Sunday, March 31, 2013

Service to Radha Krishna is our Ultimate Concern

This article was first sent on the short-lived Garuda list serve run by Rocana Dasa, most probably in 1997. It was available on line on the Wise Wisdoms site for a while, but was taken down. On rereading, I find it still relevant.




Reason and scriptural interpretation

We are human beings endowed with reason, with which we try to make sense of our experiences in life and learn from them. In Krishna consciousness we have been indoctrinated to mistrust reason and even our direct experience to the benefit of authority-based learning. The argument is, of course, cogent: You cannot invent your own language, and there is no point in reinventing the wheel, and if we wish to see far, it is advisable to stand on the shoulders of giants.

But even when standing on the shoulder of a giant, it is with our own eyes that we see and with our own brains that we process the sensory or extrasensory information our eyes give us. Thus, where scripture is concerned, we state the following:
  • Certain aspects of scripture when understood literally are not in conformity with reason.
  • To understand them in non-literal ways we must have recourse to reason.
  • As such, reason takes the upper hand.
Revelation (scripture or the words of the guru) thus becomes the raw material upon which to exercise the powers of reason, much as a petrie dish of mold was the raw material for Banting.

Now, before proceeding, we must say a word or two about bracketing or suspending judgment. This is usually applied when we do not immediately understand a particular piece of information that does not coincide with our experience. If I do not understand something that is touted as authoritative information, it is true that I may put off the attempt to understand it until later. Thereafter, whenever confronted with this piece of information, it gets classified as a "mystery" and ceases to be a source of trouble.

This procedure, though fundamentally emotional, also requires a certain amount of applied use of brain power, as one chooses one's priorities and then rationalizes them.

A member of the Hitler Youth, for instance, might have been enthusiastic and eager for National Socialism. When it came to gassing Jews, he may have decided to suspend judgment due to an a priori faith in Hitler's plan for a greater Germany, as well as pressure to conform to the prevailing ethos. This might be construed as an unfortunate, mistaken prioritization.

Such bracketing is often related to the urgency or immediacy of a question. For us devotees, how urgent is the question of the Fifth Canto cosmology? Likely, its urgency differs for different people. Certainly, the prime reason that most people become members of a movement like Krishna consciousness is not because they are seeking scientific insight into the workings of the cosmos. I assume that most of us were and are fairly satisfied with the nine-planets-revolving-around-the-sun-version, and not many of us are in a position to debate the issue intelligently.

Certainly very few of us would be able to intelligently defend a literal interpretation of the Fifth Canto to an audience of astronomers or physicists. Presumably, our priority in the Krishna consciousness movement was and is primarily to achieve Krishna consciousness, or service to Krishna, and in order to do so, knowledge of the exact outlay of the cosmos is peripheral, whatever meanings it may have for astrophysicists. Therefore, it is logical for us to bracket this section of the scripture, holding off any attempt to understand it.

In a preaching or evangelical movement, however, it is necessary to ask whether peripheral elements of the scripture might not interfere with the essential elements. If we say to someone, “Scripture is infallible and 100% true and you must accept the scriptural version or you cannot attain Krishna consciousness; suspend all disbelief and take a leap of faith! Krishna consciousness means not only service to Krishna but acceptance of Bhagavata cosmology," we are clearly shooting ourselves in the foot. We must ask whether we can afford to take such a counter-productive position.

Faith and Ultimate Concern

There is nothing new about the faith-reason debate; it has been going on ever since there was such a thing as belief and questioning of beliefs. Paul Tillich, one of the most important Protestant theologians of the 20th century, held that belief and faith are not the same thing. This is a great insight that has been very influential in liberal Protestant circles and I find it useful also in making an analysis of Krishna consciousness. Faith is defined by Tillich as “ultimate concern."

We are all familiar with Krishna Das’s definition of faith:

śraddhā-śabda kahe viśvāsa sudṛḍha niścaya
kṛṣṇa-bhakti kaile sarva-karma kṛta haya
The word śraddhā refers to a firm and confident belief that by engaging in devotion to Krishna alone, all of one’s duties will be fulfilled. (CC 2.22.62)
In this verse, Krishna Das is clearly identifying faith with belief. If, however, we look at it more closely, it does not say that one should believe in any particular myth or specific item of theological dogma, but in the truly essential point, that if we make the supreme personal God and service to Him our primary concern in life, our secondary concerns will be taken care of. Analogous to "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things shall be added you." (Matthew 6.33)

Similarly, each devotee should analyze his own faith by asking himself, first of all, not “What do I believe?”, but “What is my ultimate concern?" This can most likely be reduced to a few short sentences and these are likely those which are the most repeated when he or she preaches, or those which moved him when he first heard the Krishna conscious philosophy. Kundali Prabhu is to be thanked for his extremely rich collection of quotes from various sources that show how our ultimate concerns in Krishna consciousness are shared with members of various other religious groups. Prabhupada himself said that we should seek an alliance with other theists. He told us that Krishna consciousness was non-sectarian. This means that we should seek common features with other religions rather than stressing accidental differences. As acintya-bhedābheda-vādins, we should be able to find this fairly easy...

Assessing our Ultimate Concern

Now Tillich says that mythology is the language of faith, but that myths do not have to be literally believed to be the vehicles for faith, all they need to do is to adequately express the ultimate concern of the faithful. Here we return to the story of Prahlada, in which I find that many devotees profess unconditional literal belief and which Kundali Prabhu has been the first to agree with me in saying that the important thing is the moral of the story, not the story itself.

The Prahlad myth beautifully expresses a number of particular “ultimate concerns," as I summarized in my previous post. That is why the story is meaningful for us, and not because it is a historical event. It is an expression of faith, but it is not necessary for us to believe it literally.

Now, we are admittedly on dangerous territory here, because the closer myth and symbol approximate our ultimate concerns, the more (again I am using Tillichian language) the symbols participate in the reality of the ultimate concern. A sign on the street which says “Pont Jacques Cartier, un kilomètre" (to use an example from my own surroundings) does not share in the reality of the Jacques Cartier bridge. A cross, however, does participate in the reality of faith of the Christian, as do Radha and Krishna as the representations of our ultimate concern.

