Showing posts from January, 2010

Jai Nitai

What would today have been without a mention of Lord Nityananda? The day is almost over and Nitai-pada-kamala is echoing in my mind.

Last year I picked up a fairly new Bengali language publication about Nityananda Prabhu in Kolkata. The author is named Uma Bandyopadhyaya, title is Bangla Charitra Sahitye Nityananda ("Nityananda in Bengali Biographical Literature"). This is her Ph.D. thesis and Kanan Bihari Goswami has written a fulsome foreword.
There are pictures of Ekachakra, Khardaha, Kalna (the house of Surya Sarkhel, Nityananda's father-in-law and Gauridas Pandit's house), and Panihati. They are black and white and not super quality, but still it is nice to see these places. Raghava Pandit's home seems to have been fixed up since the last time I was there.
Some new stuff in this book: I had never heard of a book ascribed to Basu Ghosh called Subarna Bonik Katha o Kirti, "The Subarna Boniks, their story and fame." Strange title for a book by Basu Gho…

India Independence Day

On the last day of our stay at Sadhana Kendra ashram, we visited the school on the ashram grounds, named after Swami Chandra's guru. I had been impressed by the cheerful and respectful students on my way to and from our residence to the ashram core of meditation hall, dining hall, library, and Swami Chandra's quarters. The children all folded their hands and said, "Hari Om."

On this day, the headmaster (he called himself the children's friend), Swami's disciple, a brahmachari whose name I don't recall, took us around to see the classes and hallways, which were of a very good quality, especially when you consider that many of the pupils come from homes that are little more than stone and grass shacks.

He took us to the assembly where the students begin their day with prayer. You can see from the picture how they all sit in rows and chant Sanskrit prayers and a Hindi bhajan or two. Our students chanted the morning prayers that we use at SRSG.

The headmaste…

The Future of Sanskrit

I was recently quite surprised to receive an invitation to "spearhead" an effort to revive a Sanskrit college in Chennai. The mission, "to establish an institution conforming to and excelling the best international standards of scholarship, research and education." I thought I would post my response here, since I think that its scope goes far beyond the simple accepting or rejecting of the invitation.

Pranams. Please forgive me for taking so long to respond to your letter. January has been particularly filled with activities, as you may have noticed from the Facebook pages "Save Yamuna Save Vrindavan" and "Stop the Vrindavan Bridge."

Now, as to your interesting proposal. My immediate reaction was to say no, that it would be impossible for me to leave the various duties that I have at the moment. And indeed, I have commitments that should take me well into the summer. Nevertheless, I have been rethinking my spontaneous negative reaction because …

Yamuna Devi

Giancarlo Colombo took a couple of photos at the Yamuna near Domet. We were there for to visit Swami Chandra's Sadhana Kendra Ashram. I have given an account of our visit there.

We walked along the road that follows the nala on the high bank outside the flood plain. Seeing this picture makes me nostalgic for the old parikrama marga in Vrindavan.

Here Mahantadeva Swami and Gangesh Chaitanya are pouring Yamuna water on me. The river here is about 150 kilometers from Yamunotri and about 200 kilometers north of Delhi. By the time it gets there, 90 percent of the water has been removed and replaced by raw sewage and garbage.

I was told that due to corruption or whatever, 11 of the 13 sewage treatment plants that were built in an attempt to clean up the Yamuna are inoperative.

The water is so clean here that we had no hesitation in drinking big mouthfulls. It is shallow but fast running. My gamcha was carried away by the current.

Jai Yamuna Devi ki jai.

The Direct Meaning of Radha Krishna

In the previous post I talked about śabda-vṛtti and rasa. Now in fact this was a preamble to a response to those who are confused about metaphorical interpretations of Radha and Krishna and the lila. In another earlier post (The Two Rasa Lilas, Again), I made a statement to the effect that Krishna was both bhagavān and the archetypal man.

My friend Shivaji said that calling Krishna the archetypal man was a metaphoric interpretation. That is wrong. It is the direct statement of the shastra, even though many devotees turn a blind idea to this.

