Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Manjari Bhava and Sexual Renunciation

Someone has asked for a little more clarification on the relationship between manjari bhava and the practices I am talking about.
Anyway, I don't see how this ties into manjari bhav sadhana. If both the male and female partners identify as a manjari, then how can they engage in sexual relations with each other while maintaining that inner identity?

Two little girls on the brink of Kishorihood who just want to assist their Swamini in meeting with her Priyatam are now having sex with each other? What is up with that?

That's why I say that yes, Vaishnava couples can and do have creative intimate lives, but while doing so they can't and do not identify themselves in the same way they identify themselves during their sadhana time.

When I say "can't" above it is not meant as "it's impossible", but it means I can't see how it would work. So could you address this issue please Jagat?
I have written a number of articles that deal with this topic, in particular, Sadharanikarana and Manjari Bhava and the series discussing Ahangrahopasana and Aropa. I am not saying they are very clear or very easy to understand, so I will make an effort at simplification here, for anything that is true should be easy to express simply.

(1) The Manjaris and madhura rasa

The first thing to understand is that the manjaris are experiencing madhura rasa. Some people think that only sambhogecchāmayī rāgātmikā bhakti can be madhura rasa, because only those people with the desire to experience direct union with Krishna will have the appropriate mood to experience this particular flavor of love.

There is a certain logic to this position because the essential theistic stance is that of the single individual before God. However, for us Gaudiyas, there is a double stance: On the one hand we are individuals locked in a direct, personal relationship with God; on the other we are participants in and observers of his līlā. The two stances are not exclusive. That is one aspect of acintya-bhedābheda.

Since these gopis are Krishna's mistresses (yūtheśvarīs) and have the exclusive desire to please Krishna's senses, it cannot be said that they are in some way governed by a desire to please their own senses and are thus sullied by kāma. Nevertheless, one thing is clear in all sakhī-bhāva sampradāyas--anyone who adopts the sambhogecchāmayī stance is entering into competition with Srimati Radharani, and that is like playing basketball against Michael Jordan. You are going to lose, except when she lets you score a basket.

Radha is Krishna's pūrṇa-śakti, as well as specifically being his hlādinī śakti, and so the sakhī-manjarī position is to accept the following siddhānta: Radha governs all of Krishna's pleasure. Rather than compete with Radha, or compete with Krishna, I will accept that my upāsya is the Divine Couple together. Despite that, y female identity means that I identify more closely with Radha.

Now the interesting thing here is the oft-repeated nostrum that the Manjaris renounce their own sexual pleasure, even when Radha pushes them to enjoying this rasa with Krishna. Some sādhakas interpret this to mean that this is a higher position than the yūtheśvarīs because it is purer, being even more renounced and freer of even the slightest hint of selfish desire to enjoy. They carry this idea over to the sādhaka deha and make it a cardinal point of faith that sexuality in this body and manjari bhāva are mutually and radically exclusive.

I do not agree with this point of view and think it is necessary to understand how the Manjaris are experiencing madhura-rasa.


(2) Sādhāraṇīkaraṇa.

This is where the idea of sādhāraṇīkaraṇa comes into the picture. In his books Mañjarī-svarūpa-nirūpaṇa and Mañjarī-bhāva-sādhana-paddhati, Kunja-bihari Dasji talks about identification with Rupa and Rati Manjaris, with Narottam and other expressions of Rādhā-dāsya as found in the literature of the sampradāya. Although this is an essential part of the culture of manjari bhāva, on its own these directions do not really show very clearly how the Manjaris experience madhura rasa. It shows how they experience Rādhā-dāsya, which is not exactly the same thing. This is, of course, part of the same objection to the manjaris' experience of madhura-rasa.

However, as I have said just recently, in all the rasas, there is an element of identification with the loved object. The more you love someone, the more you identify with them, the more you feel their pain and joy.

But here we are not talking about a material relationship, we are talking about the non-dual divine realm where identity and difference take on a whole new meaning. The sakhis and manjaris are Radha's phala-puṣpa-pātā. They are extensions of herself. When Radha laughs, they laugh. When Radha cries, they cry. When Krishna kisses Radha, they faint with ecstasy. They are as close to Radha as her life itself.

In the sādhaka stage, this is comprehended through the process of sādhāraṇīkaraṇa. As one progresses, this is progressively internalized. This is the reason that the discussion in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu about the necessity for external sources of rasa is important. Devotees make use of rasika literature, but as their sthāyi bhāva becomes internalized, they don't have an absolute necessity for it. Their sthāyi bhāva creates the vibhāvas, etc., out of whatever material is to hand.

