Posts

Showing posts from March, 2008

Madhavananda and Buddhism

Image
I just got back to Rishikesh after nearly three weeks in Mayapur and Vrindavan. I was not able to get online for anything but the most perfunctory of functions. So although I heard the news about Madhavananda some time ago, I have not been able to comment. Perhaps it is for the best, as it has given some time for reflection and also to watch the reaction of others, particular of Advaita and those who posted on his blog. I read most of Madhavananda's rationale and his response to the fallout.

No doubt, there are many people who are feeling puzzled and saddened by this event. I must admit that I was not altogether surprised. When I saw Madhava in Radha Kund, I embraced him and told him that I had complete faith in him and that Krishna would guide him. I feel a little sad that he did not open up to me more then, as if indeed we are as good friends as Advaita seems to think we are, it would have been nice to go over some of these issues with him. In fact, it is not unlikely that I may …

Notes from Bhagavat-sandarbha

Image
I fell behind with the Bhagavat-sandarbha and that is not good for anyone. So I am working hard on it now. I was rather astonished just now, when googling Bhagavat-sandarbha, I found that this blog was at the very top of the list. I don't know what that means, but I guess that it is time to supply those Bhagavat-sandarbha hungry people out there with a few more crumbs.

Here in this ashram there is a lot of talk about nirvikalpa and savikalpa samadhis, also known as asamprajnata and samprajnata samadhis. SN nicely provides a way of turning this on its head by identifying nirvikalpaka and savikalpaka pratyaksha from Nyaya. SN translates these as "indeterminate'' and "determinate" perception or knowledge.
At the very beginning of perception one obtains indeterminate knowledge in the form of mere observation. It is like the cognition of an infant or the dumb, arising purely out of the object without any distinction of quality and qualified. (Sloka-vartika of Kumar…

Verse for today

Someone told me the other day that my day has come and gone. I am not quite sure what they meant. But the fact is that the day of Hari Katha will never go. I have been pressing on, for better or worse, on this path for nigh on forty years, now. How different things would be today if I had remained an Iskcon sannyasi. But that day came and went. There is no end to days, and there is no end to Hari Katha. God is infinite and each person's adventure in yoga is infinite.

Anyway, this verse is from Canto I, Narada telling Vyasadeva about how he developed rati. Some versions give ruchi as the last word in this verse, but we accept the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu reading.

tatrAnvahaM kRSNa-kathAH pragAyatAM
anugraheNazRNavaM manoharAH
tAH zraddhayA me'nupadaM vizRNvataH
priya-zravasy anga mamAbhavad ratiH
There, by the mercy of those sages who sang about Krishna, I was able to hear these charming descriptions of the Lord every single day. Since I was listening attentively and with faith at eve…

इत: परं न किमपि जानासि ? अस्तु, श्रावयामि...

Image
When I was in Vrindavan, I talked with Satya Narayan about Madhusudana Saraswati. He said, Madhusudan was mixed up. In one chapter he writes his famous verse about there being no truth higher than Krishna, and in the next he goes right back to his Advaita philosophy. I remarked that the verse is probably the only thing that everyone knows about Madhusudan. It is even in my little Gita Press day book, with a picture of Krishna. Even Satya Narayan knew it by heart.

vaṁśī-vibhūṣita-karān nava-nīradābhāt
pītāmbarād aruṇa-bimba-phalādharauṣṭhāt |
pūrṇendu-sundara-mukhād aravinda-netrāt
kṛṣṇāt paraṁ kim api tattvam ahaṁ na jāne ||
With a flute adorning his hand, the color of a new cloud, dressed in a yellow cloth and with lips as red as dawn or the bimba fruit, with a face as beautiful as the full moon and eyes like lotuses, I know of no truth higher than Krishna.
Yesterday I was copying some verses from an old notebook and happened on one from Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi. It seemed like Prabod…

Sacred Space, Sacred Time

On my walk yesterday, I caught up with a Gurukula student on the road, a young man who knows enough Sanskrit to hold a conversation. He was pushing his bicycle to the repair shop and we started talking about his dvi-cakrikA. Anyway, at some point we were talking about what the proper Sanskrit words were for "second," and "minute," and it reminded me of this verse, which is a great favorite of mine:

