇḍitaḥ
tasya mokṣa-rati-sthasya nṛtyāmi ca hasāmi ca
avadhyaḥ sarva-bhūtānām aham ekaḥ sanātanaḥ

"I (Kāma) cannot be slain by any being whatever, since he is wholly without the means. If a man should seek to slay me, putting his trust in the strength of a weapon, then do I appear again in the very weapon he uses. If a man should seek to slay me by offering sacrifices and paying all manner of fees, then do I appear again as the "self that dwells in all action" in moving things. If a man should seek to slay me by means of the Vedas and the ways of perfection prescribed in the Vedanta, then do I appear as the "stilled, quiet self" in unmoving things. If a man should seek to slay me by steadfastness, a very paladin of truth, then do I become his very nature, unaware of me though he is. If a man should seek to slay me by ascetic practice, strict in his vows, then do I appear again in his very ascetic practice. If a man should seek to slay me, wise and bent on liberation, then do I dance and laugh before him as he abides in the bliss (rati) of liberation. Of all beings, I alone cannot be slain, eternal as I am."
[Still Zaehner] This may not be immediately recognizable as the Krishna of the Gita, but it is all of one piece with Krishna as he is described throughout the Epic.

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There is no need to connect Kāma as found in the above passage to the Krishna "of the Gita," as such. We must, however, inquire into the question of why Krishna's mantra is always prefaced by the kāma-bīja. Krishna is aprākṛta-madana, the God of transcendental desire.

This is why I believe that Freud's insights are helpful in understanding the matter. I don't make a strong break between any form of desire, but I accept, both with Freud and the Hindus, that the essence of desire is sexuality, which in its purified form is love. As I already mention earlier in this blog, Freud is misunderstood largely because he reduced the desire for love to a biological urge, that of sexuality and reproduction. This is still a dominant strain in reductionist thinking.

All the early critiques that followed Freud were centered around analysis of the most fundamental drives, as people were uncomfortable with this reduction to reproduction, otherwise identified as "the pleasure principle." Adler, for instance, simply designed it as will, no doubt following Schopenhauer. The most sophisticated and successful response was that of Jung, who saw a drive to self-actualization as the essence of the human psyche.

I don't think that we need to discard either of these extremes, but rather to embrace their complementarity. Without changing Freud's model drastically, however, we can still adapt his idea that desire is the fuel or energetic supply system for the psyche. Rather than seeing the higher manifestations of human desire exclusively as the product of sublimation, we may take the metaphysical view that the archetype of love is the real or true manifestation of desire, and that the various forms of love and desire in the world are varying degrees of approximations or perversions of this ideal.

Therefore, this passage should also be looked at in parallel with the Upanishadic texts (i.e. Chāndogya 7.22ff and Bhad-āranyaka 2.4.5) cited in earlier posts.

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Other commentaries on Gita 7.11, for reference:

Radhakrishnan "Desire as such is not evil. Selfish desire requires to be rooted out. The desire for union with the Divine is not wrong. Chāndogya Upanishad 8.3 refers to desires as essentially real (satya) though overlaid by what is unreal (anta). Our desires and activiteis, if they are expressive of the spirit within us and derive from the true spiritual personality, become a pure overflowing of the Divine will."

Gandhi: "Kama undivorced from dharma" means the desire for moksha, or the desire to end the sufferings of creatures. If we desire to end the suffering of others, our suffering too will end. In Sanskrit, the desire to end the sufferings of others is described as mahā-svārtha, supreme self-interest. It means interest in the moksha of all creatures. Anyone who feels such a desire would be striving hard for his own moksha."

Sivananda follows Shankara: "I am the desire which is in accordance with the teachings of the scriptures or codes prescribing the duties of life (dharma-shastra). I am the desire for moderate eating and drinking, etc., which are necessary for the sustenance of the body and which help one in the practice of yoga."

Jnaneswari: "Krishna said, In all creatures I am that desire through which dharma becomes their highest aspiration. This desire, through the channel of feeling, generally follows the path of the senses, but is not allowed to work against dharma. Leaving the wrong road of forbidden actions, it follows the path of prescribed duties and travels with the help of the torch of discipline. When desire follows the proper direction, a person fulfils his duty and participates in worldly life with the freedom he gains at the holy place of liberation. This desire causes the vine of the entire creation to grow on the arbor of the greatness of the Vedas, until it sends forth new foliage with the fruits of action and reaches the absolute. The Father of Yogis said, I am this restrained desire, the source of all created objects."

Tripurari Swami: "'I am love that is righteous.' Krishna also identifies himself with love that is in accordance with natural law. While love by nature is lawless, Krishna advocates the taming of material love. The effect of this is the awakening of the soul and its prospect for love on the spiritual plane, real love arising out of self-sacrifice. Although love is lawless, in material life, its unbridled pursuit amounts to ignoring obvious laws of nature, which in the least render such love unenduring. Scripture points this out and advocates that material love be redirected in order that it be fulfilled. When love is fully spiritualized, it transcends scripture."

Madhusudan Saraswati: dharmo dharma-śāstraṁ tenāviruddho ’pratiṣiddho dharmānukūlo vā yo bhūteṣu prāṇiṣu kāmaḥ śāstrānumata-jāyā-putra-vittādi-viṣayo’bhilāṣaḥ so’ham asmi he bhāratarṣabha ! śāstrāviruddha-kāma-bhūte mayi tathāvidha-kāma-yuktānāṁ bhūtānāṁ protatvam ity arthaḥ.

"Dharma means the dharma shastras. 'Not contradicting' means 'not specifically been prohibited' or 'propitious to the execution of duties.' I (Krishna) am such desire present in living beings; I am the scripturally sanctioned desires for wife, children, wealth, etc. In other words, those who desire in this way are present within me, who am the personification of such desire that does not contradict the scriptures."

