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Showing posts from 2008

Rest in Peace, Rients

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About three months ago, my cousin Rients, whom I had not seen for several years, suddenly emailed me to tell me that he was coming to India. He had just gotten divorced and was going traveling to follow up on a long-held desire to go on a spiritual adventure.


I immediately told him to come and see me first here in Rishikesh and that is what he did. I was waiting outside in the tea stall out in front of the ashram when he went trundling past in a three-wheeler, wearing his tilley hat and khaki shorts. I went chasing after the vehicle shouting at the driver to stop, and soon we were embracing in the midday sun.

In our childhood, Rients and his family were frequent visitors to our home in Montreal. At various junctures throughout our lives, our paths crossed. When I came back from India in 1985, he was in New York, trying to make it as an artist with his dark, brooding, almost frightening chthonic visions. Much later, I saw him in Montreal when he was on his way to England to stay at a Bud…

Gita 3.3

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I have been giving a weekly class in the Bhagavad-gita at the ashram. We are currently doing the third chapter. A couple of months ago, one student gave me a Hindi edition of Osho's Karma-yoga, which is a series of lectures on the third chapter. Somewhat to my own surprise I found it not only fairly orthodox philosophically, but insightfully so.

In his discussion of 3.3, Osho made much of the introverted and extraverted personality types, which he said were these two--jnanis and karmis. Shankara, as everyone may well know, introduces the Gita with a discussion of karma and jnana, saying that jnana or consciousness alone gives liberation and that no amount of "works" will liberate one. Shankara also denies that there is any possibility of liberation by a combination of knowledge and works. Now, devotees know that our acharyas say that bhakti alone grants liberation, or the results of jnana and karma. But where is bhakti in this verse? So far, in the second and third chapte…

Radha Shyama nama

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Radhe out, Shyama in. That is all.

Actually, all such sexual meditations are dependent on a certain amount of built capacity to resist orgasm. If either partner has an orgasm, this results in a break in the meditation and thus a decrease in the pleasure.

Krishna enters the kunja where Radha awaits. Radha chants Shyama. Then Radha rushes forth to greet Krishna. Krishna chants Radhe.

Start slowly, meditating on the picture of Radha meeting Krisha in the kunja. Feel their bhava. Witness the union of the Divine Couple after you and your manjari companion have achieved the goal of your service and brought them together after a long separation. Feel the sights and sounds, smell the fragrances of their sacred bower.

Gradually build up until the chanting of Radha and Shyama's names becomes a all-encompassing explosion absorption in the sound and all else but the names are erased from the consciousness. Continue until exhausted. Then slow down and start again. Or, simply return to the eight…

Surya Kunda Tragedy

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I just heard about the sad turn of events at the annual Surya Kunda festival in honor of Siddha Madhusudana Das Babaji. Ananda writes about it on his blog, after getting first hand information from Malati. He also links to Madhumati's blog where more is available.

That is basically why we do all these things [like question the meaning of our existence], because things like this happen. May the end result be that everyone's faith, compassion and love is deepened, and not weakened.

New Dimensions

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From time to time I listen to New Dimensions, a program on New Age teachings hosted by Michael Thoms. I discovered it on the Australian Broadcasting Company, which is where I usually listen to it. This program gives me an introduction to many of the current popular meditation teachers in the West.

Today I am listening to More love, more compassion, more joy with Jack Kornfield, a Buddhist psychologist.

The reason I am blogging this is what this program is making me reflect on the differences between Vaishnavism and this new realm of popular New Age spirituality. It is also making me reflect on what I am doing here in this ashram? These thoughts are also connected to those in the post I made on Thanksgiving.

As Kornfield demonstrates in the beginning of this program, these people take pains to distinguish their activities from religion--it is a philosophy, it is practical psychology, it is a process of self-improvement, etc., anything but a religion.

