Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Accidental erasing of comments

My apologies to Prem Prakash, Alexander Shenkar, Maccidananda Nath and some other anonymous commentators. I accidentally pressed on delete instead of publish. Your comments are gone forever. I am really sorry. I only read a couple of them.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Holy Dham is Nirguna

Jiva Goswami spends several sections of the Bhakti Sandarbha (152-159) explaining that bhakti is free of the material qualities. In this discussion, he also mentions the holy dham and so I wish to discuss the nirguṇa nature of the Dham here.

When I started Vrindavan Today, I was imbued with a nostalgia for the Braj-Vrindavan of yore, which looked lost under the . At the same time, we have an apparently insurmountable dogma: The Holy Dham is not within the material qualities of nature. So we have to understand what that means. What does it mean that bhakti is not within the guṇas? When everything in this world, according to the Gita and Sankhya philosophy, is just the interplay of these qualities. How can something, like Vrindavan, which is clearly being influenced by the Maya saṁskāras that surround it, the saṁskāras of saṁsāra, be considered transcendental to the guṇas?

The relevant verse here is the following from the Eleventh Canto, where Krishna says:

vanaṁ tu sāttviko vāso grāmo rājasa ucyate
tāmasaṁ dyuta-sadanaṁ man-niketaṁ tu nirguṇam
The forest is a sāttvika residence,
that related to a village is said to be rājasika;
the gambling den is a tāmasika dwelling,
but my abode is beyond the guṇas. (SB 11.25.25)
It got me thinking in the following way: The existing visible Vrindavan appears to be deeply entrenched in the modes of passion and ignorance. This verse says that the urban setting, the living with many people around, in society, that is the basic element in the rājasa life setting. In the world today, there is a great urbanization going on, especially in India, and Vrindavan is caught right in the middle of it. It lies directly in the path of fire, between Delhi and Agra.

With each passing day, more and more people throng to Vrindavan. The crowds on special festival days and weekends are greater, and this is indeed the will of the powers that be: more people coming, more people spending: Urbanization and economic development (artha) and are the route to all that is good.

This is called rajo-guṇa, and in its wake will inevitably come the call to cater to the tastes of the faithless who come from afar with dumb curiosity, without spiritual motivation. And such people (and even those who profess to be of purer goals) will allow and even promote the four principle vices of the Kali-yuga -- animal flesh, alcohol, prostitution and gambling. The argument will be that these are democratic rights that must be defended in a secular state. And that there will of course be an economic argument to support such things because some people will profit handsomely. This is called tamo-guṇa.

From the very beginning on Vrindavan Today we have been flailing impotently at all this, for we still hanker for the days of the sattva-guṇa, when the influence of Kali was not quite so great. Days that we have seen and remember well. My principal guiding idea has been that Vrindavan is for the bhajananandi Vaishnavas, and I still believe that. The problem is that we have still not found a collective vision that uses this as its guiding principle, and with every passing day, it becomes a less believable proposition that this might happen.

On Nrisingha Chaturdasi in Barsana I read from Prahlada Charita and we heard the famous reply that Prahlad gave to his father's question, "What is the best thing you have learned up until now?" Prahlad answers,
tat sādhu manye'sura-varya dehināṁ
sadā samudvigna-dhiyām asad-grahāt
hitvātma-pātaṁ gṛham andha-kūpaṁ
vanaṁ gato yad dharim āśrayeta
I think the best thing, O best of the demons, for all embodied beings, who are constantly agitated in mind due to accepting this temporary body as the self, is for them to give up their attachment to the family, which like a blind well is the cause of their downfall and bondage. They should then go into the forest and take exclusive shelter of Lord Hari. This is what I think the best thing. (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 7.5.5)
Shyamsundar Parashar seems to be quoting someone when he glosses vanam here as vṛndāvanam, but that is really what Vrindavan is in ideal terms: the combining of the transcendental power of the Dham with the culture of sattva. In the sattva guna the full power of the Dham can be perceived more directly by the sādhaka. And this indeed is the essence of instruction, according to Rupa Goswami also, and indeed all the rasika bhaktas of Braj Dham.

But it is hard for someone who is already on the platform of sattva not to be disturbed by the madness in the narrow streets of this town. Since the model for economic growth is based on the automobile, it seems unlikely that anyone is going to turn off the traffic tomorrow, though if there is anyone sane in this vikāsa-crazy Mathura district, they will understand how this constant honking and jockeying for space when there is so little of it, completely destroys the ideal ambience of Vrindavan. Our aim has to be to preserve as much sattva as we possible can so that people who come can perceive the spiritual bliss of this abode of bhakti.

