Sunday, July 20, 2008

An katha an byatha

Kanwaris on road from Haridwar
Yesterday, there was a tempo rikshaw strike in Rishikesh. The month of Shravan is a big month here, as there are literally thousands of pilgrims or Kanwarias, mostly young men dressed in bright orange shorts and t-shirts stamped with OM or a picture of Shiva and om namah shivaya. They are going to do the walk to Neelkanth, 25 kilometers away. It is a different kind of group from the one I described doing the same thing around Shiva-ratri time. They are mostly from the cities, Delhi, Chandigarh, etc. (See Kanwarias flock highways to get an idea of the madness.)

Anyway, something happened, I never really figured it out or cared much, but it did stop me from going to Madhuban for my Sunday class. It was a little too bad, really, because the subject was the yā niśā verse from Gita (2.69) and I was a little inspired to talk on Hari-kathā itself.

I have been appreciating the words kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta, which are used to translate "Krishna consciousness." Prabhupada uses it in almost every purport. Other than the reminder of Vishwanath Chakravarti's famous lila grantha, the word itself has a sweetness that the constant repetition only enforces.

Advaita was complaining a bit the other day about the Prabhupada translations, but in many ways it is full of admirable niṣṭhā. Another example of the same thing is in Gita 2.64-65, where Prabhupad translates the word prasāda as "the mercy of the Lord." None of the commentaries I looked at proposed such a definition. The most expansive, Madhusudana Saraswati, says prasannātāṁ cittasya svacchatāṁ paramātma-sākṣātkāra-yogyatām -- "satisfaction, clearness of the heart, the eligibility to have direct vision of the Paramatma."

Of course, it is unlikely that Prabhupada's meaning is what the original author intended. And the translation can be criticized from another perspective -- Prabhupada makes attaining freedom from all attachment and aversion the result of obtaining the complete mercy of the Lord, whereas the verse clearly states that prasāda is the end result of sense control, and in the next verse, that such mental clarity makes it possible to attain buddhi, which is really the recurring theme and main subject of the Bhagavad-gita. But whatever the case may be, prasāda is Krishna's mercy, one way or the other.

But to get back to yesterday. I had an invite for lunch at one of the permanent resident's cottages. As it was, nearly all the "in crowd" from the ashram was there. It was really in honor of a disciple of Swami Veda, who is now the chargé d'affaires of the Burkino Faso embassy in Delhi. A very sweet and wonderful man, in fact. Indeed, they are all nice sattvika people whom I like a great deal. But for me, I felt almost for the first time since coming here that same discomfort I used to feel when back in Montreal attending a family gathering or some other social event -- really out of place. There was no Hari-katha and no real door open for Hari-katha. Oh surely there was some way, but it would have been awkward.

It reminded me of the story of how Krishnapremaji met his guru Yashoda Ma, who was the wife of the chancellor of Benares University. She would host these gatherings for the faculty and the local British functionaries with dancing and alcohol and all the rest. But Krishnaprema saw her disappearing from time to time and became curious: Where did his sparkling hostess go off to for extended periods of time throughout the evening? So he followed her, and saw her go into the puja room, where she would sit in deep meditation until her forces were replenished and she could go on with her entertainment duties. From there, one thing led to another, of course, until they ended up in Almora together, creating a "new Vrindavan" in the hills. But I always liked that image of her escaping from that vapid crowd of tippled party-goers.

Generally, I usually eat in silence or with the ashram students, who usually like talking about spiritual subjects. So I never get this impression of utter futility that comes when the talk is about train schedules and traffic problems on the highway from Hardwar, or where and when this particular piece of crockery was purchased. Narottam Das's verses kept running around in my head--


āna kathā āna byathā jeno nāhi jāi sethā
tomāra caraṇa smṛti mājhe
abirata abikal tava guṇa kalakal
jeno gāi satera samāje

vaiṣṇava caraṇa reṇu bhūṣaṇa kariyā tanu
jāhā hoite anubhava hoy
mārjana hoy bhajana sādhu saṅge anukkhon
ajñāna abidyā parājoy

All other conversation is just a different kind of suffering. May I never go where such conversations are held, but remain ever fixed in remembering your lotus feet. Constantly, with my full faculties, may I always sweetly sing your glories in the association of the saintly. I make the dust of the Vaishnavas' feet the ornament of my body, for insight into spiritual matters comes from their grace. One must purify one's bhajan through remaining constantly in the association of sadhus. That is how ignorance and misunderstanding are overcome. (PBC 40, 12)
So I was feeling very hungry afterward to speak Hari-katha in the association of devotees, and the missed opportunity hung heavy on my heart.

