Thursday, November 08, 2007

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 that he has abandoned all of them; like a yogi going to live in the forest, he no longer cares for the attractive beauty of his own form. He has become wan and lost his bright effulgence.

When it says luṭhati dharaṇi-śayane, Prabodhananda writes, "He rolls in the holy dust of Vrindavan, which has been drenched in the nectar flowing from your lotus feet."

Song 19 of GG is probably the most famous of all. It is really worth chanting the Sanskrit, as its rhythms are powerful.

tvam asi mama jīvanaṁ / tvam asi mama bhūṣaṇam
tvam asi mama bhava-jaladhi-ratnam 
bhavatu bhavatīha mayi / satatam anurodhinī
tatra mama hṛdayam atiyatnam 4
You are my life, you are my ornament, you are the jewel in the ocean of my existence. My heart is devoted to winning back your favor for all time.
That combination of bhūṣaṇaṁ and jīvanaṁ comes up elsewhere, like in Sanatan Goswami's verse glorifying the Holy Name--paramam amṛtam eka jīvanaṁ bhūṣaṇaṁ me.

pratyūhaḥ pulakāṅkureṇa niviḍāśleṣe nimeṣeṇa ca
krīḍākūta-vilokite’dhara-sudhā-pāne kathā-narmabhiḥ
ānandādhigamena manmatha-kalā-yuddhe’pi yasminn abhūd
udbhūtaḥ sa tayor babhūva suratārambhaḥ priyambhāvukaḥ
As the battle of the love arts began,
there arose so many obstacles--
When they tried to embrace each other forcefully,
they were covered in goose bumps;
when they tried to look thirstily at each other,
their eyes still blinked;
As they drank the nectar of each other's lips,
they could not stop speaking loving words to one another--
The overwhelming joy that overcame them
was the biggest obstacle of all.
Thus truly was this beginning of their lovemaking
dear to them both. (12.10)
Rupa Goswami's point, which I think is very important, and this is where the Gaudiyas differ from most of the other madhura-rasa sampradāyas, is that he says that all the things that surround their lovemaking--including separation, etc., are just as important elements in the lila as the actual lovemaking itself. Some of these other people only think of Radha and Krishna making love.

Well, that is not so far off either, nor can it be denied. It is when RK are in separation that they are thinking most intensely of every element of their physical closeness. So, in one sense, that is the reality. Radha and Krishna are always, in some dimension, in the nitya-vihāra, eternal union. But what Rupa is talking about is the human adventure in love: the realization of some fragment of eternal perfection that somehow represents the central point of our aspirations, the glow from which light pulses outward.

Thus as I read this material, I cannot think how Jayadeva separated Radha and Krishna from his own relationship with Padmavati. He mentions her name several times, which is quite unusual for literature of the period. Mothers, fathers, gurus... they often get a mention, but a wife? The only other I can think of offhand is Chandidas quite a few generations later, but no doubt a brother in the spirit of sorts. It is as though Jayadeva is saying, "I would never have been able to write this, I would never have had the insight into this lila if I had not been graced with Padmavati's association. She is my shakti."

Gita Govinda is very sexy though. I mean, for Jayadeva, love is very physical. There is no spiritual idealism in it. It is all about the sensual experience. It is this distilled essence of sexuality. Of course, it does idealize the physicality of it to some extent, though it never becomes pornographic as in the crude "money-shot" closeup of genitals pumping away.

Here, there are kokilas singing, flowers strewn on a petal bed in the forest bower. Everything is lovely. It is more like a kind of soft porn, filmed in amber tones with new-age music in the background, and everything has a dreamy quality, like a midsummer night's dream, even with the other elements that surround the final union and Radha's manifestation as the svādhīna-bhartṛkā.

I cannot see how anyone can read this as a metaphor for anything. It is the idealized poetic lovers of Sanskrit poetry, and because they are idealized--perfect beauty, perfect love, perfect union--they are identified as gods.

I keep saying that this has to be a problem. You can take it like some people do, i.e., as a green light for uninhibited sexual indulgence... and I can almost accept that. It's a neverworld, though. A fantasy, which we can get some vision of. Nevertheless, I think that most definitely we have to isolate the Gīta-govinda vision, that "pastoral" vision, and separate it out from the realism that comes with the complexities of modernity, allow that element of mature realism to coexist and influence our understanding of this Divine Couple of ours.

I have become persuaded as I read the Gīta-govinda that even if it is not stated explicitly, it shares something verses like these from the Shiva Purana--

śakti-śaktimad-uttham tu śākta-śaivam idam jagat
strī-puṁsa-prabhavaṁ viśvaṁ strī-puṁsātmakam eva ca
paramātmā śivaḥ proktaḥ śivā māyeti kathyate
puruṣaḥ parameśānaḥ prakṛtiḥ parameśvarī
śaṅkaraḥ puruṣāḥ sarve striyaḥ sarvā maheśvarī

This world came out of the combination of Śakti and Śaktimān, so it is pervaded everywhere by Śiva and Śakti. The world is born out of the combination of man and woman, and so is pervaded everywhere by maleness and femaleness. The Paramātmā is Śiva  the all-auspicious, and the Creative Power, Maya, is Śivā  the all-auspicious. The masculine principle is Śiva and the feminine principle is Parameśvarī. So all men in the universe are Śaṅkara, and all women are Maheśvarī.
So that is stated in terms of Śiva and Śakti  but Radha and Krishna is really the same thing. This is, of course, the bahiraṅga (external) lila of the Lord. It is not the ultimate truth, but it is still an important aspect of understanding the entire picture.

Radhe Radhe !

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I used a decent amount of drugs myself in the recent past. Marihuana, Magic Mushrooms, a lot of XTC (sometimes in combination with Viagra), GHB, Speed and I tried Cocaine twice (which I completely disliked).

When I go through Pitambars' writings I can't help but compare those realizations with the ones I had being on all kinds of hard drugs. But sobering up to the realities of life those realizations didn't stand. And how much I wanted to unite my hardcore lifestyle with the beauty of vaisnava religion.......... it failed and left me looking ridiculous. My non-vaisnava and vaisnava friends both refered to me as... the big hypocrite.

Anonymous with a reason.

Jagat said...

A devotee reading this sent me the following link, The Gita Govinda: A Journey Into Realms Of Delight. It is a pretty decent article.

There is quite a bit of material on line about the Gita Govinda. The GGM, which usually scores quite high with many Sanskrit texts, is out of the picture on this one. Narayan Maharaj's very decent translation and commentary is available in PDF format and there are numerous other translations available on-line as well.