Purushottam (Vallabhi sampradaya): dharmāviruddho dharmena aviruddho bhūteṣu kāmo'smi atrāyaṁ bhāvaḥ--laukika-kāmas tu dharma-viruddho'sti, yato'yaṁ rasaḥ svāvivāhitāyām eva bhavati prakaṭaḥ sarva-dharma-viruddha eva alaukikas tu rasātmako dharma-rūpa iti bhāvaḥ

"The idea is that mundane desire goes against religious principles, because it finds its fulfilment (rasa) in a woman who is not one's lawfully wedded wife, which is clearly against all scriptural injunctions. Transcendental (alaukika) desire is filled with [true spiritual] flavors, the very embodiment of dharma."

Vishwanath's interpretation, by the way, is a repetition of Sridhar's commentary. Baladeva repeats the same. Amazing that this interpretation (kāma = sexual desire) appears to be exclusive to our line. I tend to agree that it is unnecessarily narrow.

A Visit to Prahlada's house

Went to Prahlada's new home in the Ottawa valley yesterday. Bodhayan Maharaj presided over a fire sacrifice meant as a house warming. It was a beautiful day and the sun was warm overhead.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

More sharanagati from Padma Purana

This is the section that precedes the verses already quoted. These verses are found in Bhagiratha Jha's commentary to Gopāla-tāpanī 1.14--

klīm ity etad ādāv ādāya kṛṣṇāya
govindāya gopījana-vallabhāyeti
bṛhad-bhānavyā sakṛd uccared yo’sau
gatis tasyāsti maṅkṣu nānyā gatiḥ syāt
Whoever utters even once the seed klīṁ, following it with kṛṣṇāya, govindāya and gopī-jana-vallabhāya, and then concludes with svāhā, will attain the supreme destination. For him, there is no other destination.
Śaraṇāgati has, as is well known, six elements: accepting the favorable to the devotional life, rejecting the unfavorable, having faith in God the protector, and choosing him as provider, giving oneself to him, and humility.

atha tubhyaṁ prapannānāṁ dharmān vakṣyāmi nārada
yān āsthāya gamiṣyanti hari-dhāma-narāḥ kalau 22
itthaṁ guror labdha-mantro guru-bhakti-parāyaṇaḥ
sevamāno guruṁ nityaṁ tat-kṛpāṁ bhāvayet sudhīḥ 23
satāṁ dharmāṁs tataḥ śikṣet prapannānāṁ viśeṣataḥ
sveṣṭa-deva-dhiyā nityaṁ vaiṣṇavān paritoṣayet 24
tāḍanaṁ bhartsanaṁ kāmi-bhogyatvena yathā striyaḥ
gṛhṇanti vaiṣṇavānāṁ ca tat-tad-grāhyaṁ tathā budhaiḥ 25

(22) Let me now tell you, Narada, of the practices of the surrendered souls (prapanna). Those who follow this path, even in this age of Kali, will go to Lord Hari's abode. (23) Thus having taken the mantra from the spiritual master and being devoted to the guru and serving him, one should meditate on receiving his blessings. (24) From him one should learn the behavior of the saintly, in particular the activities of the surrendered. One should attempt to satisfy the Vaishnavas in the consciousness that they are the Deity one has chosen.
aihikyāmuṣmikī-cintā naiva kāryā kadācana
aihikaṁ tu sadā bhāvyaṁ pūrvācarita-karmaṇā 26
āmuṣmikaṁ tathā kṛṣṇaḥ svayam eva kariṣyati
ato hi tat-kṛte tyājyaḥ prayatnaḥ sarvathā naraiḥ 27
sarvopāya-parityāgaḥ kṛṣṇīyātmatayārcanam
suciraṁ proṣite kānte yathā pati-parāyaṇā 28
priyānurāgiṇī dīnā tasya saṅgaika-kāṅkṣiṇī
tad-guṇān bhāvayen nityaṁ gāyaty api śṛṇoti ca 29
śrī-kṛṣṇa-guṇa-līlādi-smaraṇādi tathā caret
na punaḥ sādhanatvena kāryaṁ tat tu kadācana 30

(26) The surrendered devotee should never worry about his future in this world or the next. Whatever happens in the present should be seen as the result of past deeds. (27) And he should think that what happens in the next life is in the hands of Krishna himself. So he abandons any actions meant to improve his personal destiny in the hereafter. (28) Thus giving up personal plans, he engages in Krishna's worship in the mentality of being his only, like a devoted wife awaiting her travelling husband. (29) Thinking of him with love, praying only to be reunited with him, she meditates on his qualities, talks and sings about him. (30) In the same way, the surrendered devotee hears, chants and remembers Krishna's virtues and pastimes. He never engages in these activities in the mentality that they are a practice meant to achieve something.
ciraṁ proṣyāgataṁ kāntaṁ prāpya kānta-dhiyā yathā
cumbantīvāśliṣyantīva netrāntena pibanty api 31
brahmānanda-gate vāśu sevate parayā mudā
śrīmad-arcāvatāreṇa tathā paricared dharim 32
ananya-śaraṇo nityaṁ tathaivānanya-sādhanaḥ
ananya-sādhanārthatvāt syād ananya-prayojanaḥ 33
nānyaṁ ca cintayed devaṁ na namet taṁ smaren na ca
na ca paśyen na gāyec ca na ca nindet kadācana 34
nānyocchiṣṭaṁ ca bhuñjīta nānya-śeṣaṁ ca dhārayet
avaiṣṇavānāṁ sambhāṣā-vandanādi vivarjayet 35

