Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ahangrahopasana and Aropa, Part II

In literature, it is in the nature of the text itself to control the emotional responses. (Under this rubric or the word "literature," I include plays, movies, musical works, novels, poems, etc.; in short, anything where the kinds of dynamics under discussion are operative.) And here we must draw a distinction between

Rupa's divine aesthetic and that of other, "mundane" literature. In the latter, most audiences tend to seek entertainment that confirms their ("bodily") identities, and therefore young men like action flicks with themes that allow them to experience vicarious heroism and a macho kind of love. For them, identification with the young girl mentioned previously will be difficult and somewhat forced. In such a case, a certain amount of acculturation or education is required, principally in the acquisition of a predisposition or capacity to bring one's attention to bear on the text material (sattva-guna). A little bit of work is required, which in the Sanskrit is refered to as samskara, or the attainment of sahridayata, or becoming a sat-samajika.

In the text of the Ramayana, Ramachandra is a dhirodatta nayaka and a dharma-vira, like Yudhisthira. He is, in other words, an exemplary or ideal human being, a model men of this world are expected to admire and emulate; in other words, to identify with. You can see here how bhakti takes on a certain quality when one stands in relation to a person of this type: it can be a servitor's rasa like that of Hanuman or of Lakshman. Even Sita is in a relationship dominated by service attitude rather than erotic love.

In such a case, emulating Rama is not problematic for a man, nor is it incompatible with bhakti, for one can be devoted to someone one admires and wishes to emulate, like a guru. Nor does it present a problem from the point of view of archetypal psychology. The Jungians hold that the "God-figure" is a symbol of the idealized self, and therefore by definition the repository of all ideals and values. Though such a statement might seem anathema to the true believers, it is embedded in the Upanishads and Gita, where the word for self is applied both to the individual and the Supreme Self. All Indian philosophy is a debate on the meaning of this word, atma.

A Ravana figure, on the other hand, representing the "Shadow" in Jung's archetypal pantheon, is a more complex complex, and it is worth recognizing the sophistication that it brings to the idea of evil, which has already been touched upon somewhat above. Epic myths generally take the form of a "destruction of the dragon" or the conquering of an "empire of evil," to use that recent manifestation of Manichaean dualism that has so influenced current history. But it must be remembered that a myth lives on even after the telling, and the archetypes live on with it even if they have been destroyed in the myth itself. Ravana is thus a permanent part of the self, much as we would like to be rid of him forever.

In a "better" story, the Devil is humanized to some extent: the possibility of anyone's becoming a Ravana has to be made real in order for the story to be persuasive. Even so, it is in the nature of the story form itself to demand that the reality of his evil, his having gone over "to the Dark Side," be shown, for only in this way will the archetypal vira rasa be activated. The difference between the mythical and the modern sensibility lies in the latter's allowance that evil does not only exist objectively, but that it exists within oneself, and that humanity goes on existing despite the presence of evil.

What is thus interesting about Jung's approach, then, is that archetypal or mythical struggles are seen as intrapersonal rather than as historical, i.e., as descriptions of an objective reality. In fact, this is not as new as it may seem, for all religions and especially Hindusim, have been essentially idealistic: God's real locus is inside--to find him we must look within, become antarmukha. Being bahirmukha means you are looking in the wrong place, i.e., "outside" the self.

The modern vantage point, the critique that undermined this position was empiricism, which placed value on sense perception, i.e. on our ability to know the world. Though in our persistent idealism we Vaishnavas have undermined any sources of knowledge other than Shabda, the fact is that we have all been "contaminated" to a great extent by our presence in this world of today. We must not see it as a disadvantage, but in fact as giving us tools to understand the meaning of Radha and Krishna. In fact, Krishna exists not only within, but without also. "Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect."

We are discussing the process of identification and how Rupa is telling us that when listening to Krishna lila, we should identify with the devotees, i.e., the gopis, and not with Krishna. In this, the situation is markedly different from that of Rama, whom we also accept as a manifestation of the same Supreme Person, but with whom identification is permitted. In the case of Krishna, however, this seems to go against the natural process of identification, at least where men are concerned.

The Krishna of many lovers, we are being warned, is not like the well-blinged gangsta of the rap video who is surrounded by a large number of fawning "ho"s in sundry poses of seductive sultriness. Like the gangsta, Krishna clearly has the potential to awaken feelings of envy and ambition--but seen in this way, there is definitely a danger to the very essence of dharma, which is the striving for ethical perfection as a human being. Indeed, if God is, as stated above, the symbol of the idealized self, Krishna here presents problems that have been recognized in the Bhagavatam at the end of the Rasa Lila section in Parikshit's questions.

So let us return to the Ujjvala-nilamani, where Srila Rupapada chooses two verses from the answers given by Shukadeva to those questions, i.e., BhP 10.33.31 and 37, which are no doubt well-known to all, to elucidate his meaning:

naitat samācarej jātu manasāpi hy anīśvaraḥ
vinaśyaty ācaran mauḍhyād yathārudro’bdhi-jaṁ viṣam
anugrahāya bhaktānāṁ mānuṣaṁ deham āśritaḥ
bhajate tādṛśīḥ krīḍā yāḥ śrutvā tat-paro bhavet
One should not engage in these actions if one is not the Lord, nay, not even in the mind. Should one do so out of foolishness, then he will be destroyed, just as someone without Lord Shiva's powers would be destroyed on drinking the poison that arose from the ocean being churned by the gods and demons...
The Lord took shelter of a human body and engaged in pastimes like the rasa-lila in order to show compassion on his devotees. Anyone who hears them becomes totally fixed on him.
The juxtaposition of these two verses is interesting: the purpose of the rasa lila, in distinction with other pastimes where other rasas are prevalent, is not meant to incite competitiveness. Vishwanath writes of the second verse that Shukadeva is here answering the Parikshit's second question, "Why did he do it?" The answer is that he did it so that everyone would become a devotee (tat-paraH = tad-eka-niSThaH) through hearing about his sweetness, because these pastimes have an inherent power, like that of certain precious stones, magic spells or potions (mani-mantra-mahausadhivat), to produce that result. Many of the commentators refer to the last verse of the Rasa lila--bhaktim param pratilabhya, etc. Jiva says, "This is the result to be expected, and not a sense of complete identity."
Full absorption, full commitment to Krishna through hearing of his sweetness, beauty and love. Hearing of it creates a desire to experience it directly.

No comments: