Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Is this an obsession with sex?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

उत्तिष्ठत जाग्रत प्राप्यवरान् निबोधत

uttiṣṭhata jāgrata prāpya-varān nibodhata

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

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

तस्माद् योगी भवार्जुन
tasmād yogī bhavārjuna

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

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

Yoga means, male or female, preserve the bindu.

मरणं बिन्दुपातेन जीवनं बिन्दुधारणात्।
तस्मादतिप्रयत्नेन कुरुत बिन्दुधारणम्॥

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

Śiva-saṁhitā

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Ekadasi Jagaran at Tatia Sthan (Maghi Krishna Ekadasi)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



A short history of the Tatia Sthan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Saturday, January 21, 2017

My Shakti

Someone said, "I look forward to meeting your Shakti."
My humors bubbled over. "It will be hard," I thought.

My Shakti has turned to iron-clad indifference.
The weightiness of her maan knows no bounds
and she is teaching me the path of renunciation.

Her body is untouchable,
but she has taken up residence in the six chakras:

In the womb, in the machine of desire,
on the seed sound of desire,
she placed the two jewels of the sampradaya,
nivritti and pravritti, and intoned:
May these two join in the central stream
and become a fountain of nectar.

In the bulbous root center,
she joined me to the umbilical cord of prana,
and in the filigree of the nadis
she spread her love to every nook and cranny
of this bag of elements, and made it holy.

The ida and pingala of her breasts
defibrillated my heart and gave it
the will to a newer, subtler vibration of life.

My throat's thirst was quenched by the
nectar of immortality that flowed from her mouth.
Hear me speak. These words are hers.

And in the center that orders and brings orders,
I saw the tattva of Radha and Shyam,
and in the thousand-petal lotus
I saw them play.

My Shakti has done well to abandon me,
She now pervades the universe.

 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Last darshan of Shriji Maharaj at Nimbarkacharya Peeth

My day. I got back from Salemabad at 8 a.m. after all night driving. Started working on uploading photos. Kirtan at 9 with Babaji.

Worked on the Shriji article, etc., until noon. In passing I watched President Obama's farewell address. I felt some grief.

Took lunch, then slept until 6. In the evening I watched the film Kadambari with Andrej. Ah, the anguish of love in the world!!

Then I sang and realized that nothing in this world can be held onto, other than the eternal, underlying ground of being and love, which is my Divine Kishore and Kishori.

How much mercy of how many saints has had to fall for me to see this today. And yet, I feel so much grief letting go.



Vrindavan, 2017.01.15 (VT): Haridas Sharan's kindness, I was able to go on lightning run to the Nimbarkacharya Peeth in Rajasthan.

We got the news through Vrajvihari Sharan that Shriji Maharaj -- Radha Sarvesvara Sharana Devacharya Maharaj, the universally respected acharya for the entire Nimbarka Sampradaya -- had left his body in the morning of the 14th.

Haridas Sharan arranged for a car and after an eight hour drive with his mother and maternal uncle we reached Salemabad at around 11 pm and immediately went up to the room where hundreds of devotees were surrounding Shriiji Maharaj's Shrivigraha, keeping up a constant but subdued chant:

Radhe Krishna Radhe Krishna
Krishna Krishna Radhe Radhe
Radhe Shyam Radhe Shyam
Shyam Shyam Radhe Radhe
 
A steady line of people was passing through the open chamber where he was lying, covered in a mountain of garlands.
 
DSCN9652

Haridas Sharan, his mother and maternal uncle brought prasadi cloth and garlands from Sri Bankey Bihari Ju Maharaj from Vrindavan. These were given him by Sumit Goswami and Raghu Goswami Ji of the Banke Bihari Goswami family.

DSCN9647

Haridas Sharan is a disciple of Shriji Maharaj. His mother and uncle are in fact initiated in the Tatia Sthan, but they were brought up in their ancestral home right near the Badi Shriji Kunj in Retia Bazaar. So he and his sister used to attend events at the Kunj frequently and had the opportunity to meet Shriji Maharaj there many times even in their childhood, as well as many, many other saints of the Nimbark and other sampradayas.

On the long ride to Salemabad, they told many of them with much joy and laughter and praise for him.

With Yuvacharya Ji's permission, the three Brijbasis blissfully offered Bihariji's sri-anga prasadi to Maharaj Sri.

We were told that Shriji Maharaj got up at his usual time of 3 a.m. and had done his nitya-kritya as he did every day, even in his advanced age. He then met with a bhakta to discuss the panchang, as it was Makara Sankranti and its coinciding with other tithis had to be examined.

After the meeting, Maharaj went into samadhi in a seated position and left his mortal body. He was 88 years old and had adorned the Nimbark sampradaya's acharya gaddi for an amazing 74 years.

Yuvacharya Shyam Sharani Dev
His successor, usually called the "Yuvacharya"
is 38-year-old Shri Shyam Sharandevji.
Shriji Maharaj was a prolific author in Hindi and Sanskrit, yet able to communicate complex truths and give guidance in simple language, he has left an indelible mark on the sampradaya, establishing a unity in the tradition as well as a firm presence for it in the Vaishnava world.

It would not be exaggeration to say that he was the most respected figure in the Vaishnava world of today.

