Thursday, December 13, 2007

Leaving for India Today

So the day has been getting imperceptibly closer and is finally here. My flight is this evening and I have a lot of last minute preparations still to do. My books are still filling their shelves, their future uncertain. Countless photocopied pages lie piled up in boxes, some dating back to undergraduate days, waiting in futility for one kernel of wisdom to be picked up, one significant quote to be cited in a magnum opus, and which now will most likely be forever overlooked.

I spent much of the last two days scanning books and articles into PDF format. I wish that I had done much more, but now that will have to wait. At least much of what I will need to consult for the work I know I will have to do in the next few months is available to me for consultation.

The following verse comes to mind--

pustaka-sthā tu yā vidyā para-hasta-gataṁ dhanam
kārya-kāle samutpanne na sā vidyā na tad dhanam
Knowledge that is in books is like money in another's hand. When the time to use it comes, neither the knowledge nor the money serve their purpose.
I had to hassle with my bank to get them to give me the money due on a check that has been waiting for three weeks to clear. Finally, the manager acquiesced and so I will have some cash for my trip. And now I am looking at all these books, all this knowledge, that is as ephemeral as money. And at the time of death, it is not even knowledge that will be of any great help, it is only the bhakti, the prema that will see us through, that will make us worthy.

So here I go. Prema prayojan. I will post again as soon as I can.


Someone pointed out to me Gaurasundar's comment over on Advaita's blog: "Lately all he ever seems to talk about is sex." Hmm. Checked over the posts dating back quite a way, and other than this throwaway gift from the HBV to Advaita Dasji, I don't find anything about sex since Nov. 14.

Of course, I don't mind the accusation, because I do believe that Radha and Krishna do have something to do with sex. Not only that, but I think that NOT recognizing that is a problem.


Kind of interesting reading Shashibhushan Dasgupta's Rādhā Krama Vikāśa. (It is so entertaining to read this book by a genuine scholar, which nevertheless cannot help but be imbued with bhakti, just because it is written in Bengali! The language itself resonates with devotion, especially when he draws the parallels between Chaitanya and Radha, how Chaitanya's bhavas made Radharani a reality... but more about that another time.)

Dasgupta says, with a great deal of bonhomie, that basically, śakti-vāda is as old as India, even older than the Vedas. It has a prominence in India that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. After pointing out how all gods in the Indian pantheon have their śakti counterparts, śakti-śaktimān, prakṛti-puruṣa, etc, he concludes that no one in India would ever fail to draw the conclusion that Radha and Krishna represent another chapter in this story.


"Gaurasundara das" said...

Radhe Radhe, Jagatji. It has been some time since we last spoke.

All the best for your trip. I notice that I have been mentioned on your blog today. To be honest, my comments about your views on Advaitadas' blog were written in a bit of a haste, so obviously I was not given the chance to outline my opinion properly.

This is also why I don't appreciate tattletales (I assume it was a tattletale who told you about my comment) because, ever so often, misunderstandings occur about what anyone said and what they meant by them.

First of all, I was not "accusing" you of anything. After all, this is your blog and you can write whatever you want on it. Of course, I also have the right to agree or disagree with your views, but it is my lookout if I want to continue reading your views or not.

Of course there are sexual connotations to Radha-Krishna. To not acknowledge that in a sampradaya with beliefs like ours is nothing short of stupid denial. However, my understanding of Radha-Krishna-lila is severely junior to yours and you certainly have a better grasp of those topics than I do. I simply disagree with your choice of path vis-a-vis experiencing that divine sexual love in our own lives. Perhaps I am not doing justice to your position but that is how I view it, the "sahajiya" position is what I am objecting to. I simply do not accept that one can "realise" the orgasmic nature of that love by emulating that behaviour on the physical plane. Neither do I accept the distinction between "sattvic" sex and other forms of sex. I believe this is an artificial classification.

Aside from your apparently not having discussed sex in your blog since Nov. 14, I was extremely disturbed to read a post entirely about toilets. What was more offensive that that was your characterisation of Krishna as 'bhangi-bihari'. I'm not going to insult your intelligence, Jagat, since you have a lot of experience in all things Indian, but surely you knew that that term would have been incredibly upsetting to a large number of people when you understand the meaning of 'bhangi'?

Frankly speaking, Jagat, I have come at a point in my life where I have to acknowledge what I term as reality. What I speak of here is a war of beliefs; you believe 'this' and I believe 'that', it doesn't amount to much in my opinion. So in the ultimate sense of things I do not give these debates any importance these days since they tend to be based on ephemeral foundations. This is why I appreciated your commentary on Hitchen's article the other day; I know that Hitchens is a vocal atheist who publicly ridicules religion and religionists with a bark louder than Richard Dawkins'. I am familiar with the works of Dawkins as a couple of his texts were required reading during my undergraduate psychology course (which I happily passed, by the way), and I just borrowed Hitchens' book from the library today and am about to begin reading it.

