Sunday, July 22, 2018

Understanding the mūḍhatama and the three adhikaras

These thoughts are based on conversations I had in 2017, based on my response to Srila Narayan Maharaj's statements related to Bhaktivinoda Sva-likhita-jivani (SLJ), which it would be advisable to read before going on here.

I am currently doing a bit of work on SLJ and his frank description of his conversion to Chaitanya Vaishnavism is particularly important to us, who are also converts. I have heard that Swami Tripurari Maharaj coined the sobriquet "the first European convert to Vaishnavism" since the Thakur passed through a thorough indoctrination into Western thinking before being exposed to the Chaitanya Charitamrita and Bhagavata Purana when in his 30's. His English-medium education, which a strong element of Unitarian Universalism through the association of Reverend Charles Dall, was not monolithic. In fact, it reflected the contemporary debates in Europe and America about scriptural literalism and the nature of God and Jesus that were rocking the Christian world.  Dall impressed Bhaktivinoda with many aspects of Christianity, including its arguments in favor of a loving personal God, the personality of Christ, and the concept of the the "brotherhood of man." These were all factors in his rejecting the Brahmo Samaj of Ram Mohun Roy, which was BVT's class contemporaries home-grown alternative to traditional Hinduism and Christiantiy.

There is no doubt that these early influences had a bearing on the way that Bhaktivinoda Thakur engaged with Vaishnavism and we can see this clearly in his early pamphlet on the "Bhagabat"(Dinajpur, 1869), which is his first engagement with the subject in writing. And though his frame of mind was quite different by the time he wrote SLJ, his openness about his life's path exemplifies some of the things he wrote about in his earlier works. To be more clear, when BVT warns his son, to whom he is writing his memoir as a personal letter, not to misuse the work, he is making reference to the different kinds of adhikaras. The SLJ is not meant for the mūḍhatama.

Below is a passage from the introduction to Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā, a book that was written in Sanskrit by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur and completed in Bhadrak (Orissa) in 1880 [though according to SLJ he wrote it mostly in Narail], most likely a little before his diksha connection with Srila Bipin Bihari Goswamipada, but not before coming into his association. In SLJ [149], he mentions that he wrote some of the verses of KS while in Jagannath Puri between 1873-75, at about the same time he was writing the shorter work Datta-kaustubha, his first in Sanskrit.

The introduction to KS is an extremely important piece of writing from the Thakur's corpus, and we have Shukavak Prabhu to thank for publicly showing how the Thakur was engaging with Western or modern thought in a innovative fashion. [One can also look at the very informative work by Abhishek Ghosh, such as his article "Puranic Pasts and Colonial Presence: Bhaktivinoda’s Vaishnava Historiography of India" in the Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 23,1 2014, pp. 19-54, and other articles in that issue of JVS, as well as Shukavak's ground-breaking Hindu Encounter with Modernity.]

Here then is the text that forms the basis of our discussion. There are two quotes in the footnotes to this text, but I will put them into the text with their translation, both in the Bengali and the translated version. I am not sure if the translation is Shukavak's work as I found it on the internet, HERE. I am taking the liberty to make changes where I see fit. Parenthetical remarks are in a different color.
পরমার্থ তত্ত্বে সকল লোকেরই অধিকার আছে. কিন্তু আলোচকগণের অবস্থাক্রমে তাঁহাদিগকে তিন ভাগে বিভাগ করা যায় ।
Everyone has the right to enter into spiritual topics. Yet those who discuss these matters can be divided into three categories according to their spiritual status. (1) 
যশ্চ মূঢতমো লোকে যশ্চ বুদ্ধেঃ পরং গতঃ ।
তাবুভৌ সুখমেধেতে ক্লিশ্যত্যন্তরিতো জনঃ ॥ (ভা. ৩.৭.১৭) 
yaś ca mūḍhatamo loke yaś ca buddheḥ paraṁ gataḥ |tāv ubhau sukham edhete kliśyaty antarito janaḥ ||
"এই সংসারে দুই প্রকার সুখী ব্যক্তি দেখা যায় । এক, যে অত্যন্ত মূঢ় বা অজ্ঞান-গ্রস্ত, আর দ্বিতীয়, যে বুদ্ধির অতীত হয়েছে । এই দুই প্রকারের থেকে ভিন্ন যে মধ্যবর্তী মানুষ, সেই কেবল দুঃখ ভোগ করে."

"In this world, two kinds of happy people can be found. One is the person who is extremely foolish (mūḍhatama) or steeped in ignorance; the other is one who has transcended intelligence. Distinct from these two is the one in between, who alone suffers." (SB 3.7.17) [I previously discussed this verse HERE also.] 
যাঁহাদের স্বাধীন বিচার শক্তির উদয় হয় নাই, তাঁহারা কোমলশ্রদ্ধ নামে প্রথমভাগে অবস্থান করেন । বিশ্বাস ব্যতীত তাঁহাদের গতি নাই । শাস্ত্রকার যাহা বলিয়াছেন তাহা ঈশ্বর আজ্ঞা বলিয়া না মানিলে তাঁহাদের অধোগতি হইয়া পড়ে । তঁহারা শ্রীকৃষ্ণ তত্ত্বের স্থূলার্থের অধিকারী, সূক্ষ্মার্থবিচারে তাঁহাদের অধিকার নাই । যে পর্যন্ত সাধুসঙ্গ ও সদুপদেশ দ্বারা ক্রমোন্নতিসূত্রে তাঁহারা উন্নত না হন, সে পর্যন্ত তাঁহারা বিশ্বাসের আশ্রয়ে আত্মোন্নতির যত্ন পাইবেন ।
Those who do not have not yet developed the independent power of discrimination are in the first category and are called those with soft faith (komala-śraddhā). They have no alternative to belief. If they do not accept whatever the compilers of the scriptures have stated as being the order of the Lord, then they fall down. They are qualified only for understanding the gross aspects of the Krishna principle; they have no qualification for understanding the subtle meanings. Until they progressively advance through good association and instruction, they should try to advance themselves under the shelter of faith. 
বিশ্বস্ত বিষয়ে যুক্তিযোগ করিতে সমর্থ হইয়াও, যাঁহারা পারংগত না হইয়াছেন, তাঁহারা যুক্ত্যধিকারী বা মধ্যমাধিকারী বলিয়া পরিগণিত হন । পারংগত পুরুষেরা সর্বার্থসিদ্ধ । তাঁহারা অর্থসকল দ্বারা স্বাধীনচেষ্টা ক্রমে পরমার্থ সাধনে সক্ষম । ইহাঁদের নাম উত্তমাধিকারী । 
Those who have are capable of associating reason with the object of their faith, but have not yet succeeded in fully connecting the two, belong to the second grade and are called "qualified for reason" (yukty-adhikārī) or "of middling qualification" (madhyama adhikārī). And those who are expert in connecting these two are perfect in all respects. They are able to attain spiritual meaning (paramārtha) by utilizing in their independent endeavors in understanding all other matters (artha). They are called topmost, or uttama adhikārī.
[BVT uses the terms artha (value) and paramārtha (supreme value) to distinguish between material objects of knowledge and the spiritual or higher realm of knowledge. The two are connected as type to archetype and therefore connected as the reflections of the Supreme in the conditioned state. This is why for him it is possible for one, through sahaja-samādhi to arrive independently at direct knowledge of the Supreme. Whether this idea is entirely consonant with classical Gaudiya Vaishnava thinking or is a residue of Christian Unitarian influences is a matter that is subject to debate. As already pointed out, this book was written in the period prior to taking Vaishnava initiation. But to a greater or lesser extent, remains present in BVT's thought to the very end.]
এই ত্রিবিধ আলোচকদিগের মধ্যে এই গ্রন্থের অধিকারী যে, তাহা নির্ণয় করা আবশ্যক । কোমলশ্রদ্ধ মহোদয়গণ উহার অধিকারী নহেন । কিন্তু ভাগ্যোদয়ক্রমে ক্রমশঃ উচ্চাধিকার প্রাপ্ত হইয়া পরে অধিকারী হইতে পারেন । পারংগত মহাপুরুষদিগের এই গ্রন্থে নিজ নিজ সিদ্ধান্ত দৃঢীকরণ ব্যতীত আর কোন সাক্ষাৎ প্রয়োজন নাই । তথাপি এতদ্গ্রন্থালোচনদ্বারা মধ্যমাধিকারীদিগকে উন্নত করিবার চেষ্টায় এই গ্রন্থের সমাদর করিবেন । অত এব মধ্যমাধিকারী মহোদয়গণ এই গ্রন্থের যথার্থ অধিকারী । 
It is necessary to ascertain which of these three is the proper candidate for studying this book. Those with soft faith are not qualified, but they can gradually become qualified by attaining a higher stage through good fortune. The expert topmost persons have no direct need for this book other than to strengthen their own conclusions. Still, they should discuss this book with due respect in order to benefit the madhyama adhikārīs. Therefore it is the madhyama adhikārīs who are the proper candidates for studying this book. 
শ্রীমদ্ভাগবত পূর্বোক্ত ত্রিবিধ লোকেরই অধিকার আছে । ঐ অপূর্ব গ্রন্থের প্রচলিত টীকাটিপ্পনিসকল প্রায় কোমলশ্রদ্ধ পুরুষদিগের উপকারার্থে বিরচিত হইয়াছে । টীকা টিপ্পনীকারেরা অনেকেই সারগ্রাহী ছিলেন, কিন্তু তাঁহারা যতদূর কোমলশ্রদ্ধদিগের প্রতি দয়া প্রকাশ করিয়াছেন ততদূর মধ্যমাধিকারীদিগের প্রতি করেন নাই । যে যে স্থলে জ্ঞানের চর্চা করিয়াছেন সেই সেই স্থলে কেবল ব্রহ্মজ্ঞানের উল্লেখ থাকায় বর্তমানে যুক্তিবাদীদিগের উপকার হইতেছে না ।
All the above-mentioned three categories of people are qualified to study Srimad Bhagavatam, yet most of the commentaries on this matchless book are composed for the benefit of the neophytes [of soft faith]. The commentators were mostly essence-taking persons (sāra-grāhī), but they did not exhibit as much compassion towards the madhyamas as they did to the neophytes. Whenever they discuss jñāna, they are referring to brahma-jñāna, or the impersonal understanding of the Absolute Truth. Therefore modern rationalists are not benefited. 
[The original translation for sāra-grāhī here was "swan-like persons" That is essentially correct, since a swan is said taking milk from the mixture. This is also the same as the concept of the sāra-grāhī, the essence-taker. The sāra-grāhī is used by BVT as a focal point of his entire argument here and in nearly all his writings. There is really no distinction between the sāra-grāhī and the uttama adhikārī, whose knowledge comes from direct perception. The three stages can be seen as analogous to the vicāra-pradhāna devotee's śravaṇa (simple hearing of the text), manana (reflection on its meaning, which is limited by the gross mind and intelligence) and nididhyāsana (entering into direct insight into the transcendent meaning of the text (See BhaktiS 202.  The actual text of KS gives some insights in how to make this jump, which I will perhaps talk about in an upcoming post.] 
সম্প্রতি অস্মদ্দেশীয় অনেক বিদেশীয় শাস্ত্র ও বিজ্ঞান আলোচনা করিয়া তাৎপর্য্য অন্বেষণ করেন । পূর্বোক্ত কোমলশ্রদ্ধ পুরুষগণের উপযোগী টীকা-টিপ্পনী ও শাস্ত্রকারের পরোক্ষবাদ* দৃষ্টি করিয়া তাঁহারা সহসা শ্রদ্ধ হইয়া, হয় কোন বিজাতীয় ধর্ম অবলম্বন করেন, অথবা তদ্রূপ কোন ধর্মান্তর সৃষ্টি করিয়া ভিন্ন ভিন্ন নামে পরিচিত হন । ইহাতে শোচনীয বিষয় এই যে পূর্ব্ব মহাজনকৃত অনেক পরিশ্রমজাত অধিকার হইতে অধিকারান্তর গমনোপযোগী সম্যক্ সোপান পরিত্যাগপূর্ব্বক নিরর্থক কালক্ষেপজনক সোপানান্তর গঠনে প্রবৃত্ত হন । মধ্যমাধিকারীদিগের শাস্ত্রবিচার জন্য যদি কোন গ্রন্থ থাকিত তাহা হইতে আর উপধর্ম্ম, ছলধর্ম্ম, বৈধর্ম্ম ও ধর্ম্মান্তরের কল্পনারূপ বৃহদনর্থ ভারতবর্ষে প্রবেশ করিত না । উপরোক্ত অভাব পরিপূরণ করাই এই শাস্ত্রের প্রধান উদ্দেশ্য । বস্তুতঃ এই শাস্ত্রদ্বারা কোমলশ্রদ্ধ মধ্যমাধিকরী ও উত্তমাধিকারী ত্রিবিধ লোকেরই স্বতঃ পরতঃ উপকার আছে । অত এব তাঁহারা সকলেই ইহার আদর করুন ।
Nowadays many people of our country discuss foreign literature and science with a desire to scrutinize its significance. They quickly become faithless after observing the indirect presentations by the writers of the scripture and the scriptural commentaries that are appropriate for the above-mentioned neophytes. They then either adopt a different religion or introduce new ones, becoming identified under different names. The tragedy here is that such people uselessly waste their time inventing a new level of understanding while leaving aside the previous mahājanas perfect path, which automatically uplifts one from a lower qualification to a higher one. If there were some literatures appropriate for the madhyamādhikārīs to discuss, then no anarthas, or unwanted things, in the form of sub-religion, cheating religion, or irreligion would have entered India. The principal purpose of this book is to fulfill the above-mentioned requirement. Actually this book will directly and indirectly benefit all three types of persons the uttama, madhyama, and kaniṣṭha. Therefore they should all respect this book. .
parokṣa-vādo vedo'yaṁ bālānām anuśāsanam
karma-mokṣāya karmāṇi vidhatte hy agadaṁ yathā
The Vedas speak in a covert manner in order to discipline the ignorant. They prescribe karma in order to release them from the bondage of karma just like one gives a child medicine [coated with sugar]. (11.3.44)
["Covert manner" or "indirect speech." In other words, the idea is to get you to act in a way that is beneficial to yourself, because you are sick with the material disease. "Discipline the ignorant" here ignorant is the same as mūḍha above.]

