Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sri Gaurasundar’s Main Activity (I)

I spent a week in September with my godbrother Gadadhar Pran Das at Gadai Gauranga Kunj, doing a small vrata with him and observing his bhajan pranali, I am sharing this article written by him. It has two parts.

At the present time, Gadadhar Pran spends the entire day in the service of Gadadhar and Gauranga, and is working on restoring a painting of his Nadia Yugal. For three days up to Purnima, however, we spent almost the entire day in japa and meditation, chanting three lakhs together in the beautiful environment of the Kunj, overlooking the Ganges, bathing three times in the holy river, doing kirtan and honoring Gadai Gauranga’s delicious prasadam prepared by Rai Kishori Devi.

The centerpiece of Gadadhar’s nitya bhajan paddhati these days is the recital of Śrī Śrī Gaurāṅga-pratyaṅga-varṇanākhya-stava-rāja, attributed to Advaita Acharya Prabhu and found in a book from the Srikhanda tradition called Bhakti-candrikā. Gadadhar Pran has gone to a lot of trouble researching this work and he is convinced that it is a genuine work by Advaita Prabhu as it is present in many ancient collections. I accept it on his word.

He recites this stava three times a day, in the morning he chants the Sanskrit and recites the Bengali prose translation. At lunch time, he chants the Bengali padyānuvāda of Akinchan Das, and in the evening the Sanskrit alone. This he does with great feeling, standing in front of his deities, his eyes fixed on them, his voice cracking with emotion.

The author promises in the phala-śruti that whoever chants it three times a day will surely attain Gauranga’s madhura-prema in the nitya Nabadwip. It is in the deep hope of attaining this goal that he has learned all these versions of the stava by heart and has unfailingly maintained this practice for several years now.

In the Yoga Sūtra, there is a statement (1.21) tīvra-saṁvegānām āsannaḥ: “When one’s practice becomes very intense, the goal is near to being achieved.” I have known Gadadhar for 40 years, most of which he has spent in complete devotion to his Gaura and Gadadhar in his beautiful Mayapur ashram. He has turned two properties near the confluence of the Ganges and the Jalangi into a natural paradise filled with flower and fruit trees, with chabutaras, cupolas and gazebos everywhere so that one can sit in the pleasant scented breezes cooled by the Ganges waters and fix the mind entirely on Gauranga Mahaprabhu as the Nadia Nagara.

But one should not think that he is doing this whimsically or that he did not pay his dues by doing the rāgānugā bhajan of the Rupanugas in Braj. As soon as I can, I intend to start serializing his translation and commentary of the Govinda-līlāmṛta on Vrindavan Today so that one can get an idea of how he actually practices his līlā smarana. I can honestly say that I have seen up close any devotee, Indian or foreign, that has taken to the core message of rāgānugā bhajan and unfailingly stuck with it in spite of all obstacles over his entire lifetime -- obstacles coming from both within and without.

There are many who still choose to find fault with Gadadhar for sins both real and imagined, and there are others who condemn him for his Gaura Nagara bhajan. It is clear that nobody can or will stop him. I know how much pain it causes him to be falsely accused of horrible misdeeds, but the bitterness of such calumny is washed away by the sweet nectar of his bhajan, and indeed it acts as a protection against insincere hangers-on and the externally oriented superficial dilettante devotees who have no idea of what it means to follow the āmnāya-siddhā guru-paramparā up to the revelation of one’s eternal svarūpa in the nitya-dhāma.

Gadadhar has written numerous books. Indeed I feel ashamed when I see with what diligence he has produced book after book -- about Mahaprabhu’s gift of rāgānugā bhajan in madhura rasa, the Govinda-līlāmṛta translation and commentary that took five years to complete, the Vishnupriya trilogy, translations of Lochan Das’s Dhāmāli and other works from the Srikhanda Vaishnava family, and now his work on the Stava-rāja. Through these one can observe the development of his own insights into the madhura-līlā of Gaura Krishna and his parshads. If one believes in the path of rāgānugā bhakti, there are few Vaishnavas -- and certainly none from the West who speak the English language -- of his caliber who are worthy of respect and support. And I therefore urge those who are capable of doing so to support the publication of his books and the deity seva at Gadai Gauranga Kunj. If anyone merits it, it is he.

kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyet
dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiś ca bhajantam īśam |
śuśrūṣayā bhajana-vijñam ananyam anya-
nindādi-śūnya-hṛdam īpsita-saṅga-labdhyā ||

One should mentally honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Krishna. One should offer his humble obeisances to the one who has undergone spiritual initiation [dīkṣā] and is engaged in worshiping the Deity. And if one encounters a pure devotee who is advanced in undeviating devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others, one should associate with and faithfully serve him, recognizing him to be the ideal spiritual companion.

dṛṣṭaiḥ svabhāva-janitair vapuṣaś ca doṣair
na prākṛtatvam iha bhakta-janasya paśyet |
gaṅgāmbhasāṁ na khalu budbuda-phena-paṅkair
brahma-dravatvam apagacchati nīra-dharmaiḥ ||6||

One should not look upon any devotee in this world as being material, even if one sees in his body and mind flaws that are the result of his or her nature. The spiritual qualities of the Ganges water are not lost because of the bubbles, foam and silt that are characteristic of all rivers.
With regards to those who would condemn Gauranga Nagara bhajan as “unbonafide”, let it be said that the frog in the well cannot hope to know the ocean of the divine līlā. But I will let Gadadhar speak for himself:

Sri Gaurasundar’s Main Activity

Although Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Caitanya-bhāgavata and other Chaitanya shastras all describe Gaurasundar’s main activity in Nadia, most readers miss discovering this topic, since His biographers have presented it in a covered way. So it’s not surprising that Gaurasundar’s most attractive or internal pastimes have become almost entirely lost today. But now we may ask, “Why were they kept a secret?”

Well, to answer, isn’t it true that most of the people in Kaliyuga haven’t even got a clue that Sri Gaurasundar is svayam bhagavān? So how will this vast majority of the human populace be able to fathom His madhura līlās?

Moreover, because the Lord’s character is divine, never should it be compared with what is called love in our world. Therefore, it can be fatal if someone should hear about Prabhu’s romantic activities and then go on to blaspheme Him out of sheer ignorance concerning His Supreme, transcendental position.

But now the consummate bhaktas can bring up a very meaningful question: “If Gaurasundar’s main activity remains hidden, how will we learn about our eternal relationship with Him?”

