Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Four Chandidasas

While on the subject of Chandidas...

The Chandidas mystery has troubled writers on Bengali literary history for over a century. It is pretty clear that Boru Chandidas, the writer of Sri Krishna Kirtan, was known to Mahaprabhu and the Goswamis, and that his stories of Radha and Krishna, were greatly influential, at least where certain pastimes and probably certain themes within those pastimes are concerned.

But most of the scholars in Bengal were a little disturbed by the thought that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, with his elevated sentiments and pure devotional mood, could ever have spent much time listening to Sri Krishna Kirtan with Raya Ramananda and Svarupa Damodar. One thing is certainly true is that other than the one MS of SKK, very little of Boru Chandidas, at least what is recognizably this Boru Chandidas' work, was picked up and used by Lila-kirtan singers in the post-Chaitanya period. To the point that for all intents and purposes, his work was completely lost. It was surely Mahaprabhu's grace that it was not.

But the mystery remained. Is this really what Mahaprabhu was interested in? Now it may surprise some people to know that it was not just Boru Chandidas' kirtan that was practically lost, but all the Chandidas' were pretty much out of the picture until people started publishing their work in the mid-18th century. Gradually, more and more poems and songs with a "Chandi Das" bhanita began to be found.

Asita Kumar Bandyopadhyaya ultimately divides all the Chandidas's into four distinct persons based on the criteria presented in the songs alone. Other scholars have presented different points of view, but AKB seems to have the best take on it and pretty much shows how the others are wrong.

I have read many of the attempts to explain the problem, including Hare Krishna Mukhopadhyaya, Sukumar Sen, Biman Bihari Majumdar and Basant Ranjan Ray, and I don't think anyone summarizes it as well as Bandyopadhyaya. But his book is over 40 years old, so something new may have come up since. But I will just give a brief summary of his account:

  1. Boru Chandidas, author of Sri Krishna Kirtan. As stated above. He states in every song that he is writing on the order of and for the pleasure of Basuli (said to mean Saraswati, Vishalakshi);
  2. Another Chandidas who wrote prior to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and whose songs were relished by Mahaprabhu, but no examples of which (!) were left in the Chaitanya Charitamrita. I will give a couple of examples, later, but even though only 50-60 songs can be attributed to this Chandidas, they are the ones that really have made him famous. I will give two examples below. Basically, when we hear the name Chandidas, this is the one we think of.
  3. A third Chandidas, whose Bhanita says "Dina Chandidas" wrote very prolifically, perhaps 2-3,000 songs have been found in which he writes whole palas. Now I know that Hare Krishna Mukhopadhyaya has selected a number of Dina Chandidas's songs in his huge collection, but AKB is pretty dismissive of this author's talent, saying that of the thousands of verses, only a few can be considered of high quality. Besides which, there is sufficient internal evidence to show that his opus is from the post-Chaitanya period.
  4. Then there is the Sahajiya Chandidas, who writes about his love for the washerwoman Rami. Many legends have grown around this Chandidas and this love affair, even films, etc., have been made about it in Bengal, so it has become quite a part of the culture of Bengal. This Chandidas's songs are often without any direct reference to Radha and Krishna at all. Since Sahajiyaism did not really develop in Bengal until the late 16th and early 17th centuries, it is very unlikely that this Chandidas predated the 17th century.

There has clearly been a conflation of all these individuals and there was even a forged manuscript telling the legend of the Rajakini's lover Chandidas, placing him at an earlier period. Basanta Ranjan Ray, for instance, thinks that there was only one Chandidas, the same person as the author of SKK, just that the rest of his work had become transformed over time by singers and copyists who modernized the language as time went by.

Anyway, the problem is quite intractable, but AKB's analysis seems sound. He does not think that there were more than 4, but it is not unlikely that there were.

Here, for the record, are two songs by Chandidas #2:

bandhu ! tumi je āmāra prāṇa
deha mana ādi tomāre saṁpeci
kula śīla jāti māna
My beloved! You are my life!
I have surrendered my body, mind, everything to you,
family, character, caste and good name.
akhilera nātha tumi se kāliyā
yogira ārādhya dhana
gopa goālinī hāma ati dīnā
nā jāni bhajana-pūjana
You are the Lord of all creation, the black Krishna,
the worshipable treasure of the yogis.
I am but a lowly cowherd woman
who knows nothing of worship and religious ritual.
pirīti rasete ḍhāli tanu mana
diyāchi tomāra pāya
tumi mora pati tumi mora gati
mama nāhi āna bhāya
I have soaked my body and mind in the waters of love
and offered them at your feet.
You are my husband, you are my destiny,
nothing else matters to me at all.
kalaṅkī boliyā ḍāke saba loka
tāhāte nāhika dukha
tomāra lāgiyā kalaṅkera hāra
galāya parite sukha
Everyone is calling me a fallen woman,
but that is not a cause of distress to me.
I will gladly wear the garland of disrepute
around my neck for your sake.
satī vā asatī tomāre vidita
bhālo manda nāhi jāni
kahe caṇḍīdāsa pāpa-puṇya-maya
tomāra caraṇa du-khāni
You alone know whether I am chaste or unchaste,
I have lost all track of what is good or bad.
Chandi Das calls out, "O Krishna!
Your lotus feet alone
are the abode of all sin and piety."
I especially like the words "garland of disrepute" ( kalaṁkera hāra ) and "Your lotus feet alone are the abode of all sin and piety." ( pāpa-puṇya-maya tomāra caraṇa du-khāni ).

Poetic talent is hard to define, but here it seems to be the success Chandidas has in bringing out such intense emotion in such simple language. You would be hard-pressed to find anything remotely as powerful in Boru Chandidas.

This is why it is said to have a spiritual element: it is the purity of the emotion, the surrender. The mix of aishwarya and madhurya is quite different also.


bandhu ! ki āra bolibo āmi
maraṇe jīvane janame janame
prāṇa-nātha hoio tumi
My beloved! What else can I say?
In life and death, birth after birth,
You are the Lord of my life.
tomāra caraṇa āmāra parāṇe
bāṁdhilo premera phāṁsi
saba samarpiyā eka-mana hoiyā
niścaya hoilām dāsī
Your lotus feet have captured my life
and bound it in the noose of love.
I have surrendered everything
and single-mindedly become your maidservant.
bhāviyāchilāma e tina bhuvane
āra mora keho āche
rādhā boli keha sudhāite nāi
dāṁḍābo kāhāra kāche
I thought hard about it: Who is there
in these three worlds I can call mine?
There is no one who will call my name
or remember me. By whom can I stand?
e kule o kule dukule gokule
āpanā bolibo kāya
śītala boliyā śaraṇa loinu
o duṭi kamala pāya
In my in-laws' family, in my parents' home
In this world or the next, or here in Gokula,
there is no one I can call my own.
So finding Your lotus feet to be cooling
I have taken shelter of them.
nā ṭheloha chale abalā akhale
je hoy ucita tora
bhāviyā dekhinu prāṇa-nātha bine
gati je nāhiko mora
I am just an innocent girl,
so don't find an excuse to push me away.
That would not be worthy of you.
I have thought about it and concluded
that other than you, the Lord of my life,
I have no refuge.
āṁkhira nimikhe jadi nāhi dekhi
tobe se parāṇe mori
caṇḍī-dāsa kohe paraśa ratana
galāya gānthiyā pari
If I cannot see him for even the twinkling of an eye
it feels like my life is fleeing from me.
Chandidas says, "I wear the touchstone
strung on a necklace at my throat."

The self-surrender is very strong here too. The last verse of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's Śikṣāṣṭaka and even more so Kaviraja Goswami's translation seem to echo this song. These were quick translations and I might update them.

I will try to give an example or two of the Sahajiya Chandidas's songs in a future post.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Prince Charles Meets Pope Benedict

Andrew Brown's blog on the Guardian is about the difference in the Anglican and Roman Catholic Church. He makes interesting points about the vision of women in the two Christian denominations. After discussing Henry VIII, who had several of his wives beheaded (since divorce was not allowed) for not bearing him a son. The following paragraph puts the matter succinctly:

The point, for the heads of global religions, is that you cannot have a sexual morality which fits both sides of the demographic divide. Either sex is primarily about children or it is primarily about love. The Anglican communion has ripped itself to bits about this; although it accepted contraception early and without much fuss, and came to terms with divorce when it became obvious that this was the only way to keep women members, the implication of sex being primarily an expression of love ends up with gay people being able to love each other sexually, and the traditionalists won't stand for that while the churches in the developed world won't, ultimately, settle for anything less.

But Brown's conclusions, though astute, are unexpected. Basically, hypocrisy is not a bad policy. It's less divisive in the long run. Now, is that possible?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Days Slipping By

So my plane ticket came yesterday. I will be arriving in Montreal on May 24.

In the meantime, I have cut back on almost all sadhana activities in order to finish as much of Bhagavat-sandarbha as I can before leaving--and believe me, it is painstaking work, looking at every word, at every translation available to me, scrutinizing to see whether what will be published is correct or expressed in the best and most accurate way possible. And it is dreadfully slow.

[Though I should say that after RRSN reading today,I did nagar sankirtan! Chanting Radhe Radhe Govinda, Govinda Radhe/ Radhe Radhe Govinda, Govinda Radhe// all the way from Bairaj to SRSG with Ananda Kumarji and his wife.]

And at the same time, I started going through this blog, trying to reorganize it, put labels on all the posts, not just for the benefit of the readers, but for my sake also. More than 400 articles over the past 2 1/2 years, many of them quite significant, in my opinion.