Shastra just means body of knowledge, which can be upgraded. Pāramārthika śāstra, i.e, the body of knowledge that leads to knowing God, is regularly upgraded by various people who have reached an exceptional level of realization. This is what BVT was referring to as knowledge being "progressive" in the context of his Bhagavata speech.

Those who add or revise this body of knowledge are then judged: Are they worthy? Are they truly ideal human beings? And they are tested. And their words are tested. And those who follow their words are tested.

And as many as find them true and authentic, there are thousands more who find their flaws. But those who are sat, closer to the truth or reality, go on nevertheless.

Those on the lowest level, the kaniṣṭhas, are according to the Bhagavatam, they are the mūḍhatamas. The shastra speaks in two ways: one is external, the other internal. Bhaktivinoda points out that the shastra is mostly written for the mūḍhas, those who have blind faith. This is because they are the most numerous among the adhikārīs (or always have been in the past). But being the most numerous, they are also the ones most in need of mercy. Therefore a proportional segment of the scriptures is designed for them. These are BVT's "useless readers."

In view of the challenges of modernity, BVT takes greater aim at the "stupid critic," the one who fails to see past the covert manner of speaking meant for disciplining the ignorant (parokṣa-vāda). Though such people may be considered madhyama because their capacities for discrimination have been awakened, for the most part, they fail to be sāra-grāhī as above described and are thus misled by the exercise of a rationality that may operate well in the material sphere, but has no power to touch transcendence. nāyam ātmā pravacanena labhyo na medhayā na bahunā śrutena. For them, it would be impossible to take Krishna as the Reality, as literal truth.

In SLJ, BVT states precisely that the purpose of the Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā was to answer this question.
When I published Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā the people of this country had many opinions [about it]. Some said that it presented a new point of view. Others said it was good. The younger, educated people also said it was good, but no one could understand its essence. The purpose of the book was to show that Krishna-tattva is transcendental. Some thought that the entire matter [of the book] was psychological (ādhyātmika), but they were altogether wrong. There is a subtle difference between aprākṛta [transcendental ] and ādhyātmika [psychological] which generally no one can grasp. Aprākṛta has as its basis the absence of speculative knowledge.
It might have been best to translate ādhyātmika here as reductionist symbolic, but I suppose psychological will do. The portions of KS referred to are no doubt chapters 7-9. In the first two (which are tellingly perhaps the most popular among the modern followers of BVT) the demons Krishna kills are said to represent different obstacles to spiritual progress. The 9th chapter takes the different features of Krishna's appearance, etc., to also symbolize divine qualities. BVT's goal is not reductionist however, which is no doubt why it escaped the understanding of the foolish readers and shallow critics. As stated above, BVT proceeds from the symbol to the Reality and then sees the Reality reflected in all manifestations of his energy.]

There are fairy stories that survive knowledge. Santa Claus is a good example. Parents continue the fiction of Santa Claus from generation to generation for reasons that only one who has been a parent and celebrated Christmas with young children can understand. I personally abhor modern commercial Christmas, but I can still appreciate the positive meaning of the image of Santa Claus when abstracted from the dung-heap of commercialization is removed -- difficult as that is.

Perhaps because it was completely new to us when Prabhupada began his preaching work, Krishna worked as a symbol of the Divine right away. We must understand something very important, the God symbol -- whichever one it is -- is not different from God -- whosoever one He is. God is, in a very real sense, not different from his symbols.

If the God symbol works, i.e., if it has transformative properties by being a genuine medium of spiritual experience, i.e., aparokṣānubhūti, then the symbol and the shastra will survive. That is achieved by the uttama. Only the uttama keeps the symbol alive by regurgitating the shastra like a Shukadeva, making the fruit sweeter with his own juices.

The mūḍhatama, like the infant believing in Santa Claus, does not see the internal truth. Although he has had some direct experience, it is not matured or mellowed. It is bouncing around on the external plane. And though everyone flies as high as they can, too many crash and burn, or just don't fly very high.

Then there are those who lie in between. They are the ordinary folk, who are too smart to be mūḍhatama, but who are too stupid to see the difference between a kaniṣṭha and an uttama. In that respect they share one of the traits of a mūḍhatama.

They cast doubt on the role of God. They think that reason will answer all questions, but all it does is reveal problems. All doubt is self-doubt. All doubt is lack of self-knowledge. All doubt is ultimately the sign of the conditioned soul, but the mūḍhatama tries to fake faith with memorized quotations and a belief that is intolerant of any blemish whatsoever. Who cover their ears and their eyes and chant louder and louder.

The uttama has passed beyond intelligence. He knows what he knows: There is one Truth present in all things. And for us Vaishnavas, that Truth is Krishna. And Krishna is always accompanied by Radha, without whom he would not be complete.

A lot of progress can be made by a kaniṣṭha, and a madhyama is far from safe. He may spend lifetimes in the wilderness. A smart kaniṣṭha, someone with lifetimes of sukṛti and the good fortune to know an uttama, might spend a very pleasant time in the madhyama stage before going on to the uttama. In some ways, there is no difference really. But generally speaking -- kliśyanty antarito janah. The guys in between suffer because of doubt.

The kaniṣṭha also suffers, but being mūḍhatama, he does not know it. His self-righteousness and powerful ego (weak but artificially strengthened by the mob and by Divine Possession) will not allow him to see himself as a failure who suffers.