Despite this, though it is frustrating to see this craziness, we still hold to the basic theological tenet that Vrindavan is beyond the qualities of nature, nirguṇa. You may say, "How is that possible? It is not sattva, so how can it be conducive to bhajan?" Prahlada's verse above says, just go to the forest, away from the madding crowd, and there, away from the hurley burley of the masses, you meditate on the Supreme Truth and attain the peace that passeth all understanding

The idea is fundamental: bhakti is not dependent on sattva. In this crazy world, sattva is at a premium. I mean, sattva is quite a rare thing. But it is transcendental. I think perhaps only a nirguṇa Vaishnava would understand it, and experience the śuddha-sattva, even in the middle of the vortex.

As a matter of fact, as I was dancing around the Bhakti Sandarbha, I found the above verse quoted in an unexpected place, Krama Sandarbha to 1.6.22. This is from the story of Narada's previous life, where Narada had gotten a vision of Krishna and then Krishna disappeared, leaving him this message:
hantāsmin janmani bhavān mā māṁ draṣṭum ihārhati |
avipakva-kaṣāyāṇāṁ durdarśo'haṁ kuyoginām ||
Alas, you are unfit to see me in this life because it is impossible for me to be seen by failed yogis who have not yet fully shed their impurities. (1.6.22)
Though Srila Jiva Goswami and other commentators usually are hesitant to call Narada  a "failed yogi," prefering to stress that this was done to increase his hankering to see Krishna again, Jiva does explain in Krama Sandarbha what the impurity was:

kaṣāyo'tra sāttviko vana-vāsādy-āgrahaḥ.

"The impurity spoken of here is to the sattva guna, meaning his obstinacy for things like residence in the forest." And Sri Jiva quotes 11.25.25 above. The conclusion being that rather than live in the Dham, the place directly associated with Krishna, the place where he actually resides, Narada chose to stay in the forest, thinking that it was more conducive to this kind of devotional, spiritual achievement that he, as a bhakta, sought.

We have been trained by the Bhagavad Gita to think in terms of the three guṇas and of the superiority of sattva. When we see manifestations that are not sattva, we become disturbed and think, a religion that is not sāttvika according to the Bhagavad Gita is somehow counter to religion. This is where the problem of dharma comes into question. Or the Gita's threefold karma, akarma and vikarma division. The Gita also states that through bhakti one overcomes the qualities or knots of material nature.

māṁ ca yo'vyabhicāreṇa bhakti-yogena sevate
sa guṇān samatītyaitān brahma-bhūyāya kalpate

A person who serves me alone through unswerving devotion, completely transcends these guṇas of nature and becomes qualified to realize Brahman. (Gītā 14.26)
So Krishna in the Bhāgavatam speaks the eight verses 11.25.22-29 precisely as a corrective measure and to supplement the account of the Gita.

I am back in Vrindavan after six days in Barsana where I really had a great time. I will hopefully say a few things about that on my blog, and hopefully will make another stay of a few days at Binode Bihari Baba's ashram before heading out to Birnagar for a longer stay.

Back in Vrindavan, I went for a walkabout in town. A route I once followed regularly -- Moti Jheel then to Banke Bihari through Dussayat, then Radha Vallabha and then Seva Kunj to Radha Damodar.

So in a relaxed mood -- more relaxed than I have been in some time I realized -- I stopped at the first Bhagavata path that I encountered at the Gheesa Maharaj ashram in Moti Jheel and listened to the story of Vyasa's dejection, Narada's instructions to Vyasa and Vyasa's writing of the Bhāgavata and appointing his son Shukadeva to transmit the Bhagavatam. I would have like to have heard a bit more about Vyasa's vision, but the speaker was trying to entertain rather than go into deep philosophical inquiry. Still, I got a lot of joy from hearing the Bhāgavata kathā. Śravaṇam.

tad eva ramyaṁ ruciraṁ navaṁ navaṁ
tad eva śaśvan manaso mahotsavam
tad eva śokārṇava-śoṣaṇaṁ nṛṇāṁ
yad uttamaśloka-guṇānuvarṇanam

Those words describing the glories of the all-famous Personality of Godhead are attractive, relishable and ever fresh. Indeed, such words are a perpetual festival for the mind, and they dry up the ocean of misery. (SB 12.12.50)
In Bihariji's temple the phool bangla season is on. The cooling scent of the white rajnigandha pervades the temple. The devotees are plentiful and there is a constant buzz of individual devotion -- people saying prayers, presenting their newborns to the Deity, women dressed up like for Sunday church, the stout Gosais sitting at strategic positions around the campus, others murmuring stotras, others staring silently, others surging forward when a couple of young prince priests sprinkle the crowd with cooling water, a khaki uniformed guard whistling. Darśanam.

