Thursday, June 30, 2011

SKK 7: Yamuna-khanda

The Yamunā Khaṇḍa is the next section of the SKK. It is somewhat different as it has three divisions. Kāliya-damana-khaṇḍa, Vastra-haraṇa-khaṇḍa and Hāra-khaṇḍa. The section covers folio leaves 133/1 to 152/2.
  • Kāliya-damana-khaṇḍa (“The repression of , from 127.2 to 133.1 (songs 245 to 254)
  • Vastra-haraṇa-khaṇḍa (“The stealing of the clothes”), 133.1 to 144.2 (songs 255 to 276)
  • Hāra-khaṇḍa (“The necklace episode”), 144.2 to 152.2, but with 145-151 missing, so only 5 songs are left, 2 of which are incomplete. Probably 8-9 songs are missing.
This means that there would have been around 40 songs in the pālā, so I think we can imagine that these were meant to be performed on three separate nights. The events described do not take place on the same day. They simply have some continuity in terms of the plot. Some features of this section are that there is a wider range of participants than the three (Radha, Krishna and Barai) plus the other gopis, which we have become accustomed to. Nanda and Yashoda and the other Brajavasis are present in at least two of these three khaṇḍas, in particular Yashoda.

Another feature of the section is the influence that the Puranas have had on them, though only the Kāliya-damana-khaṇḍa shows any close resemblance to the classical sources, most clearly to the Viṣṇu-purāṇa version.

Another striking element is the somewhat more complex nature of the events, along with the confusing emotional ups and downs of the characters, which sometimes becomes quite incomprehensible and is only attributable to their immaturity. In fact, the characterization problems that we have been talking about since the beginning of our discussion of SKK are again in evidence here, as the “plot thickens” so to speak.

On the one hand we have the continuing hope that is no doubt being kindled in the audience’s mind of a positive outcome to Radha and Krishna’s love, and its constant self-sabotaging by their own childishness, especially where Krishna is concerned (though Radha does not seem to be without blame).

It is not even easy to entirely call hers a response to the existential situation, where she, as a married women, is caught in an impossible love from which she cannot extricate herself. One thing that has to be considered, as I have tried to do from time to time, is the social backdrop of the performance. What does not need to be said, since it will be accepted as common knowledge for everyone in the audience? But I have to confess that I find the story gets more and more confusing and problematic.

1. Kāliya-damana-khaṇḍa

In Kāliya-damana-khaṇḍa is notable for a significant shift in the love of Radha for Krishna. The section starts with Krishna thinking that he has enjoyed with the gopis in the forest, now it seems that it would be fun to have some jala-keli. Kālīdaha is the deepest and most suitable spot for such pastimes, but because the great snake is living there, the fish and trees have all died. The water is undrinkable. So Krishna decides to chase Kāliya to clean up the water and make it suitable for his jala-keli. This motivation is, of course, entirely original to SKK.

Krishna climbs a kadamba tree and jumps into the water and starts the big fight with Kāliya and his companion snakes who bite him all over and wind around him in an attempt to squeeze him to death. Krishna’s body is filled with poison and the few cowherds who are witness to this fear the worst.

While this is going on, Radha and some gopis are walking along the river bank to Mathura and see some cowherd boys in great anxiety. Getting the news of Krishna’s situation from them, Radha starts to cry and lament the danger or even death of her prāṇa-pati (“the love of her life”). Two songs make up this lament.



dāṁte tṛṇa kari jācoṁ kāhnāñiṁ | kapaṭa chāḍī āyisa mora ṭhāi ||

I beg you, Kanai, with straw between my teeth, stop pretending and come to me.
Radha calls herself a devoted servant girl. (bhakati-dāsika tejaha kehne ?)



jāhāta lāgiāṁ nija pati nā cahīla |
loka dharama bhaya kichu nā mānila |
hena kāhna mailā kālī dahe jhāṁpa diāṁ |
gopa yuvatī saba ānātha kariāṁ || 
hṛdayata ghāa diāṁ rādhā goālinī |
karae karuṇā vināyiāṁ cakrapāṇī ||
kabhoṁ nā laṅghiba āra tohmāra vacana |
uṭha uṭha jale haiteṁ nāndera nandana || 
ki kariba dhana jana jīvana ghare | 
kāhna tohmā biṇi saba niphala more ||

That Kahnai for whose sake I gave not a fig for husband, religious duties or fear, has jumped into the Kāliya lake and lost his life, leaving all the gopis as orphans. This milkmaid Radha’s heart has been wounded, O wielder of the discus! Come back out of the water, come back ! I swear I will never disobey you again. Of what use to me are home, family and possessions if I lose you? It is all worthless. (Song 247)
In all the versions of the story, gopis are mentioned, but I did not detect any madhura-rasa. The Bhāgavata has pūrva-rāga at the end of Chapter 10.15, with the following two verses describing Krishna’s return from the goshtha. Neither HV nor VP has this description. So the possibility of some madhura-rasa connection to the Kāliya story, which comes in chapter 16, stands to make some sense.



taṁ gorajaś-churita-kuntala-baddha-barha- 
vanya-prasūna-rucirekṣaṇa-cāru-hāsam |
veṇum kvaṇantam anugair upagīta-kīrtiṁ 
gopyo didṛkṣita-dṛśo’bhyagaman sametāḥ ||

pītvā mukunda-mukha-sāragham akṣi-bhṛṅgais 
tāpaṁ jahur viraha-jaṁ vraja-yoṣito’hni |
tat sat-kṛtiṁ samadhigamya viveśa goṣṭhaṁ 
savrīḍa-hāsa-vinayaṁ yad apāṅga-mokṣam ||

Lord Krishna's hair, powdered with the dust raised by the cows, was decorated with a peacock feather and forest flowers. The Lord glanced charmingly and smiled beautifully, playing upon His flute while His companions chanted His glories. The gopīs, all together, came forward to meet Him, their eyes very eager to see Him. 
With their beelike eyes, the women of Vrindavan drank the honey of the beautiful face of Lord Mukunda, and thus they gave up the distress they had felt during the day because of separation from Him. The young Vrindavan ladies cast sidelong glances at the Lord — glances filled with bashfulness, laughter and submission — and Śrī Krishna completely accepting these glances as a proper offering of respect, entered the cowherd village. (BBT)
Then Radha sends a cohwerd to fetch Nanda and Yashoda who immediately come with the rest of the cowherds, etc. Everyone starts lamenting, but like in the VP 5.7 and HV 2.12, Balaram steps in to remind Krishna of who he is. And this may be the first actual real stuti in the book. līlā-tanu dhari ebeṁ hayilāhā goāla (Song 249) Balaram lists the ten avataras and concludes, “You were all those and now you have appeared to kill Kamsa.” In this, the narrative resembles more VP 5.7.36-42 than HV 2.12.30-31 or BhP 10.16.22 where Balaram does not even say anything, but simply stops Nanda from jumping in the water, being fully knowledgeable that Krishna is in no danger.

With that, Krishna’s awareness returns. Song 250 describes how Kahnai defeats Kāliya and dances on his heads and that the Nagapatnis glorify him. Song 251 is the Nagapatnis prayers. This theme is in VP 5.7.48-59 and BhP 10.16.33-53. But the greatest similarity is to Vishnu Purana. Compare the refrain in verses 57 to 59, bhartṛ-bhikṣā pradīyatām (“grant us our husband, we beg you”) and SKK sāmī dāna deha dāmodara (“O Damodar, give us our husband!”).

In Song 252, Krishna sends Kāliya to the “south ocean” (“south” a detail not found in any other version). The benefits to Kāliya of having Krishna’s footprints on his head, which is described in all three Puranic versions, is here also mentioned. The story concludes with cheers and embraces. Radha watches with tear filled eyes. Krishna says, “I did it so the water could be drunk by everyone.” And he makes a ghat so that people can go down to bathe and collect water. (Song 254)

2. Vastra-haraṇa-khaṇḍa

Though this section is named Vastra-haraṇa-khaṇḍa, the actual stealing of the gopis’ clothes occupies only a small portion of it. The theme itself is found neither in HV nor VP, i.e. it is unique to BhP, but it is presented so differently here that it is legitimate to question whether this Purana is the source of the story. Whereas BhP has the unmarried gopa-kumārikās praying to Katyayani to have Krishna as their husband, and Krishna’s taking of the clothes symbolizing his acceptance and their total surrender, here none of the symbolic value is to be found. Indeed, the BhP’s theological overlay makes one even suspect that the SKK may be continuing to reproduce an archaic folk theme that had been adapted by the Purana without having penetrated the wider culture. This is, of course, quite possible if we maintain our belief that the Bhagavatam was not well known to Chandi Das and was fairly new in Bengali society.

The chapter begins with Radha and the gopis going there to fetch water from the ghat that Krishna has made in the river bank, now that the water of the Yamuna is drinkable. Krishna is sitting there, and so the gopis are all laughing and looking, forgetting to fill their jugs with water. They are discombobulated by his presence, their saris slip and they forget to adjust them.

Krishna goes up and speaks to Radha as if he did not know her. “Whose daughter-in-law are you? Of whose household are you the queen? Why are you coming here to fetch water?”

It is an open invitation to flirt, which Radha avails herself of. “I am married into a respectable household, and daughter of a respectable family. And if I have come here to fetch water, what is that to you?” Again Krishna tries to tempt her with an offering of tambul. Radha answers, “This offering means that you think you can catch a salmon with a tiny hook.” “Here, take these golden ankle bells.” “I am a cowherd girl, not a dancer. What use do I have for ankle bells?” “Take my golden flute, just talk to me.” “I wouldn’t use your flute even for spooning rice or stirring milk.”

On being offered a silken cloth, she says she wouldn’t even use it to wipe a ghee pot. On being offered a golden crown, she says, “You are black inside and out. If you use the water that has washed over this crown, then perhaps the gold may help clean you up a little.”