The same thing can happen to the convert to doubt. He develops his own negative orthodoxy of non-belief. And as much as the mūḍhatama of the religious sort is blind to his own ignorance, so it is with the mūḍhatama of the atheistic sort.

The sara-grahi, sat and asat.

Sadhus are also called sat, which is best translated as "the good." Sat-sanga means "association with the good." But the derivation of sat is that it is the present participle of the verb "to be" (as), so it s fundamental meaning is "being, existing." This then has several derived meanings, primary of which is "truth" or reality.

In other words, what exists is real and true, what does not (asat) is not true. That which is true is good, that which is not is not.

As Vaishnavas we are meant to discriminate b1etween sat and asat, but basically asat is an illusion, because untruth, by definition, does not exist.

The asat person is one who is living in the mistaken belief that asat is sat.

One who finds fault, therefore, is seeing asat and meditating on asat. As much as we meditate on asat, that much are we ourselves asat. Coming into contact with asat is called asat-sanga. Coming into contact with Reality is sat-sanga.

Though it may be argued that at lower levels of spiritual advancement, it is necessary to identify asat in order to eliminate it, in actual fact, as soon as it is recognized as unreal, it will disappear.

So my personal strategy in this matter is to concentrate on sat wherever there is a mixture of the two. Like a swan taking milk from the mixture. This is also the same as the concept of the sāra-grāhī, the essence-taker..

This is not a strategy for paramahamsas alone, however. Even practical psychologists like Dale Carnegie use this as their fundamental principle. If you want your child to grow properly, you praise lavishly his or her positive accomplishments. He may need to be punished for going wrong, but if the balance is swayed in the negative direction, he is likely to develop in undesirable ways.

I know that this is an idealistic position that may be considered impractical, but I would rather accentuate the positive than the negative.

The only thing is that the standard I hold myself to is the one of the topmost Vaishnava behavior in what I consider the most important area of all,

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Narayan Maharaj's comments on the Sva-likhita-jivani.

I was accused of Vaishnava nindā for my response to an excerpt from a Narayan Maharaj conversation. For the record I am presenting that excerpt [May 23, 2009 darshan] along with which I shall make some remarks. This conversation took place around 11-08-2017. I was a little confrontational so I have mostly edited my remarks.

Bear in mind that those who objected and accused me of committing offense to Narayan Maharaj paid no attention whatsoever to my remarks and simply condemned me for disagreeing with their authorities. I have spoken on that elsewhere on Facebook, but have gathered those remarks and shall post everything to my blog for reference.

I have already responded to many of the things Narayana Maharaj said in a blog post addressed to Rocana Dasa a few years ago as he was saying pretty much the same stuff, but with a bit less of the combativeness that Narayan Maharaj shows here.

Bhaktivinoda Thakur's meat-eating and Lalita Prasad Thakur.

The numbers are annotations that will be commented on in subsequent comments.

Srila Madhava Maharaj (recites from Gīta-mālā, Siddhi-lālasā song 11 (1) revealing that he is Kamala Manjari. Prior to this is a conversation with Vichitra Didi, Srila Gurudeva reveals that he [BVT] is also Srila Gadadhar Pandit in Gaura-līlā.) (2)

Ramachandra Prabhu: Yes, but this book [SLJ] says that although he is now siddha, when he was young, he took non-vegetarian foodstuffs for some time. (3)

Srila Gurudeva: No, that is not possible. That statement is an offense. It is not only false, it is fully false. Lord Ramachandra was in the role of a kshatriya and therefore hunted, does that mean he ate meat? Because he killed a deer, he ate meat? Krishna was also in the role of a kshatriya and he was also hunting. Do you want to say that Krishna ate meat? This is totally false.(4)

Ramachandra Das: People also say he wrote this autobiography with the help of Lalita Prasad. (5)

Srila Gurudeva. That book is not authentic. (6) Srila Prabhupada was his favorite son. What Bhaktivinoda Thakur did not reveal to Prabhupada he revealed to Lalita Prasad? (7) That is not possible. Lalita Prasad is not in the line of our guru parampara. (8) 
Sripada Madhava Maharaj: When Srila Prabhupada was born, Srila BVT said to Bhagavati Devi, a mahapurusha has come. He didn't say this about his other children. (9) He saw all auspicious markings on his son's body, such as the tilak and kanthi marks and told Bhagavati Devi to cherish him very carefully.

Srila Gurudeva (to Vichitra Dasi) You should give class very carefully so that no one will have any doubts.(10)

(1) This appears to be the wrong reference, probably means #8. Siddhi Lālasā is a beautiful set of ten songs which faithfully follow the ekādaśa bhāva that Bhaktivinoda Thakur talks about in numerous places in his books, most prominently in the last chapter of Harināma-cintāmaṇi. Song #8 most closely follows those eleven characteristics of his spiritual identity. Suffice it to say that these eleven characteristics of the siddha-deha, including the name of Kamala Manjari, were given to my Parama Gurudeva by his spiritual master, Bipin Bihari Goswami. Anyone who does not recognize the Guru of my Parama Gurudeva cannot be pleasing to my Parama Gurudeva. Anyone who tries to appropriate the gifts made by Bipin Bihari Goswami to his dearmost disciple while disregarding the giver of these gifts will be baffled in his attempts. As Siddhanta Saraswati himself said, “You can’t steal from the treasure house of love ” (bhāvera ghare curi). The process is ānugatya-maya.

(2) I have never heard that BVT was Gadadhar Pandit in Gaura Lila. These kinds of fabrications are not very helpful for the sāra-grāhi Vaishnava and simply muddy the waters for those who want to advance jn the truth and to make Krishna bhakti palatable to the empiricists. I do not care much for such wanton embellishments and the way that hagiographies distort matters simply to enhance the prestige of their own gurus and lineage. Here we see a case of embellishment.

I don’t know where this came from, except that Siddhanta Saraswati used to like to say that the Guru can also be seen as a form of Radha, who is Gadadhar Pandit in Gaura Lila. This is all very nice glorification of the Guru, but -- kintu prabhor yaḥ priya eva, “But although he is accepted as God Himself by the saints and the scriptures, he is in fact dear to the Lord.” I really don’t think I should have to say anything more about this excessive praise (atistuti), which in fact should be pleasing to no one, least of all to Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself.

(3) The book referred to here is the Sva-likhita-jīvanī, which is described as follows in most accepted listings of Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s writings:
“1896 Sva-likhita-jīvanī (Bengali) - A 200-page prose letter written to his son, Lalita Prasad Datta, who requested the details of his father's personal life.”
The original handwritten manuscript has been preserved at the Dwadash Mandir. The actual date of writing was 1894 and the first edition was published by Prabhu in 1896. There is no doubt as to the authenticity of the manuscript.

What Bhaktivinoda Thakur says is not that he was “now siddha” but that after taking initiation, he wrote a letter to his gurudeva, which he reproduces in the autobiography, saying that after being initiated he lost all taste for meat and fish and gave them up entirely. This indicates that prior to initiation in 1880, Bhaktivinoda Thakur did indeed eat non-vegetarian food, by his own admission. He would have been 42 at the time, hardly young.

Moreover, the issue of meat eating is one that recurs many times in the period preceding his initiation, showing Bhaktivinoda Thakur's struggle with the problem. His brother died in front of his eyes after eating tainted goat meat. He himself was instructed by his "Gurudeva", a Kartabhaja mystic, to abstain from flesh and the prasad of devas, when he fell ill. He writes how he could not maintain the vow and fell ill again. There are many such statements in the autobiography. All of which adds to the significance of his praise of initiation and its effect on "curing" him of this improper behavior.

(4) This is a great example of atrocious bad-faith argumentation. There is no relationship of the examples to the question of whether Bhaktivinoda Thakur ever had such habits. But if you believe he was Radharani or Gadadhar Pandit, then how could he possibly have eaten meat? When the premise is flawed, subsequent argumentation must be flawed.

(5) I have dealt with this in the linked posting and above (3). Lalita Prasada was only an innocent 14-year-old who had recently taken initiation from his father and admiringly asked him to write an account of his life. The book was written in a personal way to his loving son and disciple and does not preclude any sentiments he may have had for his other children. I find it atrocious that one would disregard a genuine text because it says things we don’t agree with, especially those written by someone we claim is a guru, and furthermore to cast aspersions on Lalita Prasad Thakur to whom it was written. This is not sincere seeking of the Truth, and if this is not offensive, I don’t know what the meaning of offensive is.

(6) As stated above, the original manuscript is in our possession at Dwadash Mandir, Birnagar, the birthplace of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, where it was preserved and treasured by the recipient of the letters. It has been restored and undergone treatment at the Bhaktivedanta Research Institute in Kolkata under the supervision of Achyuta Das. I have studied it carefully can testify to the consistency of the handwriting throughout. There are no interpolations or emendations.

(7) This was really the point that annoyed me the most in Narayan Maharaj's comments. As I wrote in my original response: “What silly nonsense sibling rivalry is being promoted by the disciples of one guru over another? Aren't those things supposed to be left behind in our childhoods?”

Seriously, I don’t think I can say anything more than this. Are we still little children? “Daddy liked me better than you.” Then the next generation, “Granddaddy liked daddy better than uncle.” This is what I mean by an “original sin” being preserved through the generations and creating unnecessary partisan feeling. Just read what Bhaktivinoda Thakur has to say about "party feeling."

