Sunday, July 11, 2010

More symbolism stuff

Whenever we say something like, “Krishna is rasarāja; Radha is mahābhāva.” We are speaking symbolically.

The word pratīka, usually translated as symbol, sign or representation, is discussed in VS 4.1.4. Baladeva Vidyabhushan says in his Govinda-bhāṣya that this is a reference to Vedānta statements that speak of the mind, etc. (mana-ādi) as symbols of God.

Baladeva says pratīke īśvaro na bhavati. "God is not in the symbol," i.e., he is not limited by it. The sentence goes on, kintu tasyādhiṣṭhānam eveti "but is its ground or basis". He then quotes BhP 11.2.41:

khaṁ vāyum agniṁ salilaṁ mahīṁ ca
jyotīṁṣi sattvāni diśo drumādīn |
sarit-samudrāṁś ca hareḥ śarīraṁ
yat kiṁ ca bhūtaṁ praṇamed ananyaḥ ||
The unalloyed devotee bows down to all existent things – the ether, air, fire, water and earth, the heavenly bodies, living creatures, the directions, the trees, the rivers and oceans, seeing them all as the body of the Lord. (11.2.41)
It seems to me that Baladeva is saying that in one sense EVERYTHING is a symbol of God, but God is not a part of anything, something like Gita 9.3-4: mat-sthāni sarva-bhūtāni ... na ca mat-sthāni bhūtāni "All things are in me... and all things are not in me."

This is also the meaning of the summation of the vibhūti-yoga chapter of the Gita. In that chapter of the Gita (10), Krishna goes through a litany of “bests”: “Of basketball players I am Michael Jordan, of hockey players I am Wayne Gretzky.” Which is concluded by the words,

yad yad vibhūtimat sattvaṁ
śrīmad ūrjitam eva vā
tat tad evāvagaccha tvaṁ
mama tejo’ṁśa-saṁbhavam
Whatever great opulence that you see,
whatever glories or mighty wonders,
Know that they have all arisen in truth
from but a spark of my divine splendor. (Gita 10.43)
But when Krishna says, for instance, "I am desire" (7.11), is his intention purely symbolic? Or when the Upanishad says, raso vai saḥ, is that purely symbolic? And what about other statements like satyam jñānam anantaṁ brahma? Krishna IS those things, even though we may say, “He is not JUST those things.”

Most devotees have a literal understanding of Krishna as a cowherd, etc., and make reference to the literal understanding of the realized soul. Certainly the words of the realized souls are being communicated and so on through words and so on in a way that is, we may assume, meant to be intelligible to the non-realized. Otherwise you could not assume that you know how Krishna would respond to the question, "Are you a symbol?"

The fact is that God's infinite being is only communicable to the mind of the individual, to his limited understanding, through symbols. God appears to the devotee in accordance with his desire more than in accordance with his surrender, yad yad dhiyā, etc. (3.9.11) In other words, the perception of Krishna as Nanda’s son is not so much an ontological truth as a subjective one.

There is a big difference between kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam, a dogmatic statement, and rasenokṛṣyate kṛṣṇaḥ, which is the prelude to an elaborate argument.

dhruvaṁ nikhila-mādhava-praṇayinī-kadambād alaṁ
vikṛṣya vividhaṁ vidhir madhurimāṇam atyadbhutam |
prabhoḥ parama-tuṣṭaye niramimīta rādhāṁ mudā
yad atra ramate hariḥ parihṛtānya-nārī-spṛhaḥ | |
The creator Brahma must have taken
the essence of all beauty, wonder and sweetness
from every one of Madhava's beloved gopis
and created Radha, just for his pleasure.
It must be so, for Krishna cares for none of them any more,
and seeks only to enjoy with her. (DKK 18)
nayana-yuga-vidhāne rādhikāyā vidhātrā
jagati madhura-sārāḥ sañcitāḥ sad-guṇā ye |
bhuvi patita-tad-aṁśas tena sṛṣṭāny asārair
bhramara-mṛga-cakorāmbhoja-mīnotpalāni ||
When the Creator was engaged in making Radha’s eyes, he took all the best qualities he could find in the world and distilled their essence. Then whatever portions of those qualities were left over he used to create the bees, the doe, the chakora bird, the pink lotus, fish and blue lotus [and all the other things that are used as similes for her eyes]. (GLA 11.100)
Rupa Goswami makes a distinction in the various forms of God according to rasa, but in one sense that is a symbolic hierarchy. The logic is this:

(1) God is known through love. In fact, in one sense, since love controls God, love is an even higher Truth than God himself. But that is impossible, since nothing is greater than God. Therefore we have to simply say that Love IS God as a higher manifestation.

(2) Love cannot exist in a vacuum. That is meaningless. Love is personal and relational, therefore God must have form and multiplicity in order to experience love. This love has a samaṣṭi aspect and a vyaṣṭi aspect, which we can call Radha and the jiva respectively. [Technically, I know jiva refers specifically the conditioned soul, but for distinguishing purposes I use the term.]

(3) In order to understand God, we must therefore understand love. To say that “love in the material world has no relation to love in the spiritual world” is, as mentioned above, a fallacy. The statement “God is Love” or “Love is God” would have no meaning if there were no genuine experience of love. This is the meaning of ānandād dhy eva khalv imāni bhūtāni jāyante | ānandena jātāni jīvanti | ānandaṁ prayanty abhisaṁviśantīti (Tai.U. 3.6). Without love the world would have no standing. Just like if it were without consciousness or being, it would have no standing. yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat.