Krishna says, “Your pomegranate like breasts are driving me wild.” Radha: “Wrong fruit. You should really compare them to the mākāl fruit: Looks good, but you eat it, it’s poison.”

And so Radha has a riposte for everything Krishna proposes, but despite the playful nature of the exchange, she leaves him without hope, only the fear that he will not win her over. But Radha is clearly no longer the little girl who was desperately refusing Krishna’s advances in the dāna-khaṇḍa. She is not just parrying his advances with clever words, she is simultaneously driving Krishna crazy with provocative bodily movements. These are described in song 257: How she lifts her arms to fix her hair, or smiles. With each movement of her eyes, or adjusted cloth, Krishna takes it as a sign and challenges her, “Why are you doing that? Quickly, let me hold you or I will go mad.”



bātula hayiloṁ tohmāra doṣe, tore kariteṁ juāe mora paritoṣe

It is your fault I am going crazy, so you should set things right by satisfying me.
Radha innocently explains all her movements and gestures (song 258) as though she were really adjusting her hair or cloth for reasons other than to drive Krishna mad.


pabane calilo more hṛdaya basane daiba yogeṁ tāta tora paḍilo nayane

The wind blew and so my cloth slipped. It was just an accident that you noticed it.
She concludes by saying, “You are responsible for your own madness, so control your senses.” Poor fellow. Radha has certainly learned a thing or two about the art. [I am fairly sure there are parallels to this theme in the Sanskrit, but I will have to look them up. The song itself may be calqued on Sanskrit verses. Or vice-versa.] Krishna seems quite helpless now. “Why are you so angry with me?” he asks. “I did not do anything wrong. I just love you that’s all.”

So, once again he turns to Baḍāī for assistance. The old woman goes to Radha on his behalf and again reminds Radha,


āhmāra bacana nā karaha helā yauvana sāgare tora kāhnāi bhelā

Don’t disregard my words, Radha. Kanai is the raft that will take you across the the ocean of your youth. (260)
Radha’s reply, like her flirtatious actions, are still at odds with her apparent public avowal of love for Krishna in Songs 246 and 247. She complains,


baḍa duṣṭamatī se je kāṇa āhmā chāḍī nāhi jāṇe āṇa

Kanai is a real rascal. He does not know anything but me. (261)
Krishna responds by telling Radha the real reason he cleansed the Yamuna. He professes his undying love and asks her to come back and fulfill this purpose. But for some unclear reason he does not want anyone other than her to take water. Radha refuses to accept this double standard and so the argument goes on. Finally Krishna asks to say something confidentially, but when he gets close enough, on the pretext of whispering something to her, he kisses her cheek. Radha gets angry and negotiations break down again.

As she walks away, Krishna again tries to persuade her to return, but as usual, it is a mixture of furtive pleas of love and threats, “I will break your clay waterpot.”

Radha turns and gives him a piece of her mind,



bhāla manda kata loka patha mājhe yāe |
tāhāka bāriāṁ bola buliteṁ juāe | 
yehna tohme gopa kathā karaha bikāśa |
bujhila tohmāra kāje nāhiṁ kichu bhāṣa ||
pathata bāraha mana nāndera nandana |
ki kāraṇe jhagaḍa karaha saba khana ||

There are people on the public pathways, some are good, some bad. But you should be careful about what you say. You talk about these private matters in public, it makes it clear that you have no control over your speech. Control yourself on the public roads. Why do you always have to argue? (264)
Radha goes on to warn about her family situation and that he himself will be in deep trouble if things come out in the open. (265) Krishna responds by again turning to Baḍāī. He speaks of his heroism in defeating Kaliya and saving the community by restoring the safety of the water supply. But despite it all, Radha still was unsatisfied with him. "Go and tell her she can come and take water without any obstruction." (266) Baḍāī successfully intervenes on his behalf and Radha returns with the sakhis.

Now Krishna persuades them to go in the water to bathe, as it is the hot season and what could be more pleasurable than a dip in the cool waters? This is followed by a short description of jala-keli with the usual playful touching and splashing.

[Jala-keli is mentioned in the Bhāgavata at the end of the Rāsa-līlā (10.33.23-24) and in Dvārakā (10.90.6-13). It is also described in Śiśupāla-vadha, Sarga 8, based on HV (Ref?), also in the context of Dvaraka. The theme of Krishna disappearing is mentioned in UN 15.234. Also see Padyāvali 301, Govinda-līlāmṛta 15.55-68, Alaṅkāra-kaustubha 5.30, 8.122. For more see Vishnudas to 15.234. See also Caitanya-caritāmṛta Antya 18.79-108.]

But Krishna hides amidst the lotus flowers, disappearing from the gopis’ view. They think he has drowned and they come out to tell Baḍāī. Though they are anxious about Krishna, since it is getting late, the girls return home with the intention of looking for him in the morning.

Krishna hides out on the banks of the Yamuna for a few hours, then returns home, but can’t sleep because of his desire for Radha. Then early in the morning he returns to the Yamuna and climbs a kadamba tree to wait for her. When the girls come, they take off their clothes to look for Krishna in the water. They discuss this first, and decide that since it is so early it is unlikely that anyone will come that way. Since they have left home in a hurry, they did not bring a change of clothing, necessitating this course of action. But of course, this gives Krishna the opportunity to steal their clothes.

The customary scene of Krishna insisting that they come out of the water with folded hands so he can see them in their naked beauty is followed. The theme is not explored very thoroughly though, with Radha only making one comment and then acquiescing to the demand. Krishna gives Radha back her clothes, but does return her necklace. (Songs 274-275) This reminds us again of the end of the Dāna-līlā when he also took her necklace, hoping to use it as a bargaining chip for extorting future favors.

There seems to be something missing here as apparently Krishna responds mockingly to Radha’s complaint that he has not returned the necklace. Krishna says to Baḍāī that if Radha and the gopis are going to bathe naked in the river they could expect trouble. “Aihana Ghosh keeps a woman like that, who has no regard for her seniors!”

More vastra-harana pictures.

Hāra-khaṇḍa

As noted above, this līlā is much truncated and little is left by which any thorough assessment can be made. However, it seems quite clear that Radha, having tried to get some action on her necklace through Baḍāī (277), fails and takes matters in her own hands.

When we return to the action, well near the end of the section, she is talking to Krishna’s mother and complaining extensively about his behavior, how he is repeatedly harassing her and the other gopis. How he took their clothes and stole her beautiful necklace. She asks Yashoda to please control her son, if not everyone will end up in great difficulty. “If Kamsa hears of this it will be the end of it for you,” she says in a veiled threat. Perhaps she has even gone and already tried to complain to government officials.

In song 279, Yashoda tells Kanai off. “We have lived in this community for a long time and have a good reputation. You have taken birth in this family and are supposed to bring honor on it, but it looks like you will be the cause of our downfall. If the girls complain to Kamsa then he will come and take us all off to prison. You should revere your parents, so listen to what I say and stop doing the things we have told you so many times to stop doing."

In song 280, Krishna lies overtly about Radha, placing all the blame on her. "I am there just minding my own business taking care of the cows and they keep calling me, 'O uncle (māmī, māmī!)' They have been teasing me and coming on to me, and now because they are afraid that I will complain about them, they have come and preempted me by complaining first. I swear on your feet that I am telling the truth!”

The pālā ends with Baḍāī taking Radha back to Aihana’s house and making up a big story about why her necklace has gone missing, making it look like she ran to escape a bull and fell into some thorns. [We will never know how her dress really got torn...] “By your past merit, your wife has escaped with her life...” Aihana thanks her and touches her feet in gratitude and respect.

Conclusions

So this section was pretty complex. Krishna engages in an act of heroism by defeating Kaliya. Indeed, this is a kind of “coming out” as an avatāra, as Balaram reveals to all that Krishna previously was one of the ten avatāras. [Interestingly enough, the demon-killing aspect of Krishna lila, which increases in the HV -->  VP --> BhP progression, is played down considerably in SKK, emphasizing Krishna’s humanity over his divinity.]

Radha has now openly spoken of her love for Krishna, and shown her emotion once he came out of the water. In the next chapter, the most complex so far, she starts by flirting quite openly with Krishna, pushing him to excrutiating desire, but when he responds, she rebuffs him and complains that he is always starting arguments.

Perhaps it is his lack of finesse. He keeps trying to use overt appeals to her to fulfill his desires, which he blames her for, blackmail (not allowing the girls to take water from the river), aggression (stealing a kiss) and threats (I will break your pots). He speaks openly in public without any apparent awareness of who might or might not hear him. Once again, Badai has to intervene on more than one occasion and arrange for things to continue. Krishna and the gopis have their water games. But once again, Krishna doesn’t seem able to leave well enough alone and pretends to drown, putting the girls into great anxiety.

The next day, the girls go into the water naked [for reasons that are a bit farfetched] and Krishna once again cannot leave well enough alone and continues to play games with Radha. By now she is fed up with his childish antics and goes to complain to Yashoda and perhaps even to Kamsa, prompting him to lie to his mother and cast all blame and suspicion on Radha. Just like Krishna lied when accused of eating clay or stealing butter. Alas, they are both just children!

The next chapter is the Bāna-khaṇḍa, which we have already described here (link below).

1a. Janma-khaṇḍa 1b. Tāmbūla-khaṇḍa 2. Dāna-khaṇḍa 3. Naukā-khaṇḍa 4. Bhāra-khaṇḍa 5. Chatra-khaṇḍa 6. Vṛndāvana-khaṇḍa 7. Yamunā-khaṇḍa 8. Bāṇa-khaṇḍa 9. Vaṁśī-khaṇḍa
10. Rādhā-viraha

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Optimism is not the same as magical thinking

I recently came across the following headline on Alternet, Don't Look on the Bright Side: Pessimism, Not Magical Thinking, Is What Will Save Us.

