Thursday, November 28, 2013

Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi at Munger temple

We were discussing the third verse in which it is being said that the dust of Radha's feet is a magic powder that immediately brings Krishna under control.

yo brahma-rudra-śuka-nārada-bhīṣma-mukhyair
ālakṣito na sahasā puruṣasya tasya |
sadyo-vaśīkaraṇa-cūrṇam ananta-śaktiṁ 
taṁ rādhikā-caraṇa-reṇum anusmarāmi ||
I constantly meditate on the dust of Shri Radha's feet, which has limitless power, being the magic potion that immediately brings under her control that Purusha who is imperceptible to even such great souls as Brahma, Shiva, Shukadeva, Narada, and Bhishma. (RRSN 4)
So the general discussion was centered on why should it be considered a good thing that the Purusha Krishna should come under the control of Radha. What is the meaning of a statement such as "controlling another person through love"? Needless to say this is a vast topic.

The specific context from the commentary by Harilal Vyas was that Krishna is warned by the sakhis who side with him, the priya-snehādhikā sakhis, NOT to bow down to the sthala-daivata or deity presiding over the particular place, in this case the kunja, when he entered. The reason was that Radharani had been praying to the sthala-daivata and if Krishna were to go to the spot where she had gone to express the depths or her innermost desires, which of course are related to her love for Krishna, has made it particularly potent. If he were to even touch his head to the dust that she had sat upon, dust that was imbued with this meditation and ecstatic anxiety in love, he would be overwhelmed and lose himself totally, becoming completely under her control.

In this context I had to explain the very concept of a sthala-daivata. After all, this is a beautiful idea that is general to the entire complex of Hindu genius: that of recognizing the presence of the sacred in all times and circumstances. I talked about "personal deities" and how if you respect a person, you respect their deities. You enter someone's house and you offer respect to their shrine, because the shrine represents what is sacred for that person.

If I go into a house and say, "I like you, but I do not like your God," this would  actually be a contradiction in terms, or outright hypocrisy. Even though it is the behavior of a believer that is the most convincing evidence of the likability of their God, if the person is likable, it is certainly an evidence that he has found a likable God, even if he lives in a tradition in which God has a rather menacing attitude. But if you think that your God is better independently of the character of His acolytes, then the worst thing you can do to convince another of His superiority is to disrespect that person's gods. And the reason is of course that it is the Same God who has simply appeared to that person in another form.

Now I know there are many possible caveats for this position, but I think that the general principle holds. And the same principle applies to atheists also, because their highest ideal, whatever it is, is woven in with their atheism, and because no one can live without a highest ideal of some sort, whether noble or pathetic, that too is a form of God.

So if God appears to such a person in such a way, even as "no-God," then that too must be granted respect. Grudgingly, perhaps, but granted anyway. God in His infinite splendor manages to appear to so many in such a variety of ways, both in presence and in absence, who are we to argue? Without seeing their gods, we will not see them, nor God in them. And seeing God in someone is the same thing as saying loving them. It is not something different.

From sthala-daivata we come to communal devatas: villages or communities would set aside a sacred space that was common to all. Each of these sacred spots represents the center of the universe. The sacred space always represents the psychic center, singularly or communally, the axis mundi. And though different people have different centers, spiritually or materially oriented, it is my job, if you want to call it that, to understand how Radha and Krishna represent the real psychic center, and why.

This particular approach may sound alien to many devotees, but if I speak of Freud and Jung side by side with Rupa Goswami, it is because I believe that they each can be used to shed light on each other. Indeed, this is where difficulty arose with Sadhu Maharaj.

* *** *

My exit from the IGM world has been a very slow one, but my full exit is a little closer today. I am not really a courageous man. I like being liked and I don't like confrontation much. But even

Sadhu Maharaj does seem to represent the outer limit of the IGM culture, a kind of last stop for people who are still devotees and can't quite leave that scene, but at the same time have nowhere to go that really helps them feel at home, for whatever reason. Sadhu Maharaj is loving and tolerant of most kinds of waywardness, and at the same time directly committed to the ultimate goal of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, service to Radharani, rādhā-dāsya.

