Sunday, June 01, 2008

Hiranyagarbha

I have been thinking for a few weeks now that I am going to make a slight move on the name front. I know this is a bit silly, and I wrote a poem not so long poking fun at myself for all the name changes. I was thinking about Madhavananda changing his name, and then I saw just the other day, looking at Nitai’s forum again, that Jijaji and Shiva have yet other aliases that they use. The temptation to change identities seems limitless.

Anyway, my idea was simply to add the name Prabhupada gave me back with Jagadananda, so I would use both the name he gave me and the one that Lalita Prasad Thakur gave me. Just now, in a tea stall in front of Krishna Balaram, I ran into Raghavananda Das, an very pakka looking 80 year old Bengali Brahman with a nicely combed white beard and simple white turban. He took Harinam from Srila Prabhupada in London in the 70’s but came back to India in time for his disappearance. Later he took initiation from Madan Mohan Dasji in Govinda Kund, but still lives nearby and puts in a few hours of service for Krishna Balaram.

I was attracted to his appearance, as he showed a great deal of dignity, even nobility, in his demeanor, though it was clear he was not the average Vraja Vaishnava. His tilaka and other signs showed he had some relation to Iskcon, so somehow I struck up a conversation in Hindi and soon discovered he was Bengali, from which one thing led to another. He must have surmised that I was ex-Iskcon because he said something about how “you can take the Prabhupada disciple out of Iskcon, but you can’t take the Srila Prabhupada out of the disciple.” I was agreeing with this, telling about my classes at Madhuban in Rishikesh, and about how I was confirming my strong belief in personalism, when he said, “Precisely, this is what I mean.”

Of course, we did not get around to discussing the kinds of things that are in this forum presently. But eventually I mentioned that my Iskcon name had been Hiranyagarbha and he simply turned reverent and said, “Hiranyagarbha! I have heard so much about you. I have wanted to meet you for so long. One of my life’s wishes has been fulfilled today,” and so on.

Apparently he knew Nadia (Madhusudana) way back when and he had talked me up! Madhusudana must have sent him to Madan Mohan Dasji (who now claims to be 104 years old; is that possible? He must be pretty old, but he looked quite well preserved when I saw him three years ago.).

Raghavananda also mentioned that there has never been another Hiranyagarbha in Iskcon. I said, "It's probably to avoid the bad karma."

It may be said that Hiranyagarbha does not sound like a particularly devotional name. As a devotee I never particularly cared for it, and was even disappointed that I did not get one of those Bhakti names Gaudiya Math sannyasis get when I took sannyas. But since I came to Rishikesh, I was a bit surprised to find out the reverence with which that name is treated there.

Though Hiranyagarbha and Lord Brahma are one, in the yoga tradition the former name is most often associated with the founder of the Yoga system that Patanjali later systemized in the Yoga Sutras. Sometimes he is also considered to be Kapila Deva, the author of Sankhya philosophy. But there is a greater significance to the name than that.

Swami Veda writes about "the Golden Womb" in his commentary on the Yoga-sutras (vol. II, page 18), in connection with a discussion on isvara-pranidhana (“practicing the presence of God”), a subject that comes up several times. Here (YS2.1) it is one of the kriya-yogas, later it comes as one of the niyamas (YS 2.33). The first time it appears is in YS 1.23, where it is specified as a “quick” way to reach samadhi. In these different contexts, the definition is given somewhat differently, since the adhikaras of the practitioner are different. In Sutra 2.1, Swamiji translates isvara-pranidhana as “surrender to God,” following Vyasa’s commentary: “Surrender means offering, dedicating and surrendering all practices and acts to the Supreme Guru, as well as renouncing the results and fruits thereof.” The Supreme Guru, here, is Hiranyagarbha. Swami Veda explains:

In the living tradition, this idea translates itself to an initiate very differently from what it conveys here in the written form. As the initiate’s indweller, the spark of the Golden Womb (Hiranyagarbha), the Guru within, directs the body, speech and mind into the practices, the initiate surrenders himself to its flow and experiences the practices involuntarily, having no claim on them as his initiative, endeavour or exertion. The same experience extends to the initiate’s other acts.
Here is another quote:

"Hiranyagarbha alone is the teacher of yoga, and no other." (Brihad-yoga-yajnavalkya 12.5). The word Hiranyagarbha means "the Golden Womb." The word occurs in the ancient Vedas, "In the beginning was the Golden Womb." (RV 10.121.1) All the yogis insist that no individual person is a teacher, master or guru, but that the Golden Womb alone is the guru. In that womb, the minds of all beings are like fetuses. As a fetus receives nourishment from the mother through the umbilical cord, so all minds in meditation receive knowledge from the Golden Womb, the Teaching Spirit of the Universe. This is similar to the Christian notion of the Holy Spirit, who is the teacher of all teachers.

When one frees himself from all ego, all the knowledge of the Golden Womb flows into him effortlessly and naturally. Just as a fetus receiving nourishment from its mother does not know itself separate from her, so those in meditation do not know themselves separate from the Golden Womb. All revelation is of the grace that flows from the Golden Womb into the minds of those in meditation.

Some traditions assert that the Golden Womb reveals itself in the beginning of creation in the minds of the first human beings. Others go so far as to say that the first human being is a Master, who is an incarnation of the Golden Womb, the Teaching Spirit that has become flesh and from whom all spiritual knowledge begins and is handed down through the lineage of the yogis. He is also known as the Progenitor (Prajapati) or Brahma, the founder and first teacher of the Vedas. All yogis trace their lineage through their masters, ultimately to Hiranyagarbha or Prajapati Brahma. (Vol. I, 69-70)

So, basically, Hiranyagarbha is the original spiritual master of the yogis. I was contemplating my association with this name and whether it really is insufficiently "madhura" for a devotee of Srimati Radharani and a firm believer that prema is the prayojana. But, in the sense that I agree with the idea of a “Supreme Guru” to whom I am surrendered, it seems appropriate to show reverence to the name Srila Prabhupada gave me. In my opinion, Hiranyagarbha is the Samashti Guru Sri Jiva speaks of in Bhakti-sandarbha 330 and the Antaryami Guru spoken of by Kaviraja Goswami in Adi 1, the Chaittya Guru of 11.29.6:



naivopayAnty apacitiM kavayas tavesha
brahmAyuSApi kRtam Rddha-mudaM smarantaH
yo’ntar bahis tanubhRtAm azubhaM vidhunvann
AcArya-caittya-vapuSaH svagatiM vyanakti

Great philosophers could not reach the end of your glories, O Lord, even if they should think on them with increasing joy for aeons. For, in the form of the intelligence within and the teacher without, you destroy all inauspiciousness and reveal the way to attain you.

At any rate, since I no longer feel (never really have) any need to “reject” Iskcon or Srila Prabhupada, I am thinking that it would be an appropriate sign of my continued reverence for him to reappropriate the name. Especially since no one else has taken it. It would furthermore show my own appreciation for the yoga marga and its usefulness for bhakti culture, especially in the Sahaja domain.


No comments: