Thursday, April 20, 2017

Theology at 120 degrees.

Vishakha posted the following excerpt from Prof. Klaus Klostermaier's book Hindu and Christian in Vrindavan, from the chapter entitled “Theology at 120 degrees Fahrenheit.”

She must have been feeling the onset of the hot season herself. It is now here in full force , though there is some amelioration of conditions since those he describes -- fans and coolers, A/C and fridges, ice cream and cold drinks! -- his description does strike a bit of a chord.

Actually Klostermaier stayed only a few hundred meters from where I am now sitting in the Jiva Institute. He was at Bon Maharaj's College, the Oriental Institute of Philosophy, when it was little more than a couple of concrete huts in the middle of sand and tumbleweed.

I worked under Prof. Klostermaier at a one-year replacement stint teaching Sanskrit and Hindi at the University of Manitoba. It was in 1995-96. I had finished my PhD and spent two years on a rather unsuccessful two-year post-doc at the University of Toronto.

It is rather amazing, looking back on it, that I have never read this book of his about Vrindavan.

Klostermaier gave me a chance, almost fired me I think, and in the end, overlooked me for a full-time post that became available at UofM. I don't think he liked my lecturing style, which is a little too formless. Everyone at UofM used overhead projectors. I got so into preparing for my class, the material was disorganized. Not good for undergrads...

That really was the end of my career in academia. Not really any regrets there, but still it is unusual that I made so little effort to get to know him better. It would have been a smart career move. Perhaps he was on some kind of sabbatical leave himself. I never hear him lecture once the whole time I was there.

I had been fairly excited by the prospect of working with Klostermaier, since he was at the height of his reputation at the time. He was also well-known to most scholarly Hare Krishnas as a person who had been in Vrindavan and in touch with Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

Klostermaier was an admirer of Bon Maharaj, who came to visit him in Canada more than once. Some ISKCON followers were suspicious of him because of this, since Srila Prabhupada had said unfavorable things about Bon Maharaj.

I think it would have been a very interesting matter to discuss what he had been through, but somehow or another, our Vrindavan experiences went past each other without ever being spoken, without even being acknowledged. Had I read this book, I perhaps would have had grist for a conversational mill.

Klostermaier left the priesthood, that I know. He was married to a scholarly woman who also taught at the University of Manitoba. He wrote numerous books. In a sense we were both "fallen" priests only from different faiths, both escaping into academia -- him successfully, me still a wannabe. You would think that this commonality of experience would have provided us with something to talk about in a friendly way. We don't even have a photo of us together.

It no doubt had a great deal to do with my own denial, or shyness, or perhaps we should just call it more openly, the beginnings of my return to total alienation with the life I was leading. I think I was still undergoing culture shock. It never really stopped until I finally got back to Vrindavan.

Here is my memory of the Vrindavan heat stirs up old bhajan memories. It should be written up with a little more panache. I can see Klostermaier banging away at his blister inducing manual typewriter. There is no doubt he is an exceptional man and a great scholar. I am certainly in no way his equal.

Things certainly have changed. And he is right, theology at 120 degrees is different from theology at 70. The Christianity of the Desert Fathers was no doubt quite different from that of the Gregorian University of the Pope John XXIII era. Like Bikram Yoga, we like it hot.

Anyway, here is some theology at 120 degrees.

For all places and all times (sarvatra sarvadä)


I spoke the other day about the Bhakti Sandarbha and the explanation given there of the verse

etāvad eva jijñāsyaṁ tattva-jijñāsunātmanaḥ
anvaya-vyatirekābhyāṁ yat syāt sarvatra sarvadā
One who is inquiring into the truth of the Self should inquire only until the point it has been fully established for all places and for all times, both by affirmation and by negation. (SB 2.9.35)
Jiva Goswami's task here is to show how this verse is about bhakti and not about jñāna. The word jñāna is twice in the verse, both times in the desiderative, "wanting to know." The first usage jijñāsyaṁ means "it is to be inquired", "to this extent only" (etāvad eva). By whom? By the ātmanaḥ tattva-jijñāsunā, "one who seeks to know the truth of the Self." "To what extent?" That is a reference to the previous verse, in which the prayojana was stated, the rahasyam of verse 29. This is now about the aṅga of the rahasya (mystery), which is sādhana bhakti. So just as the culture of jñāna is to become situated in direct perception of the Absolute Truth through the process of transforming one's perception through wisdom, so it is with bhakti. But, says Jiva, we want to show that the intent of the speaker is not jñāna, but bhakti, and so we will show how by looking at the rest of the verse.

Anvaya and vyatireka are the two processes used by the mind, accepting and rejecting. In the case of jñāna, one accepts that which is favorable to transforming his perception of the world in accordance with his understanding, and rejects all that is unfavorable. This is executed primarily in terms of knowledge, or philosophical understanding, whereby one trains oneself to see the underlying unity of all things, until that is what one sees. This is a transformative state of being. The purpose of it is transformation. Transformation into what? Into the epitome of humanity. To be the very emblem of what the human form of life is for.

So it is with bhakti. Bhakti is a state of consciousness, a way of perceiving the world, which has a great deal in common and indeed assimilates much of what can be gained from the jñāna path. But the difference in the bhakti path is that it is focused on the personal, the reality of the personal and the personal means love. It means beauty. It means embracing the world in an ultimate sense, which is called prema.

Bhakti is the process whereby one attains prema. And it is up to this point that you must cultivate it. And how do you cultivate it? Through the process of accepting what is favorable, i.e., injunctions that direct one to the desired state of prema consciousness, and rejecting what is unfavorable to that goal.

Since the idea that there is something beyond this is absurd, only this prema consciousness can be experienced in all times and all places. All other paths are limited, they have an end:

एतदुक्तं भवति—यत् कर्म तत् सन्न्यासभोगशरीरप्राप्त्यवधि । योगः सिद्ध्यवधिः । साङ्ख्यमात्मज्ञानावधि । ज्ञानं मोक्षावधि । तथा तथा तत्तद्योग्यतादिकानि च सर्वाणि । एवंभूतेषु तेषु कर्मादिषु शास्त्रादिव्यभिचारिता ज्ञेया । हरिभक्तेस्तु अन्वयव्यक्तिरेकाभ्यां सदा सर्वत्र तत्तन्महिमभिरुपपन्नत्वात् तथाभूतस्य रहस्यस्याङ्गत्वं युक्तम् । यतो रहस्याङ्गत्वेन च ज्ञानरूपार्थान्तराच्छन्नतयैवेदमुक्तमिति ।

Let this be said here: The practice of karma-yoga achieves its end after one takes sannyāsa or obtains a body suitable for enjoyment; yoga ends after attaining yogic perfection; sāṅkhya ends when one has attained knowledge of the self; and jñāna ends at the point of liberation. In the same way, each of these paths has its appropriateness for those ends, etc. This being the case, scriptural injunctions to follow one or the other of these processes are inconstant. But since bhakti to Bhagavān Hari has is present or can be manifested through in all times in all places, through both injunction and prohibition, for this reason it is appropriate to refer to it as a limb (aṅga) of the mystery (rahasya) [of divine love]. Since a mystery or secret is confidential, so a component part of that secret is also confidential, and therefore this instruction has been spoken of in a concealed manner in this verse [SB 2.9.35], covering its true identity in the garb of gnosis.

So what interests us is the idea that Bhakti can manifest anywhere, without exception. Jiva Goswami decides to break "everywhere" (sarvatra) into eight components, where bhakti can be found. I had a bit of trouble with the word upapadyate or upapannam. This word has the following relevant meanings, according to the dictionary: "to reach, to enter any state," "to take place, come forth, be produced, appear, occur, happen"; "to be present, to exist"; "to be possible." So the question is whether bhakti is already everywhere or that it can appear and be everywhere, and I think that the latter meaning makes the more sense, especially since we are talking about a sādhana in which one sees the instruction to always remember, serve and love Krishna in all times and places, in whatever circumstance one finds oneself, in all the senses, in all the objects of the senses, in all actions, prescribed duties and results of one's actions. The possibility for bhakti resides in all these aspects of everywhere.

And then he gives scriptural examples for each.

I don't think that I will go into all that now. But anyone who has read this blog probably knows what lights went on in my head. If there is no bhakti in human love, then it fails the test.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Humility and Prema

I was listening to some devout Christian fundamentalist thoughts of "revival" and was struck by one dominant thought that pervaded the discourse. It might be said to be the essence of the sadhana this particular sect proposes.

In Christianity, one cultivates the sense of being a sinner through constant, ever more subtle self-examination. The purpose of this is to see one's own utter incapacity of attaining salvation from the material condition and to thus to take complete shelter of the Lord.

Humility is this awareness.

If we encourage the person who attempts to express humility by telling him, "you are not a sinner", we are actually not doing him a favor. Because as soon as his ego is flattered, he ceases to take shelter in submission to the Lord. So....

The correct thing to do is say, "Take shelter. You are on the right road. Look at yourself and see how, as a conditioned soul, you have no other recourse than to give yourself up utterly to your ishta devata."

To the path of grace.

The existential problem is that there is no escape from sin, the wages of which are death. Or as we might say, birth, old age, disease and death.

The Jains understood this and it has become the defining problem not only for them, but for all religion: To eat you must kill. For you to live, many others must die, must be harmed. How can you escape sin? It is the precondition for life.

Violence, harming others, i.e., sin, is the condition of life itself. You cannot put a foot forward without stepping on some entity, without killing some living being. Still we have to step forward. This carries on into subtler and subtler realms. You hurt people's feelings.

So you try to minimize hiṁsā. But for the Jains there is ultimately no solution other than to starve oneself to death. Even breathing itself is recognized as a problem for ahiṁsā. Self-annihilation is the only solution.

