Thursday, December 08, 2016

"The very one who took my maidenhead..."

One of the most famous verses in the entire Chaitanya Vaishnava tradition is the following, found three times in Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 1.58, 13.121, Antya 1.78).

yaḥ kaumāra-haraḥ sa eva hi varas tā eva caitra-kṣapās
te conmīlita-mālatī-surabhayaḥ prau
hāḥ kadambānilāḥ
sā caivāsmi tathāpi tatra surata-vyāpāra-līlā-vidhau
revā-rodhasi vetasī-taru-tale cetaḥ samutkaṇṭhate ||
The very one who took my maidenhead
is here now as my bridegroom.
And these too are the same moonlit nights
of the month of Chaitra.
The same fragrance of malati flowers is there
and the same sweet breezes blowing from the kadamba forest.
I too am the very same person
with whom he made playful, ecstatic love.
Yet my unsatisfied mind yearns for that place
under the bullrushes on the bank of the Reva River.
Padyāvali 378 (Srk 815, Skm 2.12.3; Spd 3768; Smv 87.9; SD 1.2)
Since the story has been told by Kaviraj Goswami in three different places, it is important to examine the contexts. In the first and third citation, it is primarily meant to raise Rupa Goswami to the highest authority in the sampradaya for his insight into Mahaprabhu's mood. Rupa's pastiche of the above verse is the evidence for that special insight, and the two verses together are the ones with which he, significantly, concludes his Padyāvali collection:

priyaḥ so'yaṁ kṛṣṇaḥ sahacari kurukṣetra-militas
tathāhaṁ sā rādhā tad idam ubhayoḥ saṅgama-sukham |
tathāpy antaḥ-khelan-madhura-muralī-pañcama-juṣe
mano me kālindī-pulina-vipināya spṛhayati ||
O companion! This is the same beloved Krishna
meeting me here in Kurukshetra;
and I am the same Radha;
both of us are feeling the same joy of union.
Even so, my mind wishes for the forest
by the banks of the Yamunä
where the fifth note of his flute
reverberated sweetly within my heart.
(Padyāvali 383, Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.1.76)
The actual meaning of the verse is most fully explained in the second instance, which is the description of Mahaprabhu's ecstasies in front of Jagannath during the Rathayatra festival. I will not go into that here, though I see that I have not written about that most excellent topic before. One can however look at the translation of 10.82.49 from Bhajana Rahasya, which is most relevant to the topic at hand.

My interest here, however, is to follow up on my previous article about the Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma, "Jiva Goswami's final word." In rebuttals to the svakīyā-vāda that Jiva Goswami presents in Gopāla-campū and elsewhere, it is frequently pointed out that he quotes the above verse (yaḥ kaumāra-haraḥ). Since this verse refers to the superiority of the mood in Vrindavan, i.e., the parakīyā situation, is this not an indication of what is the true intent of Sri Jiva?

Let us examine those citations.

First of all, the first line is presented separately from the rest of the verse in three places: Kṛṣṇa-sandarbha 170, Vaiṣṇava-toṣaṇi to 10.82.49, and Gopāla-campū 1.33.118. As an aside, the first two of these are one of the few places where VT and the Sandarbhas match word for word. This commentary on the situation in Kurukshetra is the seed for Kaviraja Goswami's description in Madhya 13 of Caitanya-caritāmṛta and the one followed in the Bhajana Rahasya link I have given.
Here Jiva Goswami is giving an alternative interpretation to the words gehaṁ juṣām, which in the translation is given as "we are attached to our householder lives and families." This is the external understanding. Jiva says it means:
We wish to meet with you in Gokula, the abode where we were previously united in loving dalliances, where all our desires for such love can be fulfilled, which is the natural dwelling place of our love, our very own home -- in Gokula alone, and not in Dvaraka or elsewhere. Here by the expression of this desire, they show that they are in love with that form of Krishna and no other as is shown in verse, "He who took my maidenhead is here again as my bridegroom," etc. Therefore, since we are unable too think of your lotus feet and are unable to come to you, or have no taste for coming to you in Dvaraka, and yet, as you know, we are suffering greatly in your absence, if you should fulfill your promise by directly coming to back; then only will we be saved.
I don't think that Sri Jiva is here specifically highlighting the word "bridegroom" (vara), but that is indeed the case in the first citation in Gopāla-campū:

The first citation from Gopala-campu comes at the end of Purva 33, where Narada is telling the story of the future to Nanda Maharaj, after the killing of Keshi. In this case, Jiva is stressing that Krishna did return to Braj and get married rather than the hankering for a return to Braj. In other words, Radha may be hankering for a return to Braj, but she is doing it after being married to Krishna.

