Saturday, December 02, 2017

Can you just concoct stories about God and the Dham and present them as fact?

It has been a couple of months since I posted on the blog. I was not inactive. In Karttik I was making a big effort to enhance the Vrindavan Today website, concentrating on writing articles related to understanding the Dham as a "final step" in rāgānugā sādhana. I was conducting a daily meditation on the Vrindavan Mahimamrita (VMA) of Prabodhananda Saraswati. This work is no doubt the result of living in Vrindavan and experiencing its spiritual power. In particular, after returning from Bengal, the first time I had been away from Braj in two years, I could feel the effects of the Dham very intensely.

I think that perhaps I will cross post the VMA articles series, either here or on an independent site, but we will see. At any rate, for the time being, people can read those articles on the VT website.

A reader of this site recently wrote to me and asked the following:
Namaskar. Throughout your writings you teach reality over hagiography. Recently, you have written that (materially motivated) historical concoctions are an important part of remembrance in temple pilgrimage. History and concoction cannot go together as their very existence is opposed to the other.

I am writing this as factors of concern I had and have about temples. After they have enjoyed the fruits of publishing their historical concoctions - extracting historical facts becomes harder or nil.

In other words, publishing a concoction as truth is directly opposed to the promotion and perpetuation of truth. I am not questioning your choice rather clarifying considerations which would explain why I was upset about your apparent change of thinking in this matter.

I am not sure specifically what article he was refering to, perhaps in connection with the Dham where one is presented with "facts" that are not at all historically verifiable. This is obviously a problem that does not easily go away in a world where skepticism is the dominant virtue. I answered him personally and he suggested my publishing the reply. So here it is:

Before I begin, I have of late been following a psychologist and philosopher named Jordan Peterson. I think that you might be interested in hearing his talks on this and related subjects. If you have been following my blog, you will know of my interest in Jung and myth, etc. Peterson follows directly in this school, but he is a clinical empiricist and, like Jung, is a believer who is trying to understand God's work, though as a scientist he is loathe to say it. Anyway, I am impressed by him as a deep thinker and social commentator. His scope is very broad.

Though I am nowhere near as erudite as he, nevertheless I feel confirmed in a lot of what I have been saying by his insights. I find this very encouraging and hope that the doors to understanding religious belief and God that he is opening up will be followed by those to whom such things are important.

What is reality? What is the relation between the experience of the individual consciousness and the actual world externally, as it is?

Now most people in this world think that the hard stuff we are surrounded by is reality. Let me assure you, it is here today and gone tomorrow. What is real is the soul, which never changes, and is simply observing the passing scene.

There is, of course, a place for empirical reality. It is really very much like a video game called life in this world. Each one of us programmed for a particular adventure to live out and then go on to other levels, and so on.

Indian religion is almost solipsistic in its creed. It says: We have faith that if we surrender to God, our existential reality will take care of itself. God will provide for my achieving that purpose. Indeed, He always has.

Such faith must also be accompanied by renunciation, because you cannot surrender to God with material benefit in mind. How much discomfort you are willing to tolerate will determine how much you compromise with giving yourself completely to God. Everyone is to be tested in this manner, and that is for sure.

But if you have such faith you set about turning inward and dwelling in the Self. When you have come to this point, the External Reality has served its purpose. At this point, whatever External or Empirical Reality offers for experience is only confirmation, immediately or belatedly, of the benevolence of the Self.

Now, to answer your question. The acharyas are busy building a house that people who wish to attain the Inner Reality can live in. The trick is that the house has to be built in the External Reality. That is the reason that there are so many paths to God. Like the light hitting a prism, the One becomes Many.

So now let us say that I am a Seer of the Truth who knows that the instant the One Non-dual Truth hits Matter, it becomes compromised. What have I seen ? And how will I go about building my house for people to move toward that goal from wherever they are, and in the meantime live together in the best possible way, in a way whereby they will be as happy as it is possible to be in this world of misery and death, where no pleasure is not accompanied by loss and imperfection?

Now, no amount of empirical knowledge of the world can do anything more than hint at what the knowledge of the transcendental self is as an experience. The masters know that there are media by which Truth can be communicated, and of those the principal ones are Myth and Symbol.

Different myths and symbols arise for a reason. They compete because they all announce to the world a higher reality and they differ in what that highest glory of God is. But for us, for Bhaktivinoda Thakur, the real world is that of Chaitanya Krishna, and whatever serves the purpose of being aware of that world is, as far as possible, to be adequately presented so that those who live by empirical reality will not be too offended, but they know there will be limits to what can be done for such people. Mimamsakas.

Some myths are more important than others. Empirical reality serves a purpose until we reach the point of surrendering and embarking on the path of sadhana. At that point it has served its purpose and recedes.

mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te.

