Interesting day, yesterday. First a lengthy class and discussion with Satya Narayan, and then a visit to Haridas Shastri. I spent the earlier part of the day indulging in my greatest distraction and perhaps the bane of my existence, typing a book, the Sarva-siddhānta-saṅgraha, attributed to Shankaracharya, but clearly not. Even here, in the section on Nyaya, the following verse is found—
vaiśeṣikokta-mokṣāt tu sukha-leśa-vivarjitāt 40
yo veda-vihitair yajṣair īśvarasya prasādataḥ
mūrcchām icchati yatnena pāṣāṇavad avasthitim 41
I prefer to be a jackal in the beautiful land of Vrindavan rather than accept the liberation of the Vaiseshikas, which is without even a drop of happiness. By performing the Vedic sacrifices, they strive laboriously to attain, by God’s grace, a state like that of a stone. (9.40-41)
Nice to see Vrindavan get a mention, even though it is sort of a mute glorification. Still, sounds like there is a speck of Prabodhananda in there.
I won’t spend too much time recounting Satya Narayan Dasji’s lecture, which was based on an email exchange he had with a certain devotee now living in South Africa, who had decided to share his “realizations,” namely that all was consciousness, and that phenomena, of this world or of Vaikuntha, were all simply illusions. Satya Narayan Dasji wrote back a funny letter suggesting why not go all the way and say that consciousness too is an illusion, as some Buddhists have it, and declare that illusion is the only reality.
But if I were to filter out one thought, it was his discussion of this age of information. Because so much information is available to us, we are fooled into thinking that we have knowledge. And not only do we think we have knowledge, but we also think foolishly that we have to clutter up the ether with our observations and “realizations.”
So he made fun of blogging, too, which is just another part of that overdose of information and artificial idea that makes us believe that fanning the flames of information overload somehow makes our existence meaningful. Oh well, I guess I am a slave to my nature, so here I am, blogging. The message is being passed on--There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. True wisdom may be expressed in words, but it does not come from words alone.
By the way, in that discussion, Satya Narayan Dasji confirmed Krishnadas’s points about sāyujya liberation being a real and permanent option, since Kapila names it as one of the five kinds of mukti. He said that “just being” is a kind of service. In discussing the samprajñāta and asamprajñāta samādhis, he said that in the latter, there was only abheda, and no bheda, so there was no way of fudging the idea that subject-object awareness could be non-dual in such samadhi, as Bhaktivinoda seems to have done.
Haridas Shastri may be 91 years old, but his physical health and mental alertness appear optimal. A life of scholarship and service to cows has kept him agile, both in body and intellect. He looks like he is good for another twenty years. And speaking of cows, his herd is truly impressive. The fame of his seva has spread to the extent that in the motor rickshaw on the way to Mathura Station, one fellow passenger was recounting how Shastriji feeds them ghee, and with even more astonished amazement, that he lets the calves drink ̮90%̮ of the cows' milk.
I took some notes of what Haridasji said, but they are a mess and don't make must sense to me now, just a few days later. The main point I retained, to which he returned again and again, was the distinction between prakṛti (the true or original form) and vikṛti (deviation or deformation) of religion.
Of course it is possible to argue that the Goswamis, especially Jiva, had a very strong idea of the "true religion" and the Truth. As I was saying just the other day in relation to the Bhagavat-sandarbha; there is the powerful idea of some essential understanding of the Deity that is more perfect theologically and needs to be sought out. The question is to what extent the mythological and ritual elements interfere with or confuse the issues where that perceived perfection occurs.
The specific examples that Haridasji mentioned were the "marriage of Radha and Krishna" that was to take place at the Radha Shyamasundar mandir, according to their flyer, for the 479th year in a row. Hardly a new innovation, it would seem. Shastriji also said that most of what passes for speaking on Harikatha these days is purely entertainment. Actually, I had just been thinking that Vrindavan seemed something like the Nashville, Tennessee, of Harikatha. But I am not quite so negative about that, even though I believe firmly that we must push for what is truest to ourselves in the search for God. There is really no difference between the two.
After all, if perfection is so exclusive and refined, then surely the multiple imperfect variations are at least partially admirable, inasmuch as they contain parts of the Truth. How can we be so troubled and alienated by another's failure to attain the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth when it is such a distant and unattainable, even dubious proposition? Especially when we are caught up in the languages of symbols, etc.?
