Saturday, May 25, 2013

True Love and Vishaya-Ashraya theory

Love and Truth were lovers.
Love became the Love of Truth,
and Truth became the Truth of Love,
and together, they were True Love.

Love should be looked at as a verb, not just a noun. Love is as love does. There is no place in love for abuse. Unless we uproot the untruth from our self knowledge, there is no possiblity of love. There are no magical beliefs that we can dress our ignorance in: not even the most noble-sounding of lies, can make us eligible of love.

Krishna is a man. Like all men, he thinks he is God. And this is his problem. His lie. Until he gives it up and becomes a man, he is lost to love.

This is our current working theory. And because Krishna is a man, having nara-līlā, we have to make the connection to our human lives and our human reality. Here is what Bell Hooks says in her book All About Love:

"All my life I have thought of love as primarily a topic women contemplate with greater intensity and vigor than anybody else on this planet. I still hold this belief even though visionary female thinking on the subject has yet to be taken as seriously as the thoughts and writings of men. Men theorize about love, but women are more often love's practitioner. Most men feel that they receive love and therefore know what it feels like to be loved; women often feel we are in a constant state of yearning, wanting love but not receiving it."

This is a great statement of the problem, which we can recognize as a perfect confirmation of viṣaya/āśraya theory. Though in fact the one feeling love is the āśraya and the object of love is the viṣaya, regardless of gender, in both poetic description and practical experience, the former tends to be female, the latter the male.

Hooks herself is of the opinion this is a learned behavior and not innate in males and females; that really everyone is basically the same in their need for love, because if not, why would men even theorize about love? Nevertheless, in her book, she indicates the extent to which this "learned behavior" vitiates relationships and achievement of the true goal of love, which is a sacred mutuality.

Whether we accept that the tendencies of men and women are innate or learned, the true power of human nature is that we are free to combat the dictates of both nature and nurture. That is what defines us as humans with free will. In learning the art of love, the conditions of our respective genders are both a source of energy even as they are a source of obstacles to be overcome.

In my understanding, what we call the "material ego" though of course existing in both genders, is most solidly exemplified in the male ego. And that is why symbolically we accept the ideal feminine as the higher ideal, in Radha.

Krishna in the Rāsa-līlā of the Bhāgavatam is still God, the bahu-vallabha, in other words he has all the power and pleasure conceivable, but the lesson of the Gīta-govinda is that he has to surrender in exclusivity to his "pleasure potency" in order to find fulfillment in love. This is the point of our Dual Divinity. We are not Deists who worship a God "out there."

In other words Vaikuntha is not on our itinerary because where there is no genuinely mutual surrender of power, there is no love. Whatever kind of power. As Jung says, "Where the will to power is paramount, love will be lacking."

Power is the desire to be viṣaya rather than āśraya. But it is better to love than to be loved. And the whole religious process of devotion is to prepare us for that capacity to manifest love in this world, first in I-Thou relationships and then in community.

Krishna cannot love Radha properly until he knows what it is to be a woman, i.e., āśraya. Of course, in practical human terms, this is never entirely possible nor even desirable. But there must be comprehension and empathy on a very deep level in order for the unity of love to be effectuated. So, in other words, Krishna has to make Radha his guru; He has to internalize her and her mood of love. When he understands the truth of his need for her love, and the power her love has over him, he must act as the servant of Love. And we must follow, especially we men.

This is how people misunderstand Sahajiyaism. As soon as they here the word sex or erotic love, they immediately conclude that the man is acting from the male-ego platform, appropriating to himself the role of the viṣaya, but in fact he is learning the art of love from his beloved sādhikā partner. In other words, like Chaitanya, learning how to be a woman, i.e., an āśraya of love. This is the only way to love.