Jai Radhe.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Vrindavan gives the power to remember Radha's name

Facebook regurgitated a memory, a status I had posted three years ago.

kvāsau rādhā nigama-padavī-dūragā kutra cāsau
kṛṣṇas tasyāḥ kuca-mukulayor antaraikānta-vāsaḥ |
kvāhaṁ tucchaḥ paramam adhamaḥ prāṇy aho garha-karmā
yat tan-nāma sphurati mahimā hy eṣa vṛndāvanasya ||261||
How glorious is Radha, so far beyond the Vedic scriptures! And how wonderful Krishna, whose single abode is in the space between her breasts! And how low am I, such a fallen creature addicted to sinful life! If her name should manifest on my lips, it is only due to the glory of this land of Vrindavan. (RRSN 261)
My friends, this is the truth! The power of the Dham is to make you remember Radha.

Even if you wonder, "Why can't I remember Radha! Why isn't Bihariji merciful to me? Isn't the Dham supposed to make bhajan easier?" You are still doing bhajan by even asking the question.

Slowly but surely you will see your bhajan bear fruit in the Dham. It will begin when your tongue chants the name of Radha day and night. And you feel the heat of the Vrindavan air as a kind of
enveloping embrace of the Hladini Shakti.

It is not easy to escape the world.
And, of course, the world is real.
And here it is especially real,
because it is SO close to that Reality.

That one Reality we have learned to crave
by the mercy of the Holy Name.
That world of perfect love,
where the desire crazed love-struck adolescents of Vrindavan
remain in that perfect moment of love eternally.

Where the tedious things of this world
Time and Duty
do not interfere with the flow of love
for even a millisecond, except to create enough waves
to make it an eternally expanding fractal game of ecstasy.

rādhā-kṛṣṇa-rahasya-dāsya-rasa eveṣṭaḥ pumartho mama
tyaktvā sarvam ahaṁ kadāpi niyataṁ vatsyāmi vṛndāvane |
itthaṁ syād api vāci yasya paramāsaktasya gehādike
nāsaktāv api saktatā-parihṛtau taṁ pāti vṛndāṭavī ||1.94||
"The ultimate goal I desire in my life is to attain the nectar of confidential devotional service to Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. When will I ever give up everything and go to live in Vrindavan forever?" If such words should even appear on the lips of one addicted to the affairs of household life, Vrindavan will take care of such a person by giving detachment. (VMA 1.94)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Reality TV and Rearranging Reality

I have to admit that Trump is a real phenomenon. His presidency is reality TV. Really.

He really could blow up the whole world!!! Will he? What is he doing? God help us all... The sickening drama... this is happening to us!! This is not TV, this is reality!

Are we to believe he does not know exactly what he is doing? That he is not an experienced reality star for years.

He creates his character: Is he mad? Is he a fool? Is he a Nazi? What exact _kind_ of mental illness is he suffering from? Oh my God! Has a madman taken over the nuclear codes?!!??!!

It is really the most astonishing thing I have ever seen.

He takes away all pretense of the kind of thing that diplomatic powerful world leaders are supposed to do and say and does the opposite. And it is riveting. It is truly the Truman show come to life in a most challenging way.

The question is very much: What is reality? What are we to believe? The fake news? Everything is fake, everyone is fake. This is the world we have deconstructed ourselves to. Forget intersubjectivity, we are going to pursue our own selves and not lose ourselves to any values other than our pure self interest.

And that confusion is the reality that is being created. That reality has sprung forth, incarnated as Donald Trump, reality TV star in charge of our common reality. Our common illusion. The fear that films like the Matrix instill, that nothing is real and that our fantasies are just as real or not real as anything else.

And yet Trump seems dogged and impermeable. He needs to press forward with his agenda, which really creating a kind of urban jungle of free enterprise and ultra rich, and very dispensible masses. He seems to be stirring rebellion because it is good television, good for ratings... he follows classic Nazi storylines, or archetypes in a new setting, the best kind of story telling.

And slowly but surely he is changing the world. You think he isn't? I am in Vrindavan and I just see enough to know that he is changing the world.

And I am pretty sure that is not a very good world that he is making.

Those without eyes will see

In response to this VT story, Alex said,

Makes me wonder if she read the same BG where Krishna instructs Arjuna to not be a coward and fight: "She said that the Gita impressed upon her that, “The path to the truth is non-violent and no one should insult anyone else.”

My thought:

Well, if you think about it a couple of steps of logic down, you could make a case. That is not a problem.

On the other hand, you could ask whether it is appropriate to deduce that the Gita was about getting along and letting each other live. To which I say a good message found in a nasty place is still a good message.

She could have said, "Right, Krishna is like fighting a stupid religious war. So Hindus and Muslims should kill each other like our good lords intended, right?"

That would also have been a rational message, perhaps a little more prosaic. A little more external an understanding of the Bhagavad Gita.

My faith is that the Gita is a spiritual book, set in a particular cultural environment, but its wisdom is on the side of eternal "good" things, like peace and love and harmony and unity. The paradoxes it presents are deliberate and necessary, because no description of reality that did not contain paradox would be complete.