It has been a very interesting business going through these old articles, from end to beginning. There seems to be a distinguishable change, especially at the time of coming to India. In the old posts, I was making considerably more use of Western thinkers in a variety of fields, and their input. Since I have been here, my mood seems to have shifted to a more traditional vantage point, at least in terms of subjects chosen.

Also, in the beginning there was a flurry of creativity as I tried to express the basis of my concepts; some of it in the turmoil that followed the end of Gaudiya Discussions. Some of those ideas have evolved since then, but what was there in the beginning has pretty much remained unchanged. In some cases it may have been refined, but the basic idea is the same.

And honestly, I think I am too old to do much more than that. I think that basically what I say stands on the basis of the Goswamis' own texts and on the basis of logical reasoning. But most of all it has been validated by my personal experience, as a result of which, with every passing day, the manifestation of the Divine Couple becomes an intensifying reality. That same Divine Couple that have been present in my heart since I took initiation from my spiritual master. That same Divine Couple who is the subject of Rupa Goswami, Raghunath Goswami and Prabodhananda Saraswati's paeans.

I am much less radical than, let's say Subal, in my way of looking at or reforming the tradition. I am not like the Zen Buddhists who say if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. Radha and Krishna are so tightly bound up in my heart that I could never change the way they have revealed themselves to me, out of a desire for a more modern or rationally acceptable worldview.

Krishna in leather jacket and jeans doesn't do it for me. I can see Krishna in James Dean and Radha in Madonna, but only as a terribly distorted caricature. I have talked about this before, and I would rather defend the culture in which the Divine Couple appeared than deconstruct them, or psychologize them, or apply some other critique that reduces them into some abstraction. Radha and Krishna are not an abstraction for me, even though I understand them, their meaning and their reality, through the abstractions.

On the whole, then, I am pretty impressed by what I have done here. Not so long ago someone said to me, somewhat disparagingly, I thought, that I had to have a coherent philosophy. I think that anyone who reads through this blog will quickly realize that I do have a coherent philosophy that remains clearly committed to the goal of our sampradaya, which is prema. Though it is presented basically through the eyes of the tradition and its language, at the same time I think it can easily be framed in Western terms. I have decided that I would explain it first and foremost in terms of the orthodox tradition itself.

Is it too difficult to understand? I really don't know. Perhaps there are too many steps in the samskara. But it seems to me that anyone who reads this blog would understand it. And anyone who understood it would be demonstrating more interest. And it seems that such interest is not really forthcoming.

Perhaps my language is too technical, with all my talk of sadharani-karana and aropa, which seems to be alienating for English-speakers, or makes it look too much like a purely intellectual effort. Even so, I cannot see how anyone with even the most superficial knowledge of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and its concepts could ever think that this was the case.

And yet I hear the objections that I am just a "dry scholar." Of course, there are others who think that I am a "dirty old man" because I talk freely about the role of sexuality in the cultivation of madhura-rasa bhakti. Perhaps that is another failure of communication. Or perhaps the people who are attracted to Krishna consciousness in its current incarnation genuinely have so distanced themselves from their sexual desires that they either cannot see my point or they are honestly horrified by it. For them, I only say, na buddhi-bhedam janayet. I do not wish to disturb anyone for whom this is not a natural fit.

But I cannot believe that this is not a live and momentous option. Sexual desire is too universal a phenomenon to think that it will not rear its head in Krishna consciousness, and of course it does. Of course for those devotees who are still trapped in the IGM social world, it is very difficult to take a radical philosophical position on these matters. Which is rather odd, since in practice, in the matter of morality, men and women, single or married, with or without children, seem to have little compunction about breaking up, running off with other men and women. Sannyasis, longtime householders, brahmacharis, it seems that no one is exempt. It barely merits scandalization any longer.

And yet, the hypocrisy is so profound that no one wants to face the truth: that their sexuality is in conflict with their spiritual aspirations instead of being an energetic force that supports them. And yet, all we hear again and again are the same platitudes that not only mock human nature, but the very symbol of Divine Love that we place on our altars.

Of course, I am not saying that some people don't succeed in deadening their sexual urges. I just pity them and think they are missing the point. Now in certain circles we hear that sakhya-rasa is being promoted. So what was the point of madhura-rasa bhakti? And what the heck did Chaitanya Mahaprabhu come to give anyway?

One of the big problems, of course, is that the Gaudiya Math has been so successful in eliminating the traditional manjari-bhava sadhana and the madhura-rasa culture. This has been a complete disaster, as far as I am concerned. Even so, we have little choice but to start from where we are. There are some who have gotten a little taste for madhura-rasa, even though they have no real culture of manjari bhava. Not even in Narayan Maharaj's group.

And now, also, because Yugala Bhajan seems like an inevitable next step for those who become familiar with madhura-rasa topics, even amongst Narayan Maharaj’s group (especially since the marriage of Aranya Maharaj) the level of discomfort has risen to the point where discussion of rasika topics is slowly diminishing in favor of an Iskcon style preaching ethos.

As for those who have left Gaudiya Vaishnavism, because they could not make the jump from literalism, or because of their disagreements about whatever discipline, especially the sexual ones, or because of disappointments or feuds with individuals, or simple frustration with the entire self-realization endeavor, they seem to have lost their spiritual fire completely.

They are busy talking... well, what's the point in giving details? It is enough to make one want to cry. As if the spiritual endeavor is no different from any other way of filling in the space between birth and death. Anyway, here again, na buddhi-bhedaM janayet, the Lord is taking care of them like he takes care of us all.

So, where to go from here? Back in Canada. No choice really: BOOKS. Publish or perish.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bhagavata 3.15.43

Just a short post to give an example of how this works. In 3.15.43, there is a phrase antar-gataH sva-vivareNa. Translated literally and without any decoration, it means "went inside by own holes." The translation in the BBT edition reads:

When the breeze carrying the aroma of tulasi leaves from the toes of the lotus feet of the lotus-eyed Lord entered the nostrils of those sages, their bodies and minds were disturbed, even though they were fixed in the imperishable Brahman.

The translation "went inside by own holes" has become "entered the nostrils." Of course that reads better, but for the Sanskrit reader sva-vivareNa requires explanation. Sridhara Swami simply says nAsa-cchidreNa, i.e., "nose holes" or "nostrils." More than that, that choice of words has a significance that is perhaps lost if we skip immediately to the intended meaning of "nostrils." And of course, extracting the significance of such obscure expressions is the art of the commentator.

Satya Narayan Baba therefore writes:

It was improper for the Kumaras to intrude on the Lord, and one might say that it is similarly improper for air to trespass into the inner chambers of one’s heart. But the verse says sva-vivareNa—“by their own apertures.” Since the nostrils are the natural gateways for air, permission is not required for entrance.

We could probably take that thought even further. Krishna's grace is to enter the mind and soul through the senses, even without the knowledge or permission of the jiva.

Another thing is the "toes." The Sanskrit does not mention any toes. The word is filaments, as in filaments of the lotus. So that is clarified by Vishwanath Chakravarti as toes. But the Sanskrit reader would have to guess or infer that metaphorical meaning. Since Sridhar and Jiva did not bother to explain it, they must have considered it obvious--but Vishwanath figured not everyone would find it so.

But the challenge for me here is how to present the verse to the English-speaking audience in such a way that Jiva Goswami's commentary -- and Satya Narayanji's comments -- makes sense. What I ended up with is this:

When the air carrying the aroma of tulasi leaves mixed with the filaments of the lotus-eyed Lord’s lotus feet entered within them by way of its own apertures, they experienced a commotion both in mind and in body, even though they delighted in the Imperishable. (SB 3.15.43)

Now you need to go to the commentary, just like the Sanskrit readers would have had to.

Bhagavata 3.15.42

Going through the Bhagavat-sandarbha, some verses are rather difficult to deal with. The basic problem is this:

  1. Jiva Goswami is quoting the verse for a particular purpose.
  2. The immediate sense of the verse may not be obvious.
  3. Sridhar Swami's interpretation may not support Jiva's purpose.

Now when presenting the verse in translation, we have to remember that Sri Jiva has no filters: i.e., as someone who is living and breathing Sanskrit, he is naturally imbibing the verse on numerous levels, probably seeing several meanings at once. Nevertheless, even when several meanings are present, one of those will be primary to him, as it is with anyone speaking his mother tongue or another well assimilated language.

At the same time, Sri Jiva sometimes has to consult Sridhara or other previous commentaries in order to get through passages that might be difficult even to him. Sridhar Swami wrote a commentary primarily because the Bhagavatam is a difficult book and some words are obscure and need elucidation. The main purpose is not to write a homily, the way that ACBSP did.

When Kushakratha translated the Sandarbhas, he simply used Prabhupada's translations. So did Satya Narayan in his first draft. Their reasoning was that since Prabhupada is our guru, it is improper for us to use another translation. But, of course, Prabhupada's translations are heavily filtered. In the case of the Third Canto, which is where I am right now, he relied extensively (as Ekanath showed way back when) on the Gita Press edition. (Though in the specific case of this verse, that reliance is less obvious.)

In the Bhagavat-sandarbha, Section 68 (79, 80 or 85 in other editions) quotes an entire passage from Canto Three, 15.37-50. The main point for Jiva is really found in verse 43, where the Kumaras are shown to be attracted to Narayan's beauty, etc., even though they are Brahman-realized. The verses that precede it are mainly a description of Narayan's form, etc.