Some people have privately let me know that they have some reservations about me going to speak at Kirtanananda Maharaj's temple, since they feel that his debt to the devotees in terms of clearing his record, etc., have not been fully acquitted. I sympathize with this viewpoint, but I confess that I am totally self-interested. To see the beautiful deities of Gaura-Nitai and Radha-Govinda, to see the devotees enthusiastically chanting and dancing in arati, to see their faces listening blissfully and appreciatively to Hari-katha, makes me forget everything. Perhaps one day there will be a fire with no smoke, and the temples and ashrams will all be built with "white money." Until then, I take my share of the sin.

And as for sin, the other verse that came to mind at lunch was... (and I think I must confess that I may be being too harsh, as the hostess in question is a bhakta of the samanya variety, with a Bal Gopal in her house, sitting on a throne that I bought for him in Vrindavan this last time. She is a regular visitor to Banke Bihari, and Hare Krishna was playing on the CD machine when I arrived.) ...but these were the verses running through my mind, so if there is offense, I beg forgiveness...


viṣayīr anna khāile malina hoy mon
malin citte nāhi hoy kṛṣṇera smaraṇa
viṣayīra anna hoy rājasa nimantraṇa
dātā bhoktā doṅhāra malina hoy mon

When one eats food offered by a materialistic person, one’s mind becomes contaminated. If the mind is contaminated, one is unable to remember Krishna. The food of a materialistic person is infected by the mode of passion and both the person who offers it and the one who accepts it are mentally contaminated. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.278-80)
Of course, in the above context, Mahaprabhu mentions directly that Raghunath's father and uncle, Govardhan and Hiranya, were "Vaishnava-praya" and that their devotion was subordinate to their materialism. Well, I am pretty mixed myself... But I would have liked to talk a little more about kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛtam yesterday. It all would have fit nicely into yā niśā sarva-bhūtānām.


* * *


The reason there has been so little posting of late is that I have been busy meeting a deadline on Vishnurata's Gita. I finished it on Saturday, but the pressure is still weighing. I now have to finish up the article on Prataparudra for Satyaraj. That should take a day or two. Then it is back, mercifully, to Bhagavat-sandarbha. I have been unforgivably negligent with this job and I hope that Satya Narayanji will not be too impatient with me. And then there are my duties here...

So it likely means that this blog will continue to be less active than I would wish over the next couple of weeks at least.




2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Regarding Kirtanananda, he is not alone in his practice. There is a whole culture among religious figures of keeping silent about the past, no matter how pressing and present the need for a word or two on issues they chose, in a not too distant past, to bury alive. Iskcon to this day has not addressed its child abuse issue. Not honestly, not at all.

The pope has made two official apologies on child molestation by catholic priests. But these apologies are purely political maneuvers - how can they not be so: In his present visit to Australia the pope urges thousands of youth to reject a materialistic lifestyle and work to save a world that is becoming a "spiritual desert". But as he so speaks, somewhere in the US three women are being excommunicated from the church for the "sin" of accepting ordination as priests. The only reason given by the church for these excommunications is that "Jesus Christ did not have female disciples".

One thing is to chose to keep walking down the only road there is to walk. Another entire different thing is to keep hacking a deceitful path in the name of the 'only possible walk'.

Those who choose to remain unaccountable for their past mistakes reasoning that they are so entitled because of their present work for the greater good of God's glory, are deceiving no one but themselves. People may work with them, yes, either out of ignorance, or out of pity. But it is work that feels like carrying a never volunteered for ill on their backs. An imposed, encumbering burden, really.

Jagat said...

What you say is perfectly true. I suppose that the appropriate thing to do would be to speak directly to Kirtanananda the next time he comes and see what he has to say.