Thursday, February 14, 2008

In Vrindavan II

Quick post. Five minutes to closing time.

Whatever all you people who are negative about Radha-Krishna, Indian men, women, dirt, frenetic development and all the rest, I am sorry, I love Vrindavan. I love the color, I love the sounds, I love the outlandish sadhus, the brahmin students, the girl students, the Goswami houses, the narrow alleys, the temples, the sadhus when they speak about Radha Krishna, the monkeys huddling together on the tops of walls as it gets dark before they go to sleep, the slim feminine dogs who beg for a scratch. Today, most of all, I loved Banke Bihari and his temple.

Yesterday I wrote about a verse, today I write about Banke Bihari and his big eyes. Shiva was right, no one can invent this or replace it with anything else. No Jerusalem, no Mecca, no Rishikesh or Benares, no saintly city anywhere on this earth can compare to Vrindavan and Braj.

I thank all my gurus, from Srila Prabhupada to the sahajiya sleepily singing the Hare Krishna maha mantra over a mike somewhere, thank you. Let me be a part of Vrindavan. Jai Sri Radhe Shyam!

Satya Narayan came back today and we had a good session reviewing what I had done and going over questions I had.

12 comments:

anuradha said...

Well, I am indeed going through a fase of finally expressing some 'suppressed' criticism and serious questioning of what is really holy and important.

Nonetheless I share with you the beauty of Brindaban.

Good for you, you enjoy it so much!

RAJESH said...

Yes , you are right! Nothing can even match the charm of Shri Banke Bihariji Maharaj. Visit www.bihariji.org to know more about Shri Banke Bihariji.

Anonymous said...

Nice. Nicely written. :-)

Let me be a part of Vrindavan.

- babaji brian

"Gaurasundara das" said...

Ditto, what Anuradha said. :)

Acyuta said...

Dear Jagadanandaji,

I came across your page when I saw it linked from Madhavanandaji's website.

I just wanted to say that I really do appreciate your provocative insights on Gaudiya theology. I am trying to somehow comprehend this huge world of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, it indeed is quite vast.

I am thinking that it would help to have some knowledge of Sanskrit to assist in my studies of Gaudiya literature. Would you kindly suggest where I ought to begin? I am proficient in English and Hindi, lesser so in Bengali. I would be most grateful.

And yes, I also do appreciate very much the charm of Sri Banke Bihariji.

-acyuta

Jagat said...

Depends on where you are. If you are in India, I suggest getting started by going to a Sanskrit Sambhashan Shibir run by Sanskrit Bharati. Then once you have gotten initiated, you should be able to find courses, private or public, fairly easily.

If you are in Europe or America, you have little choice except the nearest university. But there are some correspondence courses available. You can, if you are determined, learn on your own. For that purpose, I would pick up really almost any manual--it does not matter which, as long as you are determined to go through it. Coulson's _Teach Yourself Sanskrit_ is popular these days.

Radhe Radhe!

anuradha said...

"Even if fundamentalists sometimes say that they take their holy book literally, the facts of fundamentalist interpretation show that this is not so. What fundamentalists insist on is not that their holy book must be taken literally but that it must be so interpreted as to avoid any admission that it contains any kind of error. In order to avoid putting error to their holy book, fundamentalists twist and turn back and forward between literal and non-literal interpretation....
What they mean and are constantly interpreting as meaning, is that their holy book contains no error of any kind- not only theological error, but error in any sort of historical, geographical or scientific fact...."

This quote sort of summarizes where my questioning began. It was troublesome, because remarks as "The Bhagavatam contains everything", "shabda pramana is the only reliable source of information" and "scripture is revealed by God and therefore faultless" do not stimulate checking the facts. Healthy suspicion towards sources claiming to have the final word is classified as aparadha adding injury to injury.

Having reached this stage it would probably be hard for me to study directly under let's say... AC Bhaktivedanta Swami or Advaita das (endless other names can be added). Strictly speaking without meaning any disrespect to both of them they are both fundamentalists in how (although slightly different) they approach scripture.

So although I cherish the idea of a dancing God who in the end just wants to have fun instead of a God of boring virtue leaving all the fun for Satan, I am uncertain in how I must deal with the many authoritarian aspects of our tradition.

You are initiated initially by ACBVS, then Lalita Prasad and also by a 'sahajiya' guru (unknown to me). You have been a sannyasi, a babaji and a western scholar. Elements of all this reflect in your writings. Bringing rational thinking in harmony with accepting the revealed is not an easy task. Armed with my ratio I tend to eliminate revealed ideas instead of synthesize them harmoniously.

Many devotees will find you, this blog and its commentators (including me) stuck up and lacking in humility. I think even some older teachers including our gurus will not appreciate the openmindedness displayed here. But it is the only corner I know of where an attempt is made to bring rational thinking and gaudiya philosophy together.

How do you deal with all this ? Anyone ?

govindanandini said...

"How do you deal with all this ? Anyone ?"