yaḥ kaumāra-haraḥ sa eva hi varas tā eva caitra-kṣapāḥ
ity ādy apy adhiyan kayācid uditaṁ gopālikā-gīr iti |
bhāvonmādaja-gāna-nṛtya-vivaśaḥ śrī-guṇḍicā-parvasu
śrī-caitanya-tanur mataṁ sa bhagavān aṅgīkariṣyaty adaḥ ||118||
"The very one who took my maidenhead
is here now as my bridegroom. These too are the same spring nights…"
This utterance of a gopi and quoted by another
are the conclusion that the Lord in his form as Chaitanya,
intoxicated by song and dance born of loving madness
during the Rathayatra festivals, will accept .
From the context it is clear that Sri Jiva is using this verse as evidence that Krishna returned to Braj and got married to Radha. Because the verse is from the "mundane" poetic tradition, its authority comes from the use that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu made of it.

In GCP 33, this verse is followed by some other quotes taken from Lalita-mādhava. These have been cited in my article "Does Krishna marry the gopis in the end?" and one should look for them there. Jiva here also speaks of samṛddhimān sambhoga, which is integral to his understanding of the completion of the līlā, as it is described in the works of Rupa Goswami. (tad idam eva śrīmad-bhagavad-bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu-nidhi-rūpa-śrīmad-ujjvala-nīlamaṇāv api sarva-rasa-paripāṭī-pūrti-sāra-mūrti-samṛddhimad-ākhya-sambhogatayā darśitam |) This will require further analysis, as the section in Ujjvala (15.206) is one of those places that Jiva and Vishwanath do battle.

Now the final citation of the yaḥ kaumāra-haraḥ verse comes near the end of the Uttara-campū (chapter 36), after Radha and Krishna's wedding has taken place and Radha is indeed feeling some momentary despondency. When pressed by Lalita, she says:

yathā sarvātiśāyikāyāḥ kasyāścin nāyikāyāḥ labdha-nijābhīpsitāyām api
kāpi lipsā kavibhiḥ kavitām ānīyate, tathaiva daiva-vaśād asmākaṁ jātā |
Some most elevated heroine even after attaining everything she had desired expressed another longing, which a poet has described in verse. Now that same mood has suddenly overtaken me.
It is here that she recites the verse in full. Suddenly Krishna, who had been eavesdropping, comes into the room, embraces and kisses her, and says,

sādhūktaṁ preyasi ! sādhūktam | kintu “kṛṣṇā-rodhasi tatra kuñja-sadane” iti paṭhanīyam | yasmād adya sadya eva śrīmat-pitṛ-caraṇānucaran-nija-cāru-kaumāra-pracāra-maya-vihāra-sāra-sandīpita-vara-kālindī-dakṣiṇa-pāra-sanditaṁ vṛndāvanam eva sañcarituṁ gocarayiṣyāmi iti |
"Well said, my love, well said! But I think you should change the last line to "in the forest bowers on the banks of the Yamuna" since very soon, on this very day, I shall take you to that very same Vrindavan, which lies on the south side of the Kalindi and  was lit up with the essence of my beautiful childhood pastimes after my father took us there."
This is indeed what is described in the following, final chapter, except that the crossing of the Yamuna is the same as the ascension into the eternal nitya Goloka. So the purpose of the verse here is simply seen as a returning to the place, but not of returning to the parakīyā situation.

As a final note here, it should be mentioned that this verse finds no mention in Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma, which is significant. If it were that important to Jiva Goswami's fundamental thinking, i.e., that which we are to look for as being pūrvāpara-sambaddha, the consistent element in his thought, we certainly cannot look to this verse for support of the parakīyā-vāda.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Jiva Goswami's Final Word: Sankalpa-kalpa-druma

I have been reading from Jiva Goswami's Gopāla-campū (GC) at the Jiva Institute. Classes are held Monday to Friday from 5-6 in the evening. As I prepared my course, I began going over Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma (SKD), which gives further clues into Sri Jiva's purpose in writing GC.

Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma (SKD) is the last book Jiva Goswami wrote, which came at the end of his life. In the beginning of the book, which has over 700 verses, Jiva tells his mind that since he is growing old, it should be fixed on Krishna's eternal pastimes. SKD was written after GC, and in some ways it is a recapitulation or summary explanation of the basis or theory of GC. What was Jiva trying to do in his magnum opus?