The trouble with verse 3.15.42 is that on at least two points the commentaries disagree or present alternative visions of the meaning, with certain ideas developing and reaching their apex in Vishwanath Chakravarti, who I think has the best and most logical understanding. Though it does not really affect Jiva Goswami's overall point, I found the exercise of understanding and translating it a real head-scratcher.

Here is the verse in the original Sanskrit.

atropasRSTam iti cotsmitam indirAyAH
svAnAM dhiyA viracitaM bahu-sauSThavADhyam |
mahyaM bhavasya bhavatAM ca bhajantam angaM
nemur nirIkSya na vitRpta-dRzo mudA kaiH ||

Here are three translations:
Gita Press: The sages regarded with unsated eyes and joyously bowed their heads to the Lord who had assumed a personality for his (Brahma’s) own sake as well as for the sake of Bhava (Lord Shiva) and yourselves (the other gods), a personality which was full of abundant charm and about which his devotees thought within themselves that Indira’s (Lakshmi’s) excessive pride of beauty disappeared at its very sight.

BBT: The exquisite beauty of Narayan, being many times magnified by the intelligence of His devotees, was so attractive that it defeated the pride of the goddess of fortune in being the most beautiful. My dear demigods, the Lord who thus manifested Himself, is worshipable by me, by Lord Shiva and by all of you. The sages regarded Him with unsated eyes and joyously bowed their heads at His lotus feet.

Satya Narayan Das: The exquisite beauty of the Lord seemed to create a doubt in the mind of His devotees, who thought that His beauty subdued the pride of the goddess of fortune, the acme of all beauty. O demigods, this beautiful form of the Lord is worshipable by me, by Shiva, and by you. The Kumaras bowed their heads out of joy and their eyes remained unsatiated.

The idea that Lakshmi's pride "disappeared, was subdued, defeated" originates with Sridhar Swami.

indirAyA utsmitam “aham eva sarva-saundarya-nidhiH” ity ahankaraNam atra bhagavat-saundarye upasRSTam astaM-gatam iti svAnAM bhaktAnAM dhiyA viracitam, bhRtyaiH sva-manasy evaM vitarkitam ity arthaH |

Lakshmi's pride (utsmitam) is the ego (ahankara) that "I am the source of all beauty." When placed here, i.e., next to the Lord's beauty, this pride was eclipsed. Such was the conjecture in the mind of the Lord's devotees.

Sridhar's interpretation of the third line has a couple of major problems. The word mahyam means "to me." It is the personal pronoun in the dative case. But it is followed by two words in the genitive, bhavasya and bhavatAm. Sridhar interprets mahyam as mama, i.e., he switches it from the dative to the genitive case. Then he inserts the word kRte, meaning "for the sake" and thus gets "taking a form for the sake of me, Shiva and you [demigods]." The Gita Press is following Sridhara throughout, but the BBT and SN don't like this interpretation for obvious reasons and so have made some changes. (They are in fact following VCT on this one.)

Of the other commentaries, let's first look at what Srinath Chakravarti does, even though his commentary is the least influential. [Despite the fact that he influenced Jiva's Brihat-krama-sandarbha commentary on the 10th Canto.] Srinath's first impulse is to accept Sridhar's interpretation about Lakshmi's pride, which he paraphrases as, "All men become beautiful when they are imbued with my presence."

In an alternative interpretation, he interprets the word upasRSTam (which is really the main problem in the verse) as upasarjanIkRtam, i.e., "rendered secondary." Why? Because her beauty is not independent, but enhanced due to her presence on the Lord's chest. Then Srinath couples the word svAnAM in the second line with the the other words in the genitive in the third line to make the conjecture not only that of the devotees [namely the Kumaras and Jaya and Vijaya], but of Siva and "you all." [This does not account particularly well for mahyam, but Srinath is obviously going with Sridhar and turning it into mama.

Then in a bold move, Srinath joins the word aGgam with indirAyAH, making the thought as follows: "Narayan took Lakshmi onto his chest, or took her hand [out of kindness] because she was trying to go away, her pride being hurt." So a whole little adventure is being read into this verse: The devotees, Brahma and all the rest are thinking Lakshmi has gotten puffed up for believing she is really the most beautiful when her beauty is really just a result of being in Narayan's company. Lakshmi is hurt and tries to run off, but Narayan takes her hand and pulls her to his chest.

Now Jiva does not seem to like Sridhar's idea of pride as ahankara. He interprets utsmitam as garva, which is a more positive concept of pride. Lakshmi is proud of having such a handsome and qualified husband. It is this that was conjectured by the devotees.

For the next portion, Jiva seems to have two interpretations, one in Krama-sandarbha, the other in the Bhagavat-sandarbha. In both he starts by asking, "If the Lord is like this, i.e., the supreme object and most confidential treasure of Lakshmi, then how can He become manifest to others?" In KS, the answer is given by reinterpreting the word aGgam ("form or body") as aGgIkAram or "acceptance." In other words "by accepting us, by entering into us to enable us to perform our respective duties [in the work of creation, etc.]." In BS, Jiva seems to be following Sridhar and only makes the "acceptance" bit an expansion of the "for our sake" reading.

Now VCT begins his commentary by citing both Sridhar's statement about Lakshmi's ahankara and Jiva's idea about pride. He then gives his own alternative, which is pretty complex, but brilliant. I hope I have it right.

atra bhagavati upasRSTaM, brahmAdibhir ArAdhyayApi rUpa-guNa-mAdhuryaiH sarvataH zreSThayApi mayA upasarjanIbhUtam apradhAnIbhUtam ity arthaH | iti hetunA | ca-kArAt premNA ca, indirAyA lakSmyA utkRSTaM smitaM, “dhanyAhaM yasyA IdRzaH preyAn” ity Anandottha ullAso yasmAt, tathA-bhUtam aGgaM bhajantaM samucita-vastrAlaGkArAdibhiH zobhayantaM, na tu zambhum iva sundaram apy aGgaM bhasmAdibhir virUpayantam ity arthaH |

VCT starts by agreeing that the word atra means “in Bhagavan.” What is “in Bhagavan”? upasRSTam, glossed as follows: "Made secondary [in relation to the Lord] by me [by Lakshmi], who am worshiped by even Brahma and the other gods, and who am superior to all in beauty, qualities and sweetness."

Now VCT takes all these words in the accusative case as being descriptive of the Lord’s form. This leaves a couple of questions here, but the GM’s decision to translate the word upasRSTam as a feminine word describing Lakshmi seems the least problematic. So the sense, as far as I can see it is, “That form in which Lakshmi herself [I am doing my own interpretation here] has taken a secondary position as the line on His chest.” Somewhat along the lines of Srinath Chakravarti.

This is the only way I can understand VCT interpretation of the word iti, which Sridhara et al read with viracitam, a rather big jump, as “for that reason”, i.e., because of this form’s being a place where Lakshmi has been made secondary.

VCT also interprets the word ca, which no one else did. He says this means there are other reasons, such as love. Reasons for what? For Lakshmi’s utsmitam.

VCT says utsmitam means "enthusiasm arising out of great joy" (Anandottha ullAsaH) in having the good fortune to have such a husband, giving it an altogether positive sense as ut-kRSTaM smitaM, "a superior sense of pride [or a smile]." Narayan’s beautiful form is that which gives Lakshmi this enthusiasm or superior pride.

Now clearly the problem with upasRSTam meaning that Lakshmi is secondary being a source of enthusiasm is that it clashes with our feminist world view. But then we all know that Lakshmi is not Radharani.

The other option I had was to say that she makes Narayan’s form secondary, but in relation to what? It goes against siddhanta to say His essence, and certainly VCT would never say that, even if someone else might. Besides the use of the word api twice, “even though I am worshiped by the gods and even though I am superior to everyone in beauty," etc., renders that option self-contradictory. Still, it would have been nice if VCT had added the one or two extra words that would have removed all confusion.

So, what does Narayan do with this body? VCT glosses bhajantam (“takes on or assumes”) by making it more beautiful by wearing all these appropriate clothes and ornaments, i.e., he does not cover it with ashes in the way that Shiva, who is also naturally beautiful, does. This is also why the puja-vidhi is to dress the deity nicely, etc. [Even though the Lord is bhushana-bhushanangam.]

Now what makes the above interpretation coherent, even though we have skipped all the way from the first line to the third, is VCT's interpretation of the second line, which completely leaves behind everything said by the three other commentaries.

tac ca paraH-sahasra-kiGkara-dvArair evety Aha&emdash;svAnAM svAnga-paricArakANAM dhiyA nitya-vividha-vastrAdi-shringAra-vailakshaNya-vidhAyinyA sUkshma-buddhyaiva bahu-sauSThavADhyaM viracitam

"The verse now states that this beautification is carried out by countless thousands of servants. That is the meaning of svAnAM, i.e., personal servants. They use their intelligence dhiyA, i.e., their fine understanding of how to dress him in unique finery, etc., and thus make him exquisitely beautiful."

What this interpretation does is, by reading viracitam with bahu-sauSThavADhyaM instead of utsmitam, is make that second line of the verse independently coherent. Really, reading viracitam ("arranged") as vitarkitam ("conjectured") does not make any sense. And it also has the defect of being a long way from the iti. I really think VCT nailed it here.

VCT then reinterprets the rest of the third line: "Can you give us any more information about the Lord's body?" [Again, this shows that VCT was taking upasRSTam as describing the Lord's body.] "Yes, it is Shiva's and you demigods' worshipable object."

