Friday, March 30, 2007

Prema-vilasa Observations II

I find the Prema-vilāsa a bit confusing; it seems to switch times, people, voices without giving full warning. Some of it is acknowledged in the appendix (the half vilāsa). There it says that chapters 15 and 16 have been erroneously switched around. It was already mentioned that Jahnava's two trips seem to have gotten mixed up. This confirms it.

However, the appendix also confirms the contents of the chapters, putting aside any suspicions of interpolation. For instance, the case of Krishnadas Kaviraj leaving his body on hearing about the missing books is confirmed.

Sometimes I think that there have been scribal errors. For instance, in chapter 17 (page 145), two Vaishnavas come back from Vrindavan and meet Ramachandra and Narottam in Khetari. Then there is this verse:

rāmacandra kohe ṭhākur koho mukhe śuni
more kibā rūpa gosāi jānila

Ramachandra said, "Thakur, please tell me how did Rupa Goswami come to know about me?"

Rupa Goswami had left this world even before Srinivas went to Vraja, so how could he say anything about anybody?

On page 147, after Srinivasa's mother dies, Raghunandan suggests to Srinivas that he get married. But on page 142, Auliya Chaitanya Das announced to Gopala Bhatta that he had gotten married in Phalgun. Here, Srinivas responds to Raghunandan Thakur by saying, "My guru has not given me permission, so I am afraid to do so." Raghunandan goes and plays the matchmaker anyway, and Srinivas gets married on Vaisakha tritiya (shukla or krishna, doesn't say).

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Prema-vilasa Observations I

The hammer is coming down on this reading of Prema-vilāsa. I am becoming more convinced of the importance of this book, in spite of some of the problems it presents. In general, I feel that Nityananda Das's presentation is simple and credible. He was born in 1537 in Srikhanda, was an eyewitness to many of the events he describes, such as at the beginning of chapter 14, where he recounts the meeting of Srinivas Acharya with Raghunandan Thakur in Srikhanda.

रघुनन्दन रूपे भुवन मोहन । श्रीनिवासेर रूप ताहे आत्यन्त शोभन ।।
देखिया मोहित हैल चित्त जे आमार । से जाने दोंहार रूप नयने लागे जार ।।

He is also present in Jajigram when Ramachandra Kaviraj meets Srinivas. Vyasa Acharya is also there in Srinivasa's entourage and engages in debate with Ramachandra. There are few specifics about their discussion, but it does seem to confirm Yadunandan's account in Karṇānanda that Vyasa and Ramachandra tended to have disagreements. Nityananda Das does not recount the legend of Srinivas seeing Ramachandra on his way to getting married (the source of which is what)? Rather, Ramachandra comes to Jajigram looking for Srinivas. This is followed by the story of Govinda Kaviraja's conversion and initiation. (BTW, Srinivas, like Jiva Goswami, gives Radha-mantra. So this mantra seems to have been given some importance by the Vrindavan school.)

It gets a little complicated trying to understand Nityananda Das sometimes, as he uses "Thakur" and "Acharya" interchangeably, often changes voice, and does not always clearly signal changes of place and character.

Anyway, I am having a little difficulty understanding why Bhakti-ratnakara and Narottama-vilāsa, both written more than a century later, are accepted as authoritative while Prema-vilāsa seems to be almost entirely denigrated and distrusted. A really critical reading of the books (Karṇānanda, Anurāga-vallī, Prema-vilāsa, BRK and NV, as well as Nityānanda-vaṁśa-vistāra, etc.) dating from this period, with a detailed analysis comparing and contrasting them seems still to be needed. This will shed light on those elements that have been rejected by Narahari Chakravarti and hint at political developments in the movement's history.

Chapter 14 tells in nice detail the story of Govinda Kaviraja’s conversion. His bhaja huṅ re mana song is quoted in full, as is a verse from a song to Gauri Shankar that he wrote before becoming a Vaishnava. It is indicated that bhaja huṅ re mana is his first Vaishnava song, but that Srinivasa tells him to study Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu and Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi and write songs about Radha-Krishna lila. Govinda Das certainly has very few songs that are not lila kirtans. (BTW, he is initiated in Harinam and Radha-Krishna mantra.)

It also contains an account of the Kheturi festival on Gaura Purnima, but hardly in great detail we have come to expect of what has come to be thought of as a remarkable historical moment. It was a nice festival and Gaura Raya and Vallabhi Kanta were installed (not the six deities named by Narahari); it is said that they invited everyone, but it does not say that everyone came. There is no long list of guests as found in the Narahari accounts (BRK and Narottama-vilāsa). In short, it does not seem to have any of the historical significance that we have come to associate with it. Even the fact that is only one incident described in this single chapter is an indication that Nityananda Das did not give it that much importance.

The same chapter contains the story of the two brahmins, Ramakrishna and Hariram’s, conversion. They become disciples of Narottam and Ramachandra Kaviraj respectively. Here again the emphasis seems to be on scholarly discussion as the means of conversion: all night arguments and scriptural discussions have been involved in each of the conversions described so far: Vyasa Acharya, Birhambir, Ramachandra Kaviraj and now these three. All of them, after conversion, are ordered by their gurus to study the Goswami books, in particular the two mentioned above. Hari-bhakti-vilāsa has yet to be mentioned, though the Sandarbhas are.

In the short chapter 15, Nityananda talks a little more about his relationship with Jahnava, though without giving any great detail. He emphasizes, once again, that it is on her order and that of Birbhadra that he is writing this book. Jahnava comes to Kheturi, stopping there on her way to Vrindavan to meet Narottam and Ramachandra, but she was not there for the festival. She gives Narottam her blessings. He gives her 100 mudras for the journey. (He also gave generously to Srinivas and Vyas Acharya when they left. Nityananda Das seems to have an eye for this particular detail.)

Jahnava arrives in Braja and meets Jiva Goswami, Gopala Bhatta and Lokanath Goswami. Jahnava glorifies their disciples and grand-disciple (Ramachandra Kaviraj).

Chapter 16 starts off with a rather difficult to decipher passage about householder life and renunciation, and adhikar. Then, without a very clear context, we switch to what seems to be a previous visit by Jahnava’s to Braj. Nityananda Das seems to have been there, and he says they stayed at Rupa Goswami’s “kunja.” Nityananda recounts questions that he asked of Raghunath about the nature of the dham—the distances Radha and Krishna would have had to cover in short periods of time, etc. Sanatan Goswami is still alive, so this would have been prior to 1558. I confess this is completely new to me for some reason. Rupa Goswami tells Jahnava to send Srinivas to Vraja for training. Here doubt sets in. At least, if Rupa was still around in 1568—How long would Srinivas et al have been there? If they arrived after Rupa Goswami’s disappearance and yet left for Bengal in the early 1570’s, that does not give them much time to go through all the scriptures with Jiva, does it?

This follows with Jahnava telling Nityananda Das not to get married. This seems appropriate, as he would have still been young, being born in 1537. However, the purport of all this seemingly unrelated material comes, again in an indirect way, towards the end of this chapter, when a certain disciple of Jahnava names "Auliya" Chaitanya Das goes to Vrindavan and talks to Gopal Bhatta, giving him news of Srinivas and telling him that he has gotten married, "this past Phalgun." Gopal Bhatta's has a mysterious reaction, saying something without clarity (skhalat skhalat vākya). When Chaitanya Das returns to Bengal, he recounts these things to Srinivas, who expresses fear of having offended his guru by getting married without asking his permission. Nityananda concludes the chapter: "The eternal self-manifest of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's prema has taken form and appeared in this world as Srinivas Acharya. Even so, he shows fear of offending his guru in order to establish the maryada. Know for certain that he is the shakti of Sri Rupa Goswami and not an ordinary conditioned soul." Etc.

As in the Chaitanya Bhagavata, the marriage of a principal character is practically ignored. Certainly there is no glorious description of the betrothal and the wedding ceremony. An account of Nityananda's marriages is found in Nityānanda-vaṁśa-vistāra, but I will have to look at the other chronicles to see how they handle Srinivas's marriages.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


As I review this historical material, I am reminded of the things that struck me the first time around. As mentioned in the previous post, we have a problem--the CC date given at 1581 AD. Karṇānanda is supposed to be written in 1607 by Yadunandan, who was a disciple of Hemalata Thakurani, Srinivasa Acharya's disciple. Since there are numerous quotes and references to Caitanya-caritāmṛta in this work, if we accept the 1607 (1529 Saka) date of completion, our 1615 date for CC becomes problematic.

The Karṇānanda is dominated by the  svakīyā /pārakīyā question. This arises in particular in conversations between Ramachandra Kaviraja and King Birhambir. The issue seems to have arisen out of the impact that Gopāla-campū had when it came to Bengal. Everyone, it seems, had become quite used to the pārakīyā mood in song and story, and to suddenly have the GC come and say otherwise was confusing.

Ramachandra refers to the GC in words taken directly from CC, making it perfectly clear that Karṇānanda was written after it.

gopāla-campū nāme grantha mahāśūra
nitya-līlā sthāpana jāte vraja-rasa-pūra

Ramachandra says that rasa-pūra here refers to nitya-pārakīyā. Since all pastimes are nitya, the pārakīyā mood, which is also described in the Pūrva-campū, is nitya.

An important figure questioning these things is Vyasa Acharya (Chakravarti), who is seen by R.K. Chakravarty as one of the more important theologians amongst Srinivas's disciples. According to Prema-vilāsa, Vyasa Acharya was initiated by Srinivasa at the same time as Birhambir and that Srinivasa gave him the title "acharya." Here, Vyasa says to Ramachandra and others:

koho dekhi tomāra saba bolo pārakīyā
kirūpe koroho tāhā koho vivariyā
tabe to āmāra smaraṇa vyavasthā karilo
tāhā śuni citte āra kuṇṭha upajilo
tomarā kohile ei pārakīyā bhajan
svakīyāte prāpti hoy śunoho vacan
śrī-jīvera vākya ei ati anupam
tāhātei ei vākya āche paramāṇa

In short, "You practice pārakīyā, but you get svakīyā." And to support this he cites Jiva (though no specific quote is found here). Perhaps he is refering to the Gopāla-campū as a whole. (Chapter 4)

In order to resolve the problem, letters were sent to Vrindavan to Sri Jiva, through Ray Vasanta or Ray Sekhara (no doubt the famous pada-kartā). However, though the letters seem rather to be dealing with other questions, Yadunandan takes them as a resolution to the problem resulting from the GC's apparent promotion of the svakīyā mood.

Yadunandan makes something of a meal out of the fact that Jiva refers to the abovementioned Vyasa as Vyasa "Sharma," as no Vaishnava would use this brahminical pandit title for another Vaishnava. It is, in other words, a [perhaps not so] subtle put-down. Though at first I did not think that this was valid (and I am still not sure), when I consider how I felt when some devotees refered to me as Professor Brzezinski, I have to give some credence to Yadunandan.

Yadunandan quotes Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami in support of the principle that sādhane je dhan cāy, siddhe dehe tāhā pāy:

sādhane jei bhāvya sei prāpti hoy
patrite bujhāilo ihā nāhiko saṁśaya
ei tattva vastu śrī gosāñi kṛṣṇa dās
nija grantha mājhe tāhā korilo prakāś
"vrajera kono bhāva loiyā jei jana bhaje
bhāva jogya deha pāiyā kṛṣṇa pāya braje"

That which you meditate on in your sādhana is what you get as a result. Sri Jiva explained this in his letter, there can be no doubt of it. Krishna Das Goswami explained this truth in his own book [i.e. CC]: "One who worships after taking a particular mood of worship found in Vraja, attains a body appropriate to that mood and attains Krishna in Braja."

It is curious that in the letter where Jiva refers to Vyasa Sharma, he also mentions that he is in the middle of making some last changes to Uttara-campū, as well as some other books like Harināmāmṛta, Mādhava-mahotsava and Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. So this letter must have been written after 1592, as it is clear that Jiva revisited and reworked these titles, which had already been finished.

The Karṇānanda has three letters, written together as one, whereas Bhakti-ratnakara has four. Two of the five are common to both. I have revised the document posted on GGM, but we will have to wait for the site to be revamped before we can upload the revised document. Karṇānanda treats the three letters as one, and both books may possibly have mixed them up chronologically (as references to previous letters or events are made, etc.)

I have looking to see if Prema-vilāsa also has the letters, as some reference was made to such at the end of the appendix, but as yet I have not come across them. It would be interesting to see the context there. The BRK quotes the letters, but does not make much of them in terms of context. [This should be checked again.]

Once again, if the Karṇānanda was written in 1607, then the 1581 date for the CC would be possible. If the 1615 date for CC is correct, then Karṇānanda could not have been written then.

I also reread the Gopala Bhatta passages in the two books. Prema-vilāsa names Prabodhananda as well as stating that he died before GB came to Vrindavan, i.e., making it impossible for Prabodhananda to have been in Braj, or even to Puri, which is not credible. PV also tells the story of Harivamsa's head being cut off after the falling out with Gopala Bhatta over taking Radharani's pan prasad on Ekadasi. The Karṇānanda only tells the bit about GB being a boy when Mahaprabhu passed through Srirangam and telling him to come to Braja after his parents die; it does not mention Prabodhananda or Harivamsa. In the Karṇānanda, however, Mahaprabhu tells Gopala Bhatta that he will have an important job to do in Braj--writing the scriptures and then entrusting Srinivasa with preaching them in Bengal.

वन्दे गुरून् ईशभक्तान् ईशानीशावताराकान् ।
तत्प्रकाशांश्च तच्छक्ती: कृष्णचैतन्यसंज्ञकान् ।।

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I have been working on an article about Jiva Goswami for the Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Basically it is just a chapter from my thesis, which I published on line without footnotes (Jiva Goswami: Biographical information and Jiva Goswami: An Overview of his writings).

One matter that I did not get into in that article was Jiva Goswami’s controverted relation to the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, which is described in Prema-vilāsa and Vilāsa-vivarta. This is primarily because I accepted the 1615 date for the CC; and since Jiva’s disappearance took place in 1608, the question of Jiva's throwing the CC into the Yamuna, being envious of KK, etc. (as found in VV), did not arise.

Nevertheless, I confess that I had never gone through the Prema-vilāsa thoroughly, so I decided to revisit the question after procuring the reprint of Jashodalal Talukdar's complete 1913 edition of Prema-vilāsa, which came out in 1999.

The complete version contains "24 1/2" chapters, but this really means that there are 24 vilāsas or chapters and then what appears to be an appendix (the "ardha” or “half” vilāsa), added on by the author at a later date, including six letters exchanged between the devotees in Bengal and Sri Jiva Goswami. There is also a summary of the contents of the 24 chapters. Nityananda Das writes that as he composed the text, there was such interest in it that "500 devotees" would make copies as soon as he had finished a chapter. Cf. page 300:

ek ek adhyāya raci jabe samāpta karito
pāñca śata bhakta tāhā likhiyā loito

The fact that there are several editions in manuscript form, some with 17, others with 20 chapters, yet others with 24, makes it uncertain exactly which chapters were written when. The postscript, however, comments on all 24 chapters. At the end of the 24th vilāsa, there is a clue to how this happened. Nityananda Das says, "I wrote the first eighteen chapters in Srikhanda. Chapters 19 and 20 were written in Khardaha. The last four chapters were written while I resided in Katwa. The epilogue was written after I had finished the book and then received copies of letters by Jiva Goswami, Srinivasa and Narottama."

First of all, according to his own testimony, Nityananda Das wrote the Prema-vilāsa, on the Krishna Trayodasi of Phalguna in 1522 Saka ( = 1610 AD) (p. 285). This date of completion is confirmed in Sanskrit at the end of the ardha-vilāsa. The Karṇānanda, another book on roughly the same subject matter, written by Yadunandan in 1529 Saka (=16o7 AD), refers respectfully to the Prema-vilāsa, a testimonial that confuses the matter, as it was apparently written before Prema-vilāsa. Even so, given the spotty history of the Prema-vilāsa's completion, it may well be a valid attestation. At any rate, this confirmation in a second work makes it more difficult to deny its historical value entirely, S.K. De, Biman Bihari Majumdar and most other authoritative historians of the movement do not trust the Prema-vilāsa, especially not "the last few suspiciously spurious chapters" (Faith and Movement, p. 74).

Now Nityananda Das (page 285) gives two other dates with great assurance: that of the composition of Caitanya-bhāgavata, i.e., 1495 Saka (= 1573 AD), and that of Caitanya-caritāmṛta, i.e., 1503 Saka (= 1581 AD).

He quotes the following verse found in the colophon of CC:

jyaiṣṭhe vṛndāvanāntare
sūrye'hny asita-paṣcamyāṁ
grantho'yaṁ pūrṇatāṁ gataḥ

The date 1615 AD, which would be 1537 śaka, is based on another reading of this verse, which begins zAke sindhv-agni-bANendau* [indu = 1 (there is only one moon), bANa = 5 (the five arrows of Cupid), agni = 3 (?), bindu = 0; sindhu = 7 (the seven seas)]

There are several reasons for prefering the later date:

(1) When Krishnadas describes how he came to write CC, he says that he approached the seniormost Vaishnavas living in Braj at the time. Jiva Goswami’s name is conspicuous by its absence. This could not be because there was friction between them (as the author of Vivarta-vilāsa would have it), since we see that Kaviraj was asked to convey Raghunath Das Goswami's last wishes to Jiva Goswami in 1584, and again was present as a witness to Jiva Goswami's last will and testament in 1606 and again in 1608. The Prema-vilāsa also speaks of cordial relations between the two saints. This therefore points to KK's writing the CC after Jiva's death in 1608 when Haridas Goswami (also signatory to Jiva's will) succeeded him as head of the Vaishnava community in Braja. KK does indeed praise this Haridas, who was mahanta of the Govindaji temple, as such.

(2) Krishnadas on at least two occasions in CC mentions that he is very old. Though he may already have been aged in 1581, it sounds like a more appropriate description of him 30 years later than that. By 1580, Krishnadas had most likely written Govinda-lilamrita, for he is refered to as “kaviraja” in other works of the time.

(4) The Gopala Champu, written after 1581 (i.e. between 1584 and 1592), is mentioned in the CC.

(5) It also appears to be clear that Raghunath Das Goswami was no longer living when KK wrote CC. Raghunath Das, we know for certain, disappeared in 1584.

(6) The proximity of dates for Chaitanya Bhagavata and CC gives rise to certain questions. CC seems to indicate that Cbh had been circulating for some time in Braj. Although I have argued before (see “The Authenticity of the Chaitanya Charita Mahakavya”) that communications between Bengal and Braja were quite fluid, I believe that it would have taken more than a few years for the project of yet another biography to come to fruition. Even though Raghunath Das would have been alive, and most likely a fellow listener along with Krishnadas of Chaitanya Bhagavata, and no doubt painfully aware of its shortcomings, it would have taken more than eight years for this project to have been conceived, planned and executed.

The dates of Chaitanya Chandrodaya (1572) and Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (1576) should also be taken into consideration. I argued elsewhere (“Keeping Faith with Kheturi”) that the Pancha Tattva doctrine, which reaches its apotheosis in CC, was really made a powerful force in the Gaudiya Vaishnava world through GGD, and that this was one of the great themes of the Kheturi festival. Consolidating all these strands of thought would have taken more time, in my opinion, than the 1581 date would bear.

(7) Most problematic in this connection is the Prema-vilāsa story about the trip to Bengal with the books. Though Nityananda Das never states directly that the CC was among the books brought along with the three saints, Srinivas, Narottam and Shyamai, it is implicit in the account that he gives of Krishnadas’s reaction on hearing that the books had been stolen:

jarā-kāle kavirāja nā pāre calite
antardhāna kaila sei duḥkhera sahite...
nija netra krishnadasa raghunather mukhe
caraṇa dharila āni āpanāra buke...
jei gaṇe sthiti tāhā karite bhāvana
mudita nayane prāṇa koilo niṣkramaṇa

"Kaviraj was old and barely able to walk. The pain was so great [on hearing this news], that he disappeared... Casting his eyes on Raghunath Das's face and holding his feet on his chest... thinking of the group of Vraja residents he wished to be part of, he closed his eyes and his life airs departed." (p.110)

Nityananda Das then goes on at some length about how Raghunath Das eulogized Krishnadas at this time. But we are certain that Raghunath left his body (1584) before Krishnadas and that Krishnadas was still alive in 1608.

