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Showing posts from July, 2007

Letter to Vamsidas Babaji at Dvadash Mandir

শ্রীশ্রীগৌরগদাধরাভ্যাং নমঃ
পরম শ্রদ্ধেয় বংশীদাস বাবাজী মহারাজ,

আপনার চরণে আমার কোটি দণ্ডবন্নতি গ্রহণ করিবেন। অনেক দিন পরে পত্রযোগ করিতেছি। শ্রীশচীনন্দন দাদা আর ভক্তমাএর অপ্রকটের কথা শুনিয়া খুব শোকান্বিত হইলাম। একটা চিঠিও দিয়াছিলাম। কোনও উত্তর না পাওয়ায় আমি বলিতে পারি না আপনারা পাইয়াছেন কি না। যাহাই হউক, আশা করি যে তাঁহাদের অনুপস্থিতিতেও আপনারা সবাই প্রভুর সেবায় ভালই আছেন।

গত বার যখন আমি আর গদাধরপ্রাণজী প্রভুপাদের দর্শন করিতে মন্দিরে আসিয়াছিলাম, তখন আমরা নিশ্চয় অপরাধ করিয়া ফিরিয়াছিলাম। সময়ের অভাবে আমরা মন্দিরবাসীদের ঠিক ঠিক মর্য্যাদা করি নাই, যাহার জন্য আমি আপনার আর অন্য ভক্তদের সমক্ষে ক্ষমা প্রার্থনা করি। তাহা হইলেও, সে দিন আমরা যে কার্য্যর গুরুত্ব ভীষণভাবে অনুভব করিতেছিলাম, তাহা দিনে দিনে কেবল বাড়িতেছে। ইহা বড় দুঃখের বিষয় যে অদ্যাপিও আমাদের শ্রীগুরুদেবের বিস্তৃত কোনো জীবনী প্রকাশিত হয় নাই। নিশ্চয় আমরাই দোষী, কারণ সেদিন আমরা রাজসিক ভাব নিয়া আসিয়াছিলাম, যেন আমরা মনে করিতেছিলাম যে এত বড় একটা কার্য্য সঙ্গে সঙ্গে করা যাইতে পারে, ফলতঃ আমাদিগকে রিক্তহস্তে বিদায় দিয়া হতাশ হইয়া ঘরে ফিরিতে হইয়াছি…

Distaste for Political Religion

I try to keep away from politics on this blog, but I came across this video by Max Blumenthal, Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour, on Huffington Post. I find the world one gets a glimpse of here to be pretty troubling.

I believe in the power of myth, but I find it needs to be carefully vetted by the use of reason. I can't help but feel disgust at this smorgasborg of true belief, self-righteousness and sheer hypocrisy.

If I had to be a Christian, I would still try to keep myself as far as possible from these deluded and dangerous people. Quakers, Catholics, liberal Protestants, Unitarians... anyone but these guys! And yet, unfortunately, they rule the roost in the good old U.S.A. Is there a better reason to fear the crumbling of the empire?

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Actually, thinking about it a little later, I came back to a certain recollection of how I got here in the first place. These pink and bloated millionaire preachers are the perfect representation of the …

Radha in the Gita?

From a discussion on the Religion in South India list of the AAR:

Steve Rosen:

Perusing Graham Schweig's new Gita translation (Harper San Francisco, 2007), I noticed a reading of 2.72 that is quite unique, one that should give those with a Vaisnava leaning -- and particularly a Gaudiya Vaisnava leaning --reason to rejoice.
The verse is familiar. It begins esa brahmi sthitih partha . . . Most people translate the first portion as meaning "this fixed state of Brahman," as Zaehner would have it, or some, perhaps, leave it untranslated, saying it refers to a cryptic state known as Brahmi-sthitih, which, of course, doesn't tell us much.
Graham, however, notes the powerfully feminine presence in the verse, so much so that he translates this section as saying, "this state of the feminine energy of Brahman." It is a powerful reading, one that acknowledges the "Feminine Brahman" emerging in this verse. Gaudiya Vaisnavas will see a suggestion of Radha here, …

Disappearance of Hridayananda Das Babaji Maharaj

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I just learned of this from Subrata's Nitai Gaura Radhe Shyam webiste. He has written a nice article about Hridayananda Dasji, to whom he was quite close. He also has a couple of nice pictures. I have added a couple of my own memories of Baba.

Disappearance of Hridayananda Das Babaji Maharaj

Since for whatever reason my comment never made it on to that page, I will try to reproduce my thoughts here.

