Friday, October 31, 2008

Advaita's reversal

Advaita recently posted the following on his blog.
Pāyūpasthayoś ca tatra sākṣād ayogyatvāt,which says one cannot use the genitals and the anus in Krishna's service, out of context. tatra means 'here', 'in this context', the context being Hari-bhakti-vilāsa 11.627-9, describing several ways in which the active- and knowledge-senses engage directly in Krishna's service, like the head in bowing down, the nose in smelling offered incense and Tulasi, etc., sākṣād means ' directly'. Sanatan Goswami states in the quoted tika that in this context the anus and genitals can not be directly engaged. My friend Brajabhushan personally wrote me last August: 
"Now, regarding your quote from HBV: my understanding is that the ṭīkā-kāra says that 'when describing sādhanā bhakti, various activities related to our senses were mentioned, but those related to anus and genitals were not included as they are not directly (sākṣād) suitable for the service.' That's clear, you will not offer to Krishna such direct 'service' as passing stool in front of Him, nobody would like it, not even a person dearest to you (like your mother, let's say) would like it. Nevertheless, she would like it if you emptied your bowels regularly (in the toilet, of course) as only this way you could maintain your health. I believe Krishna reasons in the same way."

Nice arguments can also be found in my blogs of August 22 and October 1. My friend Boris quoted this verse from Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (8.410), which also mention the genitals (śiṣṇā) as instrument of devotional service:

itaḥ pūrvaṁ prāṇa-buddhi-dharmādhikārato jāgrat-svapna-suṣupty-avasthāsu manasā vācā karmaṇā hastābhyāṁ padbhyām udareṇa śiśnā yat smṛtaṁ yad uktaṁ yat kṛtaṁ tat sarvaṁ śrī-kṛṣṇārpaṇaṁ bhāvatu svāhā māṁ madīyaṁ ca sakalaṁ haraye samarpayāmīti oṁ tat sat (410)
The problem of svarūpa-siddha and aropa-siddha bhakti remains. This latter quote is an example of aropa-siddha, i.e., when one offers one's activities after the fact. Procreation is simply not svarūpa-siddha by any stretch of the imagination. Such offering is necessary as a kind of fail-safe measure for a sādhaka, no matter what he or she does. But it does not engage the question of how the sex organs are to be used in direct devotional service.

Shiva made many good points on this blog here. The critical area is on the level of sādhanā bhakti. Do the sex organs have any function for direct devotional service there?

To say that procreation fulfills that function does not, I am afraid, hit the mark, nor does the quotation of dharmāviruddha-bhūteṣu kāmo'smi when used to support that contention. If one is holding one's nose and thinking of England while producing a child for Krishna, that is hardly svarūpa-siddha bhakti in madhura-rasa.

Anyone who thinks that the only function of sexuality is procreation has not thought the matter through. Is procreation involved in Radha-Krishna's madhura rasa? Since it is not, it means that sexuality has another function, that of LOVE.

If we don't face up to the fact that sexuality (if you don't like the word, use love; it helps) is at the very core of our personality, we will never understand madhura-rasa, nor why it is considered the highest and most complete of the kinds of divine relationship.

We also have to think of our acharyas' admonishments about the difference between sambhogecchātmikā and tad-bhavecchātmikā kāmānugā bhaktis. But that is a little more complex, so let us just say this: Bhakti is carried out on two levels--physical and mental, external and internal. Of the two, Jiva says that the internal is the sādhya, the external is the sādhanā.

Mental is perhaps the wrong word here, because rāgānugā bhakti, carried out in the mind, is also external. Mind here is external to self, and the practices of lila smarana are also meant to achieve the sādhyas of bhāva and prema. The fact that one can perform līlā-smaraa and not get prema is proof enough. Bhāva and prema are beyond the mind.

Stimulus --> memory --> emotion.

If the emotion is related to Krishna, it is bhakti. If that emotion is of the madhura quality, it is madhura bhakti. Since the general rule is that specific stimuli lead to specific memories and then to specific emotions, activities that engage madhura-rasa related senses (erogenous zones), in the mind trained by rāgānugā bhakti, lead to Krishna smaraṇa and then to bhāva.

I would add, of course, that one needs to train the body and mind with yoga as well. The reason for this is precisely because the energies that are awakened when the erogenous zones are stimulated need to be channeled properly, not haphazardly. Though there is no doubt in my mind that undisciplined sexual activity can have some benefit for smaraṇa, such benefit is really very miniscule when compared to sexuality that is controlled by yoga, and performed with a sexual partner who is also a bhakti-yoga practitioner, sādhaka or sādhikā.

Without the mental culture of rāgānugā bhakti, through which powerful symbolic associations are created, linking physical experience to the spiritual, sahaja sādhanā is impossible. Without the physical/psychic culture of yoga, the intensity of that experience is diminished tremendously.

Indeed, the path to bhāva is so strong and direct through devotional engagement of the genitals that it dwarfs all other sādhanās. Nothing concentrates the mind like sex. And nothing in the spiritual world is more intense than the love of Radha and Krishna. That is indeed the very basis for all creation. Avoiding this fact is like looking in a mirror and not seeing your nose. Unless you learn to engage the erogenous faculties in bhakti, your chances of entering madhura-rasa lila are diminished.

harir eṣa na ced avātariṣyat
mathurāyāṁ madirākṣī rādhikā ca
abhaviṣyad iyaṁ vṛthā visṛṣṭir
makarankasya viśeṣatas tad atra

If Krishna had not appeared in Mathura along with Radha, of intoxicated eyes, then this whole creation would have been an exercise in futility, and especially that of Cupid.

If there is no way to dovetail the activities of Desire, who is a form of Krishna, then this entire universe becomes meaningless. For the materialist, desire in itself is the goal, but the devotee has to learn how to take the energy of desire, the raw material of desire, and use it as the fuel for sādhanā.

I would add, of course, that the actual engagement of the genitals may be considered secondary. If one learns to use the energies produced in the nether regions and channel them properly, it may not be necessary. But, to be honest, that is the hard way. The association of a bhakta man with a bhakta woman, who love each other, is the highest and most powerful kind of bhakta sanga. How we have come to this situation where women are association with spiritual doom, even when they are rasika devotees, is quite beyond me.

People are missing the point. We are bhaktas, not jnanis. We are madhura-rasa bhaktas, not shanta-dasya-sakhya-vatsalya rasa bhaktas. This is about turbo charging your sādhanā.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

History is Bunk

Rishikesh is dressed up for Diwali. All the shops in the downtown area have brightly colored awnings and tables of goods spread out in front. Especially popular are firecrackers, which every other shop is selling. Puja paraphernalia, muri and pera, and of course sweets are piled on high like harbingers of the Anna-kuta festival, which follows on the next day.

Some of the side streets are cordoned off to car traffic, though a few scooters and motorcycles are still aggressively honking their way through the crowds. The mood is festive and Indian Christmassy. Colored and twinkling light garlands are draped on many houses, very elaborately in some cases.

Unexpectedly quiet, too, with the exception of firecrackers. I would barely have registered that it was Diwali if I hadn't had to go to Madhuban on Sunday. And it turns out I did not really have to. Rupa Goswami Das text messaged to say that the devotees would all be busy preparing Govardhan Puja so the class was cancelled. I didn't get the message on time, however, and since five or six people still showed up, I gave the class anyway.