In Radha Vallabha I came in time for Samaj. Hit Harivams's utsava is underway and the special hymns are sung each evening. I sat down and stayed for the whole thing until Thakurji's shayan arati. The crowd here is smaller, but it also had a family party atmosphere, devotees meeting and greeting, but the core group of thirty or forty devotees sitting through to the end of the Samaj, which was a lengthy description of the beauty of the Divine Couple from their feet to their crown, not missing a single detail and with chorus "Look, just look, look O my life! Look at this amazing joyful scene! What a grand celebration!" Kīrtanam.

In front of the mandap, a middle aged man dressed as a bride, in bright pink and veiled, covered in decorations and bangles, moved in a steady twirling motion for as long as the kirtan continued. This cross dressing is a feature of the Braj bhava -- it is present in many different features and I will hopefully get an opportunity to reflect on it a little more in an article about Barsana on my blog later.

I got to Radha Damodar and of course I did not get darshan of Damodar, but I did visit our acharyas. What a wonder -- Sri Rupa, Sri Jiva and Sri Kaviraj Goswami in one place. Smaraṇam.

Dhanyatidhanya Vrindavan Dham!

So all this -- my question about nirguna Vrindavan was answered. It was perhaps fortuitous that there was very little traffic disturbance on my walk through town, which allowed me to get a look.

The Dham is independent in its power. Though it appears to be within the material nature, it is not. Therefore bhakti can appear to be in rajas, tamas or sattva, and still penetrate to the essence of the soul. What blocks bhakti is offense. From our position in the gunas, we can still get a perception of that transcendent reality. A person practicing bhakti, but situated in the gunas will still benefit from the bhakti.

In the same way, the Dham itself does not operate by the same rules as the material world. This is a matter of faith. The effect of the Dham is to take someone from wherever they are situated within the gunas and brings them to bhakti.

naṣṭa-prāyeṣv abhadreṣu nityaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā
bhagavaty uttama-śloke bhaktir bhavati naiṣṭhikī
tadā rajas-tamo-bhāvāḥ kāma-lobhādayaś ca ye
ceta etair anāviddhaṁ sthitaṁ sattve prasīdati
When all these sins are practically destroyed through constant hearing of the Srimad Bhagavatam and serving the devotees, then one comes to the stage of steadfast devotion to the Supreme Lord, who is glorified in the best of poetry. (1.2.18)
At this point, the lust and greed that are produced by the material nature’s modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust, desire and hankering, no longer disrupt the devotee’s consciousness. Thus established in goodness, he becomes contented. (1.2.19)

So to conclude, since our general subject these days is faith, here is what Krishna says about faith in 11.25:

sāttviky ādhyātmikī śraddhā karma-śraddhā tu rājasī |
tāmasy adharme yā śraddhā mat-sevāyāṁ tu nirguṇā ||
Faith concerned with the existence of the self is sāttvika, faith in worldly duties is rājasika, faith in irreligious deeds is tāmasika, but faith in my worship is nirguṇa. (SB 11.25.27)

Anyway, since the purest perception of transcendence comes when one is situated in sattva, the devotee tries to situate himself in sattva. Similarly, we should try to situate the Dham in the sattva guna.

Shraddha and Bhakti Sandarbha

Since I have been reading about śraddhā in the Bhakti Sandarbha, I will discuss some thoughts on the subject.

Let me begin by giving Jiva Goswami's definition of faith, which is repeated several times and is brief and clear: Faith is a belief in the truth of the scriptures that deal with bhakti.

Faith is the qualification for bhakti. This is where the discussion begins. Though faith is not directly a part of bhakti, because bhakti, being directly a part of the svarūpa-śakti of Bhagavan, is independent of any belief or otherwise on the part of a being. The only problem is the recipient. If the recipient is crystal clear and innocent, then bhakti will act immediately, as it did with Ajamila. If not, it is like fire and wet fuel, it will take time.