One of the verses given by Vishwanath and his senior contemporary Radha Krishna Das Goswami to support their idea that Jiva Goswami was actually dissimulating when he wrote in various places his defense of svakīyā-vāda is the one which concludes the commentary to 1.21, after his elaborate argumentation there. That verse is probably better known than either GC or SKD:

svecchayā likhitaṁ kiṁcit kiṁcid atra parecchayā |
yat pūrvāpara-sambaddhaṁ tat pūrvam aparaṁ param ||
Some things I have written of my own volition, some at the behest of others. That which is consistent throughout is the former, that which is not, the latter.
The challenge here is to establish Jiva Goswami's overall intent, and he himself frequently refers to a verse from the Sanskrit tradition that is of great help in conducting such an analysis:

upakramopasaṁhārāv abhyāso’pūrvatā phalam
arthavādopapattī ca liṅgaṁ tātparya-nirṇaye
The purport of any text can be established by the study of six indicators: {1} the beginning and concluding part, {2} what is repeated, {3} the original aspects described, {4} the result, {5} what it glorifies, and {6} logical establishment.
Since SKD is the concluding work of Jiva Goswami's career, it should be considered particularly important in this regard.

A fuller discussion can be found in the following series of article, especially The Parakiya Rebuttal, and in the summary of Gopala Champu, especially part 5. I concluded "The Parakiya Rebuttal" with the following verse from GC, which appears to directly contradict the above svecchayā verse. This is spoken by Paurnamasi to Vrinda Devi in the first volet of arguments defending the svakīyā position in GC 1.15.18:

avacam avocam uvāca ca vacmi hi vaktāsmi vakṣyāmi |
ucyāsam idaṁ vacyāṁ vacāni no ced avakṣyaṁ na ||
I was saying it, I have said it, even in dreams did I say it;
I am saying it, I am about to say it, and I will go on saying it;
I should say it, I pray to God that I may go on saying it,
I must say it, and if it weren't so, then I would never have said it at all.
At any rate, I bring these preliminary points up again to introduce some statements from the SKD, which I shall elaborate on in future articles. This particular controversy is directly connected to the problem of the prakaṭa-līlā and the nitya-līlā, which is also a direct theme of the SKD.

Two verses in particular give us a clue as to Jiva Goswami's intention. The first of these says that the prakaṭa-līlā and the nitya-līlā are mutually related as seed to tree, perpetuating each other in a chain of mutual creation:

sā ca janmādikā sā ca nityā līlā śrutīr itā |
mithaḥ pūrvā parā ca syād bīja-vṛkṣa-pravāhavat ||1||
The pastimes of birth and so on, and the pastimes in the eternal realm, have been presented to your ears. They have a mutual prior-posterior relationship, like the cycle of seed to tree and tree to seed. (SKD 3.1)
This is a very interesting analogy, and the same analogy is used in a bit different way at the beginning of SKD as an explanation of the title of the book itself, "The Desire Tree of My Vow," where he says that the prakaṭa- or janmādi-līlā is the root of the tree, the nitya-līlā is its trunk (in this case he means the chapter in the book of that name, which gives the general outline of a day in Radha and Krishna's nitya-līlā.

mūlaṁ janmādi-līlāsya skandhaḥ syān nitya-līlatā |
śākhās tat-tad-ṛtu-ślokāḥ phalaṁ premamayī sthitiḥ ||11||
The root of this tree is Krishna's pastimes in the prakaṭa-līlā, beginning with his birth and so on. The trunk is the nitya-līlā. The descriptions of the seasons in Vrindavan are the branches, and the loving permanent situation in the nitya-līlā is the fruit. (SKD 1.10)
This describes the four chapters of the SKD. The third chapter is the branches and leaves, which is the description of the six seasons, also part of the nitya-līlā. The fourth chapter is called phala-niṣpatti. Since that chapter is short – only ten verses – I am going to present the translation here in its entirety. Those looking for consistency in Jiva's work will be hard pressed to find evidence contrary to this summary of what he has stated again and again:

