Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Act of Love

Since Anuradha wrote me, I thought I would answer a comment he wrote in response to my Thursday, August 17, 2006 blog. (This is being posted, even though it is incomplete).
Trying to make your own sex-life a spiritual experience is fine, but it is not yet "full surrender" and "selfless Devotion". Repeat,repeat...

I personally play soccer. Maybe Krishna likes it too. Maybe He wants to play with me one day. I don't know. But my soccer is not Krishna's soccer. I play for many selfish reasons and because testosterone is fueling my body. Therefor I regulate it. I play. I enjoy. But it is not part of my spiritual Quest.
I have to say that I found this to be a total misunderstanding of what I am coming to understand about the worship of Radha and Krishna.

In fact, I am not quite sure what philosophical position Anuradha is trying to defend here. I notice that Advaita continues to associate me with "immorality." Clearly Anuradha is making a certain concession here--that there is perhaps some spiritual dimension to sexuality, but one that belongs to a baser level than that of pure love of Godhead as we have been taught by Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Bhaktivedanta Swami.

But this misses the principal message that I am trying to communicate: Just as sexuality in its perverted form is the central aspect of mundane consciousness, in its pure form it is the central aspect of the Divine Realm. It is not a kind of enjoyable physical exercise, but an act that symbolically and spiritually, as well as physiologically, combines to bring the splintered individual ego into union with the Divine Realm. Though almost any material or sensual activity can in some way be dovetailed with bhakti to become bhakti, just as an iron rod immersed in fire takes on the properties of fire, none have the power or depth of the act of love.

This does not mean that every repetition of the sexual act is somehow equal to the height of spirituality--far from it. It would be perverse of me to say so, and this is why I find the accusation of immorality to be facile and perverse in itself. It is a shallow dogma that makes too radical a bifurcation between matter and spirit or God and man. It is the same kind of idea that turns Radha and Krishna into a sort of Barbie and Ken with airbrushed genitals, the one that says Radha and the gopis were only seven years old and so there was no question that the Rasa lila was anything other than a children's game. It is a refusal to accept Radha and Krishna lila at face value. The only reason that Radha and Krishna can be meaningful to us is because we have experience of human love, and this is an experience that we recognize as having value.

The difference in the the two approaches lies in the question: Can we think of Radha and Krishna symbolically, or is scriptural literal-mindedness our only option? The literal-minded are horrified at the possibility, and the implications, of thinking of Radha and Krishna as symbols of anything other than God and his energy, whatever that means. The horrifying implication for them is that bhakti itself would become meaningless. One becomes devoted to God and not to a symbol, or so we think.

In fact, God is, I have been saying, an "empty concept." This might also sound like pure heresy, or even Buddhism (!), but what I am getting at is this: God appears in various forms according to the level of spiritual insight of his devotees. As such, there is not much difference between ye yathā mām prapadyante or yad-yad-dhiyā or yādṛśī bhāvanā yasya, etc., and all these other famous verses that stress the multiple and responsive manifestations of God, and the Feuerbachian notion of projection, that has so contributed to psychological atheism over the past two centuries.

Jung once said, ""all statements about the God-image also apply to the empirical symbols of totality." ("The Self," in Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, tr. R.F.C. Hull, p.31.) In other words, whenever we talk about God, we are talking about a concept that encompasses all things and incarnates our highest values. Our concept of God reflects a meta-narrative about the universe into which we can fit our own lives and give them meaning.

Sex is a troubled creature. For the Buddhists, Mara was the embodiment of evil and temptation, and just as Jesus had to resist 40 days of temptation from Satan in the desert, the Buddha had to resist the temptations of Mara before he could reach enlightenment: Sex and its "subtle forms," as we liked to say in Iskcon. But think, now: What is the difference between the via negativa (neti neti) and the positive approach of the Vaishnavas, who use expressions such as "perverted reflection" (as with Plato's cave, which Anuradha herself mentioned) to describe the relation of Maya to reality?

Some people have a great deal of difficulty with a personal God, or with a God "in human form," or with any kind of anthropomorphism at all. After all, we are only too familiar with the limitations of humanity, so how can we ascribe such a form to him, other than as a kind of sign of self-aggrandizement? But the Bible says, "God made man in his own image." And Jesus said, "Become perfect, even as the Father is perfect." And Kaviraj Goswami says "sarvottama nara-līlā."

What I postulate here is that we are being asked to seek a perfection that includes sexuality, that makes use of sexuality to seek a mystical union with the Divine Couple.
… it is clear from the above that all the esoteric schools of India are fundamentally based on the speculation on the two aspects in which the ultimate reality functions and manifests itself, and that the religious creed is based on the final aim of the attainment of a state of non-duality. It is to be noticed that this idea of unity of the esoteric systems implies no process of negation; it, on the other hand, implies a process of supreme position through a regressive process of transformation and trans-substantiation. It is for this reason that all the schools of Tantra speak of the final state where enjoyment and liberation have become one and the same. The process of āropa, which makes the ultimate union possible, is not peculiar to the Vaishnava Sahajiyas only, it is a process common to all the Tantric and Sahajiya schools, either Hindu or Buddhist. We shall see later on that this process of āropa implies no negation. It implies a change of perspective where the physical existence is not denied, but replaced by a permanent spiritual existence, where the gulf between the physical and the ontological is bridged over in an absolute existence. The Tantric Buddhists have also repeatedly emphasized that the final state is not a state of Nirvana, as it is not a state of Bhava (existence); but neither the Bhava nor the Nirvana is denied it. It is a state where Bhava and Nirvana become united together in the realization of the Absolute. (Obscure Religious Cults, xxxviii)

1 comment:

john said...

I agree with your thinking: when united, a couple has transcended duality, knows union at deep levels.