Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cow protection and vegan diet

Recently I was sent a link to a video of a lecture by Swami B.A. Paramadwaiti given in Vrindavan. In the video he speaks of many different things, obviously outlining the directions he wants his own devotional organization, Vrinda, to take in the future. One of the things he spoke of in particular was the issue of milk products:
"You could say, milk from the market is coming from the cow concentration camp. [---] Then comes the next thing, that this milk industry, producing this concentration-camp milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt – that industry puts chemicals into the cows and produces a milk that is not healthy. In other words, all these milk products, they're the reason why you have this disease and that disease and that disease, and why the hospitals are filled. This is not healthy food. [---] We want the Vrinda family to go in a vegan lifestyle. [---] We didn't want to make it like an absolute, but at least we wanted to give that example."


The subsequent discussion became quite lengthy with many devotees defending the status quo, arguing that offering milk from unprotected cows was a way of benefiting the cows, and that Krishna wanted milk products to be offered to him, even if they were extracted through the factory farming system that is the dairy industry. Moreover, they accused Paramadvaiti Maharaj of preaching a vegan diet for its own sake rather than seeing that this was an act of resistance to the slaughterhouse culture of what Prabhupada used to call the "demoniac civilization" of the West.

Most of the devotees' arguments seemed to me to be in particularly bad faith. I could not see them as anything other than the result of preferences based on taste. There were even some personal criticisms of Paramadvaiti Maharaj, accusing him of such bad faith, and me for supporting him!

I have known Parmadvaiti Maharaj for many years and I know that of all the people in the Krishna movement he is one who has been most active in environmental movements, trying to do something -- forming connections and alliances with other organizations interested in the planet and the future of humankind. He is particularly dedicated to the protection of Vrindavan heritage and culture, and he consistently pushes his disciples to serve the Dham to the extent of his resources.

As a person who has been far more active "in the world" not only as a preacher of Krishna bhakti, but as one who sees that devotees need to participate in concert with other people who are concerned about the direction human civilization is taking, he is taking things like diet seriously on all the levels it has an impact--spiritual, personal, ethical, social, and environmental.

The protection of the cow is a cornerstone of Sanatan Dharma and Vaishnava Dharma. But like so many other things, the cow can be taken as a symbol of all life and our relationship to it. We could, for instance, be concerned about beluga whales, dolphins, elephants or bald eagles or any number of endangered species. But the cow is a domesticated animal and so belongs to a different category of humanity's relation to the natural world.

Devotees belong in this fight. If you value milk, if you value the cow, if you think that Krishna is go-brāhmaṇa-hitāya ca, you cannot just be blasé about the way they are treated. Cows are slaughtered as soon as they are unprofitable. They are fed hormones and antibiotics to make them fatter and to produce unnatural amounts of milk. The male calves are treated with horrendous cruelty to be slaughtered for veal. The milk is also full of antibiotics because in most places cows are kept in inhumane conditions and are therefore susceptible to disease and it has also been found that antibiotics make the animals grow fatter. All this is cruelty to the cow that you support when you eat milk products in the West.

Not only that, but devotees belong with their allies. In ordinary circumstances, devotees are happy to claim dubious support from those with whom they share common concern: an Einstein quote or a George Harrison song, a Russell Brand endorsement, a photograph with a political leader. But if people are serious about preaching in the world, they should find common cause with those who share the same values, especially where those are core values of Krishna consciousness.

Some devotees insist that Prabhupada offered milk to the deities, even knowing of their provenance. But what Srila Prabhupada did before anything else was to challenge Christians about why they did not follow God's commandment to not kill. Did he not teach that this was the most important sign of the decadence of the material civilization in which we live?

So this is definitely an issue for every devotee to think about seriously. I am not saying that it is easy. In this crappy world even the health food shops sell meat, and even "organic milk" comes from dubious sources.

Worthy of mention is that there are some devotees who have taken this teaching seriously and provide hope for future directions. Ahimsa cheese from Gita Nagari, Ahimsa milk in Great Britain. These projects may not be as successful as hoped, but they are a beginning. They exist and let us hope that they develop as they should.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Radha-Krishna as the sambandha, manjari-bhava as the abhidheya

There is a great deal of difference of flavors even within the madhura-rasa worship of Radha and Krishna. The idea that Radha is a symbol of the jiva and Krishna God, and that a direct erotic relationship with the Deity is being intended, is not a new one. That is in fact the symbolic situation that Mahaprabhu incarnates, but the one that Rupa Goswami stepped beyond.

By seeing Mahaprabhu as the combination of Radha and Krishna, by placing Radha and Krishna on an equal footing and conceiving of God as a Dual, and then jiva as a servant of that Dual Supreme, Rupa Goswami was coming up with something original.

When trying to understand a text according to the Vedantic hermeneutics, there are six things we take into account, one being apūrvatā, or the original something new. All the other relationships are there and are no doubt very nice and legitimate, but when we talk about Rupa Goswami and want to know what it is he is getting at, the anarpita-carī, then this certainly qualifies by way of apūrvatā.

upakramopasaṁhārāv abhyāso'pūrvatā phalam
arthavādopapattiś ca liṅgaṁ tātparya-nirṇaye
In order to establish the meaning of a text or an author, one should look at six different signs (liṅga), (1) the introductory and concluding portions, (2) that which is repeated throughout, (3) new and original material (apūrvatā), (4) the glorification of specific benefits, (5) that which is praised in the text, and (6) that which is explained with logic and argumentation.
We could go through the other elements and show how the establishment of the Divine Couple as the ultimate goal of worship (sambandha-tattva) and the primacy of Radha are demonstrated by each of them. But this in itself is enough to establish that this particular characteristic of the upāsya corresponds to a particular kind of upāsanā, which is mañjarī-bhāva.



The esoteric and the general need to be connected in every religious tradition. That is, the language and so on are layered so that multiple meanings can be adduced from them. For instance, myths and stories that are perceived as literal truths seem like stories meant for children at a certain level of advancement. This often leads to problems, most often resulting in loss of faith or a reductionist kind of symbolic interpretation.

The formation of the intellect that begins with the sacralization of specific kinds of myths -- as opposed to other kinds of archetypal messaging through fable and fairytale -- and to a sacred vocabulary, i.e., a linguistic system that directs the mind into patterns of thinking that are conducive to understanding spiritual experience, is particularly favorable. Indeed, without them, and without trusting that a particular closed system of religious myth, symbol and language is the best way of achieving the promised results of that system. Furthermore, this system (or meta-system) is to be seen as something with integrity even when clashing with other metasystems, and capable of assimilating them and growing in depth through such assimilation.