Again, with reference to Chaitanya, the rasa of Gīta-govinda and similar texts can only be perceived from the standpoint of a gopi, by which is meant woman, or female identity. The difference between a sādhaka and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, is that he is not relishing even in the spirit of Krishna serving Radha, but both sādhaka and sādhikā are in the mood of servants to the Divine Couple, Radha and Krishna together. By doing so, they assimilate Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's mood and they enter into the nitya-nikuñja. They create the līlā in their living reality and they relish that līlā as the manifestation of rasa, in their living reality. That is the meaning of mañjarī-bhāva.

So, as I understand it, when it comes to love, the masculine ego -- which in Vaishnavism is often called "the desire to be God" or the object of love, the viṣaya -- is the main problem. Krishna, who really is God, demonstrates the solution to the problem in his līlā when he surrenders to Radha. But in order to truly be able to love, he must know how to identify with her. This is also the case with a human man. There is no love without empathy, without identification. That capacity to empathize is the root of individual love and universal love also. So Mahaprabhu symbolizes and exemplifies that particular secret to love, which men have great difficulty with. These days we call it accessing your feminine side, etc.


Mutual Guruship

My dear friends, God was alone and he said, "This is no fun." And so he split himself into two and became "as a man locked in embrace with a woman." Thus it is said, Radha and Krishna are one soul in two bodies. All romantic love is an attempt to recreate this original simultaneous oneness and difference. In one dimension we recreate, in another we serve, that ideal. The transformation of the world through love passes through this gate. We worship Radha and Krishna and no other. We pray for the Love that inundates them to guide our intelligence.



Proper loving relations have to be based on liberty and equality. This means that the patriarchal attitude is automatically excluded. Where power relations are dominated by the male and the woman is seen as subservient, i.e., where the guru-chela spiritual dynamic is essentially a one-way street, the relationship may reach a certain level of love, but never the fullness of madhurya.

Parakiya bhava means that a woman takes the freedom and independence to choose, and the man recognizes that he must be more than just a vishaya. In svakiya, the woman puts herself in the position of dependence. The time has passed for these things. Men need to cast aside the false and purely external assurances of patriarchy, which ultimately only support false ego and false power and subvert the emotional completion that comes from genuine spiritually profound love. Learn the art of love through the system of mutual guruship. Learn the system of mutual guruship from a Yugal guru.



Some may wonder what I mean by mutual guruship. I came across this quote just now which connects with my concept rather nicely: "A soul connection is a resonance between two people who respond to the essential beauty of each other's natures, behind their facades, and who connect on a deeper level. This kind of mutual recognition provides the catalyst for a potent alchemy. It is a sacred alliance whose purpose is to help both partners discover and realize their deepest potentials. While a heart connection lets us appreciate those we love just as they are, a soul connection opens up a further dimension—seeing and loving them for who they could be, and for who we could become under their influence." John Welwood, Love and Awakening: Discovering the Sacred Path of Intimate Relationship.

This resonates nicely with M. Scott Peck's definition of love from A Road Less Traveled, as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."

This very definition indicates that one must be a sadhaka in order to cultivate love. To get true love, we must be prepared. The soil must be tilled and fertile for the germ of love to grow. We can only go so far alone. Ultimately we need to look at ourselves in the mirror of the intimate guru, the guru partner, who will know and care about us in ways that require surrender our distant pedestal-sitting gurus never can.

Choose your partners wisely, from a position of self-awareness, self-confidence and self-realization. Only then will the kind of recognition Welwood speaks of be possible.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The relation of yoga to rasika bhakti

Yoga takes one only as far as kaivalya, which is the perfection of the singular, going "solo." All other yoga systems, including bhakti, also pass through kaivalya, in the sense that they are the establishment, as far as is possible, of the self in the self, without which relationship is meaningless.

But in the relishing of bhakti-rasa, it is indeed only a stage: both the work of vidhi-bhakti and yoga are elements of the pravartaka stage or preliminary stage of practice in rasika-bhakti.

This is because in yoga, the culture of love is restricted to the yamas and niyamas and some other general internalizing processes, whereas in bhakti, love is the culmination, both the means and the end. In other words, in yoga, love is one of the means, and a subordinate one at that, but in bhakti, love is the one and only all consuming goal.

