Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Accidental erasing of comments

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Holy Dham is Nirguna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kaṣāyo'tra sāttviko vana-vāsādy-āgrahaḥ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dhanyatidhanya Vrindavan Dham!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shraddha and Bhakti Sandarbha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Satya Narayan Dasji's translation:

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

Another translation, no attribution:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Braj Bhava and the English OS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the control English has over me.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Romantic Love and Sexual Repression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

Bhagavān Can Only Be Realized Through Bhakti

Being forced to work on one task to the exclusion of allowing my brain to free range is the kind of painful discipline that has been absent from my life. It is in all likelihood the reason for my relative lack of accomplishments. My entire being seems to fight the thing that _MUST_ be done with more energy than could possibly make any sense at all.

My work should be the grace of angels. Indeed, in the proper setting, without distractions, I can surround myself with books -- different editions of the books, a Krama Sandarbha here, Babaji's Sandarbha translations, a Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana. I look at each verse, at the commentaries, read ten times before examining Babaji's translation. Then chip and chop away.

But I still allow something else to come into my mind other than this!! The nectar that is promised still eludes me, except in moments of exceptional grace.

Bhakti Sandarbha 145

Bhakti is the exclusive cause for Bhagavān realization, as Kuntīdevi told Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa:

śṛṇvanti gāyanti gṛṇanty abhīkṣṇaśaḥ
smaranti nandanti tavehitaṁ janāḥ
ta eva paśyanty acireṇa tāvakaṁ
bhava-pravāhoparamaṁ padāmbujam

Those who continuously hear Your pastimes, sing about them, describe them to others, remember them, or who delight in the recitation of those pastimes by others, soon behold Your lotus feet, which put an end to the flow of material existence. (SB 1.8.36)


The indeclinable eva is important in this verse. It is used in the sense of exclusiveness, anya-yoga-vyavaccheda. It implies that only devotees see the lotus feet of Bhagavān, not others.

Vishvanath Chakravarti however says that in order to bring out the beauty of this verse, eva, which we usually translate as "certainly", "only" or "alone," should be applied to the other elements in the second half of the verse, of which there are six. These are then, six things that require emphatic confirmation to the exclusion of all other things. Each direct assertion (anvaya) implies an accompanying emphatic negation, vyatireka. Thus,
  • Those people alone [who continuously hear Your pastimes, sing about them, describe them to others, remember them, or who delight in the recitation of those pastimes by others] and no other person,
  • certainly soon, and not with any delay,
  • certainly behold, and it is not that they will not behold and see,
  • Yours alone, and not any of any other of Your infinite partial manifestations,
  • lotus feet, meaning Your beautiful personal form only, and not Your attributeless form of Brahman,
  • which certainly put an end to the flow of material existence, not that those lotus feet do not grant liberation.
It implies certainty about all of these things, i.e., the devotees will see Bhagavān without delay not that they will have to wait a long time; they will exclusively see the feet of Bhagavān and not of some other partial manifestation of the Lord; and their material existence will certainly come to an end, not that they will still remain bound.

As a postscript, I thought I would mention that this verse is one of the first Bhagavata verses I ever learned. Anyone who sings this verse will find it a very delightful and melodious composition. .

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Theology at 120 degrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, here is some theology at 120 degrees.

For all places and all times (sarvatra sarvadä)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then he gives scriptural examples for each.

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Humility and Prema

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

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

Humility is this awareness.

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

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

To the path of grace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humility means to do the will of God.

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

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

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

Compassion means Krishna katha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

yathā harau bhagavati nṛṇāṁ bhaktir bhaviṣyati
sarvātmany akhilādhāra iti saṅkalpya varṇaya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hot season in Vrindavan... and bhajan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sins exposed, and honestly repented, are sins evaporated.

Jai Radhe.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Yugal Bhajan Triangle

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parallels in the five stages
śṛṅgāra /śānta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What is Sex For?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus the selection of a partner is of utmost importance.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

New Introduction Jiva Tirtha Sanskrit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jai Sri Radhe.
Jagadananda Das

Saturday, March 11, 2017

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

Gadadhar Pran's Gadadhar Pran.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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