In the morning, Haridas Sharanji went to take darshan of the Mahant of Tatiya Sthan after coming back from Salemabad. The Mahant said in honor of Sriji Maharaj's entry into the nitya nikunj:


आइ मिल्यौ परिवार आपने हरि हँसि कंठ लगायौ ।
स्यामास्याम जू बिहरत दोऊ सखी समाज मिलायौ ।।
Aai Milyo Parivar Aapne Hari Hasi Kantha Lagayo |
Syama Syam Ju Bihrat Dou Sakhi Samaj Milayo ||

Translation:- Sri Sri Ji Maharaj has eternally entered into nitya nikunj lilas of Shyama Shyam, where Shyamsundar and Priyaju along with group of Sakhis including Rangdevi Ju Lalita Ju and Hari Priya Ju personally embraced their new sakhi and welcomed her into their pastimes.

DSCN9654
 Devakinandan Thakur, one of Shriji Maharaj's most illustrious disciples, speaking with Yuvacharyaji.

The cremation of Shriji Maharaj's mortal remains was conducted the next morning at 10 a.m. According to sources in the press, more than 150,000 people attended, including many Rajasthani government dignitaries.

Shriji Maharaj



Salemabad is the place in Pushkar Kshetra where Jagadguru Nimbarkacharya Swami Shri Parashuram Devacarya Ji Maharaj performed austerities in the early 1540s. He was there because his own Guru, Jagadguru Nimbarkacharya Swami Shri Harivyas Devacharya sent him there to counter Masting Shah who was terrorising visitors to Pushkar at that time. From then, the Nimbarkacharya Peeth moved from Narad Teela to Salemabad. The first iteration of the Peeth was completed after the death of Swami Parashuram Devacharya by Gopal Ji Bhati of the Bhati clan in 1607. After a few of the Bharatpur kings sought refuge from the British onslaughts, the Peeth was destroyed and was rebuilt again soon after by the royal houses of Jaipur and Kishangarh. (Vrajvihari Sharan)

For more about Shriji Maharaj, see this article by Vrajvihari Sharanji from last year.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

BInode Bihari Baba in Barsana

The Rutgers students who came for a three-week course during their Christmas break went with a few others from Jiva including myself. We went to Binode Bihari Babaji's ashram near Priya Kund and then went with him on Barsana parikrama.


I first met Binode Bihari Das Babaji Maharaj in 1984 when his guru Tinkori Goswami came to Nabadwip. In those days, Tinkori Prabhu was the topmost bhajananandi in the Gaudiya Vaishnava world. It was a great surprise to everyone when, like Jagannath Das Babaji, he decided to spend the last part of his life in Gauda desh. So naturally there was a great attraction to go and visit him in Manipur Ghat, not far from the crematorium.

I visited several times since in those days there was a general enthusiasm building for Mahaprabhu's 500th appearance day anniversary. Tinkori Prabhu had many disciples in Nabadwip, and I used to join them daily for early morning nagar sankirtan through the streets of Nabadwip, singing "Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Hare Krishna Hare Rama, Sri Radhe Govinda." As the anniversary drew closer, more and more such groups started forming, some chanting Hare Krishna, some Nitai Gaura Radha Shyam, some Bhaja Gauranga or Vishnupriyara Prananath. Ramananda Goswami took out a group from the Srivas Angan temple singing different Gaura padavali. It was quite an exciting time.

Tinkori Prabhu left his body before the 500th, however, and his Samadhi was built there in the ashram. After he left, however, I was invited a couple of times to speak on Chaitanya Charitamrita. I may even have done so when Tinkori Prabhu was present, I don't remember. Binode Bihari Baba was Prabhu's personal servant at the time.

It was rather embarrassing for when I introduced myself as Jagadananda, he immediately said, "Not the Jagadananda who used to come to Manipur Ghat and speak on Chaitanya Charitamrita." I said, "No, you must be thinking of Jagadish." But he insisted, "No, Jagadananda. Don't you remember me, I am Binode Bihari!"

I don't know why I have such a hazy memory of such important events. Sometimes I think I have lived my life in a kind of unconscious daze. Anyway, I was flattered like anything that he remembered me, and ashamed that I did not remember him from that time. I said, "I am such an ahankari manush that I only think of myself. I remember all the Vaishnava disciples of Tinkori Prabhu, but I don't remember anyone specifically, and over the years I have forgotten all of their names. But I am so glad that you remember me, I will come another time and stay for a while and get your association, if you bless me."

Then I translated for him as he gave a short homily to the Rutgers students and other members of the group: "We are not these bodies, that is the first thing to remember. We are in confusion because we separate ourselves from that which is truly close to us, and we try to possess the things that we can never have. This body is not the real self, and yet we try to make it our self. And we try to distance ourselves from Krishna, who resides everywhere within and without, and who is the Soul of our soul. Krishna is ours and we are Krishna's. The purpose of life is to realize this."

Then we went out on the Barsana Parikrama, during which Babaji distributes toffees to all the children and monkeys. Everyone knows he is coming, and even some older people come to get his mercy. We ended up in the Ladli temple for arati. It was a very nice atmosphere everywhere. There were many Gaudiya vairagis in the temple and most came to sit around Baba when he arrived. Some Braja vasis also came and they told stories and sang songs while waiting for arati.