The subject was Gita 4.1. As you probably know, this verse states the parampara of the Gita: Krishna spoke to Vivaswan in a previous incarnation, Vivaswan spoke to Manu and Manu to Ikshvaku. After reading Srila Prabhupada's lengthy purport, I realized that this is one of those points of irreparable difference I have from the current version of popular Vaishnavism that was started up by Srila Prabhupada.

That did not stop me from embarking on what I consider to be an essential bit of knowledge that will take the devotee out of the kaniṣṭha stage and into a higher realm of understanding of spiritual life and the nature of the Divine Truth.

To be honest, I quite recognize that bhakti is independent of jnana and that perhaps such things as relative truth of history in this world, i.e., what believes happened or did not happen in the past, are fairly irrelevant when it comes to practicing pure bhakti. However, when attempting to make bhakti cogent to people in the world today, we have to come to grips with the concepts of history and myth.

Basically, when a text tells us, "This really happened," its purpose is to strengthen our faith in some message. If such assertions end up weakening that faith, then we have to deal with it as myth. In order to do that, we need to deal with the concept of myth intelligently.

I started my class by quoting Henry Ford, "History is bunk." I know I have said this before, and believe me, from what I know of Henry Ford, who was something of a committed Fascist, racist, Anti-semite and what-have-you, it takes a little audacity on my part to quote him. And I probably don't even mean it in the same way he did. So let's just take the words and interpret them in our own fashion.

Since I am a little bit of a historian myself, I have come to recognize the sheer foolishness of trying to adequately interpret the historical record or to reshape it when it has become distorted, even when evidence seems to point us clearly in the right direction.

The historical controversies in Gaudiya Vaishnavism--the identity and career of Prabodhananda, the history of the first post-Chaitanya generation, the connection to the Madhva sampradaya, the character of the disciplic succession, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's own relation to his father and his father's guru, etc.--all these things and more are areas in which one can bring down evidence galore to little avail, for people believe what they want to, and those who are in a position to present their particular propaganda to a large enough group generally create "the official version of history," which then becomes unquestioned and unquestionable. Saying or thinking anything different becomes an act of treason, a breaking of faith.

Needless to say, any faith that breaks so easily is what Bhaktivinoda Thakur called komala-śraddhā and is the characteristic of the kaniṣṭha adhikārī. Unfortunately, when people criticize religion in general, it is these kaniṣṭha adhikārīs who give a bad name to the rest of spiritual practitioners in general.

On the whole, they fight a permanent rearguard action to protect their fledgling faith behind walls of ignorance, condemned to either lose their faith or to become totally obnoxious in its defense. So let us just say that too much coddling of kaniṣṭhas with absolute assurances of the truthfulness of particular versions of history, i.e., myths in the name of history, is ultimately counterproductive. Such addictions to "truthiness" keep one boxed in on the kaniṣṭha stage.

As far as I am concerned, however, no matter how well documented it may be, history has the inevitable tendency to become transmogrified into myth. That is due to the very nature of time itself. We live in the present--to say someone lives in the past or the future is to say that they live in the mind. The mind is the only locus of the past. And the mind shapes data in ways that suit the individual psychology, the individual and collective unconscious. We are selective in what we choose to know and what we choose to know about it.

In my class, I started giving many examples of how history fails us--Ashoka was all but forgotten in India until the Ashoka stambhas were discovered and deciphered. What great civilizations of the past have disappeared under the sands of time like the empire of Ozymandias? And what will remain of our own vain epoch in another millennium?

There is no better proof of this than our memories of our own lives. Anyone who thinks that his own life story, as he himself tells it, is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, is simply lying to himself.

Some people really think that Barack Obama is the Antichrist spoken of in the Book of Revelations. Others have a more benign mythological view of history as it develops, and whatever this understanding is, it guides their personality development and their actions, private or public.

And if we have a heightened sense of "scientific historicity" in the post-Enlightenment Age, has not Marxist critique, what to speak of Modernism and Post-Modernism, disabused us of any dogmatic approach to historical truth? And if that can said of us with our huge presidential libraries and libraries of Congress, what does it say for the Puranic and Epic material of India, which at best provides us with vague laundry lists of names from kingly dynasties descended from the Sun or Moon, with the occasional anecdote, and wild numbers like the magical "5000 years ago."

Or, as Prabhupada has it in his purport, stated with unambiguous certitude, "[A] rough estimate is that the Gita was spoken at least 120,400,000 years ago; and in human society it has been extant for two million years.... The mundane wranglers may speculate on the Gita in their own ways, but that is not Bhagavad-gita as it is. Therefore, Bhagavad-gita has to be accepted as it is, from the disciplic succession..." (page 193, Indian edition, 2007 printing).

The point is this: Did it really happen or not? And did it happen in the way the story is told? Almost certainly not. Then if it is not historically true, if it never happened, then what value does it have? What meaning does it have for us?

The fact is that everything that is in the past exists only in the mind, either individual or collective, and that this memory is selective and unreliable. But the next question is: We pride ourselves on being realists; isn't it said that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it? And if our perception of the past is clouded by mythologies, then won't we become rudderless in our dealings with the future? Isn't this itself the lesson, for example, of the last eight years of American history?

Well, for the past eight years of American history, we could just as easily look to the tragedies of ancient Greece and the downfall produced by hubris. Indeed, the novel could be seen to be just as insightful into understanding human experience as any historical account. The two genres almost blend seamlessly into various mythical accounts of reality. We perceive reality through myth, whether we decorate that myth with attempts at accurate portrayal of fact or through prejudice, or through rasa, i.e., just plain good human stories.

So let us return to faith. If the Bhagavad Gita is not a true story of an avatar of God who comes in every age to save the innocent and punish the guilty, to establish the principles of religion, speaking to his friend and disciple Arjuna, then what is left? Anything at all?

Let us start by understanding the Gita as an elaborate allegory based on the Upanishadic metaphor:

ātmānaṁ rathinaṁ viddhi śarīraṁ ratham eva tu
buddhiṁ tu sārathiṁ viddhi manaḥ pragraham eva ca
indriyāṇi hayāny āhur viṣayāṁs teṣu gocarān
ātmendriya-mano-yuktaṁ bhoktety āhur manīṣiṇaḥ ||4||
Know that the self is the warrior in the chariot, the body is the chariot. The intelligence is the chariot driver and the mind his rein. The senses are the horses, and the path they travel is made of the sense objects. The enjoyer [of the fruits of action] is the soul, equipped with mind and senses. (Katha Upanishad 1.3.3-4)
Arjuna is everyman, and Krishna is the divine intelligence and inner guide. The dharma-kṣetra is the field of duty, the kuru-kṣetra the field of "DO IT." Read the Gita in this way, and every time you hear the word buddhi, may a light go on in your head. And when you hear the words sarva-dharmān parityajya, hear, "Think for yourself!! Listen to the revelation of God from within. Then decide what to do."

The Gita is partly in time, partly outside. If we have a general idea of history, we can contextualize some of it--to critiques of Buddhism, Sankhya, Yoga; we can think of the Gita as a synthesis of all the above. But essential it is about the goal of liberation, which is to become a true individual, a unique servant of God.

The truth of the Gita's message, its staying power, is NOT a result of its historical truth, or the historical truth as given in the Gita itself. Its power stands on its ability to enlighten people through the ages on the nature of the human condition and the purpose of human life and how to attain it. Turning it into an idol by venerating it as an object dilutes and distorts its message.