As I just said, this book was addressed to Lalita Prasad Thakur, who had by this time already taken initiation from his father. Naturally Bhaktivinoda gave priority to matters related to the person to whom he wrote the book. He says that there were special circumstances surrounding this child’s birth: a sadhu whom he “recognized” as Narada Muni, came and glorified the child and said he would be a great mahapurusha.
You were born in Ranaghat on the 15th of Ashwin 1880. I saw auspicious signs on your body that indicated that you would grow up to be particularly religious. ... You were born on the day of Sri Ekadasi. In a dream I saw an ugly monkey which came to me and said, "This child is very wicked and will not live." Immediately afterward, Sri Narada appeared in the dream and said, "That monkey is Kali. Do not heed his words. This boy is born on Harivasara [ekadasi]. He will be initiated into the pure Vaishnava religion and will preach that dharma. No one will be able to kill him."

O Lalita! I hope that you will fulfill the prediction of Narada Goswami. In this world there is no wealth that can compare to the wealth of dharma. The body lives for just a moment; it is here today and gone tomorrow. Our most merciful Prabhu has kindly given the treasures of His name and of prema to this world. When you are older, you should understand this from the sadhus and the Guru. The books Śrīmad Bhāgavata and Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta are priceless gems in this world. Make some effort to study these books. There is no need to make a show of knowledge to worldly people, rather give them the treasure of bhakti. Live a sinless life according to religious principles and earn money and [167] support your family and yourself. But never at any time forget the holy name of Krishna. (Pages 165-167 of handwritten MS)
On the other hand, Thakur says nothing in this volume about Bimala Prasad’s birth. Whether that has any significance or not I do not know. I have no idea where those stories about Bimala Prasad come from. They may or may not be true, but in Lalita Prasad Thakur’s case, we have the Thakur’s personal testimony. And it was borne out, since only Lalita Prasad Thakur preserved his father’s dīkṣā lineage along with the esoteric aspects known as ekādaśa bhāva.

But why should Bhaktivinoda Thakur not reveal things to one son that he did not to another? He gave mantra to one and not to the other. Isn’t that revealing things? And isn’t it appropriate for a Guru to reveal things to a surrendered disciple that he does not give to a non-disciple, even if he is his own child?

This is not to minimize the preaching of Saraswati Thakur, for I am the recipient of his grace also, and indeed the recipient of Bhaktivinoda Thakur's grace through him. Please do not misunderstand me.

(8) “Lalita Prasad is not in the line of our guru-paramparā.” Well, really, that is the whole point, but I am afraid that Narayan Maharaj is on the wrong side of this one. A guru-paramparā is a dīkṣā-paramparā. That is the only kind of guru-paramparā there is. A Bhāgavata-paramparā is a general kind of tradition that, whatever its value or legitimacy, does not have this kind of connection.

The path of grace is manifold, but the principal stream is in the transmission of the mantra. That is why the Bhagavatam says, labdhvānugraha ācāryāt (11.3.48), “After obtaining the mercy of the acharya...” Jiva Goswami’s Krama-sandarbha and Bhakti-sandarbha 207: anugraho mantra-dīkṣā-rūpaḥ “Mercy means in the form of mantra-dīkṣā.” Therefore, in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the connection to Mahaprabhu’s grace, though it has been channeled through many processes, such as the Holy Name and the Bhāgavatam, etc., is primarily passed down from generation to generation through the initiation mantra. Bhaktivinoda Thakur therefore, even if only to set example, took initiation in the line of Jahnava Mata, through Ramachandra Goswami (Ramai Thakur) who established his Shripat in Baghna Para near Nabadwip.

But we don’t take it as mere loka-sangraha. There are numerous evidences in Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s own writings of the affection relationship he had with his guru, as well as in the writing of Bipin Bihari Goswami. Any attempt to discredit this relationship would never be pleasing to Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself. And it is therefore distasteful to us also, his followers.

(9) Already answered in #7 above.

(10) So here Narayan Maharaj gives his disciple the instruction to carefully repeat the false conclusions he has taught. So no one will have doubts, because doubts are the enemy. Why? Because then you might leave the Gaudiya Math and become a babaji -- or something terrible like that.

I was reading the introduction to Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā at the time and have been doing so again as I work on the Jīvanī translation, which is why I edited my comments here a bit and am publishing them after a year. The original conversation became a little heated as I called Srila Narayan Maharaj a falsifier, which is objectively true, though not pleasing to his followers. The Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā introduction is very interesting. Bhaktivinoda Thakur talks there about the differences in faith and adhikāra, but I will leave that for a subsequent article.

To be most generous to Srila Narayan Maharaj, he was protecting the faith of his disciples, even though by his own claims, he wished to take the disciples of Bhaktivedanta Swami to a higher level of understanding. How can this be if one coddles them to protect them from difficult truths which when faced may enhance their understanding?

Of course I was called offensive and that led to the kinds of unpleasant exchanges that I generally have learned to avoid, but am unfortunately still occasionally susceptible to. But as Jordan Peterson says, you cannot speak anything at all or be a truth seeker without running the risk of offending people. And that is very much the issue here. Bhaktivinoda Thakur was no doubt offending someone when he spoke of the lower level of devotee, ones with weak faith, as "most foolish" (mūḍhatama), but the choice of words was his, not mine. And he took those words from the Bhāgavatam itself. So I think it worth exploring in another article.

Before doing so, however, I think it appropriate to just add A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami's remarks on related questions pertaining to SLJ, which I find rather more helpful than those given by Srila Narayan Maharaj:

"Regarding your questions, 'I read in a book sent from India that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur was sent directly by Lord Chaitanya from the spiritual sky. I am not sure if that book was bona fide. Is the above true? Someone, a Godbrother, brought up that he had heard that Srila Bhaktivinoda was at one time an impersonalist. Was he ever?'

“Yes, what you have heard is alright. Just like Arjuna is constant companion of Krishna, as it is confirmed in the 4th chapter, Krishna says that both Arjuna and He appeared many times on this world, but he had forgotten his past appearances and Krishna did not. Krishna is like the sun, and maya is just like darkness. Where Krishna is present there cannot be any darkness of maya. So as Arjuna although always in the presence of Krishna as eternal companion in friendship, still he had some illusion in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, and Krishna had to dissipate that darkness by the teachings of Bhagavad-gita.

“The purport is, sometimes even a liberated person like Arjuna plays the part of a conditioned soul in order to play some important part. Similarly, Bhaktivinoda Thakura for sometimes was associating with the impersonalists. And then he exhibited himself in his true colour as pure devotee, exactly in the same way as Arjuna exhibited in the beginning as a conditioned soul, and then as a liberated soul. So there is nothing to be misunderstood in this connection. Krishna and his devotees sometimes play like that, as much as Lord Buddha, although an incarnation of Krishna, preached the philosophy of voidism. These things are conducted in terms of place, audience, time etc.

“In the Chaitanya Charitamrita it is said that the activities of a Vaishnava cannot be understood by the greatest scholar... So there is no doubt about it that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is eternal energy of Lord Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. And whatever he did was just to suit the time, place, circumstances, and etc. There is no contradiction in his activities."

Niti-sataka 6 :: The role of Fate and Karma

After all the talk about character, now comes the last section about Fate and Karma. Bhartrihari does not let you off the hook, even though he admits the omnipotence of destiny. For instance, after declaring Fate to determine our fortunes, in the next verse he immediately tells us that sloth is our greatest enemy. One still has to act and think (v. 90); for Destiny is nothing other than the unseen consequences of previous acts. This is an apparent contradiction that cannot be escaped. The point is that one has to act without attachment to the results because those are not fully under our control.

So, this is the last of the Niti-sataka. Links to the other instalments:

Niti-sataka 5 :: The qualities of the virtuous and resolute

bhagnāśasya karaṇḍa-piṇḍita-tanor mlānendriyasya kṣudhā
kṛtvākhur vivaraṁ svayaṁ nipatito naktaṁ mukhe bhoginaḥ |
tṛptas tat-piśitena satvaram asau tenaiva yātaḥ yathā
lokāḥ paśyata daivam eva hi nṛṇāṁ vṛddhau kṣaye kāraṇam ||85||

There was once a snake locked in a box,
hungry and miserable, he was thin and hopeless.
A mouse, also looking for food, made a hole in the box
and fell into the mouth of the snake,
which then escaped through the hole the mouse had made.
Just see, my friends, how fate determines
both our good and bad fortune.

ālasyaṁ hi manuṣyāṇāṁ
śarīrastho mahān ripuḥ |
nāsty udyama-samo bandhuḥ
kurvāṇo nāvasīdati ||86||

Sloth is the great enemy of man,
residing with his own body.
On the other hand, there is no friend
equal to strenuous and continuous effort;
one who works thus never knows distress.

chinno'pi rohati taruḥ kṣīṇo'py upacīyate punaś candraḥ |
iti vimṛśantaḥ santaḥ santapyante na duḥkheṣu ||87||

A tree that has been cut down grows again;
the dark moon will become full again.
Remembering this, the saintly
never suffer in times of distress.

netā yasya bṛhaspatiḥ praharaṇaṁ vajraṁ surāḥ sainikāḥ
svargo durgam anugrahaḥ kila harer airāvato vāraṇaḥ |
ity aiśvarya-balānvito'pi balabhid bhagnaḥ paraiḥ saṅgare
tad vyaktaṁ nanu daivam eva śaraṇaṁ dhig dhig vṛthā pauruṣam ||88||

Indra's advisor was Brihaspati, his weapon the thunderbolt,
the gods formed his army; heaven itself was his fortress,
his vehicle was Airavata, and most of all, he had received the grace of Vishnu.
Not only that, but he possessed unlimited power and wealth.
Even so, he was defeated in battle by the demons.
It is thus clear that Fate is our only shelter --
fie, fie on all our efforts.

karmāyattaṁ phalaṁ puṁsāṁ
buddhiḥ karmānusāriṇī |
tathāpi sudhiyā bhāvyaṁ
suvicāryaiva kurvatā ||89||

The results of our actions are determined
by our previous deeds.
Our intelligence is also a result of previous deeds.
Even so, an intelligent person should act
only after careful judgment.