So for the esoteric to be understood, there must be a medium for general understanding, as a jumping off point or a point of reference or departure that is deeply ingrained in consciousness. The conclusions of the Goswamis about Radha and Krishna and mañjarī-bhāva are based in the meta-language of Hinduism and the Upanisads, in particular, the general mythology of the Bhagavatam and including the folk cultural developments in Radha Krishna līlā-rasa, but also understood though the particular interpretive tradition of Indian poetics.

The rasa theory of Rupa Goswami is based on a kind of romantic idealism, which can really only be understood through our aesthetic experience of fiction. But Rupa Goswami is saying that such experience is factually real, the central point of Absolute Reality, and though he does not say it so explicitly -- since he concentrates on the dynamics of romantic fiction -- this experience, being real, must be transformative to the exterior world and not an escape from it.

Indeed, it has to be, because if it is not explanatory of the world as well as transcendental to it, it would have no point. I cannot believe that Rupa Goswami's world of idealistic imagination (i.e., his archetypal world of romantic fiction extrapolated to the Supreme Truth) was not meant to influence the actual world of experience, i.e., society, which would have been opposed both scripturally and by generally accepted moral standards, to romance, i.e., parakīyā love.

But in order for that to happen, the main criticism of parakīyā love, its immorality and its being based in lust and the material conception, has to be bypassed. And this bypassing has to be not just theoretical, but has to be attained in the real world of experience. The understanding is that romantic love, experienced spiritually and aesthetically in the external world, makes the internal experience of Radha and Krishna as the Divine Reality concrete.

How does that work?

Rasa theory distinguishes and prioritizes the subjective experience that arises out of identification over the direct experience of love externally.

Why? Because that absolute pure experience of love can only exist in the Supreme Person, who is totally One with his Beloved. In all other experience, it is only a romantic fantasy that can be approximated, but is generally contaminated by lust and disinterest, i.e., the vikṣepa and mūḍha states of consciousness.

The culture of the mañjarī-bhāva is that of simultaneous unity and separation based in what some call "mystic participation," which is similar to the mystic unity of audience to a work of fictional representation. And this, in practical terms is expressed as "participative observation" or service in identity.

It is service to the union of the Divine Couple, remembering that the romantic mood is the domain of the feminine, Radha, and that such service can only be achieved by complete identification with Radha as the beloved of Krishna.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sadhaka's prayer

Sadhaka's prayer: May God bless us with pure devotion and love for Him, friendship with the community of devotees with whom we can share that love without fear or inhibition, and the opportunity to serve the less fortunate. And may He keep us free from the evil -- within and without -- that makes us forget Him and creates obstacles in our service to Him, the devotees, and the world and humanity at large.

Why is it important to pray? Why is it important to pray correctly? Prayer is an expression of our innermost desire, either as description or as prescription. It is what we want, presented in purest self awareness to the Self.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Diksha, esoterism, parampara, community and sectarianism

I was astonished recently to find myself debating with many devotees over what seemed to me to be a resistance to mañjarī-bhāva. I felt obliged to ask why these devotees, most of whom were from Iskcon, felt it necessary to argue that it was not necessary to want to be Radha's dasi, but could be whatever they liked, why they did not try to figure out why that was the desired goal of all our acharyas with practically no exception?

If you follow a guru, you partake of his mood. And if the guru has a different mood from the one you seek, then why are you with that guru? If you want to be a lawyer, you go to law school, not medical college, is it not? One expects the guru to be of the same mood (svajātīyāśaya), otherwise what is the point of a guru?

And if you don't know what your guru's mood is, then what do you follow? The line of grace is in getting the special prize that is the heart of the guru. This is why I believe that paramparā is more than just śikṣā.

We give particular importance when discussing dīkṣā to the interpretation of the divyaṁ jñānaṁ verse, the etymological definition quoted in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (2.9) and Bhakti-sandarbha (283),

divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt kuryāt pāpasya saṅkṣayam|
tasmād dīkṣeti sā proktā deśikais tattva-kovidaiḥ ||
Because it bestows divine (divya) knowledge and causes the complete destruction (kṣaya) of sin, it is called dīkṣā by the teachers who are expert in spiritual truths.
Jiva Goswami famously interprets  divyaṁ jñānaṁ in the following way,

divyaṁ jñānaṁ hy atra śrīmati mantre bhagavat-svarūpa-jñānaṁ, 
tena bhagavatā sambandha-viśeṣa-jñānaṁ ca |
Divine knowledge here means "knowledge of the Lord's true identity in the sacred mantra" and through that knowledge of a specific relation with the Lord.
In other words, the mantra is meant to communicate or define one's particular relationship with a  specific form of bhagavān.

The guru can initiate a disciple into a general practice or in a specific practice. In the beginning one follows the general practice, but this initiation is in a specific practice. So we say that the guru should be able to initiate in the specific practice at some point, which is ekādaśa-bhāva.

There is no such comparable custom in relation to any other sambandha such as sakhī-bhāva or sakhya-bhāva. So our sampradāya is really a mañjarī-bhāva sampradāya. This is, of course, a very narrow taste and it is quite understandable that certain people wished to broaden the scope to include other rasas. But when Narottam says that Rupa Goswami recognized the inner desire or mano'bhīṣṭam of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the sampradāya understands that this means mañjarī-bhāva. That is the tradition as I received it. And if that is not your tradition, then it is not the same tradition.

Those who have Narottam Das in their paramparā should refer to Prema-bhakti-candrikā.

rādhikāra sakhī yoto  tāhā vā kohibo koto
mukhya sakhī koribo gaṇana |
lalitā viśākhā tathā citrā campakalatā
raṅgadevī sudevī kathana || 49 ||