An important element to understand in all this is the importance of sādhāraṇīkaraṇa as a general psychological phenomenon and not simply as a psychology of aesthetics or literature appreciation. It is linked to the idea of self-observation and self-imagination.


(3) Aropa

What I have described above is the conventional understanding of Manjari Bhava and the concept of sādhāraṇīkaraṇa as Rupa Goswami understands it. Now in Sahajiya practice, it is necessary to understand the concept of āropa. This is where things begin to differ from conventional Vaishnava understanding and where the opportunity for misunderstanding is greatest. This misunderstanding arises from the basic confusion between the ideas of āropa and ahangrahopāsanā. The latter word is probably more familiar to devotees who have followed the IGM route because we were all warned against it. It is a kind of spiritual practice that is admittedly found in the Tantras and even the Pancharatra in which the devotee expressly identifies himself with the Deity, usually through a formula like "Shivo'ham, so'ham, Gopalo'ham."

Aropa is different. What it does, it makes use of the self-splitting psychological mechanism of self-observation or self-imagination referred to above. At this point one has to understand the second dimension of Radha-Krishna līlā as human archetype.

Here again, Orthodoxy feels uncomfortable due to the seeming compromise of the absolute Duality of God and creature, Ishwara and Jiva. However, at this point I would remind us all that we are acintya-bhedābheda-vādis. Acintya-bhedābheda is not an intellectual game, but a description of things as they are. The duality of God and creature, even in the Bhagavata Rasa līlā, is always permeated with aiśvarya. The mention of aiśvarya is necessary in order to reveal the ultimate sacred nature of the particular līlā being described, but ultimately, the payoff is not in the majesty of God but in the intimacy of his manifestation as human. In other words, the highest form of the sacred is in the sweetness of his human manifestation.

The Divine Duality of Radha and Krishna is mirrored in the activities of this world, in the play of love as it manifests in the lives of each of us. Radha and Krishna are the Universal underlying these particular manifestations. One fascinating belief of modern humanists and novelists is that one can approach the Universal through understanding the Particular. The reason for this is that rasa comes more powerfully through the experience of the particular. Nevertheless, there is a limit to how far we can actually go through the particular, which in devotee parlance is the "material/mundane hero or heroine."

I was going to keep it simple, but this is rather important to understand. I have said this before, but it sounds close to heresy for those who are the most committed to the Orthodox approach that most of us are familiar with. Bear with me.

When I translated the Hamsaduta and Uddhava Sandesh, I wrote a foreword in which I defended Rupa Goswami against the critique of Sushil Kumar De, the only scholar who up until then had written much at all about Gaudiya literature. I said that he was writing from a modern perspective and could not understand the mindset of these authors, and that we should judge them by their worldview and the standards they were following. My most important argument was that if they had not been effective in producing the rasa experience in their readers, they would never have achieved the fame and success that they did.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that we are modern, post-modern even. Our relationship to myth is different from that experienced by 16th century Bengalis. We have been discussing this of late on this blog--applying the standards of one epoch to those of another. It is like Americans expecting Iraqis to be just like them and being surprised when they are not. This is called a clash of world-views. But I digress... We are modern and this means that our relation to mythic archetypes is going to be a little different.

There is a little more to understand here. Archetypes like Radha and Krishna are very powerful in the human psyche. They are unchanging and are an inexhaustible source of meaning because they manifest in an infinity of ways. Even though you can summarize what Radha and Krishna are or what they mean fairly succinctly, this Truth keeps on furnishing meaning to the one whose consciousness has been molded by consciousness of them. Why? Because they are constantly appearing and reappearing in this world of experience.

This model (archetype) of the Divine Couple, the Divine Syzygy as it is useful to call them sometimes (to sound dreadfully savant and knowledgeable about Carl Jung), lives apart from the creation in their archetypal form as Radha and Krishna (aprakaṭa) and here in this world in the unlimited and countless love stories that surround us, but most of all in the most authentic love stories. They also live in our own love stories. But in order to understand that and really appreciate it, we have to stand outside ourselves for a moment and become observers and servants of that Reality.


(4) Serving the Sacred Reality

Becoming a servant of that reality means first of all to worship it, to recognize its sacred and sacramental quality. It means that you and your beloved become the deities that you worship. Suddenly, you are not these bodies that you are possessing, but the servants of the Loving Couple.

