Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What is Sex For?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus the selection of a partner is of utmost importance.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

New Introduction Jiva Tirtha Sanskrit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jai Sri Radhe.
Jagadananda Das


Saturday, March 11, 2017

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

Gadadhar Pran's Gadadhar Pran.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Birthday thoughts

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

All glories, all glories to the Holy Name!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Swami Veda Bharati! My yoga guru.

To all the Vrajavasis!

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Postscript to Bhaktivinoda Janma Sthan threats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bhaktivinoda Thakur Janma Sthan under threat from Land Mafia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Is this an obsession with sex?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

उत्तिष्ठत जाग्रत प्राप्यवरान् निबोधत

uttiṣṭhata jāgrata prāpya-varān nibodhata

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

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

तस्माद् योगी भवार्जुन
tasmād yogī bhavārjuna

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

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

Yoga means, male or female, preserve the bindu.

मरणं बिन्दुपातेन जीवनं बिन्दुधारणात्।
तस्मादतिप्रयत्नेन कुरुत बिन्दुधारणम्॥

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

Śiva-saṁhitā

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Ekadasi Jagaran at Tatia Sthan (Maghi Krishna Ekadasi)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



A short history of the Tatia Sthan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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