tuṅgavidyā indurekhā ei aṣṭa sakhī lekhā
ebe kohi narma sakhī gaṇa |
rādhikāra sahacarī priya preṣṭha nāma dhari
prema sevā kore anukṣaṇa || 50 ||
How much can I say about Radha’s sakhis, there are so many of them! Let me simply name the most important ones: Lalitā, Viśākhā, Citrā, Champakalata, Raṅgadevī, Sudevī, Tuṅgavidyā and Indurekhā, these are the eight sakhis. Now let me talk of the narma-sakhīs (the manjaris). These are Radha’s companions who are also known as priya preṣṭha (“dear, most dear” or “dear to the most dear”) who engage in loving service constantly.
sama snehā viṣama snehā nā koriho dui lehā
kohi mātra adhika snehāgaṇa |
nirantara thāke saṅge kṛṣṇa kathā līlā raṅge
narma sakhī ei sab jana || 51 ||
Don’t mix up those who are sama snehā (equal in their affections to both Radha and Krishna) and viṣama-snehā, those who are unequal. I am only going to speak of those who have more affection for Radha than Shyam. These sakhis are always in Radha’s company, delighting her with talks of Krishna. This is why they are called narma-sakhīs.
śrīrūpa mañjarī sāra śrī rati mañjarī āra
lavaṅga mañjarī mañjulālī |
 śrī rasa mañjarī saṅge kasturikā ādi raṅge
prema sevā kore kutūhole || 52 ||
Śrīrūpa Mañjarī is the essence of them all, Śrī Rati Mañjarī,  Lavaṅga Mañjarī, Mañjulālī, Rasa Mañjarī, and Kasturikā Mañjarī – all serve in love with great enthusiasm.
e sabhāra anugā hoiyā prema sevā nibo cāiyā
iṅgite bujhibo sab kāja |
rūpe guṇe ḍagamagi sadā hobo anurāgī
vasati koribo sakhīra mājha || 53 ||
I will become the follower of these Narma Sakhis, and from them I will request services to perform, understanding what needs to be done simply from the signs they give. Becoming absorbed in Radha and Krishna’s form and virtues, I will always remain in love, dwelling in the company of Radha’s friends.
vṛndāvane dui jana caturdike sakhī gaṇa
samaya bujhibo rasa sukhe |
sakhīra iṅgite hobe cāmara ḍhulābo kobe
tāmbūla yogābo cāṅda mukhe || 54 ||
Radha and Krishna reside in Vrindavan, surrounded by the sakhis. I will easily know the times [for various pastimes and service] according to the rasas. When will I fan [the Divine Couple] with the chamara on the indication of the sakhis, and when will I offer tambul to their moon-like faces.
yugala caraṇa sevi nirantara ei bhāvi
anurāgī thākibo sadāya |
 sādhana bhāvibo yāhā siddha dehe pābo tāhā
 rāga pathera ei se upāya || 55 ||
Thinking constantly of how I will serve the Divine Couple’s lotus feet, I will remain always enthusiastically loving. That which I contemplate in my sādhanā is what I will attain in my spiritual body. This is the method taught in the rāgānugā path.
sādhane ye dhana cāi siddha dehe tāhā pāi
pakvāpakva mātra se vicāra |
apakke sādhana rīti pākile se prema bhakti
bhakati lakṣaṇa tattva sāra || 56 ||
That prize I seek in my culture of devotion is what I will get in the spiritual body. It is simply a question of ripe and unripe states of the same thing. When unripe it is called sādhana-bhakti, when ripe it is prema-bhakti. This is all you really need to know about bhakti.
narottama dāse koy ei yeno mora hoy
vrajapure anurāge vāsa |
sakhī gaṇa gaṇanāte āmāre likhibe tāte
taba hi pūrabo abhilāṣa || 57 ||
Narottam Das prays: May this be mine: residence in Vrindavan with passionate love. When they make a list of Radha’s sakhis, may I be included in their number, then my wishes will all be fulfilled.
sakhīnāṁ saṅginī-rūpām ātmānāṁ vāsanā-mayīm|
ājñā-sevā-parāṁ tat-tad-rūpālaṅkāra-bhūṣitām|| 58 ||
I meditate on myself as a companion of the sakhis, filled with desire [for service], dedicated to the their instructions for service, and decorated with their beauty and ornaments. (Sanatkumāra-saṁhitā)
manera smaraṇa prāṇa madhura madhura dhāma
yugala vilāsa smṛti sāra |
sādhya sādhana ei iha boi āra nāi
ei tattva sarva tattva sāra || 61 ||
The life of the mind is smaraṇa, remembering the Lord. It is the abode of sweetness. And of all the kinds of smaraṇa, remembering the līlā of the Divine Couple is the essence. So here I have told you about the process and the end goal. There is nothing more than this. You really need to know nothing more about spiritual life than this. (PBC 61)
āpana bhajana kathā nā kohibo yathā tathā
ihāte hoibo sāvadhāna |
nā koriho keho roṣa nā loiho keho doṣa
praṇamahu bhaktera caraṇa || 119 ||
I will not speak of my personal bhajan here and there in public. I will take care not to do so, and I hope no one will be angry with me because of it or find fault with me. I bow down to all the devotees' feet.
Certainly the whole issue of initiations is going to have to be figured out by the Vaishnava society sooner or later. Most people are not concerned with esoteric matters and so those things will need to be bracketed. The contentious problem with initiation as it stands is not whether initiation itself is necessary, but whether one particular line of initiation is uniquely authorized or not.

Since there are so many claimants to this unique authority, it seems that the injunctions that state initiation is not necessary, either for the mahā mantra or any other mantra should be taken as the general rule governing Vaishnava society.

It is hard to see how there can be any community strength in the Vaishnava world if we make dīkṣā a primordial differentiating characteristic, though this divisive sectarian tendency seems to be well institutionalized now. In actual fact, dīkṣā has become a separating factor as gurus claim possession of disciples as a part of their own sect or cult rather than as a sign of appurtenance to a larger community.

Even if one accepts some legalistic argument that gives his or her guru and particular lineage some unique merit, if this creates a mood of separation from the Vaishnava community, or even a sense of superiority that is not necessarily merited,  then it does not seem to me to be particularly helpful in achieving a high standard of morality or humanity, a failure is particularly counterproductive.

Yet the question, which no doubt is one that Siddhanta Saraswati must have asked himself, is what is the function of a principle that rejects religion (i.e., the social dimension of spirituality) in favor of individual esoteric self-discovery? At some point, access to the individual esoteric path must have a basis in a social ethic that is conducive to that path. In other words, children must be brought up in families and in a community that will give them the necessary purity of character and psychological predisposition to seek and understand the esoteric path. A society or religious community is needed in which the language that communicates the esoteric truths is learned.

The problem is that if the leaders of that community are not themselves educated in the esoteric, if their initiation is external or merely functional, i.e., an initiation that makes them part of a group defined not by internal realization but by external adherences only, then it will crumble into vaidhi bhakti, institutionalism, and superficiality.

So this is the sensitive issue that lies at the center of Saraswati's idea of the śikṣā or bhāgavata-sampradāya. But it does not mean that anyone following Saraswati Thakur understands that, since it is quite apparent that his creation of a separate disciplic succession has simply exacerbated the problem of sectarianism.

Manjari-bhava is the end of sambandha

In the debate between those who support a purely literal interpretation of scripture and those who prefer a symbolic or esoteric interpretation, I would say that the literal is literally not understood without the esoteric. Truth lies where symbol and life merge.

There are always multiple levels of interpretation, none of which are incorrect and which are probably hierarchical, but all are nevertheless anchored in real experience in the world, usually taken in an idealistic form, or as some would have it as a projected wish-fulfillment fantasy. Though that may indeed be true, it is possible to understand the literal as something that is self created, as per the verse in the Bhāgavata:

tvaṁ bhakti-yoga-paribhāvita-hṛt-saroja
āsse śrutekṣita-patho nanu nātha puṁsām|
yad-yad-dhiyā ta urugāya vibhāvayanti
tat-tad-vapuḥ praṇayase sad-anugrahāya ||
O Master! You take your seat in the lotus heart that has been made worthy of you through love. Even so, the way to reach you can be understood through hearing. Out of kindness toward your devotees, O Lord who are greatly glorified, You take the very form that they meditate on, appearing to them in that form. (3.9.11)
Like so many Bhagavata verses, this one requires a great deal of thought on several words and there is plenty of room for subtle but important differences of interpretation, for which the different commentaries are to be consulted.

Jiva Goswami is perhaps the most categorical: śruteksita-patha ity anena kalpanāyā nirastatvāt means that there is no room for pure imagining here, we are bound to accept the scriptural version, or the version of revelation in the paramparā.

I personally feel that we are bound to it in bhakti-yoga. I don't see how bhakti can function without a received tradition. In fact I don't see how humanity can operate without incorporating in good faith the received wisdom of the past. That is why the whole business of self-revelation through purification alone is rejected by Jiva Goswami, particularly in Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.3.1.

If the esoteric interpretation could be divorced from the literal, then it would cease to be bhakti and would become jñāna.

With regards to options. It is true that Rupa Goswami presents many options, but only to reveal a hierarchy.

No doubt. But that relation always takes a form. And most likely that form is not exactly the one you are living in right now. sevā sādhaka-rūpeṇa siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi.

The form that has been heard from the guru and scripture, and is then seen in the mind, and which the devotee then creates through bhakti in the heart, and which is then revealed by the Lord to the devotee in both the sādhaka and siddha bodies. sevā sādhaka-rūpeṇa siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi

The end is more similar to the beginning than one may think. The beginning is not radically different from the end, like the mountain seen from afar is not different from the mountain whose pinnacle you stand on. Or like this example:

yathānalaḥ khe'nila-bandhur uṣmā
balena dāruṇy adhimathyamānaḥ |
aṇuḥ prajāto haviṣā samedhate
tathaiva me vyaktir iyaṁ hi vāṇī ||
Just as fire, the friend of air, which first manifests [in experience] as heat in the sky, then as a spark in the wood that has been repeatedly churned with force, and then growing larger blazes forth with the help of oblations poured into it, so does this teaching (vāṇī) reveal me [Krishna]. (11.12.18)
Krishna said in the verse I quoted above that the devotee chooses. But I know that we disagree here, so I won't belabor it. And I know that we don't agree on Radha and Krishna as the Divine Couple being the object of worship, even though that is Jiva Goswami's opinion at the end of the first four Sandarbhas.

ataḥ sarvato'pi sāndrānanda-camatkāra-kāra-śrīkṛṣṇa-prakāśe 
śrī-vṛndāvane'pi paramādbhuta-prakāśaḥ śrīrādhayā yugalitas tu śrīkṛṣṇa iti |...

tad evaṁ sandarbha-catuṣṭayena sambandho vyākhyātaḥ | tasminn api sambandhe śrī-rādhā-mādhava-rūpeṇaiva prādurbhāvas tasya sambandhinaḥ paramaḥ prakarṣaḥ | etad artham eva vyatāniṣamimāḥ sarvā api paripāṭīr iti pūrṇaḥ sambandhaḥ |

gaura-śyāma-rucojjvalābhir amalair akṣṇor vilāsotsavair
nṛtyantībhir aśeṣa-mādana-kalā-vaidagdhya-digdhātmabhiḥ |
anyonya-priyatā-sudhā-parimala-stomonmadābhiḥ sadā
rādhā-mādhava-mādhurībhir abhitaś cittaṁ mamākrāmyatām||

This is Satya Narayan Das Babaji's unedited translation:
Therefore, among prakash of Sri Krishna which causes most astonishing supreme bliss, in Vrindavan also, the most amazing prakash is Sri Krishna coupled with Sri Radha.

In this way, the sambandha-tattva has been explained in four Sandarbhas. Furthermore, in this sambandha, the supreme limit of the sambandhī is found in the manifestation of Sri Radha and Madhava’s form. For this reason only all these styles and ways were expanded. In this way the sambandha is complete.

Let my heart be ever overpowered from all sides by the sweetness of Sri Radha and Madhava who have the golden and blackish brilliance, manifesting the pure, festival of the movements of their eyes dancing, who are completely soaked in the expertise of the art of amorous activities, and who are supremely delighted by the fragrance of the ambrosia of mutual love.

I believe that Krishna separates the jivas for the sake of love, which is only meaningful if there is free will. And even if that free will is only an appearance, it is a necessary one that may as well be accepted as real, because without it there is no rasa.

Why? Because without free will one cannot even be a proper audience. I am saying the appearance is necessary, for the sake of experience. There are two kinds of illusion, both require the sense of independence. I am not saying it is real.



We talk about bhedābheda. We mostly emphasize bheda, that is why we glorify separation. Separation is glorified, but it can only have meaning if there is union. So this is what is going on in the latter portion of Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha, Jiva is explaining how the līlā of union and the līlā of separation exist simultaneously and interdependently.

Separation has to exist on some level for rasa to exist. Separation means the illusion of separation, if you like, but separation nevertheless. Otherwise there is no meaning to individual consciousness, separate from the Supreme Consciousness.

Whether that separation lasts a fraction of a second -- which may seem like a million years -- or more, does not matter, it is enough to confirm what I am saying.

Bheda and abheda are simultaneous and constant. The abheda is true, the tattva is advaya tattva. But the bheda also has to be true or there is no meaning to bhakti.

Even if from the siddhānta level, I emphasize my unity with God, in whatever particular understanding I have of that identity -- either as an absolute identity, or identity of will as with Paramatma consciousness, or on that of līlā where I also am a distinct consciousness in relation to It, but completely absorbed in It.

The union or oneness is experienced in the state of absorption of one in the other, but this never eliminates the separation because the līlā cannot exist without it. At any time.



Siddha-pranali:You can't just get it from books

pustaka-pratyayādhītaṁ nādhītaṁ guru-sannidhau |
sabhā-madhye na śobhante jāra-garbhā iva striyaḥ ||
Learning taken from books according to one's own impressions, but not learned with a guru, is unfit for the public space, like a woman who is pregnant with an illegitimate child. (Chanakya)
I think that actually having the association of rāgānugā sādhakas, my own diksha guru, Lalita Prasad Thakur, Ananta Das Babaji in Radha Kund and many others over the years, has made a bit of difference in the way that I approach the issue of rāgānugā-bhakti and mañjarī-bhāva. Like my guru wrote on the back of the siddha-praṇāli sheet he handed out to his disciples: "You can't just get it from books."