That is the premise. Now further arguments ensue, but the crux of the matter is that without a dominant body of individuals cultivating peace, genuine inner peace, genuine spiritual peace, there can be no enforcing of it among the rajasic and tamasic folk.

The Gita and indeed all shastras are "desire trees" in their capacity for multiple interpretations, which means multiple frames of reference based in multiple subjectivities or adhikaras.

Of what use is a shastra if it has multiple standpoints and is unclear? you may ask.

I would say, it is intentionally unclear or contradictory. Through these flash points of sensitivity it stimulates a unique collective world view, with a frame based on a certain collection of arguments about reality, what it is, what is its purpose, and what might be done about it, i.e., what kind of reality do we want to construct?

Is that good? Of course, because the frame in the Gita is centered on discussions about the truth of the self and the ways of knowing and discovering it. These are the what create the parameters of the arguments it stimulates.

The worst kind of person is the one who wants to enforce a uniform instruction on a text like the Gita. That is because the basic instruction of the Gita is to surrender to God. Period. And the most important God is the one instructing you -- the individual -- from within, not from without.

The rest of the Gita is just explaining to you the rationale for surrendering, as well as how to go about it and so on. A manual for practical spiritual intelligence, if you will.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

What does it mean to be a Brajbasi? Part II : Revealing Braja’s true form through faith and service

Prabodhananda Saraswati is the ācārya for Braja-vāsa-sādhana, i.e., the devotional practice of living in the Dham. Sometimes people find it difficult to understand his niṣṭhā and his vision of the Dham, which sometimes seems at odds with logic. Indeed, the "city of love" (Prema-pattanam) is full of contradictions. For those who believe that Vrindavan is everywhere and there is no need to think that a particular geographical location has any special characteristic, Prabodhananda says:

वृन्दारण्ये वरं स्यां कृमिरपि परतो नो चिदानन्ददेहो
रङ्कोऽपि स्यामतुल्यः परमिह न परत्राद्भुतानन्तभूतिः ।
शून्योऽपि स्यामिह श्रीहरिभजन-लवेनातितुच्छार्थमात्रे
लुब्धो नान्यत्र गोपीजनरमण-पदाम्भोज-दीक्षासुखेऽपि ॥२.१॥

vṛndāraṇye varaṁ syāṁ kṛmir api parato no cid-ānanda-deho
raṅko'pi syām atulyaḥ param iha na paratrādbhutānanta-bhūtiḥ |
śūnyo'pi syām iha śrī-hari-bhajana-lavenātitucchārtha-mātre
lubdho nānyatra gopī-jana-ramaṇa-padāmbhoja-dīkṣā-sukhe'pi ||2.1||

I would rather reside even as a worm in Vrindavan,
than somewhere else in a blissful spiritual body.
I would rather live here, even as a poverty-stricken beggar,
than as one possessing wonderful, unlimited wealth elsewhere.
I would rather reside here in Vrindavan,
even without doing any bhajan to Lord Hari whatsoever,
absorbed in greed for the most trivial things,
than elsewhere, even if I could there know the joy
of being initiated in the service of the lotus feet of Lord Krishna,
the lover of the gopis.


Vrindavan is the soul of this universe. The ultimate truth of Radha and Krishna's divine love is the all-pervading, underlying fact of existence, which has become manifest here in the incarnation of their Dham.

Even after Radha and Krishna become invisible to the world, their Dham remains. Although it is the nature of Maya to attempt to cover the Dham, and Kali does everything in his power to do so, nothing can ever fully cover the svarūpa-śakti's presence here. Those who say that the presence of material imperfection in the Dham is an indication that it is not special or necessary are wrong.

The svarūpa-śakti exercises its influence on all who stay here. But it becomes most clearly manifest when those who reside here cultivate the understand of the Truth of the Divine Couple and devotion to them. Whether they are here from birth or come from afar due to the attractions of the Dham -- because of the potential that Prabodhananda Saraswati is revealing in his Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta -- if they deepen their understanding of the revelation given to Vrindavan's "avatar generation" – from whichever tradition or sampradāya -- then they make the Dham reveal its true form.

It is much like the story told by Rupa Goswami where Krishna was able to hide his true identity by assuming the form of Narayan. He could fool some of the gopis even though their attraction to him was diminished by his disguise, but when Radha came by, he could not maintain it. He was obliged by her devotion to reassume his three-fold crooked form, playing the flute and smiling sweetly in the mood of the ujjvala-rasa.

gopīnāṁ paśupendra-nandana-juṣo bhāvasya kas tāṁ krtī
vijñātuṁ kṣamate durūha-padavī-sañcāriṇaḥ prakriyām
āviṣkurvati vaiṣṇavīm api tanuṁ tasmin bhujair jiṣṇubhir
yāsāṁ hanta caturbhir adbhuta-ruciṁ rāgodayaḥ kuñcati

What capable person could possibly fully understand the manifestations of the gopis' mood of love for the son of Nanda Maharaj, which rises to the highest extremes of incomprehensibility? When they saw Krishna disguised in his Vishnu form in all its splendor with four arms, their attraction diminished even though they knew it was God Himself. (Lalita-mādhava 6.15, CC 1.17.281)

So it is for Prabodhananda Saraswati or Raghunath Das or any other sādhaka who has attained the level of recognition of Vrindavan's true glories. No other place, not Mathura, not Dwarka, not Haridwar or Bhadrinath, despite their purity and holiness, can ever attract the single-minded aspirant for the service of the Divine Couple.

