Monday, August 16, 2010

Vibhinna

I received the following query on Facebook from Gaura Das:

Haribol Jagadananda prabhu, I have a book called Vrndavana Krishna, by a Gopinatham. It is published by the Gaudiya Matha. Do you know of it, and consider it to be in line with siddhanta? I seem to remember Srila Prabhupada criticising some author who made a distinction between a Mathura Krishna, Vrndavana Krishna, and Dwarka Krishna, and these diferent "Krsnas" are mentioned in this book, so I was wondering if this was the book he was thinking to not be bonafide.

I don't know what Prabhupada's intention was, but the Gaudiya siddhanta is that Vrindavan Krishna is the highest form of Godhead, superior to Krishna even in Mathura or Dwarka. This is a very significant siddhanta, because it highlights the superiority of parakiya madhura rasa.

You cannot really say that they are "different" Krishnas, either. Any more than you can say Allah is different from Krishna. And yet in a very real sense they are different.

In fact, I always say that no two Gods are ever absolutely the same. The two Christian priests standing on the same altar saying mass do not have exactly the same concept of God any more than two Hindus or two Muslims, because God reveals Himself to everyone through their experience of life, which is always an individual experience. We only have common families of belief, communities of spirit. This is extremely important to understand.

At the same time, historically these families of belief develop. Sometimes they come together and sometimes they separate. Krishna, Narayan, Vishnu, Vasudeva... all these personalities were originally the gods of different cults, tribes or peoples, which through similarity or analogy were identified with one another, their myths intertwined and their ethics merged.

It is so interesting that so much of the shastra is about identifying one with the other, and then Rupa Goswami comes along and announces--


siddhāntatas tv abhede'pi
śrīśa-kṛṣṇa-svarūpayoḥ
rasenotkṛṣyate kṛṣṇa-
rūpa eṣa rasa-sthitiḥ


This is one of the most important mahavakyas in Rupa Goswami's philosophy. It is basically saying that shastra is useless for higher faith. Everyone is quoting shastra about this one and that one being better, "because it says so." krishnas tu bhagavan svayam is a statement on this order. You can believe it or not believe it. What can be done if someone does not? You say, "to each his own."

But Rupa Goswami says that we are going to "judge" God's various forms on the basis of their effects. He says that if God is sat-chit-ananda, by axiomatic definition, then we must judge Him on the basis of ananda, joy. Where is there the most joy?

This is a huge first step to raganuga bhakti. Because if you are still discussing God's powers, you will never really experience His love.



In this vein, someone else communicated with me to ask for the provenance and correct reading of the following verse:


pañcībhūtaṁ prema gopāṅganānāṁ
mūrtī-bhūtaṁ bhāga-dheyaṁ yadūnām |
ekībhūtaṁ gupta-vittaṁ śrutīnāṁ
śyāmībhūtaṁ brahma me sannidhattām ||


There are two variant readings, puñjībhūtaṁ in the first word, and rāśībhūtaṁ at the beginning of the second line. I think the first variant is the correct reading. The translation (off the cuff) is:

May that Brahman, which is the heaped up (or manifest in the world) love of the cowherd girls, the fortune of the Yadus taken form (or again piled up), the hidden wealth of the Vedas in one place, and has taken a black form, appear before me.

I found it quoted in Shiva Prasad Bhattacharya's commentary to Alankara Kaustubha 5.12. He credits it (and another) to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself, but I cannot recall seeing them in any other text. Perhaps S.K. De has it in his Padyavali as an interpolation. It would be nice to know where Bhattacharya got it.

At any rate, it is highly unlikely that it is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's own, though it fits into a kind of genre of verses that are found in the Padyavali, where Krishna is differentiated in some way from Brahman. You will find many verses like this in Krishna Karnamrita, and others by Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya and Raghupati Upadhyaya, etc., follow a similar structure. Prabodhananda also does the same kind of thing, especially in Vrindavana-mahimamrita. "Brahman to me is this."

A good example from Raghupati Upadhyaya, which is quoted in Padyavali (98) and Chaitanya Charitamrita (2.19.98) is the following:


kaṁ prati kathayitum īśe
samprati ko vā pratītim āyātu |
go-pati-tanayā-kuñje
gopa-vadhūṭī-viṭaṁ brahma ||

To whom can I say it? Who will believe me now when I say it? In the bowers by the banks of the Yamuna, the Supreme Brahman is flirting with the cowherd wives.

For the record, the other verse is as follows:


tad ekaṁ bhajāmas tad ekaṁ smarāmas
tad ekaṁ jagat-sākṣi-rūpaṁ namāmaḥ |
namaḥ purastād atha pṛṣṭhatas te
namo’stu te sarvata eva sarva ||

We worship that One, we remember that One, we bow down to that One who is the witness of all that takes place in the universe. We bow down to You from in front, from behind, we bown down from all direction as You are everything.

The last two lines are the same as in Gita 11.40, so if it is Mahaprabhu's, it is hard to give it much significance.



The following verse is quoted by Swami Veda in the beginning of the Yoga Sutra, vol. 1. He does not give the specific provenance or the Sanskrit.