But where is the true intellectual shelter for devotees? So this is where I maybe started to exceed the strict limits of decorum: I began mocking -- gently I hope -- the effort Srila Prabhupada put in motion to disprove Darwin, as though the salvation of Krishna consciousness hinges on proving the falsity of evolution. What a confused and futile row these individuals have chosen to hoe!

On the one side we have apologetics, scholasticism, taking refuge in the authority of revelation, and over on the other, New Age bromides coupled with transparent public relations exercises. When you start to dissect what is there, you realize that the house is made of cards, and the emperor has few if any clothes. What is the meaning of rādhā-dāsya? How can we understand this goal when it is such a challenge at the very foundation of our, i.e., the males', most deeply cherished sense of self, which is tied in with our masculinity?

While discussing this -- with three IGM sannyasis sitting in front of me -- I pushed the envelope a little further and said that men in ISKCON and the Gaudiya Math spend their time cultivating a particular kind of ego in order to become sannyasis, I myself once was an Iskcon sannyasi and I know whereof I speak. I have lived it, and my conclusion, which was confirmed by my guru, Sri Lalita Prasad Thakur, is that this ego is fundamentally a male ego and therefore pratikūla or unhelpful to the culture of Radha-Krishna bhakti.

viṣayāviṣṭa-cittānāṁ viṣṇv-āveśaḥ sudūrataḥ |
vāruṇī-dig-gataṁ vastu vrajann aindrīṁ kim āpnuyāt ||
When one's mind is absorbed in material objectives, then how can one truly be absorbed in God? How will an object that is moving to the west ever end in the east? (Bhakti-sandarbha 147, attributed to Vishnu Purana).
The problem with the varnashram ideal, daiva or otherwise, comes in the context of bhajan to Radha and Krishna. There is undoubtedly utility in the concept, and dharma in the context of vocation is noble and purifying. But it is said in the Chaitanya Charitamrita:

eta saba cāḍi āra varṇāśrama dharma
akiñcana hañā laya kṛṣṇaika-śaraṇa
Giving up all such bad association as well as one’s varnashram duties, the Vaishnava becomes renounced and take exclusive shelter of Krishna’s lotus feet. (CC 2.22.90)
I think this is the ultimate requirement of Radha and Krishna bhajan. The shastra says you have to give up your puruṣābhimāna. A man may invest twenty years of his life to get approval so that he can be a sannyāsī, but why? So you can be in the top position on the totem pole. Some people may be able to break through, but most sannyāsīs are not free of sex desire, they have simply channeled it towards their ambition for sannyāsa.
Giving up puruṣābhimāna actually means stop playing that game. Like the saying, "The only way to win the game is to stop playing altogether."

Vaishnava Maharaj asked whether Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati deliberately created the daiva-varnashram system in the context of renunciation, and of course I agreed with him. This is why Ananta Vasudeva made Audulomi Maharaj take white cloth when he quit the Gaudiya Mission to retire to Vrindavan. As a matter of fact, the way I heard the story was that he said whoever wanted to be his successor as acharya had to take bābājī-veṣa, paramahaṁsa-veṣa, to show at least symbolically that he was beyond the varnashram system. So even though it was an implicit contradiction to the Gaudiya Math way of thinking, it was nevertheless still a powerful statement.

People came to listen to Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi. My duty -- in this context at least -- is to share what little I know of Radha and Krishna bhajan. To show my listeners how it is meaningful, so that their love for Radha and Krishna will increase. That is why I respect my audience, because all who come are at least nominally interested in Radha dasya, being official Rupanugas, and they came to hear RRSN. And why should I not do that honestly and to the best of my ability?

If you expect your realization to be an exact copy of what is in the books, then your description of it will probably just be a repetition of what you read. Explanations that come from one's own realization will always require reflection. And not everyone wants to be bothered to do the work of synthesizing their experience with the tradition, or vice versa. And nowhere is this more evident than in IGM, which has very rigid and dogmatic ideas about truth, and where people are trained to think in terms of received authority and to adhere to a group dynamic. Varnashram dharma in the IGM context is a very specific institutional role, rather than one based in self-knowledge and vocation. I bow down to all these devotees, since I am also or at least have been one of them. But I thank God that I am moving on into the realm of marami

Radhe Shyam.





Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Getting terminated at Munger temple



I suppose it was only to be a matter of time before it happened, but last night Sadhu Maharaj asked me to discontinue giving my Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi classes. After discussion, I understood that his principal objections were that I was deviating and that what I said was rasābhāsa.

I suspected that there were in all likelihood more factors involved in his decision. No doubt he was starting to get feedback from those who were starting to dislike the fact that I was speaking in a Gaudiya Math affiliated temple. But the first thing he said to me was something to the effect, "I cannot follow what you are saying. I am a simple man. I want to hear Radha-Krishna kathā by the book. I told you to speak to the verses and not say anything of your own. I am now seventy years old, I don't have time for anything else."

Innocently enough, I explained that Westerner devotees have no understanding of Radha Krishna lila and without a proper background, explained to them in ways that are relevant to their own experience. And I offered to speak to him in Hindi for a Hindi-speaking audience, for whom the style of presentation would be quite different. It is just that this time, the audience was mostly Western and I said what I thought they needed to hear in order to understand just what Radha and Krishna are. They are not figurines on an altar or "little Krishna" cartoon fairy tales. I am afraid that is going to cause waves when the orthodox position is fundamentalist and literalist.

It is true that over the last two days, indeed from the beginning of the classes, I have been getting progressively more honest and more elaborate in my explanations. The last two days, in particular, I had been speaking rather strongly about things like sannyas. Nothing different from the stuff I have said on my blog, but speaking out loud in mixed company brings out their controversial nature.

Some may find my positions meaningful despite their controversy in the Gaudiya Math milieu, but it is more than likely that others have complained that I am speaking apasiddhānta. But when you mix Freud and Jung in with Radha and Krishna, there are VERY few people in traditional Vaishnavism of any branch that are going to be able to swallow it.

I expected that sooner later I would reach the limit of Sadhu Maharaj's liberalism and open-mindedness. But it was a good experience. I am extremely grateful to him. Nevertheless, because in the last two classes I gave, I found myself speaking to riveted audiences and I found myself getting rather fond of speaking to people for whom my point of view is both incisive and persuasive.

Some may think that my goal in coming to Sadhu Maharaj's domain was to convert his disciples or followers. I should therefore have expected expulsion. Of course, my primary goal was truly to speak of Radha, but my Radha is MY Radha. And so I will explain my Radha to you if you come to listen to me. But my purpose is only to glorify Radha and to seek to understand prema by looking through the eyes of those who glorified Radha in the past, as well as through my own.

Sadhu Maharaj helped me to find a little more of my voice and for that I am exceedingly grateful. He took a risk in having me speak at his temple. Perhaps he was not fully aware of the depths of my depravity and apostasy. As a matter of fact, only a few months ago, I confided to him that I was feeling that did not know if I was ready to teach yet and he gave me his blessing, saying that he sensed my time was coming near. I remember feeling quite pleased by his blessing.

But serious teaching should only be done if one has something more than repetitions of things other people said. If one can weave those things into a coherent and meaningful pattern for people. For those in the West, they have to "cross over" so to speak from their conditioned state into the world of Vrindavan. The gulf is wide. The conditioning is very deep and intricate and the Western critiques of religion are extensive and well thought out.

And those who claim to be preachers KNOW that in most cases they are swamped and incapable of dealing with any intelligent critic other than to hide in the bunker labelled "a 5000-year-old authentic religious tradition."

And we have Rupa Goswami on our side. Rupa Goswami is not a theologian, he is more a psychologist who has given us a guide to cultivating sacred love. But that requires expertise. It requires study. It requires knowledge. You don't become a scientist of sacred love without real life experience. Book learning ain't gonna do it.

....

In a way, it may just be that I had to find my voice directly in the IGM environment. Telling them exactly what I thought clearly. So really it was totally expected, and I have made my statement. I don't know that I consciously was intending to do that. After all, I was on their territory.

