Tuesday, April 08, 2008

More ruminations on friendship and loss

I realized that Madhavananda is still with me, despite my having spoken of him twice in the past several days. There is a deep vexation in my mind, of which I need to speak. This feeling has several parts and is in some need of analysis.

***


At the root of it is a deep sadness that he did not love Radha and Krishna like I do. That he did not love the devotees, even the most kanishtha among them, that he did not love Vrindavan, Govardhan and Radha Kund, despite the thick overlay of rajas and tamo-gunas that are such an obstacle to that love. That he did not love us enough to recognize that we loved him.

Yes, it is all very well and good to talk siddhanta, but the real problem was, as he himself seems to have recognized, in the area of emotional fitness. But even there, I am still saddened by the fact that there was not enough love to keep him around.

Ah well, enough said. Madhava is Radharani’s own dasi, and if he wants to avoid that truth for another lifetime or two, let him. Let him experience the so-called pleasures of nirvana, as if that were any substitute for prema. It isn’t, Madhava. There is no substitute.

यस्य स्फूर्तिलवाङ्कुरेण लघुनाप्यन्तर्मुनीनां मनः
स्पृष्टं मोक्षसुखाद्विरज्यति झटित्यास्वाद्यमानादपि
प्रेम्णस्तस्य मुकुन्द साहसितया शक्नोतु कः प्रार्थने
भूयाज् जन्मनि जन्मनि प्रचयिनी किन्तु स्पृहाप्यत्र मे

O Mukunda, giver of liberation!
Who in the world is there with the courage
to pray for the gift of sacred love,
of which the slightest manifestation,
when brushing against the minds of the great sages,
makes them forget the happiness of liberation?

My prayer therefore to you is this:
that I should simply desire for such prema,
and that this desire should increase forever,
in this world, birth after birth.
(Rupa Goswami, Ashtadasa-cchanda, Vastra-harana, 2)

“Even those self-satisfied sages who directly experience the happiness of liberation immediately become indifferent to that pleasure simply on coming into contact with the fractionally germinated seed of prema; what person in this world is so bold that he would pray for such wealth? I, therefore, always pray only that, wherever I should take birth, I may constantly develop the thirst and enthusiasm for attaining that great prize—that I should remain forgetful of all else and thirst for it in the way that a fish taken from its pond craves for a return to water, as a chataka bird thirsts for the appearance of a cloud, or as the fabled chakora seeks the rays of the moon.” (Kunja Bihari Dasji, Manjari-svarupa-nirupana)

***


I have stated before and I will not swerve from my belief that there is a profound meaning in the spiritual path to which one makes a commitment. To say that one did not make that commitment in full knowledge is foolishness, because one does not have full knowledge of one’s unconscious at any time, and the forms in which God chooses to reveal Himself are not under our control, but are purely His will and divine mercy.

When we apply our reason, it is often as much to avoid the immensity of His revelation as to dive deeper into it. The same can be said of ritual, even though the application of reason and the practice of ritual are both unavoidable in the religious life.

If we can honestly say, as Madhava did, that Krishna bhakti is merely one of the many ways to the Divine, it still needs be answered why that way has to be abandoned if it is the way that the Divine has made Himself known to you? Not only is it the way God made Himself known, but it is the way to which you committed yourself, not once, not twice but three times, each time with an increasing degree of intensity. And now you cavalierly toss that out without any respect for the depth of the realizations of the masters who preceded you and whom you called guru. Are you so sure of your own wisdom and of that of those whose arguments have been put to rest by Vaishnava acharyas so many times through history?

***


One of the things that has vexed me in all this, of course, is the parallel between our histories. No doubt, Madhava and I have shared some part of our ways, as it was the two of us who piloted Gaudiya Discussions and the Gaudiya Grantha Mandir project. Although Madhava’s contributions were far greater than mine, my announcement that I was a Sahajiya seems to have been the straw that broke the back of Gaudiya Discussions.

At that time, Madhava was attempting to widen the management of GD to include a group of young people who had been sufficiently impressed by Madhava’s commitment to Ananta Das Babaji Maharaj that they had also decided to take initiation from him. All of them to some extent or another believed in my orthodoxy and no doubt it was a great shock to them when I stated that I had beliefs that went against their preconceived idea of true Gaudiya Vaishnavism. They felt that they were naive boys who had been used by me. Where once they had thought I was learned and wise, they suddenly felt that I was a danger to their spiritual advancement.