Nevertheless, the gains of yoga, both as a psychological force (as expounded on in the Yoga-sutra) and as a psycho-physical force (from the hatha-yoga practices of the siddhas) should be internalized by everyone, including the bhakti-yogi. They should be as natural as eating or sleeping or breathing, not a distraction but a natural way of being.Ignore warning

So in the sadhaka or madhyama stage, in which one starts to cultivate the Dual, the madhura I-Thou relationship, and starts to progress in bhava and rati, these things should be as second nature. Of course they never quite are, but one is never held back from proceeding to the second class for not having a full 100% grade in the first. Even so, the better prepared one is, the better one makes progress in the higher levels, and the further one goes. Moreover, not having adapted them ultimately accumulates, like faulty foundation work in a building, and are sure to hamper one's progress at some point.

In terms of bhakti, I mean a preparation through hearing and chanting that transforms the symbolic vocabulary of the psyche, reconfigures the archetypal universe around the constellation of Radha-Krishna and the sakhis in Vrindavan. But the point of this article is that the fundamental external achievements of yoga, such as the ability to sit still and meditate, to concentrate, to have good physical health, are also highly salutary and helpful. In other words, they are aspects of physical and mental purification that are favorable to the execution of devotional service, especially as conceived in the sadhaka stage of rasika bhakti.

When a devotee sadhaka has internalized the gains of yoga, they do not occupy more space psychically than they need to and simply become assets or tools for going on to tasting rasa.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kariṣye vacanaṁ tava

Everything hangs on the decision. Everything culminates in action. There is no meaningful thinking or feeling without action. And action comes of the will. And will is manifest in the making of decisions. So, Arjuna, when he says kariṣye vacanaṁ tava, he is not saying I will follow a scriptural injunction or a particular religion, he is responding to the inner imperative as understood and purified by knowledge and devotion.

I did not use the terms "categorical" imperative or "moral" imperative because I am not following Kant here, at least not consciously or intentionally, but certainly "moral imperative" would be justified.

In Vaishnava philosophy, the jiva has will, which we call kartritva. This is inherent in the jiva and the very meaning of the conditioned state of existence is independent will.

Since it culminates in an act, the Gita is an existentialist philosophy.

God is the source of the imperative, he says, tasmād yudhyasva bhārata. The jiva has the right to say no. As a matter of fact, Sartre would say he is defined by his capacity to say no. But he can also say yes. kariṣye vacanaṁ tava.

But there are no scriptural injunctions that can be any more than a general guide for individual conditions. The attempt to cover all possibilities, as in the legalistic approach exemplified by Islam and Judaism, stifles the creature and almost forces him to say "No!" God gives freedom, he does not take it away. The culmination of will is the will to love, which is the harmony of God's will and that of the jiva.

The apparent constriction of possibilities to act is a result of the refusal to decide.

Even within the pursuit of the supreme goal of life, prema, there are momentary and momentous decisions that need to be made. The point is that the confirmation of our freedom is the necessary condition for making them. And in fact the shastras (of our tradition, at least) are full of refusals, even of gurus' orders, such as the refusal of Bali to listen to Shukracharya, or the gopis to even listen to Krishna.

Love should be looked at as a verb, not just a noun. Love is as love does. There is no place in love for abuse. Unless we uproot the untruth from our self knowledge, there is no possibility of love. There are no magical beliefs that we can dress our ignorance in, not even the most noble-sounding of lies, can make us eligible of love.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A golden age of ten thousand years

A bit of a debate took place on the internet as a result of Advaita Das's blog, in which he posted a response from Satyanarayana Dasji about the Bhavisya Purana and Brahma Vaivarta Puranas, particularly with reference to predictions about a "golden age" of ten thousand years within the Kali Yuga, which devotees following Srila Prabhupada attribute to the sankirtan movement. Satya Narayan Dasji did not think much of the Puranas in question and also questioned the interpretations made of the verses themselves.