My immediate reaction was, “Optimism is NOT magical thinking.” I have written about this before, that religion, reduced to its essence, is simply an optimistic world view.

Religion means optimism. Faith means accepting that something is behind everything after all. That there is a meaning to existence, a purpose that has more depth than mere survival and the trivial enjoyments and pursuits that preoccupy the majority of people. Even an atheist has to find, accept or devise -- if for nothing more than practical reasons -- that there is some structure, some purpose to his own presence in the world. Science, for instance, cannot stand without a faith in the existence of structures and laws that are fathomable.

In a world where suffering is omnipresent, one needs a reason for living. Otherwise, the only logical option, in the face of inevitable suffering and death, is suicide. But religion is also realism. It does not deny or minimize the one absolutely incontrovertible fact about life, death -- jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyuḥ.

The Perils of Positive Thinking: to think something makes it happen “megalomania, plus narcissism, plus solipsism.” Omnipotence of the mind related to a particular stage of infancy. Yoga-sutra and vibhüti-päda. Through saMyama. A whole science where the mastery of certain exercises in concentration can produce effects in the world of phenomena. Not drawing an absolute distinction. The world is a product of mind, a product of consciousness.
Fortunately, the alternative to optimism is not pessimism, which can be equally delusional. What we need here is some realism, or the simple admission that, to paraphrase a bumper sticker, "stuff happens," including sometimes very, very bad stuff. We don't have to dwell incessantly on the worst-case scenarios — the metastasis, the market crash or global pandemic — but we do need to acknowledge that they could happen and prepare in the best way we can. Some will call this negative thinking, but the technical term is sobriety. 
Besides, the constant effort of maintaining optimism in the face of considerable counter-evidence is just too damn much work. Optimism training, affirmations and related forms of self-hypnosis are a burden that we can finally, in good conscience, set down. They won't make you richer or healthier, and, as we should have learned by now, they can easily put you in harm's way. The threats that we face, individually and collectively, won't be solved by wishful thinking but by a clear-eyed commitment to taking action in the world.
Reaction to the power of positive thinking culture that has pretty much defined corporate America since the time of Norman Vincent Peale, to the point of being almost cult-like in its intransigeance. Ehrlichman includes the “prosperity gospel” preacher Joel Osteen and contrasts it with realism, and characterizes it as “fundamentalism, know-nothingism and magical thinking”

Barbara Ehrenreich, whose latest book (Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. is a critique of the “positive thinking” culture that in many ways defines the American ethos from its very beginnings, at least from the time of

Magical thinking means you want what you want when you want it. That is quickly recognizable as childish thinking, “I must have the moon. Give me the moon, right now. I want it.”

Magical thinking is a phrase used to express a particular "primitive" attitude to the world, i.e., the idea of mental omnipotence. For a modern psychologist, the idea of yogic powers, for instance, is a classical example of magical thinking. This is regressive and childish, because one thinks that by mind alone and not by work one can achieve wish fulfillment.
Others simply describe God as the natural order, the healing and renewing power of existence or the creative principle in life. Yet, despite all of these non-supernatural God forms many still attend religious services, draw inspiration from sacred texts and enjoy the benefits of a spiritual community… I understand why anti-religious atheists are so reluctant to accept the fact that being religious doesn’t mean belief in the supernatural.
The panentheistic position that God is not separate from the creation even while being more than the creation is something that jars the atheist, who wants to combat anything that is remotely beyond the purely empirical. Indeed, it is only recently that the mind's role in affecting phenomena through even passive perception, has become accepted as a factor in scientific observation. Heidelberg principle?

The evolutionary ideas promoted by Tylor and Frazier in the 19th century conceived of human progress from childhood to maturity, the primitive man thinking in childlike concepts such as magic or omnipotence of the mind, then through religion and finally reaches true maturity in scientific rationalism.

In their view, magic means the predominance of mere wishes, religion that of abnegation, science that of realism and rationality.

Maya means "magical thinking". Craziness is defined by some as repeating a failed method over and over again and still thinking it will work. And so we go on trying to find happiness through ego and sense satisfactions. That is not magical thinking? And if I say, "Stop the world, I want to get off!" And if I do so, then God will protect and maintain me, why not?

In fact, fundamentalist religion has thrown people of faith into confusion. The renewed rationalist critique of neo-atheists like Dawkins, Hitchens and so on has many, especially on the thinking, liberal side of the spectrum, confused about what religion and God are.

As it is in this world, but because you live in the optimistic reality, the teleological reality of God's ultimate purpose, which is to express love, to experience love, and to lead everything and everyone to love.

The famous Serenity Prayer by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr seems to summarize this realism nicely, without demanding any magical thinking. "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

That is why you take the good where you can. You isolate it and focus on that in your heart. As the ultimate reality. Not because you can or cannot see the so-called reality of evil and negativity as it is in this world, but because you live in the optimistic reality, the teleological reality of God's ultimate purpose, which is to express love, to experience love, and to lead everything and everyone to love.

In Candide Voltaire goes through all these reflections (and in his time the world was really cruel, much worse even than now: Inquisition, slavery everywhere, atrocities of all imaginable sorts) and vehemently questions Leibnitz's theodicy whose conviction was that everything is not only right, but is best in the "best of all possible worlds."

At the conclusion of his novella, Voltaire says that one must "cultivate one's own garden." He comes to some happy conclusion after all because those who survive are ones who, after going through the most horrible experiences, are able to focus on their respective talents and work.

Voltaire indicates that being idle is the worst thing that can befall a human being. It would seem that he is opening the way to Sartre's existentialism. Make your own purpose, your own reality.

Even if Krishna consciousness were totally false, because it is an ideal cause -- to spread love of God, the ultimate good, throughout the world -- it has a great deal of power and meaning even without an objective empirical proof. However, it vitiates its potential through the inconsistencies of its own literalism. But the basic insight is correct.

What is the point of action? Krishna advised Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita to act, for to act is to confirm one's existence and its meaningfulness. Consciousness without action is meaningless. But both action and consciousness are meaningless without love.

The inherent contradiction in any atheism that is not nihilistic is this: As soon as you attribute purpose or meaning to life, no matter what or how trivial it is, and even if you claim to be the independent author of such an attribution, you are in effect positing something that when taken to its logical extreme is God.

So I also say the same thing. What can be better than a love-based sense of reality? Not that we believe it is already there, but we work towards it. We purify the concept of love. We live it, we realize it. We push the cause of love forward. We are on Leibnitz's side without denying Voltaire. So ultimately you have to come back to Leibnitz. Even cultivating your own garden has no meaning without an ultimate, deity-based framework.

Lament for the Impervious (from April 2004)

This article was written over several days in April 2004. I am republishing it mainly for the two UN verses that are quoted further down, as the subject of Chandravali came up in a Facebook conversation yesterday. It is always a curiosity to read old articles. Some interesting points, but the main thing I wanted was the verses from UN near the bottom.



The other day I was inspired to telephone an old Iskcon acquaintance who is an accomplished classical musician and composer. I thought I could sell him the idea of composing a work based on the rāsa-līlā according to the way I see its structure. Unfortunately, this devotee, who is now committed to the Ritvik camp, was very negative, even hostile.

Barely had the words rāsa-līlā come out of my mouth than my friend said, "We don't consider ourselves advanced enough to discuss such things." I made a few attempts to pierce the thick defensive wall he had thrown up, but he said, "We have made a decision to only listen to our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, and no one else."

Srila Prabhupada may have written about the rāsa-līlā in the Krishna book, but it was not just the subject matter that was a problem, it was obviously me. My reputation as the "Great Guru-Tyagi and Offender to Srila Prabhupada" apparently still hangs over me like Joe Bftsplx's cloud.

It felt tragic to me then, but I did not immediately realize how it had affected me. I reflected on it all day, and later, in the afternoon, when I went for a japa walk in the spring sunshine, I realized that I had encountered fear and not recognized it.

Now I like this particular devotee--I consider him a good man and a loyal devotee of Srila Prabhupada; he is a talented musician who has shown occasional inspiration and even brilliance in his composition. Somehow, I had the illusion that as a musician he would be an ally in the desire to understand and appreciate rasa . Hearing of our exchange, my [ex-]wife quickly disabused me of that. "Sometimes musicians are the most narrow-minded of people--think Wagner," she said.

But those are the errors we make in the throes of enthusiasm. When I first took shelter of Lalita Prasad Thakur, I was so inflated with the beauty and logic of it all that I took my message to the Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir--only to run into a gatekeeper who had specific orders to keep me out. The hostility was palpable and a bucket of ice water doused my ardor. It took me some time to overcome my crusading spirit, to recognize that walls don't come down by hammering on them if there is someone on the other side putting two bricks up for every one you think you have knocked down. It's not our business to knock down other people's walls, anyway.

On the internet, we sometimes engage in these debates, but there is not much point in that either. But at least there is distance--we can even laugh at the foolishness of other people's stupidity, anger or narrow-mindedness. We have the time to look at the words on the screen and to compose clever ripostes or diatribes. We have the time to think about psychology and tactics.

But personal encounters on philosophical matters are something that at least I personally have long avoided with Iskcon people. What happened on this particular day? I guess I am not as immune to transports of zeal as I thought. Perhaps I thought that as soon as he heard the words rāsa-līlā he would embrace me like Lord Chaitanya embracing Prataparudra and ecstatically repeating

tava kathāmṛtaṁ tapta-jīvanaṁ
kavibhir īḍitaṁ kalmaṣāpaham
śravaṇa-maṅgalaṁ śrīmad-ātataṁ
bhuvi gṛṇanti ye bhūridā janāḥ
Nectarean discussions about you give life to those who suffer,
like water to those who thirst in the desert;
sung by poets, they destroy all of one’s sins.
They are auspiciousness for the ears,
and they bring the fortune of love for you.
Those who are the most munificent of benefactors
distribute these wonderful words throughout the world.
(SB 10.31.9)
Live on illusion!