The true solution to imperfection can only be love, not intellectual correctness. Or, at least, the concept of unconditional love has to be at the basis of our intellectual correctness, not some kind of DukRG-karaNe or pure mathematics.
On Ekadasi, I went to Radha Kund and met Madhavananda. We talked of many things, but one of them was this idea of the narrowness of the concept of perfection. One of the central ideas in my thinking is the introduction of sexuality as an element of sādhana. This may seem like an over-widening of the scope of legitimate practices (which is indeed a principal objection, isn't it?), and indeed that is the case on one level. After all, if we take the success rate of those who adopt pure celibacy, especially where the object of meditation is Radha and Krishna's madhura līlā, it seems like a pure kindness to protect the weak from a life of hypocrisy. But in fact, the concept of spiritual perfection will always be narrow. It will always be the kṣurasya dhārā, the razor's edge. There are too many obstacles to purity, and we still have to fight against them, whether or not we accept Sahaja sādhana or any other.
So, it would be a total mistake to think that the admission of sexuality into the process of sādhana is somehow an excuse for licentiousness. Or that "free love" will magically free one from the basic exigencies of personal morality, or society from the evils of sexual exploitation, etc. Or that pure bhakti and prema, which remain the only objectives of this sādhana, can be had by a process that ignores these basic exigencies.
Someone told me that Nitai had recently made some comments on his forum about my "sahajiyaism." I have not read them and really have no intention of bothering to look them up. But if the information I received was correct, he subscribes to the theory of "Jagat is a horny old guy who is legitimizing his sexual desires with complex theological mystifications." Apparently he also said, no doubt from experience, that Sahajiyaism is a dead end, leading only to "sore sex organs." If that is an incorrect representation of what he said, I hope someone will adjust it.
At any rate, that is not at all a good understanding of what I am on about, folks. When I speak of prema prayojan, I am not talking about free love, nor am I talking about a sādhana that is exclusively tantric in nature. Please try to understand. Radha and Krishna symbolize achintya-bhedabheda, without which True Love is impossible. They symbolize the love of self that comes with overcoming psychological imbalances; they symbolize the love of Other in all its manifestations, but primarily in the love of others in the world and in the love of God, who is the Supreme Other.
The practice of sādhana with a partner is meant to function as an engine of love. The pleasure of sexual relations is not meant to be an end in itself, but through the cultivation of the mode of goodness, it becomes a powerful means of channeling one's meditation towards God, not exclusively because of its activation of the genitals, but because genital activity is conducive to the activation of deep feelings of love.
Although elements of lila smaran are possible in this practice, and are indeed attained with greater facility than through the mechanical process that is most often prescribed, its main end is the cultivation of bhava. In other words, lila smarana arises more easily out of bhava than the other way around. For too many people, the ashta kaliya lila of Radha and Krishna as currently envisioned are more of an obstacle to the culture of the bhava than an aid, especially when treated as a kind of complex vaidhi process, i.e., a mechanical obligation.
Most people, including Haridas Shastri, etc., all make a concerted effort to separate the psychology of "material" love from the "siddha" psychology of the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu and Ujjvala-nilamani. It is true that there are differences as there always are when distinguishing ideal from accident. But there would be no meaning to ideals if there were no glimmers of light in real experience. The metaphor of love applied to the Deity works both ways: Not only does it legitimize the idea of love as having meaning in this world (otherwise the analogy would not work), but it provides the means of purifying and sanctifying it.
The Sahaja sādhana I talk about concentrates on this glimmer of light, much in the way that a person rubbing two sticks together to make fire blows on the sparks and first puffs of smoke to turn it into a flame.
Or we may talk of it as a light being shone between two mirrors--one being the mirror of experience in the world, the other being the mirror of the ideal love expounded on by Rupa Goswami. In that respect, in fact, all of the five relationships can be incorporated into "Sahaja sādhanas," as we are not so much primarily about physical sex, but about the loving relationships that are mirrored in our experience of real life.
