Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Sahajiya Crusade; More Aropa

For the past year, I have studiously avoided participating in any forums and have practically stopped all correspondence with others, whatever their allegiances. Although most of my efforts have been going into the most mundane of goals--material survival--I have not entirely abandoned my soul.

In a websearch, I came across a long discussion that took place on Gaudiya Repercussions not long after my Sahajiya "outing" on the same forum. It was instigated by Nitai and Jijaji, and contains many valuable comments and reactions from the intelligent and learned participants in that forum. Nitai even starts the whole thing off from the same point that this blog does: My statement that Gaudiya Vaishnavism is a bird with two wings: the orthodox and the sahajiya. He says,

I think orthodox CV can fly pretty well on its own without any help from its sahajiya kindred. I recognise the very close and complex relationship that exists between CV and SV, but in my view SV has been and remains dependent on CV is ways that CV is not on SV. I would alter the image Jagat gave somewhat and suggest that CV is the Garuda and SV is something like a stowaway rider, taking advantage of the rich theological ideas and literature and practices of CV, but not being particularly welcome onboard. Again relying on this image, there is reason to believe that this unwelcome rider at some point early in the history of the CV tradition tugged at Garuda's reigns and influenced to some degree the direction the mighty eagle flew in. That said, I don't think CV is in any way dependent on SV in the way that it is on CV. Their relationship is, however, very close and in very interesting ways.

I recognize this argument as it seems the most rational response to a statement that might best be characterized as an ecstatic utterance. Perhaps if I had stated something on the order of "material sexuality" and "the sexual imagery in Radha Krishna lila," it would have better approximated my intuition. The fundamental error in Nitai's statement is perhaps in the ascription of historical primacy to Orthodox Vaishnavism and not to Sahajiyaism, or to dualistic Tantric imagery.

Bhaktivinoda Thakur stated the following in the Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā:

The condition of being male and female in the material world is a distorted reflection of the state of enjoyer and enjoyed found in the spiritual world. Searching through all the dictionaries we are not able to find the proper words to explain this non-material pastime of saṁyoga with the Supreme living force. On account of this, all the words concerning contact between man and woman in the material world are used figuratively to express this relationship. However, there should be no cause for obscene thinking. If out of fear of being obscene we stop, then there can be no discussion of the Supreme Truth. In fact we are only able to describe the principles of Vaikuntha by describing the phenomenal states in the material world that are reflections of the authentic experiences of Vaikuntha. There is no other way to describe this subject. (KS, Appendix V, 117, quoted in Hindu Encounter with Modernity, p. 242)

Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā was written with a certain audience in mind and so our Thakur may have overemphasized the figurative nature of the divine sexuality; nevertheless, no matter how much "contact of man with woman in the material world" is diminished and the "non-material pastime of saṁyoga" exalted, "there is no other way to describe this subject."

One thing I have been trying to say is this: I don't know if I qualify as a "true" Sahajiya. As Nitai says, Sahajiyas themselves don't call themselves Sahajiyas, so who am I to do so? I adopted the nomenclature for several reasons, primarily because I accept the premise that "contact of man with woman in the material world" serves not only as a means of true insight into Radha and Krishna lila, but also increases bhakti experientially and towards the ultimate goal of prema. I don't believe that the two apparently contradictory points of view expressed in the orthodox and sahajiya positions are irreconcilable, moreover I say that they are complementary, like two wings on the same bird.

Whether or not the orthodox or the sahajiyas accept that they are complementary is of no concern to me. This is another thing I have been trying to say: Religion is concerned with ideals; with an expression of the ideal in human life and experience. Religions tend to survive and flourish when their practitioners are most able to mirror these ideals in reality, i.e., to create the "kingdom of God" on earth. When they begin to fail, the edifice begins to crumble, the luster wanes, and a vision more tenable replaces it. Of course, since no ideal can ever be fully realized in this world, it goes without saying that ALL religions are vulnerable to criticism. La perfection n'est pas de ce monde.