What is interesting here, however, is that when we parse the symbols or the allegory and reduce it to concrete meanings, does the text lose its numinosity, its sacred power? The answer is a resounding no. As long as the text is alive, invested with the power to create saints (as well as fanatic zealots), as long as it is a locus for studying and appreciating the questions of Divine Truth, a center for the evolution of Humankind's understanding of itself, it remains a throbbing heart of revelation--even if we may bracket portions here and there as irrelevant (which is what people have done since time immemorial anyway!).

In the same way, we must become sāragrāhīs on every aspect of Vaishnavism. We should not be afraid of the word myth. Myth does not mean a lie. There are truer and falser myths. Find the myth that speaks to you, and you will find that truth is its core. Finding out that it is a myth will simply be one of the steps to learning that truth.

God does not cease being true because a myth failed the test of historicity. Nor does God cease having a form, attributes, līlā or dhāma. But that is a discussion for another day.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Prabodhananda Discovery

I am skipping around the RRSN typing out the commentaries to the most popular or famous verses. No real sequence.

I am simultaneously listening to Gopi Gita lectures by Kirit Bhaiji, a young speaker from the Vallabhi sampradaya. He is pretty good--a professional Bhagavata speaker. What do some people hate professional Bhagavata speakers so much? I am feeling the rasa. Though at the beginning he sings songs to Ganesh, etc., as part of the introduction, on the whole he is pretty good, with lots of Vallabhi siddhanta. quoting also Sridhar Swami, Rupa Goswami, Madhusudan Saraswati, and using modern examples.

Anyway, I have great admiration for these Bhagavata saptaha people. They have a pretty gruelling schedule--reciting the verses all morning along with various rituals, and then usually a four-hour or even longer discourse in the afternoon. I saw one such performance at the Vrindavan Ashram a few months ago. A few busloads of devotees had been bussed in from Madhya Pradesh somewhere and they were lapping it up. The entire courtyard was full, mostly, I think, with these pilgrims. It was charged and one turbanned, rustic-looking gentleman with dhoti, colored shirt and drooping grey mustache, was dancing daintily as the "Katha-Vyasa" sang some devotional song.

I was thinking how I could never do this, at least not at this level of expertise. My abilities are elsewhere. This guy has a really good group of musicians and he interperses song here and there. All verses quoted are sung and most of his speech is also accompanied by background music.

It is clear that he has rehearsed and mastered his performance in such a way that he can recite smoothly and naturally. Doing the class at Vrindavan ashram is allowing me to develop the same kind of mastery of certain things that I tend to say over and over again, translating verses that I often quote more smoothly, etc., as well as perfecting introduction and certain word series. I would like to be a little more orderly in my presentation, also.

Karpatriji is quite different from this Kirit Bhaiji. Karpatri is a jnani and so his approach is more intellectual. No songs. More spontaneous. Less rehearsed. More like I would do it, though I would similarly never have his vast knowledge. I guess that I would just have to be me! Like Oscar Wilde said, "Be yourself, everyone else has been taken." Let's just say that we should aim at professionalism.

Actually, on Monday, which is Satsanga (kirtan/bhajans) night here at the Ashram, I arranged for one musician Gurukula student to accompany me on the harmonium while I sang the Damodarashtaka prayers. Every couple of verses I would stop and tell the Damodar story (this was in English). It took me about 50 minutes, which was hogging the time that is usually shared, but the audience seemed to love it. Some here are starved for this kind of thing! At least no one stopped me or told me to shut up.

BTW, in the commentary here to RRSN verse 258, which is a really nice one I have liked for a long time--

ध्यायंस्तं शिखिपिच्छमौलिम् अनिशं तन्नाम सङ्कीर्तयन्
नित्यं तच्चरणाम्बुजं परिचरन् तन्मन्त्रवर्यं जपन्।
श्रीराधापददास्यम् एव परमाभीष्टं हृदा धारयन्
कर्हि स्यां तदनुग्रहेण परमाद्भुतानुरागोत्सवः॥

dhyāyaṁs taṁ śikhi-picca-maulim aniśaṁ tan-nāma sankīrtayan
nityaṁ tac-caraṇāmbujaṁ paricaraṁs tan-mantra-varyaṁ japan
śrī-rādhā-pada-dāsyam eva paramābhīṣṭaṁ hṛdā dhārayan
karhi syāṁ tad-anugraheṇa paramādbhutānurāgotsavaḥ

Meditating on Krishna with the peacock feather in his crown, constantly chanting his name, always serving his lotus feet and whispering his mantra, holding in my heart my highest desire, service to Radha's lotus feet, when will I, by Krishna's grace, become a living festival of this supremely wondrous love?

Anyway, I have discovered here a full insertion of a text I had never seen before, attributed to Prabodhananda Saraswati and seemingly unknown to Gaudiyas. Maybe someone else knows it, but I certainly didn't, even when I did the research for my article on Prabodhananda.

It is called 108 names of Krishna (śrī-kṛṣṇāṣṭottara-nāmāvalī), each one of the names begins with Radha or Radhika. There are a couple of other stotras with 108 names of Krishna, including one by Rupa Goswami, but this is quite different. Many of those familiar themes of Prabodhananda's, which are equally present in RRSN. Too bad Prabodhananda never gets full credit for his influence.

Here is the stotra in Devanagari (not proofread).


राधिकानागरो राधारसिको राधिकापतिः।
श्रीराधारमणो राधाप्राणसर्वस्व शेवधिः॥१॥
राधिकपरमानन्दो राधैकपरमोत्सवः।
राधैकपरमप्रेमा राधैकपरमोदयः॥२॥
राधैकपरमप्राणो राधिकापरमेप्सितः।
राधैककृतसम्मोहो राधैकव्याकुलीकृतः॥३॥
राधैकरतितृष्णार्तो राधैकसुवशीकृतः।
राधाङ्गसङ्गजीवातुः श्रीराधान्यस्तजीवनः॥४॥
राधाकामाग्निसन्तप्तो राधाविरहविह्वलः॥७॥
प्रतिवर्त्म सदा राधापदाङ्कालोकतत्परः॥८॥
राधादासीषु बहुधा कृतदन्ततृणादिकः।
राधिकापदविक्रीतस्वात्मा राधारतोत्सुकः।
राधाभ्रूभङ्गिचकितो राधाकर्णोत्पलाहतः।
राधाकुचालकालम्बी राधालीपरिनर्तितः॥१९॥
राधाहठपरिष्वङ्गी हठाकुलितराधिकः।
सुवेणीमूलम् आलम्ब्य कृतराधास्यचुम्बनः॥२८॥
मद्यन् माद्यन् मुहुः पीतराधाधरसुधारसः।
राधासखीजनास्वाद्य तदाश्चर्यरसाम्बुधिः।
उरस्थलीनित्यभूषा रत्नमञ्जरिराधिकः।
राधाक्रीडामृगशिशू राधिकादासयन्त्रकः॥३८॥
कुचतटीशायी स्वोरःशायितराधिकः।
उरःस्थलं विनाशय्याप्यधिरोपितराधकः॥४३॥
राधामानकलाभीतो राधानुनयकोविदः।
राधामानग्राहकाले चाटुकारपरायणः॥४४॥
सखीदृगिङ्गितस्तब्धो राधामानातिखिन्नधीः।
राधानीवीसुसंस्पृष्टहृदयो राधिकामयः॥४७॥
राधासम्बन्धशून्यानां प्राणानाम् अप्युपेक्षकः।

॥ इति श्रीप्रबोधानन्दकृतनामावली सम्पूर्णा॥

Radhe Radhe!

Just counting how many unfinished posts I have as drafts -- 15 in all. Many quite recent. Hope I can finish some of them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Atheism and pantheism

Yesterday, Swami Veda gave a rather animated lecture about atheism. He likes to tell the story of how he wrote a book called simply "God" which he proudly showed to his guru, Swami Rama. Swami Rama apparently countered a few months later with his own book, based on the Mandukya Upanishad, called "Enlightenment without God."

In this lecture, though, Swami was talking about imbuing life with the sacred. How the lack of awareness of the sacred element in life makess it dry and empty. He used the words astika and nastika several times in order to make his point. Since I have been working on Bhagavat-sandarbha, following a discussion on several verses from the Bhagavatam where the words neti neti are discussed, I wanted to ask what the relation between negation and assertion of Divine Truth were, in his vision. Of course, I think I know what he will say--pretty much the same thing that Osho says--"Being empty [of illusion] is the same as being full [of the divine]."

Over on the Guardian Comment is Free page, an article by Arian Sherine All aboard the atheist bus campaign and its response by Simon Barrow, Atheist evangelising? have become the most responded to articles on the site. The readers of the Guardian are primarily left-leaning social liberals, free thinkers, and decidedly anti-religion. Reading through the comments they make, they are quite as full of bovine dung as the most militant Christians. I came across a quote in one of the links on Sherine's article, however, where Richard Dawkins, the atheistic scientist (whose word "meme" has suddenly become a meme in itself and is now almost as ubiquitous as God himself, though not without being bastardized--come to think of it, not unlike God himself) whose book "The God Delusion" is one of the main texts of revivalist atheism, in which he says that pantheism is just sexed-up atheism. ("Sexed-up" is British for "snazzed up", which is now being replaced by the even more horrible - to sexed up -- "pimped")

Last but not least, Bhagavat-sandarbha 38:

astīti nāstīti ca vastu-niṣṭhayor
eka-sthayor bhinna-viruddha-dharmaṇoḥ
avekṣitaṁ kiñcana yoga-sāṅkhyayoḥ
samaṁ paraṁ hy anukūlaṁ bṛhat tat

The followers of Yoga and Sankhya are intent on the Truth, which is the same object for both, but they attribute different and opposing characteristics to it, either by affirming or negating [its attributes]. To both it appears as that same something, which is transcendental, favorable [to their understanding] and [supremely] great. (SB 6.4.32)

Satya Narayan: In yoga and sankhya which though professing faith in the one Reality ascribe two distinct and mutually contradictory attributes to it, the one claiming that it has hands and feet, etc, and the other denying them, and yet they have a common basis in the shape of God that which is found to be common and beyond dispute and which is acceptable to both is Brahma.

Gita Press version: In yoga (which is primarily a system of religious worship) and sankhya (the science of self-realization) which, though professing faith in the one Reality (viz. God) ascribe two distinct and mutually contradictory attributes to it—the one claiming that (when conceived as the Cosmic Person) it has hands and feet, etc., (corresponding to the Patala and other lokas), and the other denying them (and declaring it as without name and form), and yet they have a common basis (in the shape of God) that which is found to be common and beyond dispute and which is (equally) acceptable to both (viz. God Himself, whose existence is presupposed by both and who is the ground of all negation) is Brahma (to whom all controversy relates).

param padam vaiṣṇavam āmananti tad
yan neti netity atad-utsisṛkṣavah
visṛjya daurātmyam ananya-sauhṛdā
hṛdopaguhyārha-padam pade pade

Since they intend to leave aside everything that is not the Absolute Truth by following the process of negation (neti neti), transcendentalists give up all misconceptions of the self. Constantly embracing the Lord’s form within their heart and having no other friend but Him, they know that He, Lord Vishnu, is the supreme destination. (SB 2.2.18)

On the whole though, negation can only bring you to the Brahma-bhuta stage. In that sense it is the same as other kinds of God-realization.

Love, an impersonal energy

Let's look at it a bit differently. I was reading a book A Spiritual Approach to Male/Female Relations recently in which the following sentence popped out at me: " can become more meaningful by recognizing that this very personal attraction comes from an impersonal energy in the universe, which we sometimes glibly term 'love'. Aligning ourselves with this love, with its impersonal and palpable reality, can be a first step towards improving all our human relations."

This is an interesting statement that has a certain intuitive cogency. The word anaṅga, which is a name for Kamadeva, means "bodiless." In one sense, love is shapeless. When people say, "God is love," they can mean various things. One is "Love is God," in the sense that this amorphous, all-pervading, underlying substratum of love can be tapped into and experienced.

There are various ways to experience the underlying unity of all existence--one is simply by being, another by understanding, and the third, by loving.

But the way that this seems to be to me is that just as there are various energies present in the universe, but in order to quicken them there must be some nexus of production. For instance, electricity is supposedly everywhere, but to produce it in a way that makes it usable, one must generate it through the apposition of positive and negative charges.

Similarly, love is like that, too.

Radha and Krishna represent the very basis of that production of love. This is why I give such importance to the verse that states, "God was One, but enjoyed not. He desired another and so divided himself in two, becoming like lovers locked in embrace." The Upanishads say, "He desired (so'kāmayata): I am one, let me become many."

The parallel is that sat, chit and ānanda related respectively to the experiences of being, consciousness and joy. Joy means love.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hierarchies of rasa

This could be a huge topic, but I am not going to get into it in detail. This is a followup to yesterday's post, Harilal Vyasa, a few observations.

HLV (Harilal Vyasa) quotes the following verse from VM (Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛtam), and there are many similar verses. I will probably add to this post in the course of time, and anyone who has noticed verses of the same genre can add a comment pointing me in that direction.

Anyway, the comment about Radha-vallabha and Sphuṭa-vāṇī made in the previous post shows that PS (Prabodhananda Saraswati)/HHV (Hita Harivamsa), i.e., the author of Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi (RRSN), makes a distinction between Radha worship and worship of Krishna, Radha's lover. This point is made in VM as follows:

dhanyo loke mumukṣur hari-bhajana-paro
dhanya-dhanyas tato’sau
dhanyo yaḥ kṛṣṇa-pādāmbuja-rati-paramo
rukmiṇīśa-priyo’taḥ |
yāśodeya-priyo’taḥ subala-suhṛd ato
rādhakaḥ sarva-mūrdhni ||

Glorious are those persons who desire to climb out of the well of material existence and attain liberation; even more glorious are those who have dedicated themselves to the service of the Lord. More elevated again are those who have become attached to Sri Krishna’s lotus feet. Those who love the husband of the Queen Rukmini are superior again to such devotees, while more praiseworthy still are those who are dear to the son of Yashoda. More glorious again are those who have made friends with Subala’s comrade. Superior to those in the mood of friendship are those who worship the Lord as the lover of the gopis. Yet standing at the head of all devotees in the creation are those whose thoughts have been washed away by the flood of sacred rapture emanating from the daughter of King Vrishabhanu, Radha, and worship her above all. (2.34, Translation taken from Mañjarī-svarūpa-nirūpaṇam)