Toni, one of the girls in the Rutgers group, took many photos. I found the ones of me and Baba to be interesting because it showed how Baba was surprised as he recognized me and my reaction. I am only putting a few of the pictures here as a sample. She took at least fifty.
















This is me in a selfie with Toni, the photographer. Jai Radhe.

Prema's testing ground and laboratory are in the human



In the last three articles, Another look at Aropa and Vatsalya, Worshiping Krishna as the substratum in all beings and The natural loves and prema, I have been responding to Muralisvara Dasa's letter. In these posts we have established several things that beginner devotees find problematic. Indeed, it takes a bit of a paradigm shift to move from the beginning level of duality between God and man in aiśvarya to the eradication of this difference in mādhurya. This is the human dimension of love.

To summarize: Without giving up the basic practice of arcanā, one has to cultivate the middle stage of devotion, which is, as we have all read in the Bhāgavatam:

īśvare tad-adhīneṣu bāliśeṣu dviṣatsu ca |
prema-maitrī-kṛpopekṣā
yaḥ karoti sa madhyamaḥ ||
One who behaves with love towards God, friendship to those who depend on the Lord, with compassion to those who are innocent, and indifference to those who hate the Lord, is on the middle level of devotional achievement and practice. (SB 11.2.46)
In Kapila Deva's verse, this was expressed as follows:

atha māṁ sarva-bhūteṣu bhūtātmānaṁ kṛtālayam
arcayed dāna-mānābhyāṁ maitryābhinnena cakṣuṣā
Therefore, through charity and offering respect to others, through friendship and by viewing others as non-different [from the Self], one should worship me, who have made my home within all living beings as the Supreme Self. (3.29.27)
Maitrī here takes the primary position, and this forms the bridge between the positive and negative paths. I have mentioned this here. This is also applicable to this sādhana in madhura-rasa. But of course, for the sake of this discussion, abhinnena cakṣuṣā, or seeing the devotees or, in particular, partners in sādhanā, as not different or in any way separate from Krishna, is the raison-d'etre and goal of this sādhana.

Krishna is the ultimate Self in all beings. To see and love him within oneself is the inner path. To see and love him in others is the outer path. The combination of both is the full path. Neither is complete without the other.

With this awareness, then, one should understand that āropa is a bit of a misnomer, since we are not falsely attributing qualities that do not exist onto something or someone that does not have them. Krishna in whatever form we wish to worship him, exists in that form in the Other as it manifests in the sādhaka's life, i.e., even in imperfection. If we understand Jiva Goswami's comment cited at the end of the previous post, we will understand that more clearly. The example of the other rasas is particularly cogent.

The point is that one way or another, the sādhanā is learning to love the Supreme Self in the self, in the other and in everything. It is not an artificial construct because there is in fact nothing other than Him. kim atad-vastu rūpyatām. This is how we learn to see Him in the other. When one sees that the Self in the other is the same Self existing within oneself, then the question of selfish desire does not arise. This is how kāma is conquered.

This is how the development of the vision of God as described in the verses 3.29.28-33 evolved from the unconscious to the most conscious entities. It reminded me of the following story from Sam Keen in his To a Dancing God:
Carson McCullers once wrote a short story which suggests the proper place for a course in loving to begin. She tells about a young paperboy who encounters a drunk in an all-night diner. The drunk insists upon showing the boy a picture of his wife who fifteen years previously ran away with another man. He goes on to explain that in those days he did not know how to love but that subsequently he has developed a science of love that will allow him to win his wife's love. The mistake he originally made was to begin with the hardest object of love – a woman. His new science established a hierarchy: first love a rock, then a cloud, then a tree, and gradually your powers will grow until it will be possible to love a woman. There is a wisdom in this story that the Greek philosophers would have understood. Plato also insisted that love had a ladder of ascent whose lowest rung was a simple object. Eros is first directed toward modest objects, and only afterward may it reach the good, the beautiful and the true. Practice in loving best begins with objects, things—rocks and trees, or beautiful machines. (Collins Fontana ed'n, 1971: 58).
This is why limiting love of God to the God on the altar, the One "out there," in a heaven or some liberated state, though good as a basis, eventually becomes problematic. Even if we superimpose personality on the object, in some way it keeps some of its limitations, which are not fully perceived by the beginner. Is this not the flaw identified by those who protest against any possibility of love in the world, namely that kāma can make us think of them in terms of our conditioned -- subtle or gross -- saṁskāras objects of sense gratification? In the Vishnu Purana verse quoted in Prīti Sandarbha (The natural loves and prema) the word viṣaya is often mistranslated as "sense object," when it is really meant as in the rasa-śāstra sense as the object of love, like Krishna is the object of Radha's love.

This is the basis for our speaking about "I-Thou" relationships mentioned here and there on this blog. And this is why the Christ's statement is so powerful: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4.20, KJV) [Many translations have "believer" rather than "brother," which also sheds light on the idea of the madhyama stage, where the emphasis is on the loving relationships with fellow sādhakas.]

The denial of love in this world is the denial of God-as-Love. Sometimes God is thought of by atheist psychologists as a "transitional object" or a kind of substitute for cruel reality (example). The Christian psychotherapist see his role as a kind of guru who acts in the same way as mediator to God. What we are saying is that both these standpoints are correct: We learn to love God in a multiplicity of ways, but its testing ground as well as its laboratory are in human love.

