Monday, March 23, 2009

Nivṛtta and Rasika

Advaitaji has duly noted my return to active blogging and has immediately taken up his active role as a defender of the pure Goswami siddhanta. I bow down to him and his service to Srimati Radharani.
In their commentaries on that Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu verse (3.5.2), Jiva Goswami and Visvanatha Cakravarti clearly say that nivṛtta refers to those who have no taste for madhurya rasa, not to renunciates - asmād rasād virakteṣv anupayogitvād ayogyatvāt. In the commentaries there is nothing said about renunciates at all. I have made this point earlier, in my blog of December 16, 2006 and perhaps even more often. Perhaps Jagat has overlooked that or perhaps he simply doesn't want to admit it. His interpretation of that verse is not just wrong, it is highly irresponsible because it could lead to the conclusion that the more illicit sex one has, the more one qualifies for madhura rasa. At any rate, if renunciation would disqualify someone from madhura rasa, then why the very authors of those books, Rupa, Sanatan, Visvanath etc., were so renounced? Any reasonable person will easily see the folly in Jagat's reasoning.
I am glad, as usual, of the opportunity to clarify my ideas, and I must admit that I was pleased to see that Advaitaji's tone changed a little and he spoke to the irresponsibility of the teaching rather than accusing me of serial adultery. This indicates to me that he thinks that, after all, there may be some merit to the teaching, and the principal problem is only that innocents may potentially be misled. That sounds like progress to me.

Mukunda is indeed much closer to saying what I think is correct with nivṛtteṣu tāpasādiṣu, i.e., nivṛtta means those people who have an ascetic frame of mind. We will discuss this further on.

But Advaita's quotation from Jiva Goswami is also incomplete. He and Vishwanath both say, "Nivṛtta means those who are have no taste for Bhagavan's madhura-rasa because they are unable to see any difference between it and material love." (nivṛtteṣu prākṛta-śṛṅgāra-rasa-sama-dṛṣṭyā bhāgavatād apy asmād rasād virakteṣv anupayogitvād ayogyatvāt)

So the point is that the nivṛtta is someone who is repelled by material sexuality, who sees sexual desire as the essence of the material condition, and thinks that Radha and Krishna's love affairs are of the same order. In the Gaudiya Math, also, we see this point being hammered away repeatedly and even Jiva Goswami warns about the old puruṣendriya starting to act up when hearing chanting or meditating on these intimate pastimes (Bhakti-sandarbha 338, BhP 10.33.40). So better keep away from it then.

The Rasa-lila ends with a reference to the potency of this lila for overcoming lust if it is heard and chanted with faith, but this word faith is a goalpost that moves with the whims of the commentator.

If you can't tell the difference between this and mundane sexual titillation, Hustler magazine, for instance, then you probably should not bother with it. But Vishnudasa quite rightly remembers Rupa Prabhu's verse from the Vidagdha-mādhava (and always one of my favorites, it's also quoted in CC)--

udāsatāṁ nāma rasānabhijñāḥ
kṛtau tavāmī rasikāḥ sphuranti |
kramelakaiḥ kāmam upekṣite’pi
pikāḥ sukhaṁ yānti paraṁ rasāle ||
May those who are ignorant of rasa be indifferent to this play, while the rasikas take delight in it. Koils find the greatest pleasure in the mango tree which is completely ignored by the camels. [VM 1.9]
My point is that we do see the difference and are not in the slightest troubled by the similarities. If I did not see the difference between Radha and Krishna and the mundane lovers who are beset by limitations of the material world, then there would be NO POINT to anything that I am saying or doing here. If someone is coming to justify a life of wanton libertinism, then he is bound to be disappointed, because it is not that. If as a result of reading these pages anyone thinks that I promote having as much illicit sex as possible in order to attain spiritual perfection in any way, shape or form, they are just weird.

This is about finding the prema prayojana, my friends. I put straw in my teeth and fall at your feet and beg you to just try to understand. You cannot do that if you are not sahaja. If you are afraid of tṛṣṇā, instead of surfing the wave of tṛṣṇā to enter the Divine Lila, you are still being affected by nivṛtti consciousness--the idea that this world is false and a danger. bhayaṁ dvitīyābhiniveśataḥ syāt. In the beginning, it may have some utility--jñāna and vairāgya--but these are never the causes of bhakti.

Generally speaking, a warning not to equate two things is an indication that the similarities are obvious and the differences less so. Like if I say, "Don't take pyrite to be gold." It means pyrite looks like gold, but is not; it is fool’s gold. If pyrite had other uses, then we would have to be aware of both similarities and differences.

So in this particular case, what are the similarities and differences? If we are so aware of the differences that we do not take note of the common features, then we are no better off, because then we miss what could be of use in overcoming the very thing we are afraid of--usually due to incomplete knowledge. It's the old snake and rope thing.

