Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Some more autobiographical notes

At Govinda Kund in 2005.
I left Iskcon in 1979 and spent the following six years participating in the traditional Gaudiya Vaishnava world as a celibate monk or babaji. Towards the end of this period, my life started to slowly disintegrate. My godbrother, Madhusudan Dasji, had been expelled from India and so I was bereft of my best friend. Gadadhar Pranji was going through his own troubles and I did not have as close a relationship with him as I had with Madhusudan. As to the rest of the Vaishnava community, there were many friends, few confidantes. I started smoking pot. This led to a number of highly charged experiences, but isolated me even further from the Vaishnava community at large.

Then one day, while I was doing my regular bhajan, a woman burst into my kutir and told me I was a fool, that I did not understand the first thing about Radha and Krishna, etc. This woman’s name was Gita. She was from a lower caste and uneducated; she was brash and loud. To the objective observer she was neither attractive nor appealing. Nevertheless, I became involved with her briefly, which was a life-changing event that made me call into question my entire way of looking at sexuality. Perhaps the most significant moment in this liaison came on Gaura Purnima 1985, when I had sexual relations with her in my room in the midst of an emotionally charged Nabadwip kirtan wafting in from every direction. This created the indelible connection of sexuality to spirituality in my mind that to this day remains perhaps the "Holy Grail" of my sadhana.

Though it was clear almost from the very start that my relation with Gita was to be shortlived and fraught with negative repercussions, I consider her influence on my life to have been of great importance. It was, for want of a better phrase, a "wake up call." She too was "guru tattva."

Not long afterward, I was approached by another individual named Priyalal Goswami. I found the man personally not very appealing, but was curious about his doctrines and so when he invited me to speak at a festival near his house in Kalna, I went. This would have been a few months later during the rainy season of 1985. On that occasion, I underwent a ceremony (nothing sexual involved) in which I was given the śikṣā mantras in front of a group of Sahajiya elders.

I would here like to point out some important things about this event. First of all, the Sahajiya initiation is called śikṣā, not dīkṣā. The śikṣā mantras include the Kāma-gāyatrī, along with an explanatory or auxiliary mantra : om hrīṁ śrīṁ klīṁ kusuma-bāṇaḥ śrī-manmathaḥ śrī-govindo māṁ kṛpayatu ("May Govinda, the mind-churner who shoots the flower arrows, be merciful to me.") This mantra is clearly meant to simply identify Krishna with Kamadeva. This identification is, of course, interpreted differently by Orthodoxy and Sahajiyaism, but let us admit that the fundamental principles are agreed upon here.

The other śikṣā mantra is the famous Hamsa Mantra, so’ham. My śikṣā-guru also gave me the following verses as an explanation of this mantra.

ha-kāre kṛṣṇa-candra sa-kāre rādhikā
bujhile guru-kṛpāya pāya tāra dekhā
ha-kāre bāhire jāya sa-kāre praveśe
bhāvanārthe viparīta jānibe viśeṣe
so’haṁ śabdera artha rādhā kṛṣṇa haya
bhakti pathe paramātmā jānibe niścaya
eka śa hājāra śata śata bāra
divā-rātri jīva jape anirvāra
ei tattva guru-mukhe śune je jana
janma mṛtyu roga śoka tāra haya bāraṇa

The letter ha refers to Krishna, sa to Radha. One who understands this by the mercy of the spiritual master will be able to see the Divine Couple. With the letter ha [the breath] moves outward, with the letter sa it enters. But in the contemplated meaning [where ha and sa represent Radha and Krishna], one should know that the opposite is true. The mantra so’ham therefore means Radha and Krishna together. On the bhakti path, they are the paramātmā. One chants this mantra constantly, day and night, hundreds of thousands of times. The person who hears this knowledge from the mouth of his guru will be free from birth, death, disease and lamentation.
Along with this came a dual interpretation of the kāma-bīja, or dīkṣā mantra. ka = Krishna, la = Radha, ī = hlādinī; nāda  = Rupa Manjari, bindu = Vrindavan. A secondary meaning, more familiar, identifies each of these with the five principal elements (tanmātras).