And sometimes I think that any philosophy that makes one insensitive to others' pain is one step away from a sociopathology. And is the Bhagavad Gita's instruction that it is alright to kill others, who don't die anyway, if you are free from egoism, not one step from such sociopathology? Dangerous territory, for truth is always a sword with a double edge. All truths can be used for good or misused for evil.

Don't be afraid of sin. But be humble.
Recognize that the only reason you can survive sin is the grace of God.
Don't be burdened by guilt.
Do the will of God and leave the rest to God.

Love is the will of God.
It is God's will that you follow Love.
God IS Love. Don't be afraid.

Humility means to do the will of God.



It is to be expected that there will be criticism of any religion. Actually there will always be criticism of all good things. I was pointing out one of the methods that is used in Christianity that seems quite secular, in the instance of the self-analysis, but nevertheless potentially effective spiritually when the goal is understood. Humility is the necessary prerequisite to Grace.

Since humility is a trait that Vaishnavas share with other transcendentalists, I thought that this insight was worth sharing. Not to criticize Christians for not following their own sadhana, but to see how we can adopt this insight into the sadhana of humility.

Sanatan Goswami says that humility and prema have a mutual relationship of cause and effect, so it is important. Is Vaishnava humility the same or different from the Christian version?
dainyaṁ tu paramaṁ premṇaḥ paripākena janyate |
tāsāṁ gokula-nārīṇām iva kṛṣṇa-viyogataḥ ||
paripākena dainyasya premājasraṁ vitanyate |
parasparaṁ tayor itthaṁ kārya-kāraṇatekṣyate ||
Humility arises from the complete maturation of prema, as was demonstrated by the women of Gokula in separation from Krishna. When humility reaches its complete maturation, then prema flows copiously in all directions. It is seen that there is thus a mutual relationship of cause and effect between Love and Humility.
Brihad Bhagavatamritam 2.5.224-225.
 

Compassion means Krishna katha

I mentioned yesterday that I have started a new regime, only coming on line once a day. Prior to that, I was watching a number of Christian websites and videos and getting a bit of a feel for various branches of Christian thought. I found out that for some, "Jews are our friends, it is the Catholics who are the real whores of Babylon. The Jesuits are ones behind the New World Order."

So this counter conspiracy theory was like a beam of light into the darkness. I realized that only God knows, and the rest of us are a bunch of idiots who think we know. And this knowledge does not give us happiness but helplessness. And this is very liberating.

One thing, though, that is striking about some branches of Christianity is their utter seriousness about "saving souls." From the lake of fire and so. "There is no other way to the Father but by me."

Well, at least they recognize that there is suffering, as the Buddha said. Today in Bhakti Sandarbha, I had the pleasure of reading the following verses, which are the principal texts for Anucchedas 115-117.

The first of these comes after a _very_ long explanation of the last verse of the Chatuhshloki Bhagavatam, which Jiva Goswami is at great pains to tell us, is about sadhana bhakti, the abhidheya of the Bhagavatam. Abhidheya, you may not know, literally means "that which is being enjoined." In other words, every text is inspiring some kind of action. This is the situation (sambandha), this is the goal (prayojana) and this is the means to get there (abhidheya),

Every text has an explicit or implicit injunction and prohibition in it. This is called the anvaya (direct injunction or statement) and vyatireka (negation or prohibition). So the last verse of Chatuhshloki is telling us:

etāvad eva jijñāsyaṁ tattva-jijñāsunātmanaḥ
anvaya-vyatirekābhyāṁ yat syāt sarvatra sarvadā

A person who is searching after the Supreme Absolute Truth must search for it up to this point, both directly and indirectly, so that it will be firmly fixed in all space and time. (2.9.35)

Actually, Jiva Goswami’s explanation is pretty brilliant here. Jijñāsyaṁ “to be inquired” is the indication that the abhidheya is being spoken of. Because ultimately the question is “What must I do?” So one must inquire into what must be done through understanding injunctions and prohibitions until one comes to the point of knowing what is to be done in all times and in all places.

And then Jiva draws on a large number of verses to establish that bhakti and bhakti alone fits the criteria of this abhidheya. The demands of bhakti: It can be practised anywhere, even in hell, at any time. There is only one injunction: Remember Krishna. Only one prohibition, Never forget Him. Wherever you are, whenever you are. Here and now.

Karma, jnana, yoga, sankhya... they are all limited in some way and fall short. Only bhakti will lead to the full satisfaction of the heart.

sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje
ahaituky apratihatā yayātmā suprasīdati

The supreme religious activity of the human being is that which results in devotion to the Supreme Lord who is beyond the ken of our material senses. This devotion must be without motivation and uninterrupted -- only then will it bring full contentment to the soul. (SB 1.2.6)

Even though I was speaking admiringly the other day about Christian introspection and humility and prayer, I do not see most Christians having the kind of bhakti that the Vaishnavas have. They are saved, let them be saved. They have their salvation and they have their dogma armies. They have some pieces of the puzzle. But for the most part, they are not free of the bodily conception of life. It makes their passage through life without a real destination.

Well, I don’t claim to understand anything about Christianity. But like I said, “saving souls” is a big deal in Christianity. So I was rather pleased to see how Jiva concludes Anu 115. You have to understand that all the way from Anu. 1 to Anu. 115, Jiva has been showing in every way possible that bhakti is the point of the Bhagavatam. And now with the grand finale, he has recapitulated it all in his explanation of the Chatuhshloki verse.

And then? The Chatuhshloki verse is not even the main verse of the Anuccheda!! It is this one, Lord Brahma says to Narada:

yathā harau bhagavati nṛṇāṁ bhaktir bhaviṣyati
sarvātmany akhilādhāra iti saṅkalpya varṇaya

Describe this [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam], vowing that by your so doing humanity will develop bhakti to Bhagavān Hari, the Soul and fountainhead of all things. (SB 2.7.52)

And then Sri Jiva continues by showing the bhakti paramparā. That is the same instruction that Narada gave to Vyasa:

atho mahā-bhāga bhavān amogha-dṛk
śuci-śravāḥ satya-rato dhṛta-vrataḥ
urukramasyākhila-bandha-muktaye
samādhinānusmara tad-viceṣṭitam

O greatly fortunate Vyāsa, your vision is infallible. Your fame is pure. You are truthful and of firm vows. Therefore, in order to liberate all living beings from material bondage, you should reflect continuously in trance on the activities of Bhagavān, who performs wonderful feats. (SB 1.5.13)

Sri Jiva reminds us that just before that Narada has established the supremacy of bhakti as the best of dharmas, the parama dharma, the projjhita-kaitava dharma.

naiṣkarmyam apy acyuta-bhāva-varjitaṁ
na śobhate jñānam alaṁ nirañjanam
kutaḥ punaḥ śaśvad abhadram īśvare
na cārpitaṁ karma yad apy akāraṇam

Even knowledge that is pure and free from bondage to action is without beauty, if it is devoid of devotion to Bhagavān Acyuta. What then can be said of action, which is always inauspicious when not offered to Bhagavān, even if it is performed without material motive? (SB 1.5.12)

tvam apy adabhra-śruta viśrutaṁ vibhoḥ
samāpyate yena vidāṁ bubhutsitam
prakhyāhi duḥkhair muhur arditātmanāṁ
saṅkleśa-nirvāṇam uśanti nānyathā

O Vyāsa, your knowledge is vast. Please describe only the pastimes of Bhagavān, by which the scholars’ thirst for knowledge is quenched. Those who are being repeatedly crushed by the miseries of material existence can be freed from their torment only by hearing these topics and not by any other means. (SB 1.5.40)

Hot season in Vrindavan... and bhajan

Going through Bhakti Sandarbha 115, coincidentally on the same day my Internet prepaid ran out... This verse stood out for me...

sā hānis tan mahac-chidraṁ saḥ mohaḥ sa ca vibhramaḥ
yan-muhūrtaṁ kṣaṇaṁ vāpi vāsudevo na cintyate

Even a moment, even an instant that passes without thought of Vāsudeva is a loss; it is a tragic mistake, it is delusion and it is a great confusion. (Vishnu Purana?)

So, avyartha-kālatvam is what we strive for. With all the distractions who can point his or her mind straight into the heart of God?

vāgbhiḥ stuvanto manasā smarantas
tanvā namanto'py aniśaṁ na tṛptāḥ |
bhaktāḥ sravan-netra-jalāḥ samagram
āyur harer eva samarpayanti ||

With their words they praise him,
with their minds, they remember him,
with their bodies, they bow down constantly,
yet they are never satisfied that it's enough.
Their eyes flowing with tears,
they offer up their entire lives to Hari.
Hari-bhakti-sudhodaye 12.37

Another verse there that I really like... makes me think of all those people fleeing Vrindavan in the hot season...

na yatra vaikuṇṭha-kathā-sudhāpagā
na sādhavo bhāgavatās tad-āśrayāḥ
na yatra yajñeṣa-makhā mahotsavāḥ
sureśa-loko'pi na vai sa sevyatām

Be it the abode of Brahmā, the chief of the gods.
One should not reside in such a place
where the ambrosial rivers of Bhagavān’s pastimes do not flow,
where the devotees of Bhagavān do not take shelter of their banks,
and where no festivals are held as sacrifices for His pleasure
(SB 5.19.24)

This always going on the internet is a very bad habit.

Once a day or twice a day for necessary communications is all. Going on and reading this, listening to that, watching this.. going into a kind of zone...

It is a lot of clutter and really not good for bhajan. Like today, I just went on to the websites I usually frequent but I haven't had any internet for 24 hours.