ghoṣe sva-prema-koṣe pitṛ-mukha-sukhada-svīya-vṛndena dīvyan
kaṁsena preritebhyas tam atibhayamayaṁ vīkṣya nighnan muhus tān
hantuṁ teṣām apaśyann adhi madhu-puri taṁ hantum añcan sa-vṛndam
hatvā taṁ ghoṣam āgāt tad atula-sukha-kṛd yaḥ sadā taṁ bhajāmi
I worship forever that Krishna who enjoyed his pastimes in the cowherd community, the treasure-chest of his love, with his own folk headed by his own father, all of whom are sources of joy for him. Seeing that this village was becoming a fearsome place due to the attacks of demons sent by Kamsa, he destroyed those demons. When he saw that he had not been able to finish them off, he went with his friends to Mathura to kill Kamsa, their root. When that was done, he returned to the cowherd community, bringing incomparable joy to all.
rādhādyāḥ kṛṣṇa-kāntāḥ svayam avataraṇaṁ kṛṣṇavat prāpya līlā-
śaktyā vismṛtya nityāṁ sthitim aparatayā jñāta-kṛṣṇās tathāpi |
rāgād aspaṣṭa-kṛṣṇa-śrayaṇa-sukha-ratā prāntataḥ kṛṣṇam eva
spaṣṭaṁ jagmuḥ sva-kāntaṁ tam atisukha-sudhā-sindhu-magnāntarāḥ smaḥ ||2||
Radha and Krishna's other eternally beloved gopis descended into the material world just like Krishna. There they forgot their eternal situation with him due to the Lila Shakti and knew Krishna as someone unrelated to them. Even so, out of spontaneous love for him, they became attached to the pleasure of loving Krishna, taking shelter of him secretly. Then in the end they went to him openly as their own husband, as a result of which we are immersed in the ocean of the nectar of extreme happiness.
haṁho saukhyaṁ sura-dviṭ-kaṭu-kaṭaka-ghaṭā-preṣṭha-kaṁsādi-duṣṭān
hatvā tat-kliṣṭa-cittāṁ pitṛ-mukha-janatāṁ nirvṛtāṁ suṣṭhu cakre |
kiṁ cānyaḥ sva-priyāṇāṁ patir iti bahir akhyāti-duḥkhāni hṛtvā
tat-tad-viśleṣa-pīḍā-cchid ayam atijagad-dṛṣṭi-goṣṭhe vibhāti ||3||
What amazing joy! Krishna destroyed the wicked Kamsa and other enemies of the gods whose evil armies were overrunning the earth, and then brought blissful joy to Nanda and the people of Braj who had been tormented by them. What is more, he then removed the misery that came to his beloved gopis from the infamy that they had other husbands. And so this Krishna, have cut away the Brijvasis suffering that had arisen from his separation from them, stands glorious in that cowherd settlement which is beyond the vision of this world.
The above sequence of events is followed in GC. See the final section of the summary.

prātar mātuḥ sva-hastād aśana-sukha-kṛtī labdha-tātādy-anujñaḥ
śrī-rāmādi-prasaktaḥ surabhi-gaṇa-śataṁ pālayan moda-yuktaḥ |
sandhyāyāṁ gopa-gopī-sukhada-gṛha-gatiḥ sānurāgaṁ kṣapāyām
tat-tad-dīvyad-vihāraḥ sphuratu tava manaḥ sarvadā kṛṣṇa-candraḥ
In the morning Krishna joyfully eats the breakfast his mother cooks for him with her own hand, then taking his father and other senior Brajvasis' permission leaves and spends the day with Balaram grazing the hundreds of godly cows. Then in the evening he returns to the blissful abode of the cowherd men and women, and at night enthusiastically watches the performances they have put on. May this Krishna Chandra always appear before you, O mind!
The previous two verses follow the contents of the first two chapters of Gopāla-campū.

janmādyaṁ svīya-vṛttaṁ kavi-bharata-kalā-citra-yogena dṛśya-
prāyaṁ tanvan sabhāyāṁ rahasi tu dayitā-pūrva-rāgādy udantam |
vargaṁ tat-tan-nisargaṁ nijam anu vijayī sarva-sāt-parva kurvan
divya-divya-kriyābhir viharaṇa-kutukī nandatān nanda-sūnuḥ ||5||
In the assembly, the ever-victorious son of Nanda enjoys hearing all his own activities beginning from his birth onward as they are performed by poets, actors, and picture story-tellers who make all these events come alive. Then afterwards, in private, the stories of his love affairs with Radha and the gopis are told from their beginning. By way of both his worldly and other-worldly activities he turns everything into a festival for his devotees, each according to their mood. May he be ever joyful.
This is the way things are told in Gopāla-campū also. For the separation of the two performance venues, see the Kaiśora-vilāsa-campū.