But Radha's love is so strong, her dedication so powerful, that Krishna cannot hold onto his disguise.
rāsārambha-vidhau nilīya vasatā kuñje mṛgākṣī-gaṇair
dṛṣṭaṁ gopayituṁ svam uddhura-dhiyā yā suṣṭhu sandarśitā |
rādhāyāḥ praṇayasya hanta mahimā yasya śriyā rakṣituṁ
sā śakyā prabhaviṣṇunāpi hariṇā nāsīc catur-bāhutā ||7||

At the beginning of the Rasa dance, when Krishna hid from the doe-eyed gopis in one of the kunjas, he cleverly disguised himself by taking on the Vishnu four-armed form so that even when they saw him they did not recognize him. But just look at the glory of Radharani's love, despite being all-powerful . (Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi 5.7, CC 1.17.293).

So, the work of those who reside in Vrindavan is to make the Dham manifest. They do so by perfecting their bhajan at whatever their level of understanding or the strength of their devotion. The innermost circle may be the least visible -- those who practice devotion in hiding. Others may preach or engage in welfare work or in cleaning, it does not matter as long as they work to make Radha and Krishna's abode into a living and breathing reality, inwardly and outwardly into God's own playground, to make it manifest to as many people as possible.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Glorifying Vrindavan: Where those thirsty for Braj rasa are going these days

From Vrindavan Today: Sometimes one gets the impression that there is a certain movement afoot. Suddenly, one figure bursts into prominence and influences the general mood of the community, sets the rhythm that others follow. When the flowers bloom and their fragrance is carried by the breezes in the spring, the bees and hummingbirds who feed on the nectar automatically swarm to the colorful garden where they are arrayed.

For the past few months people have been asking me with regularity, "Have you heard Premananda Baba's Vrindavana-mahimamrita lectures? Then I started looking on the internet and saw that his enthusiasts were making his lectures available every day, so I began listening.

And today, finally, I went to Shri Hit Dham on the Parikrama Marg, in the Varaha Ghat area a bit west of the Bhaktivedanta Goshala. Vishakha Dasi accompanied me and took some photos, which you can see here: Gallery.

Madan Ter and Shri Hit Dham

Shri Hit Dham is right next to Madan Ter. It appears that the two properties, both in the hands of the Radha Vallabha Goswamis, were divided up at some time. The area now known as Madan Ter, which is the original site where Hit Harivams Mahaprabhu first stayed in Vrindavan and where Radha Vallabh was first worshiped in Vrindavan.

According to his biographers, although he was born in Braj, Harivams spent the first 31 years of his life in Devavan (Deoband) in what is currently northeastern Uttar Pradesh. He then received a dream order from Radharani who told him to go and live in Vrindavan. While on his way there, Harivamsh stopped in a place called Charthawal near Muzzafarnagar, where he again received a dream command from Radharani to marry the two daughters of a brahmin in the village, who gave him the murti of Radha Vallabha as a part of his dowry.

Harivansh arrived in Vrindavan in 1535, taking shelter in the place known as Unchi Thaur ("high ground"), which is also known as Madan Ter. The date of Karttik Shukla Trayodasi is usually given for the celebration of Radha Vallabha's Patotsava, which marks when his worship was inaugurated. This festival is celebrated annually, primarily at Madan Ter.

Though Shri Hit Dham is the property of Radha Vallabha Goswamis, the place is occupied by a few sadhus and gardeners who take care of the bagicha. There is a small temple building and a shrine to Hit Harivamsh in generally pristine surroundings, but plans for new buildings are afoot. This inevitably happens when many people start to frequent a particular site.

The mood

And there were many people, perhaps 500, who came to listen to Premananda Maharaj. The small temple building only seats thirty or forty people at most indoors, so the greater number of people sit outside in the pleasant garden surroundings, under an old but flourishing jasmine vine. Others sit on chairs under a canopy. They are of all ages and of all sampradāyas, as many women as men.

One can see the tilak of Haridasis, Nimbarkis, Gaudiyas and Ramanandis amongst others. Premanandaji's kathā is for people who are coming to take shelter of Vrindavan, who are ready to follow Prabodhananda's strong instructions to take to exclusive bhajan of Radha and Madana Mohan in the nitya-vihāra. As a matter of fact, Prabodhananda Saraswati's bhajana sthali and samādhi are just a few hundred meters away in Purana Kalidaha, right next door to Madan Mohan.