This offends people who are convinced that everything can be found in books, because why were the books written if not to inform of them? Of course, that Bhaktivinoda Thakur's books talk about taking siddha-praṇāli from or through the medium of a guru somehow seems irrelevant to them.

There are instructions about other rasas in the books, but they are there as guidance for the general audience. Some people don't want to be "forced" into mañjarī-bhāva, which so few people understand anyway. It has to be a choice. But what I am saying is that if you get the mercy of Rupa Goswami, you will want what he has. And if you don't want what he has, it means that you have not yet received his grace or the grace of a Rupanuga Vaishnava.

Show me one acharya in the sampradāya after the second generation whose inner mood was not mañjarī-bhāva. I am talking Siddhanta Saraswati's "big names" sampradāya here. The śikṣā-sampradāya, as it were.

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was known to be Nayanamani Manjari. Bhaktivinoda Thakur was Kamala Manjari and he had a siddha-praṇāli of all manjaris going back to Jahnava Thakurani, Ananga Manjari. So where are the acharyas of other moods?

It is currently something of a controversy in ISKCON as to whether Srila Prabhupada was an acharya of the sakhya-rasa. I don't know, but I would suspect that much of the confusion arises from this position. Narayan Maharaj could not support that opinion because he felt, like myself, that mañjarī-bhāva was the treasure of the Rupanuga sampradāya.

I don't necessarily agree with Narayan Maharaj in his denial of the sakhya of Prabhupada, which seems to be pretty well documented, but I can understand his frustration at what he perceived as a lack of niṣṭhā for ekānta-rādhā-dāsya in ISKCON.

I would say that the confusion about mañjarī-bhāva in ISKCON is the direct result of Prabhupada's general mood. This is why those devotees argue that through Srila Prabhupada one can have any mood one desires. But in fact, it is the ambiguity of Prabhupada's mood that creates the problem.

A make the analogy of a chef's platter: Everyone is invited to the feast, but not everyone gets the chef's platter. Everyone is getting the mercy of the holy name. And the holy name will give you all things, but that mercy of the holy name comes through the association of rasika devotees, NOT exclusively through your own intelligence guided by the Supersoul or through books.

And believe me, I am not opposed to the inner guidance of the Lord, but if you have genuine rāgānugā desire for bhajan, you will find sajātīya-saṅga and follow those who have the same mood and desire as you. tad-anurāgi-janānugāmī.

There may be some rare souls who can find their way without seeking out such association, through direct inspiration from within, but even Raghunath Das, who was a direct associate of Svarupa Damodar Goswami and Mahaprabhu himself for many years in Puri, only discovered mañjarī-bhāva when he came into the company of Rupa Goswami in Vrindavan. This is the fact. That is the meaning of this verse of Vilāpa-kusumāñjalī:

yadavadhi mama kācin mañjarī rūpa-pūrvā
vraja-bhuvi bata netra-dvandva-dīptiṁ cakāra |
tadavadhi tava vṛndāraṇya-rājñi prakāmaṁ
caraṇa-kamala-lākṣā-sandidṛkṣā mamābhūt ||
Only when some Manjari in Vraj named Rupa opened my eyes, O Queen of Vrindavan, did the powerful desire to see the red unguent on your lotus feet arise. (Verse 14)
Like so many verses of Raghunath's, so beautiful, so emotional, so deep. This is what it means to be a follower of Rupa and Raghunath. It is not general, it is very specific, sambandha-viśeṣa.

In the debate about whether sakhī-bhāva was within the scope of the Gaudiya sampradāya as an acceptable mood, we cite Raghunath Das Goswami as our topmost authority. If we cannot accept Rupa Goswami as having promoted mañjarī-bhāva in his writings, we cannot say the same of Raghunath Das.

pādābjayos tava vinā vara-dāsyam eva
nānyat kadāpi samaye kila devi yāce
sakhyāya te mama namo'stu namo'stu nityaṁ
dāsyāya te mama raso'stu raso'stu satyam
Other than the boon of service to your lotus feet, I ask for nothing at all at any time, Oh Devi! I bow down to friendship to you, but I do not want it. May my taste, yes my taste, be ever for service to you. (Vilāpa-kusumāñjalī 16)
The confusion arises because people mix general instructions with the particular. Of course one should follow one's own proclivity and taste. But who are you going to follow in the sādhaka-deha? The sādhaka-deha means someone who has the siddha mood that you seek. Someone who just says "follow your heart" is not a guru in the true sense, certainly not a bhajana-śikṣā-guru.

That is someone who infuses you with relish, like Shukadeva, who makes the ripened fruit of the Vedic true sweeter by his own relish of the tastes and transmits THAT. This is what we mean by sampradāya and paramparā. Narottam Das's heartfelt prayer to Rupa Manjari, which Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj sang to Saraswati Thakur as he lay awaiting his entry to the nitya-līlā at his request, is the revelation of Saraswati Thakur's heart. Follow Rupa and Raghunath. That means mañjarī-bhāva. If you don't desire that, you have missed out on the heart of Saraswati Thakur, of Narottam Das, of the sampradāya itself.

śrī rūpa mañjarī pada sei mora sampada
sei mora bhajana pūjana
sei mora prāṇadhana sei mora ābharaṇa
sei mora jīvanera jīvana

sei mora rasanidhi sei mora vāñchā siddhi
sei mora vedera dharama
sei vrata sei tapa sei mora mantra japa
sei mora dharama karama

anukūla hobe vidhi se pade hoibe siddhi
nirakhiba ei dui nayane
se rūpa mādhurī rāśī prāṇa kuvalaya śaśī
praphullita hobe niśi dine

tuā adarśana ahi garale jārala dehi
cira dina tāpita jīvana
hā hā prabhu koro dayā deha more pada chāyā
narottama loilo śaraṇa

And it is not that I am not a great believer in the inner guidance of the Antaryami Guru. I am. But the Antaryami Guru guides you when you internalize the rasika gurus, not through siddhānta, but through rasa. The rasa illuminates the siddhānta.

If you want, you can also be a devotee of Sita-Ram or Hanuman, or a devotee of Nrisingha. There is no obstacle other than finding other people in the same mood, and even that is not necessarily a handicap. But what is the point of being a Rupanuga if that is what you want?

I found very interesting in Swami Bhakti Abhaya Ashram's book about Prabhupada as a sakha his chapter on Prabhupada's relation to Nityananda Prabhu. Some people report that Narayan Maharaj taught that Nityananda did not preach mañjarī-bhāva, but the chanting of the Holy Name, etc.