(31-32)One should worship the Lord's deity form in spiritual ecstasy with the same enthusiasm that a wife greets her husband who has returned from a long voyage, as if kissing and embracing him and drinking his form in through the eyes. (33) One who has taken exclusive shelter and is engaged in no other spiritual practices. He has no other goals because he knows that Krishna can only be achieved through exclusive devotion. (34) He thinks of no other gods. He does not bow to them nor does he remember them [in times of trouble]. He does not look at them, nor sing their glories, but he does not blaspheme them either. (35) He does not take anyone else's remnants nor use their leftovers. He avoids talking to or praising non-Vaishnavas.
īśa-vaiṣṇavayor nindāṁ śṛṇuyān na kadācana
karṇau pidhāya gantavyaṁ śaktau daṇḍaṁ samācaret 36
āśritya cātakīṁ vṛttiṁ deha-pātāvadhi dvija
dvayasyārthaṁ bhāvayitvā stheyam ity eva me matiḥ 37
saraḥ-samudra-nadyādīn vihāya cātako yathā
tṛṣito mriyate vāpi yācate vā payodharam 38
evam eva prayatnena sādhanāni vicintayet
sveṣṭa-devaḥ sadā yācyo gatis tvaṁ me bhaver iti 39
sveṣṭa-deva-tadīyānāṁ guror api viśeṣataḥ
ānukūlye sadā stheyaṁ prātikūlyaṁ vivarjayet 40

(36) He should never listen to the criticism of the Lord or the devotees. In such cases he should cover his ears and leave, or if he is capable, to punish the offender. (37) The surrendered devotee should adopt the attitude of a sparrow (chataki), even up to the time of death. This attitude has two aspects. (38-39) The chatak will die of thirst before drinking from the lakes, rivers or oceans. He prays only for the raincloud to give him water to drink. In the same way one should concentrate on one's spiritual practices and pray to one's chosen deity, "Be my only shelter." (gatis tvaM me bhaveH) One should always keep a favorable attitude to the deity, to his devotees and in particular the guru. One should never have a negative attitude towards them.
sakṛt prapanno vakṣyāmi kalyāṇa-guṇatāṁ tayoḥ
vicintya viśvased etau mām imāv uddhariṣyataḥ 41
saṁsāra-sāgarān nāthau mitra-putra-gṛhākulāt
goptārau me yuvām eva prapanna-bhaya-bhañjanau 42
yo’haṁ mamāsti yat kiñcid iha-loke paratra ca
tat sarvaṁ bhavator adya caraṇeṣu samarpitam 43
aham asmy aparādhānām ālayas tyakta-sādhanaḥ
agatiś ca tato nāthau bhavantāv eva me gatiḥ 44
tavāsmi rādhikā-kānta karmaṇā manasā girā
kṛṣṇa-kānte tavaivāsmi yuvām eva gatir mama 45
śaraṇaṁ vāṁ prapanno’smi karuṇā-nikarākarau
prasādaṁ kurutaṁ dāsyaṁ mayi duṣṭe'parādhini 46
(41) Surrendering, at once I will meditate on the Divine Couple's auspicious qualities and believe that they will deliver me. I will pray: (42) O my Lord and Lady, you are my protectors who will save me from this ocean of material life, from wife, home and children. You give fearlessness to those who have surrendered to you. (43) From this moment, I offer whatever I am and whatever I possess, whether in this world or the next, to your lotus feet. (44) I am the storehouse of offenses and have abandoned all spiritual practices. I am without refuge, O Lord and Lady, so please become a refuge to me. (45) I am yours, O lover of Radha, in thought, word and deed. O lover of Krishna, I am yours. The two of you are my shelter. (46) I have taken shelter of you, the reservoir of all compassion. Be merciful to me and let me become your servant, even though I am sinful and offensive.
ity evaṁ japatā nityaṁ sthātavyaṁ pada-paṅkajam
acirād eva tad dāsyam icchatā muni-sattama 47
bāhya-dharmāmayā hy ete saṅkṣepeṇopavarṇitāḥ
āntaraḥ paramo dharmaḥ prapannānām athocyate 48
kṛṣṇa-priyā sakhī-bhāvaṁ samāśritya prayatnataḥ
tayoḥ sevāṁ prakurvīta divā naktam atandritaḥ 49
(47) After finishing this prayer, O best of the sages, anyone who wants to attain the service of the Divine Couple should remain fixed at the their lotus feet. (48) I have briefly summarized these external duties, but the principal duty of the surrendered soul is internal. (49) One should take refuge in the attitude of one of the friends of Krishna's beloved Radha, and in that attitude serve the couple both day and night.

ukto mantras tad-aṅgāni tathā tasyādhikāriṇaḥ
tad-dharmāś ca tathā tebhyaḥ phalaṁ mantrasya nārada 50
anutiṣṭha tvam apy etat tayor dāsyam avāpsyasi
svādhikāra-kṣaye vipra sandeho nātra kaścana 51
sakṛn-mātra-prapannāya tavāsmīti ca yācate
nija-dāsyaṁ harir dadyān na me'trāsti vicāraṇā 52

(50) O Narada, I have now concluded my teaching on the mantra, its corrolaries, the qualified person, the associated duties and the benefits accrued from all these. (51) So remain fixed in these activities and you will attain service to the Divine Couple as soon as your business in this world is over. There can be no doubt about this. (52) My judgment is that Krishna gives his service to anyone who simply surrenders to him once, saying "I am yours."

Excuse the summariness of the translations.

Saranagati Verses from the Padma Purana.

Some nice saranagati verses from the Padma Purana.