So it all looks pretty same-old-shit, same-old-shit. Why do I let this crap occupy my mind for even a minute?

If you must use the internet, go back in spirit to the olden days. Write meaningful, heartfelt compositions, ones that are literary and indeed a meditation in themselves. As a sadhana.

We might not be able to reach that kind of state always, but imagine being able to share something genuinely spiritually insightful, something genuinely profound -- something that has had a whole day of rebounding within your breathing, that was underlying everything as you went from distraction to distraction, something that percolated and cook ed and then indeed baked into a carrot cake of a thought -- sharing that with a heart-soul, a spiritual companion whose dearness is perhaps being enhanced by a a feeling of separation.

And with all that, we can become _more_ introspective and _more_ honest and thereby push forward in the time we have left to become accomplished in the Art of Love.

Sins exposed, and honestly repented, are sins evaporated.

Jai Radhe.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Yugal Bhajan Triangle

I have been sitting on the following diagram for several weeks now, but got caught up in various distractions, but lately some additional insights have come and so I now come back to it and share it, for the pleasure of the devotees.

I have been working on this concept for some time before becoming aware of the popular Christian use of the triangle image in a similar way. It seems that variations on the concept are quite widespread and you can see both Christian and secular versions of it on Google images. Since the image and symbolic potential of a triangle or pyramid is a simple one, it is not particularly surprising that it has been used so frequently. After all, what is the Star of David but two triangles?

The triangle represents synthesis, and there is no spiritual achievement that is not represented by synthesis. It can furthermore blossom into countless other dialectical configurations, as is represented by the Shri Chakra.

In the discussion that follows, however, I have not made use of any other source other than my own prior knowledge, insight and experience. I have insufficient knowledge of either of the abovementioned traditions, neither am I a practitioner in them. The following is based on my thinking arising from yoga and bhakti and a few other odds and ends, such as some faint knowledge of Western psychological systems, that have trickled into my awareness.

It is still preliminary, but I am posting it anyway.


(1)

The apex or pinnacle of the triangle is Radha and Krishna. The right corner represents the male, the left the female. The goal of the sādhana is to reduce the distance between the three corners, effectively minimizing them to zero.

The Apex can be said to exist archetypically as any ultimate concern. In other words, there is no relationship that exists without a "concern." But to the degree that Love is most profound of concerns, it must in our view be taken as "ultimate." Moreover, what is not ultimate is idolatry and does not suit the purpose of a true transcendent spiritual practice.

For us, the Ultimate Concern is expressed as Radha and Krishna. This representation of the Ultimate Concern as the Unity of Divine Lovers is of particular relevance to the rest of the model, since our subject here is the bhāva sādhanā, the culture of spiritual love.

In our diagram, we have made use of the Yin-Yang to represent the Divine Couple. We take it as a universal symbol of the Union of Opposites, the Divine Syzygy. It is surrounded by radiation, shown by outward facing blue arrows, which stands for the energies that emanate from the Divine Union, which is love.

This concept is based primarily on the two verses by Jiva Goswami quoted and explained here. According to these verses, "Love takes form as Radha and Krishna." and "The same Love inundates Radha and Krishna and the sakhis, and then the entire world."

The idea is that Prema is the Ultimate Concern, which has taken form as Sri Sri Radha and Krishna, Mahabhava Svarupini and Rasika Shekhar Murali Mohan, the Aprakrita Navina Madana. At the same time, they are the dynamic poles from which this formless form of Love, the Ananga form of Love, arises, permeates, activates and bewilders the material and spiritual universes. We may compare it to the Brahman effulgence in this way.

ānanda-cinmaya-rasātmatayā manaḥsu
yaḥ prāṇināṁ pratiphalan smaratām upetya
līlāyitena bhuvanāni jayaty ajasram
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
I worship Govinda, the original Purusha, whose intrinsic nature as eternal existence, pure consciousness and the bliss of love is reflected in the minds of the living beings whereby he takes the form of Kamadeva (Smara = "memory"); by this playful pastime he easily triumphs over the limitless mundane worlds.
Though Krishna and Radha are differentiated as Purusha and Prakriti, they are the subtlest and truest archetypal form of these two, as Kama and Rati in their ideal form. Being so conceived, i.e., being so revealed by the Guru-parampara from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu through Rupa Goswami, they are Reality Itself.

The Ultimate Concern might have other representations, such as Guru, but only where they also serve the same purpose as the Divine Couple, i.e., act as transparent via media to that primordial symbol of Prema.

So, the idea is that God is the Ultimate Concern that can unite the opposites. God in the form of Radha and Krishna is particularly suited to the culture of Prema, as no other form of God is.



(2)

The points on the base of the triangle represent the sādhakas, the male on the right, the female on the left. The relations between the three corners will fluctuate and differ in the course of the sādhana. The goal of the sādhana is to reduce the Triangle to a single point, which we will call the Bindu in keeping with various Tantrik and Yoga traditions. As Gaudiya Vaishnavas, we accept the doctrine of simultaneous union and difference; nevertheless all sādhana is always about union. Love itself can be defined as union or oneness.

Each corner is simultaneously in relation with the other two. For the sādhaka, one is the sādhana partner, the other is Radha and Krishna. As the triangle shrinks, the difference or distinction between these two is diminished.

The lines leading upwards from the bottom corners towards Radha and Krishna in the Apex represent each sādhaka's individual sādhana, which is originally independent of the Yugala sādhakas' relationship. This is the a priori of this practice, for the primary defect of the Yugal practice is inadequacy in the individual culture of the Ultimate Concern as Radha and Krishna.

The line joining the two points on the base, i.e., between the sādhakas, shows their mutually approaching one another as they come closer to the center, i.e, the state of equilibrium, harmony or synthesis. As the distance between them grows smaller, the combined power of fusion drives them upward towards the apex of prema realization. Though this is represented as a movement upward, it has the effect of shortening the altitude of the triangle. In other words, the energies of love experienced by the sādhakas combines and propels them closer to God.

The triangle shrinks as the corners converge: Radha and Krishna move down by grace, the others upward by sādhana, and the lower corners approach each other through their mutual attraction.

(3)

The lower ego circles have been divided into three sections. The inner ones, facing each other, are the external egos, which are valenced as male or female and are therefore attracted mutually.

The principal relations between the sādhakas are twofold. They can be characterized as "face-to-face" and as "shoulder-to-shoulder."

In face-to-face, their external egos, i.e., consciousness identified as male or female, are facing the other and being mutually attracted. This is the fundamental energy source provided by material nature both for material and spiritual purposes.

The corners get closer, so the triangle is never perfectly isosceles. The bottom line is key: As the two poles reach a state of unity and balance, they create a unitary axis up and down from the Radha-Krishna to the unified Dual. This is parallel to the three nāḍīs of yoga, iḍā, piṅgalā and suṣumnā in the middle.

The shoulder-to-shoulder relationship is that of friendship. Here one needs to look at the model of the psyche in rasa psychology as shown here, in particular under the heading "The Rati Complex."

The idea is that as individuals, the sādhaka and sādhikā are expected to have become qualified through the pravartaka stage. The pravartaka stage means the entirety of external sādhana bhakti as described in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, etc. This stage usually is described as the mood of devotional culture and service, where the element of aiśvarya is present.

There are many places on this blog where this subject is discussed, the fundamental problem being: "How does one pass from aiśvarya to mādhurya when one is engaged in religious activities that of necessity identify a God or Ultimate Concern that is transcendent, and also accepts that he or she is a conditioned soul in need of grace? How does that process work in practical terms?"

The answer is that one must proceed to the madhyama stage and learn to see Braj bhava in worldly relations.

The two sādhakas must both be qualified by having been intellectually and psychically transformed by the processes of sādhana-bhakti, up to and especially including the "external" rāgānugā mārga.

There is no point to the sādhaka-mārga if one is not qualified. This is why the choice of a sādhana partner is so important. A high standard of character is part of the qualification, but more important in the madhyama stage is to have common values based in the philosophy and theory of bhakti-yoga. The basis here is that both sādhakas must share the same Ultimate Concern and be sādhakas of that Prema Bhakti as individuals. Otherwise, whatever attempt they make at Yugala sādhana will be fruitless and constantly subject to distortion by mundane or mixed conceptions.

(4)
 
Really, there is no point in talking about face-to-face without first coming to terms with shoulder-to-shoulder. The common ground of the sādhakas is their interest, as friends, in their Ultimate Concern, the topic of Prema Bhakti. They are partners not only in practice but in coming to a more perfect understanding of the subject, which naturally undergoes transformation through their changing experience and growth in sādhana.

They provide each other with perspective coming from their complementary standpoint. It is the culture of the "Other" in a process of mutuality that goes through five levels, corresponding to the chakras.

Parallels in the five stages
rasa
cakra
koṣa
śṛṅgāra /śānta
svādhiṣṭhāna
anna-maya
dāsya-vātsalya
maṇipūra
prāṇa-maya
sakhya
anāhata
mano-maya
vātsalya-dāsya
viśuddha
vijñāna-maya
śānta/śṛṅgāra
ājñā
ānanda-maya

This parallelism will require further explanation at another time, in particular the complementary nature of the rasas in the pairs śānta/śṛṅgāra and vātsalya-dāsya. Some hints can be found here. An understanding of these parallels is essential to understanding the process.

The central core of each partner is their inner Radha Krishna, the androgynous center which is also acting from within. The individual sādhaka by natural proclivity seeks equilibrium of the opposite parts of his or her own nature in what Jung calls the coniunctio oppositorum. The lack of equilibrium in the individual results in tumult in the other aspects of the sādhana and general inefficiency of the practice. The anima/animus dynamics in the individual unconscious are both the force of attraction and the obstacle to perfection of the union.