But this was a reminder of the gulf that exists between our approach to devotional life and that of Iskcon and especially the Ritviks. Some in the Gaudiya Math insist that Raganuga bhakti is the birthright of everyone in the line of Saraswati Thakur, but the walls that these devotees have built to protect themselves from the dangers of Hari kathā are the walls of vidhi bhakti. And no matter how many lifetimes they perform vidhi bhakti, unless those walls come down, nā pābe vraje vrajendra-nandana. It makes me sad, as I think of the beautiful verse that begins the Tenth Canto:

nivṛtta-tarṣair upagīyamānād
bhavauṣadhāc chrotamanobhirāmāt
ka uttama-śloka-guṇānuvādāt
pumān virajyeta vinā paśughnāt
The virtues of the Lord
who is glorified in the greatest poetry
are sung by those who know no thirst for material pleasure;
it is the medicine for the material disease
and is a joy to hear for all.
Who then will care nothing for them?
Only the soul-killers. (BhP 10.1.3)
Who taught these bhaktas of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to become soul-killers?

--o)0(o--

My use of the words “soul-killers” provoked the following reaction from another devoted friend:
[Jagat] declares that only the likes of him and the rāgānugā camp have any acquaintance with spontaneous devotional service. Indeed, it is this kind of sectarianism and extreme prejudice and bigotry that isolates the siddha-praṇāli camp into a sect of prejudiced, arrogant and self-righteous fanatics. Therefore, if you are not in the siddha-praṇāli camp, according to Jagat, you are a "killer of the soul."

...My God, is his ego so damn sensitive that over a little snub from an ISKCON type he has to start name calling and referring to them as "killers of the soul"?
These words taken from the Bhāgavatam are indeed strong. I am not very enthusiastic about hyperbole and I don't usually use it, as it nearly always leads to misunderstanding, but they do seem to me applicable, in a figurative kind of way. My main purpose was simply to reflect on the different approaches to devotional life. In the same vein, I said elsewhere,
Yesterday, when I was feeling hurt about [this devotee's] reaction to me, I ended up feeling better when I justified his reaction in my mind by calling it fear. But whatever his motivation, it was admittedly hard for me to feel respect for his guru-niṣṭhā. That was wrong. After all, respecting other people's adhikāra is the same thing as respecting them.

The universe is large, the jivas are countless. All are somewhere on the spectrum and Sri Guru appears to them all in some form or another. Though we may say it is all kapaṭa-dharma ("cheating religion"), that is partly unfair. Some have the saṁskāra to understand the yugala-rasa, some don't. Rupa Goswami himself says you need both prāktanī and ādhunikī saṁskāra (BRS 2.1.6). So, far from being something we should condemn, guru-niṣṭhā is full of merit.
But this does not change the fact that there are different strokes for different folks. Krishna is so kind that he accepts the service of all his devotees, but different devotees naturally see their own ways of doing things as superior to those of others.

In the ninth chapter of the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, Rupa Goswami gives a nice example of an indirect exchange between Radha and Chandravali, in which they use rather strong language to show the difference in their attitudes.

The following verse spoken by Radha has a double meaning running throughout, based on the pun on Chandravali's name ("many moons"). I'll just give the put-down part, with a rather liberal translation--

yā madhyastha-padena saṅkulatarā śuddhā prakṛtyā jaḍā
vaidagdhī-nalinī-nimīlana-paṭur doṣāntarollāsinī
āśāyāḥ sphuraṇaṁ harer janayituṁ yuktātra candrāvalī
sāpi syād iti locayan sakhi janaḥ kaḥ soḍhum īṣṭe kṣitau
Chandravali has an ambiguous attitude; she tries to cover all bases; her approach to love is simple-minded; I think she is naturally dumb. She makes the lotus of expertise in pleasing a man wither up and die, and what is more, she delights in these flaws. And yet, somehow she is being engaged in trying to bring life to Krishna’s hopes! Sakhi, is there anyone in this world who can stand for this? (UN 9.48)
And Chandravali's answer to that (speaking to a sakhi who is telling her to be more like Radha), using a parallel metaphor, is:

ṣoḍaśyās tvam uḍor vimuñca sahasā nāmāpi vāmāśaye
tasyā durvinayair muner api manaḥ śāntātmanaḥ kupyati |
dhig goṣṭhendra-sute samasta-guṇināṁ maulau vrajābhyarcite
pādānte patite’pi naiva kurute bhrū-kṣepam apy atra yā
Stop trying to persuade me to be meaner to Krishna! And don’t even mention the name of that other gopi, what to speak of comparing her to the full moon with all its sixteen phases. Her wicked behavior would drive even a tranquil-hearted monk to anger. Fie on her! The prince of Gokula, the most virtuous of the virtuous, who is worshiped by all the people of Vraja, falls down at her feet, and yet she won’t even give him the time of day! (9.49)
So these are the different moods in Vraja, but we should be able to extrapolate and recognize that there is honor in following one’s own nature in serving God, and though we may feel differently, we do respect that basic inspiration.

The other day I was translating the Muktā-carita, and I came across this passage which gave me a little trouble, but reading the ninth chapter of Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi clarified it for me.

vaidagdhyāvaidagdhyayor avicāreṇaiva 
yatra kutrāpi sarvatra pravṛttir iti doṣaḥ | 
sāralyādhikyena uttamānuttamāvicāreṇaiva vaiṣamyaṁ vinā 
sarvatra samatayā pravṛttir iti mahān guṇaḥ | |

Tungavidya accuses Krishna of being “mixed with both virtues and faults.” When asked what those virtues and faults are, she answers somewhat ambiguously, “Getting involved with all women without making a judgement of whether they are clever and dexterous in the ways of love is a fault. On the other hand, his involvement with all women without discriminating between superior or inferior out of his natural simplicity is a great attribute."

The point is that Krishna is kind to all, he is equal to all. He accepts everyone’s service, whether done with expertise or not. He is equal to all, regardless of their individual qualifications. Such egalitarianism is one of the Almighty God's great attributes. He is not impressed by a person's external achievements or failures. He responds to devotion. And yet, Tungavidya teases Krishna precisely because he accepts the devotion of those who don’t understand the highest mood that is incarnate in Radharani. (Notice the use of the word vidagdha in both the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi 9.47 and Muktā-carita passage.)

And yet, Rupa Goswami, still in the ninth chapter of Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, explains that these different attitudes are the source of pleasure for Krishna.

saṁmohanasya kandarpa-vṛndebhyo’py agha-vidviṣaḥ
mūrto narma-priya-sakhaḥ śṛṅgāro vartate vraje
kṣipen mitho vijātīya-bhāvayor eṣa pakṣayoḥ
īrṣyādīn sva-parivārān yoge sva-preṣṭha-tuṣṭaye

ata eva hi viśleṣe snehas tāsāṁ prakāśate ||
One of the intimate friends of the enemy of Aghasura, who is more enchanting than all the gods of love, is śṛṅgāra-rasa, who has taken human form and lives in Vraja. Envy and these other conflicting states of mind are his expansions. He is the one who thrusts the various gopis into these conflicting states of mind for the sake of his dear Krishna's satisfaction. Therefore when the gopis are separated from Krishna, they feel affection for each other. (9.42-43)
The example he gives is taken from Lalita-mādhava (3.39). After Krishna has left for Mathura, Radha and her friends search Vrindavan in disbelief, convinced that he is still hiding there somewhere. At Govardhan, Radha catches sight of her reflection in a pond and, thinking it to be Chandravali, appeals to her in the following words:

sāndraiḥ sundari vṛndaśo hari-pariṣvaṅgair idaṁ maṅgalaṁ
dṛṣṭaṁ te hata-rādhayāṅgam anayā diṣṭyādya candrāvali
drāg enāṁ nihitena kaṇṭham abhitaḥ śīrṇena kaṁsa-dviṣaḥ
karṇottaṁsa-sugandhinā nija-bhuja-dvandvena sandhukṣaya
O Chandravali! How fortunate I am to see you! Up to now, it has been a most inauspicious day. How many times Krishna held you tightly in his arms. Quickly, water my thirsty soul by wrapping your arms, which still carry the fragrance of Krishna's flower ear ornaments, around my neck. (9.44)
Yesterday, in the rather different world of Canadian politics, a situation came up that reminded me of this. Svend Robinson, a sitting member of our most left-wing party, who has always played the very public gadfly and defended issues that range from Palestinian rights to gay rights to the right to die, got into trouble in a shoplifting incident and resigned from the House.

The reaction from the Prime Minister was not one, as you might expect, of glee at the humbling of such an outspoken troublemaker, but good wishes that he recover from his lapsus so that he could come back and serve the Canadian people. This generous response recognizes that Mr. Robinson, though his approach may be at polar opposites to those of the PM, still shares one fundamental common interest--service to the interests of all Canadians. So when we encounter conflicts, it is always a good idea to take a little bit of distance from the cut and thrust of debate and remember that we’re all in this together.

Nevertheless, we will not give up our niṣṭhā simply to try to please others. Krishnadas Kaviraj would not have gone to so much trouble to establish the superiority of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s gift to the world. He would not have said,

jār jei bhāva se māne sarvottama
taṭastha hoiyā vicarile āche taratama
Though everyone thinks his own mood is the best, one who is impartial can see which is truly superior or inferior.
And we know which side he came down on:

anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śriyam
hariḥ puraṭa-sundara-dyuti-kadamba-sandīpitaḥ
sadā hṛdaya-kandare sphuratu vaḥ śacī-nandanaḥ
The Lord has never at any time given the treasure of devotional love, this most elevated, effulgent taste of sacred rapture. Nevertheless, out of His mercy, He has incarnated in this age of quarrel in a golden form to distribute that treasure freely to the world. May Lord Chaitanya, the son of Sachi, dwell in the cave of your heart like a lion forever. (Vidagdha-madhava 1.4)
So though we bow our heads to every creature in the world, all of whom knowingly or unknowingly strive to serve God or humanity, we feel a special distress when devotees of Mahaprabhu miss the point. If that leads us occasionally to strong words, please forgive us.