Although we are writing this essay to address this important matter, we should first have some idea about our eternal relationship with Krishna. So here is a verse written by Kavi Karnapura’s gurudeva, Shrinath Chakravarti, that will give us some direction:

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Essential Teachings

ārādhyo bhagavān vraje śa-tanayas tad-dhāma vṛndāvanaṁ
ramyā kācid upāsanā vraja-vadhū-vargena yā kalpitā
śrīmad-bhāgavataṁ pramāṇam amalaṁ premān pumartho mahān
śrī-caitanya-mahāprabhor matam idaṁ tatrādaro naḥ paraḥ

1) Vrajendra nandan Sri Krishna is our worshipable Lord; 2) His abode is the ever sweet Vrindavan 3) The topmost of worshiping Him is that devised by the gopis; 4) Srimad Bhāgavatam presents this evidence; 5) Prema is therefore our ultimate goal.
Here we learn about Gaurasundar’s desire that His followers worship Vrajakishora Krishna in gopī-bhāva. But how does the Bhāgavatam depict the gopīs’ prema-sevā to Krishna? Let’s sample two of its verses to find out:

nadyāḥ pulinam āviśya gopībhir hima-vālukam
juṣṭaṁ tat-taralānandi kumudāmoda-vāyunā
kṣvelyāvaloka-hasitair vraja-sundarīṇām
uttambhayan rati-patiṁ ramayāṁ cakāra

While strolling with his beautiful gopīs along the Yamunā’s moonlit shore – where the sand is white as camphor, and the cooling southern breeze escorts the fragrance of blooming lotus – Krishna desires to awaken their erotic feelings. Thus while tightly embracing His sweethearts – Krishna caresses their thighs, fondles their breasts, kisses their lips and unloosens their lower garment. Everything is done in a playful mood as Krishna’s soft, luring smiles captivate the gopis’ hearts. So just as Kāmadeva enjoys amorous keli with his consort, the goddess Rati, Krishna makes love with all the Vraja sundarīs. (10.29.45-6)
Srila Vishwanath Chakravarti comments on this stirring, romantic scene from the Bhāgavatam by first raising a relevant question:
“How is it possible that Krishna enjoys rati-keli with millions of gopa-sundarīs in this open area, which doesn’t have the privacy of separate kunjas or flower beds?”
His own answer: “Just as Svayam bhagavān Sri Krishna is limitlessly powerful, so is the transcendental land of Sri Vrindavan. For even a small particle of Vrindavan dust the size of a sesame seed can expand into a vast area containing private pleasure kunjas – along with fragrant flower beds, betel nuts, sandlewood paste, perfumes, cool drinking water and everything else needed for Krishna’s rati pastime. Sri Yogamāyā makes all of these things possible. And after Krishna’s rati-līlā, She withdraws everything as it was before. In this way, Yogamāyā increases Sri Krishna and the gopīs’ pleasure.”
At the conclusion of the Bhāgavatam’s rāsa-līlā narration, Sukadeva Goswāmī tells that Krishna accepts a human form and comes to our world to perform such wonderful pastimes as these simply to allure the bhaktas with His mercy. Because after hearing about the rāsa, they may then take up the gopīs’ method of bhajan to attain Sri Krishna’s madhura sevā just as they perform it.

Yet now it should be mentioned that some Vaishnavas may not feel inclined to follow the gopīs’ kāntā-bhāva, i.e., the mood of a consort, which the Bhāgavatam describes. Rather, they will submit, “Let us serve Radha and Krishna as manjari gopīs, since this is the mood of our Six Goswāmīs.”

Now which path should we follow? We ask because on one hand, Gauranga’s prema-dharma is based on the Bhāgavatam’s pure teachings which eulogize the gopīs’ consorthood prema. But on the other hand, won’t many bhaktas wish to follow our Six Goswāmīs’ mood in manjari bhāva?

After examining the exceptional merit of the rasa found in both paths and noting that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu duly authorizes both, however, wouldn’t it be befitting that we adopt both methods? Because, after all, both processes will serve a wonderful purpose in our nitya sevā to the Lord in the exciting course of His madhura prema līlā.

Here is what we are talking about: Since manjari bhāva sādhana is the recommended path in Vrindavan, one would be wise to take it up. But in Nadia also we can discover that Gauranga’s leading associates worship him in the Bhāgavatam’s kāntā-bhava mood. And in the previously quoted verse, Srila Shrinath Chakravartipāda has hinted at this when he says that this exalted prema is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s matam idam, or main focus in the līlā. Thus his disciple, Srila Kavikarnapur, goes on to reveal the same siddhānta in his Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā, 15:

Srila Kavikarnapur’s Verdict

tatra śrīman-navadvīpe viśvambhara-samīpataḥ
vilasanti sma te jñeyā vaiṣṇavā hi mahattamāḥ

Here is the verse’s external and internal meaning:
(1) The bhaktas who always enjoy pleasurable pastimes with Sri Visvambhara in Nabadwip are His greatest Vaishnavas.
(2) The bhaktas who enjoy conjugal loving pastimes (nitya vilāsa) with Sri Visvambhara in Nabadwip are His greatest Vaishnavas.

Now won’t most readers just take the first meaning and go on? That may be so, but the second, internal meaning reveals Srila Kavikarnapur’s message for the rasika bhaktas, those who are attracted to Prabhu’s madhura pastimes. Because just as Krishna’s greatest bhaktas, the gopīs, enjoy rati-keli with Him, they also become Gauranga’s greatest Vaishnavas and thus go on relishing those same pastimes in Nadia.

Srila Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī also indicates the same thing in his Caitanya-candrāmrta, 18:

bhrāntaṁ yatra munīśvarair api purā yasmin kṣamā-maṇḍale
kasyāpi praviveśa naiva dhiṣaṇā yad veda no vā śukaḥ
yatra kvāpi kṛpāmayena ca nije’py udghāṭitaṁ śauriṇā
tasminn ujjvala-bhakti-vartmani sukhaṁ khelanti gaura-priyāḥ

There is an exalted madhura bhakti path which was unknown to the greatest sages of our world, headed by Vyāsadeva. Sukadeva Goswāmī was also clueless about this matter, as it is undisclosed in the Vedas. Yet even the merciful Lord Sri Krishna didn’t reveal this secret to His Vraja bhaktas. These are the wonderful prema-keli affairs that Gauranga’s priyās eternally relish in their intimate loving relationship with Him.
By saying "Gaura-priyā", Srila Sarasvatī-pāda is referring to Gaurasundar’s limitless consorts who are, in fact, His madhura bhaktas. For as Prabhu’s svarūpa-śakti counterparts, they can manifest a beautiful female form to relish madhura bhakti rasa with Him.

Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Rāya’s Discussion
To help us understand this verse’s deep meaning, let us now go to the last part of Sriman Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya’s discussion in Caitanya caritāmrta, Madhya 8. Here, when Ramananda Raya mentions the gopīs’ kāntā prema, Prabhu ecstatically answers:
paripūrṇa-kṛṣṇa-prāpti ei prem’ haite
ei premāra vaśa kṛṣṇa – kahe bhāgavate

“This is the paripūrna kṛṣṇa prāpti, the most complete attainment of Krishna. For the Bhāgavatam declares, Krishna is totally subjugated by the prema of His gopī consorts.” (Madhya 8.88)
How does the gopīs’ kāntā-prema described in the Bhāgavatam surpass other forms of Bhagavat-prema? Ramananda answers:
guṇādhikya svādādhikya bāḍe prati-rase
śānta-dāsya-sākhya-vātsalyera guṇa madhurete baise

The qualities and relish of the dāsya, sākhya and vātsalya rasas can all be found in madhura-rasa. (Madhya 8.86)
Here the term “kāntā” specifically means a parakīyā consort. For just as she can be her beloved’s dāsī, sakhī, or care for him like a mother, and be his loving mistress – the complete attainment of Krishna lies in kāntā-bhāva alone. As Mahaprabhu’s questions (and Ramananda’s answers) begin from the first step and proceed to the very top of the Bhagavad-bhakti ladder, at this stage Ramananda thought he had reached the top, and was thinking to get a rest. But Mahāprabhu went on: “Is there not something more? If so, please tell me.”
Ramananda exclaimed:
ihāra āge puche hena jane
eta-dina nāhi jāni, āchāye bhuvane

“Oh my! I’ve never met anyone in the world who would inquire beyond this!” (Madhya 8.97)
But then he remembered: “Oh, Radha-prema comes next!”

