Friday, January 22, 2010

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.

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 10.33.36:

anugrahāya bhaktānāṁ
mānuṣaṁ deham āśritaḥ
bhajate tādṛśīḥ krīḍā
yāḥ śrutvā tat-paro bhavet
In order to show mercy to the devotees Krishna appears in a human form and performs such pastimes [as the rāsa-līlā], hearing which one becomes attached to him.
The intimate connection between the the divine and the human in Krishna is what is enchanting (madhura) about him. And the most enchanting līlā of all, the līlā-śiromaṇi, is the rāsa-līlā.

Though the Bhāgavata's idea seems prima facie to be that Krishna's taking of a human body is only to help us remember him. But that develops into something completely different in later texts. The Brahma-saṁhitā directly calls Krishna "the original man" (ādi-puruṣa) and the Chaitanya Charitamrita says:

kṛṣṇera jatek khelā, sarvottama nara-līlā,
nara-vapu tāhār svarūp
gopa-veśa, veṇu-kar, nava-kiśor, naṭa-var,
nara-līlār hoy anurūp
Of all Lord Krishna’s diversions, his human pastimes are the most excellent, for the human form is his actual identity. In this form He dresses as a cowherd boy, plays the flute, blossoms with ever fresh youthfulness and dances expertly. His activities resemble those of a human being. (Madhya 21.101)
The last words are particularly interesting, because it seems to place the humanity as prior to his divinity, reviving the old chicken or egg question about projection rather openly.

Anyway, the point is: By the direct statements of shastra, Krishna is presented as an archetypal man. When the Gita says avajānanti mam mūḍhā mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam, etc., that is to remind us that his humanity is archetypal, not entirely human in its limitation.

The problem then is to understand what is the relation between the Deity and the human archetype, where one imposes an attitude of devotion and the other an exemplary code of behavior. Even though the Bhāgavatam warns about not imitating the rāsa-līlā, it also states that one becomes free from lust or material sexual desire through hearing this specific pastime.

In order to understand how this works we have to take a bit of assistance from modern archetypal psychology, but I think that rasa theory will, from the Indian vantage point, offer sufficient material to help understand how this is meant to work. I wrote about this before here, so you can look there. This article probably needs to be looked at by me again, too, but not today...

The point is that the more one humanizes God, the more the forms of bhakti also change. But, at the same time, it also has the effect of humanizing your human relationships and investing them with love. Sexuality is fraught with difficulties because it is the locus where the modes of nature most powerfully exhibit themselves. Because of that, it is also the most significant arena of spiritual practice. But people try to destroy desire, which is the Mayavadi approach to spirituality, instead of transforming it. That is what Sahaja is all about.


10 comments:

Steve Bohlert said...

Thank you Jagat. Well put. That is also what the natural devotion I present in _Universalist Radha-Krishnaism_ is all about.

shiva said...

"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."

That isn't what I said. I said your explanation of a specific story -- Jaydeva's Gita Govinda, was an allegorical interpretation. The story taken literally is simply about Krishna's dalliances with Radha and other gopis while showing their respective emotional experiences over a brief period of time. But this is how you explained that story:

"We must therefore take it as a depiction of what could be called "archetypal humanity." It is not mystical, but a celebration of human love and sexuality projected onto the Divinity as the archetypal manifestation of such relations."

Jayadeva doesn't say anything like that in the story, it is simply presented as a glimpse into the lives of very unique people in a very unique circumstance. You claim it is meant as archetypal human love, the author doesn't state that in the story, therefore that is not a literal reading of the story. It is an allegorical interpretation, specifically your allegorical interpretation.

You also said:

"By the direct statements of shastra, Krishna is presented as an archetypal man."

Where does it state in shastra that Krishna is presented as an archetype? Nowhere I have seen. Ramachandra is presented as an ideal man, an archetype of the dharmic ruler; but Krishna is presented as the quintessentially unique person. In fact it is because of his uniqueness that he alone is celebrated as Svayam Bhagavan, i.e. superior to other manifestations of Bhagavan because it is in Krishna alone where Bhagavan reveals the full range of his masculine personality.

I agree that Krishna is presented as an archetype, but I disagree with you when you claim shastra literally spells that out. It is an allegorical interpretation of Krishna if we can see him as archetypal persona in shastra.
(cont.)

shiva said...

You seem to misunderstand the difference between literalism and allegory. For example you do it again when you wrote:

"kRSNera jatek khelA, sarvottama nara-lIlA,
nara-vapu tAhAr svarUp
gopa-veza, veNu-kar, nava-kizor, naTa-var,
nara-lIlAr hoy anurUp

Of all Lord Krishna’s diversions, his human pastimes are the most excellent, for the human form is his actual identity. In this form He dresses as a cowherd boy, plays the flute, blossoms with ever fresh youthfulness and dances expertly. His activities resemble those of a human being. (Madhya 21.101)

The last words are particularly interesting, because it seems to place the humanity as prior to his divinity, reviving the old chicken or egg question about projection rather openly."