For instance, seawater and fresh water are undeniably different despite their similarities, but if I extract the salt and minerals by some process then I get distilled water, which is usable for drinking. This is called discrimination. In the particular case of madhura-rasa, what we really want to get at is yoga, or expertise in action (yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam)

Were I thirsty and I had the means to convert salt water into sweet, then to not do so would result in my death. "Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink."

prapañcikatayā buddhyā
mumukṣūṇāṁ parityāgo
vairāgyaṁ phālgu kathyate
Those desirous of liberation who give up things that have a relation to God out of the idea that it is purely material are engaging in phalgu vairagya or false renunciation.
It is not for nothing that Krishna in the Gita gives a similar warning:

karmendriyāṇi saṁyamya
ya āste manasā smaran
indriyārthān vimūḍhātmā
mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate
Those who restrain the senses and their organs but whose minds still dwell on sense objects certainly delude themselves and are called pretenders. (3.6)
This is where we come back to the terms nivṛtti and pravṛtti. The Gita is primarily a pravṛtti-shastra because it does not say to us that the world is unreal, just abandon it. Pravṛtti means action—and it should be pointed out here that action does not just mean "working in prescribed duties," but includes all the activities of the senses, whether visibly pleasurable or unpleasurable. It is not that one is obliged to only do unpleasant things. Since sexuality is a rather fundamental human activity, it is necessary to undertake a cool-headed analysis of what it is, and moreover, what is being communicated to us by Radha and Krishna’s divine loves, before we make any blanket assumptions about it.

And saying sex is just for procreation is a canard. Sex for procreation is an aṅga of vātsalya-rasa. If sex was only for procreation, then Radha would be having babies all over the place.

You don’t just say to a devotee, “All eating requires killing some living creature. To avoid the sin, don’t eat at all.” You say, “We cannot avoid incurring sin in almost every action, including that of eating. We minimize violence by eating vegetarian food and we deal with the rest of any sinful reactions by offering it to Krishna. But the most important thing is that we do so to please Krishna and thereby go beyond the mode of goodness to the transcendent state of Bhagavan-consciousness.” This is karmasu kauśalam.

Basically, the goal is to see everything in relation to God. The meditator, the bhakta, tries to reshape his entire inner apparatus (antaḥ-karaṇam) so that his perception is altered in that way. But the test of jñāna or consciousness comes when we interact with the world, i.e., in action. This is why Krishna says in the Gita that action is better than inaction. Because action is inevitable and unless one is trained in "consciousness in action," one is inevitable disrupted when training the consciousness alone.

Now I am beginning to see that the jñāna and karma of the Gita are two aspects of bhakti: the conscious and the active part. All human endeavor has a nivṛtti and a pravṛtti aspect: in order to do anything, you must give up a myriad of alternative possibilities. To be vyavasāyātmikā buddhi, you need to resist the temptation to travel the countless other branches of the saṁsāra tree. You need, in fact, to cut down the tree with the axe of detachment. If you want to tune in to the Vaikuntha channel, you need to stop watching the Maya channel.

But nivritti and pravṛtti are two tendencies, and we tend to favor one or the other. Turning off the TV is not the same as watching another channel. [This is a bad example for me, personally, because I consider TV one of the enemies to my spiritual life and I think turning it off is a pretty good idea, but let's say you have to watch something, then simply turning it off is insufficient.] But obviously, pravṛtti on its own, without a transformation of consciousness, is the concrete side of our problem as conditioned souls. Hence, all the warnings and prohibitions in the shastra.

So this is a little more of what I have to say about pravṛtti and nivṛtti. There is a lot in the Bhāgavatam that says bhakti is a nivṛtti path, and that's O.K. That is a slightly different meaning, but it can mislead us into a kind of Mayavada approach to Krishna's energies.

[So I am going to stop here. I have been having a lot of trouble getting this post up. I left it open all day long and added things, etc. This time I kept a backup, and that is good because I needed it. The power goes while you try to upload, poof everything is gone.]


visnudas said...

Baba- which Visnudas and what is his explanation?
Radhe Radhe!
Hope to sson be in Vraj, btw- then on to Barsana last week of Sep/first week of Oct.
You will be there?

Jagat said...

I just noticed that a much expanded posting was superseded by an earlier one. I must have had two windows open and inadvertently saved the earlier one after the later one.

Nuts. I really don't feel like writing it all over again. I did not make any backups unfortunately. I suppose I will have to rewrite it.

Sorry about that folks.

Jagat said...

O.K. The post is back. The genius of the original has been lost, never to be recovered. Perhaps the gems of wisdom that came in that first flurry of inspiration will come back one day...

Radhe Radhe!!

Anonymous said...

I bow to your enlightened attitude towards Advaitadas.

Unfortunately he still has progress to make.

Devi said...

As far as purushendriya and it's possible vikara while hearing rasa katha, this is an issue that heterosexual female sadhakas do not have to worry about because one of the 64 qualities of Krishna is that he is by nature very attractive to all women, and hence, our stri-endriya and it's vikars, if arisen would be seen as a natural reaction.

The problem lies with heterosexual males who's purushendriyas might start to vikar when hearing descriptions of the gopis' bodies.

Hence this may be a case for the benefit of taking birth as a female for the path of madhurya upasana, though of course the path is open to males as well. And you've always got your next life to look forward to.

Jagat said...

Good point, Devi!

Jagat said...

The Vishnudas here is the author of a commentary on Ujjvala-nilamani. He was a direct disciple of Krishnadas Kaviraj, one of five.