yaḥ śrī-paryanta-yācyānv itir iha paśupa-śreṇi-bandhur yaśodā-
nanda-svīyāṅga-jātaḥ subala-mukha-sakhaḥ kiṁ ca rādhādi-kāntaḥ |
sa śrī-gopāla-nāmā surabhi-kulam ahaḥ pālayan divya-kelir
naktaṁ rāsādi-līlā-lalitatama-gatiḥ sarvadā syād gatir naḥ ||6||
The gods and goddesses up to Lakshmi herself pray to become his servants, he is the kinsman of all strata of the cowherd community, he was born directly from the bodies of Nanda and Yashoda, Subala is chief among his friends, and finally, he is the beloved of Radha and the gopis. This Krishna, named Gopala, spends his day in various amusements while grazing the cows and his night in the Rasa dance, dancing with the most charming movements. May he always be our shelter.
śrīmad-vṛndāvanendor madhupa-khaga-mṛgāḥ śreṇi-lokā dvijātā
dāsā lālyāḥ surabhyaḥ sahacara-halabhṛt-tāta-mātr-ādi-vargāḥ |
preyasyas tāsu rādhā-pramukha-vara-dṛśāś ceti vṛndaṁ yathordhvaṁ
tad-rūpāloka-tṛṣṇak pramadam anudinaṁ hanta paśyāma karhi ||7||
All the bees, birds and animals, the various guilds, the brahmanas, servants, the children, the cows, his friends along with Balaram and his father and mother, his doe-eyed lady loves, of whom Radha is the foremost, are the companions of the moon of Vrindavan, and he is ever eager to associate with them, each of whom is more intimate with him than the one before. He wishes to see them every day. Ah, when will I see him?
śaśvad dhyāyati dūraga-sthiti mithaḥ, sūkṣma-prathaṁ cāyati
prājyāntar-gatam, ātta-narma tu sakhī-madhya-sthitaṁ paśyati |
rādhā-mādhava-nāma-dheya-mithunaṁ vighnān atītyāmitān
dāmpatye sthitam atra vā yadi rahaḥ prāptaṁ tadā kiṁ punaḥ ||8||
That divine couple named Radha and Madhava constantly meditate on each other when separated, when out in public they cast secretive glances at one another, and they look at each other with open amusement while in the midst of her sakhis. If after overcoming all the countless obstacles that had been standing in their way they are now here together in the secret eternal realm as a married couple, then what more can we ask for?
rādhā-kṛṣṇa-yugaṁ muhur vighaṭanām uttīrya dāmpatya-bhāk
pratyekāntam udasram ekataraga-svāpāntar antar mithaḥ |
vaktraṁ paśyati mārṣṭi locana-puṭaṁ nāsāgram uddaṇḍayan
niṁste gaṇḍa-yugaṁ hṛdā hṛdi milal lelīyate śarmaṇi ||9||
Even in their married state, the Divine Couple Radha and Krishna again and again have to overcome the pain of separation, when one of them falls asleep then the other's face is filled with tears and looks upon the face of the first, and wiping the tears away and lifting her chin kisses both cheeks. Then the two embrace heart to heart, becoming totally immersed in joy.
See Ujjvala 14.225-226.

gaura-śyāma-rucojjvalābhir amalair akṣṇor vilāsotsavair
nṛtyantībhir aśeṣa-mādana-kalā-vaidagdhya-digdhātmabhiḥ |
anyonya-priyatā sudhā-parimala-stomonmadābhiḥ sadā
rādhā-mādhava-mādhurībhir abhitaś cittaṁ samākrāmyatām ||10||
Let my heart be ever overpowered from all sides by the sweetness of Sri Sri Radha and Madhava who have the golden and blackish brilliance, manifesting the pure, festival of the movements of their eyes dancing, who are completely soaked in the expertise of the art of amorous activities, and who are supremely delighted by the fragrance of the ambrosia of mutual love.
This last verse is also the concluding verse of the Krishna Sandarbha.

I would like to discuss a little more extensively about the relation between the prakaṭa-līlā and the nitya-līlā as mentioned in SKD in another article following up. Jai Radhe for now.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Mutual Guruship: Vatsalya within Madhura

The guru-disciple relation is one of vātsalya. Vātsalya has a range of moods. Anyone situated in an advantageous position who wants to help another in a less advantageous position is experiencing vātsalya. This is a kind of love and of course has its levels, but its basis is compassion.

The definition of vātsalya comes from Rupa Goswami. Vātsalya means the love of a superior for an inferior, in whatever specific form. It takes the form of nourishment and protection. In this world, the highest vātsalya is that of the guru who gives his grace.

The number of rasas is limited to eight, or twelve, depending on the system you are following. Now where in this scheme does the sentiment of a guru to his disciple fit? And can one be a guru without vātsalya? It's like asking can you be a parent without vātsalya? Of course you can, but that parenthood without love would be rasābhāsa.

Vātsalya means that one in a position of superiority, out of love, helps one in a position of need arising from their lower position. In the case of the guru, it is the disparity of knowledge that defines the higher and lower status.

The teacher of mādhurya must himself be situated in mādhurya. Someone who gives instruction in love, let's say, instruction in Radha and Krishna madhura-rasa-bhakti, if he is doing it out of love, or compassion, is engaged in an act of vātsalya. This should not be seen as contradictory. It does not necessarily mean that there is a romantic or erotic relationship between the two. Nor should this vātsalya be seen as rasābhāsa.

If, however, this is a loving relationship of a couple, an erotic relationship, whether physical or not, i.e,. a madhura relationship, then vātsalya enters in the following form: "I love this person. But because of an anartha of some kind, or a misunderstanding of tattva, or of the process of sādhana, is damaging the purity of loving communion between us, i.e., the Dual. The "Dual" or Divine Couple is the object of our Yugala sādhana. Failure to attain that state is not only painful to me, but painful to my partner also. So let me find a way to stop the painful state we are both experiencing." That is vātsalya within madhura.