And on the outer side is the inner ego, which is that of the mañjarī. The mañjarī ego is serving the Yugal, i.e., the Divine Union. This is the ego in relation to the Ultimate Concern. The mañjarī concept is that of the Intelligence in the service of Union. On the individual level it functions as the intelligence in one's own practice, on the dual level as the servant of the union of the sādhakas.

The work of the mañjarī ego is further represented by an arrow pushing the masculine and feminine egos towards union.

So it is something like a superego providing intelligence. It is closest to the inner Radha-Krishna, which seeks external union, i.e, seeking its own transcendent Selfhood through the medium of the worldly devotees.

The mañjarīs are friends. This makes the underlying sakhya rasa the key to union. Sakhya means a common goal (standing shoulder to shoulder), and in this respect is different from the purely sexual attraction (face to face). The common goal is Radha-Krishna.

Sakhya is always fluctuating between dasya and vatsalya, containing elements thereof, depending on the need of the moment.

Radha and Krishna represent intelligence, and the mañjarī bhava also represents an intelligence that is aligned with Radha and Krishna. But it is the intelligence as manifest in the individual in relation to Radha and Krishna. In both cases, though, it should be seen as the intelligence of love.

That which is in the thousand-petalled lotus is always the intelligence. The mañjarī could thus also be seen as the internal manifestation of guru, whose purpose is to link the jivatma to the Divine Person.

In UN 3.50 it says that sometimes bhaktas attain Radha singularly or in groups. So the idea of a pair of devotees attaining Radha and Krishna together is accepted by Rupa Goswami.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What is Sex For?

Truth Dig published an interesting excerpt from a book by Robert Jensen called “The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men”, which begins with the question of sexual equality and prostitution. "How can a society achieve a meaningful level of justice if people from one sex/gender class could be routinely bought and sold for sexual services by people from another sex/gender class?" This of course leads to questions about the meaning of sexuality itself, and these significant questions are at the basis of the theory and practice of Sahaja.

The excerpted piece ends with the following reflection,
More than two decades ago, when I first started thinking about this question, I kept coming back to the phrase to describe an argument that is intense but which doesn’t really advance our understanding — we say that such a debate ‘produced more heat than light’. Much of the talk about sexuality in contemporary culture is in terms of heat: Is the sex you are having hot?

What if our discussions about sexual activity — our embodied connections to another person — were less about heat and more about light? What if instead of desperately seeking hot sex, we searched for a way to produce light when we touch? What if such touch were about finding a way to create light between people so that we could see ourselves and each other better? If the goal is knowing ourselves and each other like that, then what we need is not really heat but light to illuminate the path. How do we touch and talk to each other to shine that light?

Though there is no sexual instruction manual to tell us how to generate that light, I do not hesitate to suggest that the sexual-exploitation industries leave us in the dark.
Jensen sees the problem and the direction in which to look for a solution. In our view, there is no solution without an understanding of and faith in the inherent sacred character of sexuality and the appropriate practice that heightens this sacredness. Though sexuality is given to almost everyone, very few realize its material potential, what to speak of the spiritual.

The Sahaja idea is that Radha represents feminine sexuality and Krishna the male. The purpose of sex is thus love and it is the highest love. Thus it is clear that the erroneous conception of sex is that its purpose is either procreation or mere pleasure.

Pleasure and love are synonymous for those who are spiritually evolved, for those who are not, pleasure is restricted to orgasm alone and is ultimately a process of self-debasement.

This latter truth is very poorly understood even by those who promote abstinence.

For those who are yogis and bhaktas, sexuality is the primary force that pushes the awareness or consciousness to its highest regions of bliss.

This is true whether one is celibate or engaged in Yugala sādhana with a partner.

The essence of sādhana, for all, is one-pointedness to the Deity, but in the sādhana practice of sahaja, the partner must -- like the Guru -- also be the object of one-pointedness. The partner is him/herself the sādhana. The sādhana is the creation of a Yugal through embodying the Divine Couple. Such a Yugal is the Divine Couple on Earth.

For the yogi, the goal may be symbolically represented by the preferences of whatever tradition he or she follows.

But generally speaking it is any Hindu or Buddhist deity, all of whom are accompanied by their shakti. Nearly all are Duals, or Syzygies, representing, as the yogis are wont to say, the union of the Sun and the Moon.

For the bhaktas embedded in madhura Radha-Krishna consciousness and the glories of Radha Shyama Nam, this state propels the experience of Radha and Krishna forward to all planes of psycho-somatic existence, through every kosha, through every chakra, through every stage of mental and social evolution, through the entire tangled morass of past samskāras, individual and collective, so that it becomes the only Reality.

And for the Sahaja bhakta, that is compounded by ekāgratā in the sādhaka deha to the Love Object, who is none other than Radha and Krishna together at once.

And for anybody who wishes to dispute this, I say that this is the true core and meaning of Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy, though hidden like Krishna in the Veda.

And anyone who thinks that this would lead to promiscuity, I say that such a thing would be impossible if young men and women had been properly trained in brahmacharya.

This is almost completely absent from not something that can be enforced in our day, and indeed we should be wary of enforcing it even where there is social acceptance of the principle of abstinence.

Rather we should try to encourage young men and women to be aware of the spiritual purpose of sexuality. To become aware of its deep sacredness.

When it is seen as yoga, then as in any yoga, its purpose is to facilitate ekāgratā.

Thus the selection of a partner is of utmost importance.

The preparatory process in character building -- the yamas and niyamas -- for someone who is intent on becoming a sādhaka of Yugala Rasa is of utmost importance.

This is the pravartaka stage, and only a serious practitioner on the pravartaka stage can expect to become a sādhaka of Yugala Rasa.

pravarta nā hate siddhi sādhaka je hoy
bidhi biḍambana tāra jānibe niścaya
kabhu se bhajane tāra siddhi nāhi habe
bicalita haye rati narake se rabe

You should know for certain that whoever takes up this sādhana who has not perfected the pravarta stage is disrupting the proper sequence of the practice. He will never attain success in this practice. When engaged in the love act, he will be disturbed and remain in a hellish condition. He is like an unbaked clay pot trying to hold water.
The pravartaka stage may also be called vidhi bhakti. If you fail at Yugala Rasa, in other words, if you fail to be ekāgra, then you should double your efforts in vidhi bhakti, but continue to understand the psychology, the subtle desires and forces that misdirect you from understanding the Yugala Rasa.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

New Introduction Jiva Tirtha Sanskrit

This book is the first draft of a Sanskrit text book that was used in the 2016-2017 academic year at the Jiva Institute in Vrindavan. It is still in need of revision and refinement, which will be undertaken during the next academic year of the Jiva Tirtha course while being used for a second group of students. It will also be expanded as the first year students continue in their studies.

Exercises and vocabulary are an important element in such a course and I have integrated many verses and texts that I prepared in an earlier publication, Sādhaka pāṭhyam, which was done on behalf of the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama in Rishikesh.

The Jiva Institute under the direction of Mahant Satya Narayan Das Babaji started the Jiva Tirtha program in the autumn of 2016 with 25 students from Europe and America. The Sanskrit course started with a couple of trial and error efforts using different texts, including Hari-nāmāmṛta-vyākaraṇam, the grammar text composed by Srila Jiva Goswami himself. Since he is the patron saint of the Jiva Institute, this seemed natural. However, as a method for beginners learning Sanskrit it is a little ambitious. The idea now is to get students started with this course and afterwards they will be able to fine tune their grammatical knowledge with Hari-nāmāmṛta.

Even so, the advantage of this trial and error beginning was that the students were familiar with both the alphabet and the basics of most of the sandhi rules by the time I started developing this course with them about six weeks after the beginning. This is reflected in this text, as there is no teaching of the alphabet in it. The second edition will likely have to include it. The sandhi rules have been given in an appendix. And in actual fact, in the approach I am using, sandhi is taught on an ad hoc basis through encountering and recognition.

I have also succumbed to the temptation to develop a methodology of my own devising, Though I am not enough of a student of Sanskrit pedagogy in the West to be able to know whether it is original, I was nevertheless inspired to try something that seemed fairly different from most other methods I have seen.

Most Western texts for learning classical languages like Greek or Latin served as the model for Sanskrit pedagogy, and this leads to a "dead language" mentality, which is absolutely what we need to avoid. Students must feel that they are learning to live in that language through becoming enchanted by it.

The course is thus designed to minimize the amount of memorization that needs to be done in the beginning and to be more reflective of what will be encountered in the texts of the Vrindavan Goswamis. This means trying to get a feel for the way Sanskrit would actually be spoken.

The course is thus (as of now) designed around the cases (kārakas) but keeping to the singular. At the same time, we do spend time at the beginning of each class to chant the declensions just for fun and familiarization. As an important part of this scheme, we are learning passive constructions including passive participles before learning all the complete conjugations. Even so, a lot is crammed into these first ten lessons, and in fact most of the basics of the language should be mastered after completing them, after which reading texts with a competent teacher will be the principal teaching method.

The speaking or conversational part of the course will hopefully develop out of the readings. Classical languages are their literature, and though attempts to revive spoken Sanskrit are welcomed, it must be remembered that the very meaning of the word saṁskṛta is that it is, by design, a spiritual nobility's refined language and medium of thought.

That is why the word "sanskritization" is appropriate in the context of Brahminical civilization. And it also makes clear the meaning of saṁskāras, at least in their positive sense as a purificatory or refining ritual which are meant to give a sāttvika tenor to the developing consciousness of the human being as he passes through the different stages of life.

