Monday, April 13, 2009

What am I doing here (Part II)

The last couple of weeks I have been plugging away at the Bhagavat-sandarbha and as a result I have been cutting back on almost everything else. I would really like to get it finished before going back to Canada, but the way I usually work, it does not look hopeful. It has taken this long to get 472 pages done and there are still approximately 180 to go. Can I do it in a month? The last 85 pages took about a month.

The last few days have been difficult as I have been a bit sick--for the first time, I may mention, since coming here, if you don't count one or two brief encounters with the runs. I even missed my Sanskrit class on Saturday, as well as RRSN and Gita on Sunday at Madhuban. The last two days I have been working in my room rather than the office, basically just doing reformatting, spell-checking, etc., before getting down to the real work.

It is starting to heat up pretty good here. It must be getting close to 40 degrees at noon nowadays. Yup, hot season definitely has arrived.

The ashram's all in a tizzy with the yoga camp that starting yesterday. The Gurukula students are taking all the responsibility for it, and they appear to be doing a good job.

I am not personally involved at all. There will be 114 participants, which seems like a pretty good number, though I wasn't expecting the rather elite-type group that came. I guess the word "camp" misled me; this is a pretty high-class group mostly from Delhi, mostly mature though there are a few younger people also, usually coming along with the family. The program is totally Indian, and though there are a few foreigners, the medium is unilingual Hindi.

The students seem to do well with this, living up to rather high expectations. It sometimes seems that there is a generalized underestimation of the Indian Gurukula students, but Swamiji has seen fit to give them this burden and they are doing well, as far as I can see. A couple of months ago, there was a government-sponsored "Yoga Awareness Week", and the students taught programs in 40 different schools from Haridwar to Dehradun and did pretty well, it would seem. It also looks like they are handling this week-long program with a great deal of aplomb.

So, I was sitting here in my room working and suddenly needed a book from the office, which is near the meditation hall. When I got there, I heard Swami Veda lecturing in Hindi. Figuring this distraction is as good as anything on the Internet, I went straight in and sat down.

Now Swamiji just came back from Europe a few days ago. I have been up to see him, but his health was giving him difficulty. He had a chest cold and he has some other chronic problems that were exacerbated by it. Then two days ago, he was rushed to HIHT when he had some stomach cramps that affected his heart and breathing. He went in an HIHT ambulance dressed in a green T-shirt, his sleeping dress, which gives some indication of the urgency with which he was whisked away.

So I was surprised to see the vitality with which he was speaking this morning. The front lines of the audience consisted of mostly mature males. Swamiji spoke in Hindi, and it really was the first time that I heard him talk to this kind of audience in his mother language. He was very impressive today, speaking on topics that I have heard him give before in both languages (and don't think his mastery of English is not complete), but here he had a different audience and you could feel him cranking it up. He was positively effulgent.

The fact is that everyone becomes a different person according to the language they speak, precisely because the learning proceeds through different channels, different personalities, friends, associations, purposes, etc. These things are subtle, but perceptible. And of course, the audience is different also.

Basically, from the time I came in he was talking about different kinds of sādhanā and the necessity for an integrated approach, but emphasizing the centrality of breath in all practices. He also put a lot of importance of the bringing all the different aṅgas of yoga to bear in the act of meditation. Some people give importance to breath alone and none to posture. Others says relaxation will come automatically without any separate effort. Others say mantra is important and breath has none, while others say the reverse is true. Swamiji's system is about integrating all of these to the point of immersion in meditation.

He finished with a brief two-minute meditation and I had to go and tell him how glad I was to see how youthful and energetic he looked and sounded. Indeed, he was both vigorous and masterful.

Now to the point of this article and the title I gave it. I have to get right to the point, but there are several. It is not just a question of "Mayavada" vs. "Vaishnava." That is really a misunderstanding. At least from where I stand at this moment.

First of all, yoga is clearly a technique, which although it is combined with a philosophical viewpoint, is not tied to that specific view. Dhanurdhara was also rather enthusiastic on this point last week. But if there is anywhere that this is true, and where the techniques of yoga need to be adapted to Vaishnava needs, it is in the case of Sahajiyaism.

I explained this away back, but it was a while ago. This is what differentiates the pravartaka and sādhaka stages. Ultimately, at some point, the path of bhakti leads to smaraṇa. And smaraṇa means conscious control of the mind.

