Saturday, December 29, 2007

More adventures in the land of Mayavada

The first day I listened to one of the speakers, I held my peace, but wanted to say something. Finally I contented myself by giving one of my verse cards to a student here who is an ex-Iskcon devotee from Bombay. As a matter of fact, there are several members of this ashram who have a devotional background, especially a number of Oriya bhaktas who told me they had spent years in Vrindavan studying the Bhagavata. I find it hard to believe that their samskara will be so shallow as to be inaccessible. For the most part, I enthusiastically greet everyone with the words "Radhe Shyam," without for all that being obnoxious about it.

The verse I offered was the one that rang through my brain while listening to these talks,

bhava-bandha-cchide tasyai spṛhayāmi na muktaye
bhavān prabhur ahaṁ dāso jñānam yatra vilupyate
I do not aspire for the liberation that frees us from bondage to this world, if therein the awareness that you are my master and I your servant is lost.
On the last day Sanjay spoke, however, I could not resist asking the question, "If the jiva is Brahman (jīvo brahmaiva nāparaḥ) and if the purpose of the world is līlā-kaivalyam, then what is the point of liberation? If Maya is eternal, and illusion is a way for Brahma to play, meaningless like a child, why not just remain conditioned?"

I won't say he had no answer. I will say, he lost me with a series of convoluted examples.

The verses I shared with the Gurukula students were by Prabodhananda Saraswati. Since the verses are just so nice, they appreciated them, even if they did not comment on the content:

kaivalyaṁ narakāyate tridaśa-pūr ākāśa-puṣpāyate
durdāntendriya-kāla-sarpa-paṭalīṁ protkhāṭa-daṁṣṭrāyate
viśvam pūrṇa-sukhāyate vidhi-mahendrādiś ca kīṭāyate
yat-kāruṇya-kaṭākṣa-vaibhavavatāṁ taṁ gauram eva stumaḥ
To one who has received the power of Gaura's merciful glance, liberation appears like hell, the heavenly worlds like so many pies in the sky; the unconquerable senses become like snakes with the fangs removed, the universe is filled with joy everywhere, while gods like Vidhi and Mahendra are seen as of no more significance than insects. I praise that Gauranga Mahaprabhu. (Chaitanya Chandramrita)
 
alam viṣaya-vārtayā naraka-koṭi-bībhatsayā
vṛthā-śruti-kathā-śrama bata bibhemi kaivalyataḥ
pareśa-bhajanonmadāḥ santi śukādayaḥ kiṁ tataḥ
paraṁ tu rādhikā-pada-rase mano majjatu 
I have heard enough talk of sense gratification, for me it is full of the horrors of a million hells. The hard work of studying the shrutis seems to me a waste of time, for I fear the liberation of union with Brahman. If Shukadeva and other great sages are crazy about worshiping the Supreme God, what is that to me? I only pray that my mind should be absorbed in the nectar of Radhika's lotus feet.(Sudhanidhi)

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I wrote to Gopinathji recently--

Things are going very well right now, thank you, except for my difficulties with the computer. They have given me a nice office, the manuscript room, to work in. My teaching responsibilities are for the moment only a beginners class in Sanskrit. I am being well taken care of and the atmosphere and grounds are quite decent. I was a bit under the weather with a cold for a few days, nothing serious. Today I feel in fine figure, two hours of meditation and yoga exercises, regular sattvika meals. I am made for ashram life.

I should be able to throw myself into the Bhagavat-sandarbha in a day or two with the utsahamayi spirit. I think Mais the Bhagavat-sandarbha (and Paramatma-sandarbha) will be the perfect recipe to follow in a place surrounded by "Mayavadis." I am showing a bit of good-natured resistance, and all I can say is that everyone is very pleasant.

Gopinath answered,
Sure, you are made for ashram life, but good luck with the mayavadis. They are very pleasant as long as they think they are superior to you and that the sectarian Vaishnavas are limited.