Our position is very clearly this: that if the only terms we can find to express the relationship of the soul to God is the analogy of human love then this automatically validates the experience of human love. This means that, despite the dangers that come from human weakness where sexuality is concerned, we cannot abandon the significance that the image itself presents to us and indeed the force that the symbol of the Divine Couple imposes on us to accept the spiritual power of human sexual love.

If I differ from traditional Sahajiyaism here, then I tread my own path with no concern for Sahajiya traditions. This means that I will disagree, or at least find it necessary to offer precisions, when Dasgupta defines āropa as follows:
We have seen that Sahaja as the absolute reality of the nature of pure love involves within it two factors, i.e., the enjoyer and the enjoyed, represented in the Nitya-Vrindavan by Krishna and Radha. These principles of the enjoyer and the enjoyed are known in the Sahajiya school as the Purusha and the Prakriti, manifested on earth as the male and the female. It has been said in a song (ascribed to Chandi Das) "There are two currents in the lake of love, which can be realised only by the rasikas (i.e., people versed in rasa). When the two currents remain united together in one, the rasika realises the truth of union."' (page 133)

Through man and woman flow these two currents of love, man and woman are, therefore, the gross manifestations of the same principles of which Krishna and Radha are the pure spiritual representations. Man and woman, in other words, are manifestations on earth of the eternal types that are enjoying each other in their eternal Vrindavan, and the bliss of intense love that is enjoyed by man and woman through their mutual attachment even in the physical body is but a gross transformation of the eternal purest love that exists only in Vrindavan. Man and woman as the representatives of the two flows of love are known in the Sahajiya literature as Rasa (the ultimate emotion as the enjoyer) and Rati (i.e., the object of Rasa), or as Kāma (the lover that attracts towards him the beloved) and Madana (the exciting cause of love in the lover).

In standard Vaishnavism also Krishna is known as Kāma or Kandarpa, as he attracts the minds of all creatures towards him, while Radha is Madana or the object that renders pleasure to the enjoyer. Sahaja is the emotion of the pure love flowing between Rasa and Rati or Kama and Madana. For the realisation of this Sahaja nature, therefore, a particular pair of man and woman should first of all realise their true self as Rasa and Rati or Krishna and Radha,--and it is only when such a realisation is perfect that they become entitled to realise the Sahaja through their intense mutual love.  
This realisation of the true nature of man as Krishna and that of woman as Radha is technically known as the principle of āropa or the attribution of divinity to man. Through continual psychological discipline man and woman (page 134) must first of all completely forget their lower animal selves and attribute Krishnahood to man and Radhahood to woman. Through this process of attribution there will gradually dawn the realisation of the true nature of the two as Krishna and Radha. When man and woman can thus realise themselves as Krishna and Radha in their true nature, the love that exists between them transcends the category of gross sensuality, it becomes love divine, and the realisation of such an emotion of love is realisation of the Sahaja.

Here there is a difference of outlook among the Sahajiyas and the standard Vaishnavas of Bengal. Krishnadas Kaviraj has unambiguously declared in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta that kāma (love in its grosser aspect) and prema (divine love) are charateristically distinct in their nature like iron and gold, and while the keynote of kāma is the fulfilment of selfish desires, the keynote of prema is self-elimination and the fulfilment of the divine desires in and through our whole being. But the Sahajiyas, while agreeing to the latter part of the statement, do not agree to the former part of it. The same flow of emotion, they hold, that becomes kāma in association with the selfish desires, transformed itself into prema when dissociated from such desires through physical and psychological discipline. Prema is but the purified form of kāma, and as such the former has its origin in the latter. There cannot be prema without kāma, and hence, prema cannot be attained through the absolute negation of kāma; it is to be attained rather through the transformation of kāma.  
The prema of the Sahajiyas is not the emotion of the most intense devotion of man towards God, it is the most intense emotion of love existing between Krishna and Radha residing as the svarūpa in the rūpa of every man and woman. It is from this point of view that Candi Das exclaimed, "Harken men, my brothers, man is the truth above all truths, there is nothing above that." (Posted on Gaudiya Discussions)

