Thursday, November 20, 2008


atha samañjasā— UN 14.48-51—

patnī-bhāvābhimānātmā guṇādi-śravaṇādijā
kvacid bhedita-sambhoga-tṛṣṇā sāndrā samañjasā

yathā tatraiva (10.52.38)—
kā tvā mukunda mahatī kula-śīla-rūpa-
vidyā-vayo-draviṇa-dhāmabhir ātma-tulyam
dhīrā patiṁ kulavatī na vṛṇīta kanyā
kāle 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-spṛhāyā bhinnatā yadā
tadā tad-utthitair bhāvair vaśyatā duṣkarā hareḥ

tathā hi tatraiva (10.61.4)—
patnyas tu ṣoḍaśa-sahasram ananga-bāṇair
yasyendriyaṁ vimathituṁ karaṇair na śekuḥ

Whenever the desire for sexual union becomes separate from the conventional affection, then the various moods [bhāvas, which here means anubhāvas like kila-kiñcita,, etc.] that arise from it have little power to subjugate Krishna.

The example is given in the Bhāgavatam: Krishna’s sixteen thousand wives were unable to disturb his mind and senses through their actions, which were like the arrows of Cupid, their smiles, glances, their various enchanting movements and eyebrow movements, as well as all their verbal enticements. (10.61.4)
Observations: Sri Jiva states samañjasā rati has elements of concern for what is right by a worldly standard, or of what others think (loka-dharmāpekṣitā darśitā). This is the implication of the words patnī-bhāvābhimānātmā.

I have translated samañjasā by the word “conventional.” I wanted to follow Rupa and have three words that started with the same letters and for common and competent, there is no problem. However, for samañjasā, there is a bit of a limitation as it does not convey all the senses of the Sanskrit word, which might more correctly be rendered by something like "proper, appropriate." I previously used "compromising" but I think that it goes too far. Both are possibilities.

In the beginning of the discussion of the three ratis, i.e., 14.43-44, Jiva Goswami and Vishwanath present a slight difference of opinion. Both agree that the terms assigned to the three kinds of rati in question are “self-evident” in that the characteristics of each kind of loving attitude (rati) is revealed in the name itself. Furthermore, Vishwanath says they are mutually exclusive, i.e., samarthā-rati is neither common nor compromising. Sādhāraṇī rati is uncompromising, but it does not possess the characteristics of competence. Samañjasā rati is not common, but neither is it fully competent.

Jiva, however, says that since samañjasā (compromising) has a concern for the principles of religion and public opinion, it is not very competent (nātisamarthā). However, he goes on to say that we should not conclude that because this kind of love is called samañjasā (here meaning something like “proper” or “appropriate”) that there is no propriety in samarthā rati. Married love is based on an external concern for religion and public opinion, whereas samarthā rati is perfectly appropriate when viewed from a transcendental (pāramārthika) standpoint.

Vishwanath says that the first example verse (10.52.49) shows the more positive aspects of samañjasā, while the second example shows its shortcomings. Even so, some of the things that are considered positive about this married love, when looked at from the point of view of samarthā rati, are negatives. In samarthā rati, there was love as a response to pleasure. In samañjasā, there is love in response to calculations of potential pleasure. Love is not a spontaneous, all-conquering force. The very fact that loka and dharma are a consideration means that a mental calculation is being made, one that calculates in terms of one's personal losses and gains.

Vishnudas kind of nails it on the head when he says patnī-bhāvābhimānātmā means ātmany āropita-sambandha-viśeṣaḥ: "A specific kind of relationship is projected onto the self." This is a kind of contractual thing mentioned in the commentaries. Vishwanath, for instance, says that even though the gopis were "married" to Krishna according to the Gandharva "rite" (i.e., making love without any officially sanctioned sacrifice witnessed by Agni and the brahmins), they do not count as having samañjasā rati. I think what they are getting at here is the legalistic aspect of marriage as a way of tying oneself into a relationship where the rules are drawn up, expectations are clear, and responsibilities and protections are written in. In other words, it is jumping, but with a safety net. Nowadays we could say that takes the form of a prenuptial agreement.

I have said before that the idea of samañjasā must primarily be considered in the Indian context of arranged marriages. So immediately it takes a bit of a leap for most westerners to try to come to an understanding, though of course, it is still something of a living reality for Indians, even very modern ones.

In that respect, Rukmini is in a class by herself, even though we might say that she has internalized the mentality. Rather than stand by and let others make the calculations on her behalf she is making them herself. She rejects the choices offered her by her brother and father, bucking social convention and making a choice based on her own personal values and so on. But the basic compromise is one of reason and heart. She is pulled by the heart to Krishna, but at the same time, it has to be reasonable—she is assessing whether they are suitable for one another. This is how the other meaning of samañjasā is applicable.