khalvāṭo divaseśvarasya kiraṇaiḥ santāḍito mastake
vāńchan deśam anātapaṁ vidhi-vaśāt tālasya mūlaṁ gataḥ |
tatrāpy asya mahāphalena patatā bhagnaṁ saśabdaṁ śiraḥ
prāyo gacchati yatra bhāgya-rahitas tatraiva yānty āpadaḥ ||90||

A bald guy was out suffering in the hot sun
and so he went to take shelter under a shady tree.
But when there, a big tal fruit fell on his head,
noisily cracking his skull.
An unfortunate man will meet misfortune
wherever he goes.

ravi-niśākarayor graha-pīḍanaṁ
gaja-bhujaṅgamayor api bandhanam |
matimatāṁ ca vilokya daridratāṁ
vidhir aho balavān iti me matiḥ ||91||

When I see that Rahu causes distress
to both the sun and the moon;
when I see that even elephants and cobras
are caught and imprisoned;
and when I see that even wise and learned persons
suffer from poverty,
I think, Fate is indeed all-powerful.

sṛjati tāvad aśeṣa-guṇākaraṁ
puruṣa-ratnam alaṅkaraṇaṁ bhuvaḥ |
tad api tat-kṣaṇa-bhaṅgīkaroti
ced ahaha kaṣṭam apaṇḍitatā vidheḥ ||92||

God creates a man who possesses all good qualities
a jewel that is an ornament to the world.
Then, in just a moment he destroys him–
I suffer to such a lack of wisdom in the Creator.

patraṁ naiva yadā karīra-viṭape doṣo vasantasya kim
nolūko'py avalokyate yadi divā sūryasya kiṁ dūṣaṇam |
dhārā naiva patanti cātaka-mukhe meghasya kiṁ dūṣaṇam
yat pūrvaṁ vidhinā lalāṭa-likhitaṁ tan mārjituṁ kaḥ kṣamaḥ ||93||

If there are no leaves on the bamboo plant,
is that the fault of the spring?
And if there are no owls outside during the day,
is that the fault of the sun?
And if the torrents of rain do not fall
into the chataka's open mouth,
is that the fault of the cloud?
Who can wipe away that which has been written
on our foreheads by Fate?

The idea of lalāṭa-likhitam, not to speak of the ravages of Fate, can be found almost everywhere, even in the Bhagavatam. For instance 10.39.19-20. MMW gives two alternatives for karīra, either bamboo or a kind of cactus.

namasyāmo devān nanu hatavidhes te'pi vaśagā
vidhir vandyaḥ so'pi pratiniyata-karmaika-phaladaḥ |
phalaṁ karmāyattaṁ yadi kim amaraiḥ kiṁ ca vidhinā
namas tat-karmabhyo vidhir api na yebhyaḥ prabhavati ||94||

We pay our obeisances to the gods,
but are they not under the thrall of Fate?
And we worship Fate, but he must award
the fruits of our actions without exception.
The awards we win are based on our work,
so what need have we of the gods or of Fate?
I bow down to works, over which
Brahma himself has no control.

A classical expression of the Karma-mimamsa philosophy. ṭhus the definition of God has to be "He who is outside the governance of karma." And thus we have the concept of "causeless mercy." And if God is compassionate, can we too not forgive? Everyone must reap as they sow.

brahmā yena kulālavan niyamito brahmāṇḍa-bhāṇḍodare
viṣṇur yena daśāvatāra-gahane kṣipto mahā-saṅkaṭe |
rudro yena kapāla-pāṇi-puṭake bhikṣāṭanaṁ kāritaḥ
sūryo bhrāmyati nityam eva gagane tasmai namaḥ karmaṇe ||95||

I offer my obeisances to works,
by which Brahma is made to turn like a potter's wheel
within this universal sphere;
by which Vishnu himself is thrown into great troubles
in his various incarnations;
because of which Rudra carries a skull in his hands
and wanders from door to door, begging;
and by whose power, the Sun god wanders through the sky.

naivākṛtiḥ phalati naivaṁ kulaṁ na śīlaṁ
vidyāpi naiva na ca yatna-kṛtāpi sevā |
bhāgyāni pūrva-tapasā khalu sańcitāni
kāle phalanti puruṣasya yathaiva vṛkṣāḥ ||96||

Nothing bears fruit, not beauty, family nor character,
not learning, not evening service performed with great care.
All our good fortune is the result of the penances
performed in previous lives.
When the time comes, they bear fruit, like a tree.

vane raṇe śatru-jalāgni-madhye
mahārṇave parvata-mastake vā |
suptaṁ pramattaṁ viṣama-sthitaṁ vā
rakṣanti puṇyāni purākṛtāni ||97||

Whether asleep, intoxicated or in danger,
wherever we are: in the woods, on the battlefield,
in water, fire or the ocean, or on a mountaintop,
our previous good deeds are always there to protect us.

yā sādhūṁś ca khalān karoti viduṣo mūrkhān hitān dveṣiṇaḥ
pratyakṣaṁ kurute parokṣam amṛtaṁ hālāhalaṁ tat-kṣaṇāt |
tām ārādhaya sat-kriyāṁ bhagavatīṁ bhoktuṁ phalaṁ vāńchitaṁ
he sādho vyasanair guṇeṣu vipuleṣv āsthāṁ vṛthā mā kṛthāḥ ||98||

It makes rascals into saintly people, fools into scholars,
it turns one's enemies into friends;
it makes the obscure obvious and turns poison into ambrosia.
O sadhus! Worship the god of good deeds
if you wish to attain the desired goals of life,
and don't place undue faith in other qualities,
which simply increase your troubles.

guṇavad aguṇavad vā kurvatā kārya-jātaṁ
pariṇatir avadhāryā yatnataḥ paṇḍitena |
atirabhasa-kṛtānāṁ karmaṇām āvipatter
bhavati hṛdaya-dāhī śalya-tulyo vipākaḥ ||99||

An intelligent person should carefully consider
the effects of all his actions, whether well-performed or not.
ṭhings done in haste cause the heart to be pierced with doubts
as if by a spear, until their consequences become manifest.

sthālyāṁ vaidūryamayyāṁ pacati tila-kaṇāṁś candanair indhanaughaiḥ
sauvarṇair lāṅgalāgrair vilikhati vasudhām arka-mūlasya hetoḥ |
kṛtvā karpūra-khaṇḍān vṛttim iha kurute kodravāṇāṁ samantāt
prāpyemāṁ karm-bhūmiṁ na carati manujo yas tapo manda-bhāgyaḥ ||100||

The unfortunate person
who after being born in the human form of life
does not take up the practice of austerities
is like someone who uses sandalwood to burn sesame seeds
in a bowl made of lapis lazuli,
or like a farmer who uses a plough made of gold
in order to plant mustard seed,
or like one who plants crumbs of camphor
in the hope of getting a crop of rice.

I think that we should revise our understanding of the term tapas. Facing up to any challenge is a tapas of sorts. The last line of the verse specified the relation to karma-bhūmi: the field of action (very much like the dharma-kṣetra). But on the whole I think that this verse will suit the spirit of many devotees.

majjatv ambhasi yātu meru-śikharaṁ śatruṁ jayatv āhave
vāṇijyaṁ kṛṣi-sevane ca sakalā vidyāḥ kalāḥ śikṣatām |
ākāśaṁ vipulaṁ prayātu khagavat kṛtvā prayatnaṁ paraṁ
nābhāvyaṁ bhavatīha karma-vaśato bhāvyasya nāśaḥ kutaḥ ||101||

One may cross the sea, or climb to the peak of Mount Meru,
one may conquer his enemies, or engage in business, farming or study;
one may fly in the wide skies like a bird,
but whatever efforts one makes,
because of previous pious or impious acts,
that which is not to be can never be,
so how can that which is to be ever be destroyed?

ṭīkā: yad bhāvi tad bhavaty eva yad abhāvi na tad bhavet
bhavitavyaṁ bhavaty eva nārikela-phalāmbuvat
gantavyaṁ gacchati sadā gaja-bhukta-kapitthavat

That which is to be will be, and that which is not to be would never be. That which is to be like the water in a coconut (i.e., it will be there). "It will go where it must go" like the figs eaten by an elephant (the seeds will drop in its stools wherever the elephant passes them).

bhīmaṁ vanaṁ bhavati tasya puraṁ pradhānaṁ
sarvo janaḥ svajanatām upayāti tasya |
kṛtsnā ca bhūr bhavati sannidhi-ratna-pūrṇā
yasyāsti pūrva-sukṛtaṁ vipulaṁ narasya ||102||

For someone who has accumulated many pious deeds,
the most dangerous forest is like his own capital city,
everyone becomes his friend and ally,
and the entire world is full of jewels for the taking.

Concluding summary

The last verses resume many of the themes seen earlier.

ko lābho guṇisaṅgamaḥ kim asukhaṁ prājñetaraiḥ saṅgatiḥ
kā hāniḥ samaya-cyutir nipuṇatā kā dharma-tattve ratiḥ |
kaḥ śūro vijitendriyaḥ priyatamā kā'nuvratā kiṁ dhanaṁ
vidyā kiṁ sukham apravāsa-gamanaṁ rājyaṁ kim ājñā-phalam ||103||

What is gain? The company of the virtuous.
What is illness? The company of people who have no insight.
What is loss? The wasting of time.
What is expertise? An affection for establishing the truth of duty.
Who is a hero? One who has conquered his senses.
Who is the most dear wife? One who follows faithfully.
What is wealth? Knowledge.
What is happiness? Never being forced to leave one's home.
What is a kingdom? It is having one's orders obeyed.