That is compassion, but because of the nature of madhura love, it appears to be kāma. But it is not. It is the vātsalya component within madhura. It is based in the desire to nurture and help the partner to blossom into a fully perfected being in love, as an individual, even at the cost of one's own satisfaction.

But because the one who is teaching also benefits, it appears to be kāma, and if one has no faith, the doubt that it is selfishly motivated will remain.

These are the exact kinds of things I would say to anyone who inquired into what it means that Radharani is Krishna's guru.
I would say, this one thing we are supposed to learn from their love: Mutual guruship.

This is a rather difficult concept. But the fact is that no sādhaka is perfect, by definition. And even if they were, they would be different enough to make any idea of completely melding into one another a hopeless task. Nevertheless, the idea that a man and woman help each other in a spirit of nurturing and protecting is the absolute correct truth.

In the Dual relationship, sometimes one partner is the leader, sometimes the other. Sometimes one partner is wrong sometimes the other. It is not always easy to recognize which because of impediments arising from the ego and so on. But because vātsalya is a component of mādhurya, just like a parent for a child, one lover will patiently and lovingly teach the other.

Why? Because it is for the common good of both, yes. But common good means for the partner also. If two lovers agree that their individual well being depends on the love of the other, then they are a Dual. If they have that agreement, tacit or sanctioned by vows, then they have a duty to help their partner advance spiritually, and that both advance further in love.

That may appear to be selfish because one is seeking corrections in the other, but it is not because the other is the primary beneficiary by receiving the teaching and progressing in love.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bhakti and the culture of the human body (deha-sadhana)

In response to my discussion of asana-siddhi, it was suggested that this was intended to impress others rather than to be a value in itself.

Of course this is not about impressing anyone, except for impressing on them the importance of physical culture, deha-sādhana. I cannot possibly agree with those devotees who think that proper care of this human body is irrelevant to the pursuit of bhakti. Who think that exploring the potential of the human body has no relation to the culture of Krishna prema.

śarīram ādyaṁ khalu dharma-sādhanam

The body is the beginning point of all spiritual culture.

The shastra glorifies the human body as the vehicle to spiritual realization, but we think it is only talking about the human brain and we ignore the rest of the possibilities and glories of this body. Dattatreya says the human body is the 25th guru. In other words, of all the "natural" gurus, the human body is the best.

Yet we think that listening to and learning from this miraculous engine that is the human body is somehow "not" Krishna conscious.

Krishna took a human form and engaged in such pastimes as the world would be attracted to him. He didn't really need the body to have a brain or a mind. It was the human form himself that was desirable for its possibilities in terms of lila.

We reside in the middle of a complex system that is interconnected--body-mind-intelligence-self. If you think you can skip the lower self and go straight to the higher, I admire your courage, and indeed, God's mercy is great on all those who seek him by the most direct method possible. But those who know that the human body IS the Lord's grace on us will learn how to engage it in the service of divine consciousness in a multiplicity of ways.

Bhakti is also a yoga because it is also about transforming the mind. We have some different ideas from yoga, philosophically, but most of the basic principles of yoga sādhana also apply to bhakti -- sooner or later you have to go from the external to the internal, and the internal process begins by looking within the body. That means first seeing the body and then seeing what is IN the body: First the prana and then the mind. And then the intelligence.

sṛṣṭvā purāṇi vividhāny ajayātma-śaktyā
vṛkṣān sarīsṛpa-paśūn khaga-dandaśūkān
tais tair atuṣṭa-hṛdayaḥ puruṣaṁ vidhāya
brahmāvaloka-dhiṣaṇaṁ mudam āpa devaḥ
With the help of his illusory potency, the Supreme Lord created this visible world with its trees, serpents, animals, birds and other creatures, but his heart remained dissatisfied. Then he created man, who alone possesses the intelligence to see Brahman and was delighted. (SB 11.9.28)
labdhvā sudurlabham idaṁ bahu-sambhavānte
mānuṣyam arthadam anityam apīha dhīraḥ
tūrṇaṁ yateta na pated anumṛtyu yāvat
niḥśreyasāya viṣayaḥ khalu sarvataḥ syāt
After many, many births, one finally is born in a most rare and valuable human body which provides an opportunity to attain the supreme goal, but is nevertheless temporary. Therefore, the wise individual should immediately take up the effort to find that which provides the supreme good in all times and circumstances, and not give up that effort to the very moment of his death. (SB 11.9.29)
nṛ-deham ādyaṁ su-labhaṁ su-durlabhaṁ
plavaṁ su-kalpaṁ guru-karṇa-dhāram |
mayānukūlena nabhasvateritaṁ
pumān bhavābdhiṁ na taret sa ātma-hā ||
This human body is the root of all benefits. It seems so easily obtained, yet is in fact extremely rare. It is like a boat especially designed for crossing the ocean of material existence. If one has a spiritual master to guide him like the boat’s helmsman and is given the favorable winds of my mercy, but still fails to cross over, then he is willfully committing suicide. [11.20.17]
The first thing is to learn what the body is capable of spiritually. The body is the vehicle for the subtle body and the soul. So still the body and contemplate the mind. See the reflection of God in the body and the mind. See God in the intelligence in the thousand-petaled lotus. Set the energy rising from below to above, from the raw energies, the raw material of psychic energy or libido, on the path of transformation into the pure intelligence that manifests in the form of Radha-Krishna.