So, the question is: How could Prema-vilāsa have been written in 1610, when Kaviraj was presumably alive, and still get all this basic information wrong? I repeat that communications were good enough for Bengal to know of important events, like deaths, etc., within three or four months of their occurrence. And if he got this wrong, was it intentional? And if it was intentional, then what was the purpose of it?

And, of course, the Vilāsa-vivarta story about Jiva Goswami rejecting the Caitanya-caritāmṛta and throwing it into the Yamuna because it supported the parakiya rasa is also farfetched, if we accept that KK wrote it AFTER Jiva had left his body. Here, at least, the agenda is clear. When you read a book like Prema-vilāsa, which seems to be written in good faith, but then encounter information that just clashes so heavily with known facts, it undermines your confidence in the work as a whole. What other information is untrustworthy?

The possibilities that come of the CC’s accompanying the Three Saints are interesting. It would have greatly strengthened the influence of the Vrindavan school. But I simply cannot accept it. Accounts of the Kheturi festival say that the Chaitanya Mangal of Lochan Das was the current rage in Chaitanya biographies. The Chaitanya Bhagavata is still bringing up inter-Gaudiya tensions, which were defused by the Pancha Tattva doctrine. By the time the CC is written, these tensions have become a matter of amused appreciation (witness Nityananda and Advaita’s joking in Madhya 3 and elsewhere), further indicating that time has healed most of the sectarian feuding.

If one accepts Narahari Chakravarti’s statement that Rupa ended his lila only a month after Sanatan Prabhu, namely in 1558, then this gives plenty of time for Srinivas, Narottam and Shyamananda to be thoroughly trained by Jiva Goswami and thus prepared to carry out the mission that he entrusted to them.


Keeping the unreliability of the book in mind, I also noticed some interesting information in the chapter where Jiva’s relation with Shyamananda is recounted. Nityananda Das says that Jiva gave a number of mantras to Shyamananda, including Radha mantra, as well as giving him his siddha svarupa. He refers more than once to the “Ganoddesa,” meaning Rādhā-kṛṣṇa-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā as the reference for the siddha-deha and manjari bhajana. Jiva says it is alright because the diksha guru is the one who gives Krishna mantra and therefore he has not usurped Hridaya Chaitanya’s position.

At any rate, the significance given by Nityananda Das to this Ganoddesa hints at the influence of this book on Karnapura and the production of the Gaura-gaṇoddeśa in the period following Srinivas, Narottam and Shyamananda's return to Bengal. So 1570-1571 is still looking pretty good for this most significant event.

By the way, Nityananda Das says that Jiva also offered to give the siddha-svarūpa to Narottam, first naming him "Vilāsa Manjari" (saying "you and I both have the same name!"), but Narottam tells him that Radharani herself has already given him the name Manjulali. (See page 93)

bhāvāntare kohe kichu dui bhuja dhari
āji hoite tomār nāma vilāsa mañjarī
śrī-rūpera vilāsa mūrti tumi mahāśaya
āmāte e saba nḷama asambhava hoy
tabe hāsi kohe gosāi et vicitra noy
tomāya āmāya eka siddha-nāma hoy
ke bujhite pāre tomār sādhan āśaya
āji hoite tomār nāma ṭhākur mahāśaya
ṭhākur praṇām kore gosāi kare āliṅgan
dainya savinaya kohe kākuṭī vacan
ājñā hoy jadi nivedaye punarbār
more je rūpe ājñā hoilo rādhikār
śrī-mukhe kohilo nāma campaka-mañjarī
jāniyā doṅhār guṇa samāna mādhurī

Still, of the three, it appears that Shyamananda was the most enthusiastic preacher of madhura-rasa and mañjarī-bhāva.

NOTE: In chapter 16, in the description of Jahnava's second trip to Vrindavan following the Kheturi festival, in which Nityananda Das says he himself participated, he writes that Jahnava met Krishnadas Kaviraj and Raghunath Das Goswami. So how could KK have left the world prior to this? More will have to follow, obviously... [Correction: Chapter 16 is a flashback (I believe) to a previous trip to Vrindavan made by Jahnava when Sanatan and Rupa Goswamis were still present.] However, Nityananda Das himself publishes the letters of Jiva to the Bengali group, in which Krishnadas "sends his obeisances" (Letter 6). Though no date is given, it certainly eliminates the possibility that Krishnadas died earlier on, immediately after Narottam et al arriving in Bengal.

alam ativistareṇa.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Last night's "field trip"

Worked out quite nicely. I'll get more feedback on it in on Tuesday.

Friday, March 16, 2007

More about the two circles

I published this and then started revising it, but unfortunately, my connection was broken and so this is the unedited version. I am busy, so it will be a few days before I can come back and make the necessary repairs.

I probably read more movie reviews than go to movies. I don't particularly care for the movie theatre experience, and nothing is more frustrating for me than to sit through two excruciating hours of the fare dished out to the masses as popular entertainment. After reading movie critic Johanna Schneller's skewering of Chris Rock's new film, I Think I Love My Wife, in today's paper, I can assure you that I have no intention of ever going and seeing it. However, her reaction to the film opens the door to the age-old gender gap issue, in which we are all simultaneously experts and ignoramuses. That mystery.

Rock's comedy centers on the efforts of a young man, whose relationship with his wife has cooled somewhat, to resist the seductions of an attractive temptress. Schneller, after listing a number of things that are bad about this film, summarizes what really bothers her about it,

But mostly it's that I am bone weary of films in which male characters blame The Wife for their unhappiness. "My wife won't let me buy a Porsche! My wife isn't "fun" like Nikki [the temptress in the film], who throws dollar bills out my high-rise office window to watch people scrambl for them! Waah waah, my wife makes me go to couples therapy instead of doing what I want to do, which is smoke a doobie and slurp Crystal on the dance floor with two hot salesgirls from Saks!"

Schneller then goes on to enumerate similar features in another recent outing, Wild Hogs, which stars Tim Allen and John Travolta. This appears to be some kind of buddy/road movie with men who feel constrained in their home lives and decide to bond by pretending they were "born to be wild." Schneller writes witheringly that despite the premise of deep friendship between the men... "Though each man keeps insisting that the others are his best friends, they don't have any believable conversations. They don't appear to have any kind of relationship whatsoever. (Hey! We're men! Relationships are for bitches! Grrr!)"

Thus warmed up, Schneller now goes off on a bit of a rant:
Oh my dear Lord, grow up, all of you. Your happiness, or lack of it, is your own responsibility. Speaking for wives everywhere, if you don't want to be with us, go. Get lost. Really, really lost. We don't want to be your mommies either, so quit making us into them. If you take no pleasure in adult conversation, shut up. If monogamous sex isn't fulfilling, have at it with strangers until the world's Viagra supply runs dry. If you're not mature enough to realize that children have physical and emotional needs that must take temporary precedence over yours, go play your Nintendos and leave us alone.
Now, as far as rants go, this one is pretty good and there are surely both men and women who can see themselves in this. Indeed, there is something immanently persuasive about the idea: Are we not acculturated to seek and admire something called "maturity"? As a father, I can only answer in the affirmative--even though I am painfully aware of my own shortcomings. And is this maturity not akin to spiritual advancement? For instance, we associate a certain stoicism (indifference to heat, cold, victory, defeat, happiness, distress, and other opposites) with both, so there must be some kind of relation between the two.

This discussion could go a number of different ways, but I want to keep to my main theme, i.e., in the context of our Radha and Krishna Thakur and Thakurani, who embody the mystery of sexual politics. I have not yet fully drawn out the implications of my "two circles" motif so far, but this is as good a time as any to begin.

The outer circle was stated to be the Bhagavata's Sharadiya Rasa Dance, which had Krishna in the center. It was also stated that this is primarily a metaphor for the Ishwara/Jiva relationship. Here, Krishna is the bahu-vallabha: he has an infinity of mistresses. The gopis represent all living entities and they are meant for his enjoyment: that is their fulfilment.

The metaphor works in ways that are very deep and beyond our rational understanding of ideal male-female relationships. We know that history is full of oriental potentates with immense harems, and whatever this says about male fantasies, history has progressively whittled away at it until conventional morality became dry and monogamous. Except, of course, in that carefully designed fantasy world created by Hugh Heffner and his imitators. Ms. Schneller firmly puts all these down to adolescence and immaturity.

But then, what is Krishna? Though Krishna can play any role, in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, he is at his best as a dhīra-lalita nāyaka:

vidagdho nava-tāruṇyaḥ parihāsa-viśāradaḥ
niścinto dhīra-lalitaḥ syāt prāyaḥ preyasī-vaśaḥ

Krishna fits the model of the adolescent (nava-tāruṇya), who knows what the chicks dig (vidagdha), who has a "great sense of humor" (parihāsa-viśārada). He doesn't have a worry in the world (niścinta). And finally, he is completely straiṇa, that least heroic of qualities, the one that every male dreads, the ultimate challenge to his monadic independence.

The Gīta-govinda, it may be said, seems to start out telling fundamentally the same story as the Bhāgavatam’s rāsa-līlā: Krishna is dancing with many gopis, just as in the Bhāgavatam. However, the story changes quickly and it is Krishna who suffers in the absence of the One Special Gopi. Indeed, the story that is being told in GG is that Krishna, though he is bahu-vallabha, must surrender to one gopi in particular. He must show specific fidelity to this one gopi. In the later visions of Krishna līlā, i.e., in the vision of the Goswamis, any other gopi who is there besides Radha is there simply to show how Radha’s power over Krishna makes her dominant over all other gopis. Indeed, the other gopis are only there, in a manner of speaking, to highlight her dominance.

So, Gaudiya Vaishnavas don’t worship Krishna, but Radha. Symbolically this also reminds us of why the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi tells us to not identify with Krishna but with the devotee, i.e., with Radha. This is because we must not mix up our metaphors, our rāsa-līlās.