The word saṁskāra in its broader sense as imprints on the unconscious and the resultant unconscious effects thereof always sounds to me like French sang (blood) and "scar," which are also appropriate, no doubt. The Sanskrit language is, however, to be integrated into the process of transforming the consciousness and training the mind to move naturally in a spiritual direction. The purpose of learning Sanskrit, in the Jiva Institute at least, is to enter the "mind-field" of the Vaishnava gurus like Shri Jiva, Rupa, Sanatan, Raghunath Das and the other scholars and poets of the tradition.

It may be impossible to return to a golden past – nowadays everyone looks to the future and humankind's millions of years of evolution up until the modern age ignored as primitive – but for us it seems that the riches of spiritual discovery that are hidden in the vast Sanskrit literature are still worth pursuing and implementing, even as the globalized civilization continues to rush towards environmental and social destruction without them.

It may be an impossible dream, but I imagine living in a linguistic medium where the words of the Veṇugīta are understood as naturally as a popular song on the radio and the limitless dhvanis of a verse send off a fireworks display of bhakti rasa in the mind of the devotee. Let us at least try to create a small alternative to the global cultural wasteland.

Many thanks are due to Mahanta Sri Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj for the vision that is taking form in the Jiva Institute and Ashram, to Stuart Trusty, who has undertaken the publication of this first edition and to Malatimanjari Dasi, who helped with proofreading and in other ways. And thanks also to Radheya Mansel, Maria Christanell and other students who offered their help.
There are no doubt many errors and flaws in this very limited first edition, which has been prepared in a bit of a rush primarily for the students who followed the course this year and those who will come next year. I humbly ask all those using it to forgive its deficiencies. If they get some benefit and make progress in learning this wonderful and important language, I will consider the effort worthwhile.

Jai Sri Radhe.
Jagadananda Das


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Jai Sachinandana! Jai Gaura Hari ! Gadadhara Prana Nath! Nadia Bihari!

Gadadhar Pran's Gadadhar Pran.

জয় শচীনন্দন, জয় গৌর হরি
গদাধর প্রাণ নাথ, নদিয়া বিহারী
নিতাই গদাইএর সঙ্গে গৌর জয় জয়
যাঁহার কৃপা কটাক্ষে প্রেম ভক্তি হয়.

Today is an auspicious day. Let us rejoice that by the grace of Sri Guru we have been able to live our lives in the adventure of following Gauranga Mahaprabhu's conception of reality, along its hundreds and thousands of streams and rivulets.

Whereby our brains have been illuminated by contemplation of the the question of Divine Love in all its splendor,

Whereby our hearts have been granted the hope to become servants of that Love.

Whereby we have been initiated into the mysteries of the Hladini Shakti, whose rays of effulgence shone on the world through him.

Whereby we have learned the ecstatic meaning of separation as bliss.

Whereby we have learned that all words are a song when they are the Holy Name. And that all words _are_ the Holy Name. All sounds are the Holy Name.

Whereby every movement becomes a dance, for every hair and follicle is permeated by the Holy Name, and thereby the world's ignorance is ignored.

May Mahaprabhu's grace continue to shine like the full moon peppered with the pink powders of Holi in the clear spring sky over Vrindavan.

All glories! All glories to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu!!!

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Birthday thoughts

Dear friends,

I have been trying to respond to all your happy birthday wishes, but my connection here is not so good and I have not been able to answer all of them. Please be assured that I appreciate getting so many happy birthdays. It helps me forget that I am just getting older and closer to death...

On the other hand, some people have told me to have a "Krishna conscious" birthday. Though I could be a little smug and say, "Then it is no different from any other day," in fact I have to say that today I awoke singing the Maha Mantra to one heck of a happy tune and truly feeling as though I was the luckiest person in the world.

I told Babaji this morning that this year at Jiva has been the happiest year of my life. Babaji's friendship is making it possible for me to accomplish many things that I would like to accomplish before I finish this particular lila. I am becoming more and more eager to do bhajan -- something about seeing Binode Bihari Dasji in Barsana, but doing these services to the Dham and the Goswami literature in the Dham is anukula to bhajan -- but hopefully not for too long.

It seems that somehow a drop of the joy of bhajan and Vrindavan vasa and bhakta sanga and the mercy of my gurus has penetrated to the point where it is truly bubbling over, spontaneously and continuously.

All glories, all glories to Vrindavan Dham! The effects of the Dham can only be truly known to one who has rolled in its dust continuously for many lifetimes.

All glories, all glories to the Holy Name!

All glories, all glories to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda, Adwaita, Gadadhara, Shrivas, Narahari, Rupa, Sanatana, Bhatta Gopal, Bhatta Raghunath, Raghunatha Das and Shri JIva, our heart's jivatu. On Nityananda Trayodashi I felt that Nityananda's special kripa had been given me. I translated Manjari Svarupa Nirupana while staying at Shringar Bat, which I visited on Nitai's appearance day. Could anyone deny that I have received Nitai's mercy?

All glories, all glories to the Guru Parampara from Jahnava Thakurani to Ramchandra to Rajvallabh to Bipin Bihari, to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, to my heart's Gurudeva, Sri Sri Lalita Prasad Thakur, who opened my eyes to the Yugal Svarupa, Gadadhar Radha Gaura Krishna and the doors to the next zone, who made me part of a larger, older family.

All glories, all glories to Dwadash Mandir, to the Bhakivinode Goshthi and to Hari Gopal Dasji Maharaj!

All glories, all glories to my godbrother Gadadhar Pran Das, may all his bhajan bear fruit and he enter Nitya Nabadwip Dham with Gaura Gadadhar in full nagara bliss!

All glories, all glories to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarawati and all his disciples and especially to Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, my eternal guru, my ground zero, my second birth father. And to Shridhar Maharaj too!

All glories, all glories to all my gurus, large and small, can I mention them all? To Madhusudan Das Babaji, to Sachinandan Bhakti Prabha, to Hridayananda Das Babaji, to Shambhu Narayan Ghoshal, and to all the Nabadwip Vasis, kirtaniyas, katha vachaks, to Madan Gopal Goswami, to Tin Kori Prabhu and all his disciples! To Nimai Chand Goswami and his sons!

To my Shikha Guru, Priyalal Gosai, may I one day see him again and find out what it was I learned from him! To my Shakti, may she also realize her true svarupa.

To Ananta Das Pandit Maharaj! Who kindled in me, more than anyone else, the desire to understand bhakti-rasa and increased a thousand-fold my love for the Goswamis' writings.

To Swami Veda Bharati! My yoga guru.

To all the Vrajavasis!

To Radharani, Shyamashya, Piya Piyari! To Radha Raman! To every square inch of this divine dham! Vrindavan is what Walt Disney might have wished to imagine, but could not, because the material intelligence cannot reach this world of eternal premananda!
And all glories to you, O Vaishnava sanga!
Jai Jai Shri Radhe Shyam!!!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Postscript to Bhaktivinoda Janma Sthan threats

Postscript to Bhaktivinoda Thakur's birthplace under threats from Land Mafias.

I am thinking a little bit more about the idea that ISKCON might have a permanent presence in Birnagar.

I will be quite frank, my gurudeva never wanted Dwadash Mandir to "fall into the hands" of the Gaudiya Math or ISKCON. He was not an ambitious man, my gurudeva, in the sense of wanting to become a great guru. He wanted a simple life that was reclusive in style. If he was a guru, he was a rural guru in the traditional Vaishnava manner. Totally Bengali Vaishnava, but with the stamp of Bhaktivinoda Thakur. He wanted to preserve Bhaktivinoda Thakur's tradition in the way that he himself did it, saw it, and wanted it.

If this were to happen, the fear is that by running from the lion one will fall into the mouth of the tiger. If we run to ISKCON as our protector, will they turn into predators themselves, in their high-minded idea of appropriating some kind of monopoly on his legacy.

I can see the positive possibilities but negotiations will be needed. I would rather that other options be found, but I there is a certain inevitability about it. I don't know that we will be able to pull this one out of the hat ourselves. Let's see what Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself wants. All is Bhagavan's lila. I don't think he is unhappy that his teachings have been spread to all parts of the world.

And Prabhupada's work is a good reminder to the people of Bengal that their contribution to the world is not just an eternal game of playing catchup to the West.

The coming of Kali Yuga means that the reclusive bhajan style becomes harder and harder to maintain. To the rajasik, it appears like tamas. And in the unevolved mind, sattva does easily deteriorate into tamas. It seems that we no longer have the luxury of sacred cows. Do we need, in order to protect the soul of our Krishna consciousness, which is bhajanananda, to take shelter of the rajasik? The rajasik must protect and serve the sattvik, which is the life of bhajan.

Bhaktivinoda Janma Sthan is meant to be a window into another age. Nowadays, for show, everyone wants to put up a marble temple and a big gate and have impressive deities and so on. Lots of high class musical devotional entertainment. The externals have taken precedence. It is no one's fault, it is the nature of the age.

But the task of the devotee is still to turn inwardly. And this is what Lalita Prasad Thakur taught. Being the younger son, he was more influenced by the latter part of Bhaktivinode Thakur's life when he was more devotee than philosopher or intellectual. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, being older, took the more externally-oriented thought and went with that. The two sons represent two legitimate paths that originate with Bhaktivinoda Thakur -- the goshthyanandi and the bhajananandi.

These two are like two wings on a bird. You sacrifice one and it is the bird who can no longer fly. So the thought that the purest tradition of bhajanananda will not be preserved in the Bhaktivinoda Dhara is, in a very real sense, committing a kind of suicide.