Faith is, then, an intellectual act. Here is a verse that is taken from Brahma Vaivartta (I imagine this is a Madhva pramāṇa):

kiṁ satyam anṛtaṁ ceha vicāraḥ sampravartate |
vicāre'pi kṛte rājann asatya-parivarjanam |
siddhaṁ bhavati pūrṇā syāt tadā śraddhā mahā-phalā ||
O King, at first one investigates whether statements are true or false. Once such an investigation is complete, one's complete rejection of the false is successful. At this point one’s śraddhā becomes complete and yields the supreme fruit.
This actually comes at the end of the discussion of the symptoms of someone in whom faith has arisen. Jiva draws an exact correlation between faith and śaraṇāgati, or taking refuge in the Lord, with its six characteristics. But even if one takes refuge and does not fully display the six characteristics of śaraṇāgati, one still can have sufficient faith to abandon one's adhikāra for karma, and adopt ananyā bhakti, single-minded devotion to Krishna to the exclusion of all other duties.

As a matter of fact, one is obliged to do so. As the Gita says, One IS one's faith. To the extent that we follow through on our faith, that is the extent to which we are genuine in our path, or perfected in our path.

This is just a sidestep from the discussion of śraddhā in BhaktiS 173. The extended discussion is really about adhikāra. So it is important for Jiva to discuss the qualifications for karma and jñāna also, in order to specify the distinction. The discussion raises and resolves a lot of questions about the relation between karma and bhakti and how certain instructions are meant for those with one adhikāra or another.

jugupsitaṁ dharma-kṛte'nuśāsataḥ
svabhāva-raktasya mahān vyatikramaḥ |
yad-vākyato dharma itītaraḥ sthito
na manyate tasya nivāraṇaṁ janaḥ ||

Satya Narayan Dasji's translation:

Materialistic people are by nature attached to sense pleasure. Moreover, in the name of dharma you have advised them to participate in contemptible fruitive activities. This is a great impropriety on your part because people will accept such selfish fruitive acts as the true path of religion on the authority of your statements. So if anyone tries to establish the real truth and to forbid such actions, they will not believe his words. (SB 1.5.15)

Another translation, no attribution:

Those who are completely immersed in the material nature are done a great disservice when they are told to engage in disgusting activities in the name of religion, for once such acts are approved of as valid religious duties, these people will never respect the restrictions that are placed on them.

I went to look at the commentaries on this verse, and found that there is a unique lengthy Krama Sandarbha here, that is not found in the six Sandarbhas. I was quite surprised at that, as nearly everywhere lengthy argumentation is found in KS, it appears in almost the exact same form somewhere in the six Sandarbhas. This verse is quoted three times in Bhakti Sandarbha and not elsewhere, but it is never cited as the principal verse of an Anuccheda and the discussion here is quite different from the BhaktiS, or at least I have not come across the same thing elsewhere.

In Krama Sandarbha, Jiva treats the verse very contextually and enters into a glorification of the contrast between the necessity of engaging the less qualified souls in karma, even horrible acts like animal sacrifice... and perhaps the word jugupsitam can be stretched even further to include all the ritual karmas of the Vedas that lead to the useless fruitive results of material pleasure either in this life or the next. Indeed, from the point of view of the bhakta, to not serve Krishna is jugupsita.

So what about this verse in the Gita, who is this for, the bhakti adhikāré or the karma adhikāré, for that is exactly what Jiva is distinguishing. Now after saying how much better it is to glorify Krishna's pastimes by quoting the beloved verse, the love for which was instilled in me by Srila Prabhupada

nivṛtta-tarṣair upagīyamānād
bhavauṣadhāc chrotamanobhirāmāt |
ka uttama-śloka-guṇānuvādat
pumān virajyeta vinā paśughnāt ||

The virtues of the Lord
who is glorified in the greatest poetry
are sung by those who know no thirst;
it is the medicine for the material disease
and it is a joy to hear;
other than the soul-killers,
who then will care nothing for them? (BhP 10.1.3)
But, Jiva asks himself, isn't Vyasa right not to disturb people's minds with instructions for which they have an adhikāra? Isn't Krishna's instruction in the Bhagavad Gita no to disturb the minds of those who have faith in karmas, not to disturb a person at their level of adhikāra? After all, isn't it a virtue to act according to one's adhikāra, which is revealed by his faith? If someone has no faith, isn't it wrong to instruct in bhakti and thereby disturb his mind?