In this way, we cannot make an exception in the case of madhura rasa, saying that it is O.K. to see the beauty of one's own baby and think of Bal Gopal or baby Radha, but it is not O.K. to see the glance of affection in the eyes of our beloved and see reflected there Radha's glance of love for Krishna. Or that the weighty burden of love in separation that we feel does not mirror, however infinitesmally, Radha as described in the Hamsaduta, etc.
The relation between the two is not one of substitution or replacement; it is an opening of the door to anubhava. In other words, it is not that these experiences of human love replace Radha-Krishna bhakti, or that Radha-Krishna somehow are a projection that comes out of worldly sexual frustration, or that misunderstood they produce a hankering after material sexuality, or any other of the varieties of misconception that inevitably arise out of this sādhana. In fact, for a devotee, that love IS Radha, and that love is itself a sādhana to attaining Radha. Love comes from love.
Whatever meaning there is in the concept of suchi (pure) rasa, which has been praised by poets around the world as the summum bonum of human experience, which has been diluted, perverted and corrupted by rajo-guna and tamo-guna into nothing more than base sexuality or pornography of various kinds, comes from Radha and Krishna, as the Divine and Original Lovers. God said, I don't like being alone, and so He became a couple locked in embrace. That is the beginning of creation, of multiplicity, of love. anandAd imAni bhUtAni jAyante.
Sex desire is the desire for union. There is really no distinction between the elemental energy that is directed into sex desire and the desire that is directed into the search for God. There is only one energy, the spiritual energy of consciousness, that is filtered and channeled in various ways by the modes of material nature.
But the concept of madhura rasa makes this understanding of "libido" even more clear. When joined with ideas of tantric sublimation, there is a powerful culture of love. It cannot, must not, be seen as separate from the idea of prema bhakti, as love of God. Indeed, I think there is a valid argument to be made that the culture of madhura rasa bhakti is practically impossible without the experience and culture of love in this world, in the very sense that I talk about it.
Is it then something that has become free and open for everyone possessing genitals? On one level, yes. Just as Harinam is available to anyone with a tongue. But does that mean that there are no hoops to pass through on the way to perfection? Of course not. The goal is perfection of the human form of life.
Blessed are those who have a loving sadhaka partner with whom they can share the sounds of the diksha mantras, with whom they can mirror the power of love, with whom they can activate the greatest psychic and physiological force that exists in the human body, and channel it in the direction of love for the root of all existence, Sri Sri Radha and Rasabihari.
I do want to say one more thing. I got a copy of Satya Narayan Dasji's The Yoga of Dejection. As I have mentioned, I have been giving a Gita class here, more or less daily, and we just finished the first chapter, which I went through rather quickly because of time constraints. Still I was interested to see what Satya Narayan Dasji had to say, to see what I had missed, as it were. I read almost right through the entire book on the train, and now I rather wish that I had done so before I started giving those classes.
I am very impressed by Satya Narayan's analysis and the use he makes of this material. Besides presenting many of the background stories of the Mahabharata, with an unfailing eye for the lessons they convey, his understanding of psychology is very good and he really brings out better than any person I have seen all the nuances of Arjuna's situation.
I especially liked his comments about "placing the chariot between the two armies." The words senayor ubhayor madhye, which are repeated several times up to 2.10 with powerful poetic effect. Their repetition hints at their importance, as does the name Hrishikesh, which accompanies them. I have almost turned the expression into a prayer: "Dear Krishna, please place my chariot between the armies, and reveal to me the attachments and other obstacles I must overcome to attain the perfection of love I so ardently seek."
As a sample, here is one paragraph I also liked, but it could have been chosen almost at random:
One may accept Krishna as one’s guide or charioteer, but when he sets out to fight by serving the Lord, he is often faced with the prospect of losing his material possessions, disappointing his relatives or even severing ties with them. The rule of thumb is "to accept something, one has to give up something else." On the spiritual path one is sure to be tested in this way. Thus, when faced with crises one becomes thoughtful, which here indicates that he becomes overpowered by the thoughts of his weak heart. He starts to rationalize his weakness as altruism or compassion for others. This is human psychology.
That seems to summarize the situation nicely. The sooner we commit ourselves to the “fight”, to put it in Gita-speak, the sooner we will attract the mercy and direction of the Lord. So the Gita is very relevant for every sadhaka.