I have a friend, who now keeps himself at a distance from me, who says with unfailing consistency that he is not a devotee, even though to me, he proves his single-minded devotion to Radha despite his neglect of external forms. His decision to give up my company is perhaps because I do not surrender sufficiently to the Atma, the Soul of my soul. Which I guess was my reproach to him, also. What can be a greater source of pain that to reject the voice of your soul's Soul--and to do so consistently, protesting weakness? This friend says, "I will just suffer in this life, O Radhe. I cannot do what you ask of me. All I ask is that you give me the appropriate body, senses and association in my next life that I can become your devotee." If only surrender would be made easier "next time."

It looks easy when we sing the gopis' glories. They abandoned everything for Krishna. Was it easy? It looks easy, but if it were, then how would their spirit of surrender have the power to amaze even Krishna? Krishna says, "It is not easy. I did not make it easy. At least, it does not LOOK easy. But when the mists of maya recede, then what could be easier than fleeing toward the Soul of your soul?"

Anyway, here are the verses that make it look easy, the promises of great rewards for baby steps:

sakRd AvAM prapanno yas tyaktopAya upAsate |
gopI-bhAvena deveza sa mAm eti na cetaraH ||
sakRd AvAM prapanno vA mat-priyAm ekikAm uta |
sevate’nanya-bhAvena sa mAm eti na saMzayaH ||
yo mAm eva prapannaz ca mat-priyAM na mahezvara |
na kadApi sa cApnoti mAm evaM te mayoditam ||
sakRd eva prapanno yas tavAsmIti vaded api |
sAdhanena vinApy eva mAm Apnoti na saMzayaH ||

One who just once surrenders to Us (the Divine Couple), giving up all other hopes, and worships me, will attain me in the mood of a gopi. One who takes shleter of my beloved Radha alone, even once, and serves her with single-minded devotion, undoubtedly attains me. One who surrenders to me, O Mahadeva, but not to my beloved Radha, will never attain me. This is my position. One who takes shelter of us, even once, and says "I am yours," will undoubtedly attain me, even without any other spiritual practices. [pa.pu. 5.82.82-85]

Monday, August 07, 2006

There is no happiness in the trivial

I have been distracted with other things, especially Gopala Tapani, but now I have branched off into the Vṛndāvana-rasa-tattva-samīkṣā, also by Bhagiratha Jha. I enjoy this stuff tremendously. It seems a great shame that I am not able to make my living at it.

Bhagiratha is steeped in the Upanishads and Vedanta, so he is the perfect source of understanding for these foundations of Gopāla-tāpanī. But in the Vṛndāvana-rasa-tattva-samīkṣā, he concentrates more on topics of rasa, citing the customary sources in that area, like Bharata Muni. Nevertheless, he continues to emphasize the Upanishadic basis of things.

This book begins at the same place the Prīti-sandarbha does: with the famous Chāndogya passage (7.22ff) that inquires into happiness. The prayojana, or goal of life and all our activities, is to find happiness. Anyone who gives another reason is being disingenuous. The debate lies in where one can find it. In free Western societies, it was decided a few centuries ago that one should be allowed to find out for oneself what makes one happy and that no one should attempt to force their own version of happiness on anyone. Of course, this is never altogether true, all societies try to impose their values on individuals--recreational drugs, for instance, are illegal even in most liberal democracies. Wisdom means that some limits must be placed on experimentation.

Nevertheless, the search for happiness is very much an individual process. This is the intent of the Upanishadic insistance on calling God "the Self" (ātmā). Happiness comes from connectedness to the Self, with a capital "S", the larger self.

The Chandogya says bhūmaiva sukham, alpe sukhaṁ nasti "The Infinite is the source of happiness. There is no happiness in the trivial." (7.23) There are some who would debate this point and say that this is not true; that on the contrary, one must learn to find joy in the trivial, everyday events and circumstances of life. If one is always seeking out the grandiose, how will they ever find happiness? The secret, it seems to me, is making the connection to the Infinite. Making that connection is what I call rasa.

For the record, here is Muller's translation:
22. 'WHEN ONE obtains bliss (in oneself), then one performs duties. One who does not obtain bliss, does not perform duties. Only he who obtains bliss, performs duties. This bliss, however, we must desire to understand.'
23. 'THE INFINITE (bhuman) is bliss. There is no bliss in anything finite. Infinity only is bliss. This Infinity, however, we must desire to understand.'
24. 'WHERE one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, understands nothing else, that is the Infinite. Where one sees something -else, hears something else, understands something else, that is the finite. The Infinite is immortal, the finite is mortal.'
'Sir, in what does the Infinite rest?'
'In its own greatness-or not even in greatness.
In the world they call cows and horses, elephants and gold, slaves, wives, fields and houses greatness. I do not mean this,' thus he spoke; 'for in that case one being (the possessor) rests in something else (but the Infinite cannot rest in something different from itself).

25. 'THE INFINITE is below, above, behind, before, right and left--it is indeed all this.

'Now follows the explanation of the Infinite as the I: I am below, I am above, I am behind, before, right and left--I am all this.

'Next follows the explanation of the Infinite as the Self: Self is below, above, behind, before, right and left--Self is all this. He who sees, perceives, and understands this, loves the Self, delights in the Self, revels in the Self, rejoices in the Self-he becomes a Svarat, (an autocrat or self-ruler); he is lord and master in all the worlds. But those who think differently from this, live in perishable worlds, and have other beings for their rulers.

26. 'TO HIM who sees, perceives, and understands this, the spirit (prana) springs from the Self, hope springs from the Self, memory springs from the Self; so do ether, fire, water, appearance and disappearance, food, power, understanding, reflection, consideration, will, mind, speech, names, sacred hymns, and sacrifices - aye, all this springs from the Self. There is this verse, "He who sees this, does not see death, nor illness, nor pain; he who sees this, sees everything, and obtains everything everywhere. He is one (before creation), he becomes three (fire, water, earth), he becomes five, he becomes seven, he becomes nine; then again he is called the eleventh, and hundred and ten and one thousand and twenty."