Our homage to Shesha, the snake of eternal Kundalini, the residue that remains after the great dissolution, the one who incarnates again and again to teach the science of yoga.
Art Foundation

I will find that verse in Sanskrit when I go back to Rishikesh. The reference to Sesha as the teacher of yoga comes from the belief that Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutra, was his incarnation.

Zvonimir commented: "It begins to be very interesting when considering our body as the universe, and in the bottom of that universe Sesa dwells; waiting to release its potential by rising above slowly in a magical dance."

Absolutely. It is one of the all-pervading ideas of tantra-yoga, yad asti pinde, tad asti brahmande. This line shows up in various forms, prominently or otherwise, in all yogic traditions. Though it is not given so much prominence in Vaishnavism, it is still present, for instance the second canto of the Bhagavatam appears to be following the idea when describing the universal form, etc. "Whatever is there in the body, is there in the universe." The body is a self-contained unit in which the entire universe can be analogically found.


--o)0)o--

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The sloth stirs

It really is time to get this beast shaking again. Over the past few months I have not been doing much original writing. I had a few translation jobs that preoccupied me, and it would have been quite possible to comment publicly on that work. In fact, two different projects were directly connected with Ishopanishad, and I lectured on the Ishopanishad for a month at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama. There was definitely material that would have been of interest to my readers in that and now I am rather sorry that I did not take the trouble to publish my notes. Perhaps we can do it later. (He said with a sigh.)

One of the reasons I did not of course is that this blog has a somewhat specialized purpose, unclear as that may seem, and I would like to stick to that, rather than enter into an arcane discussion of the meaning of an ancient Upanishad. Though, since part of my work involved reading A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami's totally idiosyncratic interpretation of that work, it might have been worth looking at. Astu.

We are not out of the woods, yet, however. Currently I am working on editing Swami Veda Bharati's original first volume of the Yoga Sutra, which is a pretty solid, though somewhat formidable, piece of scholarship. Of the four padas of YS, the first seems to be the most important, and I will try to share some of the material as it becomes specifically relevant to my interests.

Activity in Vrindavan 

I am here in Vrindavan, and as I remarked the other day, I lost my computer with a sufficient amount of data lost to be worthy of lamentation. My camera also went, which is also something of a disaster as I was taking a lot of pictures, especially of Vrindavan. Luckily I posted some before it happened (Vrindavan-Mathura, August 2010).But of course much more would have already been in the camera when it parted. And it will likely be some time before I can replace it.

My principal purpose in being in Vrindavan is to get the Vrindavan Today news site working. Up until now, I have been preparing the ground as it were, but the loss of the computer was a big setback... at least of a couple of days. The basic idea of the website is this:

Vrindavan is in a bit of a crisis. The increased prosperity in the Delhi regiion, which extends as far as Agra, means a huge increase in the number of motor vehicles and traffic to Vrindavan. In one sense, it is good, as it means more wealth for the town and its people. But the materialistic approach to economic growth, if left unchecked, can be a cancer and may indeed destroy the essence of this spiritual town.

I won't go into detail here, but the flyover that was to be constructed over the Yamuna, circling around Keshi Ghat, is a perfect example of wrongheaded thinking. We are still not entirely out of the woods on that one, as the Parikrama Marg, originally the spontaneous creation of pilgrims honoring the holy dham by meditatively circumambulating it, is being turned into a ring road. But the negative impact of all these projects is not understood, either by the government or by the local residents. And those who do understand are scattered and disorganized.

In fact, it is sad to say, but the Vrindavan community of temple owners, ashrams and spiritual organizations, has literally no central institution of any kind to deal with these kinds of problems. No global forum to discuss and develop a common vision for the town and to advocate for it yet exists. The BVHA (Braja Vrindavan Heritage Alliance) is moving forward in this direction, at a snail's pace, but something IS happening. The BVHA has already had several successes, especially with Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in court regarding stopping the flyover and the cutting of trees in the road-widening activity, as well as the projected greening of Kishor Van.

The problems in creating such a forum are many. The main one is that most people are concerned with their own particular field of activity and cannot be stirred to projects that involve others. The concept of civic awareness is still not fully developed. There are historical reasons for this, but it is a constant battle in all societies: the forces of individual interest are always pitted against community interest, and without proper organization community interests can be easily steamrollers by the politically and financially powerful.

Another important thing is to have balance and not allow the domination of any one group. The BVHA cannot become any one person or group's show, thereby alienating other players. We have already had trouble with this issue at this stage, since we are still few and some, like Shrivatsa Goswami, Paramadvaiti Maharaj and Jagannath Poddar, have shown leadership, and each of them has his own base, interests and sphere of influence. This means proceeding with caution.

At any rate, the Vrindavan Today project has the purpose of making Vrindavan and Braj current events -- spiritual, cultural, and developmental -- available to the world on the net and creating common avenues of activism. This is another of the many ways I have been keeping busy while neglecting this site over the past several months.