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In 2005, by the kindness of several devotees, I was able to return to Nabadwip after more than 20 years of absence. One evening I went into town and was making the tour of the various temples when I came to the Samaj Bari. Samaj Bari celebrates its annual festival in honour of Radha Raman Charan Das Babaji Maharaj a few weeks before Gaur Purnima. I had come specifically because I had been told that Hridayananda Dasji was there and I wanted to talk to him. That night, however, the suchak kirtan was being sung and Maharaj was in the group of singers. He wasn't leading, but sitt…

Karnamrita

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Dear Uttama,

Radhe! Radhe! I mentioned in my last email how much I was appreciating Karnamrita's CD, but I don't think I was sufficiently effusive in my praise. Please allow me to be so now.

I have been listening to Dasi in the car for a couple of hours every morning without any desire to listen to anything else. You have to understand that I not easy to please: they have a reserved vyasasan for me down at Faultfinders Anonymous. I can barely listen to any kirtan produced by Iskcon except for perhaps Vaiyasaki. Most modern Hindustani or Bengali kirtan is syrupy and commercial. I like some classical Hindi singers like Bhimsen Joshi, but even there, as with opera singers, I find that technique has often triumphed over content and something important been lost.

Perhaps the clue is that Karnamrita has had enough training in Indian classical music and bhajan to be able to enter into the spirit of the music without losing her way. Your arrangements and production skills have only added…

Tell me the truth, O Vaishnava poet! Where did you get this picture of prema?

I am just reading a book by a Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaj disciple I had heard of, but did not know very well. His name is Janardan Chakravarti and he is (or was) a professor in Bengali literature at the University of Calcutta (Jadavpur?). He wrote a book in English called Bengal Vaisnavism and Sri Chaitanya (1975)* (See below for details).

Chakravarti shows signs of that Bengali syncretism that most of us Western Vaishnavas are so suspicious of: he speaks of Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Aurobindo, Rabindranath and all the other Bengali cultural heroes in a favorable way. This kind of Bengali nationalism is something that we feel averse to, although I recently wrote on my blog that, as a consequence, we (I mean Western KC in general) have lost contact with Bengali culture per se and are participating in the creation of a neo-pan-Indian culture that mirrors the diminishing influence of Bengal in that world, but which ignores the fact that Bengali culture has been interacting with and int…

The New Paradigm

More material from Australian Radio. I keep discovering stuff there. I will just make a short comment here: New Dimensions : Spiritual Teachers, from disillusionment to enlightenment.

O ye who are confused about Guru Tattva, come and hear about the "new paradigm" and apply it to the Krishna consciousness movement!! Every word is enlightening. Why is there so much wisdom outside of KC?

... No really, I mean it. Listen to this program.

... Yes, I mean you.

Rasa-pushtim

vibhur api sukha-rūpaḥ sva-prakāśo'pi bhāvaḥ
kṣaṇam api rādhā-kṛṣṇayor yā ṛte svāḥ
pravahati rasa-puṣṭiṁ cid-vibhūtīr iveśaḥ
śrayati na padam āsāṁ kaḥ sakhīnāṁ rasajñaḥ

This verse has been of interest to me for some time. It is quoted in the Ramananda-samvada as a glorification of the necessity of taking shelter of the sakhis. Generally, the GLA does not make philosophical or theological statements, as it is a lila grantha. Here, however is a statement about rasa-tattva and lila-tattva that is quite unique.

Without the sakhis, Radha and Krishna's bhava, even though it is all-pervading, full of joy and self-luminous (sat, ananda, cit), does not fulfill its potential as rasa without them. And, as an example, Krishnadas says that similarly the Supreme Lord (Narayan) does not attain rasa-puṣṭi without his cid-vibhuti, or spiritual opulences.

If we follow strictly the metaphorical structure of the verse, Radha and Krishna's bhava is being compared to God, the sakhis to His spiritu…

Waves of Devotion by Dhanurdhara Swami

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This is an old article from Gaudiya Discussions. The original date of writing appears to be somewhere around 2004. I posted it here in 2015, but am backdating it to an earlier time.
Waves of Devotion by Dhanurdhara Swami (Bhagavat Books, 2000)
About a year or so ago, I was sent a copy of Dhanurdhara Swami’s book Waves of Devotion and asked to review it. I held back for reasons that will be clear, but I think it is time for me to say what I think.

The first impression is good. The book has a nice cover with a picture of Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis on it, is printed on good quality paper and the text is nicely laid out.


Waves of Devotion is meant to be a companion volume to A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami’s Nectar of Devotion, which most devotees know is his translation of Rupa Goswami’s Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. Dhanurdhara Maharaj takes pains in his introduction to defend himself against any possibility of criticism that he has tried to supersede the acharya: “Everything is in Prabhupada’s book…

Musings on Truth and Love

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The other day I heard Andrew Keen talking about his book The Cult of the Amateur: How the Internet is killing our culture. His idea is that by democratizing the internet, the distinction between uninformed voices, or amateurs, and experts, or professionals, is blurred. With the ascendancy of "free" information on the Internet, true professionals are gradually being marginalized and unable to make a living at providing expert knowledge or authoritative interpretations of the world around us. According to Keen, this is a loss for everyone who seeks to make an informed decision about anything, from politics to religion.