This is very true and the analogy of Prabhupada to Nityananda Prabhu is helpful. So for a general external preaching mood, Nityananda and Prabhupada are great examples, and why not have sakhya-rasa for this preaching? I don't see any obstacle, but the point is that it is general.

The exclusive bhajanānandis in Vrindavan, the Goswamis were following the particular mood that was the goal of the whole edifice that had been constructed from the Bhāgavatam and the Holy Name, the two base points of Mahaprabhu's teaching.


But try to understand, the entire philosophy of Jiva Goswami is to get you to the beginning point, to get through the jungle of the Bhagavatam to the siddhānta of mañjarī-bhāva, service to Radha-Krishna with a special emphasis on Radha.

But that is the beginning point, not the end. We have to restructure our thinking in accordance with mañjarī-bhāva, to conceive of the world through the eyes of mañjarī-bhāva. It is not that we just create a conventional religion with a different form of the same old God. Nor that mañjarī-bhāva is for old doddering ascetics in a monastery somewhere. What that means is yet to be seen.

It is about both self-transformation and social transformation.

It is the great misfortune of so many devotees in ISKCON that they have placed so much emphasis on the Supersoul and Prabhupada's books that they do not trust advanced Vaishnava association, they don't even believe it exists.

This is what Narayan Maharaj saw, and instead of recognizing him as an advanced Vaishnava who could help them make progress they looked on him as a threat and made finding chinks in his armor the primary way of dealing with him. Same goes for Lalita Prasad Thakur and Ananta Das Baba and just about anyone else who talks about Vrindavan bhajan.

But like I say, mañjarī-bhāva is not meant for a few fuddy-duddies of dubious morals in Braj, it is the basic guiding principle of the entire sampradāya, that was created by Rupa Goswami. Until you get to that point you haven't really begun to understand what he was getting at.

So you have a bunch of people who think that Prabhupada has given them everything when they still haven't understood what Rupa Goswami was getting at because he was following Nityananda in preaching to those who were on the platform of absolute beginners.

And now, after so many years, you get a few people who have read a few books and finally start to understand what rāgānugā bhakti is about, still in general terms, and they think they have gotten to the top of the mountain.

Rupa Goswami was merciful, that is why he explained rasa in general terms. But his inner purpose was mañjarī-bhāva. So that is what must be understood. That is where they are taking you. That is where the mercy goes.

But when you get to mañjarī-bhāva, you kind of have to start all over. Why? Because thinking and feeling like a manjari is not exactly easy. Nor is the way of mādhurya thinking the same as aiśvarya. Nor is rāgānugā the same as vaidhī. It is quite different.

Mañjarī-bhāva is the sādhana. Prema
is the sādhya. That is why I say it is just the beginning.

Manjari Bhava is Rupa and Raghunath's heart's desire

Oh mind! Absorb yourself in the glories of the Divine Couple in Vrindavan. If it wants to ride, let it ride the noble steed of Rupa, Raghunath and Prabodhananda's poetry through the fields of divya Vrindavan! Make a lifestyle choice!

ābhīra-pallī-pati-putra-kāntā-
dāsyābhilāṣātibalāśva-vāraḥ
śrī-rūpa-cintāmala-sapti-saṁstho
mat-svānta-durdānta-hayecchur āstām
My uncontrollable mind seeks a powerful horse to ride, for it is a powerful cavalier possessing the desire for service to the beloved of the son of the cowherd king. So let it ride on the spotless steed of Rupa Goswami's thought! (Raghunath Das, Abhīṣṭa-sūcanā, 1)

I have never quite happy with my translations of this verse. If it were mat-svānto instead of mat-svānta- it would be fine and the above translation would be without problem. I think that it was a metrical necessity, but the meaning still comes through that way.

Raghunath Das is talking about a mind that is already imbued with rāgānugā sentiment, lobha. And he is following the instruction of Rupa himself--

sevā sādhaka-rūpeṇa siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi
tad-bhāva-lipsunā kāryā vraja-lokānusārataḥ
One who desires the bhāvas of the eternal līlā should certainly serve here [in this world] in both the sādhaka and siddha-dehas, following the ways of the residents of Vraja.
So the question is, if one truly follows Rupa Goswami, will one not follow in the way that Raghunath describes it? If you ride Rupa Goswami's pure thoughts and desires in the sādhaka-deha, will you not also automatically be following Rupa Manjari in the siddha-deha, and vice versa?

This horse only has one destination and that is why Raghunath wants to ride it. His mind, imbued with a strong and noble desire needs a strong and noble steed to get there. And that steed is the teaching and poetry of Rupa Goswami.

What does it mean to follow? When we talk about sajātiya Vaishnava saṅga, what do we mean? Is the transmission of desire itself not a part of the process of sādhu-saṅga? Is Rupa Goswami simply objectively describing a general process of bhakti, or does he want to transmit something specific that he has himself close to his heart? And is it not that desirable thing that Raghunath Goswami is pointing us towards in this verse?

And isn't that what the Rūpānuga-paramparā transmits? Bhakti, the viśeṣa-sambandha-mayī bhakti of the Goswamis, is transmitted by their grace. If you don't get that, can you truly say that you have received their grace? So if you cry for Rupa Goswami's grace, this is what he will give you.

And if you don't follow his internal mood, can you be truly said to be following? Isn't the internal mood the real abhīṣṭa? After all, isn't Rupa Goswami famous as the one who knew Mahaprabhu's internal mood?

So even though the general instructions of Rupa Goswami include everyone, all rasas, and this indicates that whatever mood one one is attracted to is a possibility, he has his own mood, and the purpose of all his work is to bring one to understanding and partaking of that mood. Everyone has a place at the table. But not everyone gets the chef's platter.

Mañjarī-bhāva means more than just a taste for service to Radharani. It is the mañjarīs alone who understand Radha, who understand her love for Krishna, and who experience the highest bliss. And moreover, it is the sādhana of mañjarī-bhāva that is meant for understanding madhura-prema itself, which is necessary for entering Radha's world. The mañjarīs alone understand Radha and Krishna's love, and that is why Raghunath Das says that they alone can go where even Lalita and the other prāṇa-preṣṭha-sakhīs can't go.

tāmbūlārpaṇa-pāda-mardana-payodānābhisārādibhir
vṛndāraṇya-maheśvarīṁ priyatayā yās toṣayanti priyāḥ |
prāṇa-preṣṭha-sakhī-kulād api kilāsaṅkocitā bhūmikāḥ
kelī-bhūmiṣu rūpa-mañjarī-mukhās tā dāsikāḥ saṁśraye ||

This is not some atistuti or irrelevant to the entire scheme of Rupa Goswami's thought. If we don't understand it, or desire something else, then we have simply not finished our progression in the spirit of Rūpānugā bhakti.