Here VCT includes asmad-Adi “me, etc.” with bhavatAm, which seems a little unnecessary. He has thus dropped Sridhar's understanding that mahyam is a personal pronoun [without abandoning Brahma altogether] and instead takes it is the potential participle of mah, to worship, i.e. “worshipable,” refering again to Narayan’s body. This makes so much better sense. He explains further, "It is worshipable by us, but we must worship it with scents and flowers, etc., from afar, and not directly in the way that the Lord's own personal servants can."

So we end up with VCT's translation, which is [unexpectedly] most closely followed by the BBT :

With unsated eyes, the sages regarded Narayan who was making His own form more beautiful, this form that subordinates the goddess of fortune and yet makes her enthusiastic and joyful, and which is worshipable to Shiva and the other gods, as it was being made even more exquisite through the intelligent service of His devotees. They then joyously bowed their heads.

Of course, I really went through all that unnecessarily, as all I really need to know is what Sridhara and Sri Jiva were thinking. As stated above, Jiva wants to tone down the "taking a form" language, as well as "Lakshmi's false ego."

And that is how I spent my day...

Radhe Radhe...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sādhāraṇī-karaṇa Revisited

I mentioned sādhāraṇī-karaṇa in my poem the other day, and though it might be worthwhile to revisit the subject not only in this context, but also in the context of the discussion about Chandi Das and another post that will be coming up soon, O Mind! Meditate on Radha's Breasts.

Without understanding what Rupa Goswami intended by sādhāraṇī-karaṇa, we will be severely handicapped in understanding mañjarī-bhāva, what to speak of Gaudiya Vaishnava rāgānugā sādhanā. Furthermore, a proper understanding of sādhāraṇī-karaṇa will be helpful in transcending the minefield that is the kaniṣṭha adhikārī's confusion about myth and rational understanding.

I have tried to explain these things before, but it is time to revisit the subject; hopefully I will be able to make myself clear and I hope this helps to get an insight into Rupa Goswami's concept of sādhanā.

The process of identification

Any such discussion has to begin with the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, so I will quote the relevant verses in full and explain the meaning of the concept as given in the tradition and how Rupa Goswami differs from the earlier literary critics or poeticians. I will use the word "media" to describe any kind of literary or aesthetic product, such as plays or poems, which would be expanded to include films or any other method used in order to produce the sentimental effect known as rasa.

alaukikyā prakrityeyaṁ sudurūhā rasa-sthitiḥ
yatra sādhāraṇatayā bhāvāḥ sādhu sphuranty amī
eṣāṁ sva-para-sambandha-niyamānirṇayo hi yaḥ
sādhāraṇyaṁ tad evoktaṁ bhāvānāṁ pūrva-sūribhiḥ
This rasa experience is very difficult to understand, due to its transcendent nature. In it, all the bhāvas manifest spontaneously through the process of identification. The process of identification, in which the audience [in this case devotee] loses a sense of the distinction between self and the other, namely the characters in the literary production [in this case Radha and Krishna, etc.], is called “the commonality of emotions” (bhāvānāṁ sādhāraṇyam or sādhāraṇī-karaṇa) by previous authorities. (BRS 2.5.101-102)
Bharata Muni describes this in the following way:

śaktir asti vibhāvādeḥ kāpi sādhāraṇī-kritau |
pramātā tad-abhedena svaṁ yayā pratipadyate || iti |
The bhāvas, i.e., vibhāvas, etc., have a particular power at the time of identification, by which the audience feels non-different from them and accepts them as their own. (BRS 2.5.103)
In explaining these verses, Jiva Goswami quotes the Sahitya-darpana to give us a better idea of how the term is used in traditional literary circles.

vyāpāro’sti vibhāvāder nāmnā sādhāraṇī-kritiḥ
tat-prabhāvāt parasyāsan pāthodhi-plavanādayaḥ
utsāhādi-samudbodhaḥ sādhāraṇyābhimānataḥ
nriṇām api samudrādi-langhanādau na duṣyati
sādhāraṇyena raty-ādir api tadvat pratīyate
parasya na parasyeti mameti na mameti ca
tad-āsvāde vibhāvādeḥ paricchedo na vidyate
The bhāvas have a function known as sādhāraṇī-kriti, by the influence of which it is sometimes seen that people in an audience watching the Rāmāyaṇa get up and “jump across the ocean” with Hanuman. Their heroic spirit has been awakened though a sense of common identity with Hanuman. This attempt to “jump across the ocean” is not a flaw on their part. The experience of love and the other rasas also takes place through this process of identification. At that time, what is or is not the other’s and what is or is not mine are indistinguishable in the relishing of the vibhāvas, etc. [SD 3.9-12]
Jiva also says that as long as the bhāvas remains confined to the characters in the play (or in our case Radha and Krishna, etc.), then there is no rasa, i.e., somehow or another, their experience must be transmitted into the devotee audience. Please note, I emphasize THEIR experience. When Vishwanath Kaviraj here says that there is no fault, it means that it is desirable. You actually want to have this aesthetic experience of self-forgetfulness and entry into the universal that is the experience of commonality.

In modern literature, aesthetics have changed though the basic principle of self-transcendence and entry into a universal dimension is still the watchword or holy grail of entertainment.

Take, for instance, the latest phenomenon of Susan Boyle, the rather plain Scotswoman who sang on a talent show and demonstrated that she had an extraordinarily beautiful voice. Clearly the promoters of the show knew what they were doing and what was to be expected--they downplayed her because of her appearance, perhaps even deliberately making her wear a frumpy dress and outmoded hairdo.

Why? Because they knew that the contrast of her voice to her appearance would create rasa. The diamond in the rough. It is a story as old as, well a prince amongst the cowherds, a prophet in the bullrushes. It is a variant on vīra-rasa, and it works.

If tears came to your eyes when you heard her sing, with the āśraya ālambanas cheering like crazy in the background and the reaction shots of the judges being amazed and flabbergasted, then that was the expertise of the manipulators of rasa working their magic on you.

However you explained it to yourself, this was satisfying not because of any real event, so much as the fact that you for a moment tapped into a universal ideal moment.

This is why the expression brahma-sahodara came to be used when trying to explain the nature of the rasa experience. In other words, the aesthetic experience is close to a spiritual experience.

sattvodrekād akhaṇḍa-sva-prakāśānanda-cin-mayaḥ |
vedyāntara-sparśa-śūnyo brahmāsvāda-sahodaraḥ ||2||
lokottara-camatkāra-prāṇaḥ kaiścit pramātṛbhiḥ |
svākāravad abhinnatvenāyam āsvādyate rasaḥ ||3|| 
Because of the heightened sense of pure being, rasa is spiritual, self-revealing, unbroken ecstasy. In the experience of rasa, one loses all awareness of anything else and so it is called "the brother" of the taste of Brahman. Its essence is an astonishment that lies outside the realm of everyday experience. Some rare individuals experience this rasa as non-different from themselves, like their own form. (Sāhitya-darpaṇa 3.2-3)

The Culture of the Audience

When talking recently about Chandi Das’s śrī-kṛṣṇa-kīrtana, I refered to the kind of audience that would be watching and what their reaction would be. The question that interests me is what would be the difference between his audience and the audience in the post-Chaitanya, post-Goswami period. For instance, at the beginning of the each of his plays, Rupa Goswami glorifies his audience. Like this verse at the beginning of Dāna-keli-kaumudī:

bhaktaḥ ko’pi tanos tanoti pulakair nrityan nihotphullatāṁ
shuṣyan ko’pi cirād vivarṇa-vadano dhatte vidīrṇaṁ manaḥ |
garjjan dhāvati ko’pi vindati patan ko’py eṣa niṣpandatām
udyaty acyuta-vibhrame gatir abhūt kā stheyasām apy asau ||
One devotee over there is stretching his limbs,
dancing as his hairs stand on end in jubilation;
another has become motionless, his face losing color
as though his mind has been split asunder;
another is running through the crowd, shouting,
while yet another falls over, motionless.
In the confusion of love for Krishna,
such an incredible variety of reactions
is manifest in this group,
even though by nature they are very grave.
In other words, Rupa’s expectation was that he would have a particular kind of prepared audience. Nowhere is this stated more clearly than in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu itself, where it talks about the rasa experience in the devotional context.

bhakti-nirdhūta-doṣāṇāṁ prasannojjvala-cetasām
śrī-bhāgavata-raktānāṁ rasikāsaṅga-raṅgiṇām
premāntaraṅga-bhūtāni kṛtyāny evānutiṣṭhatām
bhaktānāṁ hṛdi rājantī saṁskāra-yugalojjvalā
ratir ānanda-rūpaiva nīyamānā tu rasyatām
For those whose faults have been entirely removed by the performance of devotional practices and whose minds are peaceful [making them suitable for the appearance of pure goodness’s special features] and effulgent [and thus equipped with full knowledge], who are attached to hearing the Bhāgavata-purāṇa, who find happiness in the company of devotees, for whom the joy of service to Govinda has become the raison-d’être of their existence, and who are always engaged in the most confidential process of developing love for Krishna, namely hearing and chanting about his qualities and pastimes, have a love (rati) for Krishna which is effulgently manifest due to the conditioning of both the past and present lives. This love, which is an embodiment of the divine joy, becomes experienced as rasa. (2.1.7-9)
The bracketed comments here are based on the commentaries. So Vishwanath Kaviraja’s sattvodreka is identified with the first line, etc. Both the poeticians and Rupa Goswami indicate that for a higher rasa experience, you need to have a culture—in the case of ordinary rasa experience, for instance, language skills are a must.

