Sunday, July 01, 2007

Prema Prayojana

Looking for something else, I came across a thread on Gaudiya Discussions from June 2004. I am posting some of it here, just for the record and future reference. I think it was the first time I used "prema prayojan" as my motto online; Dr. Jaya also reminded me of another line, which I began using as my other motto:


Formed through and through by Gaura's love--
that is a Gaudiya Vaishnava.

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This is a very good question and I think that it is worth discussing further. Here are a couple of quotes:

Love’s torments are understood as the natural form of religious discipline…. [There] is a whole field of poetry in Braj dedicated to making this point, to demonstrating how the gopis, separated from Krishna, endure mortifications by virtue of the sundering of their love that are deeper by far than any austerities or yoga can concoct. They manifest all the marks of yogic discipline naturally. A yogi must learn through years of practice the art of keeping awake for long periods of time; for the woman of Braj separated from Krishna, sleep is out of the question. The one pointed concentration for which yogis strive is also all too easily theirs: they can think of nothing but their lost love…. [As] for the internal heat (tapas) that yogis learn to fan and channel so as to make all this possible, it is theirs without even asking. Love is an unquenchable forest fire, as they often say: robbed from its object it scorches everything in sight. (J.S. Hawley 1981:234)

In the vaidhi sphere, man cannot go beyond certain limits prescribed by the shastras, for he has to select one mode or the other approved by their religious codes. He cannot venture outside of the circumscribed area for fear of denunciation. In an atmosphere like this, the culture of the human mind, which is the primary object of religion, cannot find free scope. (Manindra Mohan Bose, Post-Chaitanya Sahajiya Cult. University of Calcutta: 1930, 2)

Raganuga means literally the pursuit of love. Now love knows no reasoning, admits of no limitation and is a purely personal concern which follows nothing else than the impulse of the mind. (ibid., 4)

There is definitely an idea that associates raganuga with a tendency to laxness in following the rules and regulations of the vidhi path. Yet, there seems to be a fear that any such laxness "disproves" the genuineness of one's attachments or qualification for raganuga. Such people are labelled sahajiya, both in the Gaudiya Math and in the traditional circles.

And it is true: The Sahajiyas, Bauls, Radha-vallabhis, Sants (I notice some people scoring high in Sikhism in their belief net questionnaire) all have a spirit of protest and criticism against the orthodox cultures of Brahmanism, Islam and Vaishnavism. This is a little odd, but many historians criticize Vaishnavism for abandoning the free, liberal, somewhat antinomian spirit of Nityananda Prabhu into a Hari-bhakti-vilasa culture of "don't eat carrots or onions or we won't drink your water."

My feeling is that most of us were attracted to KC because of the discipline rather than the freedom. And it is true: There is no character formation without discipline. Western culture ostensibly admires self-imposed discipline--doing it because you want to rather than because you have to. But all cultures impose external or social discipline that can be quite confining.

Spiritual life requires discipline, let us not deny it. But the internal discipline of the heart is greater than the forced discipline of infinitely multiplied rules and regulations.

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Subala wrote: There is a difference between following rules and regulations and ethical, civilized behavior. Of course one must act in a way which respects all living entities and the whole of God's creation.

I must admit to a Christian influence in this regard. When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, he answered that one should love God with all of one's body, mind and soul and love one's neighbor as one's self. This is the essence of the law. Judaism and Hinduism both place a strong emphasis on purity codes. I believe both Jesus and Krishna Chaitanya came to show the way of devotion to God and to free persons from the oppressive purity codes.

Bhaktivinode Thakur said that many of the rules and regulations were interpolated into the scriptures in order to keep people in line and that one should not believe everything one reads in old books. (I believe this is in The Bhagavata) Love must be given freely and spontaneously or it is not love. If one does not have love, then one may practice being loving by following the regulative principles. Of course hearing and chanting the glories of God is appropriate at any stage of spiritual development, and when one has love this will be done spontaneously, not because someone says we should.

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I agree. Last night, when chanting japa, I struck on a sadhana that I hadn't really applied before. I tried to tap my emotional memory, rather than my mind or intellect, to the times when I was the most deeply in love, and then tried to channel that emotion into the chanting.