This verse immediately reminds one of the concluding portion of Ramananda's conversation with Mahaprabhu. The Bengali verses in the Chaitanya Charitamrita are based on a Sanskrit verse similar to this one in Kavi Karnapura's Caitanya-candrodaya-nāṭaka (7.10).

kiṁ geyaṁ ? vraja-keli-karma kim iha śreyaḥ ? satāṁ saṅgatiḥ
kiṁ smartavyam ? aghāri-nāma kim anudhyeyaṁ ? murāreḥ padam |
kva stheyam ? vraja eva kiṁ śravaṇayor ānandi ? vṛndāvana-
krīḍaikā kim upāsyam ? atra mahasī śrī-kṛṣṇa-rādhābhidhe ||10||
What is to be sung? The playful deeds in Vraja. What is most auspicious in this world? The company of the virtuous. What should be remembered? The holy names of the enemy of sin. What should be constantly meditated upon? The lotus feet of Murari. Where should one dwell? In Braja Dham only. What brings joy to the ears? The pastimes of Vrindavan. What is to be worshiped? The dual effulgences named Radha and Krishna.
apriya-vacana-daridraiḥ priya-vacana-dhanāḍhyaiḥ sva-dāra-parituṣṭaiḥ |
para-parivāda-nivṛttaiḥ kvacit kvacin maṇḍitā vasudhā ||104||

This world is sometimes graced with the presence
of those who are poor in speaking displeasing words,
people who are rich in praise for others,
who are satisfied with their own wives
and abstain from wanton criticism of others.

kadarthitasyāpi hi dhairya-vṛtter
na śakyate dhairya-guṇaḥ pramārṣṭum |
adhomukhasyāpi kṛtasya vahner
nādhaḥ śikhā yāti kadācid eva ||105||

Even when insulted and challenged
someone who has the qualities of patience and tolerance
is never moved to lose them.
Just as a flame always points upward,
even when the candle is held facing down.

The qualities of a dhīra again. The more I read of this, the more it seems to me that the concept of the dhīra is the Hindu "perfect man." I translated dhīra as "resolute" in verses 81-82.

kāntā-kaṭākṣa-viśikhā na lunanti yasya
cittaṁ na nirdahati kopa-kṛśānutāpaḥ |
karṣanti bhūri-viṣayāś ca na lobha-pāśair
loka-trayaṁ jayati kṛtsnam idaṁ sa dhīraḥ ||106||

One whose mind has not been looted
by the arrows of his mistress's glances,
nor burned by the fire of anger and regret,
nor tempted by the unlimited sense objects,
conquers the three worlds: he is a dhīra.

ekenāpi hi śūreṇa
pādākrāntaṁ mahītalam |
kriyate bhāskareṇaiva
sphāra-sphurita-tejasā ||107||

By his bright, fierce effulgence,
a single hero dominates the world,
like the sun.

vahnis tasya jalāyate jala-nidhiḥ kulyāyate tat-kṣaṇān
meruḥ svalpa-śilāyate mṛgapatiḥ sadyaḥ kuraṅgāyate |
vyālo mālya-guṇāyate viṣa-rasaḥ pīyūṣa-varṣāyate
yasyāṅge'khila-loka-vallabhatamaṁ śīlaṁ samunmīlati ||108||

For one in whom has developed the character
that is most dear to the unlimited worlds,
fire immediately turns to water,
the ocean into a puddle, the great ṁount ṁeru into a hillock,
a lion into a deer; a snake into a flower garland,
and poison into ambrosia.

The "character" spoken of must be the sum total of all those virtues previously described, summarizing as we near the end of the book. This verse has obvious parallels with a verse by Prabodhananda:Saraswati:

kaivalyaṁ narakāyate tri-daśa-pūr ākāśa-puṣpāyate
durdāntendriya-kāla-sarpa-paṭalī protkhāta-daṁṣṭrāyate
viśvaṁ pūrṇa-sukhāyate vidhi-mahendrādiś ca kīẏāyate
yat kāruṇya-kaṭākṣa-vaibhavavatāṁ taṁ gauram eva stumaḥ

To one who has received the power of Gaura's merciful glance, liberation appears like hell, the heavenly worlds like so many pies in the sky; the unconquerable senses become like snakes with the fangs removed, the universe is filled with joy everywhere, while gods like Vidhi and Mahendra are seen as of no more significance than insects. I praise that Gauranga Mahaprabhu. (Caitanya-candrāmṛta 95)

lajjā-guṇaugha-jananīṁ jananīm iva svām
atyanta-śuddha-hṛdayām anuvartamānām |
tejasvinaḥ sukham asūn api santyajanti
satya-vrata-vyasanino na punaḥ pratijñām ||109||

Those who have taken an unbreakable vow to tell the truth
would readily give up their lives
rather than renege on their promise,
which is the cause of modesty and numerous other virtues 
which is extremely pure in heart and follows one everywhere
any more than they would abandon their own mother.

Here all the adjectives describing promise mother can also be applied to mother, perhaps more easily. At any rate, promises are given by a truth teller from a place of purity of heart, and the keeping of them is a road to virtue and character. They follow one everywhere, because one's word will never be forgotten by those to whom it was given, whether it is kept or not kept. This final word -- whether truly the final word of the author or compiler -- nevertheless fittingly summarizes the connection of character development to the keeping of one's word.

Kaivalyam narakayate

I found this unposted draft dated from around the time that Swami Veda left this world. I am posting it now, although I understand why I left it in the drafts for so long. (7-21-2018). Swamiji answered me that he hoped to attain absolute liberation or kaivalya at the time of his death. As a Vaishnava I was not overly enthusiastic about such a destination.

Three years later, I am only now beginning to understand how much affection I had for Swamiji and how much his teachings and practices affected and influenced me. May he rest in peace, and may the good he did continue to benefit the world. He was a dear friend and guide.

I am going to Rishikesh for the first time in three years in a few days, and have been having dreams of Swamiji. In meditation I often think of him as I do nadi-shodhana, remembering how he sat for hours doing this practice in the meditation hall at SRSG, trying hard to keep his body alive for a little longer so he could continue his service to his disciples and complete the Yoga Sutra work he was doing.
kaivalyaṁ narakāyate tridaśa-pūr ākāśa-puṣpāyate
durdāntendriya-kāla-sarpa-paṭalīṁ protkhāṭa-daṁṣṭrāyate
viśvam pūrṇa-sukhāyate vidhi-mahendrādiś ca kīṭāyate
yat-kāruṇya-kaṭākṣa-vaibhavavatāṁ taṁ gauram eva stumaḥ
To one who has received the power of Gaura's merciful glance, liberation appears like hell, the heavenly worlds like so many pies in the sky; the unconquerable senses become like snakes with the fangs removed, the universe is filled with joy everywhere, while gods like Vidhi and Mahendra are seen as of no more significance than insects. I praise that Gauranga Mahaprabhu. (Caitanya-candrāmṛta 95)

Me at the Haridwar ghat where Swamiji was put into jala-samadhi.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Niti-sataka 5 :: The qualities of the virtuous and resolute

Sorry for the interruption in posting the rest of Niti-sataka. There will be one more segment after this. These are really pretty nice verses and all seem to be without any contradiction to the principles of good character that are at the basis of all religious temperament, including that of the Vaishnava. It is when fanaticism leads one to ignore these principles that religion becomes debased. It is interesting to me that so many of the verses are confirmations of my feelings about the turmoil of the last few weeks, even though it may be said with justification that I failed to act with true virtue.

The virtuous

vāñchā sajjana-saṅgame para-guṇe prītir gurau namratā
vidyāyāṁ vyasanaṁ sva-yoṣiti ratir lokāpavādād bhayam |
bhaktiḥ śūlini śaktir ātma-damane saṁsarga-muktiḥ khale
yeṣv ete nivasanti nirmala-guṇās tebhyo narebhyo namaḥ ||62||

I bow my head respectfully to those
in whom dwell these qualities:
the desire for the company of the pious,
an appreciation of the virtues of others,
humility before one's teachers,
an attachment to learning,

love for one's own wife,
a fear of losing one's reputation,

devotion to God, strength in self-control,
and freedom from the company of the envious.

I am perhaps defective in the matter of fearing the loss of reputation. This is something I will talk about in an upcoming post based on my current project on the translation of Sva-likhita-jivani by Bhaktivinode Thakur, where I revisit some of the issues on autobiography and hagiography, the nexus between modernity and literalism. Anyway, I hope that these pious exhortations to good character, which almost always show an abhorrence for the universal tendency to calumniate others and admonishments to see the virtues in others will be taken seriously in the light of the general theme of this blog for the past several weeks.

vipadi dhairyam athābhyudaye kṣamā
sadasi vākya-paṭutā yudhi vikramaḥ |
yaśasi cābhirucir vyasanaṁ śrutau
prakṛti-siddham idaṁ hi mahātmanām ||63||

The following qualities are natural in great individuals:
calm in danger, forgiveness upon achieving success,
eloquence in public assemblies, valor in battle,
pleasure in one's good reputation, and an attachment to learning.

Again, pleasure in one's good reputation (yaśasi cābhiruci). I would like to have a good reputation, but I do not fear lies.

pradānaṁ pracchannaṁ gṛham upagate sambhrama-vidhiḥ
priyaṁ kṛtvā maunaṁ sadasi kathanaṁ cāpy upakṛteḥ |
anutseko lakṣmyām anabhibhava-gandhāḥ para-kathāḥ
satāṁ kenoddiṣṭaṁ viṣamam asidhārā-vratam idam ||64||

Who has ordered the good to follow
this razor-edged and difficult vow of conduct?
To give charity in secret,
to show respect and hospitality to those who come to one's door;
to not announce publicly the good they have done for others,
but to always give credit for the good they have received;
to remain humble even upon achieving success,
and to be free from the slightest hint of faultfinding when speaking of others?

kare ślāghyas tyāgaḥ śirasi guru-pāda-praṇayitā
mukhe satyā vāṇī vijayi bhujayor vīryam atulam |
hṛdi svacchā vṛttiḥ śrutim adhigataṁ ca śravaṇayor
vināpy aiśvaryeṇa prakṛti-mahatāṁ maṇḍanam idam ||65||

Though they may not possess any worldly riches
those naturally great are decorated with the following ornaments:
their hands with praiseworthy renunciation,
their heads with affection for the guru's feet,
their mouths with words of truth
and their arms with victory and valour.
Their hearts are decorated with pure motives
and their ears with the learning they have received.

sampatsu mahatāṁ cittaṁ
bhavaty utpala-komalam |
āpatsu ca mahā-śaila-
śilā-saṅghāta-karkaśam ||66||

Those who are naturally great
are as soft as the lotus in times of ease,
but as hard as the stones on a great mountain peak
in times of difficulty and danger.