It is his place, why should I not honor his wishes? I said that I spoke to the audience, and that unfortunately he was the only one on that level. I would gladly arrange to do that also, but with the audience of predominantly non-Indian devotees who have come through the IGM mill and are practically out the other side, that I should say what they need to hear. Then they will actually be able to taste Radha Krishna katha, but right now, man, there are very few who are past the children's coloring book stage.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Another failed attempt to explain love

One of the reasons that I have been silent on this blog is because of the particular confused nature of my love life. I bifurcated my path from that of the Gaudiya Vaishnava orthodoxy and called it “Prema Prayojan.” I recognized that I was influenced by Sahajiyaism, and even called myself a Sahajiya, but at the same time I wanted to make a distinction between my own viewpoint and that which is traditionally identified with Sahajiyaism.

In fact, let us face it, most people have little real knowledge of what Sahajiyaism is. Most of what has been disseminated in the orthodox or Gaudiya Math worlds is a mish-mash of criticisms that stretches over a very broad area, from the traditional practitioners of Raganuga Bhajan (like Ananta Das Mahant of Radha Kund) to those doing kirtan professionally and making displays of emotion, to those who engage in some kind of sexual practices with apparently prodigious promiscuity in the name of Radha and Krishna.

In fact, I would say that Sahajiyas themselves are not a monolithic sampradaya with clear and consistent ideas that are held by all. But in several points, I am in agreement with what is generally held to be Sahajiya doctrine. The principal one is that the relationship of love in this world is a means to attaining a transcendental state known as prema.

One thing I have to say here, though, arises from the idea that the relationship with woman is purely utilitarian.

মধু আনি মধুমাছি চাক করে যবে
নানান পুষ্পের মধু যোগ করি তবে
বহু পুষ্প হৈতে মধু করে আয়োজন
সেই পুষ্পে পুনঃ তার কোন প্রযোজন
দীপ হস্তে করি যদি প্রবেশযে ঘরে
তিমির করিয়া ধ্ৱংস দীপ্তিমান করে
যেখানে যে দ্রৱ্য তাহা হয বর্তমান
পশ্চাৎ প্রদীপে আছে কোন্ প্রযোজন

madhu āni madhumāchi cāka kare yabe
nānāna puṣpera madhu yoga kari tabe
bahu puṣpa haite madhu kare āẏojana
sei puṣpe punaḥ tāra kona prayojana
dīpa haste kari yadi praveśaye ghare
timira kariẏā dhvaṁsa dīptimāna kare
yekhāne ye dravya tāhā haya vartamāna
paścāt pradīpe āche kon prayojana

Beehives are filled up with honey collected from many flowers. When the honey is collected, the flowers are of no use to the bees. In a dark room, a lamp is used to drive away darkness and to ascertain the positions of things it contains. As soon as this is done, the lamp can be dispensed with. Quoted on 76-77 by Manindra Mohan Bose (Post Chaitanya Sahajiya Cult)
I was forced, in the very beginning to admit that I was learning, experimenting with this concept on the inspiration of several elements, which I shall review here. And the purpose of making it public is simply to analyze my experiments, make my findings public, and to then go on in the direction that the laws of science take me. When one is trying to create the philosopher’s stone, it may become an obsession. Similarly, my life is either openly or not-so-openly, about my obsession, which is called prema prayojana. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said that “divine love is the purpose of life” and as far as possible I have dedicated my life to this project.

In doing so, I have committed mistakes, offenses to individuals and to Love itself. And many people will be critical of the conclusions that I have come to, but after experimentation, I am fairly certain that much of what I have learned is true and transmissible. That is, useful to other people.
Since I have decided to write this, which will take a bit of time and several chapters, I am going to begin with an overview. Because this is all about prema and my personal life here is not separate from that sadhana. I will use the letter R to indicate the person who has been designated by Shrimati Radharani to be my partner in this endeavor. R stands for Radha, but I will not call her by that name. She is a representative of Radha in my life and therefore merits to be called by that name, but I would avoid offending her sense of propriety or that of other devotees. But Shrimati Radharani is the Mahabhava Svarupini.