Ask yourself, what is the symbol of the ultimate concern for you? Here are some choices:
  1. The cosmology of the Fifth Canto
  2. Nrisinghadeva, the half-lion, half man incarnation
  3. the Matsya incarnation
  4. Ramachandra
  5. Jesus Christ
  6. Prabhupada (and I hope that you will all be able to see that for everyone to whom Prabhupada is a guru, that he has taken on mythic proportions, i.e., he is more than his historical truth, he is a symbol of spiritual realization. This is true of all gurus, this is why we speak of the samaṣṭi-guru and vyaṣṭi-guru. The former, according to Sri Jiva, is the incarnation of Krishna who sits at his right-hand side in the Yoga-pitha, while the vyaṣṭi-guru is the human manifestation appearing in this world.)
  7. Krishna, the speaker of the Bhagavad Gita
  8. Vishnu, the Lord of Vaikuntha
  9. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
  10. Radha and Krishna
Of course, we may find that we want more than one answer. There is nothing wrong with that, so it might be better to think in terms of reordering the list in terms of the degree to which the various symbols express your concept of what is most important in your spiritual life.

A yogi might indeed find (1) the best answer. There may be one or two devotees out there for whom (2) or (3) are significant answers, but (3) is especially unlikely. At (4) we are likely getting warmer; if you answered (5) you are probably in the wrong religion. If you answered (6) you are in the right place, but you must ask yourself, what was Prabhupada himself pointing at? The same goes for (9) Chaitanya, whom we may recall is symbolically understood as a combined form of Radha and Krishna. If you answered (7) you are undoubtedly a serious person and worthy of spiritual life. You may even be the best of the lot, and you likely have a lot in common with those who chose (8). If you answered unhesitatingly, (10), then you are a real Gaudiya Vaishnava, proceed directly to Radha Kund (unfortunately impossible to do without collecting $200 first).

However, the problem does not end here. We still have to analyze and understand what Radha and Krishna mean as a symbol. In other words, symbolic differences are meaningful. They are not a question of taste alone, or signs all pointing to exactly the same thing. Prabhupad once said (and I speak from memory) that devotees accept Krishna as both a symbol and as a reality. That is no doubt true, though I approach the matter from the back end. I am concerned here with what they mean as a symbol and how the symbol informs our experience of the reality.

For example: the gopis running to the sound of the flute, abandoning all worldly duties, can be restated as a symbol of the abandonment of all relative truths before the supreme attractiveness of the highest truth. The story likely resonates with us precisely because of this symbolic meaning, in ways that various stories about demon-killings, from Arishtasura to the Zebra demon, don't. Even Bhaktivinoda Thakur felt it necessary to look for symbolisms in all these demons in order to bestow some substance on them, since for the most part even literary substance is not particularly manifest.

But I digress: there is much more to this particular myth, that of the gopis, and that is why it is the centerpiece of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

What is the meaning of Radha's supremacy? Why Radha and not Arjuna? And yes, despite whatever Prabhupada may have said on the subject of gopi bhava, we do place Radha above Arjuna. I don't see Arjuna on many altars around Iskcon--though I am still wondering about Radha-Parthasarathi in Delhi. What the heck is Radha doing on Arjuna's chariot, anyway?

My question is, what do Radha and Krishna mean, symbolically? Why do they have force as symbols of ultimate concern? Why should they be prioritized and perhaps more interestingly, why are they NOT prioritized in the faith of most of those who claim to be Gaudiya Vaishnavas? Since Radha and Krishna are the symbolic expression of our ultimate concern, we must try to understand what exactly it is that they express. If they fail to express our true ultimate concern (perhaps Parthasarathi or Ramachandra do that), then we should adjust our beliefs and practices accordingly.

What exactly do we mean by ultimate concern?

What exactly do we mean by ultimate concern? I think that Kundali Prabhu's efforts to scour the world of psychology and self-help literature is an interesting departure from the customary Iskcon practice because he has recognized that (at least for him) the ultimate concern is self-realization, the attainment of full powers as an individual, not only for the sake of service to the Supreme, but because that is in itself service to the Supreme. He is ready to use any means at his disposal to achieve that end. If the knowledge is not to be found in Iskcon (as is, regrettably, the case), then he is ready to go elsewhere. (And all blessings to those who go to Narayan Maharaj or anywhere else. As the Prophet Mohammad said, “If the truth be in China, go to seek it out.")

So how do Radha and Krishna symbolize this fulfilment in a better way than Arjuna and Krishna or Ramachandra, or any other of the symbols that Vaishnavism has in such rich quantities?

This is I think the most important question to answer if we wish to find our orientation in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. It is primarily to find such an orientation that we take a spiritual master, for the Bhagavatam clearly says:

tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta
jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ
brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam
One who is inquisitive about the ultimate good in life should approach a spiritual master who has thoroughly understood the purport of the scriptures, is fixed in divine realization and has attained peace from the sense impulses. (11.3.21)
It is a myth, not a mandate, a fable not a logic, and symbol rather than a reason by which men are moved.

In fact, the importance of myths for the most rational of humans should not be underestimated. This is the purpose of my refering to Tillich here. Myth is the language of faith. Symbols are its vocabulary. Jungian psychology teaches that symbols have archetypal functions in our subconscious. Jungian analytical psychologists try to flush out the personal myth that each of us is living. We are all living our own life story, the movie of our lives, like the kid playing hockey with himself who does the play-by-play of Gretzky scoring a goal. That is the nature of human consciousness, that we are not only living life, but modeling it and commenting on it as we go along. The most successful individuals are those whose personal myth is the most clearly envisioned.

An archetypal life like that of Prabhupad serves as a model for anyone, even a non-devotee, because it plays out in such a wonderfully mythical way. From the command of his spiritual master that stayed with him through to the end of his life which he had spent preparing to carry out, to the amazing achievement of almost miraculous success. Who could fail to be amazed? I would say that Prabhupad likely had this personal myth played out in his mind. The point is that we could all do the same thing if our vision was as clear.

But although we can see this rationally, it is not likely to be reason alone that moves a man to such achievements. It is myth, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. There is an irrational element of humanity and religion fits into that element. That is deliberate, and many devotees are deliberately and exclusively committed to this particular aspect of religion. I and many others have been through periods when we tried to live like this and ultimately ran into difficulty. Rather than hate ourselves for it and choose materialism as an alternative, we have sought to use reason to balance out this kind of faith. What we look for is a middle way.