The interesting question here, which is ultimately the theme of the three types of love, comes in the definition of love as either being distinct from or one with sexual desire. The inferior kind of love (sādhāraṇī) is said to be completely separable from desire (kāma), while in samañjasā rati, it is only sometimes distinct, in which case Krishna becomes aloof from his wives.

The valuing of pārakīyā love in Inda would not have been possible if all satisfactions were present in the system of arranged marriages. We could also put it this way: If marriage as an institution were meant to lead to the death of eros, then it could generally be considered successful.

Usually married love is regarded as inferior because it becomes boring, lacks the excitement of new loves, presents no danger or obstacles, etc. On the surface of it, none of these things is being considered in the definitions given here. Nevertheless, we must speculate that there is a connection. Generally speaking, the value of marriage is that a couple keeps its contractual obligation, recognizing that love is ephemeral in this world and that through all the ups and downs, there must be a commitment to a higher principle, namely dharma, the contractual obligation to support and serve one another in sickness and in health, in wealth or poverty, happiness or distress, or even with the abatement of passion. There is also often, in the material situation, a question of children and other extended obligations that arise from such a union.

By the same token, there is a fear of public opinion (loka), which tends to keep one captive in a situation that may have become unbearable. These are external constraints that serve as a protection for the institution of marriage, and in this world, they are justified to a great extent. One of the criticisms that arose about John McCain, for instance, in the recent elections, was that he divorced his first wife on returning from Vietnam, apparently because she had been crippled in a car accident. Since she no longer served his interests, having lost much of her sexual appeal, he abandoned her for another woman. This could be given as an example of the sādhāraṇī mentality.

The need for dharmāpekṣā and lokapekṣā to restrain baser impulses of this sort--the kind of thing we might call licentiousness or womanizing--certainly have a role to play in society, and religion has typically served this role. You could say that the cost to society of abandoning religious restraints of this type in order to allow the possibility of higher individual freedom and fulfillment means running the risk of people acting according to their lower propensities. This is the danger or risk, and the debate over whether the direction in which modern society has moved by loosening the social and religious hold over individual behavior in the matter of sexuality has had an overall positive or negative effect. I personally think that the movement in favor of freedom and choice are ultimately beneficial. We shall return to this matter in discussing samarthā rati.

Of course, when we talk about Krishna and his queens, we make the a priori assumption that Krishna is the ideal husband in every respect and that his queens are similarly perfect. How then can any blemish at all be applied to their relationship? How can it be said of them that personal sense desire pierces through the veneer of their pure love? The same basic problem that we saw in the Kubja example of sādhāraṇī rati applies here also.

Vishwanath points out that the two Bhāgavata quotations are related to the positive and negative aspects of samañjasā. The positive aspect is indicated in the definition when it is said that this rati arises from hearing the qualities, etc. You have to look to the preceding discussion in the chapter to understand why a natural love like that of Rukmini only needs a superficial impetus to be awakened. This is indicated in 10.52.37 as well ( śrutvā guṇān bhuvana-sundara).

The second example is to show how the sexual desire sometimes becomes separated from the love, and when it does it becomes incapable of conquering Krishna. Vishwanath and Vishnudas both point out that only the purest devotion has the characteristic of "controlling Krishna."


I thought quite a bit about this post before putting it up, because it felt unfinished. In fact, there is a problem, which we will have to deal with in the samarthā section especially, and that is in dealing with the distinction between the reality of love in this world and the transcendent ideal.

Married love is also an archetypal love relationship, as are the two others. What needs to be deciphered is how there can be a limitation in the archetype itself, since by definition, archetypes are ideal. In fact, the ideal nature of the archetypes is dependent on the individual psychology of the person who is in their thrall or "ruled" by them. Thus, a person for whom the sādhāraṇī archetype is dominant, love has elements of tamo-guṇa. For a person in whom the samañjasā archetype is dominant, the rajo-guṇa elements are present. What we will have to try to unravel is how the sādhāraṇī and samarthā archetypes are distinct.

In fact, for the Hindu religious thinkers, there is only sādhāraṇī and samañjasā (though they would not have used those terms): vulgar love or dharmic love. They fight, like those who live in the world of "honor killings," against any love that does not fit the strict limitations of the permitted religious definition.

Here, Rupa Goswami is fundamentally stating that there is a serious limitation to the dharmic conception of love and because of it, its power is limited.