It is very much like worshiping your mother. Birnagar is a place of the Mother Goddess, Ula Chandi. The Dwadash Mandir consisted of ten Shiva temples, and a temple to Durga and one for Kali. Though these temples have been converted to other use -- one Shiva linga is there, and the Durga temple is now the home of Gaur Gadadhar, and the Kali temple has been left unused due to concerns about the appropriateness of its use for anything, since animal sacrifices held there had rendered it not so. But the presence of the Mother nevertheless stands guard and also influences the overall mood of the ashram.

This is where the mother of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, brought forth that soul into Prakriti. Let his entire legacy be protected, not just the externals of Bhakti for the Material World.

What I am trying to say is that homogenizing Vaishnavism is a danger to Vaishnavism. All spiritual discoveries come from the inner path.
This is the shrine to Bhaktivinoda Thakur's birthplace by the kund. The image is taken from the spot that is claimed by the encroachers.

Bhaktivinoda Thakur Janma Sthan under threat from Land Mafia

 
I was greatly disturbed today to learn from my godbrother Hari Gopal Dasji Maharaj, the current president of the Bhaktivinode Gosthi, that the Birnagar birthplace of Bhaktivinoda Thakur is under attack. Some neighbors are claiming that they have ancestral rights over the land, even though the property was clearly given to our Gurudeva, Sril Sril Lalita Prasad Thakur, in the 1930’s and the ashram has the papers to prove it.

It happens that the town of Birnagar has grown up around the Dwadash Mandir property, making it extremely valuable real estate. Dwadash Mandir for the most part is unchanged from 40 years ago before greed and development had become the de facto religion of this country. In the last few years, the population of the ashram has dwindled and made it vulnerable to this kind of attack. Land Mafias everywhere in India take advantage of such situations to their profit.

When it became clear to the trustees of the Goshthi that the ashram was in danger, they invited Hari Gopal Dasji to leave his bhajan in Radha Kund and come back to Bengal to protect the land and rebuild the ashram as a fitting place representing Srila Lalita Prasad Thakur’s wing of the Bhaktivinode Thakur legacy.

On accepting this responsibility, Hari Gopal Dasji first began by having a protective wall built around the property. The neighbors filed a case to stay construction, claiming that it was intersecting their own property. Apparently, though, it is now clear that they have their sights set on taking over the entire property, as they have now started putting up buildings on the pukur across from Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s shrine.

The legal papers and so on are all in the Mandir's favor, but it appears that underhanded tactics are being used to prevent the court from making a decision while encroachments are constructed so that will more and more become difficult to remove the squatters, until their occupation becomes a fait accompli.

In this case it appears that local politicians from the Trinamul Party are supporting these people. Hari Gopalji even went as far as getting an audience with Mamta Bannerjee, the CM of West Bengal, thinking that she would be able to rein in the miscreants in her own party, but no action has been taken by her.

Hari Gopal is feeling the pressure as he has no support from any powerful people and has inadequate funds to fight the case. The cards seem to be stacked against him. At any rate, he is on the defensive and in danger of losing, and is very unhappy and disturbed by the situation.

He is even talking of ceding a part of the property to ISKCON, in the hope that they can use their power and influence to protect Bhaktivinode Thakur’s birthplace from falling into the hands of those who are too greedy to recognize the spiritual and ecological value of this property. It may be necessary to lose a village to save the country.

This is really a time for the worldwide nembers of ISKCON, the Gaudiya Math, the World Vaishnava Association, and others in the world-wide Bhaktivinoda Thakur family to put aside any institutional or doctrinal differences and come forth to protect their common heritage, this memorial to the inspiration for the preaching of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s message to every town and village. Indeed, any religious Hindu should be shocked that a place with this kind of religious importance can be so callously turned into just another real estate development to enrich greedy and selfish people.

How can those who love Bhaktivinode Thakur’s contribution to the world-wide prema bhakti mission allow the lovely Dwadash Mandir ashram to be decimated or destroyed by the forces of Kali Yuga?

As to the town of Birnagar itself, even if its people are not Vaishnavas, they should know that its greatest claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. Greed has destroyed many a thing of value in this world. Let this not be one of them.

I ask everyone of my Bengali friends to help fight this injustice. Jai Radhe.

যদি কোনো বাংগালী বন্ধু আমাকে সাহায্য করিয়া এই প্রবন্ধের অনুবাদ করিতে পারে, তিনি ধন্যবাদার্হ হইবেন. ঠকুরের কৃপাপাত্র হইবেন.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Is this an obsession with sex?

As often happens on Facebook, I get strong reactions whenever the word sex is mentioned. It leads to discussions with various points of view being expressed, and the inevitable ensues. A senior woman devotee said the following on reading one such discussion:

What do guys think about most of their lives as males? SEX, so I'm told, and that never wanes into old age. So when I see these same males trying to superimpose their lifelong addiction onto Radha Krishna pastimes, I want to puke.

At about the same time, I had a personal conversation here in Vrindavan with a person who is an avid reader of my blog to whom I more or less summarized my point about why I, an old man of 67, is talking so much about this subject.

In fact, I sometimes feel a bit like the old drunk guy in that Carson McCullers story, pegging the innocent kid and slobbering the wisdom earned from the school of hard knocks all over him. The failure who has got it all figured out, where he went wrong and why his life became such a mess.

There is no need for me to be proud of my record in "love." I have trampled over a number of lives in its name, in my different experiments with love, or as one guru said, "Love's experiment with me." Sometimes it was in the name of some kind of ethereal spiritual love that is only available to ones who reject the phantasm of love in this world. And, of course, sometimes it was not in the name of love at all, but in a fog of confusion about love and life and my purpose in it.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that my samskaras are interfering. That even ritual sadhana and philosophical understanding are not necessarily very strong in counteracting the confusions of worldly love. But neither is ignorance. Recognizing the limits of ritual and philosophy means that one comes to the attempt to understand deeper psychology. The purpose of the spiritual paths is always psychological: they understand that the mind is the problem and the solution is to be effectuated in the mind.

Therefore, I look at rāgānugā bhakti just like that: It requires an examination of the emotional life. We have the ideals of Braja bhakti and we have our own failed attempts to experience anything remotely like it.

Once I quoted Bell Hooks as saying that though women probably go through more suffering from love, it is somehow mostly men who write the philosophical or psychological analyses of love. She found this to be a paradox, but it is true that men have a tendency to want to figure things out. So I will continue to do the drunken man in the bar routine and any innocent young person who can tolerate my whiskey breath is welcome to hear my observations.

The problem in society is that there is insufficient love, not that there is sex or no sex. Sex or no sex is not the solution. The solution is love. So we must learn to love, sex or no sex. In other words, love with detachment. Love without attachment to the results.

Nevertheless, like it or not, sex plays an important part throughout human life. And religion has traditionally emphasized the purpose of sex to be procreation, and contrasted it with the animal characteristic of the sexual act itself. But according to evolutionary theory it is not about procreation alone, but also about creating the bond between a man and woman so that they will stick together to raise a family and therefrom form community together. As such, the sexual relationship of men and women is the basic building block of community and society.

In other words, there has to be love in the world in order for anything to function And the basis of all love in society starts in the male-female unit, from which family and community grow.

But such is the nature of human culture that it has imbued sexual love with a mystic significance, what may be called the romantic fallacy. The Indian scriptures are very circumspect about this fallacy and recognize that the orderly control of the sexual instinct is necessary for the smooth functioning of society.

They recognize that even when worldly love is seen as nothing more than extended self-interest and mundane, its function is important. As we can observe with the current disintegration of traditional norms, a community based on mere sexual pleasure has very little chance of attaining cohesion or staying power. This is the disaster of modern civilization.

Therefore, another basic building block of community is religion. Religion is the highest ideals of man organized into ritual form. In Gaudiya Vaishnava terms, the only way to realize love in the world is to imbue it with the svarūpa-śakti, to make the individual understand that love is ultimately for the One Underlying Truth of all things, who is the only Other who is both One and the Other. The only way to realize the full spiritual potential of sexuality is to combine it with religion -- both its symbolic and ritual power. This is not about the vexations of repression, but uplift through sublimation. This is the secret to genuine human evolution.

Young people today have no knowledge of this and are thus confused about both religion and sex. And most confused about love. So I am an old man who by trial and error has learned something about this subject. and I feel that I am obliged to share my findings and help in whatever tiny way I can to eliminate their confusion.

In particular, I feel that the Gaudiya Math and ISKCON model, which emphasizes renunciation of sexuality to people who will never be able to do it, without showing how it is to be done, without showing how sexuality and love are connected to their spiritual life, is incomplete. Those who follow it are bound to continue in the cycle of birth and death. How can they show the glories of Radha and Krishna's madhura-rasa and then deny that it has any reality in, meaning for or relation to love this world? Only by learning how to associate sexual love with the path of prema can we have any hope of turning this around.

This is a feature of the human form of life that one should avail themselves of.

उत्तिष्ठत जाग्रत प्राप्यवरान् निबोधत

uttiṣṭhata jāgrata prāpya-varān nibodhata

"Arise ! Awake! Become aware of the boons attainable in this human form of life!"

So I will end this brief comment with the following advice to all young people who are thinking of making spiritual advancement on the path of bhakti -- especially that of madhura-rasa-bhakti -- and who are inclined to seek partnership with someone who shares their inclination: "Yoga for the bhaktas and bhakti for the yogis."

तस्माद् योगी भवार्जुन
tasmād yogī bhavārjuna

योगिनामपि सर्वेषां मद्गतेनान्तरात्मना।
श्रद्धावान् भजते यो मां स मे युक्ततमो मतः॥

yoginām api sarveṣāṁ mad-gatenāntarātmanā |
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ sa me yuktatamo mataḥ ||

Yoga means, male or female, preserve the bindu.