Then Mahaprabhu became restless and asked, “If Radha’s love excels the gopīs’ kāntā prema, can you please explain why?”

Ramananda replied, “Radha’s love is incomparable in the three worlds. For when Krishna enjoys with millions of Vraja sundaris during the rāsa-līlā, only Radha can completely satiate His desires!” Radha’s pirīti is impossible in humans as it is limitlessly pure, deep, refined and sweet. But then Prabhu asked: “Is there not something more? If so, please tell me to give complete satisfaction to my ears.”

Hearing this, Ramananda became puzzled. “What could be higher than Radha prema?” he thought. Finally he admitted: “Swamin, I’ve reached the end; all of the śakti that You have given me has been depleted. So if You want to hear more, please bless me so that I can answer. Nevertheless, let me sing a song that I composed. Let’s see whether this will please You.”

pahilehi rāga nayana-bhaṅge bhela
anudina bāḍhala, avadhi nā gela
nā so ramaṇa, nā hāma ramaṇī
duṅhu-mana manobhava peṣala jāni’
e sakhi, se-saba prema-kāhinī
kānu-ṭhāme kahabi vichurala jāni’
nā khoṅjaluṅ dūtī, nā khoṅjaluṅ ān
duṅhukeri milane madhya ta pāṅca-bāṇa
ab sohi virāga, tuṅhu bheli dūtī
supurusa-premaki aichana

Radha’s Reply to Krishna’s Sakhī Messenger “Sakhī, when our eyes first met, my love for Krishna awoke intensely – and it ever goes on increasing! Now is He the ramana, and am I the ramanī? … we cannot tell! For Cupid has stolen our minds, pulverized them together – and made us one! O sakhī! During our last love-encounter a messenger wasn’t required – for Cupid directly united us! So why are you coming to unite us again? Just see the love of my splendid hero, Sri Krishna.”
As Rāmānanda sang, Mahaprabhu become restless and reached over to cover his mouth. This was to conceal His intimate affairs. Because herein Prabhu perceived His own svarūpa in Nadia, which only His intimate priyās can relish. This is what Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī’s verse has revealed: There is an exalted madhura bhakti path that was unknown to the greatest sages headed by Vyāsadeva. Sukadeva Goswāmī was also clueless, as this topic isn’t mentioned in the Vedas. And merciful Lord Sri Krishna didn’t reveal this secret either to His Vraja bhaktas. These are the wonderful prema keli affairs that Gauranga’s priyās eternally relish in their intimate relationship with Him.

Rupa Goswami’s Version

Sri Rupa Goswami’s renowned anarpita-carīm verse has a similar, deep meaning. So let us examine it:
anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇah kalau
samarpayitum unnotojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śriyam
hariḥ puraṭa-sundara-dyuti-kadamba-sandīpitaḥ
sadā hṛdaya-kandare sphuratu vaḥ sacī-nandanaḥ

May you always see Sachinandan Gaurahari’s beautiful golden form in your heart. For He advents in the Kali-yuga to award an invaluable gift that was previously unoffered: His very own unnatojjvala-prema-bhakti-rasa.
In our Vaishnava world there is a common opinion that the madhura-bhakti treasure that Rupa alludes to here is manjari bhāva. This special prema rasa is anarpita (new) because previously the Bhāgavatam and other ancient bhakti shastras haven’t mentioned it. Though it is also unnata (very exalted) – as the relish of manjari’s sevā excels even the bliss of Krishna’s gopī consorts. Hence Chaitanya Mahaprabhu wishes to promote this form of the madhura rasa in the Kali-yuga.

Although this view is befitting from the point of view of Krishna’s Vraja līlā, more can be discovered in Sri Rupa’s verse. Because he is praying to Sri Sachinandan, and blessing the bhaktas that they always see Him in their heart, the exalted madhura prema that he refers to must certainly be found in Nabadwip as well. In Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī’s verse also, the madhura prema of Gauranga’s priyās can also be termed anarpita (previously unoffered), since Vyāsadeva, Śukadeva and Krishna’s Vraja bhaktas were clueless about it. Moreover, in Mahaprabhu and Ramananda’s sādhya-sādhana-tattva discussion, this topic comes at the very end, after Radha prema. Therefore, the madhura prema of Gauranga’s priyās is surely, as Rupa defines it, a highly exalted (unnata) gift that Sri Gauranga mercifully wishes to offer the people of the Kali-yuga.

Ānugatyamaya and Pratyakṣa Worship

Now an important question arises: Where are these exciting madhura prema līlās eternally going on? The answer is in Goloka Nabadwip and Vrindavan, where every bhakta can serve Svayam Bhagavān in both the ānugatya-maya and the pratyakṣa or direct form of madhura-bhakti worship.

The ānugatya-maya bhajan is found with the manjaris for they serve Radha and Krishna under the leading sakhis' and mañjarīs’ direction. Yet the pratyakṣa worship can be seen in Srila Prabodhānanda’s verse where the bhaktas assume a Gaura priyā female svarūpa to serve Gaurasundar in a direct one-to-one loving relationship.
So apart from attaining a mañjarī siddha-svarūpa to serve Radha-Krishna, there are two more identities which are ideal for Gaudīya Vaishnavas to aspire for in Goloka Nabadwip. We refer to “two” because Gauranga’s madhura upāsanā has basically two main streams:
1) His Rādhābhāva, and
2) His rasarāja worship.
In Gaurasundar’s Rādhā-bhāva-līlā-prakāśa the bhaktas generally serve in handsome brāhmana kiśora forms. This is Mahaprabhu’s ānugatya-maya aṣṭa-kāla sevā which is executed by following Prabhu’s leading associates in the company of one’s guru and guru paramparā members. But when the bhaktas join Prabhu’s rasarāja līlā prakāśa, their pratyakṣa loving relationship with Gaurasundar takes place in their Gaura-priyā female svarūpa.