The need for sattva-guna is stressed by the Indian Sahityikas, but they are speaking about a refined rasa experience, which is why the Vaishnavas can talk about something more elevated also. But we see that all human beings are capable of some rasa experience; if the medium is powerful it more or less forces attentiveness on the audience and produces some kind of reaction.

Think of an action film with its dramatic special effects. Or think pornography. Even an uncultured intoxicated person who has no attention span whatsoever can be affected emotionally on a very base level by such entertainments.

This is in part because there is a lower common denominator in rasa that extends from the mode of ignorance all the way to the transcendent: sex and violence. Madhura-rasa has its basest manifestation in pornography and its purest manifestation in the transcendental love of Radha and Krishna. Similarly, vira-rasa has its basest manifestations in tamo-guṇa, and most elevated manifestations in the life of sādhanā, etc.

Arguments about highbrow and lowbrow culture are very old, but we will take it as a given that the word culture implies some kind of training, and to the extent that this is refined and sāttvika, the higher the aesthetic taste will be. The culture of bhakti-rasa, which follows up on the association of aesthetic with spiritual experience, is about seeing this as an inroad to the highest spiritual experience.

So those who are not qualified by the appropriate culture are ignored.

udāsatāṁ nāma rasānabhijñāḥ
kṛtau tavāmī rasikāḥ sphuranti |
kramelakaiḥ kāmam upekṣite’pi
pikāḥ sukhaṁ yānti paraṁ rasāle ||
May those who are ignorant of rasa be indifferent to this play, while the rasikas take delight in it. Koils find the greatest pleasure in the mango tree which is completely ignored by the camels. [VM 1.9]
In his book on the history of Bengali literature (Bangla Sahityera Itivritta), Asita Kumar Bandyopadhyaya makes a similar observation when distinguishing between the SKK and the other Chandi Das. [I will have to explain the complexities of the Chandi Das problem one day.] The sensibilities are quite different.

He there quotes Bangladeshi literary historian Muhammad Shahidullah, who says, “The mood of the later Chandi Das is in completely opposition to Boru Chandidas. One is writing about a sāttvika love, whereas the other is writing about the agony of lust (kāma).” (p. 593) Or as another writer quoted says, "Boru Chandidas rarely comes close to any kind of spirituality, except perhaps in the Radha-viraha section, whereas the superior poet Chandi Das is full of spiritual feeling."

That is at least in part true. According to the audience’s status in the modes of material nature, the character of the media product in the modes of nature, etc., we can expect different kinds of rasa experience.

In the post-Chaitanya era, the form of entertainment (the pālā kirtan) would have been much the same. The audiences, in all likelihood, would not have been all that different, but there would have been an element in the audience that would have more refined taste and understanding, and aware Vaishnava kirtaniyas would cater to them. This is natural in any performance art: the performer is naturally attracted to the elements in the audience that are attentive (sāttvika), most in tune with his mood and who have the tools to appreciate it.

Identification and Empathy

Any process of identification implies some empathetic capacity. This is why there is a necessity for both viṣaya and āśraya ālambanas. In fact, Rupa Goswami is right when he says that the devotee is to identify with the devotee and not with Krishna, because Krishna is the viṣaya and not the āśraya.

vartitavyaṁ śam icchadbhir bhaktavan na tu kṛṣṇavat
ity evaṁ bhakti-śāstrāṇāṁ tātparyasya vinirṇayaḥ
rāmādivad vartitavyaṁ na kvacid rāvaṇādivat
ity eṣa mukti-dharmādi-parāṇāṁ naya īryate 
Those who wish for true joy (śam) should identify as devotees and not as Krishna. This is the conclusion of the devotional scriptures. "One should identify with Rama and not with Ravana, this is the method followed by those who are devoted to deliverance and justice." (UN 3.24-25)
I discussed these verses in some detail in this post so I won’t go into further detail here. The point I was trying to make is that in the experience of love, one has to experience empathy and identification with the viṣaya as well as the āśraya.

In Rupa Goswami’s conception, the manjaris are identifying with the Divine Couple, except that they have a preference for Radha. Nevertheless, Radha, who loves Krishna, has to understand perfectly what he wants—even better than he does, in order to be able to serve him. The same is true in reverse. Rasa (astonishment) comes as a result of the impossibility.

This is very important to understand. It is also important to understand about empathy in greater detail, but we cannot do so here. Love is based in the ability to empathize. We are horrified by child abuse, etc., because the perpetrators lack the ability to empathize with their victim. Or, that empathy is totally subjugated by the egoism of the perpetrator. This is also known as being a sociopath.

The state of love that is being described in Rupa Goswami’s literature is one where the lovers (the Divine Couple) are so empathetic that they are one. In this oneness, there is no more reticence or fear of hurting the other. Look at this verse spoken by Paurnamasi to Madhumangala in Vidagdha-mādhava:

stotraṁ yatra taṭasthatāṁ prakaṭayac cittasya dhatte vyathāṁ
nindāpi pramadaṁ prayacchati parīhāsa-śriyaṁ bibhratī
doṣeṇa kṣayitāṁ guṇena gurutāṁ kenāpy anātanvatī
premṇaḥ svārasikasya kasyacid iyaṁ vikrīḍati prakriyā
What you are seeing is the working
of some spontaneous kind of love:

where praise is seen as a sign of indifference
. . . and even causes the beloved pain,
where insults cause hilarity
. . . and only make the loved one laugh.

No lapse makes this love disintegrate,
no virtue can cause it to inflate.
(VM 5.4)
For fear of making this post way too long, I won’t go into the Manjaris, who Raghunath Das Goswami calls niḥsaṅkocita-bhūmikāḥ—they are totally unabashed about watching and even going into Radha and Krishna’s most intimate moments because they are a totally absorbed part of that Maha-bhava-maya world.

Sādhāraṇī-karaṇa and sādhanā

Gaudiya Vaishnavism does not accept that the kind of sādhāraṇī-karaṇa experienced in the course of ordinary plays or works of literature, etc., i.e., the identifications with characters in a play or film, is the exactly the same as in the bhakti process. One has to cultivate rati, or a transcendental identity, which makes such identification possible.

In other words, by listening to Radha and Krishna lila, the natural tendency would be for a man to identify with Krishna and for a woman to identify with Radha, just as there is a natural tendency to identify according to one’s own sex when watching or reading a love story. [This is, of course, not necessarily so, as a good writer or filmmaker can elevate his or her audience well beyond sexual identification to a level of humanity.]

But the culture of the devotee extends far beyond mere literature. In the pravartaka stage, the goal is to inundate the consciousness, to interiorize the symbol system so that it can become universalized. The ultimate goal is to have so envisioned the presence of the Divine Couple that the entire universe becomes an uddīpana for rasa.

At this point, the literal understanding of the myths become much less important. In other words, the importance of specific lilas described in specific texts, even though they continue to be relished by the devotee, are not venerated as literal truths, but as mythical truths, in the sense that they are always happening everywhere.

The obsession with aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā and how many rooms there are in Nanda Maharaj’s house, etc., what color is Vrinda Devi’s dress, etc., dissipates.

Yes, Radha and Krishna are in Vrindavan, but if they were only in Vrindavan, they would not be God. There is a paradox here that I humbly entreat you to try to understand.

Now the Sahajiya sādhanā says something more here that the Orthodoxy finds shocking. As if the above were not shocking enough. And that is this: In the middle stage, the sex act is the supreme act of sādhāraṇī-karaṇa.

To think about spiritual life in terms of puruṣendriya-vikāra and the heroic conquering of physical desire is, besides being against nature, a superficial and wrongheaded assumption. Yes, there is a great necessity of mastering the art of making love. But when it becomes a spiritual practice, that follows naturally—though one may take a little help from yoga techniques.

But in the joy of embracing one’s beloved partner in the spiritual adventure, in remembrance of the eternal Divine Couple, one replicates the eternal sacred act of union that is at the core of the Upanishadic creation myth, whereby the One became Two in order to experience his own joy in the act of love.

That is personified by Radha and Krishna. If Radha and Krishna have become cardboard cutouts, or if the lila stories have started to wear a little thin, in other words, if there is no rasa there, then it is because you have not learned the art of sādhāraṇī-karaṇa.

This is the path to prema.

Friday, April 17, 2009

O Mind! Meditate on Radha's Breasts

As I go through the dāna-līlā episode of Chandi Das's Śrī Kṛṣṇa Kīrtana, there are many songs in which Krishna describes Radha's beauty, and a regular feature of that includes descriptions of her breasts. In fact, breasts are a subject that is prominent in all Sanskrit poetry, and is even standard in prayers to goddesses. There does not seem to have been any inhibition in talking about breasts in the ancient Indian culture, even though I dare say, there is more of one in the modern society, in spite of Bollywood.

There is, however, an apparent restriction in talking about genitals, male or female, in the so-called erotic poetry of India--Sanskrit or vernacular--even when lovemaking etc., is described. Such descriptions would automatically fall into some other genre.

