Showing posts from November, 2008

Thanksgiving thoughts

One of the psychological features of devotees that atheists like to complain about is that we always want to be saved. Whenever we get a little bit weak we start hollering for God to come and save us. I haven't had that mood for a long time. But still, from time to time, I start doing it.

Reading in Vivekananda's biography, it says that in his Brahma Samaj days, he could not stand "devotees who would cry emotionally, pray for God's mercy in every sentence they spoke, or repeatedly condemn themselves as lower than worms or insects. He thought that a man should hold his head up high like a man and worship God with steadfastness and unbroken resolve." (Satyendranath Majumdar, Hindi edition, p.58)

[विशेषतः भक्तों का भावावेश में रोना, बात बात में दयामय भगवान् की कृपा के लिये प्रार्थना करना, अपने को कीटानुकीट के समान हेय मानकर आत्मनिन्दा करना अदि बातों की नरेन्द्र कठोर आलोचना करते थे । वे तो यही उचित समझते थे कि पुरुष पुरुष की ही तरह मस्तक ऊंचा करके दृढ़ उद्यम और अट…

Three Verses About Radha

With regard to Radha and Krishna as Rati and Smara (Kama):

ratiḥ sākṣād rādhā sakala-jaḍa-cil-loka-paramāramādy-atyāścaryāmbuja-dṛg aniśaṁ prārthya-dṛg-aṇuḥsmaraḥ sākṣāt kṛṣṇo'navadhi-rati-tṛpto'khila-paraḥpareśaḥ pronmīlad-ruci-jaladhi-vardhaika-rug-aṇuḥLove (Rati) is Radha herself, the highest truth of all the material and spiritual worlds. So all the goddesses from Lakshmi on down, whose eyes are as beautiful as lotuses, all pray constantly for her merciful glance. Desire (Kama) is Krishna himself, the Supreme Lord beyond everything, who always takes satisfaction in his unlimited lovemaking, who [like the moon] causes the ocean of beauty [that is Radha] to overflow with just a single ray of his light. [Prabodhananda, VMA 11.46]What is interesting about this verse is that it makes Rati and Smara the subject and Radha and Krishna are the nominal predicates. In both cases, the word sākṣāt is used to indicate complete identity. I have often pointed to the Brahma-saṁhitā verse w…


atha samañjasā— UN 14.48-51—

patnī-bhāvābhimānātmā guṇādi-śravaṇādijākvacid bhedita-sambhoga-tṛṣṇā sāndrā samañjasā
yathā tatraiva (10.52.38)—kā tvā mukunda mahatī kula-śīla-rūpa-vidyā-vayo-draviṇa-dhāmabhir ātma-tulyamdhīrā patiṁ kulavatī na vṛṇīta kanyākāle nṛ-siṁha nara-loka-mano-’bhirāmam
Now “conventional affection” (samañjasā): The [more] intense love known as samañjasā is occasionally pierced by the desire to enjoy. The essence of this love is the sense of identity and mood of being a wife. It arises from hearing about Krishna’s qualities.

The example is given in Rukmini’s letter to Krishna: “O Mukunda! O lion amongst men! When the time comes, what unmarried maid of great qualities, of clear intelligence and of good breeding would not choose as a husband someone like yourself, who is equal to herself in family, character, physical beauty, knowledge, age, wealth, and influence, and who are a source of joy to the minds of all people in this world?” (10.52.49)

samañjasātaḥ sambhoga-sp…


It is important to recognize that Rupa Goswami's descriptions of Radha and Krishna's love have relevance for our understanding of human love.

For instance, let us examine Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi 14.45-58:

nātisāndrā hareḥ prāyaḥ sākṣād darśana-sambhavā
sambhogecchā-nidāneyaṁ ratiḥ sādhāraṇī matā

yathā śrī-daśame (10.48.9)—
sahoṣyatām iha preṣṭha dināni katicin mayā
ramasva notsahe tyaktuṁ sangaṁ te’mburuhekṣaṇa

Sādhāraṇī rati is defined as follows: Love for Krishna that is not particularly intense and nearly always arises after directly seeing him, and which has sexual desire at its basis, is called “common” affection.