When the intellectual aliment has been purified, the whole nature becomes purified. When the whole nature has been purified, the memory becomes firm. And when the memory (of the Highest Self) remains firm, then all the ties (which bind us to a belief in anything but the Self are loosened.
I will revise this translation better to my own liking eventually.

Here, the Upanishad argues that joy comes from the Self, and that when we seek joy in other things it comes from a disjointed view of the Self. God is joy. The secret of God's joy is found in rasa. The qualification for experiencing rasa is bhakti.

This another passage in the Brihad-aranyaka (2.4.5) that is particularly relevant:
Truly, it is not due to the love of a husband
that a husband becomes dear,
but due to the love of God
that a husband becomes dear.

Truly, it is not due to the love of a wife
that a wife becomes dear,
but due to the love of God
that a wife becomes dear.

Truly, it is not due to the love of all things
that all things become dear,
but due to the love of God
that all things become dear.
The Sanskrit for this is: na vā are patyuḥ kāmāya patiḥ priyo bhavaty ātmanas tu kāmāya patiḥ priyo bhavati na vā are jāyāyai kāmāya jāyā priyā bhavaty ātmanas tu kāmāya jāyā priyā bhavati ... na vā are sarvasya kāmāya sarvaṁ priyaṁ bhavaty ātmanas tu kāmāya sarvaṁ priyaṁ bhavati ātmā vā are draṣṭavyaḥ śrotavyo mantavyo nididhyāsitavyo maitreyy ātmano vā are darśanena śravaṇena matyā vijñānenedaṁ sarvaṁ viditam.

There are, of course, many more things besides wives and husbands that are dear because of the Self within them. Only three have been given here. The passage concludes--"Therefore hear about this Self, think on It, and fix your mind on It. When you hear, think on, and fix your mind on the Self, and when you understand It fully, then all this will be understood."

This is a really fabulous passage, and Graham Schweig's approach to it is interesting, and though not literal, perhaps correct. He has obviously based his rendition on that of Mascaro, who writes: "In truth, it is not due to the love of a husband that a husband is dear, but for the love of the Soul in the husband that the husband becomes dear." etc. The difference is the interpretation of the word ātmā.

Shankara glosses kāmāya as prayojanāya, or need. "It is not out of a need for the husband that the husband is dear, but out of a need for the Self that he is dear." These are technical differences that may ultimately amount to the same thing, but which give us new depths of understanding. Their juxtaposition reveals a powerful contrast of psychological and religious truth, however. We really seek ourselves in the Other, and thus the satisfaction we find in others is complete only to the degree that we find ourselves. Not knowing our true selves, we look for our selves in others who are equally ignorant of who and what they are in essence. Occasionally, we find common ground in a mutually shared illusion, but that is always tenuous.

We can truly love others when we recognize the Divine Truth in them. So therefore, in the Brahma-mohana lila, we have the following beautiful series of verses:

sarveṣām api bhūtānāṁ nṛpa svātmaiva vallabhaḥ
itare’patya-vittādyās tad-vallabhatayaiva hi
tad rājendra yathā snehaḥ sva-svakātmani dehinām
na tathā mamatālambi-putra-vitta-gṛhādiṣu
dehātma-vādināṁ puṁsām api rājanya-sattama
deho’pi mamatā-bhāk cet tarhy asau nātmavat priyaḥ
yathā dehaḥ priyatamas tathā na hy anu ye ca tam
yaj jīryaty api dehe’smin jīvitāśā balīyasī
tasmāt priyatamaḥ svātmā sarveṣām eva dehinām
tad-artham eva sakalaṁ jagac caitac carācaram
In all beings, O King, it is one's own self alone that one finds dear. All other things, whether children or property, are dear only because of the love one has for oneself. Therefore, O king, embodied beings never have as much affection for those like their children, wealth or homes, who are merely connected to them, as they do for the body, with which they identify themselves.

O greatest of kings! Those who identify with the body, still have more affection for the soul than for the body, to which they are so attached. Thus, when the body grows old and becomes useless, they still continue to desire life. Therefore, one’s own self is the most dear thing to every living being. It is for the self that this world exists, whether moving or unmoving. (10.14.50-57)
kṛṣṇam enam avehi tvam ātmānam akhilātmanām
jagad-dhitāya so’py atra dehīvābhāti māyayā
vastuto jānatām atra kṛṣṇaṁ sthāsnu cariṣṇu ca
bhagavad-rūpam akhilaṁ nānyad vastv iha kiñcana
sarveṣām api vastūnāṁ bhāvārtho bhavati sthitaḥ
tasyāpi bhagavān kṛṣṇaḥ kim atad vastu rūpyatām
Know this : This Krishna is the Self of all selves. For the benefit of the world, he has appeared here by his illusory potency, as though an embodied being. Those who know things in their truth see Krishna in all conscious and unconscious manifestations. They see everything as the form of the Lord and do not see any substance other than him. There is a meaningful essence present in all things, but the essence of that essence is the Lord Krishna. Please tell me if you can identify anything that is not him.

Certainly, it is necessary to understand the rasa lila in this light also. The search for loving relationships in this world is the most intensely projected search for self in the other that we know of. This search can only be fulfilled in Krishna.

Too much work, too little energy

Anybody who knows me will be aware of the Gaudiya Grantha Mandir. I haven't been able to do much on there lately, for many reasons. One being that the software that we use has been rendered inactive, making it impossible for me to upload documents or to edit the pages. A few months ago, I thought it might be possible to seek donations or grants to further the objectives of the site, but not much came of that. Now that it has become pretty much impossible for me to interact with the site itself, the question has become moot. Our webmaster, who is after all a volunteer himself, has not been able to find the time to take care of it.