This is also how I read the verse from the Gītā,

kleśo'dhikataras teṣām avyaktāsakta-cetasām
avyaktā hi gatir duḥkhaṁ dehavadbhir avāpyate
The anguish for those whose minds are attached to the Unmanifest is greater, because embodied beings can only attain the goal of the Unmanifest with great difficulty. (Gītā 12.5)
Here, the unmanifest means the God that does not exist anywhere except as a general concept in the mind. If one loves a mental concept (avyakta or unmanifest), this love does not have the impact that love for something concrete and accessible to the senses will have. And the worship of God in the vyakta corresponds to the sequential order as given in Kapila's verses: from the unconscious elements, worshiped in the deity form, to a human being, and of them, particularly the devotee.

Love for a devotee will always be higher because that love will confirm and increase the love for God in his human form, ultimately Radha and Krishna, since they are absorbed in Radha and Krishna and therefore the Radha-Krishna-ness radiates from them directly.

Not that it is necessarily easier to go there right away, as Carson McCullers' diner drunk recognized, for the person who has not developed the capacity to do so, or who lacks the requisite background knowledge, often chooses an unqualified object of love in the sādhanā stage.

But when a bhakti-yogi recognizes that the devotee is the closest that we can come to experience God in the human, due to his or her embodiment of Krishna-consciousness, and if that is revealed to him or her directly through the numinous experience or epiphany of falling in love, then he or she is ready to start the process of bhāva sādhanā.

The point I want to make is that all sādhana contains within it a process of āropa. We apply God-ness to objects that ordinarily we do not think of having God-ness. The Deity in the temple is called an "idol" by the non-believer for whom the concept of āropa corresponds to idolatry. The devotee defends against the charge: We are told to see Krishna in the deity; we are told Krishna is genuinely present there as a result of mantras and rituals that infuse it with his consciousness (prāṇa-pratiṣṭhā) In fact, there is nothing but Krishna. Krishna is the object of all love. It is only idolatry when we see something else that is meant to serve our interests separate from God. Nevertheless, in real terms, worshiping the deity is an act of superimposition or āropa; it is an act of the buddhi, imposing an awareness of God where in ordinary consciousness there is none. Thus the many legends about awakened murtis, like the story of Nrisingha arising from the Shiva linga.

With the devotee this should be less difficult, but alas our vision is impure. The fault finding tendency battles with our practice of "seeing the truth" (āropa), the so-called "real" and so-called "fantasy" fight it out to no conclusion. Seeing God in the human is not an easy practice.

[Take another look at the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu verses about rāgānugā bhakti in this light as well in that of the Bhakti-sandarbha 106.]

Now, in my view, one has to have undergone a thorough training in āropa in the pravartaka stage before one can start practicing it on the level of human beings. Your mind needs to be imbued with bhakti saṁskāras through hearing and chanting, and meditating on what one has heard, i.e., through the preliminary practices of vaidhī and rāgānugā bhakti. For anyone who has not got faith in the deity form of the Lord, or in the Lord's human pastimes, there is no point in attempting to go further in bhāva sādhanā.

When it comes to madhura-rasa, devotees who might otherwise accept the idea of āropa in vātsalya and other types of rāgānugā devotion find it difficult to make the leap from there to the erotic mood. This is no doubt why Rupa Goswami himself separated rāgānugā into two divisions, one called sambandhānugā (following the relation), the other kāmānugā (following the erotic desire). The latter is further subdivided into sambhogecchāmayī and tad-bhāvecchātmikā (BRS 1.2.297-298). These are then defined:

kāmānugā bhavet tṛṣṇā kāma-rūpānugāminī ||
sambhogecchā-mayī tat-tad-bhāvecchātmeti sā dvidhā ||
keli-tātparyavaty eva sambhogecchā-mayī bhavet |
tad-bhāvecchātmikā tāsām bhāva-mādhurya-kāmitā ||
That devotion which follows the erotic desire is that devotional thirst that follows the love [felt by the gopis] which appears like lust. It has two divisions: that which has as its goal the enjoyment of dalliance with Krishna is called "following] devotion which desires [erotic] union" (sambhogecchāmayī). That devotion which is filled with the desire to experience the sweetness of the mistresses' mood is called "devotion desiring their mood" (tad-bhāvecchātmikā). (BRS 1.2.299)
The former has its meaning (tātparya) in erotic enjoyment with Krishna. The latter in the desire to relish the sweetness of the moods of the lovers of Krishna such as Radha.

Vishwanath argues in his commentary to BRS 1.2.298 that this process the following of the gopis is not to be taken as imitation (anukāriṇī). Here he decries the "Sauramya" school, which is generally associated with Rupa Kaviraj, one of the earliest Vaishnava Sahajiya philosophers, about whom far too little is known. Jiva Goswami also emphasizes that of the two, the latter path is superior. This is because any ordinary jiva who thinks that he has the capacity to be a nāyikā who can control Krishna with her love the way that Radharani does is surely engaged in a futile pursuit. And the desire for sexual union contains a whiff of personal desire that is entirely absent in the tad-bhāvecchātmikā devotees, namely the manjaris or sakhis.