My point here is this: we are not these bodies. So when Dasgupta says all men are Krishna and all women Radha, he is failing to make this primordial distinction. It is not the soul that becomes Radha or Krishna, it is merely the physical vehicle that is being ascribed (āropa) Radha-ness or Krishna-ness. The relationship of the soul to the Divine Couple remains that of a mañjarī, who is engaged in serving the Divine Union, witnessing it, partaking in it like the mañjarīs watching the līlā-keli by the windows of the kunja.

I often remember my godbrother Doctor Babu, a closet Sahajiya himself, who would quote the famous babaji Dina Sharan Dasji saying that if he had had no experience of sexuality, he would have no insight into Radha Krishna līlā. But the mirror works two ways: Insight into Radha Krishna līlā brings meaning to human sexuality. It is indeed a way of finding the mahā-sukha, as all Indian religion is at its very basis, by definition, a search for the highest pleasure, but this does not mean that sexuality on its own, devoid of smaraṇa, is the exclusive source of mahā-sukha or ānanda. Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu rightly rejected the griha sannyasi in the Chaitanya Bhagavata when he offered them a taste of this ananda.

And, at the risk of repeating myself, mañjarī-bhāva is the hidden ingredient to sacralizing human sexuality beyond its reproductive function. Mañjarī-bhāva is about sādhāraṇī-karaṇa which, I have come to the conclusion, is identical with āropa. Whereas sādhāraṇī-karaṇa is the response that the receptive audience has to a piece of literature through unconscious identification, āropa is the same relative stance that one consciously takes towards the experiences of one's own life and love, transformed through recognition of its relation to the Divine Lila.

I realize that this might seem outlandish to the ordinary devotee, but I ask you to try to understand what Rupa Goswami is getting at with all his rasa theories. Sahaja means that human experience itself is the door to understanding and experiencing Radha and Krishna. The means for that are sādhāraṇī-karaṇa and āropa. Sādhāraṇī-karaṇa is identification with Radha: it is the Bhagavata Rasa; it is viraha-pradhāna.

Aropa is the about identification with Radha and Krishna, but it is the Vasanta Rāsa; it is sambhoga-pradhāna. The two Rāsas together complement each other as orthodoxy and sahajiyaism, like two wings on the same bird. (Obviously, I am not yet finished explaining this analogy!!!)

Now, as a final statement, for today: Sahajiyaism is not about sexual obsession, in any sense of the word. It is about a normalization of sexuality through sacralization. Radha and Krishna are at the center of the spiritual experience. Everything else: social action, kindness to the unfortunate, ethics and morality, all radiate out from this. This is not automatic in the way that pushing a button means the lights go on, but means that the devotee idealist, having found the center, strives to manifest the ideals of the Vaishnava character in every aspect of his life.



Anonymous said...

Baba, regarding your final statement on sahajiyaism-
"It is about a normalization of sexuality through sacralization." May I ask "says who"? The Tantricks and Sahajjiyas (primarily Baul) I spent time with had a Non-dualist pseudo-Vaishnava philosophy with strict sexual sadhanas meant to culminate in the para-samvit non-dual experience common to all Tantricks.
Please excuse me if I am missing the connection.
Please excuse the anonymous nom de plume.

Jagat said...

Thanks Anon, I was beginning to think I was all alone on here.

I don't really see the connection between that quote and the non-dual experience of the Tantriks. I see them as two completely different things.

As to the non-dual experience, I am arguing on the one hand that I do not care what anyone who claims to be a Sahajiya says, I am saying that in the sambandha and prayojana there is no fundamental difference between my siddhanta and the siddhanta of the orthodox Gaudiya Vaishnavas. I am trying to show how yogic or sattvika sexuality is compatible with that sambandha and that prayojana. So the answer to your question is, "Says I."