Basically stated, the prema prayojan project has three wings: the most important is bhakti, the other two are sexuality and yoga. These things will be hard to explain to the narrowly orthodox Vaishnava, and to some extent or another, I have been doing so. But let me start by saying that the recognition of sexuality’s role in spiritual life does not mean that there is a base sexuality going on. This accusation has arisen, and in my particular case, even R has been quick to point out her perception of impurity in my own behavior, and that is something that we will of necessity refer to and discuss again, and no doubt in the future.

Shastra says that the love of the gopis received the name kama because of the external similarities of the two. But even this is misleading, because such a point of similarity between kama and prema is only based on a few points of similarity. There are many points of difference. The main one is always given that the difference between kama and prema is that the former is done out of a desire for sense gratification and the latter is done for the pleasure of the beloved. Priti in the Priti-sandarbha is defined both as receiving pleasure as well as as acting for the pleasure of the beloved. In the case of the samartha-rati, Rupa Goswami says that love and desire are so intertwined that they are never separated from one another. They are not two separate things.

If we don’t understand how these things are possible and visible in human experience, then there is no possibility of experiencing Radha and Krishna’s love as a manjari. This is my humble but very audacious statement. Because human beings are equipped with fundamental sthayi bhavas, i.e., because we all have the inborn capacity to experience the sentiments of love, fear, anger, pity, bravery, disgust, horror and humor, even a person without a real-life experience of love, etc., may through poetry, etc., experience them to some degree.

A sannyasi who feels disgust (as one person quoted Prabhupada to me, “the only rasa in the material world is that of disgust”) for the erotic life of lovers in this world is unlikely to be able to fathom what is going in Radha and Krishna’s nikunja. One who has not felt the heartbreak of an argument with a lover will have a hard time truly understanding what is going on in Radha’s māna. No one who has not felt the separation over a long period of time will understand the psychology of this great trial of love, its dangers, its tests.

But it is not enough to experience something materially. From that one will get some reflection of Radha and Krishna, but it will be totally inadequate to the task of the sadhaka. When I say materially, I mean even the experience of sattvika love, though that is better than tamasika or rajasika love.

I humbly implore everyone who simply thinks that sexual love is all the same to recognize that the Gita says “all phenomena in the material world must be understood as having divisions according to the three gunas” (18.40). It is a little unfortunate that the Gita does not specifically give the three divisions of sexuality according to the gunas, but we have enough information from the Lord’s song to be able to extrapolate for ourselves.

As I have said before, the rapist’s explosion of violent sexuality is at the other extreme to the sadhana of sexual love, in which the partner becomes the entry point for the Divine, and “making love” is truly about making love. Through the perfection of exchanging pleasure, through the sadhu sanga of mutually purifying the understanding of Radha and Krishna’s perfect love, the sadhakas gradually become mirrors of the Divine Couple and their love itself becomes a service to the Divine Couple.

Their love mirrors the love of the Divine Couple, accompanied by sankirtan and smaran that is on a level of concentration and depth that the mere sentimentalist cannot begin to conceive. But the effects of this love are far reaching and transformative on the consciousness of the sadhakas. It enhances all the other sadhanas of meditation and hearing and chanting because it informs them with reference points of real experienced sensations and emotions.

It is transformative for the sadhaka couple in many ways. But if we remember that the work of the sakhis and manjaris is to serve the union of the Divine Couple, we will get an idea of what is happening.

The definition of māna in the Ujjvala Nilamani says that māna is the particular emotional state (bhāva) of the lovers who, though still deeply in love with one another, prevents them from experiencing or engaging in the desired activities of loving, such as embracing, etc., even when the opportunity is there.

dampatyor bhāva ekatra sator apy anuraktayoḥ |
svābhīṣṭāśleṣa-vīkṣādi-nirodhī māna ucyate ||

The curious ability of the human psyche to split itself makes it possible for two individuals to play the role of both the lovers and the sakhis, but perfection comes in the nitya-vihāra. There is much to be said about this and it will be discussed in detail as we go on. Without a doubt this is the hardest part of the lila, since Lalita and other sakhis are persuading Radha to be stronger in her māna, while others are taking Krishna’s sideand persuading her to relent. Eventually, she has to relent because she is as attached to the nitya-vihāra as Krishna is. But Radha is the mistress, the ishwari, the adhishtatri devata of the lila of love.