The obvious comparison is to the Upadeśāmṛta by Rupa Goswami, but note the difference--

karmibhyaḥ parito hareḥ priyatayā vyaktiṁ yayur jnāninas
tebhyo jnāna-vimukta-bhakti-paramāḥ premaika-niṣṭhās tataḥ |
tebhyas tāḥ paśupāla-paìkaja-drśas tābhyo'pi sā rādhikā
preṣṭhā tadvad iyaṁ tadīya-sarasī tāṁ nāśrayet kaḥ kṛtī ||

Clearly the jnanis are dearer to the Lord than the karmis, and dearer still are those who place devotion, completely void of the search for knowledge and liberation, above all else. Better again are those who are fixed in prema, and better than they are the lotus-eyed cowherd beauties of Vraja. Dearer to Krishna than all these is Radha, the dearest of all; and her pond, Radha Kund, is just as dear. So what pious person will not take shelter there? (10)

The point being that the emphasis in the VM verse is that Radha is the worshipable object and that Rādhā-dāsya is above all, independent of Krishna. Although Prabodhananda situates Rādhā-dāsya in the sequence of Krishna bhakti, he does a jump from Krishna to Radha in the last line. Rupa Goswami maintains the position of Radha as a devotee and dear to Krishna to the very end, though he intimates that taking shelter of Radha is the superior option for a sadhaka. The difference is one of nuance, but it is an important nuance to the Radha-vallabhis. The Gaudiyas, though not always explicit about it, practically follow the Radha-vallabhi siddhanta, but they express it in terms of bhāvollāsa-rati, which means having devotion for a devotee (suhṛd-rati) within the framework of Krishna devotion.

Of course, as PS's verse shows, you cannot separate Radha-tattva from Krishna-tattva. No matter how hard you try, it comes back to the historical fact that Radha-tattva comes out of gopi-tattva. And gopi-tattva develops out of the metaphor of the jiva's love for God, i.e., devotion. Radha is, and always will be, the svarūpa-śakti, the personification of the essence of love for the supreme object of love. Put another way, she is the samaṣṭi (macrocosmic) form of love for God, which the jivas must participate in in order to enter the divine world, which is created out of that essence. The jivas can at best experience a fragment of that prema but, through devotion to Radha, can become entirely drenched in it, soaked it in, inundated by it.

Whatever the ramifications of that in terms of lila, or appreciation on the part of most fortunate devotees (suhṛd-rati), that cannot change. If you cannot replace Radha-Krishna by Krishna alone, you certainly cannot replace them by Radha alone, no matter how you cut the metaphorical cake.

Just to add what might be considered a verse that goes somewhere in between the above two is the following PS verse from Caitanya-candrāmṛta--

kecid dāsyam avāpur uddhava-mukhāḥ
ślāghyaṁ pare lebhire
śrīdāmādi-padaṁ vrajāmbuja-dṛśāṁ
bhāvaṁ ca bhejuḥ pare |
anye dhanyatamā dhayanti madhuraṁ
śrī-caitanya-mahāprabhoḥ karuṇayā
lokasya kāḥ sampadaḥ ||

Some headed by Uddhava, attained the mood of service, others achieved the praiseworthy position like that of Sridama; others attained the mood of the lotus-eyed damsels of Vraja. Others, most fortunate of all, came to drink the sweet lotus of Radha rasa. What wealth did the world not attain through Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's mercy? (113)

Harilal Vyasa, a few observations

The Rasa-kulyā commentary on RRSN is pretty interesting, which will gradually come out. As you may already know, there are several points of connection between Gaudiyas and Radha-vallabhis, not the least of which is Prabodhananda Saraswati's role in developing the theology of the school--even if we don't accept that he is the author of RRSN.

Of course, since Prabodhananda was an independent spirit and became more of a Radha-vallabhi than a Gaudiya, there is no point in trying to interpret RRSN as a text following pure Gaudiya siddhanta. (One of the arguments by today's defenders of Harivamsa's authorship are based on the premise that if Prabodhananda wrote RRSN, why does it not follow Gaudiya siddhanta?) Nevertheless, it is clear that Harilal Vyas had a very thorough knowledge of Gaudiya literature.

The reason I am writing this now is because I came across a reference to the Gopa Kumar story from Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (to verse 96). So far I have come across numerous quotes from Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, and Alaṅkāra-kaustubha. These are not as numerous as quotes from the Bhagavatam or Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta, which tops the list with literally hundreds of verses throughout the commentary. I have yet to come across a reference to the texts of any other sampradāya.

Of course, the principal source Harilal Vyasa relies on to develop his interpretation consists of internal references from RRSN. Interestingly, there are a few, but not many, citations of Harivamsa's own Brajbhasha songs. This may be due to the inability to do so. Even in the introduction to this edition, the editor tries to defend against the argument that Harivamsa's songs present a different vision of Vraja līlā, and are not at all the same kind of strict exclusive devotion to Radha found in RRSN. (I also made this argument in my articles on the subject.) For instance, in Sphuṭa-vāṇī, it is clear from quite a number of verses that Radha-vallabha Krishna is the iṣṭa-devatā. The editor's explanation is that the words Radha-vallabha indicate a preference for Radha. The argument is a little weak, since the RRSN is going a step beyond Krishna with Radha to the predominance of Radha over Krishna. (See page 15).

Part of this reliance on Gaudiya materials probably has to do with the fact that he is writing in Sanskrit in a sampradāya that has functioned almost exclusively in Brajbhasha. There is literally no material from his own lineage that he can draw on.

At any rate, this familiarity with Gaudiya sources shows the connections between the two sampradayas appear to have been open until at least the time of Harilal Vyasa in the mid- to late 18th century, which is pretty late. Harilal Vyasa, of course, does not have any doubts about Harivamsa's authorship nor any of the other hagiographical material about his life--he received the mantra "Ra-dha" from Radharani herself, etc. This is Harilal's verse--

rādhaiveṣṭaṁ sampradāyaika-kartā-
cāryo mantra-daḥ sad-guruś ca |
mantro rādhā yasya sarvātmanainaṁ
vande rādhā-pāda-padma-pradhānam ||

I bow down with all my being to him whose worshipable deity is Radha, the founder acharya of whose sampradaya is Radha, whose mantra-guru and teacher is Radha, and whose mantra is Radha's name. He [Hita Harivamsa] place Radha's lotus feet above all else. (maṅgalācaraṇa to RRSN commentary)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Autumn Moon

Autumn moon. Beautiful sharada chandra; it seems to fill the whole sky, deep amber color, a few wispy clouds, lighting up the mountains.

There was no one at Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi class today, so since Harilal Vyasa concludes his tika to verse 2 with it, I just read a commentary on a Bhagavata verse from the Bhramara-gita, api ca kripana-pakshe uttama-shloka-shabdah. "No woman alive anywhere in the three worlds can resist your charms--even Lakshmi Devi herself worships the dust of your feet, so who are we [to hope for your mercy]? And yet, you are glorified as being merciful to the least of creatures, so live up to the meaning of your name."

It is really has the same basic idea as another verse that I tried to quote the other day and could not remember. That night, when I opened Ananta Das's RRSN, it fell open on a page with that very verse on it. Actually I had posted it on my blog some time ago.

na premā śravaṇādi-bhaktir api vā yogo’thavā vaiṣṇavo
jnānaṁ vā śubha-karma vā kiyad aho saj-jātir apy asti vā |
hīnārthādhika-sādhake tvayi tathāpy acchedya-mūlā satī
he gopī-jana-vallabha ! vyathayate hā hā mad-āśaiva mām ||

I have no prema.
Nor do I engage in hearing and chanting,
the practices that lead to prema.
I have not the self-discipline befitting a Vaishnava.
Nor do I have wisdom, nor, alas, pious works.
I am not even of good birth.