I personally should not have the time either. Not even my partners seem to see the importance of this project, which distresses me no end. Most of the texts that have been uploaded are in lamentable condition. I am constantly making corrections, but how much can one person do, especially when there are so many other things that need getting done?

Most of my available time of late is being frittered away in correcting the Gopala-tapani Upanishad edition of Bhagiratha Jha. It is an excellent work and very worthwhile. I am intending to use it to supplement my annotations to the translation of GTU that I finished in 2001, but still have not published. Bhagiratha provides too much insight, however, especially in the Vedantic roots of the texts, to not make as much use of it as possible, which will enrich the edition considerably. This edition, once completed, will be a scholarly work which will be of great use to academics and learned devotees.

Temporarily on hold, once again, is the book on Guru Tattva that I have been working on and off for the past eternity. This is not my own work, but that of Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj. I have been blocked on several chapters that need drastic revisions. I shall have to return to this with a wholehearted effort very soon.

The Govinda Lilamrita of Gadadhar Pran is also on hold. I could not just skip through this easily. I had to work on it thoroughly, and it has now unfortunately been left sitting on the sidelines again. How much work can one person do for free? And why shouldn't I have the right to live?

And I sure would like to blog some of the little discoveries that I make in all this. One thing that I picked up last year in Vrindavan were a number of issues of the Sarvesvara-patrika, found at the Sriji temple in Vrindavan town. One issue is on lila tattva, with contributions from representatives of many different sampradayas, including one that was new for me, the Lalita Sampradaya. This group was founded by a member of the Radha-vallabha sampradaya, Vamsi Ali, in probably the 18th century. He wrote quite a number of works in both Sanskrit and Braj, in which he establishes Radha as the Parama Tattva. Some titles: (Sanskrit) Radha-stotra, Radha-siddhanta, Radha-tattva-prakasa, Vrishabhanupura-madhurya-satakam, Hridaya-sarvasva; (Braj) Priyaju ki badhai, Lalita-mangala, Madhurya-sata, Vrindavan-sata. The article's author, Babulalji Goswami, has apparently published his thesis in Hindi on this sampradaya called "Lalita-sampradaya: siddhanta aur sahitya." (no details available)

It made me think of the discussions that I had with Shiva recently and earlier, as this is his position also, but I couldn't help doubting that Aliji would have been puzzled by some of Shiva's other ideas. Ali's verses, for the most part, have the flavor of Prabodhananda's Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi, by which he was no doubt heavily influenced.

Here is a sample:


yad-dhūlir manasāpy agamya-viṣayā stotrair na vaktuṁ kṣamāḥ
śrautair nanda-sutena vāpi nu kathaṁ tais tair varākaiḥ suraiḥ
yan-nāma smaraṇād vikarma-niratā hitvā vimukty-ādhikaṁ
saṁyāti sma rasaṁ padaṁ yad api vai śrī-rādhayādhiṣṭhitam

The dust of Vrishabhanupur Barsana cannot be adequately glorified by the Vedic scholars, nor even by Nandasuta himself, so what can those pitiful gods have to say about it? Just by remembering its name, even those attached to sinful activities give up these activities and attain a taste of divine love that is beyond liberation. (Vṛṣabhānupura-mādhurya-śatakam, 9)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Men Becoming Women, Women Becoming Men

The point of much of what was said before is this: The I-Thou mode of relation is more natural to woman, the I-It mode to men. Even this very discourse is contaminated by the masculine approach as I try to dissect these matters and analyse them without apparently directly engaging in an I-Thou act.

In fact, Buber himself says that the I-Thou mode assimilates the I-It mode in the way that relation assimilates experience. "There is nothing I must not see in order to see, and there is no knowledge that I must forget. Rather, it is everything, picture and movement, species and instance, law and number, included and inseparably fused." Therefore, my dear reader, when I speak these things, they are all assimilated into You.

The acharyas confirm this insight in relation to the bhakti path as well. Jiva Goswami writes that knowledge need not be inimical to devotion (see Durgama-saṅgamanī to BRS 1.1.10). The early scientists thought of natural reason as a way of understanding the glories of God, which was a way of approaching Him. Even Stephen Hawking cannot stop himself from attempting to "understand the mind of God" even though he thinks that he can understand it simply through physics. No doubt he gets a pretty part of the picture, and had he bhakti, this pretty picture would enhance that bhakti. My own childlike efforts are only meant to attempt to paint a portrait of Radha and Krishna, by which our love for Them will increase.

Rational discourse is necessary, but dangerous. Buber seems to be saying that the I-Thou state is ineffable, like the Upanishads--yato vāco nivartante aprāpya manasā saha. Indeed, when I talk about a mystical experience of union, I am talking about a place that is without words, just as I did when talking about that Sahajiya kirtaniya and the experience I had in his kirtan. But neither experience is entirely devoid of a substratum of understandings--beginning with the symbolism of Radha and Krishna, and including the entire culture of the devotional life as it is shared by lovers.

Throughout this all, I realize that for certain people I am defending the indefensible: all these generalities describing certain qualities as predominantly feminine and others as predominantly masculine. In the modern context, I believe, this may be considered politically incorrect by a large number of groups in society. Quite understandably, neither men nor women wish to be confined to stereotypes; they find any generalizations about gender to smack of attempts at forced constraint and religious fascism. In this age of transgenderism, transvestism, gay liberation, feminism, etc., many people take gender as a human construct that can be manipulated at will. Of course, if there were no differences between the sexes, why would a man want to become a woman, or vice versa? How could there be any meaning to this transgendered person's statement, "I was in a man's body, but I always felt like this was a mistake. Internally, I was a woman."