On one plane, Radha and Krishna are cavorting in the Nitya Vihara in the Thousand-petalled lotus of your Sahasrara-chakra--

sahasra-patra-kamalaṁ gokulākhyaṁ mahat-padam
tad-karṇikāraṁ tad-dhāma tad-anantāṁśa-sambhavam

On another plane, they are manifest directly in front of you, experiencing the bliss of union, granting you the right to witness and to participate in their Divine Bhava.

This is why, although I insist that anyone attempting this should at least have some experience of līlā-smarana in manjari bhava, the direct experience of entering their bhava is a cosmic experience, enveloping the universe and giving one the realization that the entire cosmos is made of nothing but their love.

ānando brahmeti vyajānāt,
ānandād dhy eva khalv imāni bhūtāni jāyante,
ānandena jātāni jīvanti,
ānandaṁ prayanty abhisaṁviśantīti
(Taittiriya Upanishad 3.6.1)


Anonymous said...

I "get" where you are going with this Jagat, however the type of aropa that a raganuga vaishnava in the line of Sri Rupa does is to identify with asraya tattva, to merge with the identity of a manjari. This is for both the male and female sadhakas, so I'm not getting how manjari bhav upasana fits into what you are writing here. The manjari bhav male sadhak will not be inclined to identify with Krishna. That is why I assume that this type of sexual sadhana is for people who are not cultivating manjari bhav.

For manjari bhav sadhaks in an intimate relationship with a partner, one's identification as a manjari is temporarily stopped in order to facilitate the neccessary moods and methods of lovemaking.

Identification with Krishna seems to be opposed to the identification with Manjari. I don't see how that type of sexual sadhana could be incorporated by Rupanuga Vaishnavas, or rather, I don't see the attraction in it for Rupanuga Vaishnavas.

I see the attraction in a loving, creative, exciting intimate life with one's partner, and probably even the attraction of some elements of "tantrik sex", but the identification with Krishna during the sex act with a fellow manjari bhav sadhika? No, I can't see that.

Jagat said...

Clearly you misunderstood what I wrote. You are identifying as a manjari. The aropa is just the body. You are not this body.

Ramananda Das said...

Thank you Jagat, now I can have a better idea of your proposed pratice. I think that you can discuss here about the theory of this sahaja-sadhana, but it´s impossible to discuss the experience of this pratices. Better is to discuss this with like minded sahajiyas.

Pitambarji wrote to me about his sahajiya-pratice:
"my practice is one of complete let go... complete merging with Krishna be in the mood of Krishna to understand Krishna... there are no rules in this...and this is how the world will be seduced... "

To me this is acintya-bheda-abheda as you put it. To be identified with a manjari (bheda) and as Krishna (abheda) at the same time.

Sri said...

My understanding is that the sadhaks will identify as manjaris during their nama-japa, mantra-mayi upasana and lila-smaran practices but while making love will idenity as Radha and Krishna.

Is this correct?

Jagat said...

If becoming a manjari is the goal of our sadhana, why should it be any different while doing this activity?

Nor is it, as Pitambar says, about letting go. This may have the benefits that he attributes to it, but I would prefer to understand this sadhana in the context of the goal and mood of the Gaudiya acharyas.

The Gaudiya acharyas are right when they say that ahangrahopasana is not particularly useful for bhakti.

Sri said...

"If becoming a manjari is the goal of our sadhana, why should it be any different while doing this activity?"

But how can one identify as a manjari in the sexual act with another manjari? This is where I'm confused. Or are you imagining your partner to be Krishna?

Jagat said...

You and your partner are manjaris. You are serving Radha and Krishna in their Nitya Vihara.

Sri said...

But how do two manjaris serve Jugal Kishore by making love?

I thought the sahajiyas thought of themselves as Radha and Krishna or Shiv and Shakti while making love.

In the tantra tradition the male sadhak will do yoni puja of the female partner and invoke Devi into her.

I was under the impression something similar happened but in a Radha Krishna context, when sahajiyas do sexual ritual.

Ramananda Das said...

To me this letting go and identification with Krishna that Pitambar says is the same that Sadharani-Karon. I always like to remmember that at Srimad Bhagavatam, the gopis imitate Krishna playing his flute.

Now, I think that we need to some context to this pratices. Who are the sahajiyas-gurus? what about the sahajiya-shastras?

rahul said...

Having been in a relationship with a female devotee for a long time , we have not had sex after a year , are you saying we should just have sex and this will be benefit us? I am a young man and would like this , but it seems not in line.