On the other hand, where this quote is concerned, what I was getting at is the same as stated before, I am talking about a middle path between dry renunciation and dry sense gratification. For a devotee, the normal is the sacred, and he therefore endeavors to bring his ordinary experience into line with the sacred, i.e. bhakti. I have been saying from the very beginning that

(1) the universe is real, therefore everything, or at least most things, can and should be dovetailed into bhakti, i.e., sacralized.

(2) Since madhura rasa plays such a prominent role in our entire system, both as allegory and as aesthetics, that therefore we should take a hint that it is also something that not only can be dovetailed, but has an important role to play in the culture of prema--aesthetically, psychologically and physiologically.

So normalization of all experience, i.e., our experience of THIS world, means sacralization, i.e., mapping of the Divine onto it. Please scroll down to an earlier post where I quote Eliade on the sacred and the profane.

Finally, whatever the Sahajiyas or Tantriks you have met (Bauls are not Vaishnavas, by the way) may believe, that is their way. The sexual yogic practices are like all yogas, they can be mapped onto different philosophical systems, like Buddhism, Shaktaism, etc. Each in their own way is indeed trying to engage in a process of sacralization of the sexual act. So, of course, there are advaita vadin practitioners of Sahaja-yoga. [This is why I think I should change the name, to help avoid confusion. I was told this would happen, but of course, I was pigheaded and did not listen.] There is no reason why the minor adjustment in the abhidheya, i.e. the addition of experiential human love, cannot be accomodated to the orthodox siddhanta of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. In fact, I feel that it shows a better understanding of the sacred character of human love than that of the Tantriks, as well as showing fidelity to the fundamental genius of the Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta.

I think that in order to properly understand what I am getting at, you need to be fairly well acculturated into orthodox Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta.

Jai Radhe,

shiva said...

Jagat you say that in your version of sahajiyaism you remain internally as a manjari and that the identification with Krishna and Radha is purely an external meditational device in order to sacralize sexuality etc. Is that the view of the traditional Chaitanya sahajiyas? Do they also see themselves as manjaris?

shiva said...

Jagat you wrote:

"My point here is this: we are not these bodies. So when Dasgupta says all men are Krishna and all women Radha, he is failing to make this primordial distinction. It is not the soul that becomes Radha or Krishna, it is merely the physical vehicle that is being ascribed (aropa) Radha-ness or Krishna-ness."

I don't think you are getting it right here. It is not the physical body which is identified as Radha and Krishna but the taking on of the archtypal persona of Radha and Krishna, an internal self identification using Radha and Krishna as archtypes for the relationship between the male and female.

You also wrote:

"And, at the risk of repeating myself, manjari bhava is the hidden ingredient to sacralizing human sexuality beyond its reproductive function."

That doesn't make sense to me because the originators of the manjari bhava ideal speak about manjari bhava as being a non sexual bhava i.e the manjaris assist the gopis and Krishna in their lovesports. Is their some writing where the manjaris are spoken of as being involved in direct erotic pastimes?

You also wrote:

"I realize that this might seem outlandish to the ordinary devotee, but I ask you to try to understand what Rupa Goswami is getting at with all his rasa theories. Sahaja means that human experience itself is the door to understanding and experiencing Radha and Krishna."

Since we are humans we cannot experience nor understand Radha and Krishna other then through experience of some type regardless if one follows the sahajiya or orthodox path. So whatever we experience is "human experience" regardless of what or how or where our experience is coming from. Maybe you meant to say that human relationships are the door to experiencing and understanding Radha and Krishna. Which I could agree with to a degree and also disagree with to a degree. Without any type of understanding of the concepts of human erotic/romantic relationships then it would be impossible to understand transcendental erotic/romantic pastimes and relationships. But for pretty much everyone who has grwon into an adult there is going to be some understanding of human erotic/romantic relationships, it least at the conceptual level. Beyond that there is no need of an actual erotic/romantic relationship in order to experience and understand transcendental madhurya bhava. That understanding and experience in fact cannot be realized by any other method then through either direct descent of realization from either God or from a person who has that realization and is empowered by God to share that with you.