The intelligence of Prema.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Recognizing the channel of Grace

Bhakta : I find it a bit odd that the person (you) I respect and admire is defending someone (Prabhupada) who is the exact opposite. What I like about you is that you allow your perspective to change and grow as you become more realized, whereas Prabhupada presented himself as having all the answers for the next 10,000 years. If Prabhupada were here today he would probably deride you as a sahajiya - and yet you defend him. I know he is your first spiritual master... but, he is not your kind of a person.

People sometimes claim that if it weren't for Prabhupada then they would not have known about bhakti. I dismiss those arguments because we don't know what would have happened otherwise. I'm not so sure if on the balance what Prabhupada presented has caused more good than harm.

Jagadananda Das: Radhe Radhe. You can't talk about your life theoretically. Your life is all you have. The process of bhakti is to recognize the presence of Grace. And Guru Tattva means recognizing the channel of grace. You cannot take the grace and disparage the vessel from which it came, no matter how flawed.

We are in a transformative time. Prabhupada himself talked about the necessity of putting old wine in new bottles. But because our knowledge-universe is really so different from his, we need to do a lot of work to really understand the essence of bhakti.

Our knowledge universe has one kind of sophistication, but there is a great deal of sophistication in the yoga systems of India as well, which developed over millennia. Bhakti is also one of those systems and should not be looked at superficially. All these systems have universal applicability.

But if you simply observe things with a critical or empirical lens and without actual practical insight, then you are bound to misunderstand what is meant to result from bhakti practice.

We value knowledge over wisdom. And so a lot of shallow (though complex) thinking poses as wisdom in our day. The goal, as I see it, is to harmonize empirical observation with the inner practice and transformation.

God is not something that can be reified. God's presence in our lives is subjective. The mistake of most religious believers is literal mindedness. In this world of Maya, it seems madness to take this approach. The critiques of modern psychology, etc., help us to become free of it, but we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We can push things forward by seizing the essence. Don't underestimate the rishis.

And to bring this back to Prabhupada, don't underestimate his brilliance in attracting people to the bhakti path. If you think I have any good qualities, you should know that these good qualities also originate in him.

Guru, Grace and Gratitude.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sitting meditation postures and Bhakti Yoga

Thoughts after morning meditation. I am trying to attain asana siddhi, which means sitting for 216 minutes without moving - no stretching, twitching, itching, scratching.

What is interesting about asana siddhi is that you can't achieve it without pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. But pranayama, etc., really only start after one has attained asana siddhi.

Question: Doesn't Vipassana do it?

Jagadananda Das: All meditation systems require sitting still. But Vaishnava meditation is meditation on Krishna mantra, Krishna rupa, Krishna lila, and on the world of prema.

Prabhupada disciple: In this age Lord Caitanya gave the process of chanting Hare Krishna as the only and proper way quick spiritual advancement. Much better use of 216 minutes than trying to attain asana siddhi.

Jagadananda Das: Thank you for your input. Now my question to those who talk like this is, what is the goal of chanting?
Is one meant to concentrate on the Holy Name?

Does chanting lead to the desire to remember Krishna's name, form and pastimes?

If so, can this practice of remembering, which goes through five stages, namely smarana, dharana, dhyana, dhruvanusmriti and samadhi, have any accessory practices that might enhance that progression?

Is the best chanting exercised while pacing back and forth, while sitting in an awkward position with the back bent forward and the knees raised, in a sofa chair, or while sitting in a proper asana? In other words, by enhancing rajas and tamas?

Is remembering best enhanced by sloppy breathing through the mouth and into the chest -- which are also detrimental to physical health -- or by proper posture and proper breathing?

Furthermore, does not enhancing your sattva guna through quietening the bodily processes, the organs, the limbs, through the breath, result in the mind becoming clarified and more capable of hearing, chanting and relishing he Holy Name?