In the Bhāgavatam, we are clearly in a metaphor where the regal male (O yes, aiśvarya is stronger in the Bhāgavatam—one man being the lover of many women is a prerogative of the powerful), the pack leader, the alpha dominant monkey in the group, almost the Freudian model of the pre-human single polygamous male in the tribe, the "winner takes all" model that men still subconsciously, sometimes consciously, hanker for. Inchoate, primal, chthonic. This Krishna is God at his humiliating, ego-destroying essential best: no one can compete with him, bhoktā prabhur eva ca.

In the Gīta-govinda, Krishna is faced with something different. It is Radha’s love. Radha’s love is mādhurya, not aiśvarya. I suppose you could say that if it conquers that bahu-ballabha baboon, and turns him into preyasī-vaśaḥ, then that is aiśvarya enough. But there is a metaphorical point also. It has, again, relevance to the situation of human beings in this world. When we talk about the significance of the words saṁsāra-vāsanā-baddha-śṛṅkhalā, it is this.

Now how can these words play a role in any kind of path of spirituality coming from India, where saṁsara is the bane of all transcendentalists. It is what we are trying to escape from, for God’s sake. But if you like, the word saṁsāra means, “turning complete circle”; it does not mean purposely going around and around in circles, repeating the same mistakes over and over again, chewing the already chewed. It is about coming full circle.

We need to understand how the rāsa-līlā works on both levels, both in the transcendental, mythical realm, as well as in the mundane realm of human relations. People see the Bhāgavata rāsa-līlā and think of this divine sexual aiśvarya. The stupid think that this is the model men are supposed to emulate; that spirituality is somehow associated with a divine sexual stamina, of a phallus that stretches from one end of infinity to the other, eternal in its adamantine inflexibility. And now, indeed, we have Viagra, so who needs yoga? Once again, the mystic siddhis are available in a pill.

This is not full circle. This is a motion going one way only. In the rāsa-līlā we are told to follow the gopis, to be female to Krishna's male. To give up the fight, like the dominated male in the group; for a male it is about defeat. For a woman, it is about glory through the male. Archaic models.

In the Gīta-govinda, however, we have the story of commitment, of the male subjugation to a woman's love, the very bane of the alpha male, for whom ties are a threat to his power, the Delilah to his Sampson. Here again, the masculinity is transformed, preyasī-vaśaḥ, he is transformed by her love. He is invaded by the feminine qualities.

It is full circle because the (unnamed) Radha in the Bhāgavatam is only there in potential; she becomes fully manifest in the Gīta-govinda. For the sādhakas, both lilās point to Rādhā-dāsya. In the first as guru, in the second as God. So the Bhāgavatam is mostly about the pravarta stage, the Gīta-govinda more about the sādhaka stage. Siddhi is the synthesis of the two.


On the agenda today--I am taking my students to the Iskcon temple, where Bhaktimarga Maharaja will be present. I emailed the following to Maharaj the other day:

Dandavats Maharaj. Thank you for responding so promptly. And double thanks for showing such enthusiasm to help me out.

The students have been told to come to the temple at six o'clock. The plan was to hear, chant and take prasad. I don't think they have any specific questions, or at least none that I know of. What I really want is for them to have an experience of Gaudiya Vaishnavism as a living tradition. In other words, they have been reading texts about the life of Chaitanya and the developments in Gaudiya Vaishnava theology, etc. But they haven't experienced it as a living thing, powered by faith and practice. I'd like to be able to get them to chant, to hear a basic lecture on the elements that really are at the center of Iskcon devotees' faith.

As I said in my previous letter also, I know that you intend to work with devotees in putting on a play. Perhaps after the students have taken prasad, they could be allowed to watch you direct for a while. I know that this is a central part of your preaching and a way of engaging and enlivening the devotees. The atmosphere was very good last time and I think that this too will be an opportunity to witness Krishna consciousness as something dynamic and evolving.

One other thing, which just came up in the last seminar, was something one student said about being fed up with Indian gurus because of a feeling that they were in it for the money. They nodded their heads when I quoted Abraham Lincoln, who said something like, "Adversity is not the real test of character; anyone can handle adversity. If you really want to see if someone has character, give him power." We could say "wealth, followers, or success of any kind" in the place of power. Bhagavan is full in six opulences. But when imitators start to accumulate opulences, they really do start to think they have become Bhagavan. And of course, this is the beginning of doom. Prabhupada said that purity was the force of Krishna consciousness, i.e. the ability to resist this Paundraka spirit is what makes Krishna consciousness really attractive. It is what lets Krishna's attractive flute sound through the complexities of the Chaitanya movement's worldly manifestation.

My original plan was to sit down and chant with them on the first day of my course. I chickened out. Next time I won't. Anyway, they are good people and, I think, deeply "innocent," in the Bhagavata sense. Just don't underestimate them.

I look forward to seeing you again, Jai Radhe,

Yesterday I got a phone call from Yogesvara Das, a Prabhupada disciple from New York who joined in London in 1969 during the heady days of George Harrison and the "Hare Krishna temple" recordings. He has written and published a number of books on various subjects, including children's books, and also done children's films and documentaries. (Google results: Joshua M. Greene, Yogesvara). He is now teaching at Hofstra University and writing an M.A. thesis, which is called "Engaged Vaishnavism: The Chaitanya School's Contribution to India's Religion of Love."

His premise is that bhakti has been unfolding throughout history and that Chaitanya set the stage for its emergence as a tool of global transformation. "From this perspective," he says, "seeing Krsna everywhere compels followers to social action within his creation." He thinks I might be able to help him in understanding historical developments.

Thinking that one interpretation is as good as another, I took the democratic academician's stance and told him that it was the responsibility of devotees to be true interpreters of the tradition, not just by repeating the words and ideas of the past acharyas, but by developing our own vision of the tradition, of trying to impose that vision and thus help direct its evolution.

The other thing that I said was that fundamentally we shared something important in that we both seem to want to see value in the theology of Krishna consciousness for THIS world. I thought he might like my article The Tao of Krishna Consciousness.


A bit of interesting news this week was the announcement that Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor had won the Templeton Prize, which is worth a cool $1.8 million. (For more information.)

Strangely enough, though Taylor is "world famous" and teaches at the same university that I am most closely associated with, McGill, I know little or nothing about him. In the newspaper article about this event, though, I found a few tidbits that fit into my Tao of KC thesis. His main subject seems to be the use of religious language and violence. I have been saying that there are two main rasas: vira and sringar. In Sanskrit poetics, most of the attention has gone to the latter. But I see them as the primary "masculine" and "feminine" experiences of rasa. The duality of religious narratives that Taylor talks about seem to be related.

"...his fascination with how the spiritual narrative of purifying oneself by smashing and destroying one's enemy can so often trump the spiritual narrative to forgive and turn the other cheek... how Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela can avert a bloodbath in South Africa through forgiveness, but across the border in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe continues to hold power by preaching a mythology of needing to smash one's enemies... 'How do we get more Mandelas and fewer Mugabes?'" (Michael Valpy, Globe&Mail, March 15, 2007)

Obviously, this is only the smallest tip of the iceberg. Note to self: Get to know a bit more about Charles Taylor.


The annual McGill Sanskrit Sammelan is coming up on April 27. I have decided to cobble together my research on Ahangrahopasana, Aropa and Sadharanikaranam into a 15 minute presentation in Sanskrit.

Since I only go into the university one day a week, I have not crossed paths with Sanjay Shastri, the real driving force behind the Sammelan. He went through his entire education in Sanskrit, from primary to university, which means that he has a beautiful natural and flowing mastery of the language. I can write more or less, and read what I have written, but I don't have that fluidity. To give you an idea, here is a brief personal note that Sanjay wrote to me the other day:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Promiscuity and Sexual Sadhana

As I have been trying to say, I am approaching the question of Krishna consciousness and sexuality from my own life experience. I should therefore confess that my sexual drive has been (I believe) comparatively low in comparison to the majority of the population, particularly in the West. I did not have an especially great struggle as a brahmachari and my motivations in becoming a householder in Iskcon may sound rather strange to most: I saw it as a psychologically purificatory experience. I slipped out of that experience rather easily in the late seventies and did not find it a great jump to taking sannyas in 1979. The straw that broke the camel’s back of my stay in Iskcon was, in fact, the experience of listening to a brahmachari masturbate in the toilet cubicle next to mine in the Hyderabad temple. It was my feeling then that the Iskcon environment was too sensual to assure self-control. The lifestyle of Bhavananda Maharaj seemed to caricature the true renunciate lifestyle, which is what I idealized.

I was a rigid, classical babaji for at least four or five years, and did not engage in any sexual activity, even masturbation, until the very end of my stay in India. What happened then was the combination of isolation and loneliness, curiosity about sahajiyaism and contact with sahajiyas.

All that was for me something of a cultural shock, and I did not find it easy to assimilate to the Sahajiya community, for reasons similar to those that Lalan Das himself described. Other disappointments led me to return to North America, but I was extremely unprepared for that. I probably had the practical sexual maturity of a 17 or 18 year old North American. After getting married also, after the initial period of enthusiasm, I followed the trajectory expected of an orthodox householder—progressive disinterest in sexual matters. I was never unfaithful throughout my marriage, except of course in the events that completely turned my life upside down and the repercussions of which have still not been played out.

My revived interest in the spiritualization of sexuality was the result, before anything else, of a continued intellectual engagement with the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy and symbolism, and then by the association of a devotee who shared my vision. You could say, and I suppose someone from the Gaudiya Math would say, that [premature] meditation on Radha and Krishna’s love affairs had the effect of producing sexual desire in me. Of course, I don’t see it quite that way: I see this as a necessary and desirable consequence of hearing and chanting about Radha and Krishna, a part of the teaching about how to make further spiritual advancement.