Jai Radhe!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

People only think they are free of myth

People only think they are free of myth. Myth is an integral part of psychology. Even the so-called "awakened life" is a myth. It is a helpful myth, but it is feeble, because it is without bhakti. That is what makes it a myth in the sense of illusion.

There is no bhakti without myth, no love without bhakti. Human beings are myth-making creatures because there is no reality without myth. Where would your reality go if it had no myth to follow?

Radha and Krishna are eternal archetypes. There is not much point in historical references except to see how the concept of the sacred nature of human love has developed.

As our understanding of love as Truth develops, our giving sacred form to that Love symbolically becomes a necessity.

Symbols encapsulate entire constellation of ideas. The words "Radhe Shyam" contain both the myth and the reality of Love. So sing the names of the Divine Couple.

Radhe Shyam! Radhe Shyam! Radhe Shyam! Radhe Shyam!

If our symbols are not consciously sacred they become mundane. It is better to take a mundane symbol of love that approximates the purity of the Ideal and attribute sacred character to it than to be without any sense of the sacred whatsoever.

But better than that is to subsume all manifestations of love, to the degree that they are pure, into the overarching archetype of the Divine Couple. That way, the sadhana of love becomes possible, because it gives a point of connection between the Divine and the human.

Once the Divine Center in Radha and Krishna has been discovered experientially, however, all other partial symbols fade into insignificance, or simply become reference points for the sake of communication.

But for the sadhaka, there are so many of these "partial" manifestations that it becomes distraction. Abelard-Heloise, Cyrano-Roxane, Romeo-Juliet, Tristan-Isolde, Kama-Rati, and all the ancient mythical divine couples from Isis-Osiris to Lakshmi-Narayan, are mere ripples in the sea of Radha-Krishna.

What to speak of you, finite creature, and your lover!

Some of Radha's qualities


Rādhā has twenty-five principal qualities that are described in the fourth chapter of Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi (11-15):

atha vṛndāvaneśvaryāḥ kīrtyante pravarā guṇāḥ |
madhureyaṁ nava-vayāś calāpāṅgojjvala-smitā ||11||
cāru-saubhāgya-rekhāḍhyā gandhonmādita-mādhavā |
saṅgīta-prasarābhijñā ramya-vāṅ narma-paṇḍitā ||12||
vinītā karuṇā-pūrṇā vidagdhā pāṭavānvitā |
lajjā-śīlā sumaryādā dhairya-gāmbhīrya-śālinī ||13||
suvilāsā mahābhāva-paramotkarṣa-tarṣiṇī |
gokula-prema-vasatir jagac-chreṇī-lasad-yaśāḥ ||14||
gurv-arpita-guru-snehā sakhī-praṇayitā-vaśā |
kṛṣṇa-priyāvalī-mukhyā santatāśrava-keśavā |
bahunā kiṁ guṇās tasyāḥ saṅkhyātītā harer iva ||15||


All of these qualities are said to bring Kṛṣṇa under her control. They are divided into four groups: physical, mental, verbal and social.

The six qualifications of the first group are that she is: (1) sweet, (2) a fresh maiden; (3) she has enchanting sidelong glances and (4) a glowing smile; she is (5) decorated with auspicious signs on her hands and feet, etc., (6) her bodily fragrance is potent to enmadden Mādhava himself.

The qualities of mind are ten in number: she is (1) modest, (2) compassionate, (3) expert, (4) clever, (5) shy, (6) mannerly, (7) calm and patient, (8) grave, (9) knowledgeable in the ways of love and (10) possessed of the highest perfection of love, namely mahā-bhāva.

Those of her qualities which are related to speech are three in number: She is (1) highly talented in music and song, (2) expert in speaking attractively and (3) clever in making plays on words.

Other than these 19 qualities, Rādhā has six virtues that are connected to her dealings with others: She is (1) the object of all Vraja's love; (2) her glories are spread throughout the entire creation; (3) she is treated with the greatest affection by all the older folk in Vraja. She is (4) controlled by the devotion of her girlfriends and is (5) the chief of all those beloved of Kṛṣṇa. Finally, (6) Kṛṣṇa himself is always ready to obey her slightest command.

Elsewhere, it is said that Rādhā's physical features are divided into seven categories according to (1) her age, (2) form, (3) loveliness (lāvaṇya), (4) her beauty (saundarya), (5) her nobility (abhirūpatā), (6) her sweetness (mādhurya), and (7) her softness (mārdava). These qualities have been described by Prabodhānanda in his Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta (7.92-98):

(1) Her age (vayas): “Her divine form reveals a new, exciting youthfulness.”

(2) Her form (rūpa): Rūpa is defined as “that quality by which a young damsel appears to be fully bedecked with all varieties of ornaments when in fact she is not.” (UN 10.25)

aṅgāny abhūṣitāny eva kenacid bhūṣaṇādinā |
yena bhūṣitavad bhāti tad rūpam iti kathyate ||


“Rādhā's amazing form causes the entire universe, including the Supreme Lord, to lose consciousness and fall in a faint. It bewilders the mind, for it is the very picture of sweetness overflowing.” (VMA 7.97-98)

(3) Her loveliness (lāvaṇya): “She is the embodiment of billions of oceans of loveliness.” Lavaṇya is defined by Rūpa Gosvāmin as “an indescribable aura that emanates from within every limb of a young woman in the way that a glow expands from a pearl.” (UN 10.28)

muktā-phaleṣu chāyāyās taralatvam ivāntarā |
pratibhāti yad aṅgeṣu lāvaṇyaṁ tad ihocyate ||


(4) Rādhā's beauty (saundarya), defined as “the perfect and charming arrangement of all the limbs of the body,” “At every step, Rādhā enchants the world with her amazing beauty.” “She is the foremost of the milkmaidens of Vṛndāvana, she is decorated with all good qualities and in every limb is perfectly and beautifully formed.” “The beauty of even the tip of her fingernails causes the best of the universe's beauties like Lakṣmī, Pārvatī, Rati, etc., to all bow their heads in shame. Her grace and golden lustre are unlimited.”

(5) Her exquisiteness (abhirūpatā), defined in the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi as “the unique quality that causes the beautiful properties of one's own body to be transmitted to other objects that are situated in proximity to it.”

The following example is given of this particular quality:

vakṣoje tava campaka-cchavim avaṣṭambhoru-kumbhopame
rādhe kokanada-śriyaḥ karatale sindūrataḥ sundare |
drāg indindira-bandhureṣu cikureṣv indīvarābhāṁ vahan
nakaḥ kairava-korako vitanute puṣpa-trayī-vibhramam ||

One day, by the banks of Rādhā Kuṇḍa, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī was twirling a white lily that had been given her by Vṛndā. At that time, Kṛṣṇa playfully took it and touching it first to her breasts and then to her hair said, “O Rādhe! How wonderful that this one lily blossom has taken three different forms: When in contact with your golden jug-like breasts, it appears to be a golden campaka flower; when by your hand it takes on the form of a pink lotus, and when held near your hair, which glistens blacker than a bumblebee, it looks just like a beautiful blue lotus.” (UN 10.35)
In Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta:

daśa-diṅ-maṇḍalācchādi-sugaurāṅgocchala-cchaviḥ |
cid-acid-dvaitam āmajjaty ucchalan madhura-cchaviḥ ||
mahā-prema-rasāmbhodhi-jṛmbhaṇaikādbhuta-cchaviḥ |
śrī-kṛṣṇātma-prāṇa-koṭi-nirmañchaika-rasa-cchaviḥ ||
svayaṁ prabhā cid-advaita-sat-premaika-rasa-cchaviḥ ||

Her golden bodily lustre fills the ten directions with its glow and all things, within the universe, conscious or unconscious; all become one in the ocean of her exquisite beauty.... She is the embodiment of all charm arising from the ocean of pure and great love for Kṛṣṇa with ten million lives and she bears the charm born of the foremost of all loving sentiments, the conjugal... She is a self-manifested picture of the spiritual non-duality of ecstatic love. (VMA 7.94-96)
(6) The quality of sweetness (mādhurya) is defined as an inexpressible quality of all-pervading charm or sweetness in the body of a beautiful girl. “It is as if great heaps of sweetness have been gathered together in her body just to enchant the universe.”

(7) The Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi defines mārdava, “delicacy” or “softness,” as “the inability to tolerate the touch of any hard object.” Vidyāpati also writes, “This young girl's body is as soft as a garland of flowers.”

From Section 4.41 of Mañjarī-svarūpa-nirūpaṇa by Kunja Bihari Dasji.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Is a Universalist Radha-Krishnaist community possible or desirable?

I recently posted a review of Universalist Radha-Krishnaism, which led to personal discussions with the author and others. Without divulging the content of those discussions, I would like to share some thoughts.



It seems to me that one of the purposes of religion is community creation. For many sociologists and anthropologists, of course, that is the primary purpose of religion.

It has now become the habit of those who are individualists to say they seek “spirituality” and make a strong distinction between the social forms of religiosity and the personal.

I believe this is a false dichotomy, as society is made up of individuals, and a society of strong individuals is a strong society. But all societies need commonalities, otherwise there is no community. We should perhaps distinguish between society, with which an individual may have only tenuous identification, and community, where such identifications are much stronger. Society is larger, community more intimate. One finds only peripheral meaning in the former, greater meaning in the latter.

Human beings are social animals. They crave intimacy with other human beings, they crave friendship, they crave community where people are cared for unconditionally. They also crave the realization of their own individuality, no doubt, but on its own, the “monad” or kaivalya self-contained unit style of individualism is a hollow achievement.