To again clarify: The idea of Krishna as bhagavān is the Bhāgavata version. If there is a metaphorical version of Krishna lila, it is there in what the Goswamis called and rejected as the ādhyātmika interpretation. In fact, however, they cannot entirely reject the metaphorical version. It is just that they would not take the metaphorical version exclusively at the price of the literal one which the Bhāgavata makes clear, especially in the verse 1…

Quote from Herbert Guenther

In keeping with the actual main theme of this blog (I separated blogs at one point in order to keep this one "pure", but as usual, things have gotten untidy). I picked up a book, which I had read before, and just opened randomly to the page that contained the following:

The Vaishnava conception comes closest to the Western distinction between “sacred love” and “profane love” in the image of Krishna and Radha and the gopis. The great strength of the Krishna cult has been its truly all-embracing eroticism and the exploitation of all possible minutiae of physical passion. Indian scholasticism was at pains to see in the frank eroticism an allegory of the relationship of humanity to God, but it did not condemn the sensuality involved.

Footnote. Contrast with this attitude the modern Western Krishna cult which under the influence of Victorianized Hinduism adopts an extremely negative and puritanical outlook and which is utterly devoid of the warm and humanistic feeling that perm…

Court orders temporary injunction against building bridge

This news that the Allahabad High Court has ordered a temporary injunction against the construction of the bridge over the Yamuna is most welcome.

We can rejoice and thank the devotees from around the world. Their massive sigh of despair has no doubt influenced the way that the karmic wheel is turning.

More and more people have become conscious of the issue and have been deeply affected emotionally at the thought of the wanton desecration and destruction of our beloved Vrindavan Dham.

But we are far from winning this war. It is only lull, a break, a little bit of time to mobilize our forces for the even greater obstacles that need to be overcome.

This war will not be won by mind vibrations only, nor even by Harinam alone. It will require convincing people on a massive scale in India and around the world.

When we started in Krishna consciousness so many years ago, we thought that the whole world would turn to Krishna in a very short time. We were so enthusiastic and convinced. An…

Imagining Dhama Seva

We may or may not stop the bridge, but as Vaishnavas we are not attached to the results of our action. We neither lose enthusiasm for doing the right thing when we fail to achieve the results we sought, nor do we stop and rest on our laurels when we do reach our goals. Seva to the Divine Couple is infinite.

The degradation of the Vrindavan environment has been going on for some time, but without cars or accumulations of garbage, it was somewhat tolerable. We could live with it and still appreciate the underlying transcendental atmosphere.

The exponential increase of pilgrims over the past decade has meant that the environmental degradation is also increasing apace. It has also meant that a taste for materialism has crept into the spirit of the people, with all that this entails. The sum result is that it is getting harder and harder to see or feel the sacred power of Vrindavan. Service to the Dham means perceiving and making manifest that sacred power. That is prema.

We are actually…

Freud, Sexuality and Spirituality

(continued from previous)
So is Freud relevant?

Nowadays it has become the accepted wisdom that Freudianism is dead. But so many of his ideas are now considered commonsensical that it is almost a joke to reject him by name without knowing which of his ideas are still current and on what level of discourse.
I could go into this in some depth, and I think that especially for devotees it would be salutary to consider these points.
The relations of sexuality to love and to spirituality are the complexes that need to be decoded. I tend to accept Freud's monistic view of psychic energy, or consciousness, and not make a radical distinction between material sexuality and spirituality at all. Now this will seem counter-intuitive for those people who do make such a radical distinction. Kama andha-tama, prema nirmala bhaskara and all that. But if we say that they are generic opposites, that is erroneous. They are simply different ends of one continuum or spectrum, that of desire.
Lust is…

The Two Rasa Lilas, Again

I got into a bit of a debate with Sachin Gupta, a devoted follower of Vivekananda and Hindu nationalist, on Facebook. He posted a review of Wendy Doniger's book History of the Hindus, which reiterated criticisms that sensitive Hindus have had about her work almost since the beginning.
Fair enough. She has attracted a lot of attention ever since she wrote Shiva, the Erotic Ascetic for raking up every juicy bit of erotica she can find in the Puranic mythologies. There is a lot of defensiveness amongst some Hindu nationalists who resent it when scholars point out the sexual nature of much of Hindu symbolism and mythology.
My intention here is not to defend Doniger in what she says, as the accusations leveled against her ("Doniger's is not a prayerful, thoughtful approach, but a whimsical, frivolous approach to both the mundane as well as the esoteric.") in all likelihood do have some merit; nevertheless, to totally deny the explicit sexuality of much of the content of P…

Conference on Spirituality and the Science of Consciousness

Interesting conference of “Spirituality and the Science of Consciousness” in Kolkata at the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. This is the second time I have come here, both times in the somewhat awkward position of being Swami Veda Bharati’s representative and thus more or less as an observer and student.

