About those Iskcon lectures, I will only make one comment, and that is that I cannot recall having heard the name of Radha a single time, nor Vrindavan, nor the word prema. The only exception to this dearth of rasa was perhaps one young brahmachari who read a couple of songs by Jnana Das about Krishna's rupa.
It must be said, though, that as someone who likes to speak Harikatha, I cannot help salivating a little at seeing classes of 200 to 250 devotees all eager to listen, hungry for a good class. Radha Raman Swami was the best received of all the speakers I saw, and he had some good insights, but not one of them could hold a candle to Prem Das, whose audience was 25 or 30 mostly aging babajis... and a handful of women and grihasthas. (Couldn't resist, sorry!)
Another thing I noticed is that whereas I remember no one ever coming to give a class with notes in the past, now everyone seems to do so, sometimes even bringing in books and reading entire sections from here and there to make a point. It is better, I guess, than hemming and hawing and saying nothing, but this professor trip is not so inspiring. The better lecturers I saw were the ones who were prepared but not looking at notes.
During this time, I started listening to some CDs of Swami Karpatriji's Bhramara Gita lectures. Karpatriji (Hariharananda Saraswati) was quite a famous scholar who taught in Benares. I had purchased a book on Bhramara Gita based on these lectures before going to Vrindavan and found some good things in it, so my appetite was whipped up. When I found the CDs on the Banke Bihari Road, I picked them up despite the rather steep price. Comparing them with the book, I have to say that the editing is really pitiful. I am almost embarrassed at how poorly it was done as though the goal were to save paper rather than deliver the nectar. The editor cut out so much, there is not even a tenth of the material that is found on the recordings. And what has been lost is the most interesting stuff, all the rasa.
Satya Narayanji says he was a big Mayavadi. The first, he said, to start making a trade of speaking the Bhagavatam. There are now so many red-clothed sannyasis with tripundra giving Bhagavata lectures now. SN: "After all, how long can you go on talking about the 27 kinds of consciousness without losing your audience?"
Adirasa, an Iskcon rebel staying at the Jiva Institute came knocking on my door and asked me why I was listening to a Mayavadi instead of Srila Prabhupada. Of course, if I was listening to him to learn how to defeat the Mayavadis, then that was OK. I said that was not the case, leaving him mystified. Later Adirasa remarked that Karpatriji spoke with a great deal of force and authority. Like Prabhupada. Like Swami Rama.
True, Karpatriji may be a big Mayavadi, but I don't care; he is great. I love Hari Katha and there is so much juice in these CDs. The point is that whatever his personal philosophical predilection, he recognizes that the force of bhakti is greater than that of nirakara, nirguna, nirasa Brahma, and he says as much. The atmarama verse is never far from his lips. The fact is that once you are an achintya-bhedabheda-vadi, you are not afraid of Mayavadis any more. You become like the hamsa who takes the nectar from a diluted mixture, and as long as there is no outright polemic against bhakti, you can relish that essence.
Karpatriji explores the commentaries for each verse, and won't put a verse down until he has explored every alleyway, every nook and cranny of interpretation possible, whether it comes from the Gaudiyas, the Vallabhis, or any other sampradaya.
His language is just shaped through and through by the language of the Bhagavata. Entire phrases that slip from his tongue with such natural ease, names of Krishna—he won’t just say “Krishna,” but “Shyamasundar Madana-mohana Paramananda-kanda Sri Krishna” or instead of Radha, he will say “Hladini Shakti Svarupini, Mahabhava svarupini Vrishabhanu-nandini Sri Radha.” By the same token, he has down pat all those lists that the shastras are full of--the five elements, the senses, the degrees of prema, the characteristics of this, the qualities of that. It makes the talk flow nicely when you don't have to stumble over those things but can just rattle them off--you are reminded of them, but they don't interfere with the main subject.