In order to do that, we must, as Tillich puts it, “break the myths." Because of the power of symbols, a myth doesn't necessarily lose its power to transform even after we have transcended its superficial “historical" truth. This is because of symbols' power to express a multiplicity of meanings simultaneously and because of their wordless power to convey our ultimate concern, like an atom that concentrates so much energy completely out of proportion to its size.

How do symbols and myths lose their power?

Symbols and myths lose their life when they cease to express ultimate concerns. Thus Isis and Osiris lost their symbolic power when they ceased to be meaningful in the Christian Roman empire and when some of their roles were usurped by Christian symbols. For instance, if all the people in the Krishna consciousness movement suddenly decided to accept the Freudian viewpoint (as expressed by Carstairs) and see Krishna as “a thinly disguised father figure as a homosexual lover," then it is likely that Krishna as a symbol of the ultimate concern would quickly die an ignomious death. That Krishna as a symbol of ultimate concern is deeper than that gives it life.

When we say that Krishna is God, this is unfortunately only the beginning of the answer. In effect, all we are doing when we say that is confirming that Krishna is symbolic of our ultimate concern. I asked above which of ten different versions of Krishna or Krishna approximations you would consider to most effectively express the ultimate concern to you and why.

It is not enough to say that I want to serve God, we must analyze what that means in our personal myth. What do we see ourselves becoming? Wearing silks and sitting on a throne, eating rich vegetarian foods? Sitting in meditation having visions of Radha and Krishna? Living a humble householder life touching the people around us with love and caring?

So I would say that we need both myth and reasons, symbols and logic, to effectively emulate Prabhupad in our own way.

Friday, March 29, 2013

In defence of Sadhu Sanga


As I mentioned recently, I have been in contact with a new Facebook page that is attempting to reunite cyberspacially all of Srila Prabhupada's some 4500 initiated disciples. As of this writing, some 560 people have joined, for the most part the "less important" folk rather than the ones running ISKCON these days. It is turning out pretty much as I expected, a lot of nostalgia, reminders that we are coming closer to death and many of us have already left these bodies. There is also a bit of stirring up of old controversies. Today, one devotee posted the following Prabhupada letter:
I am in due receipt of your letter dated September 3, 1975 with the enclosed statement about Van Maharaja. So I have now issued orders that all my disciples should avoid all of my godbrothers. They should not have any dealings with them nor even correspondence, nor should they give them any of my books or should they purchase any of their books, neither should you visit any of their temples. Please avoid them.
Though one responder cleverly observed that he was not aware of even a single Prabhupada godbrother who is currently living, some others were quite happy to continue the controversy in the spirit of ex ecclesia nullum salus. My answer there went as follows:

When a particular instruction is given that contradicts a general principle, does the particular instruction become a general principle or not?

The general principle is sat-saṅga, which is one of the five most important aṅgas of devotion. Jiva Goswami says that if the guru stops you from seeking advanced association, he should be rejected.

śrī-gurv-ājñayā tat-sevanāvirodhena cānyeṣām api vaiṣṇavānāṁ sevanaṁ śreyaḥ. anyathā doṣaḥ syāt.

It is best if one serves Vaishnavas according to the order of the guru and without any obstacle in one's service to him being disturbed. Otherwise there will be a flaw.

yaḥ prathamaṁ śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ [bhā.pu. 11.3.21] ity-ādy-ukta-lakṣaṇaṁ guruṁ nāśritavān, tādṛśa-guroś ca matsarādito mahābhāgavata-satkārādāv anumatiṁ na labhate, sa prathamata eva tyakta-śāstro na vicāryate | ubhaya-saṅkaṭa-pāto hi tasmin bhavaty eva |

The question here is not of one who has taken shelter of a guru without the qualifications described in 11.3.21, and then does not receive permission from such a guru to greet or honor great devotees, due to enviousness or whatever, because such a disciple already stands in contradiction to the scriptural injunction. The poor guy is in trouble no matter what he does.

ata eva dūrata evārādhyas tādṛśo guruḥ. vaiṣṇava-vidveṣī cet parityājya eva. tasya vaiṣṇava-bhāva-rāhityeṇāvaiṣṇavatayā avaiṣṇavopadiṣṭena ity-ādi-vacana-viṣayatvāc ca.

In such cases one should worship his guru from a distance. But if he is inimical to the Vaishnavas, he should be rejected completely. This is because he demonstrates that he is without the natural spirit of a Vaishnava and is thus the subject of the verse, "Instructions given by a non-devotee, etc."

yathokta-lakṣaṇasya guror avidyamānāyāṁ tu, tasyaiva mahā-bhāgavatasyaikasya nitya-sevanaṁ parama-śreyaḥ. sa ca śrī-guruvat sama-vāsanaḥ svasmin kṛpālu-cittaś ca grāhyaḥ.

In the absence of a guru with the characteristics described earlier, it is in one's greatest interest to constantly serve an individual mahā-bhāgavata devotee. He should have the same spiritual mood as the guru and be merciful and kind to you. (Bhakti-sandarbha 238)

Then Jiva Goswami goes on to describe the two kinds of service, a very important distinction, as prasaṅga-rūpā, paricaryā-rūpā, hearing Hari katha from him and performing direct service of other kinds.(Bhakti-sandarbha 238)

The above passages need to be read carefully because clearly, as already stated by some above, one may have a different take on almost every line above in different situations. But the upshot is that ultimately you need to make the decision yourself, but that advanced satsaṅga is a fundamental and necessary principle of devotional service. If you yourself feel that you are in need of svajātīyāśaya, snigdha and svato-vara association, and if one is capable of recognizing for himself the qualities of a mahā-bhāgavata, then to not follow the direction of God within the heart is going to slow one's progress.

What are the qualifications of the mahā-bhāgavata who should be served?

śuśrūṣayā bhajana-vijñam ananyam anya-
nindādi-śūnya-hṛdam īpsita-saṅga-labdhyā

If one gets the desired association of a person who is expert in bhajan, who is undeviating in his dedication (ananya) and whose heart is entirely free of the tendency to criticize others, then one should serve him. (Upadeśāmṛta)

Prabhupada was no doubt afraid that his disciples were going to apparently knowledgeable and advanced godbrothers who were envious and would create confusion. But there is little doubt that the above passage makes it clear that the primary instruction is to associate, to learn to recognize the advanced devotee and if possible to hear and serve advanced Vaishnavas. To not do so is to stifle the growth of your devotional creeper and to fall into the trap of enviousness oneself.