The dialectic of individual and society is certainly one of the most important processes that goes on for any human being or community, and in the larger world of today, individuals are constantly splitting off from one social organism to either float free and undetected in the overarching society of norms and values (usually unconscious), where meanings are relativized to a frankly deeply alienating level, or to other smaller social organisms where meanings are held more intensely. Often such smaller social groupings can be collectively alienated, as with cults or fringe political parties.

Alienation has various outcomes. One extreme is, of course, the madness of the man who flies a Cessna into a government office building or goes on a shooting spree. The alienation of a more stable, spiritually inclined person is one of education, reflection, self-examination, of self-discovery. Of sādhanā. Of finding God in one’s own silence.

But the force of such self-discovery, in a healthy soul, always has the transcendent caveat that when you come out of the cave, down from the mountain, you bring a message for humanity. That you have something meaningful to say to others. That the discoveries you have made are communicable. Alienation is not a natural state of the soul. Alienation is but a motivation to seek meaning, truth and community.

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, in his poem, Mon, Tumi kisera Vaishnava? (“What kind of Vaishnava are you, O mind”) famously criticized the reclusive anchorite for being an egoist seeking gain, or prestige or public adulation instead of genuine insight. But he was himself visionary enough to recognize that institutions have a weight that easily stifles the full development of the individual by its innate pressure to conformity. In one famous essay, Pūtanā, Saraswati warns against the mechanisms by which religious corporations and their bureaucratic leaders are co-opted by the material energy.

But this is a dialectic that is constantly looking for synthesis. There is no individual who is not conditioned by inherited language, beliefs, and symbol systems. The quest for self realization is the quest for personal synthesis (“psycho-synthesis”), one in which the inherited beliefs must be challenged through education, reason and rigorous self-examination (śravaṇaṁ, mananaṁ, nididhyāsanaṁ), after which the vision of the self (ātma-darśanam) is achieved.

This is, ultimately, simply the achievement of meaning. But all meanings are not equal. A person who has made a rigorous quest and attempted a larger synthesis may well achieve something approaching atomic fusion, in which an explosion of energies expands outward from his realization. In other words, he or she discovers meanings that, in the particular social circumstances from which he or she has emerged, stretch far beyond the narrow confines of their own life.

Meaning is necessary for personal survival. The more significant seeker is one whose meanings lead to the survival of communities or whole societies.

My own feeling is that today’s larger society is by virtue of its sheer size both atomizing and alienating. The Western individualistic ethos is on the whole appropriate, but at the same time destabilizing. It has led to a mass of alienated individuals whose banal meanings are mediated through television sitcoms and other mass entertainments, or who create strange communities based on shared hatreds. On the whole, the individualism of Western society is artificial and illusory.

In fact, because individualism is an attempt to move away from inherited meanings, it is rational and negative (neti neti) in character. Bhakti, being love, is social. This is why bhakti is often thought of as religion rather than yoga, which is identified with spirituality. But bhakti recognizes the need for the positive expression of values and the limitations of the via negativa. Love always requires the commonality of values, so you cannot really talk of love without religion. Religion here being shared meanings or ultimate concerns, usually mediated through symbol and ritual.

This is why for me, the love of a man and a woman, seen as sacred and the principal vehicle for spiritual sādhanā, has to have the framework of Radha Krishna’s nikuñja-līlā and nitya-vihāra. But the idea of Vrindavan and the sakhis, the two other aspects of the fourfold truth of Radha and Krishna, means sacred place and sacred community. Without that framework, individual self-discovery and the mutual self-discovery inherent in the love of a sādhanā partner, are difficult if not impossible to achieve.

Of course, I am not specifically refering to Radha and Krishna bhakti here, since parallel frameworks will be operative in any religious community. Nevertheless, I feel, as I believe the author of Universalist Radha Krishnaism does, that the Divine Couple (“God-dess” if you will) is a symbolic manifestation of the Truth that recognizes the vital mediating role of the Couple between the individual and society. The dual that mediates between the singular and the plural.

Of course, we are always returning to the drawing board. So any mature society requires reflective individuals who constantly repeat the process of education, reflection and meditation to renew their vision. The same holds for the mature couple who will grow through the same process in the midst of their sādhanā of love.

But this is possible within the framework of fundamental faith, of an ultimate concern that is contained within a symbol system, by definition immovable and constant, which holds within itself the very dialectic itself.

Radha and Krishna are precisely such a symbol.

Worship of Radha and Krishna that does not recognize the symbolism of the dual is a house divided against itself, where the symbols and their interpretation are at odds. Similarly, a worship of Radha and Krishna that is purely eremetic in character and does not recognize the necessity of community creation is also unbalanced. Through honest self-discovery, love, and the persistence of communication to the appropriate audience, the creation of community is both desirable and inevitable.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sanātanātmā Prabhu

Sutradhara: My dear professor, you are a true scholar of the dramatic arts. I have now learned that we are about to stage a short play of the bhāṇikā type named Dāna-keli-kaumudī. But before so doing, it is incumbent on us to say a prayer to our chosen deities. (Folding his hands):

nāmākṛṣṭa-rasajñaḥ śīlenoddīpayan sad-ānandam |
nija-rūpotsava-dāyī sanātanātmā prabhur jayati ||
Glories to the guru, Sanatan Goswami,
whose tongue is always attracted to chanting the Lord's names,
whose character awakens bliss in the saintly,
and who gives a festival of joy to his disciple Rupa.
Or, (another meaning of the same verse)
Glories to that eternal lord,
whose name attracts the knowers of rasa,
whose activities always delight Nanda,
and whose beauty is a festival for all.
Rupa Goswami also uses this verse as his auspicious invocation to Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi (1.1). Since Krishna's name is not used directly, whereas his own name and that of his guru Sanatan are both found in the verse, I have taken that as the primary meaning, that of Lord Krishna as secondary.

Of course, the word prabhu could immediately be taken to mean Krishna and sadā nandam a reference to Krishna's father, but these do not seem quite as immediate as Sanatana and Rupa. Prabhu is used elsewhere by Rupa to refer to his guru.

Vishwanath points out that the five rasas of śṛṅgāra, vātsalya, sakhya, dāsya and śānta are all being included here, beginning with śṛṅgāra (rasajñā), vātsalya (nandam), sakhya and dāsya (nija-rūpotsava-dāyī) and śānta (sanātanātmā). By the same token, they could all be taken as references to madhura-rasa by simply reading sadā nandam as sadānandam.

Another way of looking at the verse is that it speaks of the different devotional practices as the devotee progresses in realization. His practice begins with sankirtan of the Holy Name, progresses to meditation on Krishna's pastimes (śīla), and finally, with direct darśana of his form.

It has been argued by S.K. De that Dāna-keli-kaumudī was written before Rupa Goswami met Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. This is due to a misreading of the date as 1495 (rather than 1549), which is of course completely untenable, as the names Rupa and Sanatan themselves were given the two brothers by Mahaprabhu. But one of De's arguments is that there is no glorification or word of homage to Chaitanya in the play.

This is a result of failing to see the reference to Mahaprabhu in this verse. Without naming Chaitanya directly, it does in fact describes him very nicely; it is a third meaning that has escaped not only him, but is not mentioned by Jiva Goswami either. Vishwanath Chakravarti has detected it, however, in his Ānanda-candrikā commentary to Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi and I find it persuasive. Following that commentary, the verse can be read:

nāmākṛṣṭa-rasajñaḥ śīlenoddīpayan sad-ānandam |
nija-rūpotsava-dāyī sanātanātmā prabhur jayati ||
Glories to the Lord [Chaitanya Mahaprabhu], whose tongue is always attracted to chanting his own names [or who attracted devotees, knowers of the rasas like Rupa and Sanatan, to his side through Harinam sankirtan], whose pastimes inspire eternal bliss [or joy in the pious], who through his own [other] forms like Advaita and Svarupa Damodar gave the ultimate (ut) sacrifice (sava) [of saṅkīrtana to the world (yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyaiḥ)], and who accepted Sanatan as his very self [or his own body]. 
With regards to "accepting Sanatan as his very self" (sanātanātmā), where ātmā can be taken to mean body, Vishwanath refers to the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (3.4.76-78). There Mahaprabhu says to Sanatan Goswami,
Your body is my own property, for you have surrendered yourself to me. Why do you want to destroy what belongs to another? Are you unable to tell right from wrong? Your body is my principal instrument, for through it I will achieve my purposes. (3.4.76-78)
Elsewhere in the same chapter, Haridas Thakur confirms the above:
The Lord says your body is his own property, so no one can equal you in good fortune. What he cannot do himself he wants to do through you, and that in Mathura. Whatever the Lord wants one to do is certain to be carried out. I tell you with all certainty that you are most fortunate. (CC 3.4.94-96)
Vishwanath also suggests an alternative meaning for nija-rūpotsava-dāyī which Saraswati spoke through Rupa to glorify him: "Through his own devotee, Rupa, he gave a festival of joy [to the world]." For just as Mahaprabhu acted through Sanatan, he also made his own heartfelt wishes clear to the world through Sri Rupa. Nowhere is this praise more appropriate than in the UN.

śrī-caitanya-mano'bhīṣṭaṁ sthāpitaṁ yena bhūtale
so'yaṁ rūpaḥ kadā mahyaṁ dadāti sva-padāntikam
When will that Rupa Goswami, by whom the heartfelt desires of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu were established on earth, give me shelter of his lotus feet? (Narottam Das, Prārthanā)
Of course, the meaning given for the Sanatan reading is equally applicable here, "gave a festival of joy to Rupa," or that used in the Krishna reading of the verse: "whose beauty is a festival for all."