Now, when I read the things that Lalanji reveals about his life, and also of other friends who have had more intense struggles with sexuality, I have to take into account that my personal experience is sufficiently different from theirs to make misunderstandings not only possible, but probable. I also have to recognize that I likely have a deep-seated bias against promiscuity of all kinds (which made me feel very intensely the irony of being accused of “immorality” myself). I am also, like most intellectuals, biased against a facile vulgarisation of truths that have come to me over such a long period of time and with such agonizing inner conflict. I will not allow the entire edifice of Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta to be reduced to nothing more than a way of finding enhanced sexual experience—even though I myself can see that as a way of explaining it. I am enough of a Freudian to be able to see everything as sex!

So I have to recognize that my ability to advise someone coming from a totally different life trajectory, like Lalan Das, is limited. This does not bother me particularly, as I do not make any claims that my path is meant for all people in all places and times. If a person has a very powerful sex drive and has entered on a path of promiscuity in the name of Radha and Krishna, is that inevitably destructive? I am not entirely sure.

However, Lalan Dasji himself states that there are problems that come out of this kind of lifestyle, especially in the long run. We also saw hints of it in Pitambarji’s autobiography. On the one hand, in the beginning he gave a romantic vision of Radha and Krishna loves legitimizing his own dissolute lifestyle, and then later we see him heartlessly advising his ‘disciples’ to get abortions when they inconveniently conceived from his spilled seed. It was the promotion of Pitambara's interpretation of things that made me speak out in the first place. I could not allow this view of “sahajiyaism” (or whatever we call it) to go without intelligent opposition, and I felt it was time to show that there is a role for sexuality in Krishna consciousness that does not entail either total renunciation or a purely procreative role on the one hand, or a quasi bathhouse culture on the other.

I guess the question is one of adhikar. Once again, Lalan put the finger on the issue: if one has to overcome sexual desire to begin sexual practice, then what is the point? Is there a possibility that one could attain spiritual emancipation in the method taught by Pitambara Das—sex, drugs and Harinam? On the one hand, there is the last verse of the Rasa lila which indicates the possiblity that if one is sincerely engaged in hearing and chanting about Radha and Krishna, even if one engages in what can only be termed a life of uncontrolled passions, that one should come to a level of enlightenment: one encounters a partner with whom the relation of love most deeply reflects the love of Radha and Krishna and thus makes it possible to enter into a far more profound and spiritually meaningful relationship than the kind of shallow, purely one-dimensional sexual relationships that excessive horniness leads to. I don’t want to minimize these fleeting relationships entirely either—there are manifestations of the eternal Love even there (“The sisters of mercy have not departed or gone…”). However, this is called sadharani rati and is nowhere near the higher levels of love.

There has been a general consensus about what constitutes healthy sexuality and meaningful relationship, and it is preserved on fora like Dr. Phil and Oprah. However, our society is developing an ever growing promiscuous fringe that is slowly disintegrating this consensus. Those who object the most vociferously, those in conservative religious groups, are themselves excluded from the mainstream. The tendency to non-ingerence into what goes on in the bedroom has legitimized almost everything with just a few exceptions like pedophilia and rape. Whatever consenting adults want is permitted. And who is to object to this principle? It is the same principle that allows us to practice the religion we choose.

But I myself would rather not see Radha and Krishna associated with the promiscuous fringe, and so I will fight against it, even though I have to admit that in the current cultural environment there is a certain inevitablity about a Pitambar and those who have preceded and will follow him. Radha and Krishna are not about making promiscuity meaningful, but about making deep, loving relationships an ever clearer mirror of the eternal love of the Divine Couple.

A couple of summers ago, I serendipitously picked up a little book by a Wiccan priest that made interesting reading. The basic argument he made was that his movement had started with a strong ethos of sexual freedom. Orgies, etc., played a prominent part in their ritual. However, he argued, the time had come for Wiccans to grow up and recognize the necessity of promoting deep and lasting relationships and the promotion of stable family life. His arguments seemed applicable even to an Iskcon-type movement where another kind of radical attitude to sexuality (i.e. the opposite extreme) had also had a destabilizing effect on its social fabric.

So, in a sense, I am in favor of a rather conventional social doctrine and I see the worship of Krishna, despite all the rhetoric about renunciation, as being essentially favorable to conventional values. I have stated that Krishna and Radha’s love legitimizes all human love, just as Nanda and Yashoda’s parental love for Krishna legitimizes all parental love, etc. The point is finding the spiritual power that lies in these mundane relations by mastering the art of aropa. I know my baby is not Krishna, but I worship him as if he is Krishna. I channel Nanda Maharaj. I am not Nanda Maharaj, but his mere servant. And so on. Our fleeting material experiences of love are all converted into the eternal, ever existing and infinitely rich experience of love of God, which then informs all our relationships with every other being.

I think the ideal is universal, and therefore the path that I recommend points to this goal. That means a pravartaka stage where one cultivates sadhana bhakti. This does not have to last 40 years before one becomes qualified for sexual sadhana. It may even, as I have seen in certain individuals, be accompanied by promiscuous behavior. But all sadhana ultimately implies discipline of some sort—and something more than just the discipline of seminal retention. That discipline is an inner one and it follows the pattern set by the scriptures of the six Goswamis, beginning with sharanagati and progressing through all the stages to prema.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Raganuga Bhakti (Oldy but Goldy)

(I was rummaging around in Gaudiya Discussions and came across this, which I though was worth preserving here. I was surprised a little to see myself using vocabulary and themes that I am still hammering away at. Some of the points might require a little bit of revision.)

Raganuga bhakti means imagining yourself as a part of Radha and Krishna's world, and doing all sadhana in that consciousness. Vidhi bhakti is primarily conducted only in the sadhaka deha--hearing, chanting, etc., are all there, but the goal of being with God (in whatever form) is left in his hands. "Give me whatever service YOU want."

Raganuga bhakti begins with the prayer, "I want specifically THIS in Radha Krishna's world." The raganuga bhakta's sadhana is mystical participation in the divine realm.

Through raganuga bhakti, one quickly ceases all prayers for liberation because one practically loses all consciousness of being a sadhaka. This colors his perception of and participation in this world.

Think about it. Yashoda's love is higher than Raktaka or Patraka's. Yashoda goes to get the boiling milk, but Krishna wants her to stay and breastfeed him. So she is making Krishna angry, but she is still only thinking of pleasing him.

This is explained in the commentary to the anyAbhilASita-zUnyam verse. AnukUlyena kRSNAnuzIlanam. Ultimately, Krishna puts himself under the control of Yogamaya, and the devotees are also under Yogamaya. They are engaged in the various pushings and pullings of divine prema, nothing else. So Yashoda knows better than Krishna what he wants or needs. Radha knows better than Krishna what he wants or needs. Even the manjaris are stopping Krishna at the door to Radha's kunj and saying, "Sorry, Kanai, we cannot let you in. It will give our Swamini too much pain if she sees you after all the nonsense you have been doing. Go and find some nice chocolates and some red roses or something, because if you come empty-handed like this, she'll bite your head off. Come back tomorrow and we'll let you know if you have a chance to get in and see her."

And sometimes Krishna even touches the manjari's feet and says, "Please, please intervene on my behalf," and the manjari still has to say no because she knows how real Radha's pain is.

So is this activity pleasing to Krishna? Krishna is so overwhelmed by Yogamaya that he cannot think straight. He cannot manifest a four-armed Narayan form and order the manjari, "You little dasi girl! Who do you think you are? You're a jiva and I am ishwara. How arrogant you are to think you can stop me from going into Radha's kunja if I want to!"

That is the price Krishna himself has to pay to taste the love of his devotees. He has to renounce his God-ship and give it to Yogamaya. He has to relegate power to her to create and maintain the world of his lila.

Raganuga bhakti means cultivating the mentality that makes you eligible to enter this world--the world that Krishna himself says is the dearest to him. Bhakti always comes out of bhakti, but vidhi bhakti says "Bhakti means service, and service will lead to love" (like an arranged marriage). Raganuga bhakti says, "Bhakti is the attraction I feel to Krishna. If this bhakti develops, it leads to prema."

It is almost backwards. It doesn't even seem like service. It is saying, "I will cultivate this attraction. I will cultivate the joy and emotion of absorption in Krishna's name, form, qualities, pastimes and associates, and service will automatically come from that like a secondary result."

In fact, how can relishing Krishna's name, form, qualities and pastimes even be considered service? It is sheer delight, so shouldn't it be called ego-centered sense gratification? No, it should not, because the highest service is to become a part of his world, where everything is Krishna-maya. There, everything is natural absorption in him, everything is done for him, and everything has within it the automatic reward of absorption in him, sac-cid-ananda vigraha.

The vaidhi bhakta tries to break away from this material world. The raganuga bhakta transforms this material world with his vision. Everything is stamped with Krishna consciousness.

The reason raganuga bhaktas say that the vaidhi-bhakta can follow his sadhana for a million years without attaining raganuga bhakti (sAdhanaughair anAsaGgair alabhyA sucirAd api) is that vaidhi bhakti has a certain mentality of reservation attached to it. That mentality is cultivated by the vaidhi bhakti process. A culture means that it only becomes stronger.

So it is quite possible to pay lip service to the Vraja bhava without ever really entering into it. There is a kind of letting go, or surrender, a leap of raga, that transports a bhakta from the vaidhi mentality to the raga one.

Some people (usually those on the vaidhi side of things) argue that the current system of initiations, siddha pranali, etc., are a kind of vaidhi bhakti because they require following rules, etc. This is actually a misunderstanding of the difference between raga and vaidhi bhakti. The difference in the two is not so much what is done externally, but the internal attitude with which they are done. Through the siddha-pranali system, the aspiring devotee actually becomes invested with a natural sense of connnectedness and belonging to that realm. Externally, that connectedness comes through the disciplic chain leading to a direct associate of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and internally through the association of siddha manjaris and sakhis who participate directly in that lila. That is the real magic of initiation in the Gaudiya sampradaya.

Another objection sometimes heard from the "antiparty" ;) is that the Gaudiya Vaishnavas do not appreciate viraha or separation because they cultivate the sense of appurtenance. This is ludicrous nonsense. Separation can only be felt because one feels one belongs so intensely that even the illusory sense of separation burns like a thousand flames. But just like people in this world report that once a certain pain threshold has been crossed one loses consciousness, so too does the pain of separation transport one into a sense of identity with Goloka. Like Mahaprabhu floating in the ocean off Puri.