Depends how we look at it. Sruti can stand in for all kinds of ritualistic activities. Like the Gita--


yāvān artha udapāne sarvataḥ samplutodake
tāvān sarveṣu vedeṣu brāhmaṇasya vijānataḥ

Whatever purposes are served by a small pond are achieved by the great reservoirs of water. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas are accomplished by one who knows God. [Gita 2.46]

The lesson here is that we have to establish what our own spiritual essence or goal is, and cultivate that directly. That is why Jiva says that the symptoms of the siddha are the practices of the sadhaka.

Sadhanas are not sadhanas, but anubhavas. That is, they are not means to an end, but the end itself.

A lost memory just came back to me. Once, while in India, I went through a pretty crazy period and would go around chanting "prema prayojan" like a kind of mantra. Prema prayojan has a double meaning in Bengali: On the one hand it means "Love of God is the goal of life." On the other, it means, "We all need love."

This certainly does resume for me the essence of all our bhakti speculations and actions. As devotees we will never abandon the specifics of our religious symbols, but we must keep the essence solidly planted in our minds, written on our foreheads if you will. "All you need is love": prem prayojan!


parasparānukathanaṁ
pāvanaṁ bhagavad-yaśaḥ
mitho ratir mithas tuṣṭir
nivṛttir mitha ātmanaḥ

Devotees talk to each other about the glories of the Lord. In each other’s association, they find pleasure and satisfaction; they teach each other about how all their distresses can come to an end. (11.3.30)

smarantaḥ smārayantaś ca
mitho 'ghaugha-haraṁ harim
bhaktyā sañjātayā bhaktyā
bibhraty utpulakāṁ tanum

The devotees become absorbed in remembering Krishna who takes away all their sins, and reminding each other of him. From this devotional service in practice, they develop a higher devotion, which makes them ecstatic and makes the hairs on their bodies stand on end. (11.3.31)

kvacid rudanty acyuta-cintayā kvacid
dhasanti nandanti vadanty alaukikāḥ
nṛtyanti gāyanty anuśīlayanty ajaṁ
bhavanti tūṣṇīṁ param etya nirvṛtāḥ

Sometimes, as the devotees remember the infallible Lord, they begin to cry, sometimes they laugh and rejoice, and sometimes they speak strange and wonderful things. Sometimes they dance, sometimes they sing, and sometimes they quietly read and study about the Unborn, becoming silent as they are deeply immersed in ecstasy. (11.3.32)
Anand then posted the following quotes from Sridhar Maharaj:
"The essence of love lives by distribution; not by absorbtion, but by distribution. That is love. Prema is that which exists by its tendency of distribution, and that is the highest."

"Whatever we may experience, the most central need for fulfillment remains, love. The absolute king of everything is love."

"Attraction is the most fundamental element everywhere. All else can be eliminated and forgotten if we come in touch with attraction and love... Love is the principle in the center which is the only fulfillment of all existence. The very gist of existence is there; it can't be ignored or challenged by any other forms or aspects of our substantial existence. It is unchangeable and absolute... Coming in clash with the principle of love, all will have to accept defeat. This is the most substantial thing...

"After liberation, beyond calculative devotion, in the highest plane of the whole creation, eternal love reigns supreme... That we may live in the waves of the ocean of love is the highest objective of our lives... So, give up your wild-goose-chasing habit and collect and concentrate all your might to progress in this line; try to go to the temple of love divine." (no source given)
I responded: How come so many of Sridhar Maharaj's disciples are so rigid? Tripurari Maharaj is the only one who has at least tried to philosophically accomodate these concepts. Narasingha Maharaj and Bhakti Sudhir Goswami are very "tough-love" types of guys.

I am not so big on the tough love types. I affectionately call them "son-of-a-bitch" Vaishnavas. There are bhajananandi SOB Vaishnavas, too: plenty of examples of them in Vraja. They just want to be alone, and there is nothing they hate more than fawning adulation. There are stories of siddha mahatmas chasing Morwari businessmen sadhu groupie types away from their bhajan kutirs with a flurry of foul language. But you get something like that in the character of Gaur Kishor Das and Vamsi Das Babaji also. "If you want to hang out with me, do like me--eat raw eggplant and live in an abandoned toilet."

Even Ramakrishna Pandit Baba gives the impression that he could not suffer fools gladly. No wonder he did not get along with Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. They both had these hard line attitudes.

There is such a thing as tough love, but it can really only be exercised when there is already a relationship of trust. It would be nice if tough love were psychologically effective in the community building sense, but most of the time it is not. Even in cases where there is already a supposed guru-disciple relationship based on faith and trust, harsh and intransigeant discipline often leads to unnecessary alienation.