यदा यातो दैवान् मधुरिपुरसौ लोचनपथं
तदास्माकं चेतो मदनहतकेनाहृतम् अभूत्
पुनर्यस्मिन्नेष क्षणमपि दृशोरेति पदवीं
विधास्यामस्तस्मिन्नखिलघटिका रत्नखचिताः
The time that Krishna crossed by chance our path of sight,
that vile and miserable god of love came and stole our soul.
If ever such a moment should again come to our eyes,
its every instant we will drape with jewels and gold.(2.2.36)
I explained as best I could in Sanskrit the concept of "sacred space" and "sacred time." The gopis had discovered a moment of sacred time and they naturally wanted to worship it, to …

Raganuga Bhakti and Sahaja Sadhana, Part III

Image
I left off talking about association with devotees and saying that aṅga-saṅga was an element of service to a devotee. In this case, however, I did mean to place some restrictions: it is not that every bhakta is somehow to receive this kind of intimate service. It is restricted to the most antaraṅga association; and without the central element of love, it will most definitely be counterproductive.

Love cannot be reduced to a mere sentiment, nor to the mere mechanics of physical sexuality. To do so is to make the same kind of mistake the beginning devotee makes when he confuses the bliss of first discovery with spiritual perfection. The love between sādhakas is the raw material of their sādhanā.

But let us press on with our understanding of the compatibility of the Orthodox tradition with this way of thinking. Actually, no one has contributed to the revival of Sahajiyaism more than Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati himself, who emphasized the concept of yukta-vairāgya. If something can be used…

Brief Interlude: Mahamantra Meditation

Image
हरे कृष्ण हरे कृष्ण
For people like me, who have a tendency to get lost in the woods of faith and doubt, our Gaudiya Vaishnava dharma has a wonderful fallback position: Acintya-bhedābheda. Brahma-Paramatma-Bhagavan.

कृष्ण कृष्ण हरे हरे
Brahman is satyam. Sat, existence. We are that. So take a deep, nasal breath. Sit down. Clear your head. Forget all the details that you are supposed to believe in and just be. Let becoming take care of itself. You are that peace, eternity and love.

हरे राम हरे राम
Brahman is oneness. Paramatman is difference. Bhagavan is inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference.

Be Brahman. Pray to Paramatman. Be one with Bhagavan in love.

राम राम हरे हरे
Take a deep breath. Forget the details. The Holy Name has no content. It is pure being. It is prayer. It is being one with God in love. Take shelter of the Holy Name.

This is the essence. The rest is filler.

Jai Sri Radhe Shyam!

Mayapur for Gaura Purnima

So it has been decided, or rather confirmed, that I will be at Gadadhar Pran's place in Mayapur from about the 13th of March and will likely stay a full two weeks. I had a nice talk with Gadadharji on the phone the other day. He said, "My best friend is my sadhana," which I thought was rather nice.

His wife, Rai Kishori, gave birth to a boy in January. The child has been given the name Premavatar. His birth came amidst great many crises, as a uterine tumor had to be removed from Rai Kishori's body, at great risk to the foetus. Finally, they removed the tumor and Premavatar at the same time. Rai Kishori is currently still weak, but joyful at the birth of Gadai Gauranga's new sevak.

Anyway, the idea, from my side of things, is that since the Govinda Lilamrita will be more or less finished, that we could spend the two weeks having readings and discussion based on that, along with other activities. Gadadhar will also, of course, share his realizations of Gaura Lila. So…

Raganuga Bhakti and Sahaja Sadhana, Part II

Image
Now since rāgānugā bhajana focuses on the mind (ruci-pradhānasya mārgasyāsya manaḥ-pradhānatvam—Bhakti-sandarbha, 311), its principal practice is smaraṇa. Indeed, since devotion by the inner organs is the goal, smaraṇa is said to be the objective of vaidhi bhakti also.

smartavyaḥ satataṁ viṣṇur vismartavyo na jātucit
sarva-vidhi-niṣedhāḥ syur etayor eva kiṅkarāḥ

One must always remember the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu and never forget him for even a moment. All scriptural prescriptions and prohibitions are subservient to these two. (BRS 1.2.8, CC 2.22.113)
Narottam Das expresses the same idea as follows:

manera smaraṇa prāṇa, madhura madhura dhāma,
yugala vilāsa smṛti sāra
sādhya sādhana ei, ihā boi āra nāi,
ei tattva sarva tattva sāra

Meditation or remembering is the life of the mind. It is an abode of ever increasing sweetness, the essence of which is the Yugala Kishor’s vilāsa-keli, Radha and Krishna's most intimate pastimes. This is our sādhana and this is the goal of our sādhana