Now what is interesting is that this verse appears in both Krama Sandarbha and the Bhakti Sandarbha passage at roughly this point. In Krama Sandarbha, Krishna says that this instruction is for those who are on the path of jñāna. In other words, in the opinion of the jñāna mārga, people are at the level of karma adhikāra because their consciousness has evolved up to a certain point. They are at their particular nexus, their coordinates in the spectrum of life according to their karma. A jñānī, strictly speaking, knows that his adhikāra for jñāna, i.e., his indifference to material pleasures in this life and the next, is not easily attained and so he allows the natural workings of nature to do their work until those tied to karma finally understand that happiness in this world is illusory and seek to cultivate knowledge in order to become liberated.

na buddhi-bhedaṁ janayed ajñānāṁ karma-saṅginām |
joṣayet sarva-karmāṇi vidvān yuktaḥ samācaran ||

The wise should not disturb the intelligence of the ignorant who are attached to fruitive work. Rather, he should encourage them to perform their prescribed duties, while himself setting the example. (Gītā 3.26)

A wise person established in the self should not unsettle the minds of the ignorant who are attached to karma. While duly carrying out all his own responsibilities, he should encourage them to perform their own duties. (Satyanarayana Dasaji)

So this is, as the verse itself clearly states, for the vidvān, the jñāni.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Braj Bhava and the English OS

I have been watching a lot of strange videos over the past few days. A rather abrupt and inexplicable detour from the few days of more intense bhajan in the association of Bengali Babajis in Barsana.

While in Barsana, I was standing in the Ladli temple on the outside terrace portion and someone appeared to have fainted. An elderly Brijbasi Gosai, with a bushy white moustache, a colorful turban and yellow silk dhoti, a stick in his hand, was walking toward me. For some reason I was impelled to say something stupid and started to speak, but my Hindi tongue was tied and could not express, "We must all pass by that."

At the Brajvasi's insistence I repeated myself again without success and ended up stuttering out the words andham tamah. Which I knew the instant they came out of my mouth that they did not fit at all what I really wanted to say, pointless as it was.

The Gusai responded vehemently in a tone of chastisement, but even singing a Brijbhasha song, glorifying Braj Dham as sat-chit-ananda, and how nothing that happens here can ever be andham tamah. I stood there with my head down looking like a stupid schoolboy as he continued, his final word being, "You are only a beginning Brajvasi."

Well better a beginner than none at all. But he is perfectly correct.

This is why I wrote a few days ago that I am cursed by my strong samksaras -- one of the most important of which is the "operating system" called the English language.

It is the software by which we operate the rest of our human hardware, beginning with the brain. And it literally shapes everything about the way we see the world and life and meaning, with both universals and particulars and all the shades in between.

I have been finding it difficult to be a Brijvasi. It is hard to say even what I mean by that. I have been talking about a concept of Braja Bhava sadhana. By that I do not so much mean actually following the local culture as it is today, as following the ideal Brijvasi mood of love for Krishna. The idea of belonging to his land. To be a descendant by connection to the families of Krishna's associates. The Brijvasis don't have to aspire to a world where Krishna is everywhere, they are already living there.

But in a very real sense, outsiders also MAKE Vrindavan what it is, by importing their portion of the dream.

Who first implanted this dream here? Outsiders: Mahaprabhu, the Goswamis and their followers and the great discoverers of Vrindavan by the Yamuna -- an unlikely, dusty, barely livable land on the edge of the Rajasthani desert, infested with bandits and local rulers who were little better than thugs.

They came to restore, as they saw it, a spiritual epicenter, an alternative reality, the abode of the Divine Couple, a place of ferment in the arts, attracting people from every corner of India to create a new Brij culture based in the divine romance of Radha and Krishna.

No social expression of any ideal is perfect, but the Love of God in the form of Radha and Shyam is the ruling dream of Braj.

But here I write in English -- and that after exposing myself to English videos and texts of the rather popular kind -- and am coming to feel more and more as though even the touch of the English language corrupts me, exposing me repeatedly to figures such as Donald Trump and the excited total absorption that he has managed to generate in the greatest media triumph in world history.