A literal reading of that verse simple states that God's human form is where he reveals his true personality, and that his activities in that form are human like. It says nothing literally about "placing humanity prior to divinity" and thereby bringing up some type of "chicken or egg" theology. That is purely your allegorical interpretation, yet you seem to think it's "rather openly" being stated.

You do it again when you wrote:

"Anyway, the point is: By the direct statements of shastra, Krishna is presented as an archetypal man. When the Gita says avajananti mam mUDhA mAnuSIM tanum Azritam, etc., that is to remind us that his humanity is archetypal, not entirely human in its limitation."

First you say "by direct statements of shastra" Krishna is presented as archetypal -- then for an example of that you use a verse which says that fools deride Krishna when he assumes human form because they do not understand his transcendental nature as the supreme God. It says nothing about Krishna being archetypal in any way, that is your own purely allegorical interpretation, yet you present it as an example of shastra making a direct statement about Krishna being archetypal.

Jagat said...

Archetype is not a word that has a Sanskrit equivalent. However, if I say "Adi-puruSa" what that means is "archetypal man."

Radha and Krishna in GG are "unique" precisely because they are archetypal.

Jagat said...

Actually, I was going to say that according to Jung's archetypal psychology, God is always an archetype of the self. Which jives nicely with the Upanishadic version.

God is the "super" self. What does that mean? It means archetype. That is both theologically and psychologically consistent. The oneness of man and God is in the similarity of archetype and "accident." The difference is in the objective nature of God to jiva.

shiva said...

Adi-purusa means first person. I can see that you are interpreting that to mean archetypal,and it can, but that's a secondary meaning. The primary meaning is that because God is the first being to come into existence (although in one sense has always existed -- though God did "evolve" in self-realization in order to gain mastery over all of the abilities inherent to God) therefore God was the only person who could possess all the power and ability that God has, e.g. omnipresence, omnipotency, etc.

You said:

"Radha and Krishna in GG are "unique" precisely because they are archetypal."

That is mistaking correlation for causation. Radha and Krishna are unique because God is the only person who is Godlike. It isn't being archetypes which makes them Godlike, it's being Godlike which makes them archetypal.

You said:

"God is the "super" self. What does that mean? It means archetype."

There is much more to being the "super" self than being an archetype. Being an archetype is an aspect of God being the "super" self. Just like a car is a place to sit, but you don't define a car by it's seating function.

You said:

"The oneness of man and God is in the similarity of archetype and "accident." The difference is in the objective nature of God to jiva."

The same as my previous comment -- the oneness of man and God is much more than just about archetype. The archetypal relation is minor in comparison to the relation of the jiva's thoughts, consciousness, functionality, etc which are one with God. It's like having a puppet which is totally dependent on the puppet master for every motion and word coming from the puppet -- but considering the essential oneness between them to be the fact that they are both animated and look and act like humans.

But other than that I agree that God serves as an archetype, but maybe in different ways than you may realize. I understand that in your attempt to teach about Sahaja you want to get across the idea of Radha Krishna as being sexual archetypes for human relationships, for sadhakas. I can certainly see why that would be an attractive ideology. But it shouldn't be seen as the highest expression of the ultimate reality. The literal expression of rasa-lila in shastra is not necessarily the true expression of actual rasa-lila. The former serves a purpose of elevating conditioned souls to higher levels of God realization; the latter has no other purpose than enjoyment. The nature of the former is that it is designed to aid people, therefore it is not necessarily going to be presenting the literal truth. Just like ice cream and cake is more fun to eat than ginger root, but if you are suffering from indigestion than you are told the best thing to eat is ginger tea.

Anonymous said...

"That is mistaking correlation for causation. Radha and Krishna are unique because God is the only person who is Godlike. It isn't being archetypes which makes them Godlike, it's being Godlike which makes them archetypal."

Lets just keep in mind that language ultimately does not deliver the completeness of a concept.

But still, with good will a point can be fairly made.

Now Shiva, for you to complainingly say that "Radha and Krishna are unique because God is the only person who is Godlike" isn't conclusive either. Are you objecting to the word 'unique' itself or the use of the word in the context of the idea communicated? Your complaint isnt clear. Because it can be said in reply to your objection that there are many other attributes of God that make Them 'unique'. God is unique in many ways, but in Jagat's text he seems to be referring to this one particular uniqueness of God, Their functioning as archetype.

Besides, if we are going to complain about linguistics, your saying that 'God is the only person who is Godlike' is redundant. Basically it amounts to saying, "God is God because He is God". Its bordering gibberish. To communicate the uniqueness of God, contrast has to come into the equation.

Also, if as you say, "it's being Godlike which makes Them (God) archetypal", then every other archetype out there would be Godlike. But the idea was to say that besides many other aspects, God is archetypal and this particular aspect is what concerns us in the moment. There is nothing wrong with the God-archetype or even the reverse archetype-God equation. The point being made is a third one.

