Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Remembering my first meeting with Ananta Das Baba

I went to the Ganga for my RRSN reading today. I am ashamed to admit that I forgot to include Ananta Das Babaji Maharaj in my list of gurus the other day. I have now corrected that. Our little group is growing. There is a Bengali devotee, a Gaudiya Vaishnava, who lives in a little hut on the Virbhadra Road. I saw him today and invited him to come to listen. I think he got a taste of something he was missing.

I first met Ananta Dasji in 1982 or thereabouts, in Puruliya district. I was invited up there in the run-up to the Quincentenary of Mahaprabhu's appearance. We went to Kunjabihari Dasji's birthplace not far from Puruliya city. Then we went off to Manbhoom district, which would be in Jharkhand state now. That is where I met Ananta Dasji. I don't remember all the details now.

I remember that there were so many people with Radha Kund tilak everywhere. They all looked like they had just stepped out of Radha Kund. I went to some villages that were really isolated. You forget that there are actually places in India that you have to walk over empty fields for miles and miles before you can reach them. We came to one village market where there were tribals walking around in loincloths with bows and arrows slung around their bare chests, carrying the carcasses of animals they had hunted.

I remember a bus in which a wedding party climbed aboard. The bride was about six and the groom maybe ten. My companion said, "This is what we call a doll wedding. Totally illegal, but still goes on in these isolated parts."

Then, in Manbhoom, a crowd of at least five thousand Vaishnavas appeared out of nowhere to listen to a series of speeches. That's where I first met Maharaj. One Nabadwip Gosai from the Mahaprabhu vamsha, who had been a Vidhan Sabha representative but was not much in the way of the bhakti marga, spoke before me and I spoke before Ananta Dasji.

I did some talking and then Ananta Dasji did some real Harikatha pariveshan. I had never heard anything like it before. I became totally enchanted. The way he just seemed to know every shastra by heart and delivered it with so much sweetness and anubhava.

Anyway, he was very gracious to me afterwards and it was the first of several times that we ended up speaking at the same place on the same occasion. And of course, I had one occasion to do Karttik in Radha Kund and hear him regularly. And in 1984, I was at Sringar Bat translating Mañjarī-svarūpa-nirūpaṇa while he was staying at Keshighat Thor printing up the first edition of Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi, the Hindi translation of which I am now reading. On several occasions I went to see him to ask about points of difficulty.

No one made mañjarī-bhāva come alive for me the way that Ananta Dasji did... and indeed does. He has real single-minded niṣṭhā for rādhā-dāsya and he inspired me in that direction more than anyone else.

So to get back to the point I have been making about the nivṛtti and pravṛtti-mārgas. In the Gita, Krishna says that both have the same end result, but that pravṛtti-mārga is in fact better. This means that for most people--I won't go so far as to say everyone--thinking of Radha and Krishna's erotic lila without reference to experience of love and eros in the concrete, sensual world, is not only psychologically questionable, but tends to create a disconnect between one's experience of the inner and outer worlds. This is exactly the opposite of what one should be trying to achieve.

I say this with all respect for the many ways in which sannyāsīs have contributed to the culture of rādhā-dāsya by preserving and developing the rasika traditions. So please try to understand that I am not undermining that tradition. May it flourish. But the sannyāsīs should understand that the pravṛtti-mārga [I have started using this term a little carelessly, I am afraid, but I think that, at least for the time being, I will continue to do so.] is not about "having as much illicit sex as possible."

The enjoying spirit is one thing, enjoyment is something totally different. The activities of the senses include both serving and enjoying. Bhakti includes many activities that are pure enjoyment--enjoying Krishna katha and kirtan are entertainments, are they not? How are they to be thought of as service or as karma, in the strict, Protestant work ethic sense that we want to impose on it?

But this is something that will develop on this site as we go along.


Anonymous said...

This is totally interesting!

visnudas said...

I just had to pipe in. Pandit Sri Ananta Das Babaji Mj has indeed made the Raasa Darshan of Rupa Goshai come alive for me. When he talks about Bhavollasa rati it is so visceral, so alive so vital that I am very inspired to try and chant nicely so that Sriji may be pleased.
His translations and essays are, I think, a must!
Radhe Radhe!

Anonymous said...

Yes it is an interesting read 'anonymous'. Also the points Jagat is making on gratitude lately are appreciated. And something I feel is really necessary on the journey.

Sometimes on the journey we can tend to caste aside past experiences, teachers of love, various faith encounters etc without gratitude, maybe because we lack the ability to integrate even our own minds and thoughts - let alone the deeper spiritual aspect.

I have been throwing the below quote around online Jagat, thought you might appreciate. It's a good one:

"...Divine love is our goal. To reach it, we need to understand that all we know about love, from the most bold and voluptuous passions to the most ecstatic and refined flights, is nothing but a phase on the progressive limb to Divine Love. Love's battles is the struggle for the transmutation of dense energy into divine, ethereal, elemental, and angelic energy. The volupuousness of forms, textures, and touch is substituted by the volatility of subtle emanantions in which higher consciousness is contemplated.

Love can become an unending well of obscure desires and karmic redundancies or a supreme realization, a dive to our most profound origins. Because it was love that brought God to manifest creation. And it is for love and only through love that He reveals this secret to consciousness and to the heart...by Alex Polari De Alverga, Forest of Visions"

This quote... "The volupuousness of forms, textures, and touch is substituted by the volatility of subtle emanantions in which higher consciousness is contemplated."... is very enlightened. And worthy of note.

Anonymous said...

Thank You so much for your affectionate words about Ananta Das Babaji. It makes me perceive you in different light...

halley said...

where can i meet ananta das babaji ? after reading through your posts im really eager to hear some hari katha from his mouth . does he come to calcutta ? and is he based in gaudiya math or iskcon ?

someday i wish to meet you too jagatji , when you come to calcutta .

radhe radhe