The following references show how Gauranga’s rasarāja upāsanā is sadopāsya, an eternal form of worship that everyone can take up:

(1) In Narahari Sarkar Thakur’s Bhakti-candrikā’s first verse he says:

kāntaṁ śāntaṁ aśeṣa-jīva-hṛdayānanda-svarūpaṁ param

“Taking the mood of the Amorous Hero (kānta) Gaurasundar can award supreme bliss and eternal peace in the heart of limitless jīvas.”
(2) In Sri Advaita’s Stavarāja, verse 28, He says:
prema-pradāna-lalita-dvibhujaṁ bhakta-vatsalam

“O Gaurahari! At the slightest hint, You embrace Your bhaktas with Your lovely arms and become bhakta-vātsala[1], for sharing Your splendid kānta-bhāva [2] prema with every one of them!”
[1] bhakta-vātsala: the Lord’s affectionate behavior with His bhaktas [2] kānta-bhāva: the mood of the Amorous Hero
(3) In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, 1.2.297-299, Sri Rupa offers two forms of madhura-bhakti sādhana for his rāganugā followers:
kāmānugā bhavet tṛṣṇā kāma-rupānugāminī
sambhogecchāmayī tat-tad-bhāvecchātmiketi ca
sā dvidhā keli-tātparyavaty eva sambhogecchāmayī bhavet
tad-bhāvecchātmikā tāsāṁ bhāva-mādhurya-kāmitā

1) sambhogecchā-mayī: the path for those desiring to attain the Lord’s prema-keli pastimes in kāntā-bhāva;
2) tad-bhāvecchātmikā: the path for those hankering to serve Radha Krishna as mañjarīs to relish Their enchanting bhāvas.
Purport: Here, because Sri Rupa offers his bhakta followers both of these paths neutrally, we can imbibe that both must surely have a useful utility in the līlā’s course. For just as the tad-bhāvecchātmikā mañjarī bhāva is the most befitting path in Vraja, the sambhogecchāmayī process is ideal for those wishing to follow after the internal moods of Gauranga’s Nabadwip bhaktas. Though in Svayam Bhagavān’s highest abode, Goloka, it should be noted that just as Sri Gaurasundar’s Nabadwip bhaktas serve in His Rasarāja and Rādhā-bhāva-līlā-prakāśa, so do the Six Goswamis.

One can see more photographs of Gadai Gauranga Kunj here.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

"তুমি আমার প্রাণের বন্ধু !"

আজকে রাধাকুণ্ডে গিয়েছিলাম। রাধাকুণ্ড মহান্ত শ্রী শ্রী অনন্তদাস পণ্ডিত বাবাজী মহারাজের কাছে গিয়েছিলাম দর্শনের জন্য । উনি আমার সঙ্গে কিছু ক্ষণ কথা বললেন । পুরানো স্মৃতির আবৃত্তি হলো কিছু ।
বাবাজী অসুস্থ হলেও, ৯২ বৎসর বয়সেও এ বৎসরে নিত্য নিয়মিত পাঠ করবেন নিয়ম সেবার সময়. আমাকে রাধাকুণ্ডে থাকতে বলেছেন. আমি যে গোপালচম্পূ পাঠ করব বললাম. উনি খুশী হলেন.
বার বার বলছিলেন, "এসো, থাকো রাধাকুণ্ডে." আমি বললাম গোপালচম্পূ পাঠের কথা. বাবাজী মহাশয, "ভালো ভালো" বললেন.
আমি বলেছিলাম, "এত দিন পরে আপনার দর্শনে এলাম্. আপনার সঙ্গ লাভ করতে হলে আমার পুনর্জন্মের অপেক্ষা."
শেষে আমার মাথায় হাথ বুলিয়ে আমাকে বললেন, "তুমি আমার প্রাণের বন্ধু !" কি সুন্দর কথা, আমি চোখের জল সংবরণ করতে পারলাম না । ভেসেই গেলাম ।
রাধাকুণ্ডের পরিক্রমা করার সময, তিনকুডির প্রভুর আশ্রমের সামনে দিয়ে আমার সেই পুরানো স্মৃতি এলো -- সে নিয়ম সেবা যখন সেখানে তাঁর কাছে থাকলাম এক মাস । ঐ ছোট সরু শিরির দিয়ে আমি নেমে ঠাণ্ডা জলে, শীতের হাওয়ায় শ্রীকুণ্ডে স্নান করতাম ভোর বেলায়।

এই বার যখন নবদ্বীপে গিয়েছিলাম,গদাধরপ্রাণজী আমাকে তিনকোডী প্রভুর আর আমার একটা বিস্মৃত কথা মনে করিয়ে দিল.

তিনকোডী প্রভুর অপ্রকটের কিছু দিন আগে, আমরা দুজন তাঁকে দেখতে গিয়েছিলাম. উনি খুব অসুস্থ বলে অনেকে তাঁর দর্শনের জন্য যাচ্ছিলো. সেই সমযে প্রভুপাদ মদনগোপাল গোস্ৱামীও গিয়েছিলেন । তিনি কখনো কারো কাছে প্রণাম করতেন না, কিন্তু এই বার সাষ্টাঙ্গ দণ্ডৱৎ করে তিনকোডী প্রভুর সামনে প্রণাম করলেন.
তিনি আমাকে সেখানে দেখে তিনকোডী প্রভুর কাছে বললেন, "এই লোকটা গৌডীয় বৈষ্ণব সম্প্রদায়ের একটা মস্তবড অস্ত্র হয়ে যাবে. একে কৃপা করুন." এই ভাবে আমাকে মদনগোপাল প্রভুর আর তিনকোডী প্রভুর এক সঙ্গে আশীর্বাদ মিলল. জয় রাধে! জয় গৌর!
মাফ করুন, নিজের কথা বললাম. বাবাজী মহাশযের প্রীতি পেয়ে আনন্দ আর ধরল না, তাই কিছু বললাম.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Visual Media and Radha and Krishna

It also has something to do with brevity. In our day, wisdom has to be Twitter length.

Madanmohan Dasji wrote: Well, as for that, I noticed that when I post some verse or other, people only 'like' it if it is posted with an illustration; then I wonder if it was the picture or the writing that was 'liked". Maybe since the introduction of film and TV and ubiquitous screens in every home, we have lost, to some degree, the capacity to visualize in the mind, which is necessary in reading and hearing, and its real pleasure.

Mathura Dasji wrote: The visual arts or written/spoken word coupled with sound or music is the most powerful of art forms, and that is why TV, cinema, drama and theatre are so popular. More senses are involved and hence for the majority of people (the masses) these art forms thrive.

That also holds for spiritual music such as kirtan, bhajans and other forms of classical Indian music, and is why it is so important to understand aesthetics and the power of harmoniously blending these divine art forms. The Bhakti traditions all contain highly evolved aesthetic/spiritual art forms. Otherwise how will the majority of people understand and appreciate concepts and emotional expressions of rasa and bhava?


So in that respect, the Sanskrit poeticians gave importance to the word. I think that even for people of his day the language of Shakespeare was likely to have been somewhat challenging. His genius was that he was able to capture his audience primarily through his poetry.

I think though, referring back to Madan Mohan's original statement, that the process of visualization derived from the words is something that is being lost because of the sheer availability of images.

The power that Mathura talks about is used to inundate people's brains as the most effective brainwashing media that humans have ever been able to create.