[The names Madana-mohana or Madana-gopala appear 23 times in VMA, Radha-vallabha only twice. Radha-ramana or Radhika-ramana, seven times.]

Hit Premananda Govinda Sharanji Maharaj

Those sitting outside cannot see Premananda Baba, they can only hear his voice on the microphone. You can see what he looks like clearly on YouTube, though. His hair is dishevelled and his beard untrimmed. He wears tilak of Radha Kund mitti and smears it across his forehead along with chandan and saffron.

I heard that more than twenty years ago he was an Advaita sannyasi living in Benares. Then he came to Vrindavan and took shelter of a Baba in the Radha Vallabha line, which seems eminently appropriate for one who follows in the mood of Prabodhananda. He then took up a serious study of the Radha Vallabhi vāṇī texts, especially Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi and Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta, along with the Braja bhasha works by Sewakji and Dhruva Das. But in his lectures, he also refers frequently to Rāma-carita-mānasa and the vāṇī-granthas of the Haridasis and the Nimbarkis, as well as the lesser known poets of the Radha-vallabhi line.

This openness to all the saints of Vrindavan is clear from the beginning of the morning sat-saṅga, when everyone sings a prayer by Bhagavant Mudita (initiated as a Gaudiya) addressed to the original greats of Braja from all sampradāyas, including those above-mentioned, as well as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Rupa, Sanatana, Raghunath Das and Jiva Goswamis.

Baba has only been giving pāṭha this way for the last couple of years, and most of his disciples have come to him in that time. None of his disciples lives there at Shri Hit Dham, but in other refuges nearby. They are told to devote themselves to bhajan in their own way, but to come every day for morning satsang and for another satsang in the afternoon when there are readings from the vani texts.

The pāṭha

His voice is somewhat hoarse, but clear and forceful. Indeed he thunders relentlessly in the style of one who is fully renounced and dedicated to ekānta-bhajana. His presentation is scholarly. There is no compromise in his voice.

aparataḥ puruṣārtha-catuṣṭayaṁ
bhagavato bhajanaṁ ca bhaved bahu |
dhruvam idaṁ tu vinā vṛṣabhānujā-
vanam aho na mahojjvalaṁ bhaktayaḥ ||

You can attain the four goals of life elsewhere; you can even attain the worship of Bhagavan, but outside of Radha's forest of Vrindavan, there is no attaining this devotion in the brilliant mood of erotic love. (VMA 15.24)
Verses like this are the ones that allow him to express the unique nature of the bhakti of Vrindavan Dham and the need to recognize the good fortune that one has to be there, among the trees and vines, the flora and fauna of the Dham, listening to the glories of Piyari and Pritam Shyam-Shyamaju, Yugal Sarkar, surrounded by other, chatak-like devotees who thirst for the nectar of their topics to the exclusion of everything else.

Most of the time Baba speaks with his eyes closed, except when he opens a book to cite some relevant passage. Today the principal verse was the following:

vṛndāraṇye sva-kara-racitāścarya-sat-puṣpa-vāṭyāṁ
nānā-puṣpādbhuta-racita-san-maṇḍape sat-pathena |
svāstīrṇāmbhoruha-mṛdu-dalenābhisāryāśu rādhāṁ
krīḍan kṛṣṇo’vatu sa bhavato juṣṭa-vartmopahāram ||

May the playful Krishna who has with his own hand made a garden in Vrindavan full of an incredible array of flawless flowers, and therein built a pavilion with various other wonderful blossoms, and who has covered the path whereby Radha will soon come to meet him with the soft stalks of lotus flowers, protect the gift of your chosen devotional path. (VMA 15.2)

His trance-like descriptions come especially when the verse is, like this one, a meditation on the beauty of Vrindavan or the Divine Couple, or some lila. For the first half of today's class, for instance, he was absorbed in remembering Krishna's preparing the kunj for Radha's arrival, with all the uddīpanas of ujjvala-rasa, and especially emphasizing the nature of prema as taking joy in the happiness of the Beloved, tat-sukhe sukhī bhāva.

The second half of the class was taken up with a response to a question about the gradual process of advancement in bhakti. He quoted verses from Bhakti-rasāyana by Madhusudana Saraswati giving an eleven-step sequence, explaining it in terms of madhura-bhakti in the Radha-vallabhi mood:

prathamaṁ mahatāṁ sevā tad-dayā-pātratā tataḥ |
śraddhātha teṣāṁ dharmeṣu tato hari-guṇa-śrutiḥ ||34||
tato raty-aṅkurotpattiḥ svarūpādhigatis tataḥ |
prema-vṛddhiḥ parānande tasyātha sphuraṇaṁ tataḥ ||35||
bhagavad-dharma-niṣṭhā’taḥ svasmiṁs tad-guṇa-śālitā |
premṇo’tha paramā kāṣṭhety uditā bhakti-bhūmikā ||36||

(1) Service to great souls; (2) becoming the recipient of their grace; (3) faith in the path they teach; (4) listening to the descriptions of Krishna's qualities; (5) the first sprouting of love (rati); (6) attaining knowledge of one's own spiritual identity; (7) the increase of love, (8) its manifestation in supreme joy; (9) firm commitment to the Bhagavat Dharma; (10) the attainment of Krishna's qualities in oneself; (11) the attainment of the highest state of love.

