Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Conference at Panjabi University, Patiala

This is just a short post. I am in Patiala, Punjab. Only about 220 kilometers from Haridwar. Swami Veda sent me to speak on his behalf at a conference on interfaith dialogue and world peace. Actually this is a subject dear to Swamiji's heart, as he is a great believer in the essential unity of religions.

I had been preparing a talk, which one day you will see on this blog, backdated. Suffice it to say that I did not say ANYTHING that I had written.

In fact, the context gave me something of an opportunity to merge two of my identities... The previous speakers gave pretty standard scholarly talks on the necessity of dialogue and how it can be done.

After my mangalacharan (a great move, by the way, it nicely sets the mood), I began by speaking about Swami Veda's being a cosponsor of the event, through.the Center for Meditation and Interfaith Studies, one of the many institutions under the Ahymsin umbrella.

I talked about his new book (which is being discussed on that as yet unpublished post) and the Sufi-Yogi dialogue that was held in Rishikesh last month, while I was in Keshi Ghat dancing.

After that I spoke about my background as a member of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya and the apparent conflict that this identity has with the advaita-vada of Swami Veda Bharati. I noted that the process of dialogue in Hinduism had been going on for a thousand years at least, if not more, and that the conflict between the theistic and non-theistic religions had been conducted within the Hindu universe for all that time. So, it gave us some experience of the different parameters of the debate that was now being universalized.

I quoted Bhagavata 1.2.11, vadanti tat tattva-vidas, etc. The same one, non-dual truth is known as Brahman to some, as Bhagavan to others.

But I said that I had come to the conclusion that we are obliged to accept the via negativa, i.e., the negation of all material upadhis, if we even want to understand the individual, personal way that God is manifesting to us. If we experience God according to the revelation of a particular school without the experience Brahman realization, the revelation itself will be touched by the upadhis.

And I quoted Gita 18.55. You become brahma-bhuta, then you obtain para bhakti.

Then I led Swami's patented one-fits-all meditation and said, like him, that this is the starting point of all religious dialogue, the experiential sense of oneness. I did it a bit hastily as I have not the habit of doing that in public and had to keep it short, but afterwards several people came and expressed a kind of amazement about the experience. I was myself pretty surprised.

At any rate, I am good with it. You chant Hare Krishna and immediately you have to explain the newness and the difference, i.e., overcome resistance. You tell people to meditate on the name of God according to their own tradition, and you can lead them into a deeper state of consciousness where they feel a sense of universal unity. Then they are automatically predisposed to transcend rational argument and a positive emotional feeling. It is only the beginning, but this is the only point where both the nirgun and sagun aspects can be harmonized.

A bit jumbled here, but that is what I done today. I will be here a couple more days, then I go to another conference at JNU in Delhi. That should be interesting. I will try to find the time to comment on the people I meet here, probably over on Jagat Jindagi.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...


I quoted Bhagavata 1.2.11, vadanti tat tattva-vidas, etc. The same one, non-dual truth is known as Brahman to some, as Bhagavan to others.

.. If we experience God according to the revelation of a particular school without the experience Brahman realization, the revelation itself will be touched by the upadhis ...

And I quoted Gita 18.55. You become brahma-bhuta, then you obtain para bhakti.


Dear Jagadananda,
Very inspiring post.
I'm glad you were there. I suppose that meant a lot.

However, now I don't understand a thing quoted there. Can you translate this into some modern language? English?

How you translate brahman to someone today with a finished university degree? Should I think I'm an imbecile if I understand Einstein's theory and follow all his formulas, but don't understand what some old banana leaf says?

How do you translate bhagavan? What is brahma-bhuta? But all that in today's language.

I was reading Bhagavad gitas few versions and so on, and those folks there always say something else for those same terms. They fight between each other, but no one talks in a language I or someone else can really understand.

It seems to me there's lots of misunderstanding between Indian religions for just the same reason. Those people argue about things they cannot describe properly. They remind me of pre-school kids trying to describe the universe, and because their vocabulary is inadequate, they use same words like "ball" to describe planets, stars, moons, comets, all round shapes, real football balls they play with, tennis balls, cricket balls, basketball balls, ping-pongs, school dance, etc. Then they're angry and start sandpit fight because they lack proper vocabulary and good descriptions and blame others if they don't understand each other.

A further example is when I was reading Bhagavad gita, at one place word "atma" is used in two consecutive verses some 10 or 11 times, for all different things. How can someone understand anything then? It's all same as that "ball" example.