Perhaps it is too much to expect for every guru to be a clever psychologist, and weakness may be just as counterproductive as harsh treatment--but in the building of community, there has to be an acknowledgement of individual limitation, approbation for any progress, a spirit of welcome and easy belonging rather than easy ostracism.

I say this because I see Krishna consciousness as a matter of identity first. It is a culture of identity: I am becoming the servant of Krishna, and a servant of Krishna is like this as a person. I am becoming the maidservant of Radharani, and the maidservant of Radharani is like this.

Vaishnavism is not yoga in the sense of harsh physical disciplines.

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Ananda:
Not all disciples will uniformly receive the guru's mood in their hearts, I suppose. I trust that Srila Sridhara Maharaja spend many moments of his life meditating on Lord Nityananda's merciful legacy. I believe thats how he could speak as he spoke, about Love and other things. Rigid discipline in itself does not seem to agree with the idea of Sublime Love, but some say it is a means to a fair end...
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Dr. Jaya then reposted this Gopinath Basak song that I had translated:


bāhire se ālā bholā antare hṛdaya galā
mukhe sadā kṛṣṇa bolā cokhe aśru mālā
dīnatāya se māṭir mānuṣ niṣṭhāte acalā
kṛṣṇa dite kṛṣṇa nite dhare śakti sob
alaukika lokavat gauḍīya vaiṣṇob

He looks artless, guileless
but inside his heart is melting;
the name of Krishna is always on his tongue
a garland of tears in his eyes.
In humility though forebearing,
his faith unswerving as a mountain.

To give or take Krishna,
is the power in his hands.
He looks like anyone,
but he is beyond the world.
That is a Gaudiya Vaishnava.

sabāra nīce paṛe thāke sabāike se sevya dekhe
sabāra iṣṭa miṣṭa bhākhe kṛṣṇa tattva jñāne
sabāi debā sabār sevā kṛṣṇa adhiṣṭhāne
nikhila bheda samanvayera mūrti savaibhava
tomāra preme goṛā se gauḍīya vaiṣṇava

He humbly takes the lowest place,
sees everyone as someone to serve;
to all he speaks what is pleasing and sweet,
connected to the truth of Krishna;
he knows that Krishna dwells in every soul
and so he gives to all and serves all.

All differences are resolved in him,
this is the glory he incarnates.
Formed through and through by Your love--
that is a Gaudiya Vaishnava.

sarvottama sadainya vinaya nirahaṁ suśānti nilaya
nitāi graha grasta hṛdaya sadaya viśva jīve
tomāra icchāya cale bale tomāra icchāya seve
tomāra gaṇa sange se pāya prema rasārṇava
tomāra sṛṣṭa hṛṣṭa iṣṭa gauḍīya vaiṣṇava

He is the best of all, yet he makes no claims.
He is without ego, the house of blissful peace.
He is under the astral influence of Nitai,
and so merciful to all souls in the universe.
He walks and talks according to Your desire,
according to Your desire, he serves.

When in the company of those who are Yours,
he finds an ocean of relish.
Your personal creation, Your own ecstatic object of worship --
that is a Gaudiya Vaishnava.

kaivalyake narka māne svargake khapuṣpa jāne
indriya kṛṣṇa sevane viśva-pūrṇa sukhe
daivatādi nāhi gaṇe tomāra kṛponmukhe
tomāra-i audārya vīrya ātmā akaitava
tomāra kṛpā mūrtimanta gauḍīya vaiṣṇava

He takes nondualistic liberation to be hell
and heaven to be a flower in the sky;
his senses are all engaged in Krishna's service
and so he sees the world as a place of joy;
he pays no attention to other gods,
turned only toward the search for Your mercy;

He is filled with the heroism of Your munificence;
his heart is without deception;
the incarnation of Your blessings --
that is the Gaudiya Vaishnava.

saṁsāre se anāsakta bāhya dehe sādhaka bhakta
antare se anurakta rāgānugā lobhe
gaurotsave vrajera bhāve sadā iṣṭa seve
keśa-śeṣa-sudurlabha gopīra anubhava
acintya prabhāvī se gauḍīya vaiṣṇava

Though detached from the world;
externally, he carries on like a sadhaka bhakta;
yet within he seethes with raganuga greed.
Festive in the mood of Gauranga,
he always serves the object of his love:
the mood of the gopis,
so rare for even Brahma, Vishnu and Ananta.
Possessing incomprehensible divine power,
that is the Gaudiya Vaishnava.

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