I must say on one level I am struggling, and on another level, the experience has been pretty liberating. On the struggling front I see that Gaudiya Math and even traditional lines cannot and will not, ever, officially accept the expantion debate as legitimate. Thus any further change at this point will most inevitably mean that yet another branch on the Caitanya tree must sprout. Personally I struggle with the letting go factor. The many years being nourished by the established environment has created a bond in the heart akin of that of a child for her home comforts. To be without will be a challenge. But on the liberating side I feel that, although apparently severing the ties of duty to kin and clan, I am in fact serving a wider purpose, one that is made legitimate by the sheer absence of any other alternative. Bhaktivinod Thakur, that great voice of common sense, has cleared the first miles in this path with proddings like this: " Progress certainly is the lay of nature and there must be correcitons and developments witht he progress of time, but progress means going further or rising higher.... the true critic advises us to preserve what we have already obtained and to adjust our race from that point where we have arrived in the heat of our progress. He will never advise us to go back to the point whence we started."

Bhaktivinod is by no means a disconnect from the Gaudiya ideal (or tradition for that matter!). His urging for reforms where needed while preserving the bonds of faith, is clearly indicative of his accomplished position in the Gaudiya way. He is thus that legitimate authority the cause needs for, first, avoiding selfdestruction, and second, allowing for faith to naturaly find its level, which is never a process a reasonable aspirant would not consider.

Anonymous said...

Anuradhaji,

Pranams!

Well first of all I would not care too much what anybody else thinks.

This goes against one of Jack Kerouac's "Rules for Modern Prose":
the rule that says, "Become a crazy dumbsaint of the mind."

You know, do you think any mystic ever cared what anybody else said? When s/he sees the Beatific Vision and "smells the Beatific Feet?" [Jack Kerouac said he did not want to see God so much as smell Him!!!]

So, first check your astrological chart. Everything that is going to happen to you is there.

Will you realize the Divine? Become liberated? Hanker after transcendental life? Be able to perceive mystical experiences?

Then once you realize what your m.o. will be in this lifetime DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT!!!


Do you think God is like a bean counter or accountant that if you do a certain prescribed XYZ rounds and japa, then he has to reveal himself to you? Like is all up to YOU or something?

God has revealing grace and concealing grace. So once you have been through enough incarnations, paid your dues, and CAN PERCEIVE
the Divine through direct experience, then little by little you get more and more of that.



Second, what makes you think that Gaudiya Whatever has the copyright to Enlightenment? You just said [paraphrased] that they act all bonkers and wacky. So try reading some texts that aren't all bonkers and wacky.

Like, every sacred text known to humanity is on the internet right now. So try reading all of those and see which authors/ texts resonate with your own EXPERIENCE.



Thirdly, then what do you know for sure? How can you tweak the stories so they make sense FOR YOU?!!! Because some traditions say that Enlightenment is such a personal thing between you and the Divine, that it will be DIFFERENT FOR EVERYBODY !!!

So even you read every sacred text in the world, be open to the fact that as the Divine is UNLIMITED, then guess what?!!! Maybe some groovy revelation is going to happen to you and only for you!

And not just once but in all kinds of different ways, all of the time: the way that lovers who can't get enough of each other continually play with each other spontaneously and do not follow Kama Sutra like a recipe book...

"Okay it says here you should put your thing here, and I should put my whatchamacallit here, and..."

I mean really!!! Is this how you would get it on with your soulmate?!!! So the Divine is like our ultimate soulmate, so "It is not in books, you fool!!!" said one sage, Yogaswami.



So...read widely. Use your noodle. Become as educated as you can about material phenmomenon. And read widely every spiritual text in the world.

Then, add your own buzz to the mix!
Basically these are all just stories or guidelines. But when the direct experience happens to you, then you can evaluate the stories and scriptures to see where people were just hiding stuff and what parts of it are really true.

It is a stylistic convention in spiritual lit NOT TO SPILL ALL OF THE BEANS!!! Because then and only then can you assess if another person has actually seen the Truth and experienced it and lives it. And to what degree and what stage.

Because no matter how much the texts try to hide it, there are some UNIVERSAL CONCEPTS in all of them. Such as "Be nice and don't be an a--hole".


So then you can evaluate every self-styled guru and teaching by: is it Nice? Kind? Helpful? True? or whatever your rubric that you come up with for your criteria what is the absolute truth.

F'r instance, if you like a dancing god, then why pick [all due respects to those who prefer this god] Krsna? Why not pick a god who can dance but also is not afraid to make a commitment to his babe? Why pick a god that likes to hide out in kunjas doing the wild thing? Why not pick a god that will sit his chick naked on his lap in front of sages because he can make a commitment to his chick?


Anyway, and why limit yourself to only the old stories? How do you know someone was not messing with people's heads and wrote the stories in such a way as to gain power and status and control over others?

So the next thing you do is: if God is our parent, then each generation has to get better, right? So maybe you know some stuff that God does not know and you have to teach him. Well, is that one of the rasa or not? It is, according to the Gaudiyas.

For example, how very sad for Radhika that she could only love the Most Beautiful Person like David Beckham, Mark Consuelas, or Jude Law. How sad that she could not experience the ecstatic bliss and unconditional love of loving someone who is going bald and is 100 pounds overweight?

