Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ahangrahopasana and Aropa, Part IV

These essays have become a bit scrambled and perhaps lost their direction somewhat. They should be seen as notes for something that will come out of it all at some time in the future. I would, however, like to make a couple of points here, by way of a résumé:

  1. In my understanding of this process there is no fundamental difference in the sambandha or prayojana for the Orthodox and Sahajiya schools, though there are some differences in the abhidheya.
  2. Ahangrahopasana is, as we have shown, acceptable when interpreted according to the correct sambandha and prayojana, and only rejected when it disagrees with the metaphysics and ultimate goal of Vaishnava practice. When it agrees, it is called aropa. This aropa is similar to, but not exactly the same as the aropa in aropa-siddha bhakti that has been discussed in a previous post.
  3. The goal of bhakti is bhava and prema. The word bhakti does not make a clear and specific difference between external activities and internal moods; bhava and prema are clearly and specifically internal. The spiritual world is sometimes called "bhava-rajya" because it is, essentially, formed out of bhava (hladinir sar bhava). This is very important to understand and I have been returning to it again and again: the spiritual world is within and it is created out of bhava or feeling. This is the Vaishnava position, as opposed to the jnani or karmi.
  4. Three terms that are in need of analysis: ahangrahopasana, sadharanikarana and aropa. They all have some relation to the concept of identification with someone other than oneself. What exactly is the relationship between the three terms? Ahangrahopasana refers to identification with God; it was stated that such identification is not altogether excluded if it is understood as identification with the Godhead, i.e., God and his energies.
  5. Sadharanikarana is described as the natural mechanism of identification taking place on hearing a story. This is a somewhat mysterious process, but Sri Rupa Prabhu has identified it as an essential ingredient in the experience of rasa. Rupa warns against identifying with Krishna, but rather with his devotees, i.e. Radha. But when Radha and Krishna are One, how does one distinguish the Two ?
  6. We have looked at one definition of Aropa, as in the idea of Aropa-siddha bhakti in order to help understand its meaning. Aropa is about an apparent artificial process of attribution. It is much what is attempted when one identifies as a manjari. In the case of a devotional lovemaking, it is but one part of a somewhat complex combination of psychological procedures that are put into play. I'd like to leave that for now.

Now I would like to explain the table I posted earlier:

BhagavataSahajiya
Kanistha
  • Sadhana-bhakti (Vaidhi and Raganuga)
  • Sees the sacred in specifically ordained and restricted times, places and activities.
  • Svarupa-siddha bhakti.
  • Sraddha to nishtha.
Pravartaka
  • Vaidhi-sadhana (including the orthodox conception of raganuga bhakti).
  • Namashraya, Mantrashraya.
Madhyama
  • Sees the sacred in the devotee as well as the Deity.
  • Sanga-siddha.
  • Nistha to bhava.
Sadhaka
  • Raganuga-sadhana.
  • The culture of a specific personal devotional relationship.
  • Bhavashraya.
Uttama
  • Sees the sacred in all things.
  • Aropa-siddha.
  • Bhava and prema.
Siddha
  • Ragatmika-bhakti.
  • Sees the sacred in all things.
  • Premashraya, Rasashraya.


  1. The first thing you might notice is that I have placed svarupa siddha bhakti in with sadhana-bhakti. Svarupa siddha bhakti is not in itself bhava. It is powerful for its ability to produce bhava. Sanga siddha and aropa siddha bhakti do not have that power; indeed they are dependent on a degree of bhava to give them their devotional value. Sanga-siddha bhakti means activities that are sacralized through the accompaniment of svarupa-siddha devotional activities, including mental ones. Though aropa-siddha bhakti is the least powerful kind of bhakti, being without any real devotional essence, for a person in the most advanced stage of devotion, since he is filled with bhava and prema, he sees all things in a devotional way. Therefore, there is an "aropa" or attribution of sacredness to things that ordinarily would not be seen in that way.
  2. Another thing that will be noticed is that in the Sahajiya system, Raganuga bhakti is defined differently and in some respects closer to Gaudiya Math thinking on the matter. The Sahajiyas consider the orthodox practices of raganuga bhakti to fall within the vaidhi category. For them, raganuga bhakti starts on the sadhaka platform when one takes shelter of bhava (bhavashraya).
  3. As stated above, the spiritual world is "bhava-maya." The goal of sadhana bhakti (in general terms, not as in the Sahajiya terminology) is to achieve inner states known as bhava. The Sahajiya understanding of Raganuga bhakti is that it focuses on the inner states or moods, which being associated and identified with those of the spiritual world are transcendent and give direction to the bhava-rajya. In other words, the focus of the Sahajiya is on the bhava, rather than the technical details of asta-kaliya lila-smarana, though these should have been internalized in the pravartaka stage. (Namashraya refers to Orthodoxy's vaidhi bhakti, mantrashraya to its raganuga bhakti.)
  4. Evidently, in the sadhaka stage, yogic practices are added to the equation as a certain physical culture is required to aid and enhance concentration. Nevertheless, one does not altogether stop the sadhana practices of the pravartaka stage, even though these may be loosened. This is because one's ashraya is different.
  5. Since the Sahajiya follows the bhava rather than the scriptural details prescribed in the various smarana-paddhatis, which as I mentioned in a prior post in this series, provide primarily intellectual interest which is lost when the novelty wears off, it opens the doors to the kind of sacralizing perception that Eliade talks about and which is announced in the Bhagavatam as the goal of bhakti practice. (See BhP 11.2.55ff) But it also enriches his experience of the svarupa-siddha devotional activities in the madhura mood.