Hari Parshada Dasji, a young ISKCON scholar and also a friend, expressed some reservations about the article in a Facebook note. He noted several places where Prabhupada made statements supporting the 10,000 year prediction (e.g. CC Antya 3.50 Purport,
Room Conversation with Allen Ginsberg, 13 May 1969) and expressed dismay that devotees out of ISKCON seem to be going out of their way to disparage anything that ISKCON or Prabhupada says or believes. Anyway, I made the following comments:



Though I sympathize with Hari Parshad Dasji's problem, I think that I agree almost entirely with SN Dasji here. I wish to say though that I find Hari's meticulousness and assiduity in research to be highly admirable and his article is constructive.

First of all I doubt such critiques are being made specifically with the intention of causing trouble for ISKCON. I don't think so. My personal impression is that there is no harm in establishing which texts are earlier or later, which are interpolated and so on.

I also consider the Bhavishya Purana as well as Brahma Vaivarta to be very recent, certainly from the post-Chaitanya period. So I, being a stickler for sampradaya, ignore them almost totally. To do so is not an insult to anyone, least of all to Vyasadeva. And to say that Sri Jiva Goswami relied on it in any way whatsoever for the Gopala-campu has no basis at all.

These late Puranas are not at all reliable, and in them anyone might say anything. I would go even further than Satya Narayan Dasji to say that these puranas are not simply rife with interpolations, but were composed wholesale as late as the 18th century. One may look at Studies in the Upapuranas by R.C. Hazra for an analysis of the reasons for coming to such an estimation.

I have seen that in the Sandarbhas, Jiva Goswami will use whatever text is favorable to his argument and not use what is not favorable. We also do the same in our own world. If some Western scholar says something favorable about the Gita we promote him and put his quote on the front cover of our published edition to take advantage of the name recognition. Where Jiva Goswami quotes some verse, it does not mean that he excepts that text in its entirely any more than we accept the public personality in his totality. Just think of Allan Ginsberg, for instance.

Sri Jiva even cites Shankaracharya to back up his own arguments. And why not? If your opponent says the right thing, then why not congratulate him? Or if your opponent's acharya states something that is useful for you, it is a friendly way of saying that we do not oppose the man, but the doctrine.

And Sri Jiva more or less says expressly that he picks and chooses verses that support his ideas in the Tattva-sandarbha when discussing Madhvacharya's sources. He admits that he does not fully trust their provenance, but if they are supportive, then why not?

When there is apasiddhanta, such as in the case of Bhagavata verses or other important texts that seem to disagree with his conclusions, Jiva Goswami may go to a great deal of trouble to interpret it in a way with the guidelines set in its directing verses such as 1.2.11, or especially 1.7.7-11. In the case of one of the older puranas, Jiva might take this trouble, but why should he bother with an upstart, late purana?

We have plenty of literature that clarifies our siddhanta instead of muddying it, or simply increasing the amount of "magic stories" that the puranas are full of. Let us concentrate on our rasa school of Vaishnavism and not get carried away by more Tulasi mahatmyas and the like that proliferate in all these late texts.

Next, I find any predictions in shastra to be fairly unimportant. These things are there to enthuse or inspire devotees to spur them to the action that is being recommended, whether it is bhakti, Harinam, preaching, whatever. The correct theological position, in my opinion, is that whatever age we live in is golden inasmuch as our own opportunity to advance in bhakti is right here, right now. What happens over the next 10,000 years will happen as it happens.

Of course, we should have an intelligent vision of what the next 10,000 years are to be like and must be able to engage with intellectuals and help move human history forward. In those terms, I would say that Krishna consciousness is not doing a particularly strong or direct job, even though it may be said that there are salutary effects to the chanting of the Holy Name and other actions Vaishnavas are promoting.

To give an example, environmental action is one area where devotees could make a strong and relevant statement that is both meaningful, effective and directly connected to the devotional movement.