The meaning is that a great person is charitable and compassionate to others when successful, but when in difficulty, is mentally tough and able to bear his troubles.

santaptāyasi saṁsthitasya payaso nāmāpi na jńāyate
muktākāratayā tad eva nalinī-patra-sthitaṁ rājate |
svātyāṁ sāgara-śukti-madhya-patitaṁ tan-mauktikaṁ jāyate
prāyeṇādhama-madhyamottama-guṇaḥ saṁsargato jāyate ||67||

A drop of water, when it falls on a hot plate,
evaporates and leaves not even a trace.
If it falls on a lotus leaf,
it takes on the appearance of a pearl.
And if it falls on the ocean, on an oyster
in the time of the Svati asterism,
it truly is transformed into a pearl.
A man's virtues manifest according to circumstance.

The obvious lesson is to be careful about the company we keep. yasya yat-saṅgatiḥ puṁsāṁ maṇivat syāt sa tad-guṇaḥ (BRS 1.2.229). āt the same time, this should give us a charitable disposition towards others. "There but for the grace of God go I." Even an Adolf Eichmann does not set out to become an amoral monster. Someone with basically good intentions may be diverted in contact with the modes of nature, so a devotee ("a perfect gentleman") should cultivate empathy. ātmavat manyate jagat does not mean self-centered egoism, but a recognition of the universal commonality of all creatures.

prīṇāti yaḥ sucaritaiḥ pitaraṁ sa putro
yad bhartur eva hitam icchati tat kalatram |
tan mitram āpadi sukhe ca sama-kriyaṁ yad
etat trayaṁ jagati puṇya-kṛto labhante ||68||

Those who have accumulated much piety
have true sons, ones that please them with their good deeds;
a true wife, one who desires the welfare of her husband,
and a true friend, one who stands by him in both happiness and danger.

Instructions to those who would be pious

eko devaḥ keśavo vā śivo vā
hy ekaṁ mitraṁ bhūpatir vā yatir vā |
eko vāsaḥ pattane vā vane vā
hy ekā bhāryā sundarī vā darī vā ||69||

Be devoted to one God,
whether it is Vishnu or Shiva;
be devoted to one friend,
whether a king or a monk;
make your home in a single location,
whether in the city or the forest;
and take one wife:
either a woman or a cave.

This verse reminds one immediately of the famous

eko devo devakīputra eva

ekaṁ śāstraṁ devakīputra-gītam |
eko mantras tasya nāmāni yāni
karmāpy ekaṁ tasya devasya sevā ||

And indeed, this expresses the same idea of being ekāntin or single minded. The Gita tells us to have vyavasāyātmikā buddhi and to remain fixed in our own prescribed duty. This is perhaps what is being stressed here as well. Know yourself. Know your sva-dharma in both your personal and professional life and stick to it. Perfecting it is the key to perfecting your life and your service to Krishna.

namratvenonnamantaḥ para-guṇa-kathanaiḥ svān guṇān khyāpayantaḥ
svārthān sampādayanto vitata-pṛthutarārambha-yatnāḥ parārthe |
kṣāntyaivākṣepa-rukṣākṣara-mukhara-mukhān durjanān dūṣayantaḥ
santaḥ sāścarya-caryā jagati bahu-matāḥ kasya nābhyarcanīyāḥ ||70||

The sadhu lifts others by his own humility,
he reveals his own good qualities by praising those of others;
he achieves his own goals by making extensive efforts
to achieve the welfare of other persons;
by his tolerance in the face of their insults,
he reveals the wickedness of his detractors.
These are the amazing characteristics of the good,
and they are justly praised in this world.
Who would not praise them?

Because they are so rare, says the commentator. And thus we ask whether we can legislate such good manners. At any rate, this seems to fit the present circumstances, at least in terms of what I was trying to achieve. This is a partial answer to Andrej, a friend who wondered about why I published the fatuous criticisms of a negligible person and why I tried to praise my critic. If anything, I am more embarrassed by having given free reign to the tendency to lash back.

bhavanti namrās taravaḥ phalodgamair
navāmbubhir dūrāvalambino ghanāḥ |
anuddhatāḥ sat-puruṣāḥ samṛddhibhiḥ
svabhāva eṣa paropakāriṇām |71||

Trees' branches bend when they are filled with fruit.
Clouds that are most filled with water
release them to the furthest reaches of the land;
similarly, the pious do not become puffed up with their riches.
This is the nature of those who do good to others.

śrotraṁ śrutenaiva na kuṇḍalena
dānena pāṇir na tu kaṅkaṇena |
vibhāti kāyaḥ karuṇa-parāṇāṁ
paropakārair na tu candanena ||72||

The ear is best decorated with learning
and not with earrings;
the hand by charity and not bracelets;
the bodies of the compassionate
are ornamented by their acts of kindness
and not by sandalwood paste.

The signs of a friend

pāpān nivārayati yojayate hitāya
guhyaṁ nigūhati guṇān prakaṭīkaroti |
āpad-gataṁ ca na jahāti dadāti kāle
san-mitra-lakṣaṇam idaṁ pravadanti santaḥ ||73||

The signs of a true friend:
he keeps you from sinful acts,
but engages you in beneficial ones;
he keeps your secrets,
but announces your virtues;
he does not abandon you in difficulty,
and helps with money if needed.

Friendship has also been a theme in the past few weeks of my experience. I stressed that cultivating friendship among devotees is an art that requires diligent attention.

padmākaraṁ dinakaro vikacīkaroti
candro vilāsayati kairava-cakravālam |
nābhyarthito jaladharo'pi jalaṁ dadāti
santaḥ svayaṁ para-hite vihitābhiyogāḥ ||74||

The sun makes the lotus flowers bloom
and the moon makes the night lilies blossom;
the cloud gives rains without being asked;
similarly, the good are always working
for the welfare of others.

eke sat-puruṣāḥ parārtha-ghaṭakāḥ svārthaṁ parityajanti ye
sāmānyās tu parārtham udyama-bhṛtaḥ svārthāvirodhena ye |
te'mī mānuṣa-rākṣasāḥ parahitaṁ svārthāya nighnanti ye
ye tu ghnanti nirarthakaṁ para-hitaṁ te ke na jānīmahe ||75||

The good abandon their own interests
to serve the ends of others;
lesser men will serve the good of others,
as long as it does not oppose their interests.
The demoniac are ready to ruin another
in order to accomplish their selfish purposes.
But we have no name for those who seek others' ruin 
without any reason whatsoever.

kṣīreṇātmagatodakāya hi guṇā dattā purā te'khilā
kṣīrottāpam avekṣya tena payasā svātmā kṛśānau hutaḥ |
gantuṁ pāvakam unmanas tad abhavad dṛṣṭvā tu mitrāpadaṁ
yuktaṁ tena jalena śāmyati satāṁ maitrī punas tv īdṛśī ||76||

When water was mixed with milk,
the milk lent it all its qualities: its color and taste;
but when the milk was placed on the fire,
that same water sacrificed itself in the flames;
and when the milk was ready to boil over
into the fire, the water entered and pacified him.
The friendship of a good man is like this.

The water on the fire reduced the heat, thus stopping the milk from boiling over.

itaḥ svapiti keśavaḥ kulam itas tadīya-dviṣām
itaś ca śaraṇārthināṁ śikhariṇāṁ gaṇāḥ śerate |
ito'pi baḍavānalaḥ saha samasta-saṁvartakaiṛ
aho vitatam ūrjitaṁ bhara-sahaṁ sindhor vapuḥ ||77||

Narayan lies here
and so too is it the home of his enemies, the demons;
Here are the mountains that found asylum on fleeing from Indra;
as well as the volcanoes and clouds that will destroy the universe.
How wide, deep and tolerant is the body of the ocean,
who gives them all shelter.

tṛṣṇāṁ chindhi bhaja kṣamāṁ jahi madaṁ pāpe ratiṁ mā kṛthāḥ
satyaṁ brūhy anuyāhi sādhu-padavīṁ sevasva vidvaj-janam |
mānyān mānaya vidviṣo'py anunaya prakhyāpaya praśrayaṁ
kīrtiṁ pālaya duḥkhite kuru dayām etat satāṁ ceṣṭitam ||78||

Cut off your desires, be forgiving,
conquer your follies, give up attachments to sin;
speak the truth, follow the straight path,
serve the learned sages;
show respect to those who are worthy,
but placate even your enemies
and show them tolerance.
Keep your reputation for virtue
and be compassionate to those in distress.
This is the behavior of the good.

manasi vacasi kāye puṇya-pīyūṣa-pūrṇās
tribhuvanam upakāra-śreṇibhiḥ prīṇayantaḥ |
para-guṇa-paramāṇūn parvatīkṛtya nityaṁ
nija-hṛdi vikasantaḥ santa santaḥ kiyantaḥ ||79||

There are a few good people out there
who are full of the nectar of good works
in thought, word and deed.
They bring happiness to the three worlds by their acts of kindness
and the good qualities of others, though as tiny as an atom
always appear like mountains to their hearts.