For example, Kubja said to Krishna, “Come, my dear, and spend a few days with me. Make love to me, O lotus-eyed one, for I cannot abide the thought of leaving you.”
asāndratvād rater asyāḥ sambhogecchā vibhidyate
etasyā hrāsato hrāsas tad-dhetutvād rater api
Because the love is not particulary intense, it can be separated from the desire for sexual enjoyment. Wh…

The purpose of human sexuality is priti

What we are really asking is the question of what is pleasure itself. What is happiness? The prayojana according to the shastras is sukham, happiness. This is the argument at the beginning of Prīti-sandarbha and that argument leads to the conclusion that it is prīti or prema for the Supreme Truth. The opposite of this, as different as day to night, is the desire for one's own self-centered sense pleasure.

So, the shastra accepts that happiness is the goal, but simply asserts that we are going about finding it in the wrong way: na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum. We are looking for our own happiness, but we don't actually know who we are.

Activities in knowledge of our true self are pleasurable; those which are not, are not.

Let me make this very clear: I am not proposing an irresponsible lust and free sex program. That just does not make any sense. When the Bhāgavata and Gītā, etc., warn about lust, they are making a valid point that needs to be made. It is principally a soci…

Is Radha and Krishna's love analogous to human love?

I have said that the experience of human love is the only way to really understand Radha and Krishna. It is possible, of course, to argue against this by saying two things:

(1) Radha and Krishna's love is so different from human experience that there is no way to compare the two.

(2) Since the knowledge of this love is eternal and self-luminous, we do not need to seek any external worldly experience of any kind in order to understand it. It is revealed from within without any reference to what happens outside.

We have dealt with these arguments before, but the simple answers are:

(1) Since historically the accounts of Radha and Krishna's love can be said to grow out of the secular Indian love literature, and since those accounts mostly use categories developed in Sanskrit poetics, it is ludicrous to say that they cannot be compared.

(2) The entire thrust of the bhakti concept is based on the idea that we use the God-given senses to please the sense of the Divine. In other wor…

Still in Delhi

Finally got my visa extension yesterday after three days of pretty much running around, or sometimes hurrying up and waiting. From what I hear, many people in the ashram, including Swami Veda, were also working pretty hard to get things done--emailing this, that and the other to present a case to the Home Ministry. Of course, the real danger is that in another year we will have to go through this rigamarole again.

Wandering through Pahar Ganj I felt almost at home, especially as I watched from the rooftop restaurant in the Krishna Hotel, where I had been indulging in a plate of momos, a kind of Tibetan dim sum and the vegetable soup I ate with Madhavananda the night I came. Seeing the lights spreading in every direction with almost nothing but pedestrians, the atmosphere is decidedly festive and familial. If it weren't for my nose feeling like a cocaine addict's leftovers from the bad air, I thought, this place could actually grow on me.

Pahar Ganj is crowded with tourists from …

Same old, same old

I have to thank Advaita for taking the time to respond to my October 31 posting. The fact of the matter is that it does not seem as though Advaita has read any of my arguments or that he has understood anything if he has. And so he is rehashing the same old points, which in many cases look rather like straw men, without even trying to deal with any of them.

Contradictions abound in Advaita's post, showing that like so many others who are incapable of calmly and rationally looking at an issue, they simply fire whatever lies on the surface of their brains. In the very same post he says that it is a "logical" proof that sex is for procreation because women always get pregnant from sex, then later he argues that spilling semen is not murder because they don't.

But nothing is more indicative of his bad faith than his so-called final comment:

If illicit sex would lead to enlightenment, the whole world would have been enlightened from day 1.
If he could show me where I have sai…

In Delhi

Got into Delhi last night at 10.30, after a pleasant trip with a group of young Americans who are planning a cycling trip across India visiting organic farms. I will put up his blog address when I have it with me.

Met Madhavananda with Uma at Pahar Ganj and ate with them. With his beard and soiled chaddar, he looks pretty much the same as I knew him, except for his naked neck. He fits into the Pahar Ganj scene rather seamlessly. Uma, too, with her long blond dreadlocks and Finnish charm.

They were off to Denmark on a flight at 6 in the morning. Madhava will spend the next couple of years until... well whatever happens. At least, he says, until he is able to renew his Finnish passport without fear of being sent to prison for draft evasion. He is full of stories of his encounters with nefarious chiselers and hustlers, from the gurus to the disciples. His love for Bengalis is wavering. Where is he at? We will wait until he is somewhere...

As for me, a day spent in the hope of a visa extensi…