I mean that is a scary experience because it knocks the socks off of everything. There is some Divine shining through there. Then you start to realize: wow!!! I could teach God a thing or two!!!


If you cling onto these moldy old scriptures [pardon to all who cherish the mold, such as those who cherish a fine French cheese that can only become what it is from the specific mold in a specific cave]...then maybe all you will get is a bunch of dust bunnies, allergans and pollen that you are allergic to and makes you sneeze, and not the Absolute Truth.


I mean who knows? Maybe God wants you to reveal the truth to Him?!!! Well the Gaudiyas say God gets bored and likes people to fight with him and argue with him.

So maybe he gets sick and tired of boring "missionary position" missionaries telling everyone what God likes: "God likes gulab jamons, he hates a nice Swiss fondue. God likes rasagullas, he hates a platter full of vegan sushi and different kinds of organic seaweeds...."


I mean can you imagine for one moment God is ONLY pleased with medieval high fat, high carb, white sugar and white flour Indian food and doesn't EVER want to go to the best five star vegan restaurants in the world? I can't.

But maybe there is a god for the librarians and a god for the unadventuresome people, and there is a god for people who are more fun-loving.

And each is good and okay!!! Well just an amuse bouche for you. "If it's not fun. better left undone."

So just make God/dess Realization into something fun for yourself and something that has meaning for YOU. Why not start there?

acyuta said...

While I also agree that some degree of rational thinking ought to be introduced to our unique and wonderful Gaudiya Religion, I still have to ask -- where do we cross the fine line from rationalizing all of this to committing zruti-zastra-nindA? And if indeed we are given the facility to rationalize, where indeed do we end rationalization and begin speculation (as I'm sure Jagadanandaji must be faced with answering on occasion).

Do not the puranas intone that without avoiding these ten nAma aparAdhas can we attain zuddha nAma?

Furthermore, I think we ought to discuss in detail what exactly it is we are trying to rationalize, which in my mind leads one to discuss the necessity of Guru, as ultimately he does the impossible -- Rationalizing the revealed and serving it to us in a digestable manner.

I do believe that Srila Jiva Goswami in Tattva-sandarbha also does rationalize (in his own way) that we can't rationalize as we are subject to 'the four defects' (viz. bhrama, vipralipsa etc.)

-acyuta

"Gaurasundara das" said...

Just from a strictly personal viewpoint, I'm not too worried about sruti-sastra-ninda depending on how far it goes of course. If it is outright blasphemy then of course it is negative, but I don't think there is much of a problem with some textual criticism.

In any case, the fact is that we have to live in the real world and we have to interpret scriptures accordingly. The world is different compared to how it was when the scriptures are written.

If people prefer to bury their noses in scriptures and dream of living in the 16th Century, then Gaudiyaism will die.


Some people here have been asking to get in touch with me: gaurasundara AT gmail DOT com

Jagat said...

As usual, you are very entertaining, Anonymousji, and not without wisdom. But I still think you mix material and spiritual understandings.

Radha and Krishna are the perfection of beauty. That does not impede the requirement that we have to see beauty, i.e., Radha and Krishna, and to love even where there is the apparent absence of love.

Your mutilation of parakiya rasa is also a little disconcerting. Where is the question of Krishna not being committed to Radha--he is one with her.

Traditions ARE valuable, because they give strength. I sit in the meditation hall here in Rishikesh or in the temple room in Montreal, or under the trees of the Tattiya Sthan in Vrindavan, and I can feel the power of accumulated meditation there. The accumulated meditation and reflection on Radha and Krishna gives them power, more power than is in the forgotten gods of yore or the new gods that people are inventing, partly out of economic necessity. No one is a prophet until he has invented his own God.

There is really no human experience without tradition. The great fallacy of the modern age is to think that individualism is so wonderful that it supersedes traditions.

Going it alone ultimately means being alone. You are right that we ultimately have to go it alone anyway, but the discovery of our individuality is not the end of the track. Religion is also about forming community, because community forms around communication--ideals and symbols, rituals, etc.

Because of the multicultural nature of today's world, it is certainly a universal principle not to be an a-hole, but for closer, intimate relations in which the sharing of profoundly-held convictions is the only means, adherence to and preservation of traditions is an unavoidable necessity, even if their fragmentation is also inevitable.

This blog itself is a testimonial to that. And indeed Anuradha's question is also evidence of this necessity. There are elements of the Gaudiya tradition that have a very deep hold on our psyches. You may call them illusion, as the Advaita-vadins and so on do, but even if they are, as long as they have this powerful hold on us, we must follow through on the attempt to understand and realize their meaning for us.

Certainly, then, your advice to read widely and so on are well taken, but here again, my personal experience tells me that reading widely is limited in its usefulness. I think it was Schopenhauer who once said that reading can also be an offense against the Holy Spirit, much in the way that Satya Narayan says (in a quote I posted yesterday) that thought or rational argument itself can be a way of blocking revelation.

Having faith (adau sraddha) means in part that you accept the limitations of your own capacity to understand God (and what can be a bigger no-brainer than that!) and accept the ways in which God comes to us. We cannot find, nor do we need, a hundred ways to God, we only need one.