Showing posts from July, 2009

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Vaishnava

I got a letter from a devotee who called himself an “accidental hermit.” He said he was gloomy because he has outgrown the Hare Krishnas and religious people in general reject new ideas. He finds that many of them are locked into “scripture-repeat” and “look-for-heretic” mode. Nevertheless, he is attached to his friends, who are all devotees. But if says something that doesn’t conform to their ideas, he loses his friends, so he remains mum. The long and short is that he feels lonely, but can find no solace in New Age, or anything else. At the same time, he cannot blindly follow scripture.


This is my quite short answer:

Yes, you have put your finger on a problem--that of the loneliness of the individual. Since individuals evolve, human groupings, like religions, must evolve. IGM have the big problem of a very dominant charismatic founder. That magnifies small heresies.

A truly big tent has to account for and permit a certain amount of heresy, i.e., allow for the m…

Individualism and the Flaw in Mayavada

What I find fascinating in all this study of Krishna lila is watching the evolution of a vision of God.

At some point in my spiritual life, I realized that to be an individual meant to have an individualized experience of God. The purest individual is the one who has the purest, most individual experience of God. But this assures that everyone's God is somehow different. This makes sense, because God is experienced subjectively.

What God is objectively can only be understood, like any other human experience, through comparative analysis and argument.

Someone recently wrote on Facebook--and I can't find it because he seems to have cut off our "friendship" because of my response, and therefore I paraphrase--that if you believe in God, then you have to adopt the concept of a particular religion, which means that you are going to have to compromise on various points of doctrine, etc. So, if you intellectually come to the conclusion that God is necessary ("necessary be…

Gopala-vijaya VI: Madana Puja

Let us continue our exploration of the Gopāla-vijaya. One of the novel details in the GPVJ version of the Krishna story is the gopis' worship of Kamadeva. This fits into the pūrva-rāga stage, i.e., prior to Radha and Krishna's first meeting.

Gopis worship other gods

The gopis are often pictured worshiping other gods. This is, first of all, the Katyayani Puja, which is a powerful addition to the Krishna cycle found in the Bhagavatam and derived originally from Alwar sources. But, in general, as I may already have mentioned, Devakinandan and the Gaudiyas separate the married gopis from the unmarried, and Radha is said to not have been present amongst the Katyayani-worshiping gopis. Nevertheless, there are some parallels between Katyayani Puja and Madana Puja, as we shall see below.

The Goswamis seem to consistently depict Radha and her sakhis as worshipers of Surya, while Chandravali and her sakhis worship a form of the Goddess Durga or Chandi. Radha's relationship to Suryad…

Thanks to you, my readers

And I would like to add, my friends, that you rare bhaktas who are reading my words, are my life and soul. This is my sankirtan.

Krishna's Purva Raga and Divine Helplessness

I am enjoying Gopala-vijaya more and more as I read it--and that is slowing me down. I still haven't been able to get through to the Dāna-līlā section because each little bit that I reads sets me off into a chain reaction of delight and realization.

Today, I was simply trying to get through chapter 34, where Radha and Krishna's pūrva-rāga is starting to get quite intense. Neither Radha nor Madhava are able to find peace as they contemplate each other in their minds. As much pleasure as it brings them to think of the other, it causes them an anguish that is thousands of times greater. Radha is boxed in by her in-laws and so unable to openly express anything of what she is undergoing to anyone. So powerful is her feeling, it seems as if a potter's furnace is burning inside her.

Krishna too is undergoing the exact same thing.

kāhnāi se khena hoite āna nāhi mane
dekhite se rādhā-maa dekhe vṛndāvane
From that moment on, Krishna was unable to think of anything else. Looking out o…

Gopala-vijaya V: Aiana, the Cuckold

Aiana or Abhimanyu is an interesting character, playing a necessary role in this Radha-Krishna drama. According to the Bhagavatam, the husbands of the gopis are all bewildered by Yogamaya and do not even know that the gopis have left their sides--and this even after the gopis ran off, some leaving their husbands waiting for dal to go on their rice, some proffering a deaf ear to their husbands' entreaties.

I got to thinking about Aiana a little more when encountering his personality in GPVJ, where he is something of a more substantial character than in SKK, though still a background or shadow figure nevertheless. Indeed, of Jung's archetype, the Shadow seems the best fit for Abhimanyu.

We have already seen that in GPVJ, Aiana has a position of some importance with the cowherds: He advises Nanda Maharaj with regards to the move to Vrindavan from Gokula; he is the only name amongst the other cowherds when Barai urges the resumption of women going to market. So we have a substant…

Empathy and Feminism

The way I see feminism is this: The feminine qualities are valuable and ennobling. It is not that women must compete with men as men, but rather that the natural feminine perspective should be given a place of honor rather than being denigrated as inferior. In other words, society itself should be restructured according to feminine values, which are, in the final analysis, the truly civilizing values.

A good example of the bias against the feminine is being illustrated in the troglodyte conservative take on Sonia Sotomayor, Obama's nominee to the US Supreme Court, which has centered on the idea of "empathy" as a negative. In the hearings, Sotomayor played the game by saying that a judge decides on the basis of "facts" on the one hand, and the "law" on the other.