My point, to be perfectly clear, is that as devotees our function is to be active in the world, but not merely making admonishments to chant the Holy Name. Prabhupada really had the right idea about doing welfare work for all humanity, but our capacity to sell it depends on our capacity to understand the intellectual positions prevalent in educated society and to deal with them. We cannot expect that an undigested repetition of mythologies from a bygone epoch will convince anyone who has a modicum of knowledge of comparative religion, psychology, etc. And those are the people who are interested in the subject and perhaps even sympathetic. Those who are gross materialists will simply laugh us off, as they do.

Nor can we sit back and wait for God to do the work. We have to be the nimitta. And in this matter being the nimitta means both being love and expressing love in action. That for me is the uttama bhagavata, the one who has passed the singular (kanistha) stage, and the madhyama (dual) stage, to achieve the plural.

By this I mean that the first place to find God is within, then in the other individual, and finally in the crowd.

This is also an aspect of tamas, rajas and sattva as well. Devotees in tamo guna fight, in rajo guna they agree to differ, and in sattva they seize the underlying unity of spirit.

We can lament or we can struggle to become prema-bhaktas by first becoming worthy individuals and then learning how to cultivate genuine loving relations.

Things don't happen by magic. "We just chant Hare Krishna and everything will happen. The golden age will come." Hare Krishna is only our call to perfection, it is our flute song, but now what form will our abhisara take?

And I would like to add that our subject is not Hare Krishna, it is prema. Prema is the prayojana. So that is our principal subject. Prema is the goal and bhakti is the imperfect attempt to emulate that stage. The first goal is to become a premi bhakta. That is our sadhana and that is our subject, our only subject. It is not Hare Krishna that will change the world, but prema. We have to be skilful in prema. If we can teach prema from a position of knowledge, the golden age that we ourselves experience will be shared in an ever enlarging circle.

But in this endeavor we must be able to "convince the intelligent" by our intelligibility.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Meat eating and Krishna. What is the answer?

My friend Satyaraj Das, the founder and editor of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies, a successful, prolific and popular writer on subjects related to Vaishnavism, is writing a book on vegetarianism and Vaishnavism. He has already written successful books on the subject and is revisiting the subject from a deeper and broader perspective. He asked me my opinion on Krishna's recommending the killing of animals for the Govardhana Puja, as in the Vishnu Purana (5.10.38) and Harivamsa (2.16.21).

Why not just take it as a historical development? We don't have to anchor ourselves to the past. This is a big problem with the way that Prabhupada presented Krishna consciousness to us, as something fixed in the past and unchangeable to which we must return. This is impossible, is it not? You never put your toes into the same flowing stream twice.

But that is a big piece for most devotees to swallow. How can Krishna not have been perfect, if he was indeed a historical reality, etc.? And if he was not a historical reality, then what is the point of the avatar doctrine?

If we say that Krishna or God Himself is revealed in humanity over the course of time, or the concept of God evolves as humanity grows in maturity and understanding of itself, is perhaps possible to introduce to the devotee community, but such ideas will always be for the "inner circle" as the outer reaches of the community have been irrevocably tied to Prabhupada's writings, the scriptures as interpreted historically by the sampradaya, etc.

And this of course will create confusion at some point, as those like myself and perhaps Hridayananda Maharaj, yourself and others who think that way, will be forced to produce a whole new set of arguments and understandings and concepts to justify newly emerging visions of Krishna. And it is inevitable that such visions will be based in an acceptance of "myth" as "reality", and that they will differ, leading to much controversy and dispute.

My personal vision is that prema is the prayojan. Krishna as mediated by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, revealed as the Godhead in two aspects, male and female. As such they are united in love. The devotee participates mystically in that union, which is the meaning of sakhi bhava. Since the perfection of love is the meaning and purpose of God and religion itself, it only stands to reason that this should manifest itself in an attitude towards the environment, to other creatures and to humanity in a particular way, i.e., one that is based in an attitude of love.