Much is made of the manjari identity. Manjari bhava is called bhāvollāsā rati because the manjaris take ullāsa in Radha’s bhāva. Their love for Krishna exists inasmuch as Krishna is loved by Radha. tad-bhāvotsavataḥ paraṁ bhavatu me tat-prāṇa-nāthe ratiḥ. The expression in the Gaudiya sampradaya is based on its attempt to keep a historical connection to the Vaishnava sampradayas. This leads to some confusion on the part of scholars.

But the emphasis on Radha’s bhava means basically that Radha rules love. And without understanding this, all Sahajiyaism fails. The main accusation of sexual misconduct in Sahajiyaism is based on the misconception, either real or imagined, that men rule the sexual act. When men rule the sexual act, it falls into the modes of passion and ignorance. When sexuality is equal between partners and controlled by conquering the orgasm, it is in the modes of goodness. And when such love is enveloped by the Holy Names and smaran of the eternal nikunja, it becomes an entry point to that divine state.

Radha rules love. The aropa (identification) in practice of the male and female bodies and roles with Radha and Krishna may be called ahaṅgrahopāsana by some, but to do so would be to totally misunderstand the goal of such prescriptions in the Pancharatra, Gopala-tapani Upanishad and other late Upanishads. In fact, this whole direction has been clarified by Mahaprabhu in his taking of the sannyas mantra.

Someone asked me the other day whether tat tvam asi can mean “You are his.” The answer is no, it cannot. But what is the state of perfection? It is a state of non-dual consciousness. The statement gopālo’ham means, “The world of Gopala is the Supreme Truth from which all things come. I am that. I am not different from that. I am part of that.”

This can only be understood through manjari bhava, where the separation of the Radha-Krishna dimension, where one can be misguided by the sense of ownership or ego doership.

In fact, one enters a state of samadhi.

In such consciousness, one who experiences the dynamics of a loving relationship with another devotee sadhaka, who shares the taste for love, who loves the effects of love on his or her consciousness and behavior throughout life, will see how his own engagement in the actions of love soften and strengthen his character.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Choosing between Spirituality and Activism: Vira-rasa and Madhura.

After Karttik Purnima I came down with a cold and a bit of exhaustion, and have been either sleeping or sitting here sipping brahmastra tea and catching up with international news of various kinds. Though many things, mostly same old same old, are features of the current world situation, I would summarize the following three principal points:
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(1) The American empire is expanding at a speed that I never would have imagined. If anyone had any illusions that Obama was progressive on this front when he promised to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is now clear that this was a smokescreen. The Military-Industrial Complex in the USA is the single most dominant force in dictating the international situation. The technological capacity to survey, control, and coerce ordinary citizens, combined with the total domination of the media in [at least] the USA for propaganda and control of information, is at levels that Communist and Fascist dictatorships of the past could only marvel at in envy.
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(2) Fear of terrorism is simply the external raison-d'etre that is used to sell this policy, which is of course only meant to support the domination and control of international business. "It is the manifestation of a new vision of global geopolitics in which human beings in need are to be corralled, their free movement criminalized, and their labor exploited." (Tom Dispatch)
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(3) There is no such thing as a coherent force to speak of expressing the "collective interest" of humanity. Any democratic institutions or international agencies that were meant to serve this purpose, like the UN, etc., are completely marginalized. The most important symptom of this is world leadership's total disinterest in taking real practical steps to counteract global warming. In fact, I suspect that the privileged classes actually welcome the possibility of decimating the world population as long as their own safety and comfort are assured.
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In all this, I wonder where a person like myself, who places spirituality and spiritual culture above everything, stands. The increasingly monolithic domination of ordinary personal life means that survival itself comes at a great cost to our freedom. Spirituality and religion, if apolitical, does not represent a significant threat to the powers-that-be, and therefore is actually favored by them -- just as some non-economic issues like homosexual marriage, etc., are ultimately tolerated if they keep people apathetic about challenging the entrenched power structures.
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And yet, apathy to a control of the world by what can only be called the forces of evil seems to be wrong.
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Personally, I have nver been active politically. I am able to tenuously remain here in Vrindavan by the grace of the Indian government. It is clear that terrorism paranoia (even more justifiable here in India than it is in America) has resulted in an official distrust of all foreigners, even those here to pursue spiritual goals. As a matter of fact, the Indian mindset, currently dominated by anglo-americanized English-speaking elites, is fearful of Hinduism as a political force and thus conducts a rather transparent project to reshape it into a kind of anodyne and apolitical New Ageism and self-helpism. This apparently creates policies where foreigners overly committed to traditional Hindu spiritual goals are treated with some ambivalence and even suspicion.