But what is missing here is that the "facts" include an entire empathic dimension. Do the facts of a particular case not include the entire psychological situation of all the players?…

Gopala-vijaya IV: Barai Buri

We have had some occasion to discuss the Barai Buri in an earlier post (The Play in Chandrasekhara's House). She makes her appearance, on cue, in chapter 30 of GPVJ, after Radha and her friends have been getting dressed.

It is also worthy of note here that Radha is surrounded by friends in a way that she is not in Gita Govinda (where there are competitors and only one faceless friend acts as go-between) or SKK (where the sakhis are insignificant). A sakhi named Chandramukhi plays a role in the next chapter also.

In chapter 30, after Radha and her sakhis have dressed themselves and look like "the dancing girls of heaven" (svargera nācanī), they are joined by Barai Buri. She is described in the classical way that the procuress or bawd is in much earlier works like Kuṭṭanī-mata. Some of the items I liked: Her teeth are like a row of garlic buds (rasunera gajā jena daśana-śikhare)! Her eyes are like those of an owl in a hollow tree. She is, of course, bent over completely. S…

Gopala-vijaya III: Purva-raga

We got as far as the beginning of chapter 30. The previous chapter contained the gopis' reactions to Krishna's beauty. Note the difference to SKK where Krishna is described as lust-mad and Radha's pūrva-rāga is totally ignored. Since GPVJ follows the Radha-is-older-than-Krishna (O God I am going to use this word!) meme, it is hard to talk about a classical pūrva-rāga format. Nevertheless, Rupa Goswami presents what is the classical position in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi:

api mādhava-rāgasya prāthamye sambhavaty api |
ādau rāge mṛgākṣīṇāṁ prokte syāt cārutādhikā
|| Although it is possible that Krishna’s love can come first, there is more charm in describing the love of the doe-eyed gopis first. (UN 15.16)ādau rāgaḥ striyā vācyaḥ paścāt puṁsas tad-ingitaiḥ First one should describe the love the woman has for the man, and the man’s love should follow on cue. (SD 3.195) A full verse, which is similar to this one, is also quoted in Vishnudas's commentary to UN 15.16:

ādau nārī bhaved …

Gopala-vijaya II

I have been asked by some to shorten my posts--when I make them. It is tough for me and I often leave posts unpublished because I don't want to post anything that is incomplete or trite. This is why I have so many unpublished posts languishing. Sometimes I go back and just post them as they are and I will probably go and do that with my backlog one of these days, when the inspiration hits me.

Right now, the Gopāla-vijaya is presenting its own challenges. I wanted to finish the section on Dana-lila yesterday, but I am finding the language a bit difficult. There is a great deal of archaic vocabulary, and even though there is a good glossary in the back, there are times when neither this glossary, nor the dictionary, nor the glossary in SKK (the language of which is very similar and probably from the same region of Bengal), are helpful. There are also occasional syntax problems. On their own, these might not be too disruptive, but sometimes there is a series of verses in which incom…

Introduction to Gopala-vijaya

The Gopāla-vijaya by Devakinandan Singh Kavishekhar is an interesting work for several reasons, but mostly because it seems to represent a response to Radha Krishna and the Bhāgavatam in Bengal which is roughly contemporary to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu without necessarily being directly influenced by him.

As is often the case, we have sparse historical information that can reliably pinpoint the author’s dates. So, Durgesh Bandyopadhyaya, the editor of this fine critical edition (Shanti Niketan: Vishwa Bharati, 1966) goes through an extensive discussion of the author’s dates without giving sufficient weight to the one piece of hard evidence: Devakinandan Singh, known for his literary skills as Kavishekhar, worked in the courts of both Hussein Shah (1493-1519) and Nusrat Shah (1519-1533).

This makes him an exact contemporary of Chaitanya and a neighbor of Rupa and Sanatan at about the time that they leave for Vrindavan. But since he is not named as an associate of Chaitanya, we must consid…

Excerpt from CCMK

I just came across this little bit of translation from the sixth sarga of Chaitanya Charitamrita Mahakavya by Kavi Karnapur. It seems to have come from a bit of correspondence I was having with someone. Can't remember when this was or with whom I discussed it. So I am just posting it here for the heck of it.

The problem is the thorny one of the relation of Mayavada to Gaudiya Vaishnava theology.

adhyAtma-tattvam abhi gaura-mahAprabhuH sa
vyAkhyAM cakAra bahu-durgama-bodham anyaiH |
eko’vashiSyata ihAvirataM sa AtmA
sriSTau sa eva punar ekaka eva bhAti ||63||Gauranga Mahaprabhu then started a discourse on metaphysical topics (adhyAtma-tattva), one that was not easily understandable to ordinary people. He said, “The soul is the only thing that never comes to an end. The soul alone remains after universal dissolution, and after creation it is the soul alone that becomes manifest.”itthaM prasArya sva-karau karuNA-samudro
muSTIcakAra ca punar drutam eva nrityan
sac-cit-svarUpam atha tattva-ni…