But Swami Veda is well aware of my orientation and in all our meetings he has been a perfect gentleman. There is a certain generosity of spirit where differences of belief are concerned that accompanies Mayavada. There is no reason that Vaishnavas cannot adopt this attitude. Even if we accept the supremacy of one particular form of God, which we call svayam bhagavan, this is our ishta. Everyone should think that their own ishta and their own path is superior; but it is really superior in the sense of being suitable to the person to recognizes it as such.

6 comments:

Madhavananda said...

Of course, a clever illusionist would point to a flawed premise in the question you posed:

"In truth, there is no question of bondage and liberation: asaGgo hy ayaM puruSaH is the sole reality. Both liberation and bondage are imaginary."

As the greatest bhagavata sees everyone imbued with bhagavat-bhava, so the greatest jnani perceives everyone as the infiinte, transcendent self; neither of the two consider bondage factual or substantial.

Now, from our perspective there appears to be superimposition there, the bondage seems factual enough. Then, is the uttama-purusa superimposing unreality upon reality, or is our perspective partial or warped? The "truth" of the matter we'll only get to know once we get up there and share the perspective, eh? That's why they called illusion anirvacaniya, I suppose.

shiva said...

Madhavananda your "clever" response is contrary to what Advaitins believe. Jagat got it right in his question. Advaitins believe liberation is the goal and that a person is in bondage until liberated. They don't believe that liberation is imaginary, nor that bondage is imaginary. You mistake their conception of maha maya or illusion with imaginary. What they actually mean is mistaking one thing for something else, the ropa-snake analogy is commonly used by them to explain this i.e. one mistakes his self to be something other then Brahman causing continued bondage and suffering. If the person attains perfect awareness of ones inherent oneness with Brahman then he attains moksha, uncovers his natural state.

Imaginary implies "existing only in the mind", but Advaitins don't consider those in bondage to only exist in bondage in their minds, they believe in karma where people are in physical bondage to their past actions. Also moksha is not thought to be imaginary, rather it is thought to be the pure state of the atma when it is free from maya.

Jagat, I've had plenty of interaction with Advaitins, they do tolerate bhakti, but it is a limited tolerance, I would be careful if I were you if you value your job and reputation in their community.

Jagat said...

Thank you Shiva for your advice. I believe I am heeding it, though I should probably not have used a word like charabia publicly. But I am respectful of the people here and do not cause trouble. After all, we do all believe in a single Advaya tattva, and there is much that an achintya-bhedabheda-vadi can learn from an abheda-vadi. I don't feel nervous or challenged; quite the contrary.

Harisaran said...

>>>I think Mais the Bhagavat-sandarbha (and Paramatma-sandarbha) will be the perfect recipe to follow in a place surrounded by "Mayavadis." I am showing a bit of good-natured resistance, and all I can say is that everyone is very pleasant.<<<
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Interesting how you added the Portuguese word Mais. It appears that you are having a dialog with a Portuguese speaker... Or that word has a different meaning?

Anyhow, whatever it is, it is fine with me. Since you are in a Mayavad Ashram, what I would like to say is that I heard from a disciple of Srila Haridas Shastri that he (SHS) following the oder of his Vaishnava Guru, lived in Varanasi for many years and studied Vedanta. Would you confirm or agree with that information?

krishnadasa said...

Hari Saran, it is true. I read a short biography of Haridasa Sastri. It was penned by Satya Narayana Das. Sastriji spent 12 years in Varanasi, he lived on raw food. He never accepted a single invitation to eat anywhere.

mystic_vivek said...

Shiva, your comment on understanding of Advaitins on only based on vyavaharika concept of brahman they have. But from a paramartika viewpoint brahman is the sole reality ; nothing else exists at all. So when nothing other than brahman exists at all then where is the question of liberation ultimately. There is nothing except a singular reality ultimately. Also there are many different advaitins and to bracket them together is the greatest mistake possible. Also Saiva siddhanta also has some other metaphysical conclusions.