But presenting Krishna etc., in a visual medium, though I don't doubt it can be done by a great genius, is very difficult. Think of the cartoons of Krishna that recently became popular, think of Braja Rasa Lilas and how Western people react to them. Mastery of special effects have brought the "reality" of the "fantasy" to extremely high levels. They are literally able to create the worlds that the proud Sanskrit poet could only aspire to : kavir eva prajāpatiḥ -- "Because he creates his own world, the Poet is God."

So now, who can create Krishna's world, or the Krishna world, or _a_ Krishna world that will capture today's mind? And be able to give it a taste of rasa?

The genius of the rasa theory is that it makes you think about religion from the aesthetic and human perspective.

The aesthetic is about producing rasa, but the full spectrum of human experience is not. As a matter of fact, genuine human experience is pretty much denied under a barrelfull of rules. Love, which is of course the essence of all rasa, is only a promise -- if you follow the rules, you will be loved by mummy and daddy.

So the very use of drama and entertainments to preach becomes a necessity. From the vidhi point of view to increase faith in the rules and to present the aiśvarya of Krishna's līlā.

From the rāga point of view though, it is absolutely necessary to be able to identify with the personalities in the play, and not as Gods except inasmuch as all archetypes have some God-ness to them.

The problem with the devotee is Krishna's perfect love-life. Well I can tell you that the success of Krishna as a popular figure is precisely because of the effectiveness of līlā kirtan in Bengal. The songs were good, they were sung well, and even within the Krishna-ness of the story, the Love itself was humanly human.

So, this is exactly what the devotees fear -- that Krishna should be seen as human. We have to always remind ourselves that he is God, and indeed most of the time we are not allowed to think otherwise. But is not a handsome film actor a god? Don't we even call them gods? Krishna is indeed a God like these.

But though Angelina and Brad Pitt may be gods and goddesses in the Swarga known as Hollywood, the love they portray is something we can all identify with. Every man is a Brad Pitt in his dream self world, and every woman an Angelina Jolie.

So it is for identification with Radha and Krishna. You cannot say, first I become a manjari or even a devotee before I can experience rasa. You cannot say that the _natural_ process of identification with Radha and Krishna is NOT what is desired and is indeed expected.

It is because the story of pure love in separation struck a deep chord. The story of a pure illicit love, with the suffering it entailed. It is very much comparable to Tristan and Iseult.

So now, where does that stand in relation to Krishna bhakti. Rupa Goswami himself says that you are to identify 'as a devotee, not as Krishna." And he gives the famous example that you are to identify with Rama and not with Ravana.

So it seems clear enough. At least in most cases. Think though of the relation of love itself to the capacity to identify with a character in a play or film. If love means complete identification with the beloved, then one MUST identify with the Beloved also.

So naturally, Krishna and Radha as the Hero and the Heroine are every hero and every heroine.

But the fear is to portray them as less than archetypal.

In other words, if Brad Pitt plays Krishna and Angelina Jolie were to play Radha and Krishna... nope, nope, it is not working for me either.

And yet, because Radha and Krishna are the root of all erotic love, spiritual or material, their _human_ love is the most perfect of human loves, all loves are theirs.

But Their love is the love that is entirely free of kama.

Now there are two states: nitya-siddha and sadhana-siddha. The sadhana-siddha person struggles to attain the state of perfection. The nitya-siddha person needs no education in suffering. They have learned the meaning of suffering and its relation to love and they have no more need of lessons.

The sadhaka knows kama. And the nitya-siddha knows that the appearance of kama, the perception of it, can always enter even the nitya līlā. Think of baby Krishna and Yashoda. Krishna acting as a baby dislikes his mother's action of stopping the milk from boiling over. He is forgiven his naughtiness by us, and maybe Ma Yashoda is also laughing, but she is serious too. She has to educate the boy.

This is the nitya-prakaṭa līlā. I call it that because it is the nitya-parikaras and Krishna within a world where time exists and where changes happen and so on. So in that respect, the archetypal actions are also manifestations of pure love within a world where misunderstanding is possible.

BUT, it must be recognized that without a story, there is no rasa. Without time and the world, there are no stories. This was a problem for Jiva Goswami, which is why he wrote the Gopala Champu. The prakaṭa-līlā is more real than the aprakaṭa līlā. The aprakaṭa līlā, if we were to put it crassly, is like an old, happily married couple sitting around watching reruns of their own wedding video.

But the level we haven't got to appreciating is the līlā nature of our own lives. If Krishna is too divine, we never understand how the most normal part of our lives -- our love lives -- are really at the center of our sense of self. A Radha Krishna devotee who doesn't understand this is really not at the madhyama stage.

I guess the question really is: Here, the uniqueness of the visualization is actually what we want. There is really no problem with having Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt play Radha and Krishna, because you accept as your basic premise that they can, at best, be tiny sparks of Their splendor. But if we allow them their human failngs and allow them to capture us in their story, Radha and Krishna's story, the Story beyond their limited story, the Eternal Story of stories, then it will find its way to Spiritual Knowledge and Love.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Uddhava's glorification of the Gopis

I have been appreciating Babaji's morning chanting of hymns, which I happily participate in each morning. He has a teacher who has given him a number of striking tunes for these Sanskrit verses, which make my "chanting of Sanskrit mantras" in need of updating. I was also inspired to make a few spontaneous recordings, using those tunes and on my SoundCloud page I have also added a few recordings of Babaji also.

Most Gaudiya Vaishnavas tend to chant songs in Bengali or common Sanskrit hymns like Rādhā-kṛpā-kaṭākṣa-stotram, but Babaji has chosen to select notable hymns or passages from the Bhagavatam itself, which is a testament to his devotion to our main shastra.

The following verses are Uddhava's famous panegyric glorifying the gopis in 10.47. These verses are unique because there is no other such praise dedicated to any devotee by another devotee found there.

After staying in Vrindavan in the association of the cowherd folk, Uddhava is so impressed by the gopis’ devotion that he glorifies them as no other devotees have been glorified in the Bhagavatam. Though he himself has been directly told by Krishna that he is his atma, he glorifies the gopis, indicating their incomparable superior status in the spiritual realm.