O Gopijanavallabha!
You are said to bring fulfilment
to those who are most unworthy,
yet the hope for your mercy,
which is pure and holy,
and so deeply rooted within me that I cannot cut it out,
brings me nothing but pain.

It is called āśā-bandha--the contradictory feeling between one's own sense of unworthiness and the hope that still Radha and Krishna will be merciful and give a place at their lotus feet. It is also part of raga, lobha or what have you. I am unworthy, but I am going to keep at it because come hell or high water, I have to have it. That is all there is to it.

With the new schedule, arati starts at 6.15, so I try to be there at 5.15. Today I was there late. As I said, I was reading the commentary on 10.47.15 by Swami Karpatriji, and had made it almost all the way through when my main audience came traipsing in for arati. Maybe they had missed the class because I was late.

Anyway, I just quickly told them what I had been doing and they reminded me that Karpatriji had lived in this ashram for a while back in the 1940's. There is a very old banyan tree which is intertwined with a pippal. They form a kind of cave which is where Karpatriji did bhajan. He established a small Shiva linga there, which is now surrounded by marble and a number of other small statues of Shiva related deities. They told me that one day Karpatriji was giving a class there and a snake fell out of the tree and landed beside him. It remained motionless while he spoke and then as soon as he stopped, slithered away.

The Baba who is a regular attendee at the class said that you sometimes see the "shadows" of Karpatriji and Surdas, wandering about at night in that particular part of the ashram.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Dust of Radha's Feet, RRSN 3

The second verse of Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi, with the commentary of Harilal Vyasa.

tadevaṁ sarvārādhyārādhanīyatoktavaty antar-durlabhatve śaraṇāgatānām ādhunikānāṁ tat-pada-prāptau kim ālambanaṁ tatraiśvaryato'pi kṛpātirekeṇa mahimānaṁ namati--

After having thus established in the first verse that Radha is the supreme object of worship, as well as the extreme difficulty in attaining her, surrendered individuals today may wonder what is the means by which they can do so. In order to do so, the author bows down to her glories in which the power of mercy exceeds that of divine opulence--

śrīmat-parāga-paramādbhuta-vaibhavāyāḥ |
tasyā namo'stu vṛṣabhānu-bhuvo mahimne ||

I bow down to the glories of the daughter of Vrishabhanu, the supremely astonishing opulence of whose lotus feet dust is incomprehensible to the gods like Brahma and Ishwara and so on, and whose compassion soaked glances rain down the nectar of the essence of all human goals.
Comment: Brahma and [Ishwara means] Shiva. The word "and so on" refers to Sanaka, Narada and others who through their devotion have been able to attain influence over the Lord. For them, Krishna's lotus feet are difficult to comprehend, so Radha's lotus feet are even more so. The dust of those feet is particularly charming and beautiful, and so is called zrImat. This beauty-filled dust possesses supremely astonishing opulence.

Alternatively, the word śrīmat means that Lakshmi resides there. For instance, in the following verse, it can be understood that Lakshmi developed a desire to receive the dust of the gopis' feet--

nāyaṁ śriyo'ṅga u nitānta-rateḥ prasādaḥ
svar-yoṣitāṁ nalina-gandha-rucāṁ kuto'nyāḥ |
rāsotsave'sya bhuja-daṇḍa-gṛhīta-kaṇṭha-
labdhāśiṣāṁ ya udagād vraja-vallabhīnām ||

In the rasa dance, the Lord showed his favor to the beauties of Vraja by placing his powerful arms on their shoulders and dancing with each of them individually. This benediction of extreme love was never experienced by even Lakshmi Devi, nor by the goddesses in the heavenly planets, though they have the delightful fragrance of lotus flowers, what to speak of any others. (SB 10.47.60)
With this desire, she came to Vrindavana and approached the chief of all the gopis, our Swamini and took the dust of her feet on her head. This will be stated in the fourth verse of RRSN. And since she thus never abandons the Lord (anapāyinī) and is known by the name of Kamala ("one who dwells in the lotus garden"), she has taken up residence in the dust of Radha's lotus feet. Thus it is appropriate to say that the dust of Radha's feet is śrīmat.

ṣaṣṭhi-varṣa-sahasrāṇi mayā taptaṁ tapaḥ purā |
bhaktyā nanda-vraja-strīṇāṁ pādareṇūpalabdhaye || iti|

Next the three words parama-adbhuta-vaibhava, "supremely astonishing opulence" is being explained. Lord Brahma says in the Padma Purana--"I devotedly performed penances for 60,000 years in order to get the dust of the feet of the women of Nanda's cowherd village."

tad bhūri-bhāgyam iha janma kim apy aṭavyāṁ
yad gokule'pi katamāṅghri-rajo'bhiṣekam |
yaj jīvitaṁ tu nikhilaṁ bhagavān mukundas
tvadyāpi yat-pada-rajaḥ śruti-mṛgyam eva ||

It would be the greatest fortune if I could take any birth at all in this land of Gokula, where I would be blessed by a shower of dust from the lotus feet of any one of its residents. These associates of Lord Mukunda have made him the very life of their lives, and the dust of his feet is what the Upanishads are in constant search of. (SB 10.14.34)
These and hundreds of other verses indicate just how rare this dust of the gopis is. Since Krishna is the object of the loving worship of these gopis, and so the dust of his feet is rarer yet. Since Radha is worshiped voluntarily by him, it is clear that her lotus feet dust is said to be even rarer. So for Brahma and Shiva, it is seen as a "supremely astonishing opulence"; from the point of view of the gopis is astonishing, while for Krishna it is an opulence (vaibhava). This dust will be further glorified in the next verse where it is said that it is "the magic powder that quickly casts a love-spell on him."

From the gopis' point of view, they are thinking, "Ah look at the good fortune! Krishna is doing like this." [i.e. Krishna is so anxious to get Radha's dust, how fortunate she is.] Therefore it goes without saying that for Brahma and his ilk, this dust is supremely astonishing.
Alternatively, if seen from the point of view of Hita Sakhi, then the dust of Radha's feet is possessed of opulence because it is worshiped by the Yutheshwaris like Lalita, it is astonishing because Krishna humbly begs to take some on his head as it it were his worshipable object, and it is supreme because it is "the magic powder that quickly casts a love-spell on him."
I had a bit of trouble with that last bit. I am not quite sure what he is getting at with his distinctions between parama, adbhuta and vaibhava.

Ananta Das also quotes the tad-bhūri-bhāgyam (10.14.34} verse in his commentary. He includes Lakshmi and Uddhava in the "etc." of Brahma, Maheshwara, etc. He then goes on to include or to say that ishwara refers to Krishna himself. So I don't get the impression that he has done any borrowing from Harilal Vyasa.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Obeisances to Radha's Direction, RRSN 2

There has been a lot of talk about symbolism of late. Seriously, though, despite the symbolism, which is important no doubt, the real rasa is where it always was—in the Transcendent Divine Couple. The symbolism points both ways: Life in this world is itself merely a symbol for the Divine Transcendent Truth.

Whether the Goswamis and Prabodhananda Saraswati and the other rasika gurus of Vrindavan in the 16th century were aware of all the psychological subtleties that we are today is not a reasonable question to ask. I think that they were intuitively more aware than the moderns would give them credit for, but ultimately that does not really matter.