Is there no difference between Radha's sakhis and dasis? Then why are they differentiated? Why does Narottam Das say not to mix them up? sama snehā viṣama snehā nā koriho dui lehā. Why does he make that distinction or consider it important?

A person who wants sakhī-bhāva is one who keeps the hope that Radha will make such an arrangement for them to enjoy with Krishna.  So I say that those sādhakas who still hanker for sexual enjoyment with Krishna, for all that they are Radha's intimate friends and certainly experience deep feeling for her -- the purpose here is not to minimize the sakhis -- but they are not totally identified with her as the manjaris are. They keep something separate for themselves. And those sādhakas who think they can have sakhī-bhāva are the ones who are still keeping that modicum of enjoying spirit.

The manjaris don't know anything but Radha, even in their dreams (rādhā-pādāmbujād anyat svapne'pi na jānatīm, VMA 8.35).

So if Narottam is speaking to those who share his desire, which is the same as Rupa Goswami's desire, then get with the program. That is what he is saying. We have a bias for Rupa and Raghunath.

If you want to be a queen in Dvaraka, it is also mentioned there in Ujjvala and BRS. Is that why Rupa Goswami spent so much ink proving that Radha is superior to them? Let everyone have what they want, but why not want what Rupa and Raghunath want? I see your reluctance to wholeheartedly embrace that as a sign of being deprived of their mercy. Sorry to say.

Yes, I think so. I wrote about this here on my blog some years ago when writing about Sharan Behari Goswami's book. Maybe the Gaudiyas refine the distinctions a little more than the gopī-bhāva and sakhī-bhāva difference. Sharan Behari was trying to show the superiority of Haridas Swami, so that colors his argument throughout. Just as do the other sakhī-bhāva sampradāyas. But the fundamental principle of tat-sukha-sukhitva is everywhere the guiding light.

If I were to adopt the language of sakhī-bhāva/gopī-bhāva (if I have understood the way Sharan Behari uses it and seems to be what you are saying above), I would say that the manjaris are the purest of the sakhī-bhāva, and the other sakhis have a hint of gopī-bhāva left.

What we take as the highest mood is this one:

pādābjayos tava vinā vara-dāsyam eva
nānyat kadāpi samaye kila devi yāce
sakhyāya te mama namo'stu namo'stu nityaṁ
dāsyāya te mama raso'stu raso'stu satyam
O Goddess! I pray for nothing from you at any time
other than single-minded service to your lotus feet.
If you should say, “Become my friend, my equal,”
then my answer is, “I offer eternal obeisances to such friendship.
I bow down to it, but in truth I pray
that my taste for being your hand-maid
should ever increase, yes, increase forever.
This is my prayer, and this is my vow.
So why make the distinction between sakhya and dasya? The manjaris, as Ananta Dasji likes to say, are friends, but they are also servants. They don't function as equals with Radha in the way that Lalita and Vishakha, etc., do. To desire even a purely functional equality with Radha is considered to be a kind of lèse-majesté, and even a disruption to the intimacy of identity with Radha that comes through the self-effacement of the service mood.

Siddha-deha and initiation


tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ

Know the ways of sacrifice [i.e., sādhanās] should be learned by submission, exhaustive inquiry and by service [i.e., obedience to instruction]. Those who have seen the truth are knowledgeable about the means, and they will instruct you if you have the above qualifications. (Gita 4.34)
This instruction is given in relation to the series of yajñas listed in Gita 4.25-33. Yajña is used in the Gita as a synonym for sādhanā. One should take one's sādhanā from the guru. Mañjarī-bhāva is a sādhanā.

You don't get the siddhi, you get the sādhanā. A siddha-deha doesn't mean you are siddha. The sādhanā is performed internally with the siddha-deha. And that which you practice is the unripe form of what you achieve, which is the ripe form.

All India sādhanā traditions are oral as well as written. We tend to value the written traditions over the oral, but that would be a mistake. Paramparā means what is transmitted orally.

The siddha-deha is like the mantra. It is an initiatory process. You get the siddha-deha in order to practice rāgānugā bhakti. You are "initiated" into the practice. Just as in ancient times you would be initiated into a yajña. That is where the word dīkṣā comes from, historically.

So, I would say, being a little bold here, that people in Iskcon and the Gaudiya Math are not initiated, at least not in the way that the paramparā developed in the post-Chaitanya period. The difficulties in explaining the historical verity in Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's initiation, the idea of the śikṣā or bhāgavata paramparā and so on, are all clues to the lack of an initiation in the Gaudiya Math. But the strongest evidence of a lack of initiation is the outright rejection of the sādhanā of mañjarī-bhāva.

Of course, initiation is there. It would be ridiculous to say there isn't any initiation at all, since there is a ritual and an initiation into a particular process that looks very similar to the rest of the tradition, where mantras and so on are concerned. So it may seem very arrogant to say there is no initiation, but it seems fairly clear to me that the ideas of the siddha-deha being revealed from within, by the Holy Name, and other details of difference indicate the creation of a new or different initiatory tradition.

On the other hand, one may say it is not initiatory because it is exoteric rather than esoteric. Anything that is freely available to everyone is, by definition, not initiatory. Initiation means a special connection, or sambandha-viśeṣa. In fact, as I have been saying, the idea of sambandha-viśeṣa is not insignificant.

In Bhakti-sandarbha, Jiva Goswami, while talking about dāsya of the nine kinds of bhakti practice (nava-vidha-bhakti) says astu tāvat tad-bhajana-prayāsaḥ kevala-tādṛśatvābhimānenāpi siddhir bhavati. "Ultimately, there is no need for any effort in bhajan, since perfection is attained simply by having the identity of being a servant of God."

So the practice of mañjarī-bhāva-sādhanā is the cultivation of the identity of service in a particular mood, that of serving the perfect union of the Divine Couple. To be initiated by someone who has perfected that practice is the ideal and direct way to attain this identity. One should be wary of indirect means. If the Holy Name gives one the siddha-deha, as Bhaktivinoda Thakur says in kṛṣṇa nāma dhore koto bol, it is because the Holy Name guides one through the processes of sādhanā, citta-śuddhi sarva-bhakti-sādhana udgama (3.20.13).

