|At Govinda Kund in 2005.|
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.
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:
- Sri Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
- Sri Rupa Gosvami
- Sri Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami
- Sri Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Gosvami
- Sri Mukunda Dasa Gosvami
- Sri Rupa Kaviraja Gosvami
- Sri Radha Krishna Gosvami
- Sri Shyama Charana Vraja Vasi Gosvami
- Sri Chandra Narayana Gosvami
- Sri Kalachanda Gosvami
- Sri Chintamani Gosvami
- Sri Krishna Kanta Gosvami
- Sri Yashoda Kumara Gosvami
- Sri Yadava Chandra Gosvami
- Sri Harilala Gosvami
- Sri Priyalala Gosvami
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.