Here is what "making mountains of molehills"should mean. I love that line, para-guṇa-paramāṇūn parvatīkṛtya nityaṁ.

kiṁ tena hema-giriṇā rajatādriṇā vā
yatrāśritāś ca taravas taravas ta eva |
manyāmahe malayam eva yad-āśrayeṇa
kaṅkola-nimba-kaṭujā api candanāḥ syuḥ ||80||

What is the use of mountains made of gold or silver!
The trees that grow there are just trees.
My respect goes to the Malaya Hills,
where even the cubeb, neem and dogbane trees
who take shelter of them become sandalwood.

Kuṭaja is Wrightia tinctoria of the Apocynacaea family. According to others, it is Holarrhena antidysenterica, Conessi Bark, Kurchi, or dogbane. A kind of milkweed, in short. Interestingly all three of these trees have herbal uses.

ratnair mahārhais tutuṣur na devā
na bhejire bhīma-viṣeṇa bhītim |
sudhāṁ vinā na parayur virāmaṁ
na niścitārthād viramanti dhīrāḥ ||81||

The gods did not stop churning the ocean
when valuable jewels came forth from it,
nor did they stop for fear when it turned to poison.
They did not stop until they had turned it to ambrosia,
for the resolute never abandon the task they have set for themselves.

Source in the Bhagavatam, though the story is much older.

kvacit pṛthvī-śayyaḥ kvacid api ca paraṅka-śayanaḥ
kvacic chākāhāraḥ kvacid api ca śālyodana-ruciḥ |
kvacit kanthādhārī kvacid api ca divyāmbara-dharo
manasvī kāryārthī na gaṇayati duḥkhaṁ na ca sukham ||82||

He may sometimes sleep on the floor
or sometimes in a comfortable bed,
he may sometimes eat dry leaves
or sometimes fine rice with butter,
he may sometimes wear rags
and sometimes silks,
but an intelligent and resolute person
does not care for happiness or distress
while working toward his long term purpose.

Reminds me of Bhagavad-gita again.

aiśvaryasya vibhūṣaṇaṁ sujanatā śauryasya vāk-saṁyamo
jńānasyopaśamaḥ śrutasya vinayo vittasya pātre vyayaḥ |
akrodhas tapasaḥ kṣamā prabhavitur dharmasya nirvājatā
sarveṣām api sarva-kāraṇam idaṁ śīlaṁ paraṁ bhūṣaṇam ||83||

Magnanimity is the ornament of the powerful;
control of speech that of the hero;
self-control that of the wise, humility of the learned,
well-directed charity of the rich.
Freedom from anger is the ornament of the ascetic,
forgiveness of the lordly, and honesty of the pious.
In short, character is the ornament of all other virtues.

nindantu nīti-nipuṇā yadi vā stuvantu
lakṣmīḥ samāviśatu gacchatu vā iyatheṣṭham |
adyaiva vā maraṇam astu yugāntare vā
nyāyyāt pathaḥ pravicalanti padaṁ na dhīrāḥ ||84||

The experts in proper conduct may condemn or praise him,
fortune may smile on him or abandon him completely;
he may die today or after a thousand years,
nothing can make the resolute man swerve
from the path of righteousness.

It's hard not to see an influence of this verse on the language of Madhavendra Puri:

mugdhaṁ māṁ nigadantu nīti-nipuṇā bhrāntaṁ muhur vaidikāḥ
mandaṁ bāndhava-sañcayā jaḍa-dhiyaṁ muktādarāḥ sodarāḥ
unmattaṁ dhanino viveka-caturāḥ kāmaṁ mahā-dāmbhikaṁ
moktuṁ na kṣamate manāg api mano govinda-pāda-spṛhām

"Let the experts in proper conduct accuse me of being stupid; Vedic scholars may call me misled, friends and relatives may call me lazy, my brothers who are attached to liberation may call me a blockhead, the wealthy may point me out as mad, and the learned philosophers may assert that I am much too proud; still my mind does not budge an inch from the determination to serve the lotus feet of Govinda." (Padyāvali 81)

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Priya Kund in Barsana

It rained during the night quite heavily. I had been sleeping on the roof in the open, so I had to escape downstairs where most of the other guests and some ashram devotees sleep. The air was cool and the fans running so I did not sleep very well. This was the first time that I slept there.

An alarm went off, a rather gentle one, at about 4.30. I groggily struggled to stand up and gather my things, thinking I would go somewhere back to sleep as soon as I could.

Suddenly I saw Binode Baba standing at the edge of the veranda with a couple of disciples, putting a plastic shower cap on over his dreadlocks. Then the entire group walked out the front gate to take bath in Priyaji Kund.

Last time I was here, nobody took bath in Priyaji Kund. Even thought the Braj Vikas Trust had done a nice, tasteful renovation of the kund a few years ago, it face all the typical problems of Braja waterbodies. The water level was low, the water was stagnant and full of algae, and people and the wind had given it an topping of plastic bottles and empty chip wrappers.

Over the last year, as you can read here, Yogi Adityanath, the CM of UP had Barsana declared a "tirtha sthali" and decided to celebrate Lath Maar Holi with some members of his cabinet and other dignitaries. For that, a big sum of money was sent to Barsana for different projects.

One of those projects was to again make improvements in Priyaji Kund. That included some upgrading of the BVT's work, making a cement concrete road around the perimeter, painting the walls with traditional Braj-style wall paintings and things like "Jai Radhe!" and, most importantly, a tube well that is used to keep the kund brimming with water.

The result has been dramatic, especially here in the hot season. From dawn to dusk, swimming pool noises reverberate through the neighborhood. Bikes and cars are parked in front and boys and young men enjoy the pleasures of bathing in the clean waters of the kund. They also appear to have stocked the kund with fish, I felt something nipping at me while I took my dip and I thought it was a goldfish I saw.

At night, the kund quietens down, but they have put enough soft yellow lighting to make the kund swimmable. I have already been a couple of times, because I like swimming. I am not that strong, but I took great pleasure in doing a few laps of breaststroke.

I went last night between the parikrama and the kirtan, around 7.30, when there was pretty much nobody around. There are four ghats, and somehow on my return lap, I took a wrong turn and ended up at the wrong ghat. Without my glasses I am as good as blind and especially in the dim light. All the ghats look basically the same from the water level, so when I went looking for my clothes and bag, they weren't there.

I sighed. Double checked and then, in my wet underwear, climbed the steps. I saw two young men and sadly announced that my stuff was gone. One of them walked away and came back a few moments later. He had picked up on what happened and was able to point my things to me. I was very pleased, I said, "My faith in humanity has been restored, and especially my faith in Brajbasis."

He told me his name, Jitendra Sharma. He is a priest at the Ashtasakhi temple. As I went and gathered my things, I said aloud, "Jai Jitendra Sharma!"

There was a sadhu at the top of the steps who laughed and said, "Why are you glorifying a human being. Glorify God."

I said, "Baba, I like the God that comes right up to me and gives me mercy. And so I glorify the form he takes to give it."

Jai Radhe.

I think the Priya Kund model is really, really, really good. We have a big problem with the kunds in Vrindavan. Govinda Kund, Davalana Kund and Moti Jheel have all been renovated in the past decades, and mostly done very nicely and aesthetically. Davanala Kund especially has a very nice feel.

But all these kunds suffer from the same problems that Priyaji Kund suffered from. The nearby Prem Sarovar and many others are in the same predicament. Back in the seventies, kids from the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula would go swimming in Davanala Kund as well as the Yamuna. That is a thing of the past. The Braj Foundation had to abandon the Govinda Kund waterless because the use of submersible pumps in the area had so lowered the water table that things could not progress.

One thing to note is that if the bottom of the pukur is not concretized, a full waterbody helps to refurbish the water table. So it makes more sense for water to fill the public waterbody and replenish the water table so that water access is improved for everyone. It is, in other words, a method of water harvesting and recycling.

But how much life the "swimming pool" brings to the town itself. The saints bathe in their way, as the saints always did, immersed to the waist at the end of the night or at dawn and singing hymns to their gods, and during the day the children come and play. And the National Green Tribunal has said that facility for cattle also has to be given, which is correct.

There are a few problems. As always the main thing is maintenance. There are four ghats and I already noticed that one of them is being used for open defecation. There is a dharma shala of sorts for itinerant sadhus in one corner of the kund, maybe they are the culprits, but at any rate it is certainly not desirable. I did not see any toilet facilities, so that is clearly something that needs to be added, preferably to one side.

The next is the eternal problem of garbage. There are bottles floating in the kund already and potato chip wrappers, and you all know the drill. There needs really to be some kind of public person who will interact with the public to keep them aware of the need for putting garbage in the right place.

But aaah, there is no arrangement for garbage. It seems obvious that one or two cleaners should be on the job all day long in order to keep the environment spotless at all times, but there has to be garbage cans. Monkeys are a problem here too, though not as great, even though garbage is a great attracting force for monkeys. Nevertheless an intelligently designed monkey-proof waste disposal system absolutely must be installed.

These are Braj's youth and its future. The kund provides a very good opportunity to introduce some civic values, in particular how they keep the common areas, like this one, in optimum condition for everyone to use and enjoy. It is called mamatA, the feeling that something is mine, even though really it isn't.

"I love this kund, I love swimming in this kund. I hope other people can get the same pleasure from it that I get, so let us keep it clean and glorious!"

But instead of showy cleaning drives, what is needed is to nip the whole business at the source and not let the eyesores of ubiquitous garbage become normalized and unseen. So you have to start by showing it.

One last thing that I observed also is that algae is naturally starting to form in the water, though it looks like a good one. The steps are starting to get that slimy covering about three or four steps down. This should be regularly tended too, as slippery steps are a very likely cause of accidents.

I should hope that the kund will remain free from accidents, but if the animator type of responsible for the kund doubled as a lifeguard, that might be the optimum concept.

PHOTO ALBUM on Facebook.