And yet, there is this curious phenomenon in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the "dirty little secret" that Iskcon and the rest would rather not discuss, like the Scientologists' aliens: that is manjari bhava, which was the goal of Rupa Goswami, the sampradaya's greatest acharya. What are the implications of this rather strange bit of gender manipulation? Sure, in the modern sexual-political context, a little bit of gender bending is no one's business, so if you are a member of the "third sex" or a closet cross dresser who wants to become a sakhi-bheki, who's going to stop you? But in a religion that has pretensions to universality and hopes to pierce the mainstream, these things need to be brought out into the open and given credible explanations that resonate with average human experience.

There is an oft-quoted statement, erroneously attributed to John Cardinal Newman, which is much loved by Bengali defenders of the Gaudiya faith. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, I have just found out that this quote comes from his brother Francis W. Newman (1805-1897), a person to whom I have now been happily introduced.

None can enter the kingdom of heaven without becoming a little child. But behind and after this, there is a mystery revealed to but few, namely, that if the soul is to go on into higher spiritual blessedness it must become a woman. Yes, however manly thou be among men, it must learn to love being dependent; must lean on God, not solely from distress or alarm, but because it does not like independence or loneliness. It must not have recourse to Him merely as to a friend in need, under the strain of duty, the battering of affliction and the failure of human sympathy, but it must press toward him when there is no need.

This text is quoted at greater length in Śrī Nīlācale Vraja-mādhurī by Rasika Mohan Vidyabhushan (1985), but the section given above is the one that is seen most often and indicates the fundamental insight that is so loved by Gaudiya apologists.

Since the rest of the passage is nice, I don't see the harm in quoting it in full, even though it may be superfluous to our current purpose:
(i) They (souls) too seem to be infinite in their cravings. Who but He can satisfy them? Thus a restless instinct agitates the soul guiding it dimly to feel that it was made from some definite, unknown relation towards God. The sense of emptiness increases to positive uneasiness, until there is an inward yearning, if not shaped in words, yet in substance not alien from that ancient strain. "As the heart panteth after the water brooks, so my soul after Thee, O God. I wait for the Lord; My soul dothe wait as those that watch for the morning." But by the continuance of such exercises, the fervency of desire gradually ripens into love and love goes on heightening until as last the soul becomes conscious of it.

In claiming a personal relationship with God, nothing exclusive is intended. Nay, he who thus learns that he is loved by God learns simultaneously that all other men and creatures are also loved (though a hateful dogma may here mar the soul's instinct). That is an important lesson for the man's external action, indeed, is a foundation of universal love in the soul. But the inward movements toward God proceed exactly as if there were no other creature beside itself in the universe. Thus the discovery that it loves and is loved in turn produces sensible joy. In some nature very powerful, in all imparting cheerfulness, hope, vivacity. The personal relation sought is discerned and felt. The soul understands and knows that God is her God, dwelling with her more closely than any creature can. Yea, neither stars, nor sea, nor smiling Nature hold God so intimately as the bosom of the Soul.

What is He to it? What but the Soul of the soul. It no longer seems profane to say, "God is my bosom friend. God is for me and I am for Him."

So Joy bursts into praise and all things look brilliant, and hardship seems easy and duty becomes delight, and contempt is not felt, and every morsel of bread is sweet. Then, though we know that the physical universe has fixed unaltering laws, we cannot help seeing God's hand in events. Whatever happens we think of as His mercies, His kindnesses, or His visitations and His chastisements. Everything comes to us from His love. Thus the whole world is fresh to us with sweetness before untasted. All things are ours whether afflictions or pleasure, health or pain. Old things are passed away. Behold! All things are become new and the soul wanders and admires and gives thanks, and exults like a child on a summer's day--and understands that she is a newborn child. She has undergone a new birth! It is not a birth after the flesh, but a birth of the Spirit, birth into a heavenly union, birth into the family of God. Why need she scruple to say that she is partaker of the divine nature if God loves her and dwells in her bosom?

The single thought, "God is for my soul and my soul is for Him" suffices to fill a universe of feeling and gives rise to a hundred metaphors. Spiritual persons have exhausted human relationships in the vain attempt to express their full sense of what God is to them. Father, brother, friend, king, master, guide, shepherd are common titles. But what has been said will show why a still tenderer tie has ordinarily presented itself to the Christian imagination as a very appropriate metaphor: that of marriage. The habit of breathing to God our most secret hopes, sorrows complaints, and wishes in unheard whisper, with the consciousness that He is always inseparable from our being, perhaps pressed this comparison forward.

(ii) They (souls) thus undergo a Spiritual Marriage. We have seen the longings of the soul to covet God's transitory visits into an abiding and indissoluble union. It makes a covenant with God and pledges itself to Him, well assured that he accepts the pledge. "Not now only, O my Lord," it exclaims, "but henceforth and always, Thou are mine and I am thine. I have known somewhat of Thy gloriousness and loveliness. I have loved Thee a little. This heart has been Thy dwelling place. Now do I claim that my Lord shall never go away, but dwell here inseparably and eternally." It is therefore very far indeed from a gratuitous fantasy to speak of this as a marriage of the soul to God. No other metaphor in fact will express the thing.

(iii) And herein lies the fundamental union of poetry and religion. Hence is it that the ancient bard, vates [Latin, "poet"] or prophet united the characters poet and religious teacher, and in fact to feed upon the higher and sublime poetry an exercise of the soul, a preparation at best for actual religion. Its similarity to religious meditations is in many respects evident. As the same hymn of praise and love may be daily recited and wearies not, as no new information for the understanding is coveted, so the same lines of the poet eternally delight the more, perhaps because they are old. We dwell upon each word and find the imagination more and more stimulated. It is a never-ending feast, for the wise poet does not limit his hearers to his own mind, but leaves room for him to range beyond him if they can."