All tools for analyzing human society, economic, social, political, anthropological, etc., all need to be framed in the optic of prema. Whoever (Christians, etc.) agrees with that optic is our partner in dialogue and potentially in action.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Svadhina Bhartrika

So, seeing that the time was ripe for Hari Katha, I have decided to try a daily serial. So we are going to do the last song of Jayadeva's Gita Govinda, which is the image of the svādhīna-bhartṛkā. So, just to prepare, as a prerequisite, you go and enjoy the following about Jayadeva's Krishna.

What is a nāgara? And why is God a nāgara?

But that will have to await another today, for today, Radha is on the stage and it is the final dramatic scene of the Gita Govinda, the lovers have just made love and it is a HAPPY ending! And now to culminate the scene, Radha, like an empress on her flower bed, looks toward Krishna and says, "Peel me a grape."

And Krishna, well I don't have to tell you what Krishna has been through!! If I were to tell that story, I would have to start the Gīta-govinda at the very beginning and that would take us a bit out of the way. Let us just say, he is very, very thankful to all the gods and saints that Radha has finally accepted him back into her good graces and is letting him back into the kunj as it were.

So it is a clear victory. The flag was thrown down in song 19 full capitulation, and now Radha enjoys the peace and camaraderie that comes when the empress of love is recognized in all her glory. The svādhīna-bhartṛkā!

And Krishna pays homage.

So, for the next few days, this will be our meditation. We will dwell slowly on this image of the divine couple. We will not look for a story for there is no story. There is just an image, an icon of love in a certain significant moment of total pleasure.

So, just to complete today's āsvādana, I will give the definition of svādhīna-bhartṛkā as given by Bharata Muni.
suratātirasair baddho yasyāḥ pārśve tu nāyakaḥ |sāndrāmoda-guṇa-prāptā bhavet svādhīna-bhartṛkā ||215||vicitrojjvalaveṣā tu pramododyotitānanā |udīrṇa-śobhā ca tathā kāryā svādhīna-bhartṛkā ||225|| 

Now this is the way that the nāyikā should be played on the stage, the main characteristics. The nāyaka is bound to her now because the nectar of lovemaking is so completely blissful, so is constantly by her side. Her dress will be bright and colorful, her face will be bright with pleasure, her effulgence spreading, that is how she should be depicted. Radhe Shyam.

We have much to talk about this Braja nāgara some other time. Suffice it to say here that he has reached the limits of the dhīra-lalita nāyaka, completely under the control of his beloved.




Now these poems are very sensuous. They are meant to be. They are not vulgar, but they are very suggestive. As I may already have stated, when it comes to erotic love, the eros and the love are not separated by any kind of distinction or by and overlay of prudery. Sannyāsa culture, yoga, jñāna, what have you, not a whisper. No sāṅkhya philosophy of counting tattvas and this and that. It has all been forgotten. Even the characters have been pared to the bone.

There is a shadowy sakhi, a go-between who passes from her to him and him to her, but she has no personality. The drama is purely between Radha and Krishna. It is the drama of the eight nāyikā avasthās, and it culminates with the svādhīna-bhartṛkā, Radha's complete victory.

Radha and Krishna are in love, but practically speaking there is no why to their love. There is no real introduction, no reason why or how they fell in love.

In Gīta-govinda we have the ten avatar stotra, but that is almost a formality. And even that is given little or no explanation, even though it indicates the implicit acceptance of Krishna as the supreme form of the Godhead, and not just the Krishna of the Puranas, but a Krishna meant for the nagara. Krishna has long ago left the realm of tattva and is simply an archetype and the story being told is really just the a bare bones of an archetypal tale, a myth, and that is precisely where its power and message lie.

We can only assume that the court audience of cultivated connoisseurs would have been in on the fact that Krishna is God, or an avatar, or a divinity of some kind. But what would that have meant for them?