Also, how Krishna can be so short of better words to describe such complicated subjects? I start to doubt he really recited Bhagavad gita. Was he a real person at all? Even he sounds silly. Sounds more like someone else wrote all that and confused the meaning because he needed to write in correct meter, like all of old epics.

Sorry for so many questions. This sounded important to me. Other guru guys are painful, they're orthodox and they believe I can't ask such question because it's a blasphemy. But I think you're different -- well, people seem to be more comfortable in conversations here and you talk about things which are blasphemous for those same guys :) That's why I asked you about modern meaning of those words above.

Thank you.

Rudra Prasad said...

Mr. Anonymous,the answer to your query for the meaning of the terms 'brahman' and 'bhagavan'is given in the Bhagavatam 5.12.11: "What, then, is the ultimate truth? The answer is that nondual-knowledge is the ultimate truth. It is devoid of the contamination of material qualities. It gives us liberation. It is the one without a second, all-pervading and beyond imagination. The first realization of that knowledge is Brahman. Then Paramātmā, the Supersoul, is realized by the yogīs who try to see Him without grievance. This is the second stage of realization. Finally, full realization of the same supreme knowledge is realized in the Supreme Person. All learned scholars describe the Supreme Person as Vāsudeva-the cause of causes, Supersoul and others."

Brahma-bhuta is spiritual liberation.
You have asked translation of these spiritual terms --brahman, bhagavan, etc into english. However, these are names of highly specialized spiritual concepts, and therefore cannot be translated, because due to linguistic limitations ,names cannot be translated. For instance "Bose–Einstein condensate" is a scientific term which cannot be translated because if you do, the real meaning would get lost.
If you ask for classical spiritual terms in "TODAY'S LANGUAGE", you only reveal you ignorance because these spiritual terms are relevant for all times just like "love" is relevant for all times whether now or a thousand years earlier.
You say that you don't understand Gita properly. I think you're reading bad translations of Gita. Prabhupada A.C.Bhaktivedanta had correctly translated Gita called "Bhagavad-gītā As It Is" and if you read that, you might find that you understand Gita clearly.
You call us Indians "pre-school kids". I strongly protest your statement. Saying so amounts to slander and reveals your own childishness. In fact I myself is reminded of how a few years ago I was trying to explain "Quantum physics" to a school kid, and the baby said I was talking "fairy-tales". The same thing happens whenever advanced knowledge is explained to a less-educated person. The novice dismisses the advanced knowledge as 'myths'.

Yoy write that in " Bhagavad gita, at one place word "atma" is used in two consecutive verses some 10 or 11 times, for all different things." This again reveals your lack of linguistic knowledge. Pick up any standard Dictionary, and you'll find that often a SINGLE word has multiple meanings. For instance the Merriam-Webster dictionary gives NINE meanings of the word "LOVE". The same thing is with the word 'atma'. B.Gita being a marvellous piece of poem by the poet Veda Vyas, has used the word "atma" poetically to express different meanings at different places. It is something to praise, and not something to chide about.

Whether Krishna(whose another name is Vasudeva) is a real person or not is a matter of religious belief. The Bhagavatam verse I quoted above gives scriptural injunction in believing in Krishna, and it is the duty of all Vaishnavas to believe in Him.

Its your lack of knowledge in sanskrit that makes you think that Krishna sounds silly in Gita. The old epics are timeless classical pieces that are full of time-tested wisdom and if you study them properly (instead of dismissing them as 'silly'), you'll discover pearld of wisdom in them.
May Krishna give you para bhakti ('pare-bhakti' means pure love--- i write in english because you seem to have an 'allergy' for anything "indian").

Anonymous said...

Rudra Prasad

It seems you're an Indian, and you feel yourself called upon to protect your heritage. But let me just remind you of two important details.

1. Bhagavad-gita is an integral part of world literature. It was so long before there was a land named India. Thus Bhagavad-gita is a scripture that goes beyond the limits of Indian culture. It doesn't need your 'protection'. In fact, you're doing it so much more harm when acting like that.

2. Krishna has evolved. His vocabulary is more opulent and comprehensive today. He does not need to use just one word to describe something vaguely in a world of increased complexity of linguistic and thought patterns. Because Bhagavad-gita is a part of the world, and not of India alone, Krishna can speak different languages and go beyond Indian confinements.

You say it yourself indirectly -- Krishna is love. There are people outside India who are freeing up Krishna from his bondage inside just one word ability, and just one scope. Do you know why?

Because they love Krishna, and that love is not censored or 'approved' by the caste of gurus, or brahmins, or whoever else.

There's nothing worse that seeing someone's beloved suffering.