So Shiva you don't have a legitimate complaint here it seems. That is, the problem you find with the language used in this explanation can be thrown right back at you with the apparent flaws in your own use of language.

Truth is Shiva, you don't put all your cards on the table, and that hampers your own speech. In other words, you are never clear enough besides a neti neti style of communicating. Affirmative language can do a god job if you just took a shot at it.

Tinkerbell said...

Anonymous said: ... "To communicate the uniqueness of God, contrast has to come into the equation"...
Now the Anonymous starts to border with the impossible: make a contrast in the equation that on one side has "uniqueness of God" and on the other side it has ... what? What is "that" out there we can contrast with the idea of God that doesn't in some way come from the same "archetype bag" from which you pull out "God"?
And doesn't both the idea of "God's uniqueness" and the idea of the "opposite of that" come through ourselves -- through our own perception? So, how can we say that it isn't us who are determining what is God and what is not, or what is archetype and what is not? A cat chases its own tail, thinking it's another cat it's chasing.

Shiva has another problem: "Radha and Krishna are unique because God is the only person who is Godlike. It isn't being archetypes which makes them Godlike, it's being Godlike which makes them archetypal." So Shiva puts put a God as the source of the archetype, but it's contradictory because the idea of God comes only through human perception of certain archetypes, or our (idealized) commonalities, and we're attributing them as universal. God is not attributing them, because "God" is already our attribute. Can you prove it otherwise?
So according to you even if all the humanity on this planet dies suddenly, and there are no people left, Radha and Krishna would still exist. But they wouldn't -- they would die too. They don't exist separate from our consciousness and our experience. What exists out of our field of experience and consciousness we cannot know -- it's tabula rasa. Maybe we can call it brahman -- a field of possibility. Aristotelian potentia, or potential for something. And brahman can become bhagavan not "out there" and live separated from us, but only in interaction with our consciousness, that confirms bhagavan's existence. We grasp it only through idealized archetype and inner desire to reach it. Our lives and existence -- bhagavan's and human's -- are mutually interdependent.

shiva said...

Anonymous

I have to disagree with your assessment. You critique what I wrote without mentioning the context -- which leaves you critiquing the words without their intent. For example you wrote:

Now Shiva, for you to complainingly say that "Radha and Krishna are unique because God is the only person who is Godlike" isn't conclusive either. Are you objecting to the word 'unique' itself or the use of the word in the context of the idea communicated? Your complaint isnt clear. Because it can be said in reply to your objection that there are many other attributes of God that make Them 'unique'. God is unique in many ways, but in Jagat's text he seems to be referring to this one particular uniqueness of God, Their functioning as archetype.

I made it clear I wasn't objecting to the view of Radha Krishna as archetypal, I was objecting to this specific statement:

"Radha and Krishna in GG are "unique" precisely because they are archetypal."

Jagat doesn't say that an archetypal interpretation is one way of many to go, he stresses that Radha Krishna in GG "are unique precisely because." In other words he is using an exclusionary and triumphalist mode of rhetoric in what is nothing more than one among many potential interpretations. So I countered that with what should be considered the ultimate triumphalist interpretation, i.e. What is the most unique thing about Radha Krishna -- their divinity. I was making a point, which you didn't get.

You also wrote:

Besides, if we are going to complain about linguistics, your saying that 'God is the only person who is Godlike' is redundant. Basically it amounts to saying, "God is God because He is God". Its bordering gibberish. To communicate the uniqueness of God, contrast has to come into the equation.

It's not redundant, God and God-like are being used as nomenclature and then as descriptor. There is no other way to make the point I was making without using that type of sentence structure.

You also said:

Also, if as you say, "it's being Godlike which makes Them (God) archetypal", then every other archetype out there would be Godlike.

Saying it's being God that makes God archetypal doesn't imply that all archetypes are God-like. That's like claiming if I say "it's being God that makes God unique," then I am implying that "all unique people are God." You are extrapolating implication where there is none.

You also said:

But the idea was to say that besides many other aspects, God is archetypal and this particular aspect is what concerns us in the moment.

That would have been fine, but Jagat was saying more or less that the archetypal interpretation was not only not an allegorical interpretation, but also the most important or foremost interpretation of GG. I was objecting to both of those ideas.

So Shiva you don't have a legitimate complaint here it seems.

Truth is Shiva, you don't put all your cards on the table, and that hampers your own speech. In other words, you are never clear enough besides a neti neti style of communicating. Affirmative language can do a god job if you just took a shot at it.


I would say the reverse is true, but, you can only see what you are meant to see.

Anonymous said...

Shiva, you say,

"you can only see what you are meant to see."

Well yeah I can only see with my own eyes, not with your eyes. But if you told what you see that might help communication. Otherwise what is it that you want?
----------------------------------

Tinkerbell,

On one side there is the uniqueness of God and on the other side the uniqueness of the jiva. One and simultaneously not one. Whats the problem?