So the problem is here associated specifically with the sambhogecchā-mayī mood. It has been hinted at in other ways by Jiva Goswami. For example in Bhakti Sandarbha 310-311 where two verses of the 11th Canto are cited from Pingala's soliloquy. These are used by him as examples of rāgānugā bhakti, specifically to show that Pingala was not bound by rules and attracted to Narayan purely by ruci. The terms sambhogecchāmayī and tad-bhāvecchātmikā are not used in Bhakti Sandarbha, but Pingala clearly belongs to the former category.

suhṛt preṣṭhatamo nātha ātmā cāyaṁ śarīriṇām |
taṁ vikrīyātmanaivāhaṁ rame’nena yathā ramā ||
He [Bhagavān Nārāyaṇa] is the friend, the most beloved, the master and Self of all embodied beings. I shall purchase Him through the price of my self-surrender, and thus delight with Him, just like Goddess Lakṣmī. (SB 11.8.35, Bhakti Sandarbha 310)
Moreover, from her prayers, we can see that Pingala also belongs to the svakīyā mood.
santuṣṭā śraddadhaty etad yathā-lābhena jīvatī |
viharāmy amunaivāham ātmanā ramaṇena vai ||
Feeling contented and living upon with whatever I get, with full faith, I shall now sport with him alone as my husband, for he is my own true Self. (11.8.40, Bhakti Sandarbha 311)

Here Srila Jiva Goswamipada makes the distinction that Pingala is lamenting that her "natural husband" is the indwelling Lord, but she has instead chosen to prostitute herself to worthless men out of a desire for money and sexual pleasure. He states that in the world, marriages are based on mantra and ritual and are therefore the oneness of husband and wife is artificial (kṛtrimam ekātmatvam), not innate or natural. But in the case of Bhagavān this oneness is not so because He is the Supreme Self by his very constitution. But this statement applies to couples marrying within the varnashram system. As we have already stated above, the sādhaka is situated in the knowledge that it is not artificial, but as a ground for practising the presence of God in relationship.

To the second verse Jiva says that the sexual relationship with Krishna for those following Pingala's path, i.e., in this kind of rāgānugā bhakti, the mind is most important. This prevents the insolence (auddhatya) of physically engaging in such acts with the deity form. I am sure we will all agree that something does not sound quite right -- that would be a very gross understanding of the erotic relation with God -- and the fact that Jiva Goswami even had to mention it raises questions. But we also agree that the ground of rāgānugā is in the mind. And if one has not imprinted the mind with the image of the Yugala, the path of Yugala Sādhanā will be full of potholes.

In this post, I have discussed the following verses from Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, which are also relevant here. I will just conclude with the following reminder:

vartitavyaṁ śam icchadbhir bhaktavan na tu kṛṣṇavat
ity evaṁ bhakti-śāstrāṇāṁ tātparyasya vinirṇayaḥ
rāmādivad vartitavyaṁ na kvacid rāvaṇādivat
ity eṣa mukti-dharmādi-parāṇāṁ naya īryate

Those who wish for true joy (śam) should identify as devotees and not as Krishna. This is the conclusion of the devotional scriptures. "One should identify with Rama and not with Ravana, this is the method followed by those who are devoted to deliverance and justice." (UN 3.24-25)
The art of love lies in becoming the āśraya not the viṣaya. It is because of this whiff of personal desire that the sambhogecchā and svakīyā moods are considered lesser, as well as being associated with one another. (See BRS 1.2.303)

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The glory of the human body

it is true that to speak on these matters in public is inviting opprobrium. People have already (as I suspected they would) complained to other senior Vaishnavas about me.

People hear the word "sex" and they immediately respond with their deepest samskaras.

Sex is the desire for love manifest in the human body. Love is the desire for giving and receiving the pleasure of union. Union with the non-physical normally does not precede union on the physical plane. Even while the experience of union on the physical plane without spiritual maturity is a pipe dream.

Union with God based on disgust with the material world is not love. It is mukti.

The human organism has many levels. The foolish think they can reach the spirit and the soul without first purifying the gross body, the prana body, the mental body, the vijnana body, the ananda-maya body.

Similarly the experience of love is beyond the body, but just like the lotus flower grows out of mud, this human form of life is the basis of our highest and most transcendental experiences. To say, "I am not this body" and then deny the body is the path of asceticism, which has been rejected by Buddha, by the yogis, but most of all by the bhaktas.

This does not mean that one does not engage in tapas, i.e., giving up sense pleasures for the sake of one's spiritual endeavor, i.e., prioritizing your spiritual life over your mundane predilections. Brahmacharya is a great tapas, and the householder who practices it attains the perfection of his ashram.

Jugupsa and madhura-rati.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Another look at aropa and vatsalya

Muralisvara further writes in comments on Understanding aropa through vatsalya. This was the first thing I wrote and will perhaps  follow up with another article related to the subject that takes account of the other articles I wrote after this:

Your idea of āropa or IMAGINING ourselves (human couple, I mean) to be the Divine Couple is beyond my understanding. It is just imagination and it will remain such forever. Because imagination is the product of material mind. What does it have to do with spiritual soul, what to speak about Supersoul, what to speak about Supersoul in Its highest manifestation (nara-līlā of Sri Krishna)?