These are explained in Bhakti-rasāyana with reference to the Bhāgavatam.

It is nice to see that there is a hunger for this kind of uncompromising message of bhakti to Vrindavan. It is good that Radha Vallabh Jiu has sent someone to remind us all of Vrindavan's glories on a regular basis. Jai Sri Vrindavan Dham!!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Rasa in the sadhaka deha and the siddha deha.

Dr. Jayalakshmi Alankar shared this video, wherein the good doctor Lustig explains scientifically the difference between pleasure and happiness, dopamine and serotonin..

Her summary: "Pleasure is SATISFACTION derived from things and persons OUTSIDE US.
Happiness is SATISFACTION derived from the CORE OF DEEPEST BEING INSIDE US." - so simple to understand :)

I think prema-sukha is happiness AND pleasure.
It is pleasure experienced as waves in the ocean of happiness.

This thought was provoked by the sheer impossibility
of tasting ALL of the rasa that is present in so many writings
of so many rasika mahatmas
of so many sampradayas,
and knowing that I have to stick to ONE to get it.
That I have to concentrate on ONE toenail or whatever,
one sentence of one book.
That is when the rasa hits. Not otherwise.

The key to the door goes through one keyhole.

And yet, the thirst
-- the thirst of one with cholera --
to drink it all,
even in the frustration of knowing it is impossible,
even while knowing that merely drinking one drop
would give it all,
is a wave in the glorious ocean of sadhana rasa.

It combines kama with prema,
or it is kama-maya prema,
or it is prema, which is confused as kama.
It is the overall picture, the story of your life,
the great adventure of finding God,
of having found That in Him and Her,
and becoming closer and closer to Them
in their penetrating, continuous, ever strobe-lighting variety,
that leaves you bobbing up and down
in a calm ocean of pure ecstasy.

ami kinibo luṭibo, harināma rasa...
rase māṭiẏā, ha-ibo bibaśa
rasera rasika caraṇa paraśa
koriẏā majibo rase anibāra
kobe hobe bolo se din āmāra.

I will buy it in the market of the Holy Name
I will steal it, but I will have the rasa of the Name.
I will become intoxicated and not know which way to turn.
I will take the dust of the rasika's feet
and submerge into the limitless ocean of rasa.
When, O when, will that day be mine?
They are two sides of one coin.
The yearning and the having.
And even when having, one yearns,
or yearns to yearn.

Happiness, in Lustig's thought, is sattva guna.
He is right. But we are interested in the nirguna,
which has three _divine_ gunas,
without which there could be no lila.

They are still confusing the terms. What I am talking about is Lustig's idea of happiness and pleasure as mutually incompatible psycho-physical states, one leading to misery (pleasure) and the other to happiness, which is a calm and constant steadiness of well-being.

These are easily recognizable extremes presented since time immemorial in the Upanishads and so on. It is recognized by Vaishnavas as a duality, that of either liberation or sense-enjoyment at two extremes of a particular spectrum..In that scheme,They are still confusing the terms. What I am talking about is Lustig's idea of happiness and pleasure as mutually incompatible psycho-physical states, one leading to misery (pleasure) and the other to happiness, which is a calm and constant steadiness of well-being.
These are easily recognizable extremes presented since time immemorial in the Upanishads and so on. It is recognized by Vaishnavas as a duality,that of either liberation or sense-enjoyment. Sattva-guna is a necessary prerequisite for liberation, i.e. it s on the side of the continuum that leads to liberation, the others being in the opposite direction..

Now Prema is the Vaishnava state that is beyond liberation.
It is the synthesis of bhoga and tyaga,
combining the best of both.

Why? Because in both the sadhana stage and the siddha stage
one is engaged in lila!
Lila in the sadhaka stage is your own sadhana story.
Of course, you are doing some sadhana,
but you are watching your progress, that is your story.

But you are also playing a role in a play,
the name of which is "finding God."
In other words, you are creating a particular identity,
and that idenity is called sadhaka.
And this story, if well written by you, is full of rasa.
This story is the story of a writer of one story,
the story of the sadhaka. That's you.

