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Showing posts from November, 2007

Anuradha's question

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"It is commonly assumed that the nature of spirituality is not only fundamentally different from ordinary experience, but that this difference is vastly superior. From this it is concluded that the tests of truth or meaning used for ordinary experience are not relevant for the so-called higher truths that guru and religions offer. This age-old separation of the spiritual from the worldly is deeply embedded in all of civilization. We view this split as tragic, and at the core of the fragmentation prevalent in the contemporary human psyche. The inner battle between the presumed higher and lower (or good and bad) parts of oneself often binds people with conflict by making them unable to accept themselves as whole human beings." (The Guru Papers; masks of authoritarian power by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad)

Jagat, do you agree ?
It is commonly assumed that the nature of spirituality is not only fundamentally different from ordinary experience, but that this difference is vastly su…

Prakirnaka

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These verses were posted by me in 2003 on Gaudiya Discussions, "Pearls of Wisdom". I came across them as the result of a Google search (in fact, some of them I had completely forgotten), so I am just crossposting them here for the record, as they are so nice, with a few editing changes.

A nice simple prayer. I believe it may be Haridas Shastri's own composition.

vaiṣṇave prītir āstāṁ me prītir āstāṁ prabhor guṇesevāyāṁ prītir āstāṁ me prītir ārtiś ca kīrtaneāśrite prītir āstāṁ me prītiś ca bhajanonmukheātmani prītir āstāṁ me kṛṣṇa-bhaktir yathā bhavetMay I have love for the Vaishnavas.
May I have love for the Lord's qualities.
May I have love for service.
May I have love and enthusiasm for Harinam Kirtan.
May I have love for those who have taken refuge in the Lord.
May I have love for those who even have a desire to engage in bhajan.
May I have love for my own eternal self,
by which devotion to Krishna comes about.aiśa-buddhi-vāsitātma-loka-vṛnda-durlabhāvyakta-rāga-…

William Blake's 250th birthday today

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God appears, and God is Light,
To those poor souls who dwell in Night;
But does a Human Form display
To those who dwell in realms of Day.

Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.
For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.
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Verses for the hell of it

Out of a simple need to fix my mind, I am posting some unconnected verses plucked at random from my cards.

केचिद्दास्यमवापुरुद्धवमुखाः श्लाघ्यं परे लेभिरे
श्रीदामादिपदं व्रजाम्बुजदृशां भावं च भेजुः परे ।
अन्ये धन्यतमा धयन्ति मधुरं राधारसाम्भोनिधिं
श्रीचैतन्यमहाप्रभोः करुणया लोकस्य काः सम्पदः ॥
Some, led by Uddhava, attained the mood of service, others the laudable goal of friendship like that of Sridama. Yet others attained the mood of the lotus-eyed women of Vraja. The most fortunate of all raced towards the ocean of Radha rasa. What wealth came to the world as a result of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy! (Chaitanya Chandramrita)
क्वचित्कृष्णावेशान्नटति बहुभंगीमभिनयन्
क्वचिद्राधाविष्टो हरि हरि हरीत्यार्तरुदितः ।
क्वचिद्रिंगन् बालः क्वचिदपि च गोपालचरितो
जगद्गौरो विस्मापयति बहुभंगीमधुरिमा ॥
Gaura amazed the universe with his sweet variety of moods. Sometimes he became absorbed in the character of Krishna and would begin dancing with a variety of gestures; sometimes he took on the mood of Radha …

Nice song by Kavi Vallabha

This song is sometimes attributed to Vidyapati, but Hare Krishna Mukhopadhyaya credits it to Kavivallabha, which sounds to me like a pseudonym. It is the only song known by this Mahajan, who seems very talented and has surely done other things. I'll bet it can be found under other names, too.

I spoke on this song at St-Agathe on Saturday. An audience of three graying and balding old men--my age, as it were. This song describes anurāga, in which the beloved, though experienced constantly, seems at every moment to be completely new and refreshing.

sakhi he ! ki puchasi anubhava moya
soi pirīti, anurāga bākhānite
tile tile nautuna hoya Oh sakhi ! Why do you ask me about what I feel? How can I explain this intense loving feeling, which seems newer and newer with every passing moment.janama avadhi hāma, rūpa nehāralun
nayana nā tirapita bhela
lākha lākha yuga, hiye hiye rākhalun
taba hiye juḍana nā bhela Throughout my life I have been able to see Krishna's beauty, but my eyes have never…

Qualities of a Vaishnava in Govinda-lilamrita

tṛptāv anya-janasya tṛptim ayitā duḥkhe mahā-duḥkitālabdhaiḥ svīya-sukhāli-duḥka-nicayair no harṣa-bādhodayāḥsveṣṭārādhana-tat-parā iha yathā śrī-vaiṣṇava-śreṇayaḥkās tā brūhi vicārya candra-vadane tā mad-vayasyā imāḥ
Krishna says, “O hey Chandra-vadane Radhe! Just think for a moment, then answer me this: Who are happy on seeing others’ happiness and distressed on seeing their distress? Who are neither elated by personal happiness nor perturbed by their own suffering? And who serve the objects of their love here in Vrindavan with the same steadfast love as the saintly Vaishnavas serving their Lord?”