Before my announcement, there appeared to be some kind of new day dawning and many people were beginning to feel that the Radha Kund mood exemplified by Ananta Dasji was a source of new hope for Gaudiya Vaishnavism. However, beginning with that event, almost everything went downhill quickly. There was friction between these members of the Gaudiya Kutir and most of the projects that they had started were left entirely in Madhava’s hands. Little financial help came to Madhava, even while he was putting himself into sufficient debt that he is now a cause of some concern to several devotee friends who had enough confidence in him to help him get settled in Radha Kund.

***


Those in the Gaudiya Math are probably laughing that the final outcome of Gaudiya Discussions was that Jagat became a Sahajiya and Madhava a Buddhist. In fact, however, it should be clear by now, when even Advaita can come on this blog and graciously put me in the same box as himself when he says that “we are both limping along” in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, that I am still, even in his eyes, committed to the truth of Radha and Krishna and Gauranga Mahaprabhu, however we may differ in our visions.

In fact, I don’t think Advaita really believes he is only “limping along.” Neither do I, to be absolutely honest. I feel as though there is a power in what I have come to understand about the Gaudiya Vaishnava religion. Gaudiya Vaishnavism itself is limping along. It has been flying on one wing long enough and it is time for the left wing to start flapping with a strength that will invigorate even the right.

***

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

From Psychology Today Jan-Feb 2008

"An Atheist in the Pulpit: What Happens when Religious Leaders Lose Their Faith?"

by Bruce Grierson, author of "U-Turn: What if You Woke Up One Day and Realized You Were Living the Wrong Life?" [p. 86]

"...And so there emerges, in the literature of spiritual self-transformation, a kind of parallel canon between religious conversions and the Dawkins-style deconversion.

"It is the idea of full-circle, or the nun-turned religious scholar Karen Armstrong's so-called 'spiral staircase',

"where we EVENTUALLY COME BACK AROUND TO OUR ORIGINAL POSITION, BUT AT A HIGHER LEVEL, FROM WHICH WE SEE A WIDER LANDSCAPE"..."



Or, as the saying goes in the West: if you have a really good religion, it will allow you to reject it and criticize it, and ask questions of it. Then, once you get your questions answered, you can see that it was a very good religion, because it allowed you the freedom to question it and also to grow.

Versus if you have a very shallow religion, you cannot EVER question it, or you will lose faith--or be ex-communicated for being so presumptious by asking questions like, "Why did all of the miracles happen before there was TV?" (p. 80ibid)

So I think a really good religion allows people to question it and even reject it. And if there was anything there to begin with, the person will be back. But with a stronger, wiser, and deeper appreciation for it.


If Krsna is real, then I thought the whole point of the philosophy is he does not force us to love him, or else we may as well be robots.

Think about couples who have survived break-ups, or friendships that have survived over long period of time--sometimes with little or no contact.

The people grow and when they get back together, it is a different relationship at a more mature level. Or children and their parents: at some point the kid has to get out of the parents orbit to find his or her own strengths.



"The split between private beliefs and public sermons can leave religious leaders feeling deeply inauthentic, a source of psychic stress few lay people will ever know..." (p.80 ibid)

" 'We tend to ignore how much cognitive effort is required to maintain extreme religious beliefs...' " says evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson. He likens the process to a cell trying to maintain its osmotic pressure..." (p.84 ibid)

"Religious conversion is often explained in part as an effort to relieve the tension of uncertainty...but letting faith go...can bring relief, too..."
(p. 84 ibid)

"You're trying to pump out the mainstream influences all the time. You're trying to maintain this wall [like the osmotic pressure of a cell wall] and keep your beliefs inside, and all those other beliefs outside. That's hard work." -evolutionary biologist David Sloane Wilson (p. 84 ibid)



[How one preacher changed his worldview] "Dan Barker was a religious prodigy...but after a milestone birthday came and went...He began reading widely outside the Christian canon: science magazines, psychology, philosophy.