This is that "scientific"…

Infatuation, Mature Love and Sahajiyaism

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Radha and Krishna's loves do not appear like mature love in the modern psychological sense to which they would appear more like "infatuation." If that is the case, then how can they be "ideal"? Are they ideal in the sense that they are supposed to be exemplary to couples who want to develop a mature relationship between them? What does Sahajiyaism have to say here?

To begin with, I am not against mature relations between the sexes. And, hopefully, the purpose of everything that I am saying will help lead to mature spirituality in which other, objectively higher realms of agape and caritas are practically realized in behavior.

So I not only honor the idea of maturity in love, but hope that all Sahajiya practitioners work to cultivate mature relationships in the modern sense. The ideas of Christian love and so on that are often refered to as superior to erotic love should be familiar territory to anyone who tries to advance in spiritual life.

But that is not exa…

A last picture of me crosslegged?

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Yesterday I went to the HIHT to check out my knee, which has been giving me a lot of trouble of late. A couple of weeks ago, I took the brisk walk through the hills to Ram Jhula and afterwards my right knee was all swollen for several days. It has been exceedingly difficult to sit crosslegged, which needless to say is a great handicap for me, with all that sitting on the floor you have to do in my profession...

The doctor told me that it was a sign of OA Arthritis. What brought it on, I don't know, but it is not uncommon in men of my age. Basically he said, "It is never going away. Watch out it doesn't get worse. That is about all you can do." And he prescribed some painkillers, which I have no intention of taking.

I have enjoyed pretty good health throughout my life, and I confess that the knee problem has affected me more than it should. I am getting used to the idea now, but I may never sit crosslegged again...

Backlogged postings

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I have a tendency to sit on posts for various reasons. Sometimes I feel it is better to think about something for a while rather than posting in the heat of the moment. It is really because I don't want to get into the kind of tit-for-tat debate that characterized Gaudiya Discussions and other forums of that type. So I often respond very belatedly, sometimes I take an objection or an argument under advisement and meditate on it, and it comes back out in some other form later on. The basic reason is just that I am a slow thinker and not particularly clever when it comes to that kind of debate.

Anyway, here are a few backdated posts that may be of interest (or not):

Samanjasa (2007-12-06) I wouldn't be surprised if I update this one again.

HIHT Annual Festival (2007-12-05) Moved to Jagat Jindagi

Swami Krishnananda's Visit (2007-12-05) Moved to Jagat Jindagi

Same Old Same Old II (2007-12-06)

I have also finished the third part of the series on Na Hanyate. If you missed that one, t…

Thanksgiving thoughts

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One of the psychological features of devotees that atheists like to complain about is that we always want to be saved. Whenever we get a little bit weak we start hollering for God to come and save us. I haven't had that mood for a long time. But still, from time to time, I start doing it.

Reading in Vivekananda's biography, it says that in his Brahma Samaj days, he could not stand "devotees who would cry emotionally, pray for God's mercy in every sentence they spoke, or repeatedly condemn themselves as lower than worms or insects. He thought that a man should hold his head up high like a man and worship God with steadfastness and unbroken resolve." (Satyendranath Majumdar, Hindi edition, p.58)

[विशेषतः भक्तों का भावावेश में रोना, बात बात में दयामय भगवान् की कृपा के लिये प्रार्थना करना, अपने को कीटानुकीट के समान हेय मानकर आत्मनिन्दा करना अदि बातों की नरेन्द्र कठोर आलोचना करते थे । वे तो यही उचित समझते थे कि पुरुष पुरुष की ही तरह मस्तक ऊंचा करके दृढ़ उद्यम और अट…