Radhika answers, “Oh! You are surely talking about my dearest sakhis, Lalita, Vishakha and the others!” (13.113)
Rasa-tarangini Tika: Vrindavan Chakravarti points out that the reference to devotees indicates that these qualities are present to a greater or lesser degree in all Vaishnavas, from Narada and Prahlada to present-day mahatmas like Sanatan Goswami and other followers of Sri Chaita…

Temporary lull in posting

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I am a bit busy and my head is not clear enough to write anything meaningful. I will get back as soon as I can and clear the backlog of posts that have been started.

I have to say that I am a little excited about going to Rishikesh. There are not many good pictures of the ashram online, though there are many of Rishikesh itself. I kind of liked this one of a sadhu resting in front of a sign that says "This bathing ghat is for women only."


He has no doubt transcended gender altogether, or perhaps he is absorbed in sakhi bhava! And for those of you who think I am really thick, sakhi-bhava IS beyond gender.

Prayer and utopia

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[This is a late posting from 11-01-2008, so there may be erroneous references.]

Once again, a commentary on religion at the Guardian Comment is Free page (Let us Pray) has sparked hundreds of commentaries. Theo Hobson has a liberal approach to Christianity, so his comments on prayer are an attempt to understand it spiritually and in a psychologically progressive manner:

The atheist account of prayer has very little connection to the reality. The believer does not pray in order to try to influence God's will. Instead, he's trying to influence his own will, to make it conform to his worldview. Prayer is essentially a matter of saying "Help me, God, to be what I should be." The believer acknowledges a conflict between what he is naturally inclined to be, and what he feels he should strive to be. I suppose such a conflict is totally unknown to the atheists, who feel that they effortlessly realise moral perfection in their daily lives.

Also, the believer reminds himself of…

Sakhi-bhava in Sanskrit Kavya Literature

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The development of the phenomenon of Radha Krishna madhura-rasa bhakti came through the poetic tradition. Whatever the bhakti tradition and the development of Vishnu-Krishna as the worshipable deity owes to the religious culture of India, it is clear that the figure of Radharani owes more to the poetic tradition. Similarly, whatever the sources for the development of Vaishnava theology, most details of the madhura lila, including sakhī-bhāva, can be traced to developments in kavya literature. It is thus little wonder that Rupa Goswami chose to look to the poetic tradition to map out hierarchies in the understanding of bhakti theology as well.

Even though from the point of view of the devotees, the lila is completely transcendental, from the historical point of view, the lila has adopted a great many of the conventions of the Sanskrit poetic and dramatic tradition, especially where madhura rasa is concerned. This is as true for sakhi-bhava as it is for many of the other elements. To ex…

Shukas and Saris Discuss Mana

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This verse from the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi keeps coming to me—

aher iva gatiḥ premṇaḥ svabhāva-kuṭilā bhavet
tasmād dhetor ahetoś ca yūnor mānam udañcati
The path of love is as naturally crooked at that of a snake. Therefore lovers quarrel, sometimes with good reason, and sometimes for no reason at all. (UN 15.102) This is the difference between Gaudiyas and Nityaviharis. The latter see no usefulness in māna from the point of view of rasa, whereas the Gaudiyas (a pox on them!!) do. Why? Because that is somehow at once an integral part of the essence of loving relationships, which have a permanent, innate dialectic in them.

The word māna ("measure, weight" -- "self worth" -- "pride") has two different uses. One is the kind of frustrated anger and displeasure that is half explicable, half not, and seemingly causes a distance to grow between lovers. That is the meaning in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi chapter 15.74-146. The other meaning, from chapter 14, is a sthayi-bhava, whi…

Hypersexualisaton des jeunes

I was watching for the second time a conference on the Canal Savoir, the subject of which was L'hypersexualisation des jeunes.Website. Five different speakers, each of whom confirmed different aspects mentioned in Robert Jensen's work on pornography yesterday.

Furthermore, I heard an interview with Brian Vallée, who has written a book called War On Women, in which he continues his documentation of abuse of women. Very depressing material.

I only note this here because of my firm belief that there is a problem. And that we have to be part of the solution.

Pornography and the End of Masculinity

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I just caught the last bit of a CBC interview with Robert Jensen, author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. There was a great deal in this man’s ideas that resonated very strongly with me. Indeed, the words with which he ends his book verbalize one aspect of my own core concept very clearly: “I renounce masculinity and choose instead to be a human being.”

Commenting on this statement, Jensen says that the model of masculinity that is the norm in our society, and is promoted in pornography (“a window to the sexual imaginations of our culture”) is toxic. It is based on ideas of conquest and control and hence leads directly to aggression and violence. It perpetuates and enhances sexual and racial stereotypes that have well-known negative consequences for both men and women.

The increasingly pornographic culture of the West, and the predatory corporate capitalist system behind it, promote a cruel and misogynistic vision of women. It undermines the essential feminine qua…

Not a bhakti anga?

Here I go again. Stop me if you have heard all this before.