Anonymous said...

The second sentence in your quote is my exact point. The identification with the deity is advaita-vada, whether you want to be Krishna or Brahman.

You wrote- "Bauls are not Vaishnavas, by the way"- this is hysterical. By what measure can a sahajjiya-wallah be a Vaishnava but a Baul not? What makes you a Vaishnava and not a Baul who sings Nitai Gaur songs and wears kanti mala and tilak and is pure veg and is convinced that the practices in his lineage are the secret inner heart of GV and is the actual messsage of Gauranga and Nitai? No doubt you will rely on the writings of the Shatgosani. Were they, then sahajiyas like you?

I also find it interesting that you populate your response with appeals to Orthodox Gaudiya Vaishnavas (who would certainly not agree with your philosphical outlook vis a vi sexual love) in addition to an ad hominem to the assumed lack of familiarity with this "Orthodox Vaishnava Siddhanta". The drive to feel like you represent orthodoxy is, it seems, intrinsic to the human animal and can, apparently, be applied to whatever program we happen to be practicing at the moment.
Thank you for your time and responses.
Joy Nitai

Jagat said...

Dear Anon,

I do not speak for all Sahajiyas, and I have stated from the very beginning that I am probably closer to orthodoxy than to many Sahajiyas.

It was perhaps wrong of me to say that "Bauls are not Vaishnavas," because there are evidently a large number of differing groups under the Vaishnava banner, including a variety of Baul sects. So I apologize if my statement was too broad (though hardly "hysterical.")

It is difficult to dissociate oneself from one's own experience and isolate the universal from the particular. Too often people fail to make the distinction. I am, on the whole, not an original thinker; I am an admirer of the Bhagavata tradition and the Goswamis, even though I reserve the right to be a critic. I attempt to follow Rupa Goswami as best I can (or at least make a point to try to understand him as best I can), and I find that there are certain Sahajiya ideas that help to make sense of his rasika theology. Nevertheless, I realize only too well that I am pretty much isolated in my interpretation. It may only make sense to me; that is the risk I have to take.

So I do not "appeal to Orthodoxy" or try to cater to the Orthodox, as such. But I do appeal to those who follow Rupa Goswami and ask whether this interpretation does not make a better story. But I admit that I have difficulty in isolating my point of view, which is the result of my experience and interaction with the tradition, from what might be universal truth, i.e. applicable to any others, what to speak of the entire world. As far as the latter is concerned, I have more or less given up.

But to get back to what is probably the essential point: Though I seek a synthesis of the theistic and monistic and humanistic positions (achintya-bhedabheda), I will never entirely subordinate the theistic position to either the monistic or the humanistic.

Jai Radhe, Jagat.

Shivaji, I think that your points will best be answered in another post.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry- I meant hysterical in the sense that it made me laugh.
Thank you for clarifying.

Malati dasi said...

You consider yourself a Gaudiya Vaishnava incorporating a new practical take on the rasa. Be that as it may, I think your system (concoctions to many, maybe) will find difficulty in getting off from the ground for practical reasons.

- it’s appeal is limited – only those having sex life will find attraction to sexual sadhana. Other people will find sex (especially one that involves a program) to be cumbersome. And sexual sadhana definitely rules out children, legally and ethically.

- it will be viewed as immoral and rightly so. Not only would the extra-marital angle be viewed immoral, but also the question of paedophilia will come in. How far would the practical aspect of identification with the Radha-Krishna rasa go? How can the system , better yet the individual, self-control itself/herself to make sure the sexual sadhaka does not do it with a 12 year old, for example. Take note that Radha-Krishna are 12 & 13 in the rasa lila.

I guess, at the back of my mind while writing this , is that I hope you’ll go back to the fold.
Be well.

dr. phil said...

I do not understand why you hold Neil Delmonico's studies so high. From the scientific and philosophical point of view they are full of unsound reasoning and reflexivity. From the devotional point of view, well, they are not really devotional either since he is trying to be scientific and distance himself from the subject in order to be so.
A friend of mine holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology on the subject "tarot". Another friend of mine holds a similar title in biology on the subjectmatter the effect pinquinshit has on the arctic. I am not joking.

Granted, I haven't read all his studies, but calling him one of the greatest experts on the matter seems a bit farfetched to me, especially on the basis of his writings.

Jagat said...

Dr. Phil, I stand by my comment. You haven't read his work, so how can you comment? As to his personal position as a Vaishnava or a scholar, I have nothing to say on the matter. I know that he has criticized publicly and vociferously the stand of most Vaishnavas on the basis of his academic studies and his sampradayika affiliations. That is neither here nor there; I am impressed by his scholarship, especially where rasa shastra is concerned, which is his area of expertise.

Some of the things that I believe is positive about the contribution of academics (even non-devotees) to the discussion of Vaishnavism is that they force it to be honest with its history and with present-day realities on every front. Here again, Neal has made a considerable contribution.

Jagat said...

Thank you, Malati, for your comments. I am very aware of these and other potential criticisms. Indeed, in one sense, I sometimes think that the Gaudiya acharyas' silence on some of these questions may be a result of fear of the kinds of dangers that you mention here. So I will try to deal with these in a separate post.

dr. phil said...

I said I haven't read ALL his work. That still leaves room for a whole lot I did read, for example the works you've listed.
Some was okay, some was disgusting and some was scientifically incorrect. So to speak of a considerable contibution, doesn't show a very critical approach from your side.

I am not trying to insult anyone, neither you nor the Phd. You seem of similar nature as I am in this. Yet Phd Neil seems to be an expert in this field.... insulting and making a public show of his personal envy with the help of unsubstantiated arguments. It reflects in his 'scientific work'. That this goes unnoticed to you surprises me.

As a devotee I do not hold any personal grudge against you nor the Phd, though my style of writing may suggest otherwise.

As a scientist, be critical and scrutinize.
As a devotee, pray for Light.

anuradha said...

dr Phil and Jagadananda,

I am too busy working myself through loads of literatures of the acaryas and have not had the time to read much of the secondary work surrounding it.
Occasionally I do, such as here on the internet. The name Neil Delmonico does ring a bell with me. I also haven't read one book from his hands, because of one single article that kind of shocked me in a negative way. In that he was raging against my paramguru as being a mass-cheater who gives fake initiations, because he didn't received it himself, being too proud in the eyes of his alleged guru. It took me a while to understand he was implicating my paramguru. After that Neil Delmonico goes on a quest to proof his theory.
This kind of articles dishearten me, sadden me and make me disassociate myself from them (these writers).
Ofcourse I caught you too with a few articles trying to find the edge, or Advaita for that matter. At the same time I feel I must be able to take some hits, even if it concerns my teachers. I confronted Advaita (indirectly over the internet) with his article mISKCONceptions. Your controversial articles have been dealt with by many, maybe too many. You are ready to take a few blows yourself and then so must I.

In short I think I know where dr. Philly is coming from and I partly agree with him. It seems only logical.
Though I cannot comment on his later articles or books, for me it will also be difficult to disconnect this from that. I am an aspiring bhakta, not a scientist.

Jagat said...

Neal's academic articles, being of necessity objective, tend to be free of some of the more antagonistic and provocative comments. I really don't quite understand why he insists on taking such a negative approach towards other devotees, no matter how much he disagrees with them. After all, kanistha, madhyama or uttama, everyone belongs to the same family. Even the Bauls...

Dr. Phil said...

I went through more of Neil's work again. I maybe was a bit too harsh in my criticism. Indeed my opinion was also based on some articles that were a bit too much for me. It influenced my further opinion of him in a negative way. I got carried away. This is not good. I should know better. I always criticize people who get carried away and do not see grey, only black and white. This time I, myself, am the victim of this fault.

My apologies. (two months later)