In his mangala verses to the third division of the Pūrva-campū (15.3) of Gopāla-campū, Srila Jiva Goswami writes a nice verse specifically glorifying Radharani based on this hymn:

śrīr āsāṁ na tulāṁ bibharti nitarām ity uddhavaḥ kīrtayan
yāsām aṅghri-rajo nanāma hariṇā yaḥ svena tulyo mataḥ |
tāsāṁ tat-priyatā-sudhākara-tanuṁ viṣvak cakorāyite-
nānenānugatāṁ samasta-mahitāṁ vandāmahe rādhikām ||
Uddhava glorified the gopis, saying that Lakshmi
could never ever be on their level.
[Even though] he is considered by Hari to be his equal,
he made his obeisance to the dust of their feet.
Amongst these gopis, we worship Radhika,
the most glorious of them all,
whose body is like the moon of love for Krishna,
transforming him into a chakora bird
which pursues her everywhere to drink its rays.
The above citation refers to verses 60 and 61 below. Krishna states that Uddhava is his equal in BhP 3.4.31.

noddhavo’ṇv api man-nyūno yad guṇair nārditaḥ prabhuḥ |
ato mad-vayunaṁ lokaṁ grāhayann iha tiṣṭhatu ||
Uddhava is not in any way inferior to me because he is never affected by the qualities of matter. Therefore he should stay here in order to teach specific knowledge of me to the world.

etāḥ parāṁ tanu-bhṛto bhuvi gopa-vadhvo
govinda eva nikhilātmani rūḍha-bhāvāḥ |
vāñchanti yad bhava-bhiyo munayo vayaṁ ca
kiṁ brahma-janmabhir ananta-kathā-rasasya ||

Among embodied beings on this earth, these cowherd damsels alone are supreme because they have achieved the highest love exclusively for Govinda, the self of the universe. Such a love is aspired for not only by people afraid of being born again but also by sages, and even by me. What else is there to be attained by birth as a brähmaëa by someone who has developed a relish for the stories of the infinite Lord? (58)

kvemāḥ striyo vanacarīr vyabhicāra-duṣṭāḥ
kṛṣṇe kva caiṣa paramātmani rūḍha-bhāvaḥ |
nanv īśvaro'nubhajato'viduṣo'pi sākṣāc
chreyas tanoty agada-rāja ivopayuktaḥ ||

What comparison can be made between these forest-dwelling women who are tainted by their infidelity [to their worldly husbands] on the one hand, and this most elevated love for Krishna, the Paramätmä, on the other. Surely the Supreme Lord grants the highest welfare to one who constantly worships Him even without knowing His reality, just as the king of medicines, heavenly ambrosia, cures all diseases even when used unwittingly. (10.47.59)

nāyaṁ śriyo'ṅga u nitānta-rateḥ prasādaḥ
svar-yoṣitāṁ nalina-gandha-rucāṁ kuto’nyāḥ |
rāsotsave’sya bhuja-daṇḍa-gṛhīta-kaṇṭha-
labdhāśiṣāṁ ya udagād vraja-vallavīnām||

Oh, the grace which was conferred on the cowherd damsels of Vraja - who got their desire fulfilled in the form of having their necks encircled by His strong arms during the rasa festival - did not descend on to the celestial damsels possessing a fragrance and splendor like a lotus or even on Çré who is exclusively attached to His bosom. Then how could others expect such mercy? (10.47.60)

āsām aho caraṇa-reṇu-juṣām ahaṁ syām
vṛndāvane kim api gulma-latauṣadhīnām
yā dustyajaṁ svajanam ārya-pathaṁ ca hitvā
bhejur mukunda-padavīṁ śrutibhir vimṛgyām

Oh, let me take birth as a shrub, creeper or herb in the forests of Vrindavan, so that I will be blessed with a dust particle from the feet of these gopis. These gopis gave up their own families as well as the principles followed by the virtuous, which are so difficult for a chaste woman to abandon, and attained Govinda, for whom even the Vedas are still searching. (10.47.61)

yā vai śriyārcitam ajādibhir āpta-kāmair
yogeśvarair api yad ātmani rāsa-goṣṭhyām
kṛṣṇasya tad-bhagavataś caraṇāravindaṁ
nyastaṁ staneṣu vijahuḥ parirabhya tāpam

At the time of the Rasa Lila, these gopis took the Supreme Lord Krishna’s lotus feet, which are worshiped by the goddess Lakshmi, by Brahma and the other gods, and by the great yogis who are free from all desire, and placed them on their breasts, embracing them, and so became free of their suffering. (10.47.62)
vande nanda-vraja-strīṇāṁ pāda-reṇum abhīkṣṇaśaḥ
yāsāṁ hari-kathodgītaṁ punāti bhuvana-trayam

I constantly glorify the dust of the feet of the women of Nanda’s cowherd pastures. Their chanting of the activities of Lord Krishna purifies the entire universe. (SB 10.47.63)

You can here the recording here:

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Diksha Parampara

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati started a NEW sampradaya. There are two Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradayas, with two different diksha paramparas. The Gaudiya Math diksha parampara STARTS with Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. Saraswati Thakur rejects the previous diksha parampara which was followed by Bhaktivinoda Thakur.

Am I right or wrong?

So if you choose to accept Siddhanta Saraswati's line, then fine. But you have to recognize that they are two different paths, similar in many respects, supposedly following the same shiksha tradition. But in the traditional paramparas, the shiksha includes a particular culture of raganuga bhakti that is NOT accepted by the Gaudiya Math. They have their reasons, their interpretations of shastra that are their own. They are not in agreement. But in view of the similar objective and similar antecedents there is a possibility of cooperation, but it is not very likely as long as each considers the other illegitimate.

In fact, since everyone is chanting the Holy Name and the Holy Name is the ultimate arbiter, we should say that both are recipients of the Holy Name's particular mercy, which takes different forms for different people in different adhikaras. Hence the multiplicity of sampradayas. The only problem is the Holy Name does not like Vaishnava ninda.

The Gaudiya Math was created in opposition to the traditional Vaishnava paramparas. It was against the family lines of descendance and against the practice of bhajan as it had evolved in Radha Kund amongst the bhajananandi Vaishnavas. Saraswati's rationale may have had validity, that is not the point I am debating.

What I am saying is that if you wish to follow the traditional method of bhajan including siddha pranali you need to get initiated into the sampradaya that teaches it.

The Bhakti Sandarabha makes it clear that siddha pranali is a part of the archana marg into which one must be initiated. Nowadays there are many in the Gaudiya Math who will give you siddha pranali because it does not require any special imagination to invent an ekadash bhava. I can give you one right now if you want. So no problem.

I heard Narayan Maharaj gave siddha pranali. Narayan Maharaja said Keshava Maharaj was given siddha pranali by Siddhanta Saraswati. Moreover, I have learned that in this parampara, siddha pranali is given as far back as Bhaktivinoda Thakur, but does not include HIS guru!! Whom the Thakur has mentioned numerous times as the source of his own siddha identity. How anyone in their right mind can think that this is what "parampara" of ANY kind -- siksha or diksha -- means is beyond me.

So if you want to follow the system as it was taught and practiced in Radha Kund and by other bhajananandi Vaishnavas in Braj, then you should take initiation in a traditional line that goes back directly to Rupa and Raghunath in Braj.

Accept that there is a difference. Accept the fact that some people will make that decision. They are not your enemies. They are Vaishnavas who are seeking the way to prema. If they are engaged in anadhikar charcha, they will have to come down a few notches, but in this endeavor there is no loss or diminution. No pious endeavor goes unrewarded.

The difference is that the Gaudiya Math does NOT follow Gaur Kishor Babaji's diksha line. There is not one in ten thousand who even know the name of his guru. The problem of rejection comes from the Gaudiya Math. One may deny it, but the rejection of Bipin Bihari Goswami is the root of it all.