मरणं बिन्दुपातेन जीवनं बिन्दुधारणात्।
तस्मादतिप्रयत्नेन कुरुत बिन्दुधारणम्॥

maraṇaṁ bindu-pātena jīvanaṁ bindu-dhāraṇāt |
tasmād atiprayatnena kuruta bindu-dhāraṇam ||

Śiva-saṁhitā

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Ekadasi Jagaran at Tatia Sthan (Maghi Krishna Ekadasi)

From Vrindavan Today: Every Maghi Krishna Ekadasi is a special day at the Tatia Sthan, as the annual jāgaraṇa is held in commemoration of Swami Lalit Mohini Das, the eighth acharya of the renounced order of the Haridasi sect. Though the scriptures enjoin that every Ekadasi one should follow very strict rules, which include keeping vigil, i.e., staying up all night, this is rarely practiced. As far as I know, the Haridasi sect does not follow Ekadasi particularly strictly, but at least on this one night, they do the jagran. And it has become an important event on the Tatia Sthan's yearly calendar, attended by all the ashram's sadhus and by many devotees from Vrindavan and beyond.

The Tatia Sthan owes a lot to Swami Lalit Mohini Dev, and it is said that much of the strong tradition of the Haridasi sampradaya that exists there is the result of his work. Though like all the acharyas who followed Swami Haridas he wrote many songs, he was nowhere nearly as prolific as others like Biharin Das or his own guru, Lalit Kishori Das, the founder of the Tatia Sthan. Nevertheless, he is credited with much of the development of the congregational chanting or samaj tradition, giving it its present form. Lalit Mohini also brought the mood of sadhu seva to Tattia Sthan and made it the principal aspect of his service. He also established the worship of Mohini Bihari, the deity that still presides over the ashram.

The Tatia Sthan covers a fairly large area that is filled with venerable and flourishing trees, and though there are numerous individual kutias for the sadhus, it has an open feel to it. The central portion of the ashram where arati and samaj are held is a walled compound near the front gate. One has to pass through a narrow entrance to get there. Here one finds the small temple building of Radha Mohini Bihari, which has the traditional carved red sandstone facade like so many Vrindavan temples from the premodern period.

There are a number of other small buildings, one which houses the waterpot and a shawl that were used by Swami Haridas. There are also several small samadhis. The building with Swami Haridas' relics is under a large neem tree, and to one side is the raised seat where Swami Radha Bihari Dasji, the current mahant, holds audience every evening during the daily samaj. Other buildings and walls are whitewashed, unimposing. Entrances are arched, often with multifoil arches.

As we entered this compound, we were stopped by a guard at the entrance with the greeting "Shri Haridas," a rather good form of address if you ask me, for it not only recalls the name of the sect's founder, but is a constant reminder that each person is also a servant of Hari.

The guard's job was to get everyone to switch off their cell phones and he insisted on watching us as we did it. No flashlights, phones or cameras are allowed on the premises. Indeed, there is no electricity in this part of the ashram. No recording is allowed. In this age of Facebook and Twitter, I was wondering how I would be able to share this event with my friends, having to rely on words alone to paint the images and replicate the musical sounds. But I can see that this being cut off from the world is an essential step in passing from the outer realm to the inner, the transcendent state of consciousness, the true Vrindavan to which one is to be transported. Indeed, I personally crave this kind of primitive gathering in the sacred intimacy of the darkness, under the sky and trees and on the silken sands of the Yamuna.

We had arrived a bit early and the sandy area in front of Mohini Bihari was being covered with durries for sitting. Clay lamps were still being lit and placed all around the quadrangle including the eaves of the temple and surrounding buildings. Some were placed on stands so that those following along in books could read. The main group of singers was served by a glass case that held several such lamps, and throughout the night, one of the Haridasi babas went around with a bucket of oil and a ladle to keep the lamps filled.

The inner area slowly filled and by nine, there was no room to speak of. The babas were in the center assembled before Swami Haridas' shrine, other male-bodied entities surrounding them. On the other side of the shrine were about 150 women. I estimated maybe 500 men. The Tatia Sthan has a strong rule about women at night -- none are allowed. It being winter, the babas were decked in a wide variety of colorful regalia. Of course, the Tatia Sthan babas as usual had covered their faces with Braja raj and wore their distinctive turbans and kurtas. I noticed a bit of sadhu glamor here and there, though, someone wore a yellow silk kaftan, some others had satin shirts stuffed with cotton for warmth.

The Mahant came in and offered prostrations to the temple and to Swami Haridas' shrine, took his seat. Most of the people in the audience came to offer him their respects and then returned to their seats.

The program began. There was a flute and a big sitar, a tampura, one harmonium and one pair of manjeera hand cymbals. Throughout the evening the musical instruments were subdued in comparison to the chorus of male voices, which were almost a capella against the quiet drone of the tampura and other instruments. There were no microphones or loudspeakers so the hundreds of voices singing in unison dominated, which is as it should be. The walls and buildings enclosing the small quadrangle provided some echo and amplification.

The audience at first was still a bit restless and there was a bit of talking here and there, but by and large, everyone was attentive in a way that is rare in any Indian gathering, no matter how great the artist. Where people don't pay, where the sound is cranked up to the eleventh degree, it seems that inattention is the norm. Perhaps people who understand naturally the words that accompany the music have no need of attentiveness, but I have always found it the single most irritating thing disrupting my own concentration to the point of complete disturbance. One of those things about Indian life, like the ubiquitous garbage, that annoys me terribly. But tonight I got a reprieve from that particular pet peeve. This was singing as sadhana, as a meditation. And everyone who was there knew it and achieved a kind of communal union in the harmonious mood of contemplation on the Divine Couple in the Nitya Vihara.

Though the Haridasi samaj has some responsive chanting, occasionally the crowd spontaneously split into two groups to sing different parts of the interwoven lyrics and refrain. The program began in the deepest parts of the lower octave and the first couple of hours seemed mostly to be spent there, but the waves of sound peppered with individual voices that here and there stood out in harmonious congruity built up and fell from crescendo to crescendo.

In all, the first part of the evening, 42 different songs were sung. Most of them were either from the Kelimāla compositions of Swami Haridas himself, or the compositions of Biharin Dev "Gurudeva Ju" and other greats from the tradition. None were, as I expected, songs about the saint himself, nor did they fit into any pattern, but seemed to be nitya-vihāra padas chosen somewhat at random. Two short ones by were written by Lalit Mohini Das himself. The first appears to be a vasanta-pada, meaning one that describes a scene in the springtime (and as I am writing on Vasanta Panchami, it seems fitting to quote it here):
piya piyarī seja banāī āja |
piyarī jhalaka camaka saba
piyare basana banai saba kāja |
piyare phūla banaiṁ saba tana meṁ
piyarī sobhā sahaja samāja |
śrī lalitamohanī yaha sukha dekhata
syāma tanai piyare saba sāja ||


Dear Radha has today prepared a yellow bed.
It shines and sparkles yellow; she has used her lover's yellow cloth.
She decorates the bed and his body with yellow flowers,
while all the assembled sakhis also glow in yellow beauty.
Lalita Mohani watches this blissful scene,
where Shyam's black body is covered by yellow costume.
A little before one o'clock, gifts were brought out for the singers -- bahirvasa and chaddar -- and little bags of prasad were passed out to all the attendees. The first half of the program came to an end and for about half an hour there was a party atmosphere. Some pistachio tea was served, there were several fires burning with groups of guests and sadhus warming their hands and talking. Vrindavan Bihari Goswami walked by me with a blissful look on his aged face: "This is the central place. This is the heart of Vrindavan," he said.

Many people left before the second half began. But by 2 a.m. there were absolutely no distractions. Though some of the audience fell asleep, others were entranced. The complex harmonies and responses, the intensity of the chorus of male voices... it was how I always imagined kirtan should be -- group samādhi.

It has taken me a few days to recover from the all-nighter, but with each passing day, it seems that the effects linger on in profound ways that I have not yet been able to perceive. Right now, the strongest thoughts are reflections on the glories of an unbroken original tradition, on parampara, especially on this one that reflects the roots of the Vrindavan mood more closely than other, more recent manifestations, which for one reason or another have drifted away from the exclusive devotion to Radha and Krishna's nitya-vihara.

My answer to Vrindavan Bihari Goswami was, "I don't understand why the Tatia Sthan model has not been cloned. Why isn't everyone trying to emulate this? You are right, this is the real Vrindavan, the real Vrindavan concept."



A short history of the Tatia Sthan

The first eight acharyas of the Haridasi sampradaya are given particular importance. The first two, Bithal Bipul Dev and Biharin Das, were direct disciples of Swami Haridas. Their samadhi temples stand in Nidhivan next to that of the sect's founder.

1. Bithal Bipul Dev
2. Biharin Das (Mahant 1576-1603)
3. Nagari Das (1603-1627)
4. Saras Das
5. Narahari Das (1627-1685)
6. Swami Rasik Dev (1685-1702)
7. Lalit Kishori Das (1703-1767)
8. Lalit Mohini Das (1767-1802)

Up until the time of Narahari, the renounced sadhus of the Haridasi sampradaya had their center in Nidhivan, but Rasik Dev was forced to abandon this original site of Swami Haridas's bhajan and of Banke Bihari Dev's appearance, and to establish new ashrams for his disciples. This was because there was some disagreement with the Goswamis of the Banke Bihari temple who claimed the rights over Nidhivan (they were blood relatives of Swami Haridas) and the renunciates were obliged to move away.

This happened at the end of the 17th century and resulted first in Rasik Das opening the Rasik Bihari temple in the Athkhamba area in 1699. Rasik Das's appearance day is also today, Vasanta Panchami, and is celebrated at Tatia Sthan.