And here is an article I wrote at least ten or fifteen years ago on some forum or other, "In defence of Narayan Maharaj." Since it is no longer available on-line, I am reposting here, as is. I doubt that I would write like this today, but still there are some good points.

K. wrote:
In order to satisfy Jagat, we would all have to disregard very stern orders from our spiritual master and go accept the association and concepts of all the sahajiyas, Gaudiya Math sannyasis and bogus babajis all over India.
Certain commands were made to be broken.

āsām aho caraṇa-reṇu-juṣām ahaṁ syāṁ
vṛndāvane kim api gulma-latauṣadhīnām
yā dustyajaṁ svajanam ārya-pathaṁ ca hitvā
bhejur mukunda-padavīṁ śrutibhir vimṛgyām
Ah, would that I could become
one of Vrindavan's herbs and plants
which are regularly sprinkled
with the dust of the gopis’ feet,

for the gopis abandoned their families
and their religious principles,
both of which are extremely difficult to give up,
in order to worship Mukunda,
the ultimate objective of all the Vedic literatures. (SB 10.47.61)
One of the big problems in Iskcon is that so many devotees have come to the point where they say, “Is this all there is? Where is the rasa?”

And even when they try to talk about Radha and the gopis amongst themselves, they do so self-consciously and embarrassedly, as though they don't know if they really should be doing this or not. And no wonder, they have never met anyone who was absorbed in that rasa.

And the discourse is nearly always political: Follow, surrender, work and everything will come—all Varnashram Dharma instructions. Where is the sanga that converts karma into bhakti?

It becomes like a bad marriage. Eventually the wife says, “What am I doing here? I wash the floors and cook the meals, bring up the kids, and all I get in exchange is abuse.”

So is it at all surprising that despite all the exhortations not to associate with Narayan Maharaj, as soon as a long-suffering devotee gets a little nectarean Harikatha from this lifelong sadhaka, he says, "So this is what I've been missing!!"C

cittaṁ sukhena bhavatāpahṛtaṁ gṛheṣu
yan nirviśaty uta karāv api gṛhya-kṛtye
pādau padaṁ na calatas tava pāda-mūlād
yāmaḥ kathaṁ vrajam atho karavāma kiṁ vā??
My mind and my hands, which were so happily absorbed in household duties, have been stolen away by you. Now my feet cannot step even a foot away from your lotus feet. How can we go back to Vraja as you instruct us? And even if we went back, what would we do?? (11.29.34)
In other words, something serious has changed. Once that invisible lobha barrier has been broken, there is no going back. Once milk has become curd, how can it become milk again?
The philosopher Simone Weil, after many years of grappling with her faith in Christ (she was born a Jew), she had to decide whether to be officially baptized a Catholic or not. She thought about it for some time before rejecting the option because, she said, that the Church was a social institution and "insofar as it remains a social institution, it belongs to the prince of this world (i.e. the devil)." That’s pretty heavy language. Even though she admitted that the Church did do good work, she felt that religion was ultimately about spiritual experience and not about social relations.

Now I don't entirely agree with this, but Simone Weil was only 34 when she died, not long after she made that decision. I too was only 29 when I left Iskcon with pretty much the same attitude. After all, Krishna puts the onus on the individual to determine what he wants in spiritual life. In the last instruction of the Gita, Krishna comes clearly down on the side of the individual in the “What is more important, society or the individual?” debate.

Ultimately, even the spiritual master is only a means to the end. That is why the shastra says there can be more than one spiritual master. The diksha guru you have taken determines the path you are to follow; the siksha gurus take you further along that path. Sometimes, the diksha guru is no longer present--as is the case in Iskcon (for Prabhupada’s disciples); sometimes the diksha guru is inadequate as a siksha guru--as is also often the case in Iskcon (for disciples of Prabhupada’s disciples). There is no need to abandon the diksha guru because he has directed you to the correct goal—Yugala-sevā—but Jiva says that he can be abandoned if he prevents you from associating with more advanced devotees who will help you reach that goal. (See Bhakti-sandarbha 238)

In any case, the order sarva-dharmān parityājya does not come up once or twice in a lifetime. It comes up constantly, from moment to moment. The ecstasy of surrender (or conversion if you like) is not a one time thing, after which we can sit on our hands. On the other hand, a major call, the sound of Krishna's flute, may only come a few times in our lifetime. If we don't heed this call, for whatever conventional reason, that is our loss. When we stop moving forward, we generally start slipping back.

These conventional reasons are generally social in nature, but even Iskcon is ultimately "of this world." As we have heard Puru Das say, “Prabhupada said Iskcon was his body; he also said he was not his body.”

This was one of Siddhanta Saraswati's brilliant realizations. When he created the "daivi varnashram," of which the Gaudiya Math with its "daivi" Brahmins and Sannyasis was the vanguard, he never intended for it to be the last word in spiritual life or commitment. Varnashram is a vehicle that is necessary for gradual spiritual development, but it ultimately needs to be discarded, in principle if not in fact. Bhaktivinoda Thakur said that if household life is conducive to Krishna consciousness, there is no need to abandon that life--indeed it would be an error. By the same token, if math/ashram/temple life is conducive to bhajan, then one can remain, otherwise not.

Narayan Maharaj has put his finger on the problem and Puruji, in his spirited and aggressive manner, is merely conveying the message. Naturally, Iskcon does not like the message, nor do the Ritviks, for to them, Iskcon IS Prabhupada. This is not an ignoble sentiment and, as that is their nishtha, it is perhaps wrong to disturb their minds.

The Bhagavata says:

tāvat karmāṇi kurvīta
na nirvidyeta yāvatā
mat-kathā-śravaṇādau vā
śraddhā yāvan na jāyate

One should engage in one's Varnashram duties and not renounce them as long as one does not develop strong faith in hearing about Me. (11.20.9)
Iskcon devotees, who have surrendered so much by converting and committing themselves fully to serving Srila Prabhupada, may find it strange, even absurd, to hear this instruction being applied to them. To me, however, it seems that they have been doubly cheated: on the one hand, they have been deprived of the bhajan and Harikatha of a fully committed life, and on the other, they have been deprived of even a "Varnashram dharma."