The śikṣā disciplic line I received was the following:
  1. Sri Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
  2. Sri Rupa Gosvami
  3. Sri Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami
  4. Sri Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Gosvami
  5. Sri Mukunda Dasa Gosvami
  6. Sri Rupa Kaviraja Gosvami
  7. Sri Radha Krishna Gosvami
  8. Sri Shyama Charana Vraja Vasi Gosvami
  9. Sri Chandra Narayana Gosvami
  10. Sri Kalachanda Gosvami
  11. Sri Chintamani Gosvami
  12. Sri Krishna Kanta Gosvami
  13. Sri Yashoda Kumara Gosvami
  14. Sri Yadava Chandra Gosvami
  15. Sri Harilala Gosvami
  16. Sri Priyalala Gosvami
Of these names, numbers 1-6, 10 and 11 are historically significant.

The pātra also includes the following: śri guru krpā kariyā nāma rekhechen jagadānanda dāsa. kāra dāsa ? śri-guru-dāsa. śri-guru ke ? śri kṛṣṇa-caitanya mahāprabhu. And, finally, there is the śivāmbu-mantra: oṁ klīṁ bāṇa-candrāya svāhā.

After this initiation, I became increasingly alienated from the Orthodox Vaishnavas in Nabadwip, without ever being able to comfortably find any association in the Sahajiya groups. This is important, because I never associated closely with Sahajiyas or came to know them intimately. Nor did I ever, other than in my shortlived and infrequent dealings with Gita, establish any relationship with a Sahajiya woman.

The main reason I subsequently never claimed to be a Sahajiya before are three in number:
  1. I never identified with the society of Sahajiyas, nor did I ever feel comfortable with them. Indeed I felt out of place and somewhat embarrassed by my dealings with them. While in India, I thus never declared any affiliation with them.

  2. I left India not long afterward and so had no opportunity to take extensive instruction or to look for intellectually and socially agreeable company that would have made it possible to overcome #1.

  3. Once back in Canada, I was unable to find a partner with whom to put what little of Sahajiyaism I did understand into practice. Eventually I settled into a rather conventional married relationship, which was proving apparently successful in reducing sexual desire to almost nothingness.
Nevertheless, forces similar to those that caused my original attraction to Sahajiyaism came into action in due course of time and I found I still had the same core beliefs, which I tried to outline in my Gaudiya Discussions post. Some of the ideas I mentioned there occasionally came out in earlier postings, so that many people already suspected my tendencies. Nevertheless, I did not mention openly that I believed sexuality had a place in Gaudiya Vaishnava sadhana. This was in not a case of deliberate dissimulation as much as respect for the general beliefs of others, the wish to avoid sensation, and partly due to the fact that in my heart I did not truly know where the line between Gaudiya Vaishnava orthodoxy and Sahajiyaism should be drawn.

As I said, though I have now openly use the word Sahajiya to refer to myself, I never identified socially as a Sahajiya in India. The ideas that I have developed come basically out of a pure logic derived from the Gaudiya Vaishnava symbol system and from the clues that I picked up from my readings in various orthodox texts, including Chaitanya Charitamrita, and not from Sahajiya association or their texts. In fact, I have gone through a number of Sahajiya texts, the Bengali originals. These texts puzzle rather than enlighten me. Other than coded information about basic yogic practices, I find them rather unhelpful. I have found it altogether more useful to devise my own practices that illuminate my own understanding, which is almost wholly derived from my interpretation of orthodox Gaudiya Vaishnava sources.

Philosophically, I consider myself in harmony with the line of orthodox Gaudiya Vaishnava thought. This means that I am theistic in my orientation to God rather than monistic. I am an acintya-bhedābheda-vādi who believes that bhakti is the sādhana (not yoga, karma or jnana) and that prema is the prayojana. I believe that the Radha Krishna yugala is the Supreme Form of the Deity. So, how am I any different from any other orthodox Vaishnava? I do not think that I am outside of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

This is why I have never been an active participant in forums where Gaudiya Vaishnavism is considered simply one source of spiritual nourishment and does not believe that it has anything of special significance to offer, whereas I consider Radha and Krishna and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to be the symbolic and functional sources of all my spirituality, and I structure everything around them. Nor do I feel comfortable on those sites where people whose experience of Vaishnavism in Iskcon, etc., has been bitter, for I am more interested in a community of faith than one of criticism. 