At the outset, I can tell you that I have long despaired of atheist arguments because they often tend to attack the Judaeo-Christian framework of religion and apply the same principles to other religions without adequately explaining the how and why. In any case, reading Dawkins' 'God Delusion' almost bored me to tears because, while he did have some good arguments, did not quite hit the mark. I am told that Hitchens is more brutal and so am looking forward to reading his views.

I digress. I meant to say that I appreciated your article about Romney and Hitchens the other day. Forgive me for reducing your view down to barely two sentences, but I totally got your view that Hitchens did not seem to get "the point" of religion. The question is, who can say that anyone has got the point of religion? Have we got the point? Is religion nothing more than a method to fulfil our emotional need to believe in "something more"? Do atheists have a point when they characterise believers as intellectual cowards? Do they appear to live happier and more fulfilled lives than ours? Who can say? It is so subjective. Frankly Jagat, I don't think you did a good job of explaining why Hitchens is wrong either. Simply stating that "he just doesn't get it" isn't enough for some people. This points to how robust our arguments for the existence of God really are.

So to get back to the point, Jagat, and excuse me for rambling on for so long, but I just do not see the point of all these long theories and arguments. At this stage in my life I prefer not to think too much about airy-fairy things that appear to have no direct effect or influence in my life. This example about sex is a perfect example of a storm in a teacup, who really cares? If it is your view that sex is important to gain an understanding of Radha-Krishna lila, that is great for you and there may be those who disagree with you. I disagree with Advaitadas' fundamentalism as much as I disagree with your liberalism, and I think I am at a point in my life where I tend to take the "middle way" on such things. How Buddhist is that? :)

So, I'm sure you can understand, Jagat, that while people may appear to support or criticise a particular position, I myself tend to have my own opinions on certain issues. I'm sure you can grant me that liberty.

- Gaurasundara

"Gaurasundara das" said...

Perhaps I should qualify my statements somewhat, lest everyone think I have become an atheist!

What I mean to say is that, at this point in my life, I find it helpful to acknowledge that spirituality is an incredibly private part of one's life. So these days I feel quite uncomfortable with the idea of "preaching" in a public format. Many a time I have listened to a preacher (from any affiliation) and wondered to myself: "How convinced is this guy of what he preaches? Does he himself fully believe or fully understand what he is saying?" And many a time I feel that they don't, because it strikes me that should they hear their own voice they may realise how silly they sound.

This is a reason for why I haven't written anything on my own blog for a while. I have just written a new post about my feelings for a Mahabharata figure, but that's about it. Perhaps my feelings on using blogs to reveal private thoughts on spirituality may change in the future (as we ourselves ever-change), but not now.

Jagat said...

Thank you for your intelligent letter, Gaurasundarji. I know quite well that you are struggling with all these matters. BTW, I do look in on Advaita's blog from time to time, almost to the exclusion of any other, and thus no tattle-tales are required.

I don't expect everyone to understand my way of seeing Radha-Krishna lila. But I don't think you have it in you to be a celibate. So what is your alternative? Recreational sex? Procreational sex? How about Radha-Krishna conscious sex?

Maybe that would help you get over Dawkins and Hitchens. For them the world is wonderful without God. That dimension is missing. They can live good, moral, intellectually and sensually satisfying lives. All the best to them, they are still missing the wonder of bhakti rasa.

I know that this is 100% true for you, my friend. You are a devotee, but because of this one confusion, your commitment wavers and bhakti-rasa little more than a theory.

There: This is my blog and I can say what I like... All the best to you Gaura. You are smart and eloquent, and I sincerely pray that all auspiciousness comes to you. Radhe Radhe.

Anonymous said...

Gaurasundar: I simply do not accept that one can "realise" the orgasmic nature of that love by emulating that behaviour on the physical plane.

I think I see where Sanjay might be misunderstanding something: I don't think Jagat ascribes an "orgasmic" nature to Radha-Krsna's love, and that it should be realised as such, by emulation or any other means. As far as I understand, Jagat in fact suggests the opposite, that a concentrated pursuance of a moment of absolute culmination is the very anticlimax of the experience of love.

Radha-Krsna's sexual act is not isolated from any of their other activities. Here in this world sexuality has to be managed carefully, for we jivas suffer the perverted reflection effect. In the free world of the spirit, the nonperverted source, that absolute act of union, hints at greater and greater levels of purity, permanence and therefore ananda, truth, in the love act of the Deity. The atmarama aspect of the Absolute is subservient to His aspect of raso-vai-saha. As atmarama He lacks Ananda, identity. Thus for the Absolute (and unlike for us here), union with His/Her beloved is not a recreational option among many other options, but Their very source of being. In uniting, Their feeling of satiation is achieved by becoming one, a permanently fused unit, simoultaneously feeling and causing each other's pleasure. And from such, consciousness, Caitanya, and its consequence, Nitya-ananda, results.

But of course, we jivas are always free to experience whatever else we may choose.