Iskcon has consistently alienated its devoted householders by denigrating their vocations and service. They have done this to their own great detriment--all that money those householders could have given if they thought they were getting their spiritual money's worth. Instead, they mostly get kirtans that are noisy and untidy, lectures that are dull and uninspired or aggressive and haranguing, and to top it off, condescension from arrogant leaders. (And that is not even mentioning all the other, unmentionable stuff.) Only the most desperate loyalty to Srila Prabhupad could keep them coming back, but even that eventually is insufficient for many.

By giving Varnashram Dharma a spiritual value, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was implicitly giving householder life a meaningfulness within the whole spiritual scheme of things. Srila Prabhupada also said, "Establish Varnashram Dharma." This instruction has never worked in Iskcon because of the society’s consistent marginalization of householders.

Meanwhile, the temples demand full commitment and "service," especially "book distribution," from their brahmacharis. It's a wonder that any of them even know anything of Prabhupada's books. I have found that very few lifelong Iskcon devotees I meet know much about even Chaitanya Charitamrita or the Srimad Bhagavatam, what to speak of the hundreds of books that Srila Prabhupada never translated.

Most of you should be ashamed when you see how well Puruji knows Prabhupada's books, and those of so many other acharyas. Heaven knows he is indiscriminate in his cutting and pasting. I hope that one day he becomes a little more judicious in his quoting—less is sometimes more—but I would still bet that he gives a pretty decent Bhagavata lecture. And I'd also bet that Shyamarani and many of Narayan Maharaj's preachers are far more inspired and inspiring than G. Maharaj (for example) could ever be. I could probably even sit through one without squirming and getting an unbearable urge to run screaming out of the temple room. In Iskcon, I usually have to hold myself back by remembering Vishwanath Chakravarti Thakur's reminder that advanced devotees do not discriminate between good and bad Hari-kathä, but I confess that such good counsel is generally insufficient. It does matter.

Narayan Maharaj preaches to Iskcon devotees. And well he should. Prabhupad made them hungry and now they are without nourishment. How kind of Narayan Maharaj to give them what they have been hankering for, sometimes without even knowing what it was. He is giving water to those who were thirsting in the desert. He is moving the Krishna consciousness movement back towards the Radha Krishna consciousness of Srila Rupa Goswami.

Monday, March 11, 2013

On Fences around the Devotional Creeper

I left ISKCON in 1979, which is a good long time ago. In the intervening 33 years, I have had plenty of experience with life, but for the most part I keep a healthy distance from the institution in which my spiritual life had its beginnings. There were numerous steps in my development that made me a very different person today than I was as a young Hare Krishna brahmachari.

Recently I was invited to participate in a Facebook forum for Srila Prabhupada disciples. I thought this was intriguing, an opportunity to feel the pulse of this interesting segment of the world's population, the 4500 or so people who took initation from Prabhupada between 1965 and 1977, all of whom are now at least 50 years old, many in their 60's and even older. They are, in other words, in the latter stages of life; indeed, many are approaching death, some after living their entire lives in dedication to the movement and in service to Sri Chaitanya.

There are many who left ISKCON to take initiation again in various other sampradāyas, including non-Gaudiya lines like the Nimbarkis. But this is actually welcome because it shows an advancing interest in the essence of bhakti itself, which is bhajana, for which higher association with a bhajana-vijña sādhu is an unavoidable and absolutely necessary step. The order to associate with advanced sadhus is one of the most powerful commands in the devotional path, and the constant awareness of the guru's presence in various forms, externally and internally, is also an integral measuring stick of spiritual progress.

But for many in ISKCON, the path of spiritual life has been so carefully delimited by various orders that Srila Prabhupada made. ISKCON was identified with him, as Srila Prabhupada's own body. Leaving ISKCON was made the same as rejecting guru-tattva itself. He made restrictions over associating with anyone not directly connected to him, his literature, his interpretations of the tradition, and so on.

Prabhupada may have made these kinds of orders out of a fear that his disciples would become entangled in the labyrinthine world of Indian spiritual politics and to keep them actively preaching Krishna consciousness worldwide, but in my estimation these restrictions have a double purpose.

One, which is better understood by the general society of devotees, was to protect the neophytes; the other, only understood by those who have moved on, is to create the kinds of obstacles that need to be overcome in order to truly follow the path of the gopis...

eta saba chāḍi' āra varṇāśrama-dharma
akiñcana hayā laya kṛṣṇaika-śaraṇa

If all this was supposed to be in order to "protect the neophytes," we have to wonder why Prabhupada's disciples, who are seniors now, are still neophytes. They should by now have become accomplished spiritual leaders, coming closer and closer to the highest attainments promised by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's grace. 

Since the real criterion for advancement in the bhakti path is eagerness, especially eagerness to hear from a pure rasika devotee (śravaṇam), and since even the intention to hear is its own reward (sadyo hṛdy avarudhyate'tra kṛtibhiḥ śuśrūṣubhis tat-kṣaṇāt, etc., SB 1.1.2), there is no loss or diminution for those who follow this effort, even if they break down the fences that were created by the guru himself.

loka-dvayāt svajanataḥ parataḥ svato vā
prāṇa-priyād api sumeru-samā yadi syuḥ |
kleśās tad apy atibalī sahasā vijitya
premaiva tān harir ibhān iva puṣṭim eti ||
As a strong lion defeats many elephants and then becomes further nourished and strengthened by feeding on them, so too does sacred love, when exceedingly great, conquer all obstacles before it, whether they come from this world or the next, from enemies or from family members, from one’s own body or the things connected to it, or even from that dearest one who is the object of the love itself. Even if such obstacles should be as vast as the immeasurable Mount Meru, sacred love will conquer them and, having conquered, become stronger and more vital. (Prema-sampuṭikā , 54)
There is no offense to Prabhupada, because Prabhupada's real intent was that we should become Krishna conscious in the way that Rupa Goswami prescribed it. At least I hope so. ISKCON or Gaudiya Math consciousness may be an effective starting point, but it is most certainly not the end of the road. Not for everybody, anyway.