No one cultivates separation; one cultivates union. Separation is Yogamaya's imposition on union, the flame whereby the gold of prema is smelted and purified to ever greater brilliance.

There are many misconceptions about raganuga bhakti, which is generally called Sahajiyaism by those whose understanding is superficial.


I was forced to reflect, once again, after some respondents on this blog made statements that indicate a prurient interest in the sexual aspects of the sadhana I am supporting. I have to admit that I have foreseen some of these questions and think that if one is solidly fixed in the Goswamis’ siddhanta, one will resist the temptation. Indeed, this is the reason why I have emphasized and will continue to emphasize the following three things:

(1) The necessity of the pravartaka stage.
(2) The necessity of understanding the parallelism between one’s sadhana partner and Guru Tattva.
(3) The necessity of taking the female point of view or identity.

Due to time considerations, what I am going to post today is background information for what will follow. On January 12, 2006, I posted the following texts on Gaudiya Discussions:


viharati vane rādhā sādhāraṇa-praṇaye harau
vigalita-nijotkarṣād īrṣyā-vaśena gatā'nyataḥ
kvacid api latā-kuñje guñjan-madhu-vrata-maṇḍalī
mukhara-śikhare līnā dīnāpy uvāca rahaḥ sakhīm

When Radha saw Hari frolicking in the forest,
treating all the women with equal affection,
she felt her own special status had melted away.
Envy and anger arose in her, and she went off.
Somewhere, in a vine covered bower,
where bees buzzed in circles overhead,
she hid, and forlorn in her solitude,
confided to her friend.

kaṁsārir api saṁsāra-vāsanā-baddha-śṛṅkhalām
rādhām ādāya hṛdaye tatyāja vraja-sundarīḥ

Krishna, the enemy of Kamsa,
took Radha,
the chain binding him to his desires for the worldly life,
into his heart,
and abandoned all the beautiful damsels of Vraja.

itas tatas tām anusṛtya rādhikām
kṛtānutāpaḥ sa kalinda-nandinī-
taṭānta-kuñje viṣasāda mādhavaḥ

Madhava looked for Radhika everywhere,
his mind burning with the wounds
inflicted by the arrows of Cupid.
Overcome with remorse, he came to a bower
by the banks of the Yamuna
and began to lament.

And so the eternal cycle begins.
What is the difference between
the Rasas of autumn and spring?

The first tells of God and the jiva,
the second of God and his hladini shakti;
the former is an archetype of the spiritual path,
the latter of the divine comedy.

Both are circle dances,
revolving in opposite directions:
The Bhagavata is the external circle,
Gita Govinda the inner.
Krishna is in the center of the outer,
Radha the center of the inner.

Together they are the center of both.


I would here like to explain this a little more. But first, another poem, again first posted on GD. This is also for the record, to explain a little about the Bhagavata or Sharadiya Rasa Lila:


Om ! Sriji ! Purushottam!

O Krishna ! Crusher of sin !
You pull me with this mantra
like a baby calf led by the nose,
like a deer enchanted by the hunter’s flute.

Here in the forest, black as your skin,
I come to you.

O Govinda !
You invade me with your mantra
you cling to me like a second skin
you weigh down my senses
with unbearable expectations.

You are in the Veda and in the cows,
You are in the world and in my senses.
You are in the mantra,
and still I must search for you.

O Gopijana ! O Radha ! O sakhis !
You flutter on every side of the mantra
like petals, effulgent and infinite.
You stand in the heart of the mantra
like pistils, golden guardians of the mead.

You are my gurus, I follow you,
I join you in your song, I sing this mantra.
It is you. It is yours.

O Vallabha! Beloved !
Beloved of the gopis,
Beloved of every soul ! Beloved of my soul!
You have come, O enchanter of Eros,
to tell me you have always been here,
present in the mantra.

I have reached the eighteenth syllable,
The charama shloka:
I throw my soul into the circle of flames,
the Rasa mandala of the mantra.

I have reached the fifth segment,
the final chapter, the brahma muhurta;
the dance is over and I must go home,
I must await again
the call of your flute.
A brief tika on the above: The idea came to me that the five segments of the Gopala mantra (as described in Gopala Tapani Upanishad, i.e. panchapadi, could be seen in correspondence to the Rasa Panchadhyaya. It actually works fairly well.

(1) Klim Krishnaya = first chapter. Krishna calls.

(2) Govindaya = Krishna leaves the gopis who then look for him. (vinda = search or find.) End chapter one, beginning of chapter 2.

(3) Gopi-jana = end of second and third chapters. The gopis meet Radha, their guru, under whose guidance they sing the song that will bring Krishna back to them. Like the Rasa Panchadhyaya, the gopis are central, i.e. in the middle. At the same time, they are the petals on the lotus of the yantra.

(4) Vallabhaya = Chapter 4.

tāsām āvirabhūt sauriḥ smayamāna-mukhāmbujaḥ
pītāmbara-dharaḥ sragvī sākṣān-manmatha-manmathaḥ

You have always been in the mantra: mayā parokṣaṁ bhajatā, etc.

(5) Svaha = the purnahuti of the last chapter. The yantra of the mantra or the altar of the fire sacrifice is identified with the Rasa mandala. Full absorption in the Rasa.

In this last part, I have made a correspondence between the eighteen syllables of the mantra and other eighteens, like the eighteen chapters of the Gita, which ends with the charama shloka, sarva-dharmān parityajya, etc.

Most of the other glosses of the names given here are based on the Gopala Tapini Upanishad (1.4).

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Two "new" books by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

Yesterday, I was feeling a little fed up with the topic of sahajiyaism and I thought it was time to change flavors for a little while. So I decided to look at two books by Srila Prabhupada that I had not read before, both from well before the time he came to North America. These are both posted on Rocana's website: the first is called Message of Godhead, which was apparently written when Prabhupada was still a householder and trying to establish the League of Devotees; the second is In Search of the Ultimate Goal of Life, apparently written in 1959. The manuscript was discovered by B.G. Narasingha Maharaj and published fairly recently by him.

The first book, which according to the Prabhupada Lilamrita was written very quickly, is a summary study of the first few chapters of the Bhagavad Gita, while the second covers the teachings of Ramananda Ray to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the eighth chapter of the Madhya Lila. Naturally, it all comes back to the same thing for me now—hard not to be single-tracked.

The first impression one gets is that both these texts are truly vintage Prabhupada. No doubt the modern editors have revamped the language a little to make it sound more like conventional Iskcon-speak, but on the whole, one recognizes a familiar vocabulary, a familiar message that Prabhupada carried to the West with him. It is reassuring to see this consistency, but also refreshing. It made me even more aware than ever, that though I may find the explanations simplistic from time to time, and even beg for nuance, that on the whole I am still with the program.

A few days ago, a friend mentioned in passing in a conversation something he called “the guru mood.” He was refering specifically to an audience of Srila Narayan Maharaj he had attended, in which the Maharaj spoke with authority and his disciples treated him with reverence, creating an atmosphere in which something of fundamental importance or “ultimate concern” was being seriously discussed, not simply as an academic matter, but as one of decisive importance to people who were seekers and convinced of having found a viable response to their search.

I have been thinking on this since Advaita posted something on his blog about his role in preserving his disciplic line. Evidently there are numerous elements that combine before Guru Tattva descends. Certainly one of them is having a viable message and a firm conviction in its value. But I also think that a guru has to take a firm position, one that is in some respects without nuance. If one is going to propose a practical program for spiritual life, it must be clear and direct.

The critique of mental speculation is valid inasmuch as one does not take a stand. A certain degree of relativism is certainly permitted in the Bhagavad Gita and the Vaishnava scriptures in general, but relativism with regard to one’s own spiritual practice, like dilettantism, is a recipe for confusion and inconclusiveness. Where others are concerned, we may reserve judgement; where we are concerned, we need to seek out an authoritative path and follow it. Naturally, as we follow any path we will come across situations that test our intelligence and understanding, tests the hypothesis as it were, but this should only result in progress. And this progress means a unique perspective and personal message.


Malati Devi Unwell

I am sad to learn that Malati Devi, the wife of Madhavananda Dasji, has apparently fallen seriously ill and been taken to the hospital for an operation. Unfortunately, Madhavananda has not been answering emails, probably due to preoccupation with taking care of her, and as I am not in contact with anyone who can provide me more information, I cannot pass anything more than this along.

I had the opportunity to spend time with Madhavananda and Malati in Radha Kunda a couple of years ago and they are as sweet a couple of devotees as God has had the good grace to place on this earth. Malati's constitution has always been delicate and the two of them kept to a diet that was ascetic and frugal. I know that Radharani has enveloped both Madhava and Malati in her love and has much service planned for them both. I pray with all sincerity that Malati quickly recovers and returns to serving Gaur and Nitai and the Divine Couple in Radha Kund.

Jai Parama Karunamayi Sri Radhe!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Sadharanikarana and Manjari Bhava

I realize that I went on and on about ahaṅgrahopāsanā and āropa and concluded by identifying the latter with sādhāraṇīkaraṇa and mañjarī-bhāva. I realize now that it might not have been so clear. So I am going to try to explain mañjarī-bhāva in the light of this concept of sādhāraṇīkaraṇa.

Sādhāraṇīkaraṇa is generally defined as the "universalization" or "generalization" of emotions, but I think that this terminology is obscure, when the perfectly good concept of "identification" comes closer to our understanding. The word "identification," which is useful in understanding both ahaṅgrahopāsanā and āropa, is here a term particular to psychology, "to regard oneself as sharing characteristics with another person." Unfortunately, this definition from the Oxford dictionary does not do credit to the unconsciousness of such a process, which is in fact what happens when one reads a novel or watches a film and identifies with one or more characters in it. This process of identification may take place on a visceral level, where one does not share any characteristics with the person other than his emotions, which is of course the intent of an author.