I heard through a grapevine that a particular GM sannyasi said that lovemaking between devotees is not one of the 64 angas of devotion, and so could never be considered a valid practice for Gaudiya Vaishnavas.

I hold that loving intimacy with another devotee can indeed be considered an important anga of bhakti in the cultivation of madhura rasa.

Sadhu-sanga is a bhakti anga, and touching the devotee is an element of sadhu-sanga. But it is not the touching in itself, it is the accompanying feelings of love. Bhakti is of two kinds, that practiced externally and that practiced internally. The former is supposed to lead to the latter.

Bhakti means feeling, cultivating feeling. If making physical love did not have the potential to create and aid in the cultivation of such feeling, I would say, OK, you are right, it has no possible role in bhakti yoga. But the very concept of madhura rasa depends on the presumption that it does. Even t…

The meme's eye view

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It is interesting that atheistic humanism is more often than not associated with the political left, while belief in God is, especially in America, immediately identified with the socially conservative right. This kind of prejudice is clear on The Guardian "Comment is Free" pages, where there are often articles discussing different aspects of religion, and any positive comment is invariably clubbed viciously by strongwilled leftists. Recent examples are Sue Blackmore's A Dangerous Delusion and Dave Hill, who in Faith and the Left, asks for a more nuanced understanding of religion without abandoning his own atheist credentials.

Blackmore is basically rehashing the currently ubiquitous Richard Dawkin's ideas, including that of the meme, the cultural equivalent of genes. Dawkins first came into prominence by suggesting that genes themselves were engaged in a struggle for survival, and that all evolution could be looked at from the point of view of the genes, the fittest …

Harināmāmṛtam grammar

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I have quite a bit of work to do before leaving for India. I am trying to juggle several tasks, and when that happens, I usually short-circuit and do the least urgent thing on my program. And that, for me, is the Grantha Mandir. Since I spent the whole weekend going through the first thirty pages of Satya Narayan Dasji's Bhagavat-sandarbha, which has quite a number of references to Sanskrit grammar texts, including Jiva's Harināmāmṛtam, and since it seems I am going to be spending time teaching Sanskrit in India, I though I would try to do a bit of Harināmāmṛta-vyākaraṇa.

In Nabadwip, back in 1976 or thereabouts, I started studying HNV with Kunjabihari Brahmachari at the Devanananda Gaudiya Math. I did not last very long. I have already gone past the point that we reached after several lessons. I was memorizing the verses and sutras with him. But since my Bengali was not very good and the Brahmachari's English was worse, we did not make much progress. I can still remember …

Child prostitution and India

Yesterday I was at Kutichak's place in Ste-Agathe and we got into a conversation with a guest about India. As is often the case in Hare Krishna circles, Kutichak at one point launched into an ardent defense of India. It is easy for Westerners to see all the negative that is there in India--the poverty is usually what springs to mind first, but the litany of complaints piles up pretty quickly when one tries to live or function there.

But something that is little discussed is child prostitution. Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times, who often writes about third world issues, wrote this article about The 21st century slave trade, indicating that this very unsavory practice is alive and well in India. Pedophilia is apparently a deeply-rooted sickness that has adepts in all corners of the globe. Marcus Gee's report in Saturday's Globe and Mail (For today's pedophiles, it's all too easy) about child sex tourism shows the extent to which such activities are prevalent i…

Nayanananda on Mahaprabhu

From the poet Nayanananda--


cāri veda ṣaṭ daraśana paṛiyāchese jadi gauranga nahi bhajekiba tāra adhyayana locana-vihīna jenadarapaṇe andhe kibā kāje?
Someone who studies the four Vedas and the six philosophical systems, but does not worship Lord Gauranga, has wasted his time in study. Of what use is a mirror to a blind man?
veda vidyā dui kichui nā jānatase jadi gaurāṅga jāne sārnayanānanda bhaṇe sei se sakali jānesarva siddhi karatale tār
Whereas one who has no knowledge of the Veda or any other matter, if he knows just this, that Gauranga is the essence of all things, says Nayanananda, he knows everything that needs to be known, and all perfections are within his grasp.

Gita Govinda, Commentary by Prabodhananda

I just uploaded a new version of Gīta-govinda to the Grantha Mandir, with the commentary atttributed to Prabodhananda. Here are a few notes I jotted down while working on it, with no real theme.

I can't tell you how, even with my limited sensibility, the Gīta-govinda shows its power. Just repeat these pieces of Sanskrit and let the rhythm and power of the words penetrate you. We cannot yet translate these words. We have other words that are true to our experience. But there is a rawness in Jayadeva; even in all the exaggeration there is a truth.

vasati vipina-vitāne, tyajati lalita-dhāma  luṭhati dharaṇi-śayane, bahu vilapati tava nāma He dwells in the wide forest,
He has given up his pleasant home.
He lies restlessly, trying to sleep on the ground
And repeats unceasingly your name. Prabodhananda in his commentary says that dhāma has many meanings--the body, home, effulgence, place, birth, influence. When it says that Krishna has given up his lalita-dhāma, it means in a sense tha…