In fact, triple meanings are not so rare in the works of the Goswamis. See, for instance, Shri Jiva Goswami's own commentary to his introductory verse to Gopāla-campū, which can be parsed in three different ways:

śrī-kṛṣṇa! kṛṣṇa-caitanya! sa-sanātana-rūpaka!
gopāla! raghunāthāpta-vraja! vallabha! pāhi mām

Shri Jiva also used this verse again at the beginning of Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma and some other subsequent authors adopted it in their works also. In Gopāla-campū, Jiva's explanation results in the three following understandings:
O Shri Krishna! O Krishna Chaitanya! O Rupa, accompanied by Sanatan! Gopala [Bhatta]! Raghunath [Das]! All you other associates! [My father] Vallabha! Please save me!

O Krishna with Radha! Supreme Brahman! Illuminator of all! Possessor of an eternal form! ‘You who are dear (vallabha) to the settlement (vraja) of your own folk (āpta), the cowherds (gopāla), whether humble (raghu = laghu) or exalted (nātha)! Deliver me!

O Krishna accompanied by Radha! You who became incarnate as a devotee, Krishna Chaitanya! [You who have descended by becoming as Krishna joined with Radha!] You who remain with your extremely attached devotees, Rūpa and Sanātana! You who are always the beloved (vallabha) of that [land of] Braja which was adopted (āpta) by Gopala [Bhatta] and Raghunath [Das] as their home! Deliver me!
Of course, Sri Jiva is not satisfied with simply these three levels of meaning (one addressed to each person individually, one to Shri Krishna alone, and one to Chaitanya alone), and has subsidiary meanings within each of these interpretations also. But you will have to read Gopāla-campū for that.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

DKK: The Bhanika

The sixth verse of DKK states the genre of play that will be performed by way of a pun.

avagaṇita-sandhi-bhūmā nāṭya-kaleyaṁ baliṣṭha-saptāṅgā |
parama-suvṛtti-yugāḍhyā vara-rājya-śrīr iva sphurati ||6||

The verse compares the play to a powerful kingdom that disregards the need for treaties (sandhi), which is empowered by seven great parts (which are svāmī (king), āmatya= (ministers), kośa (treasury), rāṣṭra (land), durga (fortresses), and bala (armies). The third characteristic of the powerful kingdom is that it is prosperous (āḍhyā) due to being highly just and righteous (parama-suvṛtti-yuk). The sutradhara will only make it clear in his next statement that the nāṭya-kalā he is here talking about is the bhāṇikā.

According to the Sāhitya-darpaṇa, there are 18 varieties of uparūpaka, or dṛśya-kāvya, that is to say a performance that is to be watched rather than to simply be read or heard (śrāvya-kāvya). In this he differs from the Bharata Nātya-śāstra, which only lists ten (18.2-3). The bhāṇikā is named in the list of 18, but not in the older list. As it turns out, though, it is particularly well suited to the subject matter of this particular play, as we shall see.

When the above verse is read with reference to the bhāṇikā, the descriptive characteristics are to be read as follows: (1) It disregards the rules for the nāṭaka, which require five sandhis, or plot junctures. In fact, as we shall see, the bhāṇikā requires only two of these. (2) Furthermore, the bhāṇikā has seven aṅgas or parts, which we shall also list below. (3) And last, of the four kinds of acting style or vṛtti, it requires only two.

Most of the translations and terms we will use in this discussion are borrowed from the Ballantyne/Mitra translation of Sāhitya-darpaṇa. Here is the definition of the bhāṇikā as given there:


bhāṇikā ślakṣṇa-nepathyā mukha-nirvahaṇānvitā |
kaiśikī-bhāratī-vṛtti-yuktaikāṅka-vinirmitā ||
udātta-nāyikā manda-nāyakātrāṅga-saptakam |
upanyāso'tha vinyāso virodhaḥ sādhvasaṁ tathā ||
samarpaṇaṁ nivṛttiś ca saṁhāra iti saptamaḥ |

In the bhāṇikā fascinating costumes are worn, it only has a plot consisting of the mukha and nirvahaṇa. Of the four acting styles, it adopts only the kaiśikī and bhāratī and is conducted in only one act. The heroine will be of good character and from a noble background, whereas the hero is unreliable. It has seven parts: upanyāsa, vinyāsa, virodha, sādhvasa, samarpaṇa, nivṛtti and saṁhāra.
The word bhāṇikā is the diminutive form of bhāṇa, which is one of the original ten varieties of rūpaka. The bhāṇa is predominantly bhāratī in style; its principal character is a rogue or dhūrta, who is mostly boasting of his conquests, whether erotic or heroic. This kind of performance is for all intents and purposes a monologue, a one-man show, also in one act and having only the two sandhis, mukha and nirvahaṇa. (See SD 6.312-314)

We will now look at each of these elements and explain them to the best of our ability, showing how they are applicable her. Keith writes that Rupa Goswami's DKK was "obviously written in accord with the text definitions" (A. Berriedale Keith, The Sanskrit Drama. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1998 (1924). Whether that is true or not seems irrelevant, as all plays were written in conformity with the prescriptions of whatever genre they happened to be in. Whatever the case, this genre does indeed seem to fit the subject of DKK perfectly and requires no added artifice.

The two junctures

Since the junctures (sandhis) have a large number of subdivisions, we will simply list them here, and where appropriate in the course of the play itself, we will point out their application. A typical full Sanskrit play (nāṭaka) will have five such junctures: mukha, pratimukha, garbha, vimarśa and nirvahaṇa. To go into an exhaustive description and analysis of these would be far too demanding to give here. Those who are interested can look to the translations of the various books on Sanskrit drama to get an idea. Tamal Krishna Goswami and Kushakratha Das did a commendable job in the notes and appendices to Jagannatha Priya Natakam, a work that deserves a great deal of credit for the adaptation of ancient Sanskrit dramatic forms into English.

Of the five junctures, only two are used in the bhāṇikā, the mukha and the nirvahaṇa which are the introductory and concluding portions of a dramatic plot. The three middle sandhis are the opposing factors and various complications in the development of the drama.

Mukha-sandhi
The mukha-sandhi is defined as that part of the play in which the bīja or seed, i.e., "the germ or origin of any composition (as of a poem or the plot of a drama)" (MMW) first is planted and begins to sprout. It is the introductory development of the plot. This has twelve subdivisions, which are given below. All the great works on Sanskrit drama give examples from the classic plays. Rupa Goswami uses the Lalita-mādhava as his textual example. Where relevant, we will be looking for illustrations of these features in DKK.
  1. upakṣepa: The first suggestion or hint of the dramatic matter. This usually comes immediately at the beginning of the viṣkambhaka, when the minor characters introduce the events that will be described.
  2. parikara: bījasya bahulīkāraḥ; "The enlargement." The covert or indirect intimation of coming events in a plot or of the bīja.
  3. parinyāsa: (bīja-niṣpatti-kathanaṁ) "allusion to the completion of the plot, a clear mention of the final goal or settlement of the matter."
  4. vilobhana: (nāyakādi-guṇānāṁ varṇanaṁ) "allurement, declaration of the hero or heroine's virtues, i.e., their capacity to see the adventure through."
  5. yukti: (samyak prayojanānāṁ nirṇayaḥ) "determination of purpose, deliberation, deciding on the propriety or impropriety of the course of action; resolution."
  6. prāpti: (sukhasya samprāptiḥ) "the attainment of happiness on hearing the resolution to carry through on the purpose." Examples are when Draupadi's joy on hearing Bhima's determination to avenge the misdeeds of Duhshasan in Veṇī-saṁhāra. Krishna's joy on hearing Radha's anklebells in the first act of Lalita-mādhava, giving a premonition of the joy that will come at the end of the play when they are finally united.
  7. samādhāna: (bījasya punar ādhānaṁ) "A firm establishment or reiteration of the plot (in a wider setting, or by a major character)." Such as when Radha herself declares her nascent love for Krishna in LM's first act.
  8. vidhāna: (sukha-duḥkha-karaṁ) "conflict of feelings, bringing both pleasure and pain" such as when Radha feels desire for a brahmin (causing her suffering) until she realizes it is Krishna disguised as a brahmin (LM 2.12).
  9. paribhāvanā: (ślāghyair guṇaughaiś citta-camatkāraḥ, RSK, kutūhalottarā vācaḥ, SD) "words exciting curiosity, wonderment, inquiry into progress [of the plot]"
  10. udbheda: (bījasya udghātaḥ ) "disclosure, the sprouting of the bīja, vow of action"; such as when Bhima sets forth to battle in Veṇī-saṁhāra.
  11. bheda: (bījasyottejanaṁ ) "Division, the element that activates the bīja "; Daśa-rūpaka has "urging, excitement"; Rupa Goswami gives the example of Kundalata encouraging Radha's love for Krishna (LM 2.20).
  12. karaṇa: (prastutārtha-samārambhaṁ) "resumption, inauguration of actual theme, proper commencement of the main business of the play"
Nirvahaṇa
Nirvahaṇa is the culmination, when the various strands of the plot that have been scattered in various directions are brought back together into a grand conclusion (mahat prayojanam) or finale. It has 14 elements (sandhy-aṅgas).
  1. sandhi (bījopagamanaṁ); "Junction": noticing the germ, i.e., when the bīja is visible in its fully developed form and the main characters see the first attainment of the goal.
  2. vibodha; (kārya-mārgaṇam ); "search for the goal, seeking of the end or the consummation of the ultimate object, the final hurdle to be overcome."
  3. grathana; (sad-upekṣepaḥ); "hint, intimation of the end; the first satisfactions of achieving the goal"; such as when Bhima ties Draupadi's tresses after killing Duhshasana or Radha states her joy at seeing Krishna (LM 9.19).
  4. nirṇaya; ( anubhūtoktiḥ); "Certainty": "Declaration of a fact personally known; relating a past experience." T.K. Goswami translates as "narration." Rupa Goswami gives the example of Lalita-mādhava, 9.19, when Krishna in Dvaraka recalls to Radha their previous pastimes in Vrindavan. In SD, the example from Veṇī-saṁhāra indicates a lengthy narration in which Bhima summarizes his accomplishments in destroying the Kauravas.
  5. paribhāṣaṇam ; (mitho jalpaḥ parivādo vā ); either "mutual conversation" or "harsh words, censure." Rupa Goswami gives the conversation of Madhumangala with Sukanthi in LM 9; harsh words are found in the same place (9.21) when Madhumangala criticizes Sukanthi.
  6. prasādaḥ ; (śuśrūṣādy-upasampannā prasannatā ); "graciousness, appeasement by service; waiting upon or the like." Examples are again Bhima binding Draupadi's tresses in Veṇī-saṁhāra. LM simply gives Krishna's expression of contentment.
  7. ānandaḥ; ( abhīṣṭa-samprāptiḥ ); "bliss, attainment of the desired goal."
  8. samayaḥ ; (duḥkha-saṅkṣayaḥ ); "deliverance, the termination of all sufferings, the removal of all misery."
  9. kṛtiḥ ; (labdhārthasya sthairyam ); "consolation, the act which resolutely establishes the final achievement of desires."
  10. bhāṣaṇam; (mānādy-āptiḥ); "reception of honors"; In LM, Nanda Maharaj blesses Radha and Chandravali.
  11. upagūhanam ; ( adbhutārtha-pariprāptiḥ); "surprise, attainment of something unexpected or by unexpected means; the arrival or appearance of a wonder."
  12. pūrva-bhāvaḥ ; (mukhya-kāryasya saṁsargaḥ ); "anticipation" (This is pūrva-vākyam in SD. defined as yathoktārthopadarśanam or demonstration of how earlier statements or promises have been realized.
  13. upasaṁhāraḥ; (kṛtārthatā sarvābhīṣṭopalaksitaḥ ); "termination" kāvya-saṁhāraḥ in SD. This is the offering of a benediction that comes at the end of nearly all plays, "Now what else can I do for you?" And, according to Rupa Goswami, is followed by the expression of the prayer, as in LM 10.36.
  14. praśastiḥ; (samyak maṅgalāśaṁsanaṁ ); "a benediction, such as praying for peace etc., in the reign of a king."