In the rasa shastra tradition, sādhāraṇīkaraṇa plays a central role in the experiencing of rasa. For instance, Jiva says:

atha tādṛśī ratir eva prācīna-bhaktānāṁ bhāvaiḥ
sahārvācīnānāṁ bhāvān sādhāraṇyam ānayati
yena sādhāraṇya-prāpakeṇa bhāvena rasa-sthitir api tādṛśī syāt
"Such rati brings about a commonality of the emotions of the previous devotees with those of the present-day ones. This commonality-causing emotion brings about such an experience of rasa." (Commentary to BRS 2.5.101)
In other words, when one has internalized the sthāyi-bhāva, then the experiences of the previous devotees, i.e., the devotees in the lila, etc., and those of the present-day devotee, become one.

The BRS verses being commented on are as follows:

alaukikyā prakṛtyeyaṁ sudurūhā rasa-sthitiḥ
yatra sādhāraṇatayā bhāvāḥ sādhu sphuranty amī
eṣāṁ sva-para-sambandha-niyamānirṇayo hi yaḥ
sādhāraṇyaṁ tad evoktaṁ bhāvānāṁ pūrva-sūribhiḥ
śaktir asti vibhāvādeḥ kāpi sādhāraṇī-kṛtau
pramātā tad-abhedena svaṁ yayā pratipadyate
The rasa situation (i.e., the state in which one can relish rasa) is extremely difficult to attain, due to its transcendent nature ( alaukikī prakṛti). There, emotions clearly manifest themselves through the process of identification. The commonality of emotions (i.e., identification) is where one is unable to distinguish whether the emotions are one's own or those of the devotee being described or portrayed (or indeed being remembered). [Here quoting Bharata]: "There is a certain power in the commonality of the various component elements like the vibhāvas, etc., through which the audience becomes one with the emotion and makes it his own."
And again, from the Sāhitya-darpaṇa, quoted by Jiva and Vishwanath Chakravarti:

parasya na parasyeti mameti na mameti ca
tad-āsvāde vibhāvādeḥ paricchedo na vidyate
In the relishing of the vibhāvas, etc., no distinction remains and one can no longer tell whether they are one's own or not, or whether they are the other's or not. (SD 3.12)
Because of this process of sādhāraṇīkaraṇa, even apparently unhappy feelings in the person being portrayed in a work of literature, including the devotees in the nitya-līlā being described in the Bhāgavatam or elsewhere, brings about an experience of extraordinary, powerfully wondrous joy (prauḍhānanda-camatkāra). And joyous feelings, even though present in another person (āśraya) are gathered up in one's own heart as supreme happiness (paramānanda-sandoham).

The reason that all these verses are quoted is because this concept of "identification" (as I have chosen to translate it) is central to the idea of the experience of rasa, and thus central to most of the ideas that have been presented here previously.

Now the essence of sakhī-bhāva is said in UN 7.70, 8.1 to be trust, or viśrambhā. Rupa Goswami defines viśrambhā as a particular kind of profound belief (gāḍha-viśvāsa-viśeṣaḥ, BRS 3.3.106) and Jiva glosses that as parasparaṁ sarvathā svābheda-pratītiḥ, a sense of total mutual non-difference, i.e., identification.


[The following text is quoted from Mañjarī-svarūpa-nirūpaṇam by Kunja Bihari Das Babaji Maharaj (my translation)]:

The manjaris are sakhis and most definitions of the word sakhi apply to them. Sakhī-bhāva means unqualified love for the leading lady or yūtheśvarī. That love is without limit and is free from even the slightest touch of selfishness, to the extent that the sakhi thinks that her yūtheśvarī is dearer to her than her own life or her own self.

As a result of maintaining this intimate trust, the sakhis are able to understand Radha spontaneously, without her having to say anything, or make the slightest hint or gesture.

Kavi Karnapur has also defined the sakhi in the following way:

nirupādhi-prīti-parā sadṛśī sukha-duḥkhayoḥ
vayasya-bhāvād anyonyaṁ hṛdaya-jñā sakhī bhavet
Those who are dedicated with an untainted love, who feel happiness and distress in accordance with the moods of the nāyikā, and who are similar to her in age and temperament, and are thus able to know her heart, are called sakhis. (AK 5.279)
A further special feature of the nitya-sakhis or manjaris is that just as Srimati Radharani and the other yutheshwaris are spontaneously and instinctively filled with an intense thirst to relish the flavor of Krishna’s form, taste, fragrance, touch and sound, so similarly the manjaris are spontaneously and instinctively attracted to both Radha’s and Krishna’s qualities. To what extent and how they are so attracted can be explained as follows. The nature of madhura-rasa is clear: the gopis want to please Krishna by offering their own bodies. Even Brahma prays to be able to drink “again and again from the cup of his senses the honey-like nectar of Krishna’s lotus feet.”

According to Caitanya-caritāmṛta, “the nectar of Krishna’s lotus feet” means his direct bodily contact. From this we can understand that the nāyikās serve Krishna by directly relinquishing their bodies to him—-that is their qualification for being in the madhura-rasa. The manjaris, on the other hand, are unenthusiastic about such type of service. They never contemplate such a possibility, even in their dreams. Yet, the question may be asked, if there is no possibility of madhura rasa or romance without physical intimacy, how can the platonic spirit of the manjaris be graced with the name of samarthā rati or kāma-rūpā bhakti?

In answer to this question, it should be said that the object of the manjaris’ affection is the Holy Couple of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna together. Therefore, the perfection of the manjaris’ power of sight and the thirst of their eyes is to see that couple locked in embrace. The craving of their ears is to hear the Holy Couple’s sweet murmuring conversations and that is the fulfillment of their sense of hearing. The desire of their tongues is to relish the flavor of the condiments touched by the Holy Couple’s lips, and in that way their sense of taste attains perfection. Similarly, the sweet fragrance that arises at the Holy Couple’s union is the object craved for by their nostrils and its experience is the fulfillment of their sense of smell. The tactile sense finds plenitude in massaging the Holy Couple’s feet and bodies, and this is the only object of their sense of touch.

In this way, it may be said that of the four types of sambhoga (sexual union) mentioned by Jiva Goswami (i.e., by sight, conversation, touch and the sexual act itself) the first three are present in the manjaris to some extent. The question is, how do they experience samprayoga, or intercourse? We get some light on this point from the following passage from the Govinda-līlāmṛta:
Just as the moon enlivens the lilies, so Krishna is the bright moon who enlivens the lily-like hearts of the residents of Vrindavan. His pleasure-giving potency is personified in Radha, who is like a creeper whose fruits are prema. Her girlfriends are like the unlimited branches, leaves and flowers which expand out from her self and are thus equal to her. For this reason, when that winding creeper of love is watered with the heavenly potion of Krishna’s sporting activities, then the leaves and flowers (the sakhis) find hundreds of times more pleasure than if they were themselves to be sprinkled. All this seems quite normal.

Just as the all-pervading, omnipotent Supreme God Almighty needs his majestic spiritual potencies to become fulfilled, similarly, the love of Radha and Krishna, though very elevated, self-manifest and joyful by nature, does not find fulfillment for even a moment without the presence of her girlfriends, the sakhis and manjaris. What person, genuinely learned in the science of sacred rapture, would not therefore take shelter of them?
Prabodhananda Saraswati also states in the Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta,
The pleasure felt by the eyes of the sakhi alone in seeing Radha merged in the ocean of love for Krishna makes all the Supreme Lord’s festive arrangements for his own happiness seem insignificant by comparison.
Another quote from the Govinda-līlāmṛta (11.137) of Krishnadas Kaviraj illustrates the power of the vicarious pleasure of the manjaris:
If Krishna should touch Srimati Radharani,
then lo and behold! her sakhis start to tremble
they sweat and their body hairs stand on end
and tears well in their eyes.
And if Krishna should carefully sip
the spirituous liquor of Radha’s lips,
it is they who become intoxicated!
This is truly something wonderful.
In his commentary on this verse, Vrindavan Chakravarti observes that this verse contains the rhetorical embellishment (alaṅkāra) known as asaṅgati or “non sequitur.” Asaṅgati is defined as arising when causes are described as being inflicted on one entity have their effects reproduced in a completely distinct one. Here, the Lord is touching and kissing Radha, but the effects of trembling and intoxication are described taking place in the bodies of the sakhis.

Another verse can be quoted here from the Āhnika-kaumudī of Kavi Karnapur where Krishna says:
O doe-eyed beauties!
When your girlfriends are absent,
you may have to look at a mirror
before you can say whether you are happy or sad.
They reflect every mood of yours
they perform all the services of a looking glass!
When tears fall from your eyes they also cry;
when you are excited, their hairs stand on end;
when you laugh they also do so;
and when you become depressed,
they also look down-hearted.
In the Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta, there is yet another verse which illustrates the point:
Radha’s handmaids are unable to maintain their lives if they cannot see the pastimes of the beautiful Divine Couple; with great eagerness they had gathered about the window of the forest cottage in which Radha and Krishna were locked in embrace and one of them said, “Friends, what an amazing and wonderful situation is this they have gotten themselves into.”
If the sakhis can feel intoxicated when Krishna kisses Radharani, then it is not altogether surprising if they get an even greater pleasure by watching the intimate activities of the Lord and his mistress than they would from their own. The reason for this is that they are not lovers in the mundane sense, but are supreme, the transcendental Lord and his celestial mistress.

Krishna is romantic love personified. He has appeared in his form as the king of sacred rapture (rasa-raja) and thus he attracts all the minds of everyone in the universe, including his very self. Srimati Radharani is the supremely worshipable personification of maha-bhāva, the ultimate achievement in the domain of prema. Verily she is the embodiment of prema herself, for her entire body is vibrant with pure devotional love for Krishna.