Rasik Das had three main disciples: Pitambar Das, to whom he gave the responsibility for the Gori Lal temple, to Govinda Dev he gave the service of Rasik Bihariji, and to Lalit Kishori Das he gave the kantha and karua of Swami Haridas. Although his guru wanted him to take over the service of Rasik Bihari, Lalita Kishori prefered to live under a tree near the Yamuna banks. Some say that he had been turned out of Nidhivan by envious people in the community.

Though Swami Lalit Kishori Das was living at that spot in great austerity, devotees made the area more delightful by planting trees and flowers. They also built a bamboo hut for the relics of Swami Haridas and surrounded it with bamboo stakes interwoven with branches to form a protective fence, which is called a ṭaṭṭī, hence the name ṭaṭṭīya sthāna.

Because of his exemplary renounced life Lalit Kishori came to be called a "second Swami Haridas." It is said that when King Jai Singh heard that the sadhus of Tatia Sthan would not observe ekadashi, he became concerned, since he wished for the sadhus of Vrindavan to maintain the scriptural standards of behavior. To test Lalit Kishori he sent a representative with a clay pot full of sweets to see how he would respond. When the servant came to Lalita Kishori, he found him deep in meditation. He waited a long time for his samadhi to break, but only when a poor Brijvasi woman came and offered him some dry rotis did he come back into external awareness. He ate the rotis without leaving his seat, cleaned his hands with the dust of the ground beside him, and then returned to his meditation without paying any attention to the sweets.

Lalita Mohini Das was born in 1724 in Orcha from the same family as the famous Hariram Vyas of Kishore Van near Loi Bazaar. It is said that he more than anyone else set the mood and rules for Tatia Sthan that has been preserved to this day. He also set the standard for the samaj tradition, which makes me suspect that the songs sung during the Jagaran were favorites of his.

One of the features of Lalit Mohini Das's administration of Tatia Sthan was his devotion to Vaishnava seva. He made no distinction between devotees of different sects and would feed at least 100 people every day. Nevertheless, his rule was that whatever came in to the ashram in the form of food and gifts would be used for Vaishnava seva in the same day. His motto was:

santana bina hari na mileṁ hari ne kahī pukāra
mo sevata sumirata bhaiyā būḍhauge majhadhāra


No one can attain Hari without going through the saints, as Hari himself states so clearly:
"Oh brother! Even if you remember me and serve me, without the mercy of the saints you will still drown before you cross the river of material life."

rupe se cāvara sone se dāra
tana mana dhana se santana ko vāra


"With your silver buy rice, with your gold purchase dahl.
With body, mind and wealth, serve the saints."

One story is told of how Lalit Mohini Das attained siddhi through sadhu seva. One time, prasad was being served to a line of devotees at about the same time that a solar eclipse was expected. Some of the Vaishnavas were concerned that it would be inappropriate to engage in any activity during that time. Lalita Mohini simply said, "There will be no eclipse in the Tatia Sthan." And so it was. When the devotees looked up at the sky over the Tatia Sthan the sun remained uncovered, but on going outside the perimeter, they saw Rahu swallowing it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

My Shakti

Someone said, "I look forward to meeting your Shakti."
My humors bubbled over. "It will be hard," I thought.

My Shakti has turned to iron-clad indifference.
The weightiness of her maan knows no bounds
and she is teaching me the path of renunciation.

Her body is untouchable,
but she has taken up residence in the six chakras:

In the womb, in the machine of desire,
on the seed sound of desire,
she placed the two jewels of the sampradaya,
nivritti and pravritti, and intoned:
May these two join in the central stream
and become a fountain of nectar.

In the bulbous root center,
she joined me to the umbilical cord of prana,
and in the filigree of the nadis
she spread her love to every nook and cranny
of this bag of elements, and made it holy.

The ida and pingala of her breasts
defibrillated my heart and gave it
the will to a newer, subtler vibration of life.

My throat's thirst was quenched by the
nectar of immortality that flowed from her mouth.
Hear me speak. These words are hers.

And in the center that orders and brings orders,
I saw the tattva of Radha and Shyam,
and in the thousand-petal lotus
I saw them play.

My Shakti has done well to abandon me,
She now pervades the universe.

 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Last darshan of Shriji Maharaj at Nimbarkacharya Peeth

My day. I got back from Salemabad at 8 a.m. after all night driving. Started working on uploading photos. Kirtan at 9 with Babaji.

Worked on the Shriji article, etc., until noon. In passing I watched President Obama's farewell address. I felt some grief.

Took lunch, then slept until 6. In the evening I watched the film Kadambari with Andrej. Ah, the anguish of love in the world!!

Then I sang and realized that nothing in this world can be held onto, other than the eternal, underlying ground of being and love, which is my Divine Kishore and Kishori.

How much mercy of how many saints has had to fall for me to see this today. And yet, I feel so much grief letting go.



Vrindavan, 2017.01.15 (VT): Haridas Sharan's kindness, I was able to go on lightning run to the Nimbarkacharya Peeth in Rajasthan.

We got the news through Vrajvihari Sharan that Shriji Maharaj -- Radha Sarvesvara Sharana Devacharya Maharaj, the universally respected acharya for the entire Nimbarka Sampradaya -- had left his body in the morning of the 14th.

Haridas Sharan arranged for a car and after an eight hour drive with his mother and maternal uncle we reached Salemabad at around 11 pm and immediately went up to the room where hundreds of devotees were surrounding Shriiji Maharaj's Shrivigraha, keeping up a constant but subdued chant:

Radhe Krishna Radhe Krishna
Krishna Krishna Radhe Radhe
Radhe Shyam Radhe Shyam
Shyam Shyam Radhe Radhe
 
A steady line of people was passing through the open chamber where he was lying, covered in a mountain of garlands.
 
DSCN9652

Haridas Sharan, his mother and maternal uncle brought prasadi cloth and garlands from Sri Bankey Bihari Ju Maharaj from Vrindavan. These were given him by Sumit Goswami and Raghu Goswami Ji of the Banke Bihari Goswami family.

DSCN9647

Haridas Sharan is a disciple of Shriji Maharaj. His mother and uncle are in fact initiated in the Tatia Sthan, but they were brought up in their ancestral home right near the Badi Shriji Kunj in Retia Bazaar. So he and his sister used to attend events at the Kunj frequently and had the opportunity to meet Shriji Maharaj there many times even in their childhood, as well as many, many other saints of the Nimbark and other sampradayas.

On the long ride to Salemabad, they told many of them with much joy and laughter and praise for him.

With Yuvacharya Ji's permission, the three Brijbasis blissfully offered Bihariji's sri-anga prasadi to Maharaj Sri.

We were told that Shriji Maharaj got up at his usual time of 3 a.m. and had done his nitya-kritya as he did every day, even in his advanced age. He then met with a bhakta to discuss the panchang, as it was Makara Sankranti and its coinciding with other tithis had to be examined.

After the meeting, Maharaj went into samadhi in a seated position and left his mortal body. He was 88 years old and had adorned the Nimbark sampradaya's acharya gaddi for an amazing 74 years.

Yuvacharya Shyam Sharani Dev
His successor, usually called the "Yuvacharya"
is 38-year-old Shri Shyam Sharandevji.
Shriji Maharaj was a prolific author in Hindi and Sanskrit, yet able to communicate complex truths and give guidance in simple language, he has left an indelible mark on the sampradaya, establishing a unity in the tradition as well as a firm presence for it in the Vaishnava world.

It would not be exaggeration to say that he was the most respected figure in the Vaishnava world of today.

In the morning, Haridas Sharanji went to take darshan of the Mahant of Tatiya Sthan after coming back from Salemabad. The Mahant said in honor of Sriji Maharaj's entry into the nitya nikunj:


आइ मिल्यौ परिवार आपने हरि हँसि कंठ लगायौ ।
स्यामास्याम जू बिहरत दोऊ सखी समाज मिलायौ ।।
Aai Milyo Parivar Aapne Hari Hasi Kantha Lagayo |
Syama Syam Ju Bihrat Dou Sakhi Samaj Milayo ||

Translation:- Sri Sri Ji Maharaj has eternally entered into nitya nikunj lilas of Shyama Shyam, where Shyamsundar and Priyaju along with group of Sakhis including Rangdevi Ju Lalita Ju and Hari Priya Ju personally embraced their new sakhi and welcomed her into their pastimes.

DSCN9654
 Devakinandan Thakur, one of Shriji Maharaj's most illustrious disciples, speaking with Yuvacharyaji.

The cremation of Shriji Maharaj's mortal remains was conducted the next morning at 10 a.m. According to sources in the press, more than 150,000 people attended, including many Rajasthani government dignitaries.

Shriji Maharaj



Salemabad is the place in Pushkar Kshetra where Jagadguru Nimbarkacharya Swami Shri Parashuram Devacarya Ji Maharaj performed austerities in the early 1540s. He was there because his own Guru, Jagadguru Nimbarkacharya Swami Shri Harivyas Devacharya sent him there to counter Masting Shah who was terrorising visitors to Pushkar at that time. From then, the Nimbarkacharya Peeth moved from Narad Teela to Salemabad. The first iteration of the Peeth was completed after the death of Swami Parashuram Devacharya by Gopal Ji Bhati of the Bhati clan in 1607. After a few of the Bharatpur kings sought refuge from the British onslaughts, the Peeth was destroyed and was rebuilt again soon after by the royal houses of Jaipur and Kishangarh. (Vrajvihari Sharan)

For more about Shriji Maharaj, see this article by Vrajvihari Sharanji from last year.