It is the rasa that perhaps culminates in such a revery:

শ্রী-রূপ পশ্চাতে আমি রহিব ভীত হঞা ।
দোঁহে পুনঃ কহিবেন আমা পানে চাঞা ॥১॥
সদয় হৃদয়ে দোঁহে কহিবেন হাসি ।
কোথায় পাইলে রূপ এই নব দাসী ॥২॥
শ্রী-রূপ মঞ্জরী তবে দোঁহা বাক্য শুনি ।
মঞ্জুলালী দিল মোরে এই দাসী আনি ॥৩॥
অতি নম্র চিত্ত আমি ইহারে জানিল ।
সেবা কার্য দিয়া তবে হেথায় রাখিল ॥৪॥
হেন তত্ত্ব দোঁহাকার সাক্ষাতে কহিয়া ।
নরোত্তমে সেবায় দিবে নিয়ুক্ত করিয়া ॥৫॥

śrī-rūpa paścāte āmi rahiba bhīta hañā |
doɱhe punaḥ kahibena āmā pāne cāñā ||1||
sadaẏa hṛdaẏe doɱhe kahibena hāsi |
kothāẏa pāile rūpa ei naba dāsī ||2||
śrī-rūpa mañjarī tabe doɱhā bākya śuni |
mañjulālī dila more ei dāsī āni ||3||
ati namra citta āmi ihāre jānila |
sebā kārya diẏā tabe hethāẏa rākhila ||4||
hena tattba doɱhākāra sākṣāte kahiẏā |
narottame sebāẏa dibe niẏukta kariẏā ||5||

I will stand behind Sri Rupa, trembling shyly,
the Two will look at my face and ask,
ask with merciful hearts and laughing,
"Where did you find this new servant-girl, Rupa?"
Sri Rupa hears their words and says,
"Manjulali brought this servant to me.
I saw that she was of extreme humility,
so I gave her some service to perform
and I am keeping her.

And saying this directly to the Two
she will engage this Narottam in their service.

[The vyashti guru, Sri Gururupa Manjari,
in progressive fashion, through guru-parampara,
hands you over to the samashti guru, Sri Manjari.
This is a different guru parampara:
it is your personal experience of guru tattva in your life.]

But the sadhana of a rasika bhakta is to meditate on the nitya-vihara. That is supposedly where the sadhaka lila ends, but it doesn't.

It doesn't because a seva-dasi is always a sadhika,
serving the pleasure of Yugala Kishore.
writing their play and watching them perform.

In the beginning, this new duality seemingly pits one lila against another,
that of interior and exterior, and this is what makes both of them rasa-maya.

As a matter of fact, without the rasa in the sadhaka deha,
i.e., in the sadhaka lila,
i.e., by learning to see that IT IS GOD's lila,
it's his lila with you and you alone,
that when objectified, separated from yourself,
and then IDENTIFIED with,
just as if watching yourself in a film or a play,
the condensed, essential version of a long story,
of perhaps a multilifetime story with multiple rejected versions,
with the dramatic bits played up or down
to tell one grand story that you could tell your grandchildren
and that rasa, or variable gratification,
that comes with each telling
then propels you into stronger meditation on the eternal nitya-vihara,
Oh Vaishnava sadhaka!
which dazzles with its beauty
which drowns you with its intensity
which embraces you in the ever union of the Divine Couple.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

What does it mean to be a Brajbasi? Part I : The eternal glory of residence in the Dham

Cross posted from Vrindavan Today.

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

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

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

Well better a beginner than none at all. But he is perfectly correct. It is not an easy thing, to be a Brajbasi.

The eternal glory of residence in the Dham

Taking shelter of Braja Dham is the ultimate achievement of the sādhaka devotee of Radha and Krishna. It is the culmination of many lifetimes of devotional practice and culture.

Living in Vrindavan is both the process (sādhanā) and the ultimate goal (sādhya). Of all the 64 sādhanas listed in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, five are identified as best of all:

śraddhā viśeṣataḥ prītiḥ śrī-mūrter aṅghri-sevane
śrīmad-bhāgavatārthānām āsvādo rasikaiḥ saha
sajātīyāśaye snigdhe sādhau saṅgaḥ svato vare
nāma-saṅkīrtanaṁ śrī-mathurā-maṇḍale sthitiḥ 
(1) Faith and special love for serving the Deity,
(2) relishing the topics of the Bhāgavatam in the company of rasikas,
(3) 1keeping the company of saintly persons who share the same devotional aspirations, who are affectionate and superior to oneself,
(4) chanting the Holy Name, and
(5) living in the region of Mathura, i.e., Braja-mandal.
(Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.90-92)
Only in the sādhanā of Braja-vāsa are all five sādhanās possible simultaneously.

On the one hand, it is the easiest of sādhanās, because all it requires is your physical presence in the Dham, allowing its inherent potency (vastu-śakti) to work its magic on you. In other words, you don't really need to do anything else but be there.

On the other hand, it is the hardest of all because it truly penetrates to the very core of what all bhakti-sādhanās are about. It is about cracking the hardest nut of all -- the ego, the knot that binds us to material existence. This is what I call the sādhanā of identity. Therefore, the true results of living in Braj is that one will take delight in devotional practices precisely because that is what one has become, that is what it means to be a Brajbasi.