Not only are Radha and Krishna transcendental, but so also are the sakhis and manjaris. In the Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta they are described in the following way:
These handmaidens of Radharani are unexcelled in this universe for their beauty is without bounds. The rays coming from the nails of their toes defeats the glory of the lightning bolt. Each one of them is an incarnation of Radharani’s expertise in loving dalliance and thus competent to herself become a competitor for Krishna’s affections. Yet such desires do not enter their minds for even a moment because they are completely desireless. In this way, they are eligible to eternally dive into the ambrosial sea of service to her.
Without bhāva or feeling, the ecstasies of sacred rapture cannot be experienced. Without feeling, the ecstasies of love cannot be appreciated. To relish Krishna’s sweetness, one must become similar to him in quality, otherwise it will not be possible. Just as Radharani’s competent affection is not separable from her identity, eternal and self-manifest, so too the sakhis and manjaris have love for the Divine Couple which is similarly uncaused, self-manifest and directly produced from their own identities. This is beyond normal experience and thus inconceivable. “Those things that are inconceivable are not accessible by mental speculation.” (acintyāḥ khalu ye bhāvā na tāṁs tarkeṇa yojayet)

The actions of the Lord are supra-mundane, its ways and means are all transcendental; thus the unfortunate hear about them and even so develop no faith in him.

Sometimes the manjaris even faint from the ecstasies they feel when they watch the intimate pastimes of the Divine Duo through the spaces between the forest vines. Rupa Goswami has described such an instance in the Nikuñja-rahasya-stava (“Praises of the secrets of the forest-bower”):
O mind! remember Radha and Krishna,
shining in the groves of Vrindavan.
Their sakhis, saturated with love,
fasten their eyes on them
through the branches of the forest grove
where they are expanding their work of love
in wondrous variety; and overwhelmed
with ecstasy, they fall to the ground in a swoon.

The point then, is this: a sādhaka and a sādhikā in this world, cultivating the identities of mañjarīs, stand aside as witnesses and servants to the pastimes that they are engaged in with their own bodies, gross and subtle, knowing that these bodies are manifesting a tiny aspect of the glorious pastimes of Mahābhāva-svarūpiṇī Srimati Radharani and Rasaraja Sri Krishna. It is by identifying the bhāva in which they are experiencing externally, by detaching themselves from any sense of possession of the pleasure itself, but offering that pleasure as the possession of the Supreme Enjoyer and his Pleasure Potency, the devotee lovers participate in their pleasure in the way that the mañjarīs participate in the pleasure of Radha and Krishna.

It is essential to understand the mechanics here. It is about identification, but not in the sense of ahaṅgrahopāsanā. Āropa is the deliberate psychic mechanism whereby one ascribes Radhahood and Krishnahood to the external bodies and merges spiritually into one's mañjarī-svarūpa. The sense of oneness and difference is in a state of constant flux as described in the verses defining sādhāraṇīkaraṇa. The fundamental difference between the experience of a devotee hearing and chanting the works of Rupa Goswami, etc., and engaging in līlā-smaraṇam, is that an added element of sensuality is added. But since this experience is being had in the same way that a devotee partakes of prasada, it becomes transcendental, an act of mystic participation in the Cosmic Union of the Supreme Lovers.

Though the sexual act itself plays a powerful role here, one should recognize that bhāva has primacy. Here again we must refer to the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu where a significant difference between mundane and spiritual rasa has been made. Here I will quote Neal Delmonico's article "Sacred Rapture" (page 167-168):
One more peculiarity of Rupa's rasa theory should be mentioned here. Since kṛṣṇa-rati is the essential element of the bhakti-rasa experience, Rupa gives greater emphasis than the classical aesthetic theorists did the sthāyi bhāvas in their theory. For Rupa, the sthāyi creates the vibhāvas and is then expanded and enriched by them. While the vibhāvas, anubhāvas and vyabhicāris are, according to the classical theory, intimately related to the sthāyi, they are not caused by the sthāyi. In the real world, they are the causes, effects and accompanying emotions of the sthāyi. When portrayed in poetry or drama, they become vibhāvas, etc., and set in motion processes of cognition that awaken dormant impressions in the mind relating to the appropriate sthāyi. It has not been argued that it is the sthāyi that empowers the vibhāvas, etc., to do such awakening, nor that the sthāyi is the cause or source of the vibhāvas, etc.

Rupa, however, says that the sthāyi imparts to the appropriate objects their vibhāva-hood,, etc., and thus brings itself to a state of enjoyment. This is possible because the sthāyi itself is present in the minds of the bhaktas and not just an impression of the sthāyi. The result is that since the sthāyi makes the appropriate objects into vibhāvas, etc., and the sthāyi is carried around in the heart of the bhakta, rasa can be experienced in any context.
This means, in effect, that for the sahajiyā sādhakas, their personal experience of love are, through the cultivation of their sthāyi-bhāva, experienced in the context of Radha and Krishna lila, as the original manifestations of the eternal archetype, indeed as though Radha and Krishna are living out their lila in these bodies.

However, the distinction is this: that by making the slight distancing of identity (bheda) that is manifest as mañjarī-bhāva, by taking an attitude of service to the union rather than seeking the union for oneself, even for one's own sādhana, experience viraha as well as sambhoga as nourishers of the bhāva, one experiences rasa (sākṣātkāra of the Divine Couple) through sādhāraṇīkaraṇa.

Thus it is correctly stated, as a warning to the pravartaka-bhakta:

bāhire nayan nā deo kokhon
bhāvākrānta citta nāhi jad-avadhi
je bhāve abhāva hoibek bhāva
nāile bhāvābhāse hobe nā tad-buddhi

mahatera bhāva bhāvite bhāvite
tad-āviṣṭe sarva hobe vismaroṇ
antar-bāhye tabe ekākāra hobe
mahad-bhāve rasa hobe āsvādon
"Don't turn your eyes outwards before your mind has been saturated with bhāva. For a mind saturated with bhāva will find Krishna's presence even in those places where others cannot find him. On the other hand, if your inner mood is but a shadow, you will never have that intelligence or vision.

"By meditating constantly on the inner moods of the Great Souls, one becomes endrenched by their attitude and all mundane considerations are forgotten. At that time, inside and out become one and one relishes the taste of the rasa just as the previous great souls did."
Mañjarī-bhāva is thus, according to Rupa Goswami, the highest manifestation of the concept of watering the root delineated in the Bhāgavatam:

yathā taror mūla-niṣecanena
tṛpyanti tat-skandha-bhujopaśākhāḥ
prāṇopahārāc ca yathendriyāṇāṁ
tathaiva sarvārhaṇam acyutejyā
As a tree’s trunk, branches, twigs and leaves are nourished by watering its roots, and as all the senses are satisfied by giving food to the stomach, so similarly, all living beings are served by worshiping the infallible Supreme Person (SB 4.31.14).

Bishop’s take on sexuality ignites debate

In view of the discussions in this blog, I though the article “Bishop’s take on sexuality ignites debate” (Michael Valpy, Globe and Mail, March 9, 2007) interesting. I have excerpted liberally from that article here.

The Anglican Church is currently in the middle of a crisis that threatens schism. The issue is that of sexuality, with liberal North American churches taking a progressive stand on homosexual marriage and other hot button issues, while the numerically superior and more vibrant, at least in terms of growth, third-world churches taking conservative positions and resisting what appears to them as the first-world churches’ arrogance.

One of the more vociferous spokesmen of the liberal position is Bishom Michael Ingham of New Westminster in British Columbia. Last week, at a church conference in Ottawa, he said that the church’s opposition to birth control, abortion, masturbation and homosexuality is morally groundless because its traditional teaching that sex is reserved for procreation is wrong.

“If we believe that we are created in the image of God, that we carry in our very selves the icon of God’s own self in our earthly existence, then we must be able to say that our sexuality is not an accident, not a mistake, and not simply a tool for the making of babies. Presumably God, in his infinite wisdom, could have devised a much less potent and complicated way of regenerating the species if the purpose of sex was simply that,” he said.

Conservative ministers of various congregations commented on the bishop’s statements as “whimsical, a passing fancy and a distortion of the Bible.” The president of Toronto’s evangelical Christian College, Charles McVety, said, ”Scripture is crystal clear: Sex is not a sport.”

Christopher Lind, former director of the Toronto School of Theology, supported the Bishop, adding, “Sexuality is a lot bigger than genital activity, and that’s hard for people to hear because they hear the word sex and immediately think intercourse…. Relationships [including homosexual ones] should be judged on the basis of fidelity, trust, values other than the regulation of genital activity... [Bishop Ingham] is starting to go into what is the meaning of patriarchy. Patriarchy is a distortion of the gospel, a social sin which the church has to confess. But to correct it is enormously hard to do. We’ve been living in a patriarchy for thousands of years.”

Bishop Victoria Matthews of Edmonton said Bishop Ingham was talking about more than patriarchy, which she called only “one chapter” in the need for a fuller theological understanding of the human person.”


There is indeed food for thought in the above. I remember reading a Roman Catholic priest's criticism of The Da Vinci Code some time ago , in which he talked about the absence of a symbol system within Christianity that gave a place to the sacralization of sexuality. The mythology surrounding Mary Magdalene and Jesus, which has persisted since the time of the Gnostic Gospels and seems to be the source of Dan Brown's appeal.

The evangelical minister's comment that "sex is not a sport" is pretty revealing of the problem. It would seem to me that both sides of this debate are seeking a way of sacralizing sexuality. The evangelicals see it as possible only through the procreative function, whereas the others have a more expansive view. If Ingham had been a Krishna bhakta, he could not have better said the following, "If we believe that we are created in the image of God, that we carry in our very selves the icon of God’s own self in our earthly existence, then we must be able to say that our sexuality is not an accident, not a mistake, and not simply a tool for the making of babies."

Of course, for Krishna, lovemaking is indeed a sport, or lila. I would tend to be careful about adopting the "sport" image for human sexuality. Seeing an act as sacred means that it is treated with respect. There is, of course, no reason that play itself cannot be treated as sacred. Liberation also means being liberated from the need to take everything so seriously.

As far as the statement, "[People] hear the word sex and immediately think intercourse," is concerned, I hear the following: "People hear the word sex and immediately think negative." What could be truer of our own community? In our Vaishnava tradition, meditation on the question of sexuality has been centered on issues of fidelity, procreation, and sense gratification, without attempting to distinguish sexuality in the modes of nature, or without seeing its other, non-procreative and even spiritual functions. This seems almost totally aberrant in view of the symbol system that we have been given. If the Christians can come to this conclusion, how can we, whose deities are the Dhira Lalita Nayaka and his Parama Rasavati Nayika, not?