The desire to hear and chant itself should be motivation enough to learn to sit down properly and chant with complete attention in samadhi.

Jai Radhe.

Jayadharma Das: I too have a question: I have found myself in a wheelchair for the last decade, and can no longer practice proper posture or breathing as you have described here. Am I - and others who may find themselves in a similar position - then screwed? Can the Divine Name of God only be intoned by the able-bodied?

Vinode Vani Dasi: Good one, Jayadharma. Tere are no 216 minutes of siddhasana for many of us now; the body has morphed into something uncooperative.

Jagadananda Das: Of course not. I think this argument is a red herring. It has been leveled at me many times. You chant with emotion. Your physical disability probably enhance your emotional connection to the name.

Even if you have to sleep 23 hours and have one hour of half wake half sleep, that moment of chanting may be greater than all the chanting of all the yogi bhaktas everywhere.

BUT!!!! If you are able-bodied, then why drive your body into the ground by unhealthy habits? If you are able-bodied why not use this God-given human body,, which is healthy, to enhance your spiritual practice?

Are we to deny the body, when the human body is so glorified, not just for the enhanced intelligence, but for the various capabilities for experience that it gives us? Are we to reject the science of samadhi because some people are invalid?

And let me say further that any practice one undertakes will show its benefits even when you become invalid or uncooperative. Because it leaves a sattvika and transcendental samskara.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What is bhakti yoga?

I was asked by my friend Gustavo Plaza, the editor of Sadhana, a Spanish language magazine on yoga published from Ecuador, to answer some questions for their next edition, which will focus on Bhakti Yoga. Answers were requested to be short.

1. In your words, what is Bhakti Yoga?

Bhakti yoga is the application of the principles of yoga, i.e., single-pointed concentration, to the art of love. It is the path of achieving union with God through the art of love.

2. What is the relation, connection and similarities of Bhakti Yoga with the traditional paths of Classical Yoga (Raja, Dhyana) and its practices? And what are the main differences of Bhakti Yoga to these other yogas?

All yoga systems follow the fundamental outline of the Yoga Sutra, proceeding from external practices to internal transformation. As one becomes purified by the external practices of Bhakti-yoga, one enters into subtler realms of consciousness. The principal difference in bhakti yoga is the emphasis on God as a person. There are numerous other differences based on theology and philosophy and practice as well, but that is fundamental. God is the all attractive. Bhakti is the art of cultivating this attraction to God through the arts – poetry, song, and dance – as well as meditation.

3.Western practitioners of Yoga, tend to consider Bhakti Yoga as a form of Hindu Religion practice and cult, and most of the time people think that Bhakti Yoga is chanting “Hare Krishna” (for the influence of ISKCON in the West). But we miss the point that there are other forms of Bhakti beyond the Vaisnava Bhakti. Could you talk to us about the school of Bhakti of the Vaisnavas and the other traditions of Bhakti? If theres any other than that?

It is true that bhakti developed primarily in the Vaishnava tradition. But bhakti shares many characteristics with Tantra, especially where mantra, yantra and worship are concerned. The Bhagavata Purana, which is one of the main Vaishnava bhakti texts, says that one who is still governed by the qualities of darkness, or tamo-guna, tends to adopt sectarian and fundamentalist attitudes. But like all Hindu yoga systems, when one advances, one ultimately comes to a state of universal love where such boundaries are recognized as artificial. All resides within one God who is perceived differently by different people according to their taste and their qualification. This pan-Hindu concept is accepted by all schools of Bhakti yoga.

4. Bhakti Yoga has a important ritual componente as part of its practice. And Ritual is also essential in the Tantric traditions (such as the Kashmir Shaivism) is there any connection in history of Tantra and Bhakti? And also Tantra seems to be older than Bhakti, is this correct?

The Vaishnava Tantra is known as Pancharatra and is as old if not older than the kinds of Tantra that are present in other schools of worship. The great temples of south India are all based on Pancharatra. Pancharatra also includes the practices of yoga. Vaishnava bhakti has two main branches. One is Pancharatra, as above described, the other is the Bhagavata school, which emphasizes hearing and singing about, and remembering the mythology of Krishna and his incarnations.

6. Could you give us some insights that you might think that are import for people to know when we talk about Bhakti Yoga?

The emphasis on God as a person helps to bring the focus on interpersonal human relations. Love of God should not take us away from the world but lead to a vision of God's personal presence, first in oneself, then in others, and finally in everything. Many people think that God as a person is philosophically unsound, and that bhakti is a temporary process that falls away when one understands the all-pervading nature of God. But for the bhakta, the intensity of love of God is so sweet that he never thinks of abandoning that love for any other kind of spiritual experience, especially not those in which his own being is either annihilated or merged into the existence of an impersonal God.