New Ageism is, of course, an apolitical spiritualism, which as stated above is most convenient for ruling elites, for as Napoleon is supposed to have said, "Religion is what keeps the poor from killing the rich." Today, however, it is probably suburban isolation and electronic entertainments, if not drugs, that are keeping the poor from killing the rich. Teach a man to fish and he will feed himself for life. Give a man enough food to survive and a television or the internet and he may never wonder why his life has so little meaning! And if religion is needed as an added opiate, that does not burden the scheme of promoting political apathy.
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The argument of progressive Christians is that of a theology of concern for the poor and so on. Since one cannot love without empathy, universal love means universal empathy for the suffering of others. For Christ said, "As you have done to the least of these, you have done to me." This is a great and noble sentiment and is reflected in the concept of the madhyama Bhagavata and even, I think the Christian would say, in the uttama Bhagavata. Or we could say, the former as sadhana and the latter as sadhya.
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This is, in fact, what Vivekananda was getting at with his Daridra Narayan philosophy. See the presence of God in the poor person and serve him as a way of bring the sacred presence of God into these most debased of social relationships. The rich are less empathetic; study after study shows that material comfort and privilege feel contempt for those less privileged. Such persons isolate themselves from the reality of suffering and from practical empathy towards the poor except in "official" types of charity or public posturing.
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It is not surprising that there are many who wish to accelerate that process by revolutionary acts. If the society has become so corrupted by the rule of evil, then one must combat it with arms or whatever means are at one's disposal. Is not the struggle with evil for the sake of justice for all a service to God? Indeed, is it not a service in the mood of heroism? In other words, is it not a service to the cause of Love? And is it not, for one who is but a mere sinner in this world, a sadhana for achieving Love through sacrifice?
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I am far from arguing with this point of view. Who would not feel a surge of emotion at the thought of participating in a just and heroic struggle? And of course, like Arjuna in the battle of Kurukshetra, the path is open to such an attitude in the wide world of bhakti.
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Though I am somewhat sanguine about achieving any short-term success in changing the way the world works, I see that done with detachment is indeed an admirable endeavor. And perhaps such efforts will indeed contribute to an eventual evolution of humanity wherein -- in a few millennia -- an ideal state will exist where everyone can realize the full spiritual potential that human life offers.
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But Krishna also tells Arjuna to know himself: Know your nature and through following your nature perfect your life. In keeping with my own nature, I must admit that I am not exactly of the heroic type, i.e., I am not driven by a taste for the heroic flavor, the vira-rasa. And I must further say that not everyone is, though we are all called upon to perform acts of heroism in our lives. Nevertheless, my feeling is that we must, in whatever our calling, serve the cause of Love.
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For what will be a world of justice where no one has learned the art of love? And how will a world of justice be created if no one has learned the art of love? We must each choose our task, and I choose the task of understanding the gift of prema as it was given by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and expounded by Srila Rupa Goswami.

vāg gadgadā dravate yasya cittaṁ
rudaty abhīkṣṇaṁ hasati kvacic ca
vilajja udgāyati nṛtyate ca
mad-bhakti-yukto bhuvanaṁ punāti
person endowed with devotion to me, whose voice is broken with emotion and whose mind melts, who cries constantly and sometimes laughs, who shamelessly sings aloud and dances, purifies the entire world. (11.14.24)

Jai Sri Radhe.
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