I am not quite sure where I ever said that the human couple is to imagine themselves to be the Divine Couple, at least not in a real sense. In the links below you will see the effort I have made to distinguish my sādhanas from ahaṅgrahopāsanā. Jiva Goswami himself makes this distinction in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu verse about the sambandhānuga division of rāgānugā bhakti. Look at this n the light of the Bhakti-sandarbha passage with which we concluded an earlier post.

sā sambandhānugā bhaktiḥ procyate sadbhir ātmani |
yā pitṛtvādi-sambandha-mananāropanātmikā ||
lubdhair vātsalya-sakhyādau bhaktiḥ kāryātra sādhakaiḥ |
vrajendra-subalādīnāṁ bhāva-ceṣṭita-mudrayā ||
That is called sambandhānugā bhakti when devotees meditate on their relationship with Krishna as a father, etc., and identify themselves as such (āropanātmikā). Those sādhakas who are greedy for the relations of parenthood or friendship with Krishna should perform bhakti in this way by imitating the mood and activities of Nanda Maharaj and Subala, etc. (1.2.305-306)
Jiva Goswami and after him Vishwanath discuss the meaning of āropa here and warn against identifying with the nitya parikaras as being a type of ahangrahopāsanā and to be rejected. What is important is the bhāva and the ceṣṭita, the mood and activities, which are easily applicable in practical life also. As we saw there, the feeling and its corollary actions (anubhāvas) are cultivated and applied to Krishna, like the Brahmin who worshiped the Shiva linga as a form of Nrisingha.

Here is how it works: When we think of Mother Yashoda, we are to imagine the perfect mother with the perfect love for the perfect child. The devotee mother or father then aligns him or herself with all these elements: Mother Yashoda (or Nanda Maharaj) enter into me as the āśraya of that love, i.e., as the ideal representation of vātsalya. I look upon my child, the natural viṣaya of my parental love as a manifestation of Krishna. And by dovetailing (āropa) my love in this way, my natural love for my child becomes imbued with devotion to Krishna and divine rasa. My love for my child thus becomes an inspirer (uddīpana) for my love for Krishna, and my remembrance of Krishna imbues my love for my child with a sacred power.

Of course, if there is no purification of the heart to begin with, if there is no Krishna consciousness to begin with, then this will not work. It will remain "natural" love and be subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the criticisms that the shastra makes of such relations. The idea is that we are cultivating love, for if we cannot see Krishna in the relations we are experiencing now, then it seems unrealistic to think that we can enter the world of Pure Love.

Now of course, due to karmas, saṁskāras and so on, we are often caught in conditions that make this process difficult. A situation that is totally inimical to the culture of bhakti may have to be abandoned. Other than for the most advanced sādhakas, bhakti should only be cultivated in the association of devotees. Some people think that we can just access universal love without any culture or sādhana. But human beings have devised many methods of self-purification -- religious and secular sādhanas -- that, in one way or another, are attempting to achieve the same goal.

I feel that the system I teach is most direct because of bhakti. Because it recognizes the Divine Transcendent Being, the Divine Yugala Radha and Krishna as a real entity, the archetypal manifestation of Love, and stresses the role of grace. But bhakti to God is ultimately meant to go beyond the culture of vaidhī bhakti to love in the various direct relations and from there to universal love.

Try to understand: whatever we do is based on our imagination. Rāgānugā bhaktas are clearly imagining themselves to be participants in the līlā. We are told that this is real, but that is up to the sādhaka to decide. From the external point of view, it is an act of the imagination. The extent to which deep saṁskāras enter into the citta through the performance of such bhakti sādhanas -- either the vaidhī or rāgānugā mixed with vaidhī -- is fairly limited without the experience or culture of personal loving relationships in bhakti-yoga. In particular that of madhura-rasa, which is the ādi-rasa, or original rasa which contains all the rest.

Most devotees do not have a problem with the concept of friendship with other devotees, but they rarely actually do āropa, i.e., recognize the presence of the Lord in their friendships and, even though the relationships may be free of
aiśvarya, still attempt to practice pure sakhya rasa. How will you understand sakhya rasa without making friends with the devotees and seeing how friendship works within the context of real life situations, where your purity and honesty are tested from moment to moment?

In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu there are many divisions of friendship given, and one can study from other sources also to understand how human beings have tried to understand human friendship and how to perfect it. The difference for us is that we see it as a religious practice in its own right. My love for my devotee friend is an act of conscious devotion to Krishna Himself.



Whatever sādhanas we perform is based on the āropa of a certain world view, which we accept as being most correct to our understanding. Someone may say it is an objective truth, and we may feel that way, but it is an act of āropa nevertheless.

Furthermore, the experience of rasa itself is based on a natural kind of āropa which is called sādhāraṇī-karaṇa. You can look up these concepts on this blog. Understanding the psychology of āropa or identification and its varieties in literature and sādhanas bhakti are an important element in understanding rāgānugā bhakti.

When we feel the natural loves, then we experience them as real, but defective in some way. They are defective in the sense that we ourselves and the object of love are contaminated by ego desires, or kāma. Nevertheless, the sentiment of something as a real experience is different from merely wishing it to be so.

Of course, a devoted bhakta feels something real in the Holy Name and other practices, and through self-purification in sattva-guna and so on strengthens that feeling. This is also the case with a sādhaka of any yoga practice or religion.