Three Verses About Radha

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With regard to Radha and Krishna as Rati and Smara (Kama):

ratiḥ sākṣād rādhā sakala-jaḍa-cil-loka-paramāramādy-atyāścaryāmbuja-dṛg aniśaṁ prārthya-dṛg-aṇuḥsmaraḥ sākṣāt kṛṣṇo'navadhi-rati-tṛpto'khila-paraḥpareśaḥ pronmīlad-ruci-jaladhi-vardhaika-rug-aṇuḥLove (Rati) is Radha herself, the highest truth of all the material and spiritual worlds. So all the goddesses from Lakshmi on down, whose eyes are as beautiful as lotuses, all pray constantly for her merciful glance. Desire (Kama) is Krishna himself, the Supreme Lord beyond everything, who always takes satisfaction in his unlimited lovemaking, who [like the moon] causes the ocean of beauty [that is Radha] to overflow with just a single ray of his light. [Prabodhananda, VMA 11.46]What is interesting about this verse is that it makes Rati and Smara the subject and Radha and Krishna are the nominal predicates. In both cases, the word sākṣāt is used to indicate complete identity. I have often pointed to the Brahma-saṁhitā verse w…

Samanjasa

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atha samañjasā— UN 14.48-51—



patnī-bhāvābhimānātmā guṇādi-śravaṇādijākvacid bhedita-sambhoga-tṛṣṇā sāndrā samañjasā
yathā tatraiva (10.52.38)—kā tvā mukunda mahatī kula-śīla-rūpa-vidyā-vayo-draviṇa-dhāmabhir ātma-tulyamdhīrā patiṁ kulavatī na vṛṇīta kanyākāle nṛ-siṁha nara-loka-mano-’bhirāmam
Now “conventional affection” (samañjasā): The [more] intense love known as samañjasā is occasionally pierced by the desire to enjoy. The essence of this love is the sense of identity and mood of being a wife. It arises from hearing about Krishna’s qualities.

The example is given in Rukmini’s letter to Krishna: “O Mukunda! O lion amongst men! When the time comes, what unmarried maid of great qualities, of clear intelligence and of good breeding would not choose as a husband someone like yourself, who is equal to herself in family, character, physical beauty, knowledge, age, wealth, and influence, and who are a source of joy to the minds of all people in this world?” (10.52.49)


samañjasātaḥ sambhoga-sp…

Sadharani

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It is important to recognize that Rupa Goswami's descriptions of Radha and Krishna's love have relevance for our understanding of human love.

For instance, let us examine Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi 14.45-58:

nātisāndrā hareḥ prāyaḥ sākṣād darśana-sambhavā
sambhogecchā-nidāneyaṁ ratiḥ sādhāraṇī matā

yathā śrī-daśame (10.48.9)—
sahoṣyatām iha preṣṭha dināni katicin mayā
ramasva notsahe tyaktuṁ sangaṁ te’mburuhekṣaṇa

Sādhāraṇī rati is defined as follows: Love for Krishna that is not particularly intense and nearly always arises after directly seeing him, and which has sexual desire at its basis, is called “common” affection.

For example, Kubja said to Krishna, “Come, my dear, and spend a few days with me. Make love to me, O lotus-eyed one, for I cannot abide the thought of leaving you.”
(10.48.9)
asāndratvād rater asyāḥ sambhogecchā vibhidyate
etasyā hrāsato hrāsas tad-dhetutvād rater api
Because the love is not particulary intense, it can be separated from the desire for sexual enjoyment. Wh…

The purpose of human sexuality is priti

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What we are really asking is the question of what is pleasure itself. What is happiness? The prayojana according to the shastras is sukham, happiness. This is the argument at the beginning of Prīti-sandarbha and that argument leads to the conclusion that it is prīti or prema for the Supreme Truth. The opposite of this, as different as day to night, is the desire for one's own self-centered sense pleasure.

So, the shastra accepts that happiness is the goal, but simply asserts that we are going about finding it in the wrong way: na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum. We are looking for our own happiness, but we don't actually know who we are.

Activities in knowledge of our true self are pleasurable; those which are not, are not.

Let me make this very clear: I am not proposing an irresponsible lust and free sex program. That just does not make any sense. When the Bhāgavata and Gītā, etc., warn about lust, they are making a valid point that needs to be made. It is principally a soci…

Is Radha and Krishna's love analogous to human love?

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I have said that the experience of human love is the only way to really understand Radha and Krishna. It is possible, of course, to argue against this by saying two things:

(1) Radha and Krishna's love is so different from human experience that there is no way to compare the two.