So here, after Krishna kneels next to Radha, his hands folded like Garuda in expectation of an order, Radha begins to speak.

So here, after Krishna kneels next to Radha, his hands folded like Garuda in expectation of an order, Radha begins to speak.

kuru yadu-nandana candana-śiśira-
tareṇa kareṇa payodhare |
mṛgamada-patrakam atra mano-bhava-
maṅgala-kalaśa-sahodare ||17||

nijagāda sā yadu-nandane krīḍati hṛdayānandane ||

The refrain or dhruva pada: She said to Yadu Nandana, the delight of her heart, as he played with her.

The verses are what she said: "Do..." She opens with an order, kuru. Ah, what a long path these two syllables, once analyzed, will take us, all the way from the opening words of the Bhagavad Gita to here...

Oh Yadu Nandan! With your hand cooler than sandalwood, make musk decorations on my breasts, which are like twins of the auspicious pots marking the sacrifice of Cupid.

So karma-yoga is based on ritual, and here the sacrificial ritual is the act of lovemaking. And here, Krishna is the priest who makes auspicious markings of black musk or red vermilion to invoke the gods into the jugs, full of nectar, that mark the sacrificial ground. But is he the priest, or Radha the priestess? She is the acharya for she dictates how the sacrifice is to be performed.

http://jagadanandadas.blogspot.in/2009/04/o-mind-meditate-on-radhas-breasts.html
http://jagadanandadas.blogspot.in/2006/08/na-diksasyah-ziksa-zravana-pathane-va.html

Prabodhananda says that the mention of Krishna's cool hands are only a way of saying that she intends to light his fire once again by having him touch her intimately.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Sexiness

A friend of Facebook wrote a status: "I don't believe in sexiness," which elicited a number of comments. In a talk I gave last night here in Rishikesh, one person once again accused me of promoting "free sex": nothing could be further from the truth and indeed it gets tiresome defending oneself against such a shallow understanding of my theology and practice.

We are in a world where hypersexualization has vitiated the spiritual potential of erotic love. But sexuality is so fundamental to human life that if we do not understand how to cultivate the sacred in that, we will never truly understand madhura-rasa. This also takes discipline because it is a sādhana. It is pleasurable, of course, because spiritual life IS about the highest pleasure, and the highest pleasure is love, and the highest love is the love of God, which we experience through our human love relations.

So I too find it gross when I see a woman flaunting her sexuality, like the movie stars who wear shocking outfits and so on. In some ways, I think these women must be very self controlled to smile naturally while she is making this statement. Her obvious message is "My breast is showing, I dare you to look! And when you do I will call you a lusty dog and know that I have power over you."

Believe me, it is extremely powerful magic that works on the very fundamental levels of the animal psyche. Men always look at breasts. How can you avoid it, they are right in front of you, pointing at you? Nevertheless, it is not my style. It is a game I do not want to be a part of.

But how can one deny that the attraction of sex is at the root of every sexual relationship? It is only a caricature of what it really can be.

A rasika devotee understands the real purpose of the game. So the very personality is different. He or she is looking for something else besides mundane rewards of any kind and is seeking prema, prema-bhakti.

A devotee knows that the secret meaning of sexuality is about entering into the sacred realm of love. And the most or truest attractive feature possessed by the one to whom they are attracted is that they are also desirous of entering that realm.

That realm means prema, not kama. The woman who uses her sexuality as a tool for power and control is just as guilty of an offense to love as the man who lusts for her. Both are caught in the maelstrom.

The problem is trying to split ourselves away from the world. Denying the world, of which sexuality is a part. But the warning lies in being self-realized, i.e., having achieved the results of sādhana on the individual or kanistha level first, i.e., on the first level of individuation, then one can proceed to dual relationships which are one-on-one I-Thou interchanges, of which erotic love is the crowning jewel.

Then as one becomes fixed up there, one can effect change in the world. To skip steps is usually problematic, but to a great extent unavoidable and not altogether improper.