(4) In order to understand love, Rupa Goswami has drawn a hierarchy of loves which is accessible to human experience, from śānta to madhura. We will talk about this in another article on "the five loves."

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Prema: As it is above, so it is below

I like this verse so much, I am just about adopting it as my new motto:

प्रेमा योऽसौ राधिकाकृष्णयुग्मं
स्वानन्देन प्लावयित्वा सखीश्च ।
शश्वद्विश्वं प्लावयन् सुप्रसिद्धः
सोऽयं बुद्धिं नः समिद्धां करोतु ॥

premā yo'sau rādhikā-kṛṣṇa-yugmaṁ
svānandena plāvayitvā sakhīś ca |
śaśvad viśvaṁ plāvayan suprasiddhaḥ
so'yaṁ buddhiṁ naḥ samiddhāṁ karotu ||

This love, which after inundating
the pair of lovers, Radha and Krishna,
with its own bliss,
and their girlfriends too,
constantly engulfs the entire universe,
as is well known.
May that love enflame
our intelligence. (Gopala-champu 15.4)
Interesting mixed metaphor. Inundates, engulfs... enflame.

Love inundates with joy. The essence of Vaishnavism is the recognition that love and joy are intimately connected. The receipt of joy... when you love, the object of love is a source of joy. When you love all, then all is a source of joy. At the same time, when you love, you seek to give joy. This requires practical intelligence, of course...

Though this is not a Gayatri mantra, it is formulated a bit like one, asking for the intelligence to be illuminated, but illuminated by love.

But that intelligence comes to one who places love in the center of his spiritual endeavor. Love is the aṁśī (whole), intelligence or wisdom is the aṁśa (part). Therefore St. Augustine was right: "Love and do as you will."

In 15.2 as well (two verse before this one) Jiva expresses the Truth as Love, which has manifested in a Dual Form.

इमौ गौरीश्यामौ मनसि विपरीतौ बहिरपि
स्फुरत्तत्तद्वस्त्राविति बुधजनैर्निश्चितमिदम् ।
स कोऽप्यच्छप्रेमा विलसदुभयस्फूर्तिकतया
दधन्मूर्तिभावं पृथगपृथगप्याविरुदभूत् ॥

Wise persons have determined that though
these Two are of a black and golden hue respectively,
in their minds they are of the opposite colors;
so too, externally, are their clothes.
This is some pure, unblemished love,
which has become incarnate,
taking on this form with a dual manifestation,
at once divided and a unity. (GC 1.15.2)

More discussion on that verse here: Rasaraja and Mahabhava

As far as I am concerned, this verse is the most perfect expression of Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy, with the achintya-bhedabheda expressed in at least half a dozen ways. In essence, Love appears like an impersonal force, but it cannot exist without a subject and an object.

Everyone loves Love. But philosophically people postulate something higher than love. We say there is nothing higher. What it truly is, I don't really know. It is something that is continuously revealed.

But the verse quoted at the top of this post says something else, which I almost fall over in astonishment at seeing it in Sri Jiva Prabhu, it is such an explicit statement of one non-duality that we are accustomed to having thrust down our throats. That is the non-duality of love.

The verse is constructed as follows: yo'sau... so'yam. That love over there which inundates Radha, Krishna and the sakhis... is this love over here which is famously inundating this world. It is like the famous Ishopanishad verse -- yo'sav asau puruSaH so'ham asmi. That love there, which inundates Radha and Krishna and the sakhis, then inundates the world, that suprasiddha famous love (of our experience) is the same. May THIS love illuminate our intelligence.

If you check the UN verses on Mahabhava, you will see the expression, yāvad-āśraya-vṛttiś cet, which should be discussed in this connection. I wrote a post on this definition of Mahabhava a long time ago, but it does not seem to be on this blog. I will try to track it down and post it here.

Jai Sri Radhe.

Radha rains rasa

brahmānanda-rasād ananta-guṇito ramyo raso vaiṣṇavas
tasmāt koṭi-guṇojjvalaś ca madhuraḥ śrī-gokulendro rasaḥ |
tac cānanta-camatkṛtiṁ pratimuhur varṣad rasānāṁ param
śrī-rādhā-pada-padmam eva madhuraṁ sarvasva-bhūtaṁ mama ||
Countless times more relishable than the flavor of Brahmananda is that connected to Vishnu. Millions of times brighter than that is the sweet rasa related to the Lord of Gokula. Raining down infinite astonishment are the topmost of all rasas, the sweet lotus feet of Srimati Radharani. They alone are my life and soul.
There are many verses of this sort, presenting hierarchies of one kind or another. I especially like the ones that lead to the superiority of Radha, Radha-dasya or Radha Kund. For such, verses 9 and 10 of Upadesamrita are good examples. I don't know where this verse originates. I have found it in Harilal Vyasa's commentary to the Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi, Verse 212.

By the way, the word "raining down" is appropriate, as today was the first day of the real monsoon here in Rishikesh. We had plenty of pre-monsoon rain, but the sky today is grey, the atmosphere is almost clammy with humidity, and the mountains will be covered in mist for the next few months. After the record heat, the relief is welcome. I only pray that the Doab gets a good rainy season and the Brajvasis get some respite from the heat of the past few months.