In Radha and Krishna descriptions, I cannot recall ever seeing or hearing a passage that mentioned genitals or overt sexual activity. It is nearly always spoken of somewhat euphemistically. I remember Chandi Das being a little more direct, but so far, I haven't seen anything that crosses that line. For instance, in the first lovemaking scene where Radha and Krishna come together, at the end of the dāna līlā, we have the following song, which I have numbered 102:

Kahnai embraced her in many ways. He undid the necklace that covered her breast. He rubbed her breasts and thighs intensely, and in many ways made her afraid by scratching her. When Radha spoke, he became more excited and on a bed of leaves and twigs, he made love to her. He kissed her on the cheeks and lips and eyes, he pressed his mouth against hers and drank the honey. When Radha began to becoming more absorbed in lovemaking and made started to make some noise, he stopped her by biting her lip. He touched her buttocks and placed his hands on her thighs. Jagannath became extremely excited. All the desires he had felt for so long were fulfilled in their lovemaking. Kahnai let out a long sigh of satisfaction and then, in order to assure that he would be able to make love to her again, he took her jewelry. After the lovemaking, Radha became afraid. Chandi Das sings, lowering his head to Basali Devi.

Perhaps it is because breasts are one of the things that attracts him to Radha. And why not? It is a feminine feature that all men are helplessly attracted to as much as moths to light.

Today's Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi verse does not beat around the bush. For the rāgānugā sādhaka, meditation on Radha's breasts is given importance. I think it is a bush that should not be beaten about. Let's follow Ananta Dasji's commentary and then discuss a little.

Here is the verse:

kasyāpi gokula-kiśora-niśākarasya |
sarvasva-sampuṭam iva stana-śātakumbha-
kumbha-dvayaṁ smara mano vṛṣabhānu-putryāḥ ||
O my heart, please meditate on the two golden waterpot breasts of King Vrishabhanu's daughter, breasts that are a jewelry chest holding a treasure that is everything to that youth who is like a splendid moon shining in Gokula, a youth whose form, more handsome than millions of Kamadevas, is now manifested in the Vrindavan forest.

When Krishna goes for his nature walks, oranges, pomegranates, bel fruits, chakravak birds--all remind him of Radha's breasts. But here kumbhas--that means "jugs"--are being spoken of. That almost seems too much.

Ananta Dasji's commentary here begins with a lengthy discussion about Krishna as Kāmadeva, in particular refering to Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta 3, where the word kāmāvatārāṅkuram “the root of all descents of desire” (the translation below has “in whom culminate the principal stimuli for amorous love,” and it is often treated as “the seed of all incarnations of Kamadeva”) and the commentary of Kaviraj Goswami:

lāvaṇyāmṛta-vīci-lolita-dṛśaṁ lakṣmī-kaṭākṣādṛtam
kalindī-pulināṅgana-praṇayinaṁ kāmāvatārāṅkuraṁ
bālaṁ nīlam amī vayaṁ madhurima-svārājyam ārādhnumaḥ
We worship that dark bluish young boy, in whom culminate the principal stimuli for amorous love, who causes Radha to become languid with the beauty of His dancing sidelong glances, and who in turn becomes languid with love when Sri Radha and Her friends cast their sidelong glances at Him. That boy's beauty, like waves of nectar, engenders an extreme thirst in the eyes of Radha and Her companions, and, conversely, their nectarous beauty makes Him thirsty to see them. He is affectionately worshiped by Radha's wistful glances, and He enjoys loving pastimes with Radha and Her friends on the bank of the Yamuna. We worship that young bluish boy, the source of the god of love, who has attained unchallenged dominion over love's sweetness. (Translator unknown. Source)
Kaviraj Goswami:

prākṛtāprākṛta-kandarpa-nidāna-vṛndāvanābhinava-kandarpam ity-ādi | āgamādau kāma-gāyatryā kāma-bījena ca tasya tad-rūpeṇopāsyatvāt | koṭi-madana-vimohanāśeṣa-cittākarṣaka-sahaja-madhura-tamalāvaṇyāmṛta-pārārṇavena mahānubhāva-cayānubhūyamāna-tat-tan-mahā-prabhāva-nivahena śrī-madana-gopāla-rūpeṇādhunāpi vṛndāvane virājamānatvāc ca |
Kāmāvatārāṅkuraṁ means the new Cupid who resides in Vrindavan, who is the source of all the material and spiritual gods of desire (kandarpa). This is shown by the injunction in the Tantras, etc., to worship him with the Kāma-bīja and Kāma-gāyatrī. It is also demonstrated by his presence in Vrindavan, even today, in the form of Madan Mohan, which is the infinite ocean of nectar of most sweet natural beauty with its power to attract all the minds and hearts without end and to bewilder uncounted millions of Cupids, and whose such great powers have been directly experienced by great numbers of great souls.
Clearly, this reference to Krishna’s worship with mantras (also mentioned in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta) that are directly related to Kamadeva is a most significant element on this entire devotional path. It is necessary to reflect on the relationship of desire in general to sexual desire and to love, the purity of love in relation to persons of the opposite sex in this world and in relation to God. The whole purpose of this blog is really an exploration of this subject in the context of the mysticism of Rupa Goswami and his friends.

Ananta Dasji then turns to Radha’s breasts. Rupa Goswami’s example of dhīra-lalita Krishna in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu seems an appropriate reference:

vācā sūcita-śarvarī-rati-kalā-prāgalbhyayā rādhikāṁ
vrīḍ-kujcita-locanāṁ viracayann agre sakhīnām asau
tad-vakṣo-ruha-citra-keli-makarī-pāṇḍitya-pāraṁ- gataḥ
kaiśoram saphalī-karoti kalayan kuṣje vihāraṁ hariḥ
With his words, Krishna made Srimati Radharani close her eyes bashfully before her friends by hinting at their amorous activities from the previous night, all the while demonstrating the greatest expertise by painting pictures of playful dolphins on her breasts. In this way, Hari made the most of his youth by enjoying these pastimes in the forest bowers.

So Krishna is painting away on Radha’s breasts, those treasure-laden golden jugs (śātakumbha-kumbha). Ananta Dasji does not shy away from the issue: Prabodhananda is telling us to meditate on Radharani’s breasts and we must take his advice seriously. The Goswamis have presented this highly sexual Krishna as the ultimate form of the Deity. So quite naturally Ananta Dasji reminds us of Jiva Goswami’s famous statement on the matter:

atra sāmānyato'pi paramatva-siddhes tatrāpi parama-śreṣṭha-śrī-rādhā-saṁvalita-līlāmaya-tad-bhajanaṁ tu paramatamam eveti svataḥ sidhyati | kintu rahasya-līlā tu pauruṣa-vikāravad indriyaiḥ pitṛ-putra-dāsa-bhāvaiś ca nopāsyā svīya-bhāva-virodhāt | rahasyatvaṁ ca tasyāḥ kvacid alpāṁśena kvacit tu sarvāṁśeneti jṣeyam |
So in conclusion it is evident that though it has generally been presented that Krishna is the supreme form of Godhead, worship of Him in the association of Radha and engaged in amorous pastimes with her that is the highest of all. Nevertheless, the most private pastimes should not be worshiped by those whose senses undergo transformation in the enjoying spirit nor by those who are in the moods of parenthood, filial devotion or servitude. In such cases, such worship goes against their dominant mood. In this context, such a limitation in the meditation on these intimate pastimes may be partial or total.

Where are we going with this? Is there not something rather strange about a supposed sannyasi telling us to meditate and remember the female breast, that all powerful mind-magnet. It is almost laughably direct. But Ananta Dasji says, "Yes, go ahead. If you can, why not?"

This is so paradoxical, it almost staggers the mind to try to explain it. And those who are fixated on the puruṣendriya-vikāra are the most troubled of all.

Sanskrit verses in Chandi Das's SKK

There are a lot of Sanskrit verses in the SKK, but they are mostly just rather ordinary anushtup shlokas meant to bridge between songs and introduce the speaker and give a little narrative... very little to tell the truth.

Since Chandi Das's language is so simple and unpretentious, it is rather easy to get fooled into thinking that he is just an ordinary country guy. But it seems to me that his knowledge of the puranas, though understated, is fairly extensive. And occasionally he comes up with a pretty good verse in Sanskrit, too.

शिखिज्वलितमानसो निसरसो वशगोऽस्मि ते ।
ततो वितर राधिकेऽधरसुधां मयि द्रुतं
भृत-सुखे सुखं मम सुखेतरवधैषिणि ॥

shikhi-jvalita-mAnaso nisaraso vashago’smi te
tato vitara rAdhike’dhara-sudhAM mayi drutaM
bhrita-sukhe sukhaM mama sukhetara-vadhaiSiNi

The fire of love that is burning me up, Radhe, is more terrible that the most terrible hole-dwelling snake's poison. I am drying up and have taken shelter of you. Please quickly give me the nectar of your lips. If you wish to destroy my sufferings, remember that the happiness of a master depends on the happiness of his servants.

I am not yet convinced that Chandi Das is directly familiar with the Bhagavata connection, but the words vitara adhara-sudhAm sound very like the Gopi-gita 10.31.14. Only Krishna instead of gopis doing the begging this time.

