Friday, December 05, 2008

Backlogged postings

I have a tendency to sit on posts for various reasons. Sometimes I feel it is better to think about something for a while rather than posting in the heat of the moment. It is really because I don't want to get into the kind of tit-for-tat debate that characterized Gaudiya Discussions and other forums of that type. So I often respond very belatedly, sometimes I take an objection or an argument under advisement and meditate on it, and it comes back out in some other form later on. The basic reason is just that I am a slow thinker and not particularly clever when it comes to that kind of debate.

Anyway, here are a few backdated posts that may be of interest (or not):

Samanjasa (2007-12-06) I wouldn't be surprised if I update this one again.

HIHT Annual Festival (2007-12-05) Moved to Jagat Jindagi

Swami Krishnananda's Visit (2007-12-05) Moved to Jagat Jindagi

Same Old Same Old II (2007-12-06)

I have also finished the third part of the series on Na Hanyate. If you missed that one, the first two parts of which were already backdated when I first posted them, here are the URLs:

Na Hanyate, Part I

Na Hanyate, Part II (2007-12-05)

Na Hanyate, Part III

There may be one more in that series, as I am still trying to figure out what fascinates me about this story. I have a bunch of notes in a file waiting to be sorted out.

Verses for the hell of it (2007-11-27)

Prayer and Utopia (2007-11-19)

And a quick look suggests there are five or six unfinished posts of varying degrees of value awaiting editing, revision and/or approval. I will try to notify in this way any such future backdated posts when they go online.


Anonymous said...

I have some questions for you, perhaps you could address in future topic(s) on your blog.

I recently read a book by a Biblical scholar, he said that as he learned the original languages that the Bible was written in, then he came to the conclusion that the Bible cannot possibly be the literal word of God.

The reason is: that as he learned and became fluent in ancient Greek, Aramic, etc. he saw that the English translations of key concepts or major points were not possible into English without losing most or even all of the essential meaning.

For example, only by knowing entire Greek language then you read the word and you understand more precisely the meaning of that word. Words do not exist in a vacuum.

Then he realized that if God wanted people to know his literal and true word, he would have made ancient Greek or Aramic the language that everyone in the world speaks. But God did not, so he concluded that...

...basically the Bible is many different people's opinions, that is all.

So one question I have for you is: as your expertise with the language in which Gaudiya Vaisnavism increased, did you find that it changed your world view?

Did you find that it was/ is impossible to translate key points into English?

Another thing the author brought up is he feels now, with his PhD from Harvard, that the Bible reflects more the personalities of what the various people wrote [the authors and alleged authors of the books of the Bible] than anything that God him or her self actually said.

So the more that you became facile with the language of the Gaudiya scriptures, did you find yourself reflecting more that these writings reveal more about the authors themselves than the literal word of God?

Also I would like to know how important is it for you now: the scriptures versus internal revelation for you at this point?

For example, one way to put it is: in religion there is an internal experience that people have. Science can corroborate this now
by can even show which part of the brain is activated when human beings meditate, chant, sing, dance, see visions, etc.

Also scientists know what brain chemistry is involved and under what circumstances the brain chemistry gets activated. For example, under duress, certain type of brain chemistry happens where people can hear voices, such as lack of sleep.

In one human situation, whis would be called "psychosis", in another human situation, monastics deprive themselves of sleep and put themselves into this "zone" if you will, so that they also can hear voices but intentionally and dub it "Supersoul" or "Parashiva" or "Paramatma" or "Inner Voice".

So nowadays would you say how much is scriptures important and how much is your own internal experience? 50-50%? or 90-10%?

Thank you!

Jagat said...

Dear Anon,

Many questions, and good ones.

I have been saying things like this for some time now. Basically, I came to a similar point of view when I realized that it is impossible for anyone to completely emulate anyone else, or indeed to reproduce anyone else's experience exactly. So, two godbrothers of one guru will have two different interpretations or understanding.

This means that the onus of interpretation is on us as individuals. After all, experience of God or enlightenment is individual.

This does not, however, mean that the principle of disciplic succession or guru tattva, or scripture, are irrelevant. These things touch a chord in our hearts because they are live currents, points where the light and love of God enter the world. They are not necessarily "just opinions."

In other words, we should respect the points where we have been touched specifically and not simply obscure them by equating them with others that have little or no meaning.

Again, we should not simply reject all forms by rationalistically reducing them to concepts.

Learning the language means principally that you can separate cultural and historical particularities from universals.

For instance, many people have difficulty with Krishna or Radha because of certain cultural elements that now seem archaic or culturally irrelevant. That does not mean that the fundamental insights--of God as a divine person, the relevance of erotic love, the idea of lila, etc., etc.--are irrelevant or unhelpful in our culture of spiritual life and devotion.