Iskcon

I am staying at the Jiva Institute while in Vrindavan. Jiva is close enough to Iskcon that the magnetic attraction of that place has called me to it on a couple of occasions now. It is either the number one or number two (after Banke Bihari) attraction in Vrindavan. Now is the Jhulan season, which is one of the busiest times of the year in Braj and thousands of people go through the temple every single day.

But I have to confess that Iskcon's success is not an accident and from the looks of it has the potential to grow tremendously in the future. I do not think there is anything like it, perhaps in the entire world. There must be at least 100 young Indian men, who are committed to the brahmachari life. They follow a rather gruelling communal schedule when compared to most other ashrams--from mangal arati at 4 to breakfast at 9 before starting a regular day of seva. And these young men, though from a wide range of backgrounds, include a large number of modern, urban, educated individuals. Some very highly qualified. Certainly, the Iskcon style of kirtan and dancing etc. are something quite unique in Indian religious life. What to speak of the deity worship, which has clearly had a huge impact on modern Indian temple culture already.

Religious art is another area where Iskcon's influence has been huge, especially here in Vrindavan, where almost everyone steals Iskcon artists' work for their own billboards, books and posters.

I heard several classes at Iskcon in both English and Hindi and the quality of discourse, though entirely traditional, is at a much higher standard than it has been in the past. A wide number of authors are writing and publishing and being sold, both at the Iskcon temple and in town, indicating that the intellectual activity of the society is animated and febrile. This augurs well for the future. As Iskcon puts the structural problems of the past fully behind it, becomes increasingly self-confident, it seems inevitable that a certain degree of intellectual freedom will follow. It may be just as possible that it will follow a Roman Catholic model, but the liberal democratic background of the Western backbone of Iskcon, its lack of strong centralization, and the centrifugal forces of the guru institution will make such intellectual freedom inevitable.

Of course, in all this, it is hard not to be honest and admit that I am also an "Iskcon intellectual." I used to joke that I am to Iskcon as yogurt is to milk. It has fundamentally altered and can never go back to what it was. Nevertheless, its influence on my life is also fundamental, as much as yogurt is still milk. We could go on with the permutations and combinations of the entire Indian tradition, of which Iskcon is just another chapter, but my sources are there and my thought develops out of it. And just as Iskcon's Western influences, though not always apparent in its words, are nevertheless a major part of its ethos, its discipline and institutional force, those influences are a part of what I also bring to the evolution of Vaishnava thought.

To summarize: Iskcon is a vibrant and energetic organization. Vaishnava culture throughout India and especially in Vrindavan is benefiting from its energy. In one way of the other, it is at the center of developments in the Vaishnava world. This is a fact as much for me as it is for others, whether they like it or not.

Me

A couple of other things came out of my last couple of days of computer difficulty. One is that though a few people responded to my requests for help in finding a replacement for my lost machine, in general, the response was feeble. This is not a lament, but a recognition that the work I have done has not made much of an impression. At least, despite the nearly 5000 people who joined the Save Yamuna Save Vrndavan facebook site, only two or three saw fit to even sympathize with the situation, what to speak of offering help. Of course, several people did come forth, but let's be honest, not many.

On the other hand, I became aware of the relative notoriety of this blog. On the one hand, the Prem Prayojan Hindi newsblog and the BVHAlliance blogspot have not yet hit the radar, which is a bit of a shame, and the Gaudiya Grantha Mandir, which has been in even greater doldrums than this site, is still attracting a certain number of visits and Google searches. However, this site attracts quite a few more visitors than any of them. This was something of a surprise to me.

I have never bothered to install hit counters or get analytics installed. Maybe it is time.

So, even though there is not much feedback here at the present moment, it is food for thought, in terms of where my energies should be devoted and the necessity of creating a personal website that structures the essentials of my philosophy and practice and presents it in a digestible way.

One thing B.V. Madhava, the Iskcon sannyasi who gave Bhagavatam class yesterday said that struck me was the 20-80 rule. You accomplish 80% of everything you do in 20% of the time. As you grow older, your capacities diminish, so you have to concentrate on the 20% of important stuff and cut back on the rest. Whatever the truth of that statement, it certainly is true that my time is running out. Let us say that I am in the last quarter of my life and I have not yet done, basically, anything of substance.

So let's see if the local Maharani will help out and give me the concentration and energy to do everything that [I think] she wants of me.

Radhe Radhe!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bad news! Computer Lost!

Dear friends,

On the way back from Vrinda Kunj, my computer was lost. Not sure how it happened, but it is something of a disaster considering that I use the computer so much for so many things. And of course, there was a lot not backed up...

The computer has become so essential to my life that it is almost like a second self, or at least a second mind or brain. A lot of services will be affected, in particular the work on the Braj Vrindavan Heritage Alliance and Prema Prayojan blogs.

So I am sending out an appeal to all those friends who over the years have enjoyed or benefited from my websites like Gaudiya Grantha Mandir, or from writings in blogs like Jagat, or from my translations, to donate for a new computer.

I am sorry I have to do this, but I am afraid I have no other resources, so I am humbly asking for your assistance.

Please write to jankbrz {at} yahoo dot com.

Thanks.

Jagadananda Das.