It is a little difficult to know when the Bhagavatam actually became known in Northern and Northeastern India. My suspicion is that it was relatively late, although I cannot prove it. There are several reasons that spring to mind (off the top of my head):

  1. Sridhar's Sad-ukti-karnamrita has one Bhagavatam verse (12.13.1) in it, but it is ascribed to someone else.
  2. A Bengali lexicon of the period has no references to Bhagavatam, though it quotes from many other puranas.
  3. It is doubtful that the Gita Govinda was directly influenced by the BhP.
  4. A manuscript in Vidyapati's own hand is the oldest MS of the BhP in Northeastern India.
  5. The first translation is Sri-Krishna-vijaya, which dates to 1472, if I remember correctly.
  6. Numerous other Bengali translations of the BhP appear in the late 15th and early 16th centuries (Gopala-vijaya, Prema-tarangini, etc.)
  7. Numerous commentaries start appearing only from the time of Chaitanya.
  8. Sridhara's commentary from the early/mid 15th century appears to be at the root of this popularization.

So if it is the case that Chandi Das was building on a folk tradition with elements from the older puranas (Harivamsa and Vishnupurana, etc.), then it seems natural that the impact of the Bhagavatam and the purification tendency would have been felt. Anyway, the above verse raises a suspicion.

Another possibility is that some parts of the Bhagavatam would have been known--without necessarily the kind of theological sophistication that the Goswamis brought to the discussion. OK. Alam for now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

After Dana-lila

After just a day of Rai’s silence
Kanai began to lose control.
This really is no way to be,
he thought, I am the Supersoul.

Scrambling up to the grizzled top
of Govardhan, across the puzzled haze
he could see the shimmering white
washed walls of Nandishwar, and beyond
he thought he saw Varshana
float mirage-like into sight.

And then, Javat beyond, and Radha there,
silently sweeping floors and churning curds,
her veiled head turned always downwards,
inwards, where she watched, aware
of Banamali waiting, watching
back on Govardhan.

Radha holed up in her home, no more
promenades to Madhupuri market.
Vigilant husband,
nosy nanad,
meretricious mother-in-law,
all creating invisible wall circles
mantra circles round and round
the one of brick and govar,
round and round the one of Vedic law
that stands impregnable,
even in this carefree gopa gopi world.
They held her prisoner.

I don’t need you, Krishna calls out,
in a momentary fit of heroic,
dramatic, childish pique.
I know how to be alone!

What aberration of creative power
has taken him from infinity to finity?
from being the yogic light
of a million simultaneous suns
into this world of darkness?

In some corner of his endless soul,
he regrets having become so temporal:
I could have stayed up in my sky
and been One in my Oneness,
Full in my Fullness,
Complete in my Completeness,
so Neat in my philosophical Neatness!!

Passing nights in hollow trees,
making cuckoo sounds and hooting like an owl,
is so below the dignity
of the Supersoul.

The anxious high pitched koil calls
grate and prick on Kanai's chest.
Why not use my powers, my mystic might?
My flute could conquer all free will,
and set all things a-right
if that was what I chose.

But if he is to be himself,
he must find another way.
In his omniscience he knows.

He too must face reality.
In his omniscience he knows.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SKK 2: Dāna-līlā (Part I: Preliminary Summary)

This article is becoming rather long, so I shall divide it into three sections. This is the introductory portion containing general observations. The next two will cover specific themes.

The dana-lila is the longest chapter in the SKK, even if we take into account the many missing pages. I previously calculated that the average chapter probably contained 25-30 songs, each of which would probably have made a single evening program of song, or pala. There were two (*) folios missing from the dana-lila part of the manuscript, but the total number of songs is still at least 109, the real total probably being three or four more than that.

It is hard for me to believe that this same particular pala could have been run for four consecutive nights, especially since there is, on the whole, a great deal of repetition, which no matter how good the singing, etc., would have tested the patience of any audience. The overall narrative is not much more complex than Krishna going, “Yes, yes!” and Radha, “No, no!” until finally she gives in.

There are some incidents, but these are not clearly defined narrative-wise. Krishna pulls on her clothes, he breaks her earthenware pots carrying yogurt, he eats the yogurt, etc., or at least Radha says he does, but then suddenly he is threatening to do so again.

There are certain subthemes that arise in the back-and-forth dialogue between Radha and Krishna and take up blocks of three or four songs, but whether those break the monotony enough to justify continuing this single story line over four nights is debatable.

Nevertheless, there is a denouement, when Radha finally does give in, Badai is sent away, and Krishna enjoys rati with her. Over the course of the 109 songs, one can detect a gradual weakening of Radha's resolve as Krishna keeps persisting in his dhamali, or aggressive flirtation.

Generally, entire songs are ascribed to either Radha or Krishna, and then certain songs are spoken as dialog, a verse by either protagonist followed by a response. These back-and-forth songs are usually the most entertaining, since they contain immediate responses to specific statements, something like the Shuka-Shari debates in Govinda-lilamrita, where claims are made and then shot down. Just like in those exchanges, Radha gives a bit better than she gets. She seems to have the upper hand in wit and intelligence, Krishna only in brawn and bullying.

The basic premise is of course that Krishna stops Radha on the road to Mathura and tells her:

Krishna: You have been coming to Mathura regularly to sell your wares, without paying a toll on your goods. You have now accumulated back taxes going back twelve years.

Radha: Hang on there! I am only twelve years old! How can that be possible!

Krishna (unheeding): So, according to my calculation, you owe about 900,000 cowries. Pay up or stay here in custody. Or, perhaps, if you like, we can find a way around these niggling rules. You can give me a little kiss and we will forgive your debts. You are so beautiful and as soon as I saw you I became enflamed with passion. You have to be merciful and give me your embrace.

There is a little contradiction in Radha's age. In one place she says she is only eleven (!), in another twelve. This might mean the lila was spread over a longer period of time. This would require Krishna having let her go at least once. Whatever the case, the theme of her being too young is repeated many times. Radha says that making love to her will not be pleasurable since she is like an unripe fruit. Krishna’s answer being, “Youth does not last long. Take advantage while you have it, otherwise you will regret it in the end.”

Krishna repeatedly tries to “browbeat” Radha into accepting him as Gaya’s Gadadhar, Prayag’s Madhava, Narayan, Madhusudana, Deva Vanamali, and other names [an index of which would be interesting in itself]. He mentions having appeared as several avatars, but most of all he tries to impress upon Radha that they were husband and wife in a previous life and that she is his, and not the wife of some cowherd named Aihan.

Krishna: “If you give in to me, you will get divine blessings. If not, well, watch out.”

Radha: “Give me a break. You are an uneducated cowherd, and it shows. I know you as Nandanandan, my nephew, actually. You want to have sex with someone else’s wife and so you are here playing at being a toll-collector. If anyone is in trouble, it is you. Wait till Kamsa finds out. Wait till Aihana, my heroic and pious husband finds out. You are going to get a good drubbing.”

Krishna: “You are Padma and I am Padmanabha. In a previous life we were married.”

Radha: “Yeah sure. Anyway, even if we were married in a previous life, who knows that now? We are not married in this life, and it would be a great scandal if anything happened between us.”

Krishna is the one who brings up the claim that Aihan is impotent, though Radha defends his good qualities in numerous places, including his heroism. When she tries to thwart Krishna's advances by threatening repercussions from Aihan or Kamsa, Krishna simply brushes it off. "I dealt with Putana when I was a baby, I lifted Govardhan. In a previous life I did in Ravana, etc., so do you think I will have any problem dealing with Aihan or even Kamsa?"

In the repartee it is Radha's refusal to accept Krishna's claims of aishwarya and her debunking of them that are a principal source of amusement. Indeed, it appears to be an extension of Krishna's abuse of power: He is not just representing the king and taking advantage of his position to coerce an innocent woman into granting him sexual favors, but is using a claim of divine status to do the same thing.

I can see how there would be an element of discomfort in a more sensitive environment to Krishna's aggressive approach. We have seen that there is a bit of confusion amongst Indian males who think that aggressivity (even "rape" as ACBSP is notoriously noted to have said) is much appreciated by women. Surely women like expressions of attraction, within limits, but Chandi Das goes even further with it.

Let us say that here at least Chandi Das's Krishna is at least waiting for Radha to give permission--though not giving permission does not seem to be an option.

So, sexual harassment, child abuse, or what? I expect that such kinds of abuse of power would have been a fact of life for many women in the audience, especially those from lower castes faced with precisely this kind of situation [and would be even today].

Is this trying to make a silk purse out of a really smelly sow's ear? Should we look at Chandi Das as giving a [dominant patriarchical macho] justification for that kind of abusive behavior?

Since the lila was obviously meant to amuse, and I assume that both men and women would have to be entertained, a certain suspension of disbelief would have been necessary. After all, Radha does give in in the end, but only because she has been forced to do so, not because she believes that Krishna is God.

We have to assume that, in a country where the Gita Govinda would have been firmly established culturally, the audience would have been in on it, and have accepted on faith that this is indeed God’s lila. “I have appeared,” Kahnai says, “only to enjoy with you.”

পৃথিভীত আহ্মে আবতার কৈল তোর সুরতীর আশে (৪৩-৩)

An awareness of the distinction of human and divine would legitimize the behavior only in Krishna's case, as indeed is found in the concluding verses of the Rasa-lila. But as I have discussed before in this blog, the warnings to follow the devotee's attitude instead of Krishna's are an attempt to redirect what would be the normal psychological tendency of an audience. Women would have identified with Radha, there is little doubt of that. Would men have identified with Krishna? And if so, to what extent? Would they have been sympathetic. Would they have recognized his behavior as childish infatuation and hardly heroic, and not to be admired or emulated? In other words, would they have spontaneously heeded the Rasa-lila's warning?

When Radha finally gives in, Chandi Das gives a description of their lovemaking that takes only one verse. It is followed, however, by a strange followup. Instead of treating Radha with affectionate adoration, or indeed in any kind of romantic way, he deprives her of all her jewelry and sends her home without it. Sankshipta sambhoga?