This is why Rupa Goswami calls the instruction to reside in the Dham along with executing the other practices, "the essence of instruction."

smṛtyoḥ krameṇa rasanā-manasī niyojya |
tiṣṭhan vraje tad-anurāgi-janānugāmī
kālaṁ nayed akhilam ity upadeśa-sāram ||
Gradually engaging the tongue in sweetly chanting and the mind in constantly remembering Krishna’s name, form, pastimes and so on, one should remain in Braj and pass the remainder of one's days under the guidance of a passionate lover of the Lord. This is the essence of all instruction. (Upadeśāmṛta 8; See also VMA 1.30.)
Kālaṁ nayed akhilam, "to pass the remainder of one's days", i.e. to stay there forever, indicates that this is expected to be something that happens at the end of one's life, as an attempt to finalize the business of bhakti-sādhanā before it is too late.

So what is the nature and meaning of Braja-vāsa sādhanā? In essence, it is integral to the culture of rāgānugā bhakti itself, since rāgānugā bhakti truly does focus on the transformation of one's identity. Therefore it is no surprise that Rupa Goswami includes residence in Braj as one of the essential elements of rāgānugā practice:

kṛṣṇaṁ smaran janaṁ cāsya preṣṭhaṁ nija-samīhitam |
tat-tat-kathā-rataś cāsau kuryād vāsaṁ vraje sadā ||
sevā sādhaka-rūpeṇa siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi |
tad-bhāva-lipsunā kāryā vraja-lokānusārataḥ ||
One should live forever in Braj, remembering Krishna and the most beloved associates who surround him and remaining absorbed in hearing and chanting about them. Here in this very place, Braj, one should serve the Lord [and the Dham, which is not different from him] following the residents of Braj in both the external sādhaka-deha and well as internally in the siddha-deha, out of the desire to attain their loving mood. (BRS 1.2.295-296)
One has to follow both internal and external exemplars. That is why we often hear the words ānugatya-maya, it is based in obedience and conscious adherence. There is a very significant psychological truth involved here, because this dual culture of identity is one that is designed to converge, that is, one attains psychological harmony of the internal and external selves.

So Rupa Goswami confirms the upadeśa-sāra given by him in the Upadeśāmta, but he is making it a little more clear. Rāgānugā bhakti sādhanā is about identity above all. It is about becoming something which at present one is not. It is about replacing our material identities, our upādhis, with a new identity, namely that of a resident of the Supreme Lord's own abode.

Now Jiva Goswami states here, "If one cannot live in Vrindavan physically, he or she should do so mentally." (sāmarthye sati vraje śrīman-nanda-vrajāvāsa-sthāne śrī-vṛndāvanādau śarīreṇa vāsaṁ kuryāt, tad-abhāve manasāpīty arthaḥ).

This does not really mean that living physically in Braj is optional, but that one should not depend on living in Braj before beginning one's rāgānugā sādhanā. But if one is given the grace to come physically to Braj, then this is the best way to perfect his or her transformation of identity into a Brajabasi. This is because that sādhanā takes place on an external as well as an internal level, and direct service to the Brijbasi who is a rāgātmika bhakta in the worldly Vrindavan is the indispensable element.

The threefold nature of residence in the Dham and its goal of is further described by Raghunath Das Goswami:

anārādhya rādhā-padāmbhoja-reṇum
anāśritya vṛndāṭavīṁ tat-padāṅkām |
asambhāṣya tad-bhāva-gambhīra-cittān
kutaḥ śyāma-sindhau rasyasyāvagāhaḥ ||
Not having worshipped the holy dust
that sprinkles from Śrīmatī’s lotus feet;
not having taken shelter of Braja Dhām,

marked with her dainty tread;
not ever having spoken with the souls
so laden with a weighty love for her,
how foolish those who think that they can plunge
into the secret sea of nectar that is Śyāma!
(Raghunath Das Goswami, Sva-saṁkalpa-prakāśa-stotra, 1, See more commentary at VMA 1.43 )
This verse was sent by Jiva Goswami to Gadadhar Bhatta Goswami precisely for the purpose of wooing him to Vrindavan, making it clear that (1) he was an adhikāri for Brajavāsa sādhanā, and (2) that it was necessary for him to act in keeping with that adhikāra if he truly wished to immerse himself in the blissful ocean of rasa that is the goal of every sādhaka. Without the complete transformation of identity, external and internal, that is impossible.

So the first thing to understand that Braja sādhanā is an essential element of a sādhanā of identity, which operates in two dimensions, as do all sādhanās, one external and one internal.

Those who have taken the long road through many lifetimes from a strictly external consciousness (bahirmukhatā) to Braja-bhāva, are impelled by the search for authenticity in both. This generally means following (ānugatya) an authentic teacher in a tradition or paramparā that teaches such a culture.

Jai Radhe. Part II will follow soon.