Thought there may be many books that deal with the subject of Indian marriage, which Indians themselves tout as being a more successful model than the Western, but I was particularly influenced by Manisha Roy's Bengali Women, which I read as an undergraduate many years ago. This book was published in the 80's, I believe, and with all the changes in Indian society may no longer give a true picture of life as it is today. Nevertheless, in terms of understanding the nature of samañjasā rati, it was a great help.

I don't have a copy, so I can't quote, but I remember the rather depressing depiction of the average traditional marriage: how a young woman idealizes love, in no small part as a result of hearing tales of Radha and Krishna, and then is thrust into a situation where an entirely different reality confronts her. Whereas sexual desire, etc., no doubt help to cover a multitude of disappointments, and realism forces one to deal with the rest, Roy describes how for so many women, the only outlet for the deep psychological wound that comes from never finding true passionate love is the displacement into religion and devotion to a guru. On the other hand, for the man, it results in a glorification of the pārakīyā ideal and the seemingly universal patriarchal double standard.

Generally speaking, when people talk about "mature love," they are talking about the harmonization of the ideal with the real. Immaturity is a sign that one is still living in a world of impossible expectations; reality means making the best of a situation where human imperfections and disappointments are inevitable. But in this situation, Rupa Goswami seems to be saying that the balance of so-called maturity is too heavily tipped towards disappointment.

How true all this was then or now, I don't know. But it resonated as true with me then after ten years in India, and it resonates with me now.

Anyway, I am going to leave this discussion for the time being, admitting that there are still some holes in it, with the hope that further thoughts will mature and come up in the discussion on samarthā rati.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing about this book "Bengali Women" by Roy. I always wanted to read it but could not find it at the library.

Also is interesting everything that you are sharing.

Recently I have begun to wonder what life would be like if little girls were not fed so many fairy tales and stories. There is a huge build up then a huge let down. I suppose that every family is different though, and that in some families there is not this huge build up of fantasy.

I wonder why people even would think to give their kids such fantasy idea?

For example, instead of tell girls so many fantasy stories about love, prince charming, being rescued by a man, tell instead the kid to become educated, don't be afraid to learn physics and math, give some statistics and data about life she doesn't have to unlearn later on down the road.

I guess is changing somewhat. Now some research says that more women than men are getting BAs, MAs, and PhDs. The first time in history.


Anyway I want to say that, there is another reality besides that of a Bengali Woman [gasp]. For example let's think of most rich woman in the world at one time: Doris Duke.

Doris Duke experience an attraction to a man similar to that of R and K: that man was Rubirosa, a famous playboy and womanizer. So from him she was schooled in some type of knowledge, like a fatal attraction.

But he cannot be one-pointed to her, like K cannot be one-pointed to R. He cannot be faithful to her because so many women always hitting on him, somewhat like perverted reflection of every living being attracted to K. And probably his astrological chart also he had certain tendencies.

Then after Rubirosa, she said that she learn what "real" love is from a different guy. That means, love in which you care about the other person, their mental health for instance, and also other things besides the dyad of two people, such as nature and the environment.

So that is lady who at one time the richest woman in the world. She can choose any man she likes.
She experience a type of R and K manic frenzy love and later a more mature love based on more caring.

But you have your right to your opinion and even if you still want to think R and K is the highest love, that is okay. Cuz that is your experience.


Perhaps it is polarizing to call it the "highest". Because people need to think whatever they are going through at the time is "the highest". Otherwise they may as well kill themselves. There is a funny essay about that concept by the author of "About a Boy":

A guy thinks his first crush is the best, then she dump him in an embarrassing way and oh no he is going to kill himself. Then he met Laura. With Laura always he worry she is going to dump him, then she did. Then he stalk Laura and keep thinking maybe she will leave her new guy. But never. Then he might as well kill himself, because life is over at age 23...[suspense] Then he met next girl.

So our mind is program to think whatever we are experiencing is the best and "the highest", otherwise why keep on living if others have the best and not us?


Nowadays though, the kids call that attitude Co-Dependency. This R and K love is viewed as CoDependent behavior nowadays.

Nowadays educated people are taught do not be too much into another person, that it is toxic to do so. It just mess with your head to give too much energy or credit to another person.

So perhaps that is an old school view of what is "the highest": another person.


Recently was an interview with an author Tom Robbins who wrote "Still Life with Woodpecker" [and other books] in Shambala Sun magazine.

He said that he learned in life that there is romantic love in which you go crazy and that this craziness cannot be sustained over a long period of time.

But he said, perhaps it is a disservice to whatever it is to insist that it must last forever. Maybe the nature of it only last for a while and then its ashes are a memorial to it afterwards and that is the best it can ever be, the nature of that type of experience.


So I think that every culture has this idea that there are some differences in things that happen. I think we can agree life is a mystery and these stories were a way people deal with a mystery.