(2) Since the knowledge of this love is eternal and self-luminous, we do not need to seek any external worldly experience of any kind in order to understand it. It is revealed from within without any reference to what happens outside.

We have dealt with these arguments before, but the simple answers are:

(1) Since historically the accounts of Radha and Krishna's love can be said to grow out of the secular Indian love literature, and since those accounts mostly use categories developed in Sanskrit poetics, it is ludicrous to say that they cannot be compared.

(2) The entire thrust of the bhakti concept is based on the idea that we use the God-given senses to please the sense of the Divine. In other wor…

Still in Delhi

Finally got my visa extension yesterday after three days of pretty much running around, or sometimes hurrying up and waiting. From what I hear, many people in the ashram, including Swami Veda, were also working pretty hard to get things done--emailing this, that and the other to present a case to the Home Ministry. Of course, the real danger is that in another year we will have to go through this rigamarole again.

Wandering through Pahar Ganj I felt almost at home, especially as I watched from the rooftop restaurant in the Krishna Hotel, where I had been indulging in a plate of momos, a kind of Tibetan dim sum and the vegetable soup I ate with Madhavananda the night I came. Seeing the lights spreading in every direction with almost nothing but pedestrians, the atmosphere is decidedly festive and familial. If it weren't for my nose feeling like a cocaine addict's leftovers from the bad air, I thought, this place could actually grow on me.

Pahar Ganj is crowded with tourists from …

Same old, same old

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I have to thank Advaita for taking the time to respond to my October 31 posting. The fact of the matter is that it does not seem as though Advaita has read any of my arguments or that he has understood anything if he has. And so he is rehashing the same old points, which in many cases look rather like straw men, without even trying to deal with any of them.

Contradictions abound in Advaita's post, showing that like so many others who are incapable of calmly and rationally looking at an issue, they simply fire whatever lies on the surface of their brains. In the very same post he says that it is a "logical" proof that sex is for procreation because women always get pregnant from sex, then later he argues that spilling semen is not murder because they don't.

But nothing is more indicative of his bad faith than his so-called final comment:

If illicit sex would lead to enlightenment, the whole world would have been enlightened from day 1.
If he could show me where I have sai…

In Delhi

Got into Delhi last night at 10.30, after a pleasant trip with a group of young Americans who are planning a cycling trip across India visiting organic farms. I will put up his blog address when I have it with me.

Met Madhavananda with Uma at Pahar Ganj and ate with them. With his beard and soiled chaddar, he looks pretty much the same as I knew him, except for his naked neck. He fits into the Pahar Ganj scene rather seamlessly. Uma, too, with her long blond dreadlocks and Finnish charm.

They were off to Denmark on a flight at 6 in the morning. Madhava will spend the next couple of years until... well whatever happens. At least, he says, until he is able to renew his Finnish passport without fear of being sent to prison for draft evasion. He is full of stories of his encounters with nefarious chiselers and hustlers, from the gurus to the disciples. His love for Bengalis is wavering. Where is he at? We will wait until he is somewhere...

As for me, a day spent in the hope of a visa extensi…

Advaita's reversal

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Advaita recently posted the following on his blog.
Pāyūpasthayoś ca tatra sākṣād ayogyatvāt,which says one cannot use the genitals and the anus in Krishna's service, out of context. tatra means 'here', 'in this context', the context being Hari-bhakti-vilāsa 11.627-9, describing several ways in which the active- and knowledge-senses engage directly in Krishna's service, like the head in bowing down, the nose in smelling offered incense and Tulasi, etc., sākṣād means ' directly'. Sanatan Goswami states in the quoted tika that in this context the anus and genitals can not be directly engaged. My friend Brajabhushan personally wrote me last August: "Now, regarding your quote from HBV: my understanding is that the ṭīkā-kāra says that 'when describing sādhanā bhakti, various activities related to our senses were mentioned, but those related to anus and genitals were not included as they are not directly (sākṣād) suitable for the service.' That'…