5 comments:

Jagat said...

Anybody know how to redefine the bullets in this program? They look fine as I type (either ordered or unordered lists), but turn into these ridiculous daisy shapes when I post.

I went into the model and redefined the predefined bullet icon, but just erasing it did not work. I put in an another icon I found on the web, but it does not look right either. And it overrules the numbered list.

Femme-nist Fatale said...

When you speak for the sahajiya point of view, from who's authority do you speak? Is there a particular community which you are a part of or at least in regular contact with?

Is it male dominated?

Are the roles the women take therein similar to the roles expected of the majority of Indian women in Hindu culture?

When you visit their homes who is serving the chai?

Jagat said...

If you read some of my biographical notes, you will have noticed that my association with the living Sahajiya tradition was rather brief. Nevertheless, one thing that struck me was the respect with which he treated his wife in public situations, doing things like making sure she was comfortably seated and given water, etc. These were not things that you saw in India, ever.

When I was initiated, there were two senior women and two men on the "panel."

As to traditional roles, I would say that on the whole they were traditional. I don't think it is really appropriate to expect much different.

But as far as authority is concerned, I have only my own. I speak for no one but myself.

Anonymous said...

"Nevertheless, one thing that struck me was the respect with which he treated his wife in public situations, doing things like making sure she was comfortably seated and given water, etc. These were not things that you saw in India, ever"

It is not uncommon for Indian husbands to see to the comforts of their wives in public. I've seen it a number of times.

Anyway, I guess my experience with India is that no matter how "progressive" or "radical" or "esoteric" a person or group deems themselves, I've seen the same old, same old stereotyped gender roles and that is a big turn off for me.

Nevertheless, can you provide the links to your biographical notes?

Jagat said...

The question here is not Indian or European. I am not advocating the wholesale adoption of Indian mores. My feeling is that Radha and Krishna speak to us archetypally, to a purely unconscious and emotional aspect of our being, of our being before God, and not of social relationships as such, except that they do prioritize the idealized feminine, which means service and love.

This means that any Sahajiya doctrine must, by definition, advocate moral, legal and social equality for women. If there is a society that does not accept that, then they are not Sahajiya.

One of the things I am trying to get across is the dynamic nature of ideas. Vaishnavism in the West will not necessarily be the same as Vaishnavism in the East. For one thing, modernity has changed us so much that we live in different worlds from those who have traditional world views. This does not mean that some of the insights of the past cannot be adapted to our present needs. Some things ARE eternal. The social position of women has changed fairly recently and is still far from ideal. The Radha-Krishna idea takes us out of the masculine world of deeds and into the feminine world of play. The sexes each have the upper hand in their respective domains; I think this is inevitable. It is perhaps best that way, as cooperation means the best of both worlds.

That is why I think that you should not be to hasty to judge societies where traditional gender roles are still in vogue. But we cannot and should not try to return to those pre-modern roles.

Moral equality means that everyone has the freedom to be an individual and to resist socially imposed stereotypes if they go contrary to his or her nature, and to expect respect as an individual, irrespective of their adherence to socially imposed stereotypes.

All these Anonymous people. It's hard to tell the players without a scorecard. Please people, use some kind of alias, at least, especially if you post more than once.