With his vast knowledge of Advaitavada, he can carry a theme like one where he says that Radharani is so fed up with Krishna that she would rather have mukti with sustained philosophical momentum. I think it is this verse he has quoted--
bAlAsau viSayeSu dhitsati tataH pratyAharantI manaH
yasya sphUrti-lavAya hanta hRdaye yogI sumutkaNThate
mugdheyaM kila tasya pazya hRdayAn niSkrAntim AkAnkSati
Munis are trying so hard to pull their minds away from sense objects and place them on Krishna's lotus feet. They would feel so satisfied if they could do so for even a moment, and yet this girl is trying to drag her mind away from thinking of him, trying rather to think of sense objects. And yogis are engaged in tapasya hoping for a momentary vision of the Lord in the heart, and this foolish girls is trying to empty her heart of him. (Vidagdha-madhava, 2.37)
It is really interesting how he uses language. He is basing everything on the tikas, he is repeating the Sanskrit over and over again. Not only the Sanskrit of the verse, but the Sanskrit of the tika as well. He then translates into a moe sophisticated Sanskritized Hindi, following with the more familiar language, repeated his translation over and over until he gets that sentence just right, until he gets that full idea . It does not sound like he is struggling at all, just that with each repetition it becomes more full and complete. Then he goes into the vyakhya. Then he will bring in other verses or citations from other scriptures--Gita, Ramacharita Manasa, or some other text, tell an entire story. Or some nice asvadya verse which he will do something similar with.
Then as he completes the interpretation of one section of the original verse, he will repeat the entire verse, or just the same one or two lines and start in on another vyakhya of the same words or phrases. The end result is that by the time you have listened to the whole five hours of discussion of one verse, it is beating away like a drum in your head. Especially with the malati meter which starts with six short syllables--
vahatu madhupatis tan-mAninInAM prasAdaM
yadu-sadasi viDambyaM yasya dUtas tvam IdRk
O honey drinker! Friend of that cheater! Don't you dare touch my feet with your whiskers, which are all covered with the saffron that has dusted the garlands that cover the breasts of my competitors. Let the Lord of the Madhus go and supplicate the proud women in the court of the Yadus, making a fool of himself there. You are just like the person who has sent you here. (10.47.12)
You are a drunk, and drunks tend to hang out with cheats. No surprise there. So you are quite the cheat too, I am forced to assume. Don't come here and pretend to be humble and conciliatory. I can see the red powder on your face. I know where you have been, so don't embarrass me in this way. You are corrupt and contaminated, whereas I am pure. Your touch will surely make me impure.
You are a bee, and bees are notoriously unfaithful, flying one flower to another, abandoning one as soon as it has exhausted the supply of honey. You are just like the one who sent you, who abandons a woman as soon as he has seduced her. Better you should try to calm the anger of all those women in Mathura who have now experienced Krishna's cheating character. Let him make a fool of himself in the Yadu court by showing how he has to plead with them to forgive him for his cheating ways.
I was just listening today to a lengthy part of his discussion of 10.47.12 (the series starts with 10.46.1 and goes to the end of 10.47) that was based on Dhanapati Suri's commentary, which as far as I can see is the longest one of all, about equal in length to all the Gaudiya commentaries taken together, but one that until now I had not paid much attention to, except that I had noticed it contained a lot of verses from Ujjvala-nilamani.
Anyway, Dhanapati Suri goes into a philosophical interpretation of the entire verse that is as ingenious as it is irrelevant to the actual context. Nevertheless, having this interpretation enriches the understanding on one level, just by taking us there. The word mAninI is interpreted to mean the shruti pramana, for which Dhanapati quotes the dvA suparNA verse and the ajAm ekAm lohita-sukla-krishna (SU. 4.5), both of which demonstrate the duality of the Supreme Soul and the jiva. It is brilliant. Maybe I will get the time to reproduce some of it here some time. Sorry for the cop-out... but I am off to Madhuban. Every Saturday and Sunday, 7.30 p.m. No cover charge.
Karpatriji is going to have a big influence on my Hindi lectures, though I don't expect that I will ever be anything like him. It is just like when I attended many classes by Ananta Dasji. He inspired me greatly to learn more and refine my language. To master the craft. I don't think that I will ever get to anywhere near the kind of fluency of either of them--or any other native speaker of Hindi or Bengali for that matter--but it is worth the effort. I want to distribute the rasa.
I feel like I have perhaps wasted the last 20 years. I might actually have become pretty good if I had stuck it out over that time. Oh well, no doubt something has been gained over that time.
Only trouble is I don't have all the CDs. There must be another 25 hours or something to complete the series.