His definition of "amateur" was rather wide: It means anyone who cannot make a living through his area of expertise. As such, I qualify, to my shame. I pontificate here on the internet, and yet I am unable to establish myself as a genuine authority in devotional service, as a "religious professional" as I like to put it. I may be a particula…

Acts of spontaneous kindness

I often wonder why I am here. In this place of work, I mean. After all, I reason, I am still here, and it is surely not the money! Well, OK, you have to live, but this was never a planned stop on the railway of my life.

I haven't found any grand, cosmic answers to my question, but there are a couple of small things going on. One of the sales representatives here has the romantic name of Bruno Santaguida, the "holy guide." A great name for a guru, I would think. What's in a name, you might ask. In Bruno's case, there definitely seems to be a meaningful connection.

Comedy and Tragedy

As usual, these days, I memorize and meditate on verses by the acharyas as I bicycle into work or engage in other tasks that require only a minimal supply of mental energy.

One verse today was the following from Padyavali (205), which is also quoted in Ujjvala-nilamani (1.18).

sanketi-krita-kokilädi-ninadam kamsa-dvishah kurvato
dväronmocana-lola-shankha-valaya-kvänam muhuh shrinvatah
keyam keyam iti pragalbha-jarati-väkyena dünätmano
rädhä-prängana-kona-koli-vitapi-krode gatä sharvari

In three steps, we get a progressive picture of Krishna: He is imitating cuckoo sounds to signal his presence. To whom? To Radha, who gets out of bed and tiptoes to the door, but as soon as she starts to unlatch the bolt, her conch-ivory bracelets tinkle. Krishna hears this sound in great expectation, but then he hears another: Jatila, Radha's wizened mother-in-law, guarding the chastity of her bouma, wakes up and calls out, "Who's there? Who's there?" And Krishna's heart immediatel…

Montreal Rathayatra

I just went for a couple of hours to the Montreal Rathayatra "Festival of India" fair. Just thought I'd note a little irony that became clear to me today, after watching the program put on by the Gurukula Youth traveling road show. I was very impressed by the quality of the performance, in particular by the young woman who seemed to lead things. The style of dance and music is Carnatic.

I bought a couple of CDs and could not fail to notice that Nitai Das sings in the Anupa Jalota style, like Haridas and a number of other Iskcon bhajan singers. Haridas even sings Hindi translations of Bhaktivinoda songs ! I also picked up another CD by Karnamrita, Dasi, which I like best of the three. But here too, I noticed that there is little that shows a direct Gaudiya influence (songs by Meera, Harivams, Bhagavata verses, etc.)

Another thing I was doing was trying to give a way a bunch of Bengali books to the Bengali speakers here, without much success. Finally one devotee kind of relu…

Gaura Hari

prema-ccheda-rujo 'vagacchati harir nāyam na ca prema vā
sthānāsthānam avaiti nāpi madano jānāti no durbalāh
anyo veda na cānya-duhkham akhilam no jīvanam vāśravam
dvi-trāny eva dināni yauvanam idam hā-hā vidhe kā gatih

[Srimati Radharani says in Jaganatha-vallabha Nataka:] "'Our Krishna does not realize the pain that comes of loving separation. Love too knows not where to strike and where not to strike. Cupid knows that we are weak women and harries us. No one understands another's suffering, no matter how great. Our lives are uncertain and, moreover, our youth will only remain for a few short days before being extinguished. So in view of this, O Lord, what will be our fate?'"

upajila premānkura, bhāngila ye duhkha-pūra,
krishna tāhā nāhi kare pāna
bāhire nāgara-rāja, bhitare śathera kāja,
para-nārī vadhe sāvadhāna

[Krishnadas translates Ramananda Ray’s verse] First grew the sprout of love, but then it broke and left me in the depths of misery. Krishna does not hims…

Exercise : So’ham.

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Prerequisites: The ability to sit for one hour with the back straight and without moving or agitation. Control of breath.

There is to be no physical touching in this exercise.

The couple sits facing each other with a few centimetres of space separating them.

The mantra is so’ham, or other mantras done in so'ham consciousness, e.g., the 18-syllable Gopala Mantra on the inward breath, the Kama Gayatri on the outward; done at a count of 1:2, or at a natural rhythm.

With the inward breath, the meditation is as follows: “The Supreme Person has come in the form of my beloved to give me His/Her love. I breathe in that love.”

With the outward breath, one meditates: “With my outward breath, I return that love. I serve that love, I serve that Person.”

The focus is the heart center, the anahata chakra. Let the heart fill with the divine shakti. Please note that the three lower chakras are all primarily concerned with the most external layers of consciousness. This chakra is the first that really f…