A lot of interesting insights and parallels to Gaudiya thinking, no doubt. But as we say in Sanskrit, prakṛtam anusarāmaḥ: Let's get back to the topic at hand.

I have been generalizing about male and female natures with object of agreeing with this concept: a man must adopt an essentially feminine point of view in order to be able to understand God. That attitude is the I-Thou mode of relating. It is bhakti. Therefore, it seems to me that for a man to break out of his purely masculine approach to phenomena, it is necessary for him to come into very deep communion with woman.

This is, of course, something that any Jungian would immediately recognize as an effort to find psychic equilibrium or the coniunctio oppositorum. This is something that I will try to explore in these pages. The only exception I would see to the necessity of following Sahajiya practices in order to make further spiritual advancement on this path would be if one was particularly androgynous to begin with. A man who needs to compensate for psychic imbalance will profit spiritually from the association of a sādhikā.

yasya yat-saṅgatiḥ puṁso maṇivat syāt sa tad-guṇaḥ
sva-kula-rddhyai tato dhīmān sva-yūthyān eva saṁśrayet
Just as a crystal takes on the colors of that which is placed beside it, so do people take on the qualities of those whose company they keep. A wise person, therefore, in order to enrich the qualities one desires to develop in oneself, one should seek the association of the like-minded. (BRS 1.2.229)
sajātīyāśaye snigdhe sādhau saṅgaḥ svato-vare
The three qualities one should look for in a companion are similar tastes and goals, an affectionate nature, and qualities that one can look up to. (BRS 1.2.91)
What is the meaning then, of all these elucrubations for women? Surely I am not saying that women are without any need for finding psychic equlibrium? Nor am I idealizing women to the point of thinking that they are somehow naturally divine (at least not across the board). Then what is the meaning of manjari bhava for them? Should they not think of themselves in masculine terms?

In fact, yes. This is the intent of Gaura lila, where the sakhis of Vraja take male forms in Nabadwip. This is the complementarity of the two lilas. Mahaprabhu himself symbolizes the Divine Androgyne--the coniunctio oppositorum in the flesh, so to speak. And even though Mahaprabhu's lila appears to be that of a madman, it is in fact that of true spiritual sanity.

Nevertheless, of the two attitudes, even for women, the feminine spirit is the ascendant in terms of spiritual life, as Newman correctly states. The masculine attitude remains external (bahiraṅga), the feminine internal (antaraṅga). Jnana and karma will always remain subordinate to bhakti, I-It to I-Thou; the heroic mood will always remain subordinate to madhura. What else could Radha's supremacy mean?

I will get into this more as we approach the subject in the discussion of "imitation of Radha and Krishna" which was the second division of Madhavananda's objections to Sahajiyaism.


*****

Martin Buber

It's a little ironic to be talking about the Hassidim Buber in the context of current events in Lebanon. It seems that there is something of a reaction to these events in a slow but steady rise of anti-Jewish feeling, as evidenced by actor Mel Gibson's drunken tirade, which was of course followed by the expected ritual self-flagellation that only confirms to conspiracy theorists the absolute domination of Jews in the media industry.

Jewish contributions to civilization are so great and disproportionate to their numbers that I never cease to be amazed by them. One of those is this mystic insight of Buber into the essence of theism, which after all is Judaism's soul and its first and proudest contribution to civilization. Yet it, of all things, has somehow gone missing in this action. Militarization is I-It in its most flagrant form.

The Gita tells us that all things are being carried out by Nature and only a person in the illusion of mistaken identity thinks that he, or anyone else, is the true cause of actions. The Bhagavatam also says that faults and virtues are also the products of the interactions of the material nature and so we should avoid finding fault or even praising virtue. So blaming Jews or Muslims in the current situation is not the most productive avenue to peace.

The only escape from this world of mechanical action and reaction is to see the Divine Person, the Thou, and to also see the little "thous" all around us. This is what is at the heart of the matter for a theist, a personalist, and a humanist: we must find the ability to see [and this most often means hearing] every creature as the spark of the Divine. Buber says that human beings (spirit souls) are relational, they find their true being and identity in the I-You, not in the I-It. This calls for a fundamental respect for all. Not easy, I admit, in the current situation. When the modes of passion and ignorance, fear and hate, start to spread, infiltrate and possess all around us, the voices of sattva are drowned out, mocked and condemned. But could we not look to Jews, of all people, to use their intelligence to find an original approach that draws on the mystic genius of their tradition, rather than that clichéd and dépassé angry old God that the Muslims also seem to have adopted from them.

Those who love the God of Justice begin by recognizing that He is not present only in the terrible exercise of power.




*****


I am going to continue using Buber's terms in the knowledge that I have probably distorted its essence through carelessly abandoning the rigors that such an adoption would normally entail. I doubt that I will be the first to do so, as that is the fate of most buzzwords that become faddish.

In yesterday's article I talked about the Holy Name as a window into "I-Thou" consciousness. I furthermore spoke of a particular approach to chanting that specifically mediated this I-Thou experience through an individual person--as singer to audience. I also specified that this was a great and magnificent insight. Even though various prejudices may have militated against continuing association with that very person outside the context of the kirtan, when these prejudices had been dropped in the kirtan context, it was possible to enter a very specific experience of God in the presence of his name.

Now my argument here is this: Due to the fundamental complementarity of male and female in this world, something very similar to this experience is possible in the sexual act. Through the miracle of Eros, a man and woman are able to drop all defenses and experience the presence of another soul. If that relationship is approached as an aspect of spiritual culture, then the other becomes a door to the Other. The metaphor of Divine Love acts in dynamic harmony with the union of a male and a female devotee in this world.

I stress the word culture here, because this is a sādhanā.

.....