Just to make that a little more clear, the Gita says that one who desires to hear about yoga stands above the Vedic injunctions. In other words, the desire to hear about direct, anāsaṅga-bhajana, is above any scriptural injunction to follow dharma, even if that dharma is dressed up as "following the orders of the spiritual master."
 To make that even more clear. Since lobha is the essence of progress in bhakti, if one receives the inner impulse to associate with advanced rasika devotees and inquire from them, this should be seen as the grace of the guru, not a temptation to be overcome, and as the grace of the antaryāmī guru who is giving light from within (Gita 10.10-11), not as some kind of great sin or offense.

Many Prabhupada disciples raise the question of initiation as though this is the ultimate offense; after all, Jiva Goswami says in Bhakti-sandarbha that reinitiation means rejection of the first guru, and in the case of a "bona-fide" guru, this would be an offense. Of course in the veritable musical chairs of initiation that followed Prabhupada's disappearance, it is rather strange that it should still be a matter for concern, but those who worship Prabhupada as a śaktyāveśa avatāra and so on cannot conceive of the logic behind a decision to be initiated by anyone else. How could anyone else be better? they ask.

The arcane problem of disciplic succession and the traditions that existed and were followed by Vaishnavas in Bengal prior to the Gaudiya Math are not things generally known or understood by foreign disciples new to this world. But Prabhupada himself was reinitiated by Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, as were many others who received a mantra from their family's kula-guru. This was current in the Gaudiya Math as it was in open warfare with the traditional Vaishnava order, the Goswamis and Babajis, so why not reinitiate? And of course the reverse was true, because the Goswamis and Babajis rejected Saraswati Thakur's interpretation of initiation and disciplic succession just as he rejected their legitimacy. Since we follow Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, we have made the decision to follow his initiation, as it was given by him to his son, Lalita Prasad Thakur.

When the legitimacy of one initiation is rejected, there is nothing inappropriate about reinitiation. This rejection of legitimacy on both sides of the divide is the fundamental evidence that Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati created an entirely new
sampradāya, even though his claim was to be the true guardian of the pristine and original teaching of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. At least Srila Sridhara Maharaja had the decency to recognize this fact by calling it the "Chaitanya Saraswata Sampradaya."

But the reason there are different
sampradāyas is because there are differing goals and differing visions of God. So if one wishes to engage in madhura-rasa bhajana in the tradition followed by Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself and his guru-paramparā through Bipin Bihari Goswami to Jahnava Thakurani, one is more or less obliged to change environments.

In my personal case, I do not feel that this requires an official rejection of Srila Prabhupada because, as he himself so eloquently said once, long ago, "Guru Tattva is One." Srila Prabhupada came to give Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, to give Rupa and Raghunath, to give Radha and Krishna, to give Vrindavan, so how can pursuing those things be rejecting him?


There is the old fear of "jumping over" the guru. Somewhere along the line, Prabhupada created this fence, teaching his disciples that they could only access the previous acharyas through him. But if there is any meaning to initiation at all, it is that the guru gives his disciple the entire disciplic succession; he comes to give access to the sum total of the teaching, not a part of it. Initiation is just that: an initiation, an introduction to the world of bhajana. 

Srila Prabhupada had a twelve year period in which to give several thousand, mostly uneducated and undisciplined, people an introduction to a very sophisticated system of religious philosophy and practice. His disciples accept on faith that he gave them everything. That is fine; I personally chose to investigate. 

Everyone seeks their own level of comfort. But spiritual life requires a bit of discomfort. Physical discomfort is not as uncomfortable as anomie, but anomie or alienation is actually a greater challenge. Fundamentalist religion is based on avoidance or the fear of such alienation. This leads to a purely social model of religion, Varnashram or "quasi" Varnashram, which must be overcome in order to make headway into Mahaprabhu's religion of love as stated clearly in Ramananda Raya's teachings.

It takes a while to understand these things, and no doubt Prabhupada was very clear in his mind about what the limitations of the greater number of his students would be and decided that shastra, dharma, duty, Varnashram, etc., were a necessary substratum for further progress.

Some feel that it is a defect that most of the devotees who left ISKCON to go to some other teacher with a new charisma are preaching to ISKCON's disenchanted rather than to an entirely new audience, but this may have been Srila Prabhupada's real intent. After all, the institution has its limitations and its dangers, and may even be itself an insurmountable obstacle to progress. Ultimately, the failure to find loving guidance and elevated association, the impersonalism of the institutional mindset, and so on, will create disenchantment and the necessity of finding or founding micro-social groupings that are more conducive to spiritual community.


Perhaps those who have left ISKCON and fine-tuned their spiritual understanding will find ways of communicating to the larger public that ISKCON, in its sclerotic incapacity to jump over the fences that Prabhupada created, will never find. The world does not stand still.

Let us not forget that in relation to Gaudiya Math, the mission of his own guru, Prabhupada was himself an outsider, a householder in a world dominated by sannyasis and brahmacharies. Often the most creative solutions come from those who have the outsider perspective. His inspiration resulted in the creation of a new, powerful branch in the Chaitanya tree, but perhaps it is Mahaprabhu's plan that his tree will grow newer and newer branches.
Prabhupada has now been gone from the physical world for 35 years. Are we still such neophytes that we need to protect our fledgling creepers with such prudence? Are they still so weak? Are we still committing mad-elephant offenses??
Don't we need to grow up and become mature?

I was of the feeling that we are all truly a family, many of whose members have taken different paths in life--some have "deviated", some have "sinned", and so on and so on. But since we are "family" we should help one another, learn from one another, love one another. If the first thing we do is create this artificial division between "true" followers and others, then that is not helpful to anyone.

We say that Prabhupada built a
house in which the whole world could fit.  It is more than a little ironic that 90% of his own disciples no longer participate directly in ISKCON for one reason or another. The most intelligent are ostracized or made to feel unwelcome for simply being themselves because they do not adhere to a set of definitions made by a self-appointed elite. 


Friday, March 08, 2013

Proselytizing for the Brave New World


In his classic dystopian novel, Brave New World, Aldous Huxley projected a future of human society, based on consumerism socially engineered to technocratic perfection.

One of the prominent features of this world, set in the distant future, was a complete separation of the sexual functions of erotic pleasure from reproduction, which was taken care of by advanced test-tube incubation centers and from-birth indoctrination in consumerist values. Without marriage or any need for attachments, sex was also separated from love in the sense of intense commitment to a single partner and simply a source of recreational pleasure, efficiently enhancing the qualities of life and smoothing social cohesiveness.