Now what I am really saying is that the natural loves need to be dovetailed with love of God. And that this process is facilitated by our particular concept of Krishna in Vrindavan. It is not that love in this world replaces love for Krishna, but that the two become one. One's love for a child IS vātsalya. In its purest form it is similar to the feeling of Nanda and Yashoda for Krishna. Therefore one who is feeling natural vātsalya should attempt to harmonize the two.

And so it is for other natural loves. Of course, the whole process centers around bhakti sādhanas. A parent wishes for the child to grow and become a good human being, or a pure devotee. So the process of training in love, accompanied by the vision of the Divine Lord, the object of vātsalya, residing within and manifesting as the child or student, is an act of DIRECT devotion to Krishna. And the reciprocation that is felt through the medium of the object of vātsalya is not different from the experience of vātsalya in the spiritual world.

Of course, in the material world, everything comes to an end. Children grow up, husbands and wives die. Sometimes love itself disappears for some reason when the object of love fails some test. But the experience as it has been directly felt then becomes the fuel for meditating on the eternal bhakti relation.

If this were not so, then the various metaphors and analogies comparing Krishna and the devotee's love to worldly love would have no meaning. Without integrating the experience of natural loves into bhakti sādhanas, it is unlikely that the higher realms of rāgānugā bhakti will be attained. This is true even though the relation with God is eternal.
God manifests in our human loving relationships. This is true whether one is a devotee or not. But for a devotee, these loving relationships combined with sādhanas bhakti become a direct route to transcending kāma. Think of it as prasāda.

And you should understand that until kāma has been purified completely it is not prema. This applies to your bhajan to Krishna also. Just because you claim to be worshiping Krishna does not mean you have prema. Just because you have a quotation from Chaitanya Charitamrita that says this is kāma, that is prema, does not mean you have prema or that you have understood prema.

Material relationships are kāma-maya. But for a devotee who sees everything in relation to Krishna, even the so-called material relationships with other devotees and even non-devotees become Krishna-ized. And that is a higher level of sādhanas because it directly addresses the question of kāma as it raises its ugly head exactly where we would expect it to -- in our relationships with other human beings. The ecstatic experience of union, which is the characteristic of love, in the love between devotees is the direct presence of Krishna.

Some devotees make the mistake of thinking that there is only madhura-rasa and so they meditate on that rasa alone. But in actual fact, one must really have experienced all the rasas to understand madhura, even vātsalya. You might find this strange, because normally we think of madhura as preceding vātsalya, but in actual fact the experience of parenthood, for a devotee couple, should enhance the madhura relationship, just as it will enhance the experience of love for Krishna in the classical understanding thereof. It all depends on the capacity to understand both love and Krishna bhakti as parallel tracks rather than opposing ones.

Other articles on this subject:



Sex and Love in the material world and as a sadhana

After a discussion on Facebook, I posted two articles I wrote on "Sex and Bhakti Yoga" (Part I and Part II)



Prisni responded by saying that "The biggest problem is not sex, but the identification of love with sex, and the inability to feel love except through sex. Men want sex, then its over, and they can go on doing whatever they really want. Fixing cars, fighting with swords, or playing football, or becoming a celebrated scientist." This led to the following response:



You have correctly described the material situation for sex. This is why the appropriate practice is to retain the semen. Nobody in the world learns this technique and so all the anarthas related to sex arise.

It is not that retaining the semen on its own solves the problem, but it is an important ingredient in the solution. When orgasm ceases to be the goal of sex, then one's mind is freed to enter into other dimensions of meditation and awareness.

I hope you will understand that this is a difference of night and day.

Sex does not equal love. This is quite correct. Love is about pleasing the beloved which is added to the pleasure that is experienced from the mutual act of reciprocal pleasure giving. This is the definition of prīti given by Jiva Goswami in Prīti Sandarbha 61. Please see "The Natural Loves and Prema."

The complex psychological process of "falling in love" is really only the awakening of a bhāva (see UN 11.6*), which is then to be the basis of a sādhana of prema. The stage of reciprocation is prema.

But in madhura-rasa, lovemaking is integral to the love itself. This is the feature of madhura-rasa, the extra added factor that distinguishes it from the other loves. Sex without love is trying to get the reward without paying the price.

Modern society has no concept of seminal retention. People are encouraged to masturbate as much as they can. The more sex the better. This is the current philosophy that is promoted by the consumer society. Pornography, "polyamory", and so on. There is no such thing as "bad sex."

People believe that it relieves tension and so on, without knowing that what is like nectar in the beginning turns to poison in the end. And that what is somewhat poisonous in the beginning, i.e., resisting the urge to orgasm and learning to sublimate the sexual energy into the subtler regions of the body, becomes the highest nectar in the end.*

On its own, this has nothing to do with bhakti. But as a complementary practice for madhura-rasa bhakti sādhana it is indispensable, whether one follows the pravṛtti- or nivṛtti-mārgas.

With regard to masturbation, there is no absolute condemnation of it, but the current promotion of unrestrained masturbation as-often-as-you-like is totally against any idea of spirituality and disruptive of spiritual or sāttvika health.