Also life is sad and the stories a way people can self-medicate their brains to feel good.

Also is possible there is a source of all of these things, is a nice idea also.


Some things are like a bad acid trip, to have heartbreak happen to you, but is comforting to think that a supreme goddess "feels your pain" and she got her revenge on her boyfriend by making him become a sannyasi called Lord Chaitanya in his next life and cry all the time, etc. Is a type of therapy for the heart-broken peeps of the world.


Research also show people think of their beloved, see a picture of their beloved, or hear story of two beloveds, it makes your brain chemistry spike of certain "feel good" hormones.

Especially in the 1450s and 1500s a medieval harem culture, in northern India overrun by the Muslims there was a culture in which almost all the best looking women all cooped up into a communal compound. So I see even these stories provide a way for ladies to self-medicate.

They are trapped, living in a culture that cannot have freedom of go to university and get your degree, be self-sustaining, be asexual or gay or bisexual or hetero. Have kids or not. Be Hindu or ardha Hindu or not, just do yoga. Or be Buddhist. Or nothing.

They don't have any choices. So it make sense, before TV and youtube, someone make up some stories or channel them from the collective unconscious. The frustrated girl can dream of a dream lover, divine Romeo and have some outlet for expression.

I see that the stories could have been therapeutic for those gals who don't have too much means of any happiness or self-determination in their life. In your mind you can run away.


And also the stories attractive to what we now call "metrosexuals". Back in 1950s guys who were "sensitive guys" or "softies" were not celebrated. Not a whole lot of guys in dresses [gamshas, lunghis], vegetarian, peaceniks back then. That was for "sissies" in Western culture.

So I also see that some guys attract to this, they have a longing to connect with their inner feminine is what we would call it today.

And the macho ones identify with Krsna as womanizer, cheater, warrior, heartbreaker and even they think is funny. Even I hear some guys laughing they hear Krsna did these things.

Versus some guys more metrosexual and attract to other leelas, more the "softies" as would say in 1950s language.


So I guess, although I don't agree with you everything, is nice that people have more variety of choice and freedom of expression these days.

Also in science now is some research shows that men with classic square jaw and good-looking are the ones more apt to be womanizer. So it just seems better we educate ladies all these things rather than fantasy.

Just say, "Look, if you want some guy you can control, is going to have to be the ugly one, the Mr Nice Guy. Because the good-looking one is going to be gay or married or womanizer and heart-breaker".

Basically these R and K stories are saying that. K is the best looking guy and breaks your heart. So he is very dangerous. Most cultures like China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Thailand have that lesson to the R and K story.

Yes of course if we throw caution to the wind it feels the best to just go and hump the most beautiful person, who smells good, with square jaw. Of course that feels the best.

But in reality, in research, that is the guy who cannot be faithful to you. And as you have pointed out, has a different consequence for a woman than a man to act out on such an impulse.

Even for the very richest woman in the world has the same consequence as for the poorest woman: good looking guys usually the trouble ones. Research even confirm this now. So basically there is some unfairness to life.

Jaya Radhe

Jagat said...

I am sorry that I never answered this rather sad letter. I think that love in this world and bhakti, liberation, whatever other spiritual delights are there for attainment, are all the fruits of many lifetimes of effort as well as causeless grace.

The point about Radha and Krishna is a little more complex than a simple archetypal love story, even thought that is what gives it much of its potency. It operates on numerous levels, including that of God and the jiva, the process of sadhana, as well as hinting at the connection of human love to the divine.

But the idea of a square-jawed guy who breaks your heart is not the last word in the Radha-Krishna story. That is one of the things I am trying to point out. Ultimately, Krishna has to surrender to Radha. And woe to the jiva who thinks he is Krishna who does not learn this lesson from Him.

The statements from Robbins that you refer to are conventional wisdom. On one level I agree with him. But this is only because the samanjasa mood is the one that predominates, even in the West. Switching over from the romantic ideal to the dharmic one is a tough business and requires a great deal of maturity.

My solution to this is to merge the romantic and erotic aspects (all aspects in fact, but these especially) of the relation into the sadhana of prema bhakti. We can rarely assess the success or failure of a process until we come to its final end. And in this, there is no real end.

Just like a guru is hard to find, and one sometimes has to go through several gurus before finding the "right" one, the same thing happens with lovers.

The svakiya method is to stick with the one you got, as dharma, through to the very end. Indians are great believers in accepting your karma, good or bad, with stoicism. Westerners say to hell with that.

Parakiya bhava is more in line with the latter. Basically, it is saying that for spiritual life, you have to reject dharma. You have to take that chance. You have to be free to seek, and seeking implies dead ends and wrong turns. And eventually, this life or the next, something may happen.