Though Huxley himself was rather sanguine about such developments, now it appears that his nightmarish vision is seeking realization. In their popularly acclaimed and controversial book Sex at Dawn, subtitled "How we mate, how we stray, and what it means for modern relationships" (Harper-Collins, 2010), Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha argue on the basis of primatology, anthropology and other evidence that human evolution should follow a course much like the one hypothesized by Huxley, even proselytizing for it with something akin to evangelical fervor.

Ryan and Jetha state that current social attitudes to sexuality and common received wisdom about male and female differences are fraught with misunderstanding, particularly if we examine the nature of our ancestors, both primate and primitive human. Indeed, in the introduction, the authors take pains to state overtly that our human character is only a thin veneer over our essential animal nature, claiming it is a mistake to say we are descended from apes, more correct to say that we are apes.

They point to the malaise in current sexual mores and ask whether this is the way for society to move forward, describing the current state of the marital institution as leading to an "unstoppable tide of swirling sexual frustration, libido-killing boredom, impulsive betrayal, dysfunction, confusion and shame. Serial monogamy stretches before (and behind) many of us like an archipelago of failure: isolated islands of transitory happiness in a cold, dark, sea of disappointment" (page 2).

Evolution gone wrong?

The authors' argument is this: About 10,000 years ago, humanity "fell from the garden of Eden" and left the social organization and lifestyle of hunting and foraging that had been its natural state since the beginnings of the race and took to agriculture. From that time, we have followed a social and sexual model that is patriarchal, by which is meant that in agricultural societies, the metaphor of planting seed and so on was applied to human sexual relations, and the male was considered owner of the field, or the woman, and its products, the children. In this model, fatherhood is an important value because it assures family solidarity and thus security in the land-bound agricultural community.

Agricultural societies differed from those of hunter-gatherers ("one-day return hunter-foragers") whose organization seems to have been rather closer to that of the bonobos and chimpanzees, who are genetically our closest relatives in the primate world. In these pre-agricultural societies, women were not Victorian ladies with the kind of loving fidelity that is so prized and championed by romantic idealists. The child rearing and so on that are the glories of motherhood in the family-based social organization are shared by the group in the hunter-gatherer tribe, whose numbers seem to be limited at about 150. Not only mothering, but fathering. By extension, a communal and communistic apportioning of roles seems to be the ethos that governs such tribal communities.

Like our hypersexual ancestors, the bonobos and chimpanzees, the authors argue that pre-agricultural humanity typically shared sexual partners, and the Romantics' much-touted female fidelity was non-existent. Moreover, the genetic patterns that governed our ancestors still remain an integral part of our physical and psychological makeup to this day. The monogamous ethos is thus unnatural and leads to the kinds of undesirable consequences that arise from all repression of natural tendencies -- fracturing, splintering, jealousy, enmity and so on.

So, accepted wisdom about men's and women's differing erotic psychologies, a prejudice found even in Darwin and many other scientists, namely that men tend to seek many partners to spread their genetic material to as many potential breeders as possible, whereas women seek a long-term partner to protect and provide for the offspring, is the prime target the authors wish to debunk. In other words, women are not the coy and wonderful creatures that the Victorian or Romantic idealist envisioned, but something a little more akin to the adolescent male fantasy of the ever-receptive and eager sexual partner.
We're being misled and misinformed by an unfounded yet constantly repeated mantra about the naturalness of wedded bliss, female sexual reticence, and happily-ever-after sexual monogamy—a narrative pitting man against woman in a tragic tango of unrealistic expectations, snowballing frustration, and crushing disappointment... "the tyranny of two."
The sociological role of such a freer sexuality is also defended. Thomas Hobbes' famous description of prehistoric or primitive human life as full of the danger of violent death, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" is extensively repudiated.

Now there is much to be appreciated in Ryan and Jetha's argument, which is presented with almost religious conviction, though no definite solutions are promoted. Nevertheless, our problem is this: The ten-thousand year history of changed sexual mores in the human species and its evolutionary effects cannot be totally written off, nor can we expect that in the modern, urban society that has grown out of it there is much possibility of a return to our state "before the fall."

Bonobo ape. Found only in a shrinking patch of forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this endangered species relies mostly on fruit and plant vegetation.


Evolution

Now I personally do not take the rather disingenuous position of the modern-day Vaishnava fundamentalists and Christians, etc., who flail in myopic indignation at the Darwinian fallacy. It is no sin to observe the world and to come to conclusions about how it operates. As far as I am concerned, that does not change the fundamental principle that "life comes from life" or that consciousness precedes matter, even though the mechanics of such an idea may be a little harder to demonstrate. But for the time being let us keep aside debates about evolution and simply accept that we may be better off in a public debate by accepting much of current scientific knowledge, or at least dealing with it on its terms rather than engaging in the dubious endeavor of trying to fight it. We tend to follow Bhaktivinoda Thakur in this department. for he says that thought is progressive.

At least on the microcosmic scale, we are ourselves engaged -- as are all religions -- in an exercise of social engineering of sorts. Religions usually make the effort to explain the human condition on the basis of certain principles which are then applied prescriptively to society as normative. Now that religion has been replaced by science in many minds as providing the explanatory metanarrative for humankind, many of the narratives provided by religious traditions have been jettisoned, and nowhere is this more the case than in the relations between the sexes. Religion for too long has promoted a patriarchal model of social organization that in the present society seems entirely outdated and retrogressive.

Religions are also asking which way forward for humanity, but not in purely physical or psychological terms. The various religious ideologies will survive into the new age, but simply take new forms, as long as they keep their mission of providing solutions for the spiritual needs of humanity at the forefront. The old wine will go into new bottles, but it requires a deep understanding and experience of the current human situation as well as of religion, both in its theoretical and functional aspects, in both its universals and particulars.

We can to some extent control our evolutionary direction; this is what human intelligence permits. In this article, I wish to propose that any argument that states that we have taken a wrong turn evolutionarily speaking and that the solution is to revert to the norms of our primate ancestors and hunter-forager forefathers is disingenuous and should be put into question.

In this case, we ask whether the biological predisposition to a particular behavior, or the social structures that were successful in hunter-gatherer societies of the pre-agricultural age—and which were usurped by it—are going to be adequate or even useful indicators of the way forward in the new, post-agricultural, technological world.