Billions of people's eyes glued to a reality TV show constantly being chattered about in every public place, in every home, on every screen. What we Vaishnavas would like to have, namely constant and devoted attention paid to God, has been stolen, consumed with expertise by this Jokasura.

Perhaps the first truly modern president, the first one to understand how it works. The global reality show, "What in God's name will he do next?" He has become the world champion of ratings and he may actually get a full eight years to carry it on, if he can survive the first season.

His supporters are laughing and eating popcorn as their reality star has the elitists and media pundits pulling their hair out. The late night comedians repeat every nauseating, stupid statement he makes and mock him endlessly -- Oh the entertainment! How much this made up reality is better than fiction! How much more absorbing such a horror show!

And indeed it is a greatly powerful thing, this media-created world: the interlocking global psyche has successfully become obsessed with Donald Trump. That is, of course, the English-programmed world, the one that "rules the world."

Here in India there are ample protections for a foreigner who does not want to take his India straight. The English language is the most important of them. English is a even more widespread nowadays than when I was first in India in 1975-1985, due to its being deemed necessary for economic success; the opening of the Indian market in the 1990's has resulted in a general expansion of modern education systems, meaning again the expansion of the Indian Anglosphere. For a foreigner, an English speaker, this means he can find a comfort zone and there seems to be no reason to wish to break out of it.

And an English and Anglicized Indian can commiserate together about the horrors of poverty and the garbage, and other such enlightened things, and thereby never really know the reality of life here. Or more accurately, the life of India as it was in our idealized golden ages. The villages of Bengal and Braj. The life of the renounced babajis and the simple villagers who shared their bread with them. It's still there, but quickly being infected with smart phones and TV-dishes.

And indeed, there was a prejudice deep with me against doing that. It happened to me a number of times when the doors of that world opened up to me. I did not have the right kind of anthropological spirit to completely "go native", even though in dress and behavior I was as far as one could possibly go from the norms of my probable destiny as a Canadian. I thought I was better.

And as a Canadian I would have been as a "normal person" doing something staid and satisfying like being a professor of something suitably arcane, pontificating on Hindu religious nationalism and its geopolitical implications or whatever and pretending that because I had learned a little of Indian languages and had even lived in India for a little while, that I was ever anything but an outsider there and that I really belonged in the Anglosphere.

But of course, there _is_ a strong Indian samskar in me. I did spend those years, and I did live the life of a renunciate in Nabadwip and Vrindavan. I had the association of many great saints, knowingly or unknowingly. Even as an outsider, I had a great many significant experiences in my emic adventure. And to say I had not gone native would be wrong. Even to fail at going native leaves indelible marks.

English is for me, in a way, a kind of drug. It is the easy option. It is the fast food of thought consumption and production. For me, it works better as an OS than Bengali or Sanskrit. And yet, for a long time, I have pretended to be close to being able to function entirely in Bengali or Sanskrit. Perhaps I am too old now to think that I can find the continued energy to pursue perfection.

But though I learn them, I do not think in those languages. I do not spend time discussing matters, in writing or in conversation, in languages other than English.

This is the control English has over me.

Now, it must be emphasized: English is equipped with hubris. Because the English-using world, the Anglosphere, has a disproportionate influence on the world as a whole, it has become "normative," meaning that the spectrum of ideas that are dominant in the normative domain permeate most of the other cultures also, though to some extent they are mediated by their own linguistic and cultural environments. But gradually, by sheer force of its mediatic and economic power, the values, goals and ethos of the Anglosphere penetrate and transform the local cultures also.

Those kinds of entertainments, the idealization of certain lifestyles, but principally it is the mastery of the art of mesmerizing the population with this American formula of mind control, i.e., the creation of a Reality and many subrealities simply for the purpose of making you willingly participate and spend your money.

So, over the past few days I looked at a number of current subcultures of American life and find myself looking at them with the eye of an anthropologist, an observer, but I find no attraction to becoming a part of these people's lives, but because of the facility provided by the deep samskaras of the English language, it is easy to access. It turns into a kind of cheap voyeurism.

It would not be possible for me to mix with these American people, from any of their various walks of life. I would not want to mix. And in the end, our cultural worlds are so far apart it is almost impossible for me to be anything other than repelled by all of it. And yet I too return to gape at the turbulence of confusion. A post-truth age, where reality is replaced by an endless series of unsavory possibilities.