My personal attitude is that I have faith in the way the Divine appeared to them. That is revelation, and revelation is a gift that keeps on giving. Its profundity is related to underlying eternal truths that by definition do not change. This is why we should be careful not to say that the Goswamis did not really understand what they were saying, or say that they really meant something other than what they said they meant.

The Goswamis, and the acharyas of all the Vrindavana Rasika sampradayas, are agreed that sakhī-bhāva is the highest goal for the jiva, not kānta-bhāva. Whether you think of Krishna as your lover, or Radha as your mistress [a completely original attitude that has no precedent as far as I can see anywhere in either our disciplic succession or any of the related Vrindavan paramaparas], it comes down to pretty much the same thing: you are thinking that you alone are a source of full joy to the Supreme Lord.

But this is a conception that is flawed. It may be true that the jiva is fulfilled by this kind of relationship with God, and no doubt God himself is gratified by the devotion of the jiva, but the Goswamis' conception is different: We enter into the most intimate zone of the Divine Lila through service to and identification with the Hladini Shakti.

This has symbolic ramifications on many levels, as I have pointed out many times. There is the inner psychological meaning of the union of opposites that is symbolized by the Divine Couple. There is the valorization of human love, in particular monogamous commitment, as well as a great deal of insight into the mysteries of that relation. There is even a symbolism for yogis and the awakening of the kundalini, or other variations on the same theme of the union of opposites -- retaso rajaso yogo rāja-yoga ity ucyate.

It also has significance for the preference for the feminine, both as the principal object of devotion and as one's own svarūpa. And all these things are related to the ideal of love, which is symbolized primarily by the feminine. This is not a general statement about women or men, but is simply a symbol. Just as femininity and masculinity are in everyone, so are the functions of āśraya and viṣaya, but āśraya is symbolized by the feminine and viṣaya by the masculine.

But since this world ultimately points to that One, we do not replace the symbol with some esoteric meaning. We recognize that everything points to Them. In all cases, whatever the symbolism or reality, the purpose is the same: To serve the Divine Union.

I don't really have anything more to say on this subject. I am just going to be dogmatic and say that I accept the insight of the Vrindavan rasikas to be the most authoritative, and I choose to follow that and to contemplate that--śravaṇa, manana and nididhyāsana. If someone else has a different realization, I have no quarrel. I simply choose to follow the opinion of Rupa and Raghunath.

I have no quarrel, but frankly I have no patience either. Sorry.

nānyat kadāpi samaye kila devi yāce
sakhyāya te mama namo'stu namo'stu nityaṁ
dāsyāsya te mama raso'stu raso'stu satyam ||
O Devi, Radhe, other than service to your lotus feet, I ask for nothing at any time. I bow down again and again to your friendship, my taste is for your service, for your service alone.
hā devi kāku-bhara-gadgadayādya vācā
yāce nipatya bhuvi daṇḍavad udbhatārtiḥ |
asya prasādam abudhasya janasya kṛtvā
gāndharvike nija-gaṇe gaṇanāṁ vidhehi ||
O Devi! I fall down like a stick on the ground before you and beg with a voice broken by emotion: Please be graceful to this ignorant fool and include me as a member in your group, your gana.
vṛndāraṇya-maheśvarīṁ priyatayā yās toṣayanti priyāḥ |
prāṇa-preṣṭha-sakhī-kulād api kilāsaṅkocitā-bhūmikāḥ
kelī-bhūmiṣu rūpa-mañjarī-mukhās tā dāsikāḥ saṁśraye ||
I take shelter of Radha's dasis headed by Rupa Manjari who are dear to the Queen of Vrindavan, who please her by services like offering tambula, massaging her feet, bringing water when she is thirsty and taking her on abhisara to meet Krishna. More fortunate than even Radha's dearest sakhis, they have uninhibited access to Radha and Krishna's most intimate lilas.
tad atimadhura-dhāmni nāmni vātsalya-mātrāt
katham api kalanīyau kasyacid bhāgya-sīmnaḥ |
śruti-tatibhir agamyau sat-sabhājasra-saṅgau
smara nibhṛta-nikuñje rādhikā-kṛṣṇa-candrau ||
Radha and Krishna nama is the abode of sweetness; yet only the most fortunate persons receive their darshan by extrema affection (prema). And although unknowable by the Vedas, they always appear within the assembly of the sakhis and manjaris. Oh mind! Just meditate on Radha and Krishna within the hidden nikunjas!!


We are still on the first verse of the Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi. It has been more than two weeks and we don’t seem to get more than a couple of sentences done each day. I actually fully intend to read more, but somehow or other I end up bloviating (that’s the second time I use the media’s mot du jour over the past couple of days) extensively anyway.

The verse, again for those who missed it, is—
I bow down even to the direction in which Vrishabhanu-nandini is present, for Madhusudan himself, whose characteristics are incomprehensible to even the greatest yogis (yogīndra-durgama-gatir madhusūdano’pi), thinks himself to be most fortunate and fulfilled when the glorious, most glorious breezes arising from the playful movement of the hem of her sari come his way. (RRSN 1)
The last few days have been spent on the line yogīndra-durgama-gatir madhusūdano’pi. I will translate the remaining portion of the commentary by Harilal Vyasa, who gives three distinct meanings for this portion of the verse.

अपिशब्दस्य मधुसूदनैकपदनिबद्धत्वं चेत् तदा कृतार्थमानी इति वाक्यानन्तरं योगि इति विशेषणव्यङ्ग्यमाह-अत एव योगीन्द्राणाम् अपि दुर्विवेचनीया गतिः स्वरूपं रीतिर्वा यस्य अहो तादृशैश्वर्योऽपि तादृशमानीति परमविस्मापक इति सूक्ष्मातिसूक्ष्मज्ञानामपि प्रस्तुतानन्दरहस्याज्ञानान् महाजितेन्द्रियनिष्कामपरिग्रहाणामपि, अपि चास्य बुद्धिपूर्वकृतार्थमननेन क्रीडामृगत्वदर्शनाद्दुर्वितर्क्य इति। अतो योगीन्द्रेत्यनेन तद्धेयमायिककामादिप्रतीतविलासाः स्वत एव निरस्ताः। ततश्च शुद्धप्रेमविलासा अत्र व्यञ्जिताः।
The word api (“even”) if taken to apply to the word Madhusudan only, then the words yogi etc., that follow the phrase, “considers himself to be most fufilled” have the following adjectival meaning: Madhusudan is one whose essential nature and actions are most difficult for even the greatest yogis to understand. They think, “Aho! Madhusudan has such opulence and divine grandeur, and yet he still thinks that he is fulfilled when he gets the fragrance coming from Radharani’s cloth. This is most amazing.”

Though they have knowledge of both the gross and subtle aspects of the material nature, they are ignorant of the joys of the particular phenomenon that is here being discussed, and since they are fully sense controlled and indifferent to all manifestations of desire, they find it beyond their understanding when they see Krishna’s willingness to act as Radha’s plaything and to find fulfilment in so doing.

The word yogīndra thus naturally implies that these pastimes could not be the kinds of Mayika material sensuous activities that they have rejected. Thus the use of this word reveals that these pastimes are pure prema in nature.