The Seven Divisions of the bhāṇikā

These are listed and defined in SD 6.395-399:

upanyāsaḥ prasaṅgena bhavet kāryasya kīrtanam ||
nirveda-vākya-vyutpattir vinyāsa iti sa smṛtaḥ |
bhrānti-nāśo vibodhaḥ syān mithyākhyānaṁ tu sādhvasam ||
sopalambha-vacaḥ kopa-pīḍayeha samarpaṇam |
nidarśanasyopanyāso nivṛttir iti kathyate |
saṁhāra iti ca prāhur yat-kāryasya samāpanam ||

  1. Upanyāsa is the casual declaration of the end.
  2. Vinyāsa: An utterance of self-disparaging words.
  3. Vibodha: The removal of error.
  4. Sādhvasa: A false statement.
  5. Samarpaṇa: Reproachful words uttered under the agitation of grief.
  6. Nivṛtti: The mentioning of an example.
  7. Saṁhāra: The accomplishment of the object.
It is not clear to me at this point how these are different from the sandhis or their subsidiary junctures. Certainly the terms used here are unique to the bhāṇikā. We will have to keep our eyes open to see if the commentaries make reference to them or whether Rupa Goswami makes any obvious effort to follow the definition as given here.

The vṛttis.

There are four kinds of vṛtti or acting style: bhāratī, ārabhaṭī, sātvatī, and kaiśikī. Of these, only the first and last are suitable for the bhāṇikā. In the previous verse it was stated that narma-vivāda-goṣṭhī is the main subject of the play, and now from the definition of the bhāṇikā hinted at here, it becomes clear how this is the perfect genre for the subject.

Rupa Goswami in his own Nāṭaka-candrikā, as so often, follows Rasārṇava-sudhākara almost word for word in his description of these four vṛttis. Though the differences are minor, the DKK verse appears in fact to be following the Sāhitya-darpaṇadefinition more closely. But on the whole, the definitions of these four vṛttis is pretty consistent throughout the literature beginning with the Nāṭya-śāstra itself.

Ārabhaṭī (“the vigorous bearing”) and sātvatī (“noble bearing”) are more extroverted styles associated with the masculine heroic mood, i.e., the dhīroddhatta and dhīroddāta nāyakas. The first calls for much fighting, boasting and vigorous physical displays and is prescribed where the dominant rasas are the heroic, or karuṇa, bhayānaka, bībhatsa, etc. The latter is associated with śānta, adbhuta, vātsalya or vīra rasas.

śānta-vīrādbhuta-prīta-vatsaleṣu tu sātvatī |
preyaḥ śṛṅgāra-hāsyeṣu proktā vṛttis tu kaiśikī ||268||
bībhatse karuṇe cārabhaṭī vīre bhayānake |
prāyo raseṣu sarvatra bhāratī karuṇādiṣu ||269||
The kaiśikī is used in the erotic; the sāttvatī in the heroic, the ārabhaṭī in the furious and the action called the bhārati is always employed in the disgustful flavor.
As usual, this is somewhat oversimplification that is corrected or emended by others.

Bhāratī-vṛtti
yā vāk-pradhānā puruṣa-prayojyā
strī-varjitā saṁskṛta-pāṭhya-yuktā |
sva-nāma-dheyair bharataiḥ prayuktā
sā bhāratī nāma bhavet tu vṛttiḥ || (NS 20.26)

eṣā vāṇī-pradhānatvād bhāratīti nigadyate ||244||
prastāvanopayogitvāt tatraiva parikīrtitā | (RSK 1.462)
strī-hīnā puruṣa-śreṣṭha-prayojyā vāk-pradhānikā ||245||
bhāratī saṁskṛtair yuktā vṛttiḥ syāc caturaṅgikā |


The bhāratī (“eloquent bearing”) is predominantly emphasizing the spoken word and the prologue or prastāvanā, which is where this very verse (6) is found in DKK, is its principal place of usage. It is generally the role of men and the language is Sanskrit, i.e., the uttama-pātra.

Kaiśikī vṛtti

Perhaps the clearest indicator of what we should expect from the bhāṇikā genre is given in the description of the kaiśikī:

yā ślakṣṇa-nepathya-viśeṣa-citrā
strī-saṅkulā puṣkala-nṛtya-gītā |
kāmopabhoga-prabhavopacārā
sā kaiśikī cāru-vilāsa-yuktā ||169|
|

…associated with charming vivacity and is particularly delightful from the fascinating costumes worn by the heroine and others, in which women abundantly take part, dancing and singing are fully indulged in, and the actings are founded on the enjoyments of love. (SD 6.169, Mitra 219)
Since playful spirit joined with laughter, etc. (BRS 4.8.7) So not surprisingly the combination in kaiśikī fits the mood of DKK perfectly. The many women indicates Radha and her sakhis, but also priya-narma-sakhāsplay an important role. In this play, the other rasas do not play a major role. The elements of the kaiśikī are thus four kinds of narma or joking. In SD (6.170-174):


narma ca narma-sphūrjo narma-sphoṭo'tha narma-garbhaś ca |
catvāry aṅgāny asyā vaidagdhya-krīḍitaṁ narma ||
iṣṭa-janāvarjana-kṛt tac cāpi trividhaṁ matam |
vihitaṁ śuddha-hāsyena sa-śṛṅgāra-mayena ca ||
narma-sphūrjaḥ sukhārambho bhayānto nava-saṅgamaḥ ||
narma-sphoṭo bhāva-leśaiḥ sūcitālpa-raso mataḥ ||
narma-garbho vyavahṛtir netuḥ pracchanna-vartinaḥ ||

  1. Narma. witty jest tending to charm the beloved. This is held to be threefold according to whether it is used in pure joke (śuddha-hāsyajaṁ), joke mixed with love (śṛṅgāra-hāsyajaṁ), or joke mixed with fear (bhaya-hāsyajam).
  2. Narma-sphañja (or –sphūrja, prefered by Vishwanath Kaviraj, but original to Nāṭya-śāstra and followed by Shinga Bhupal and Rupa Goswami) is the first union of two lovers in which there is joy in the beginning but fear in the end.
  3. Narma-sphoṭa “is held to be flavor (the Erotic) slighly suggested by glimpses of love.”
  4. Narma-garbha, i.e., “the action of the amorous hero in concealment”
Definition of narma: RSK (RSK 1.476-477, NC 258) adds agrāmya, "not vulgar". Singa Bhupala renames the subdivisions of the first narma and defines them as follows:
  1. sambhogecchā-prakaṭanāt: “from the lovers revealing their desire”
  2. anurāga-nivedanāt: “from the telling of one’s love”
  3. kṛtāparādhasya priyasya pratibhedanāt; “mocking the beloved who has committed an offense”
Rasa-sudhākāra then further expands the number of narma to 18 by multiplying each of the above six (the first narma’s three categories plus the other three) by three, according to whether the it is revealed by words, dress,or action.

It will take far too much space to go through all the examples, etc., given by the various authors on the subject and their commentators.

The Hero and Heroine

Nothing much is said about the hero and heroine other than the following: "The heroine will be of good character and from a noble background (udātta), whereas the hero is unreliable (manda)." Mitra translates as "heroine of a high family and a vulgar hero." (p. 264)

In actual fact, these two descriptions are not technical terms found in the usual descriptions of the nāyaka and nāyikā. In the bhāṇa, as well, the hero was depicted as a rogue (dhūrta).

In the dāna-līlā theme, Krishna is clearly a bit of a rogue. At the very best he fits the category of a dhīra-lalita nāyaka, which is fitting for the romantic comedy type of situation. As for Radha, though a cowherd in origin, in DKK she is always depicted as the queen of Vrindavan.


This article will be updated as we go through the translation and make revisions and expand the notes.