Yes, there are always differences, and the Nitai Gaur Radhe Shyam people have their own vision, but they have always given respect to the Goswamis and to the Babajis. If you accept a parampara you start by respecting the people in it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bhakti Sandarbha :: Tirthas and Sadhu Sanga

I just want to say that as I slowly start to get deeper into Bhakti Sandarbha (I reached Anuccheda 10 today), I am gaining even more appreciation for Satya Narayan Dasji, not only of his understanding of the Sanskrit text, but his commentaries. These, I feel, are getting better as we go through the Sandarbhas, and I am sure that the Priti Sandarbha will truly be the crown jewel, the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. In the meantime, we follow Jiva Goswami's path through these six books, where we have just now arrived at the abhidheya, bhakti.

In a sense you could say that the other four books were just preparations for this. The actual journey really starts with Bhakti Sandarbha. Jiva stated in the very beginning that you should know what to do now that you have gone through the first four books (and in fact, just by going through them, you already have), but now you are going to stop looking so much at the external tattvas and start to consider what is going on inside you. This is really the journey of your soul. Jiva starts with the verses of Suta Goswami starting with sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo, which is in every way appropriate, for it is a succinct argument for and summation of the bhakti path from beginning to end. I would like to give you a sample of one anuccheda, which I rather enjoyed. Note, it has the word Vrindavan in it. [This is not the final version as it will be printed, but I give it anyway as it stands at this point in the editorial process. I hope you enjoy it too.

Anuccheda 11:: Bhakti Begins with Service to a Devotee or a Holy Place

नन्वेवमपि तस्य कथारुचिर्मन्दभाग्यानां च न जायत इत्याशङ्क्य तत्र सुगमोपायं वदन्, तामारभ्य नैष्ठिकीपर्यन्तां भक्तिमुपदिशति पञ्चभिः (भा. १.२.१६)— शुश्रूषोः श्रद्दधानस्य वासुदेवकथारुचिः । स्यान् महत्सेवया विप्राः पुण्यतीर्थनिषेवणात् ॥
In spite of the fact that hearing Bhagavān’s pastimes can easily slash the knot of karma, unfortunate people may not develop a taste for them. Considering this possibility, Sūta Gosvāmī offers an easy method to awaken their taste. In five verses, he delineates the progression of bhakti beginning from getting the taste for kathā, hearing the pastimes of Bhagavān, up to naiṣṭhikī, or fixity in devotion:
"O learned ones, by visiting or dwelling in a holy place a person gets an opportunity to associate with great devotees and to render service to them. By such service a person is blessed with faith [in devotees and their practices].This results in an interest in hearing narrations about Bhagavān that brings about a taste for such narrations.” (1.2.16)

भुवि पुरुपुण्यतीर्थसदनान्यृषयो विमदाः (भा. १०.८७.३५) इत्याद्यनुसारेण प्रायस्तत्र महत्सङ्गो भवति इति तदीयटीकानुमत्या च पुण्यतीर्थनिषेवणाद्धेतोर्लब्धा यदृच्छया या महत्सेवा तया वासुदेवकथारुचिः स्यात् ।

In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is said, “Humble sages live in the holy places,” (10.87.35), and Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: “Generally, the association of sages is obtained there.” In accordance with these statements, if one dwells in or visits the holy places, then by the grace of Bhagavān one may attain the service of a devotee, from which a taste for hearing Kṛṣṇa-kathā develops.

कार्यान्तरेणापि तीर्थे भ्रमतो महतां प्रायस्तत्र भ्रमतां तिष्ठतां वा दर्शनस्पर्शनसम्भाषणादिलक्षणा सेवा स्वत एव सम्पद्यते । तत्प्रभावेण च तदीयाचरणे श्रद्धा भवति । "तदीयस्वाभाविकपरस्परभगवत्कथायां किमेते सङ्कथयन्ति ? तत् शृणोमि ? इति तदिच्छा जायते । तच्छ्रवणेन च तस्यां रुचिर्जायत इति । तथा च महद्भ्य एव श्रुता झटिति कार्यकरीति भावः ।

Even if one should wander into a holy place for some other purpose, one automatically gets the opportunity to see, come in contact with, or talk to devotees, who may be walking or sitting there, and these activities constitute a type of service. By the influence of such service, one develops faith in their conduct. Devotees naturally talk among themselves about Bhagavān, and a person who comes in contact with them develops a desire to hear, thinking, “What are they discussing? Let me hear.” From hearing their talks, he develops a liking for them. But the full effect is immediate only when one hears from great devotees. This is the sense of the above verse.

तथा च श्रीकपिलदेववाक्यम्—सतां प्रसङ्गान् मम वीर्यसंविदो भवन्ति हृत्कर्णरसायनाः कथाः (भा. ३.२५.२५) इत्यादि ।
Śrī Kapiladeva makes a similar statement: "By association with devotees, one gets an opportunity to hear discussions of My pastimes, which illustrate My prowess and act as a tonic for the ears and the heart. By listening to these pastimes, faith, attachment and devotion to Bhagavān Hari quickly manifest one after another." (3.25.25)

Satyanarayana Dasaji's Commentary

Bhakti is the internal potency of Bhagavān. It belongs to Him alone. He gives it to His devotees who can further pass it on to another living being by their causeless grace. Without the grace of a devotee or Bhagavān, no one can have bhakti. Bhagavān is not manifest to common people except when He descends into the material world as an avatāra. At the time when there is no manifest avatāra on earth, therefore, the only way human beings can get bhakti is by the grace of a devotee. The devotee's grace has no specific cause because they are not in need of anything material. Their grace usually comes through the medium of hearing their words and doing some personal service to them. The grace first descends in the form of faith, śraddhā, in devotees themselves. One gets a feeling that a devotee or devotees are good people and one likes to associate with them, listen to what they say and to do some service to them.

In the beginning one just likes to be with them, observe their behavior and listen to them speak. One thereby comes to have an appreciation for them. This is the beginning point of bhakti. To facilitate the possibility of meeting such holy people, the founders of Vedic culture prescribed visiting holy places like Vrindavan, Jagannath Puri, Haridwar, Kurukshetra, Kashi, Ayodhya, Ujjain, and so on. Usually there are devotees residing in temples and ashrams in these holy places. By visiting them, an ordinary person gets the opportunity to see devotees and hear them speak. In India it is customary to go and visit a saintly person for darśana. Sometimes saintly persons themselves travel and give people the opportunity to meet them. There are also various festivals such as the Kumbha Mela where saintly people congregate and give discourses. The Kumbha Mela was and still is like a spiritual supermarket. The real purpose behind such festivals was to give the common person a chance to meet a variety of saintly persons following different sādhanās all in one place. Traveling in the past was not easy – for most it meant walking – and could be quite dangerous because of the many ferocious animals in Indian forests, as well as robbers who were just as dangerous.

Even up to fifty years ago very few people were able to make pilgrimages to the holy places mentioned above. Sometimes relatives would cry when a member of the family decided to visit a place of pilgrimage because no one could be sure if he would return alive or not. Indeed many people went to holy places specifically to leave their body. Then, when someone returned from pilgrimage, the village people would flock to hear about his adventures and about the holy places and the sadhus residing there. Once a person has got the initial quantum of faith by the grace of a devotee, then this faith impels him or her to seek further association of a devotee. When one meets and further associates with a devotee, one’s faith become more firm and one develops a desire to do some service, śuśrūṣā.