This is the primary meaning and has many precedents in the Bhagavatam, where it is said that Shukadeva and others were attracted to hearing Krishna's pastimes, even after attaining Brahman realization. This also reminds us that the madhura lila is not comprehensible to three kinds of person, as stated in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 3.5.2.

अथवा योगिनां संयोगिनां शृङ्गार्यभिमानिनां महाविषयिणामिन्द्राः परमभोगिनो विलासिप्रभवः, तेषामपि दुर्गमा दुरूहा दुष्प्राप्या गतिर्विलासरीतिर्वा रसिकता यस्येति। किं च, ते तु नायिकां स्वसुखार्थमेव मन्यन्ते। अत्र पतित्वेऽपि तत्सुखसुखित्वासक्तिदास्यादिनियतबुद्ध्या परमसेव्यत्वमननादुत्तरोत्तर-निरतिशयाखण्डानन्दैक-पर्यवसानात् तृप्त्यनुपरमाच्च गतेर्दुष्प्राप्यत्वं विस्मापकत्वमुचितमेवेति शृङ्गारविलासमात्रापेक्षयोक्तम्। ऐश्वर्ये तु कैमुत्यमेवेति।

Alternatively, yogi here means people who are attached to union, i.e., sexual union. These people are proud of being cultivated in the erotic arts, they are great sensualists, and amongst them those who are indras are the greatest enjoyers or masters. For them, these pastimes, i.e., this kind of ability to relish such pastimes of love, is impossible to comprehend.

Moreover, such persons think that the nayika is an object of their own pleasure, whereas Krishna, although the lover or husband of Radha (pati), thinks only of her pleasure (tat-sukha-sukhi). It is he who is attached to her and considers himself to be her servant and her to be the supreme object of service. From this, his love for her is transformed into a unique and unbroken bliss and ceaseless sense of satisfaction that is incomprehensible to such sensualists, a source of great astonishment to them, and is yet recognized as appropriate.

All this is being said purely from the point of view of Radha and Krishna’s erotic pastimes. When the element of divine transcendence or aishwarya is added, then it certainly becomes even more incomprehensible, astonishing and appropriate.

In other words, Krishna's sensual activities may seem similar to those of mundane sensualists, and even an object of imitation. But these persons have to admit that they could never match what Krishna does. The last verses of the Rasa-lila are appropriate here.

यद्वा, योगीन्द्रपदमन्तरङ्गसख्युक्तौ बहिरङ्गमिति मन्यमानभावुकानुमोदनार्थमन्यदप्याह--द्विदलात्मकशृङ्गारे विप्रलम्भलवाभासमसहमानत्वात् योगः संयोगरसः, तत्सिद्धान्तनिष्ठत्वात् तत्सम्प्रदायिनः सखीजनास्तदाचार्यत्वादिन्द्राः, प्राप्तैश्वर्या यूथेश्वर्या ललिताद्या वा। अतितृषितप्रियस्य योजनमेव योगः। तत्रासाधारणगुणकुशलत्वादिन्द्राः। तत्राप्यशक्यकरणेन प्राप्तप्रियप्रशंसनोत्कऋषाच् चेन्द्राः यथा कविरेव कवीन्द्र इतिवत् तेषामपि दुर्गमरहस्य इति। किं च, तेऽपि नित्ययोगे कृतार्थमननेन विस्मयं कुर्वन्ति।

A further external interpretation of the word yogīndra, seen from the more intimate level as a statement of a sakhi. Though love has two aspects, separation and union, the sakhis cannot tolerate even the momentary appearance of separation. So here, yoga means the Divine Couple’s pleasure of union. Since these sakhis follow a tradition in which the siddhanta is that Radha and Krishna are never to be separated in which they are indeed the acharyas, they are the yogīndras. Or, the word indra here refers to Lalita and the other chief sakhis who have attained a degree of power amongst the sakhis as yutheshwaris.

Since they have attained an incomparable degree of expertise in arranging the union of Krishna, who is most eager, with Radha, they are known as indras. Furthermore, since on achieving this goal they receive praises and thanks from Krishna, they can also be known as indras, as a kind of title in reward for their service, just as a great poet is called a kavindra. Nevertheless, even for them, Madhusudana’s activities and character are a mystery beyond understanding. Furthermore, they find it astonishing that Krishna should feel such a sense of fulfilment upon receiving this breeze from Radha’s cloth when in fact he is always in her association.

अत्राशक्यकरणं काकुचाटुनत्यादिरपि प्रियस्य न सिद्ध्येत्। तत्रैते प्रियावाम्यं शमयित्वा संयोजयन्ति। तदा प्रियप्रशंसाप्राप्तिरिति कदाचित् तादृश्योऽपि मानाधिक्येऽनुनेतुं न शक्नुवन्ति। तदा प्रियो दुर्घटघटनोपायान् एवं करोति यत् पश्यन्तीनामपि मनोवागतीतं प्रियावशीकरणकौशलं चित्रमुत्पादयेत्। तदास्य रसिकगतिं दुर्गमां मन्यन्त इत्यादि सहृदयगम्योऽर्थः।

[Moreover} Sometimes it is impossible for Krishna to calm Radharani’s temper even with sweet words, appeals and falling at her feet. At such times, the sakhis intervene and pacify Radha and bring about their union. Then they receive Krishna’s accolades. Though this is frequently the case, sometimes Radha’s temper is so great that even they are incapable of calming her. Then Krishna reveals his potencies whereby the impossible becomes possible and changes her mood. The sakhis watch all this and become astonished at this ability he has to win Radha over, which is beyond the power of the mind to understand and words to describe. This ultimate rasikata that Krishna possesses is thus incomprehensible. This meaning is meant for the initiates.

The translation of the above two paras, in an attempt to be literal, is a little awkward. There are two things going on. One is that according to the sakhi sampradayas the nitya-vihāra is always taking place and so Radha and Krishna are never separated. Other persons admit to a certain appearance of separation. So here the first part is that the amazing thing is that Krishna should find the scent coming from Radha's cloth as anything special when he is always with her. The second is about Krishna's ability to calm Radha's anger even when the sakhis cannot.

एवं श्रीहितः स्ववस्तूत्कर्षातिशयमनुभूतं स्मरन् धन्यासौ दिग् यस्यां सा राजते इति दिशं प्रति प्रसद्य त्वत्सदृशी त्वमेव इत्यपि नमनभङ्ग्या व्यञ्जयन् सूक्ष्मसम्बन्धपर्यन्तस्यापि नमस्कारेण सजातीयाशयान् अभिमुखीकरोति शिक्षयति चेति।

Here the author Harivamsa remembers his experience of the supreme wonder of the subject he is about to describe and thinks how glorious is that direction in which Radharani is present, and so in a feeling of pleasure towards that direction, thinking that you are equal only to yourself, by paying his obeisances to that direction, he turns the minds of those who are like him in spirit towards her and also teaches them that this is to be done.
ananya-madhupaṁ naumi priyā-kañjaika-jīvanam|
tat kañjaṁ yatra vasati tasyai cāpi diśe namaḥ ||
I bow down to that single-minded bumblebee, whose life and soul are the lotus of his beloved. I also bow down to the direction where that lotus dwells.
I rather like the idea of paying obeisances "to the direction." Here that means pointing yourself towards Varshana or Vrindavan towards the south. But it also means pointing oneself towards love.

Since I am moving through RRSN so slowly, it may be feasible to translate as I go along. So far, this commentary is pretty good. I am interested in finding other Radha-vallabhi commentaries. Jai Radhe!