Kaviraja Goswami talks about the Holy Name leading one to other sādhanās, citta-śuddhi sarva-bhakti-sādhana udgama (3.20.13). But the key to those sādhanās is the mind. If the mind is not engaged, and appropriately, then it is clearly said sādhanaughair anāsaṅgair alabhyā sucirād api: "Prema cannot be attained by thousands of years of practice that are done without attachment"; āsaṅga is generally understood in this way.

Somewhere along the line, the transition has to be made from sensory activities to smaraṇa, and then from smaraṇa to bhāva. This is why it is necessary to cultivate yoga--even if only a little. In fact, I am a little sanguine about the kind of memorized līlā-smaraṇa that most people think of as being the sādhanā of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and incline rather to the concept of bhāva-sādhanā, but even there, mental discipline is a necessity.

But where Sahajiyaism is concerned, it is a bit more important. I know I have mentioned continence before. To be honest, it is not really rocket science. But it does take a bit of desire, self-awareness, self-control and yogic technique. It really is a key element, I would say, for women as well as for men. This is why it is sometimes called deha-sādhanā.


Funnily enough, for a break, I am just typing out the Prahlada story in the Vishnu-purana with Sridhara's commentary. Interesting that he is talking about starting spiritual practices when you are young, because it does require mental and physical capacity. nAyam AtmA bala-hInena labhyaH. When you get older, you may be willing, but you haven't got the physical, moral or mental strength to do very much.

Watching Swami Veda today, you could see the fruits of a lifetime of sādhanā. Watching the physical state of everybody else... many of whom look like they are past retirement age... you can see that their capacity is limited, despite their cultural awareness of things.

bālye krīḍanakāsaktā yauvane viṣayonmukhāḥ |
ajnā nayanty aśaktyā ca vārdhakaṁ samupasthitam ||


dr.jaya said...

bAlye krIDanakAsaktA yauvane viSayonmukhAH |
ajnA nayanty azaktyA ca vArdhakaM samupasthitam ||

Adi Shankara too warned us earlier on

bAlastAvat krIDAsaktah
taruNastAvat tarunNIsaktah
vriddhastAvach chintAsaktah
pare brahmaNi kopi na saktah

A child thinks not of aught,
but of its play,
A lad is engrossed in full in a youthful lass,
The old with glory and gloom both past, has much to worry
Alas, no one is free to think of Him the Supreme.

Jaya Radhe!

dr.jaya said...

"nAyam AtmA bala-hInena labhya.."

Famous bhajan by Sur das:

suni ri maine nirbal ke bal ram
pichhali saakh dharun santan ki ade sawaren kaam
suni ri maine.....
jab lag gaja bal aapno bartyo nek saryo tah kaam
nirbal hoi balram pukaro aayen aadhe naam
suni ri maine.....
drupad suta nirbal bhai ta din taj aayen nij dhaam
duhshashan ki bhuja thakit bhai
basan roop bhayen shyam
suni ri maine ....
ap-bal tap-bal aur bahu-bal chutha bal hai bal-dam
sur kishor kropa se sab bal
haare ko hari naam

suni ri maine nirbal ke bal ram .....

Jagat said...

Of course, Vishnupurana would have been earlier than Shankara. But thanks for those quotes, Dr. Jaya. You are definitely a gold mine. Maybe I should include you among the swans.

dr.jaya said...

Maybe I should include you among the swans.
but, only sometimes....

Sometimes as two bumblebees among the Yamuna's golden lotuses, sometimes as two swans in the Yamuna's forest of lotuses, and sometimes as a golden vine climbing a divine tamala tree, They enjoy pastimes of meeting.kadAcid gAyantau madhura madhura zArizukavat
kadAcit kUjanatau madakala kuhukaNTha yugavat
kadAcin nRtyantau sapadi zikhinI matta zikhivat
kadAcit pazyantau sacakita kuraGgI hariNavat
Sometimes They sweetly sing as two parrots.
Sometimes They coo as two cuckoos with soft
and passionate "kuhus" in their throats.
Sometimes They dance together as
a maddened peacock and peahen.
Sometimes They just gaze at each other
as a timid stag and doe.

Krishna said...

Shiva - Shankara is the doer of good.

Shiva Photo, Lord Shiva Picture, Shiva Wallpaper