Back to basics again

Of late I have been doing most of my writing over on Vrindavan Today, where I have been attempting to post a daily verse with commentary on the Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta. The day before yesterday I commented on the following verse:

rājyaṁ niṣkaṇṭakam api parityajya divyāś ca rāmāḥ
kāmān sarvān api ca vihitāṁs tikta-tiktān vidantaḥ |
hitvā vidyā-kula-dhana-janādyābhimānaṁ praviṣṭā
ye śrī-vṛndā-vipinam apunar-nirgamāṁs tān namāmaḥ ||
To those who have entered Vrindavan never to leave, rejecting a kingdom without enemies, along with beautiful women and all desires and duties, thinking them to be most bitter, and who have renounced their learning, noble birth, wealth, and fame to do so, we offer our respectful obeisances. (1.76)
Anyone familiar with my blog is aware that I have spoken extensively about gender issues, in the firm belief that Radha and Krishna is a Truth that represents the supreme ideal of human love. In response to what I wrote on VT, a woman of a feminist persuasion wrote the following:
[This post] was by a man about men's point of view both of Vrindavan (a positive place to escape and dwell solely on "spiritual matters" -- or fantasies -- ignoring the real if temporary world around them) and of women there and everywhere (negative, misogynist, and sexist, and each one like "Maya" the cause of all male falldowns... or most of them).

If I also assumed that destroying Vrindavan are all or are mostly all male as well, would I be correct? If so, then what is the underlying CORE issue on the current and future state of Vrindavan? Take a minute or two if you need them... And then: what are these groups two major problems? One starts with an S (or M), the other with a G.

As for the majority of the article contents: It is a typical male-centric, women-ignoring attempt to be inspiring.
I think that a healthy repudiation of the dangers of sexual objectification is good for spiritual life. Indeed for life in general. Is that not the basic premise of feminism, that men objectify women? So does sannyas not address this problem?

Now the question is, is religion the cause of the objectification of women? Or is it an attempt to counteract that tendency? I think an argument can be made for the latter. It is just that we live in changing times and so the goalposts have moved and everyone needs to up their game a little.

Who is sannyas for? And what are these "fantasy projections" for? What service do they provide to the human psyche? Do romantic fantasies not exist already -- with or without Radha and Krishna -- and does not a mature mind deal with them in whatever way it can, without ever being entirely able to get rid of them? As such, we may ask whether the archetypal fantasy of romantic love is a profound, hard-wired psychological issue and the way that we deal with that innate instinctual desire to find a romantic partner, an ideal love, is probably the defining psychological problem, as both Freud and Jung, in their own ways, recognized.

So what does it mean to give transcendent meaning to a symbol of romantic love? Does it serve a purpose? Is transcendence real? Does transcendence have significance in the day-to-day world of so-called reality?

So many women and men suffer due to frustration in love. And they want to blame it on something, in accordance with their conditioned complexes. What Radha and Krishna are about is primarily this: They affirm the existence of love as having its pure form in Divine Transcendence. This puts material relationships into a particular perspective. The interaction of ideal and real are what produce rasa.

If that is so, then why do men take sannyāsa? And why do we glorify sannyāsa? And why has it historically been men who idealized the romantic vision in literature and the arts? And now women do the same thing, which of course is disliked tremendously by feminists since they feel that the female romantics have been co-opted by patriarchal fantasies that are not beneficial for women. Help!

The Vaishnava Radha-Krishna worshiping sannyāsin wants to affirm the ideal due to his incapacity to realize it in the world. This incapacity may come the normal way, due to age, or due to some other reason, pessimism about the world usually.

But the important point here is that without the ideal, you cannot realize love in this world. Otherwise you end up with nothing but a mundane concept of love, which is objectification.

Actually material love means objectification. It is about projecting subconscious contents outwards onto other people and then dealing with the consequences. Without the spiritual basis in yoga and bhakti, the experience is usually unfulfilled; it does not realize its fullest potential, which is prema.

Spiritual love means entering a divine realm. If you have a proper partner in bhakti, it can be done together. If you don't, then it is better that you extract yourself from the game and focus on the ideal.

The ideal is ultimately NOT a fantasy. It exists in transcendence. It is what makes love possible in this world. There are two ways of realizing that transcendence: one is through renunciation, the other is through active participation in the world.

Both are difficult, but the latter is the process followed by most. But due to ignorance and bodily consciousness, etc., most people in the latter process, i.e., the worldly process, end up frustrated. How many people understand the spiritual process of love as mediated through Radha-Krishna consciousness? Not many.

So the core issue is that of love. And the purification of that concept, with the backdrop of an ideal symbolized by Radha and Krishna. Everything else comes out of that.

The qualities of a speaker of Bhagavatam

These are the qualities one should look for in an instructor guru. (From Padma Purāṇa, Bhāgavata-māhātmya, 6.20)

विरक्तो वैष्णवो विप्रो वेदशास्त्रविशुद्धिकृत्
दृष्टान्तकुशलो धीरो वक्ता कार्योऽतिनिःस्पृहः
virakto vaiṣṇavo vipro veda-śāstra-viśuddhi-kṛt
dṛṣṭānta-kuśalo dhīro vaktā kāryo'tiniḥspṛhaḥ


virakta. This means the speaker of Hari-kathā should not sufficiently be beholden to the audience in such a way that he speaks just to please them. If one wants unbiased truth, one should listen to someone who is detached.

Vaiṣṇava - One should listen to the Bhāgavatam from a devotee since the goal of the Bhāgavatam is to attain perfection in devotion. If one's goal is different, then one may hear from anyone. 

vipra - This word means he has undergone the samskāras, not necessarily that he is a born brahmin, though one who is born a brahmin may have a privileged upbringing. He must have undergone spiritual purification. The spiritual aspirant is usually categorized according to kaniṣṭha, madhyama and uttama. So this word is about the spiritual acumen and sādhanā of the speaker. One should here from someone who speaks to the appropriate adhikāra.

veda-śāstra-viśuddhi-kṛt. This word has several meanings, but basically the intent is that the speaker should be conversant enough with the scriptures to be able to explain its esoteric meanings. It also means that sometimes the speaker will give unconventional explanations that are progressive according to time and place. The power of scripture is such that it contains wisdom statements that are universally applicable. Their meaning is sometimes hidden due to archaic language or social conditions, but the speaker endowed with wisdom sees their applicability despite changed circumstances.

dṛṣṭānta-kuśala. Pedagogical expertise, especially through the use of proper examples, etc.

dhīra. Patience. The listener does not always understand right away, so the speaker should be patient and be able to repeat the same thing in different ways to make the point clear.

atiniḥspṛhaḥ. Ati means very much. He must not expect anything in return. This connects to the first one. The difference is that virakta refers to the specific audience, this is a more global perspective. A person who seeks something in return, money, adulation, prestige, followers, whatever, will not communicate the needed truths to the audience. The message will not be pure or have the pure result, nor will it have a profound level of insight. He will be directed by an agenda, not the Truth.

How to find such a speaker of Hari katha?