These thoughts are serious ones for me. What offense have I committed that I have so little taste, after all these years, for the gifts of my acharyas? It seems that the only solution is to stay off line as much as possible.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Romantic Love and Sexual Repression

premā dvayo rasikayor ayi dīpa eva
hṛd-veśma bhāsayati niścala eva bhāti |
dvārād ayaṁ vadanatas tu bahiṣkṛtaś cet
nirvāti śīghram athavā laghutāṁ upaiti
The Prema of the Rasika pair is a wondrous lamp
that floods the room of the heart with light
and burns bright with a steady flame.
Should the door of the mouth be opened
and the lamp brought out into the wind,
it quickly is extinguished, or its effulgence reduced.
Prema-sampuṭikā 68

Secrecy is the essence of romantic love. Secrecy means being able to control your sexual desire. The problem is that no one today is trained in this. I was reading in Gopinath Kaviraj's explanation of "Tantric" society, by which he was giving a Tantrik explanation to the Vedic or Varnashram social system, he says that the first stage of life, brahmacharya, is all about controlliing the bindu. The essence of education is to control the bindu.

It was being able to control the bindu that made you eligible for householder life. It was controlling the bindu that made it possible to have a happy householder life.

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

I would also think that the vanaprastha stage was meant for the couple to engage in sadhana together until as such time as fate separated them through sannyas or death. But really in fact for a proper vanaprastha couple, is that there is no need for external sannyas, internal sannyas will be natural and spontaneous. Sannyas is really for those who are separated, or for those who are ineligible for Yugal Bhajan.

The problem is in the way we deal with sexuality in the West nowadays, and India and other Asian cultures are following down the road to uncontrolled sexuality. To begin with, everything has been sexualized, thanks to Freud. C.S. Lewis was dismissive in The Four Loves of the idea that male friendships must of necessity be homoerotic in nature. He admitted there was a possibility of male/female friendships, but said they were rare because they nearly always become sexualized. In the most rare cases, the common interests of friendship sustained their erotic love. But nowadays things have become rather unpredictable and it seems that everything has been sexualized, by which I mean that the possibility for erotic activity is present, whether acted upon or not.

I don't doubt there are sexual elements in all relationships of whatever kind, but restrictions are placed on them, what Freud related to the incest taboo, but looking at these things from a purely material point of view, he thought it was part of the neurotic complex that screws people for life. Well, certainly he had no cure, or at least his cure is worse than the disease.

The point of treating women as your mother or your sister is that you don't have sex with them. You love them as those who need protection and so on, and you enjoy friendships with them that are uncommon. In short, it is the appropriate way for men and women to concentrate the sexual energy in one person of the opposite sex.

Of course, I don't doubt for an instant that human beings are beasts and have uncontrolled lusts that approve of bestiality and other abominations of the sex drive. And that such things have gone on since time immemorial even in so-called Vedic society and they go on to this day, perhaps to an extent of sexual obsession that previous cultures could scarcely imagine. We will see how the human species evolves if we continue along this path, which might be unstoppable. What the long term and knock on effects of this disease of the mind are rather hard to fathom.

But never fear, there are people who have been working on this problem of sexuality seriously and have thought carefully about the spiritual function of the sexual drive and the spiritual potential inherent in brahmacharya. Freud was wrong about repression, in the sense that he thought it was impossible past a certain point. When the steam is boiling in the cooker, it is time to let it whistle. He thought the free pursuit of sexual activity would release one from the negative effects of repression.

People have the mistaken idea that married life is only for getting release from too much repression. Better to marry than to burn, as Paul said. But in the Vedic sense I mentioned above in relation to Gopinath Kaviraj, to control the sexual desire or drive is the essence of education.

And marriage means to cultivate spiritual unity with a woman in the spirit of the raising the bindu together, as a unified force. That is what it means to not be attached to pleasure or to pain.

So this is the path that has been rejected by almost everyone in modern society. The concept of pure, sacred love between the sexes, which is the real truth about romance, or the romantic tradition, the chivalrous tradition, has been lost in everything but the most superficial dimensions of magic thinking.

To see the divine in the woman, to see the divine in the man. That is love.

And the way to do that is to first be a worshiper of God as Love. To worship at the Altar of Divine Romance. To become a servant of the Divine Couple, the God and Goddess of Eternal Unity, of Shakti Shaktimator abhedatvam.

*Paritosh Das, Bharatiya Samskritite Acharya Gopinath Kabirajer Abadhan, 1998, pp. 14-15.