It is just that as we become more sophisticated in our understanding, it is likely that our relationship with myth and symbol will become broader as well as deeper.

This also means, as your author hints, that there is a process of weeding out the personal from the universal. In this case, though, I would be wary of "psychologizing." We often think that by making a facile psychological analysis that we have really understood something. We are all situated in some kind of psychological space--dominated by various unconscious forces and conditions, etc.

For instance, we may specifically psychoanalyze things like manjari bhava or the erotic nature of Radha and Krishna lila and try to pass these off as the results of a psychological flaw. No doubt such analyses are relevant to our deeper or overall understanding, but we should not think that they replace bhakti.

What I am saying is that reductionism is essentially negative and tends to eliminate the positive values of bhakti. Achintya-bhedabheda means that we recognize the value of both the negative and the positive movements in establishing truth.

Even if the particular attractions that we feel for a certain spiritual path may be attributed to psychological defects (which are nevertheless common in various proportions to all humanity--naming them does not get rid of them), that does not mean that abandoning the particular spiritual path will get rid of the particular defect.

In fact, it may be that the particular spiritual path may have the ingredients of a cure and the mature approach be one of following and enriching the tradition by lending one's own insights and input while remaining loyal to its positive aspects.

As to your question about brain testing and spiritual experience. This is another one of those red herrings that science throws up from time to time. Do you think that if a scientist prodded the appropriate part of your brain that this would have the same overall effect as engaging in long time sadhana, with the personal work on your own character, etc., that it entails?

Really, this is no different from the questions about LSD and other psychedelic drugs that came up in the 60's. There is limited usefulness to these things, for sure, but they cannot replace the kind of real work in character-formation, etc., that characterize the truly spiritual person.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lucid answers.

By the brain testing, I meant more like science can validate what spiritual seekers experience as something is REALLY happening and is not "all in your head".

For example, without being on drugs, I had alot of experiences described in the literatures that you are into.

In part possibly because I had very strict sadhana at the time
[for example chanting 32 - 64 rounds a day, going to all of the arotiks every day for years, assisting all of the homas, eating only maha prasada, observing every ekadasi as nirjala, listening only to devotional music, etc.] and also in part because I was under duress.

So I am always very curious as to why I had those internal experiences in scientific terms.

Maybe is just how my brain is wired I felt I needed to know the science behind it also.

Recently I had to take a college class intro to higher math. Strangely, somehow by taking this class I was able to reconcile more [to some degree] the task that you have just described that we need to do, i.e. reconcile the various cultural aspects with the universal.

So for me, perhaps the language I needed personally to understand more the task was mathematics: i.e. math has no language or culture, and it is based on the absolute truth i.e. only things that can only be proven.

So here are the humorous things I learned about higher math that helped me to reconcile GV a bit:

__ Some numbers are transcendental numbers [examples: "pi" and "e"]
__ Transcendental numbers are ALWAYS irrational numbers [go on forever]

Somehow, with all due respect to you and how your brain is wired differently than mine, I was able to reconcile, "Okay, some of those stories do not make sense. But some are spot on."

Then I kind of laugh and have some half-satori moment and omigod! Well of course that is why the stories are irrational, because transcendental things are ALWAYS irrational!!!

I'm not kidding, then finally made a bit of sense to me scientifically.

Because irrational numbers go on FOREVER. And somehow, the way my brain is wired, and forgive me if my brain wired differently from yours, but that made sense to me.

Somehow my brain can feel peaceful something greater than me and everything combined is going on forever and is very beautiful and comprised only of truth.

Another thing humorous that I also learned is now mathematics is so sophisticated that Real numbers are considered simply a subset of Imaginary numbers.

So I can understand also that Maya, this world, appears Real, is a Subset of what non-devotees call the Imaginary Fantasyland You People Believe In.

But, I learned that actually imaginary numbers are very very subtle and refined, and are used in engineering, quantum physics, and electromagnetism. And so subtle and refined like even some Math geniuses in the past scoff at the idea they even exist.

Also, another interesting math thing is zero is the only number that is both Real and Imaginary at the same time.

And zero came to use from the Hindus. One kathayar used to say Krishna is like so many zeros and Radhika is the only thing that make the zero have any meaning.

Anyways somehow put all those things together. And sorry I did not express it so well. My math professor she is so intelligent and the way she discuss math is with so much enthusiasm and reverence and she calls math Beautiful, as you know is the name of Krishna.

But higher than Beauty and Charm is Radhika.

Well, I hope you forgive me I say too much and in a way your brain does not appreciate. But just sharing a funny way I could reconcile a bit more.

And maybe R and K having some pastime somewhere She is schooling Him in Math and He is loving it.

Peace and thanks again your cogent and lucid response!