In the progressive development of the practice, as one becomes habituated to the rising of the semen, orgasmic retention becomes more pleasurable than orgasm, which is continual without interruption. The idea of masturbation to orgasm becomes repellant, what to speak of orgasm in lovemaking.

I do not subscribe to the Chari Chand sādhana. I don't really think it is necessary, though it is commonly found in various Sahajiya and Baul lineages. I may say here that for one who wishes to control the seminal discharge, it is better to masturbate and consume one's own semen. This could be a regular practice until one has no need of it. It is quite effective, though, in helping to speed up the process of mastery.

Spilling semen wastefully, however, is an abuse of the body. The semen is the carama-dhātu, the finest product of the body. Treating it as nothing more than a waste product like urine, stool or mucus is an offense to this beautiful natural system of sublimation of the energies. Someone who does not master this will have trouble understanding anything about real spiritual life. The finer cells of the brain will never develop.

Sigmund Freud was the one who explained sublimation in the West, though I suspect that there have been no successful measures applied to test his thesis. Nevertheless, the idea of oral, anal and genital development are directly related to the process of sublimation, which is in essence nothing more than sense control. Sense control is what makes the human being capable of separating the energies born of instinctual drives and diverting them into higher functions of the mind and intelligence.

In the anal phase one learns to control the bowel movement through strengthening the sphincter muscles. In the West this is useful only for stopping the bowel movement. In yoga this function has a far wider reaching purpose in what is called the mūla-bandha. The genital phase is accompanied by controlling the muscles that stop the flow of urine. These same muscles are also those that are used for controlling the external flow of semen, but they require much stronger development. Practices like vajroli and aśvinī are added to the mūla-bandha in order to strengthen them. These practices become a habit for the yogi. They accompany his breath.

The mūla-bandha is enhanced by other breathing practices which all have the purpose of awakening the kuṇḍalinī and sending it to the thousand-petalled lotus in the cranium. The bodily system is like a lotus flower, hence the love for the lotus symbol in yoga and puranic literature. The lotus draws its energy from the ground of the mūlādhāra and svādhiṣṭhāna, and sends those energies via the yoni-sthāna through the lotus stem, the spinal chord, the suṣumnā channel, and then progressively through the evolutionary stages associated with the genital, navel, heart, throat and forehead.

This should not be thought of as something esoteric or foreign to the ordinary man and woman. It is beneficial for all human beings, something that should be natural to everyone, but especially for the spiritualist. It has no sampradāya: you can belong to any religion or belief system, what to speak of madhura-rasa Vaishnavism, for which it is practically speaking the eternal consort of the external bhakti practices.

Freud recognized the necessity of control for attaining maturity, but feared that repression, especially in the name of God and religion vitiated the process and prevented one from satisfying natural desires, leading to neuroses and other psychological problems. One overly disturbed by desires cannot devote psychic attention to "finer" matters. Indeed, the Gita (3.33) agrees.

However, the solution is becoming a bigger problem than the original problem. Society has become degraded to the point that allowing free rein to one's desires so that everything is permissible has the direct result of brutalizing human beings. The philosophy of the Marquis de Sade is victorious.

Though the philosophy of seminal retention goes against the current popular wisdom, it is yet something that must be learned by serious spiritualists, especially those on the path of love, who wish to be able to distinguish between love and lust.

Vivarta-vilāsa states plainly that kāma means to spill the semen, prema means to retain it. That may seem like a gross generalization on a very mundane level to those who have read the refined texts about prema such as the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, but without this principle, I don't believe that the brain will ever become refined enough to understand Radha-Krishna lila, what to speak of understanding prema in madhura-rasa.

Kaniṣṭha devotees who have never progressed to deha-sādhana or the advanced culture of relationships in bhakti repeatedly "fall down" because they foolishly think that sexual desire can be controlled by repression rather than conscious sublimation. Or they have a mistaken idea that boredom with sex is the same thing as freedom from sexual desire. And there are other misconceptions as well.

Without this training, and if one does not meditate on the pure loves of Radha and Krishna, then one's mind will eventually be led to pornography of the disruptive, degrading type that is so common and widespread throughout the world today.

Pornography -- from soft to hard -- is the fundamental tool of the consumer society to control the masses. Better you should make love to your exclusive sādhana partner in consciousness of the Divine Couple, in an act that is dominated by the sattva-guṇa.



yat tad-agre viṣam iva pariṇāme’mṛtopamam
tat sukhaṁ sāttvikaṁ proktam ātma-buddhi-prasādajam
viṣayendriya-saṁyogād yat tadagre’mṛtopamam |
pariṇāme viṣam iva tat sukhaṁ rājasaṁ smṛtam ||

Happiness in the mode of goodness may in the beginning seem like poison, but at the end is just like nectar, for it is born out of the peace of self-understanding. That happiness is rajasika which arises from the contact of the sense objects and is like ambrosia in the beginning, but is later transformed into something like poison. [Gītā 18.38-39]

Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi 11.6:

prādurbhāvaṁ vrajaty eva raty-ākhye bhāva ujjvale |
nirvikārātmake citte bhāvaḥ prathama-vikriyā ||

When the sthāyi bhāva [Jiva: which is necessary for the culture of] madhura-rasa known as rati, the first transformation in the previously unperturbed mind is called bhāva.
It should be noted that this latter bhāva is one of the anubhāvas, not another category.