The common meaning of the word śuśrūṣā is service, but literally it means the desire to hear. The word has come to mean service because hearing is the beginning of service and the cause of further service. By hearing and serving regularly one develops a relish for the narrations about Bhagavān. One’s doubts are dispelled and one puts one’s faith in the scripture. This is called śāstrīya śraddhā, scriptural faith. One who has acquired this has a firm footing on the path of bhakti. There is also another type of śraddhā that comes because of one’s birth in a particular family or community. It is not rooted in scripture but on the opinions of people and may even be contrary to the scriptural injunctions. This is called prākṛta- or laukika-śraddhā, material or social faith. It is faith that has not sustained scrutiny. This is the faith referred to by Arjuna in his question to Kṛṣṇa: O Kṛṣṇa, what is the status of those who, endowed with faith, perform worship but set aside the injunctions of the scriptures? Are they situated in sattva, rajas or tamas? (Gita 17.1)

Kṛṣṇa answers by saying that everybody has some faith based upon his or her personal psychology. It is not just spiritualists or religious people who have faith, but scientists and even atheists have some kind of faith. For example, no atheist has conclusively proven that God does not exist. It is his faith based on some scientific theories, or personal logic, or both. This faith of an atheist, being a negative, is not conclusively verifiable, but one can have experience of Bhagavān by following śāstra. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī comments that if one hears from the mouth of a great devotee, a mahā-bhāgavata, then its effect can be seen immediately. It can moreover be added that hearing directly is more effective than listening to a recorded talk. The word tīrtha in the verse is also used in the sense of a spiritual teacher or guru, as stated in Amara-koṣa, “The word tīrtha can mean water near a well, scripture, holy water related to sage and a spiritual teacher” (nipānāgamayos tīrtham ṛṣi-juṣṭe jale gurau, 3.3.86). This results in the meaning that by listening to an authentic guru one gets faith, which leads to further hearing and serving him or her. This then results in a taste for hearing the narrations of Bhagavān.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

More on Bhakti Sandarbha, Anuccheda 1

So in the previous post I left things open a bit in order to follow up on the context, to see whether the asti nāsti was specifically refering to any particular debate. The chapter does begin with an inquiry into differences of opinion about the number of tattvas according to different analyses of the Sankhya categories. Krishna said they are all okay depending on the particular point of view. After explaining what the different enumerations of the tattvas intend and how these differing views can be reconciled, he stops at verse 11.22.25. Uddhava then asks further about the Sankhya philosophy, in particular about its dualism of Consciousness and Matter, prakṛti and puruṣa.
prakṛtiḥ puruṣaś cobhau yady apy ātma-vilakṣaṇau |
anyonyāpāśrayāt kṛṣṇa dṛśyate na bhidā tayoḥ |
prakṛtau lakṣyate hy ātmā prakṛtiś ca tathātmani ||

Consciousness and Matter, though differing in essence, appear to not be different because of their interdependence. Thus the ātmā is observed in Nature and Nature is similarly observed in the ātmā.

The immediate problem here is the two different uses of ātmā in the verse. The immediate way that I read the words ātma-vilakṣaṇau are “different from the ātmā” which cannot be, since puruṣa and ātmā are synonymous. So the commentaries of S and VC use svarūpeṇa (“in essence”) to explain it. Now the question is: In verse 34, does ātmā mean essence? Or Self? Or both?

Krishna’s answer to this question in verses 29-34. [Note that numbering differs since some editions count the half verse 32 separately or as included in 31. So BBT has 34, Gita Press 33.] The passage, with the exception of the last verse, is about the distinction of spirit from matter and the transformation of matter through the working of the three gunas. Verse 32 (we are going to follow Gita Press numbering) talks about the threefold division of ahankara. So verse 33 is introduced by Shridhara, “So how do we get rid of [ahankara]?”

So the verse is not really about the first part; the asti nāsti are not about anything in particular, but are just away of changing the subject altogether. It is saying that due to ignorance of the Self [here I think it is justifiable to say “Supreme Self”] one becomes involved in arguments about whether something is or is not; it does not really matter. The highest truth is non-dual, and it is the second part of the verse that Jiva wants to draw attention to.

This indeed what Jiva Goswami says in his Krama Sandarbha. He cites the verse we looked at the other day (11.2.37), a parallelism that is also found Bhakti Sandarbha, even though in this case the text is not cited word for word. So how do we get rid of ahankara? Jiva says, “In keeping with the verse 11.2.37 one does so by turning inward towards me (mad-antar-mukhatā, which puts an end to one’s external orientation away from me (mad-bahir-mukhatā).”

In other words, when a person’s attention is diverted from me, who am everyone’s true shelter (sva-loka), then their true identity does not manifest (ātmāparijñānaṁ sva-svarūpāsphūrtiḥ) and this is what leads to differences of opinion and argument. In other words, as long as one is turned away from Krishna, there is disagreement and debate, and real knowledge is never attained. It is thus a waste of time. On the other hand, when one is turned inward, towards Krishna, then knowledge arises as a secondary result; the main result attained is Krishna himself, who is the supreme goal of human life. That is the message of this verse according to Krama Sandarbha.

The Bhakti Sandarbha comes to the same point where it states what is found in Krama Sandarbha, which is to summarize the abhidheya. As already stated in the above-linked note, Jiva says that upon the delineation of the Supreme Truth, the sambandha, as given in the first four Sandarbhas, the course of action to be taken and the ultimate goal of such action, should be understood automatically, but that is usually not the case. He uses the example of Prahlada, who in exemplary humility says to Nrisingha:

naitan manas tava kathāsu vikuṇṭha-nātha
samprīyate durita-duṣṭam asādhu tīvram
kāmāturaṁ harṣa-śoka-bhayaiṣaṇārtaṁ
tasmin kathaṁ tava gatiṁ vimṛśāmi dīnaḥ
O Lord of Vaikuntha! This mind of mine does not take pleasure in hearing Your pastimes because it is polluted by sinful desires, utterly impious, agitated by lust, and afflicted by ardent desire, lamentation, fear and worldly hankerings. With a mind such as this, how can a pitiable person like me ever come to know Your truth? (7.9.39)

In other words, the mind is so contaminated that it cannot directly perceive what is to be done and not to be done and so the scriptures are there for the benefit of mankind to help choose a course of action for realizing that truth. That is called the abhidheya, which can be summarized as “Placing oneself before God, because this is the way to oppose the movement away from Him.” (tatrābhidheyaṁ tad-vaimukhya-virodhitvāt tat-sāmmukhyam eva). That is characterized by His worship, whereby which proper knowledge appears.

The prayojana, Jiva elaborates, is direct experience of God, which is characterized by seeing Him in all things internally and externally. Through such direct experience, all suffering comes to an end forever.

So the two verses (11.22.33 and 11.2.37) are shown to be saying basically the same thing: The non-dual Reality is realized through turning inward towards the Supreme Self. Confusion about Reality, which produces fear, comes from turning away from Him.