I remember the first time I read SKK and how this apparent callousness here, and indeed at the time that Krishna leaves for Mathura at the end, was the most strikingly disturbing feature of Chandi Das's Krishna. The Dana-lila is still early in the book and am suspending judgment until much later before I come to any conclusions.

But my preliminary instinct is that despite the fact that Mahaprabhu appears to have been familiar with the SKK and it influenced Rupa and Raghunath in their writing of Krishna lila, there were many things in it that clashed with their vision of Radha and Krishna's pure and perfect loves. This is one of the reasons that I am also looking for evidence that Chandi Das knew the Bhagavatam as I go through this.

What I am embarking on here is an effort to analyze and enumerate the different themes. Some of these have already been raised in this introduction. In the next posts, we will look at specific examples of:

  1. External situation: Krishna demands toll, etc. Radha describes what Krishna has done.
  2. Prima facie lust. Krishna describes Radha's beauty, asks for mercy, etc. Radha replies that she is too young, not ready, incapable, etc. Married woman. Illicit love.
  3. Identity. Krishna says he is Narayan, etc., Radha is Lakshmi. Radha says Krishna is a cowherd, and her nephew, etc.
  4. Krishna and Radha threaten and insult each other in various ways.
  5. Radha gradually capitulates and strange conclusion.

I am not yet in a position to cross-reference with other Dana-lila related texts, which is really the ultimate purpose. If we know clearly what is in Chandi Das, then we can see clearly what is not. At the same time, we will be able to see what the Goswamis have held onto and what they have rejected, both in language and in mood. Already from Tambula-khanda, we are beginning to get some idea of the kinds of things that have been dropped. But we will get into that more fully after we have completed our preliminary analysis.

Today I saw Sri Radha.

Today I saw Sri Radha.
I watched her walking on the path
between Javat and Nanda Gaon.
Her head was uncovered
and her braid dangled behind her
like a python from the branches of a tree.

Like all Vrajavasis,
her easy gait was quick
as she sped to Nandishwar.
She was fast as Garuda, faster than the mind,
followed by a flock of golden Garudas,
surrounded by a sky of lightning strokes
in the dry landscape.

Too fast to talk they almost trot,
their ghaghras behind them streak
like starry, mirrored flags of passion.

The jingling of anklebells,
the tinkling of laughter,
the risque barbs and teasing,
the bits and bribes of songs
trail them like a cloud.

Radha is going to cook
at Yasho Rani’s house
and I struggle to keep up.

Years of aching wishes
caressed that sight.
I felt you there in that smaran;
we watched Rai Kishori's bobbing braids
and the flowing, mocking rainbow
of her friends.

The morning sun has suddenly begun
to pour its heat on Nandagaon.
The dust powder is so fine
you can almost taste it on your tongue
where Rai has touched it with her toes.

And then, against the sun-stained walls,
baked like pueblos on the flattened sky,
Kahnai casts his cooling cloud,
shyam shadow light.

He loiters by the yellow gate,
his arm resting on Subal’s arm.
In one hand he slowly twirls a flower,
nonchalant, as a cowherd prince should be.

Saying nothing, he devours
Radha with his eyes.

She pulls her veil over her head.
She turns her head shyly, slow,
slyly giving him a crooked glance,
shy enough to make him want to dance.

She quivers, trembles, she is unnerved,
his gaze is unwavering and strong.
Do we have to go this way, she asks,
is there no other door?
Afraid she’ll trip, Lalita grabs her hand.
Watch your feet, she says. Watch your mind.

Krishna's gaze does not break,
as if this is the first time
these four bee-like eyes have ever met.
And yet it is--their every glance
a first Cupid arrow fired,
another first wave in eternity.

I bathed in all of that today, and the sight
has filled my every pore.
And now, at night, I feel you pervading me
like Vraja's rasika sun,
bhava and prema, liquid light,
inundate my core.

Here I chant the Holy Name,
these flames pervade my heart and brain.
I see the Yugala's everlasting play
and you pervade my every vein.

This is us and this is them;
it’s a disgrace people will say,
but I don’t see a difference any more.
It's become a sadharani-karan
of two, this time, not one.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hail the heroic losers

Hail the heroic losers,
the poets who proudly point
to the faith-shaped hole
they so nobly fail to fill.

They sigh and shake their heads,
Holes are full of emptiness
they say, and then, world-weary,
turn to the tired trivia
of another day's distractions.

The worst are filled with zeal;
the best struck with ennui,
and before pretending with politics,
they discharge disdain
and condescension
into their void.
That's life.

Thank God there's no final
failure, no end, only delay.
I pray the vastava-vastu
fills their gaping space today.

Reality-based religion

Over the past couple of days I have written a couple of articles debating with myself the value of living in Rishikesh. The upshot, basically, was that life here was generally conducive to the culture of bhakti.

As you can see from recent posts, also, I am becoming quite carried away by Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi. My two regular shrotas, both wearing Ramanuja tilak and from Chitrakut in Madhya Pradesh--Ram bhaktas in other words--have also become carried away. Today Ananda Kumar said that listening to RRSN, he had come to realize that this was the highest state. He said he had been searching everywhere, but hearing Radha's glories described in such rich language had convinced him that there was no higher accomplishment than Radha-dasya.

One of the things I thought about today was the language itself. I wish I could channel this language. This is literature, and it is as if these Indian languages were created to describe these lilas, these bhavas. It is very difficult to translate because there is such a gulf to cross between that and this. It is futile, I know, to think that I could reproduce this--272 different hour-long studies in Radha-dasya.

When I first came back from India in 1985 and went to university, I went to an introductory course on, I think "Hinduism and Islam" or some other strange bedfellow course like that. But the professor, Braj Mohan Sinha, presented a four-dimensional model that stuck with me: "this worldly" and "other worldly" crossed with "immanent" and "transcendent" concepts of the Deity. He was, of course, looking for ways to contrast Hindu and Islamic concepts of God and religion.

Later on, those ideas get fudged around a lot. But Weber's idea of "this-worldly" and "other-worldly asceticism" and so on also came into the picture. Another thing that happened to me in those days when I was first going through reentry to the West culture shock was shaking me like a scarecrow in a thunderstorm. Alienation, identity crisis... my Lord, I was practically a teenager again with my Angst. The basic question was, "What have I been doing with my life for the past fifteen years?"

My mother thought: What people in your situation usually do is become doctors or something so that they can go back and help the starving and helpless hordes in lands like India. I toyed with the idea of joining CIDA, Canada's international development agency. It never happened, shukrallah. And the university campus ministry, with its United Church chaplain, fighting condescension as he cast silent judgement on years of mysticism when there is so much humanitarian work to be done. A book: The Self-Awareness Trap. The theme, self-realization is a mithya; political action is satyam.

And then, of course, The Future of an Illusion and all its spawn. The laughing atheists and their disdain for the sky-fairies of the credulous. The inheritors of the magic --> religion --> science vision of progress. This is all there is. And that, over there, repressed sexuality and other fantasies from the chthonic part of ourselves, looking for relief in dancing sky fairies and other flora and fauna of the imagination. Flowers in the sky, horned rabbits.

Well, I had to take a stab at it. Yes, there is a relation between what we experience as so-called reality, this lumpy dream that everyone calls reality. This reality that we struggle to come to some common experience of, in whatever way we can. And yet, which only comes to reality when we find the Self. Not the little self, the self that always seems to go askew into this or that mistaken channel of triviality, but the grand Self that, for all the thousands of years the world has had the time to struggle with the idea, is the Archetype.

Not real? And even with your Deconstructionists and all the rest, you still claim that your perception of reality is not the only thing you have, and reality is like Maricha's golden deer, ever on the horizon to be followed in futility.

Even if everything that exists in mentis first existed in sensu, it does not matter. Did Radha and Krishna come first? Or was it the first poet who saw something divine in the groping, grappling and grunting of horny adolescents, even when he knew as well as any modern scientist that they were just following an imperative of nature? The truth of the diamond exceeds any falseness of the gutter in which it lies.

The pearl of great price is worth more than any riches of this world. Seek out the company of those who possess it.

At any rate, the important thing for us all is to follow the path that has been given to us. And find the company of like-minded people and try to create a community of love. Melt yourself in the fire of rasa and throw yourself into the mold of love, come out a human being. And then, do as you will. You will transform the "real" world.

tasmAd amUs tanubhritAm aham AshiSo jna
AyuH shriyaM vibhavam aindriyam AvirincyAt
necchAmi te vilulitAn uruvikrameNa
kAlAtmanopanaya mAM nijabhrityapArshvam

Therefore, now that I am in knowledge, I do not yearn for the boons desired by conditioned souls such as long life, opulence, worldy glory, or sense pleasures, up to and including those enjoyed by Brahmä. All these are destroyed by You in the form of powerful time. So please give me the association of Your servant. (SB 7.9.24)

na pArameSThyaM na mAhendradhiSNyaM
na sArvabhaumaM na rasAdhipatyam
na yogasiddhIr apunarbhavaM vA
mayy arpitAtmecchati mad vinAnyat

One who has surrendered himself to Me desires nothing—not the position of Lord Brahmä or the kingdom of Indra, mastery over the Earth, or sovereignty over the netherworlds. He seeks not the mystic perfections of yoga, nor liberation from birth and death. He does not desire anything other than Me. (SB 11.14.14)