So, as a so-called Sahajiya, I believe that sexuality is an important and acceptable part of the pure Vaishnava Dharma. I do not, however, claim that sexual practices are indispensible to the attainment of prema. It seems to me that if they were, this would have been stated explicitly in the Goswamis’ texts. Their not mentioning it at all comes from a kind of modesty, even though its possibility is not explicitly rejected either. The point is that bhakti is open to all persons without discrimination—children, impotent, renounced, married, etc. So how could sexual yoga be a required element? Nevertheless, since bhakti is a practice executed by the senses, and the love organs are prominent among the senses, it seems counterintuitive to eliminate them from all possibility for devotional practice.


Anonymous said...

namaste, jagat, i would like to talk to you privately.
here is phulla kalika
my email. is phulla@ig.com.br

Anonymous said...

Jagat, have you ever considered making the intention to find a compatible Sahajiya guru one with your heart?

The obscure, vague and unhelpful classic sahajiya texts would then open up a whole new realm to you, a realm of practicality versus theory, bliss versus gyan.

It may take some time, and maybe not, but a quest for an appropriate guide could do wonders for you.

Jagat said...

The time may yet come. I have developed a particular understanding that is ingrained in me. But if you have someone you want to direct me to, I am willing to find out more.

gautam said...

Jai Ma

Namaskar. "jagadAnanda biijasya jagadduhkhauShasya ca / cittaratnasya yatpUrvam katham hi pramiiyatAm..."

Since you think and write about sexuality, dhArA, and about SriSri Radharaniji, you might find the Bangala works by Sri Anirvan of some value. We are trying to gather as many of his printed works at one place, haimavati-anirvan.org. Some useful texts, e.g. Pother DishA, are yet to be uploaded. Nonetheless, you might something of use in the ones that already are there.

I have a question that has intrigued me for long. Sri Sri Ma Anandamayi was without doubt a Vaishnava among Vaishnavas, besides being much else. Her retinue included SriSri Haribaba, Prabhudatta Brahmachariji of Jhusi Ashram, Sri Dham Prayaga, Swami Akhandananda Saraswati, the renowned Srimad Bhagavatam exponent at SriDham Vrindavan, among many others. Sri Ma also gave life to a powerful tradition of SrimadBhagavatam Saptahas, that persist to this day among Her devotees. Sri Ashok Kulkarniji of Pune is one such powerful exponent who is well worth your while to meet.

All of the above were robust devotees in the Vaishnava tradition and it seems odd that Swami Bhaktivedantaji chose to meet with any of the above, or even with SriSri Uriya Baba at Sri Vrindavana. Or he might indeed have met them, in which case it would be interesting to hear the details.



Anonymous said...

Sex is Maya,b bhramachari

Jagadananda Das said...

One of those amusing errors in Sanskrit... confusing brahma with bhrama. bhrama meaning error. "Walking in Brahman" or "walking in error." Sex is in itself not necessarily the error, if one is walking in Brahman.

Just been listening to Ravi Zacharias, evangelical preacher, who has a lot of good points to make. Certainly, the Christians have a belief in the fundamental goodness of creation, because it is the work of God. Thus the complementarity of the sexes is seen as a way for man and woman to cultivate spiritual life, and that includes the sex act itself.

It is a question of recognizing the sacred nature of the act and the relationship. If you understand what I am saying, you will see that I am not really all that radical.

Western people have a mistaken romantic concept coupled with a cheap understanding of love as sexuality. Therefore they cheapen the sex act, which then loses its sacred character. Yes that kind of relationship is definitely Maya.

But Bhaktivinoda Thakur said that whether you stay in the home or in the forest, you should devote yourself to your spiritual ideals, which in our case is prema-bhakti.

I don't say that sexuality on the human level is the summum bonum. Without bhakti it is nothing.

Jagadananda Das said...

I never answered Gautam above either, so I suggest that you see what I have written about some of the people you have named.

There are sampradayika Vaishnavas and asampradayika Vaishnavas. The ones you mentioned are deliberatedly non-sampradayika. For whatever reason none of them chose to take a guru in the prema-bhakti tradition. In the Gaudiya Vaishnava conception, I believe they would all be considered to have a lower conception than the mood of the gopis, even though they may have pretended to understand, or at least were able to admire the gopis' mood from a distance. But like Lakshmi were not able to truly enter.

The reason for this is the fear of following the acharyas of the sampradaya, or commitment to other guru lineages and concepts.

I admire them all, please don't misunderstand. As I have written about them from a non-critical stance and accepting each of them on their own terms. Some of these articles are here on this blog and some are on Vrindavan Today.