Last year I was somewhat aware of the rather odd cultural disconnect that I felt in the surroundings of an ersatz Western institution, reproducing in me memories of aspects of my old Jesuit-run high school, like the auditorium and refectory. The use of English language and European dress in a milieu that was 95% Bengali also seemed somewhat strange. Also, the aging and somewhat eccentric nature of much of the audience was particularly evident.

This year, however, I was more conscious of other aspects of the Ramakrishna Mission. First of all, the institution seems to be very well run. Things are clean, on-time; staff is polite and helpful, etc. But more particularly I was thinki…

Addresses for Letter Writing Campaign

Here is a start. Use any or ALL these modes of communication. But I think we should definitely continue to use snail mail. There is nothing quite like an avalanche of paper to let people know that something is significant.

I suggest writing the snail mail letter, printing it out. If it looks good, then send it by email also.


Send this list to all your friends with your own sample letter.

We don't want all the letters to look the same, but if all you say is "The Keshi Ghat flyover in Vrindavan is an eyesore that does not respect Vrindavan's heritage as a sacred pilgrimage. We are dismayed that such insensitivity and lack of comprehension is being shown to a place that attracts so many pilgrims from around the world. Please STOP the Keshi Ghat Yamuna Flyover NOW." Or some variation thereof, it should be enough.

QUANTITY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN QUALITY. Keep your letter short. One page maximum. Use short paragraphs. Use bold type to highlight stro…

Advice to Self, Activist

Lessons learned so far:

If you are going to lead, you need a tremendous amount of tolerance for all kinds of personalities, those with strong or dogmatically held opinions, those who have just plain bad faith--and those are just your friends.

Always discuss the issue with the attitude that everyone is seeking the greatest good for the greatest number. Even if someone is obviously seeking some personal benefit, keep the language idealistic as far as possible. Always appeal to the highest nature.

You need to be focused and optimistic. All the time. You need a strong center, and if that strong center is spiritual faith, that will help just that much more.

You need to focus on the issue you are fighting, while recognizing what is practically attainable. If you don't do the first, everyone will try to turn the issue into some subset of their own little pet peeve. If you don't do the latter, you will end up isolated and unable to achieve anything. Or you may win a small battle …

An Appeal to Vaishnava Leaders Around the World

The Yamuna Vrindavan Heritage Foundation has been set up in Vrindavan with Padmanabha Goswami and K.P.S. Gill as its principal officers. The constitution is in the course of being written and a website is being set up.

The first task of the Foundation is to mobilize efforts to stop the Keshi Ghat Flyover, but it is an attempt to rally all the various organizations in Vrindavan behind the concept that Vrindavan and the Yamuna are heritage sites that need special protection. There have been some very encouraging developments lately which we will hopefully be able to report soon.

The website will contain a discussion board, plenty of background information, official petitions and links to related petitions and other organizations doing similar or related work.

An important upcoming event is preoccupying the leaders of the YVHF and that is the Supreme Court hearing on January 10. More information about that will be posted soon, but Sri Chandan Goswamiji already made a report about this ea…

New Year's Message

Dear Friends, Radhe Radhe !

This New Year is a time of mixed feelings for me and many other devotees.

Along with the usual hopes that come with every new beginning, there is a sentiment that our beloved Vrindavan Dham is in serious trouble.

Many people in this great land of India have bad memories of a colonial past and fears of a neo-colonial future. They also have tremendous hopes for a technological and economic awakening. They want India to take its rightful place as a global leader and political powerhouse on the world stage.

All these things are natural, and indeed, since most devotees love India in a special way, loving her because she has contributed to their own spiritual awakening, they sympathize with all these ambitions.

Indeed, our great hope is that India, empowered by her unique spiritual heritage, would be a leader in the very things that we cherish most dearly: peace, non-violence, the harmony of humanity and nature, and a human society that is centered on the values of si…

The Big Picture of the Keshi Ghat Flyover

Shyam Das kindly posted maps of Vrindavan which make it possible to better visualize the big picture. On the map, the bridge roughly from the numbers 10 to 17 along the top right hand side.

Here is the story: There is a new superhighway being built from Noida just east of Delhi all the way to Agra. This highway is being built with great haste as a part of the 2010 Commonwealth Games preparations. The Taj Expressway or the Yamuna Expressway. It runs along the south bank of the Yamuna. That may be a bit confusing when looking at this map because the Yamuna is always curving. It's general direction, however, is flowing southeast.

Now what they have done is to build a bridge across the Yamuna near where the N on the directional arrow is pointing. This bridge is part of an access road that joins the new highway to Vrindavan.

What the planners decided was that the Parikrama Marg would make a perfect continuation of this access to the town itself, but it did not solve the problem of congest…