"It was the liberal arts education he never had and what followed was a 'slow and steady migration across the theological spectrum' " (p. 82 ibid)


M das is basically a young kid with an inquiring mind. He never even went to college yet, like most smart kids his age would have done! So it seems only natural that he might hunger for a liberal arts education. And one way to do that is self-directed independent study, as he is doing now.

In fact, it seems really odd that a highly intelligent person would not become curious about the best other religious traditions have to offer at some point. Then--later still in life--be able to expertly reconcile them all.

Also, the Buddha advised that people continue to worship the local village deities, as this would aid in their meditation. [source: Murugam.org, the Patrick Harrigan story: a Buddhist turned Murugam devotee] So at some point he will encounter this instruction of the Buddha if he continues to voraciously read Buddhist canon.

Who knows, maybe in the future he will even become some living link between the two groups of Hinduism and Buddhism? Lord knows we could use more harmony in the world and not contentious religious wars and religious rancor. Peace.

Anonymous said...

From www dot murugan dot org
Go to bhaktas and sages
Go to Personal accounts of Murugan devotees
Go to Interview with Murugan Bhakti editor

"...In the Majjhima Nikaya, the Lord Buddha advises his forest meditators to practice devatanusati-- that is, FULL REGARD to local deities in order to make steady progress in meditation..."

--http: // kataragama dot org /
news / interview - 2002. htm

Anonymous said...

I found this on a website and resonates with what you are saying.

Going Seperate Ways

After chatting with old friends in Vrindavan India and the USA, I have come to the conclusion that they all have their own accurate or distorted view of history, the pastimes of AC Bhaktivendanta Swami , his purpose and preaching methods. I was able to harmonize this by contemplation on the words found in Jaiva Dharma that clearly describe Sukriti.

Even though hundreds, and thousands of searching souls come in connection with the divine energy not all have the same amount of accumulated spiritual merit (sukriti). That is why they perceive events differently. When like minds meet they work together for sometime, maybe one hour, one day or hundreds of lifetimes, then again they go their separate ways. Not everyone was able to see reality as it was. The modes of nature also influences one vision,desires etc. that is why it is absolutely necessary for young devotees to be chaste toward their living guru as to not be misled by illusion . The Guru most be free himself from illusion otherwise he is useless.

The point is that the souls individually must search out Sri Radha and Krishna within their heart and when bhava is aroused by good association Sri Krishna will manifest himself and his leelas to his pure devotee.

Anonymous said...

Being a skeptic is part of being a long tradition in India. A Nobel Prize winner even makes the case that India's long tradition of skepticism is light-years ahead of its time and is what India should become famous for, not religion.

"India's skeptic tradition is as old as the Rig Veda...written at a time when most Europeans were still clad in animal skins" - from a Washington Post article


"A Passage to India: A Nobel Prize-Winning economist explores his homeland's rich and quarrelsome heritage" reviewed by Shashi Tharoor, Sun Oct 16, 2005

BOOK REVIEWED: "The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture, and Identity" by Amartya Sen

" '...Who really knows?" it [the Rigveda] asks about creation. 'Who will proclaim it? Where was it produced? Whence was it produced?...Perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not--the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows--or perhaps he does not know'..."

"I love that final 'or perhaps he does not know'. The reach of rationality in Indian thinking goes far; Hinduism is the only major religion with an explicit tradition of agnosticism...

"Equally important is the tradition of secular tolerance practiced by rulers such as the BUDDHIST [gasp!] Emperor Ashoka and the Muslim Emperor Akbar...

"Aristotle's writings on freedom did not include women and slaves, an exception that Ashoka [the BUDDHIST--gasp!!!] did not make...

"and the Muslim Emperor Akbar proclaimed, 'Anyone is to be allowed to go over to a religion that pleases him' during a time of the Inquisition in Europe.

"..Sen reminds us that even the sacred epic Ramayana...features the skeptic Javali, who advises...
'[Religious] injunctions...have been laid down in the [scriptures] by clever people, just to rule over [other] people..."

Perhaps M feels there is something worthwhile that he can learn from Buddhism, the religion of Emperor Ashoka, and feels he has the freedom to change to a religion that pleases him, as per the decree of Indian Emperor Akbar.

Jagat said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for all of your intelligent and useful posts. I agree with you about Madhavananda, when you say he hungers for a liberal arts education, and I believe I said as much in my very first post about the rejection of kanishtha adhikari religion, which I guess is the overall thrust of your posts as well.

Jagat said...

So I guess I will say my final word about Madhavanandaji. I realize that in the three posts I made, there was a confusion of feelings. So I would like to leave one dominant one.

When I last saw Madhavananda in Radha Kund, I could see that he was feeling inner turmoil. From his communications to those devotees who had trusted his leadership, it was clear that he was feeling overwhelmed and trapped in that role. His need to break away and find some space was very clear.

On that occasion, I embraced him and told him that I trusted Krishna would take care of him no matter which direction he took and that I had complete faith in him. I don't want anything that I have said in these few posts to mitigate these statements. So I wish him all good fortune and my prayers go with him. My affection for Madhavananda is not diminished in the least by these events.

Everything else that I said stands, but this is the dominant mood. So, as many people have stated here, I pray that his new spiritual adventures lead him to a renewed appreciation of Radha and Krishna bhakti.

Jai Sri Radhe!

Anonymous said...

Oh, but don't feel the need to have a "final" word! Our friends are sparks of the Divine, so like Ananta won't we always have endless things to say?

Our friends will always be changing, as we will also, and even if our friend never changes: when we change, the prism will shift and we will notice something new.

So don't feel that you need to limit what you have to say, in fact it seems therapeutic to be able to talk about matters of the heart. And our friends are residents of our heart.

Joseph Campbell said once--in interview with Bill Moyers--he never felt that his grandmother was no longer with him, even after she passed from this world. He said that he always feels she is with him: a resident of his heart.

So, near or far--friends are valuable and important to our development. And I think is good to talk about them and our feelings for them.

Also, is good--I think--from the standpoint of it is heart-breaking when our friend does not understand the Divine the way that we do. Especially if our friend was our closest link to the Divine at one point.

Because when we love something--our version of the Divine, our understanding of it--it is nice to be able to share that with someone. And if we lose that, then it is a tremendous loss. And to go through loss properly there are the five stages of grief. So seems reasonable that there would be many things to say, as we pass through each stage: shock, anger, denial, bargaining, and acceptance.

Just in case you feel you need to share more, leaving an open door for you there. In fact, it would probably be beneficial for people to see someone model the behavior of how to deal with loss.

Because it is a type of loss when someone moves on to something else. Even if it is best thing for them, it may still be a loss for us personally. So is good to see someone modeling the behavior of persons who can articulate their feelings about loss.

I think it's a valuable type of sharing that perhaps some people never got in the home, with some cultures all about "saving face" and "stiff upper lip".

Once a friend I brought to an ISKCON temple said, "These men are being allowed to move their bodies [the dancing, the chanting] in ways which are not allowed in the dominant culture." So also within the devotional milieu, men are allowed to have sentiments that may not so easily and delicately be expressed in other venues.

So I think is nice to mourn for the loss even of a period of time, even you still wish your friend well, or whatever you feel the need to grieve for. Also in the popular culture we hardly ever hear noble and refined sentiments; is like everything is becoming more and more crass.

So is nice, if we have noble feelings about someone, to have safe place to express them. Is nice to just be able to process the information. And is nice for others to see what is grief process all about.

Because I think when some people, many people, had to leave a Matha or a religious org, they may have not been able to grieve properly. So that is why you find websites people are going through 30 years later what should have happened immediately after. But better late than never, I suppose.

At any rate, I think is only natural we would have alot to say when life changes, when people change, because that affects us at a very deep level that we may only begin to realize in dribs and drabs initially. So you may want to leave the door open for future sharing, if/ as needed.

jijaji said...

Great conversation Jagat, sounds like your lucky he didn't kick your ass! LOL

"Gadadhar: I think you are making too much of sex.

Jagat: You are one to talk, with all your descriptions of Gauranga Nagara love! You don’t see how that looks to the uninitiated eye?"

Jagat, would you kindly expand upon this a bit, what does GP say in this regard that you speak of, I have heard bits and pieces from 3rd parties, but I would like to hear it from someone who knows 1st hand.

jijaji