Evidently, we cannot go back, even though we may draw on our experience. In other words, we must look at what the essence of human development is and where the way forward lies. In the case of those who are following Vaishnava dharma or prema-dharma, we ask whether the only benefits of monogamy were the promotion of a patriarchal social model that ignored or marginalized the feminine and in which women and children become the chattels of the males, the atomic family becoming the replacement for tribal organization as a median unit for an ever-increasingly more complex society.

In fact, much of Sex at Dawn ignores the other features of sexual sublimation, etc., pointed out by Freud as being the real motor of "civilization" as well as of its discontents. The kinds of repression religion introduced in order to control the potential anarchy of untrammeled sexual desire is fundamentally rational: it points to the victory of dharma over kāma, whereby kāma can only be fulfilled after passing through the necessary prerequisites of dharma and artha, requirements that appear to be fairly consistent and resilient even in the modern or post-modern world. In other words, there is no free lunch when it comes to sex.

But since these authors are all more or less agreed on the absence of a soul or a real spiritual consideration in their world views, though they may be still concerned with the discontents of the repressiveness in human society, their answers are seriously flawed.

But one thing that must be pointed out is that the problems of sexuality highlighted by Ryan and Jetha are not irrelevant to our religious concerns. Many Hare Krishna devotees adopted the conservative sexual ethos of Vaishnava Hinduism as a reaction to the lowering of restrictions on sexuality in the 60s and 70s. But they did not adjust easily and Western devotees have not shown themselves to be more capable of marital fidelity and parental commitment than their non-believing fellow citizens. It would be well to bear this cruel fact at the forefront of any discussion of the subject by religious idealists.

The Radha Krishna myth and the evolution of love

The Radha-Krishna myth is fairly simple, and yet directly appropriate to the concerns expressed here. Krishna is portrayed as the all-attractive male, whose sexual prowess and success is limitless. He is God in the sense that everything a man could want, he has; he is "full in six opulences." He is the Oriental potentate with a harem that encompasses the globe, the leader of a primal horde to whom all females accrue without competition. He is the sole male. In short, he is the masculine ego apotheosized to infinity.

But although the story stops there at the Rasa Lila in the understanding of most devotees, it is in fact only the pūrva-pakṣa for the second act of the drama, which is most clearly expressed in the Gīta-govinda. The pūrva-pakṣa is expressed in the viśveṣām anurañjanena verse (1.11), in which Radha watches Krishna cavort with cowherd women hanging to his every limb, the very incarnation of śṛṅgāra-rasa, and becomes annoyed that she has been treated as just another of his women.

From there, the drama develops until we have Radha's total victory over Krishna and her feminine immortalization as the svādhīna-bhartṛkā. The Gīta-govinda is a myth, but its purpose is to say: "The collapse of the male ego before the divine feminine is the path to happiness."

On the Sahajiya path, we hold that monogamy, in which the romantic urge is spiritualized through the awareness of conjugal unity as a practice leading to and promoting the highest realms of prema, is the way forward for evolution. Not even the svakīyā or dharmic marriage, which indeed is fertile ground for civilization's discontents. As such we do not feel that marital fidelity is a value that usurps the natural desire to seek a spiritual partner with whom the culture of spiritual love (prema) is given primacy.

In Europe, the romantic notion, as I will discuss in a future article, had its origins in the medieval period. As with most of the other romantic ideals, including that of Radha Krishna, the story is a sad one, as if such an ideal was automatically associated with ultimate sacrifice, disappointment and impossibility. Though on the one hand, the man was edified by the love of a woman and became a better man, introducing an idea which is the optimistic essence of romance, whereby it is love and the feminine that are civilizing forces, not masculine strength, logic or technological superiority, on the other hand it contrasted the ultimate limitations of human love with the perfection of divine love of God.

But such love will be valued inasmuch as it reaches a profound and total unity that transcends its human limitations, where it is not only a spiritual experience in itself, but a doorway to innate understanding of the Absolute. In this, the profound difference between mere sexuality and romantic love (for want of a better word) is highlighted.

Sex at Dawn, like Huxley's dystopia, is a profoundly anti-romantic treatise, as are most atheisms. This is because there is no knowledge of the soul, and physical, mental and intellectual satisfactions alone are the rule of the day. Religion or spirituality is seen as being of purely subjective value, not in itself incorrect, but incorrect only due to its marginalization of the subjective and the role of the idea.


The way forward

When we look at the way forward, we must be careful to examine what is of value and what not. It is not that the romantic ideal has been attempted and found wanting, it is that it has not been properly understood or fully attempted. Civilization's discontents have been noted, but civilization's real meaning has not been plumbed.

The fact is that we, not even men, do not pine for numerous sexual partners: we pine for the One soul-mate. If we do not find a human soul-mate, we look for it in either God or a pet dog.

Ryan and Jetha have no discussion of love and its perfection. It talks of an attitude, patriarchy, associated with social forms that developed with the agricultural society. But the underlying craving for spiritual intimacy with a "soul mate" appears to be too religious, too mythical and impractical a psychological attitude. But we ask the question whether bonobos or primitive hunter-gatherer jungle tribes are to be the model on which the future of human behavior is to be constructed.

On page 236 of their book, the authors publish a revealing chart that says bonobos and chimpanzees, which both have frequent sexual encounters through the day with various partners, have average copulation times lasting 15 and 7 seconds respectively. The human average, according to this chart, is between 4-7 minutes. In other words, the average human sexual encounter lasts only that long before being obstructed by the male orgasm.

This is not "expertise" in action. Nor is it a sign of fulfilled sexuality. But most of all, it is a sign of a failure of love. Is it any wonder that most people are bored or frustrated with their love lives? So they take to unnecessary and artificial chemical means like Viagra to compensate -- hardly a satisfactory solution, and certainly not a natural one.

Anyone who has experienced meditative and ecstatic devotional lovemaking that lasts for hours is unlikely to have any questions about the costs and benefits of seminal retention. But stated in ways that a spiritual practitioner will understand, let it be said that 4-7 minutes of lovemaking is approximately equivalent to 4-7 minutes of meditation or kirtana, a pretty pitiful attainment for an activity that is supposed to provide so much meaning and causes so much anxiety.

Our fundamental philosophical, psychological or behavioral problem is to recognize the difference between sexuality and love kāma and prema, even though they may externally take a similar form. premaiva gopa-rāmāṇāṁ kāma ity agamat prathām.