Monday, August 16, 2010

Vibhinna

I received the following query on Facebook from Gaura Das:

Haribol Jagadananda prabhu, I have a book called Vrndavana Krishna, by a Gopinatham. It is published by the Gaudiya Matha. Do you know of it, and consider it to be in line with siddhanta? I seem to remember Srila Prabhupada criticising some author who made a distinction between a Mathura Krishna, Vrndavana Krishna, and Dwarka Krishna, and these diferent "Krsnas" are mentioned in this book, so I was wondering if this was the book he was thinking to not be bonafide.

I don't know what Prabhupada's intention was, but the Gaudiya siddhanta is that Vrindavan Krishna is the highest form of Godhead, superior to Krishna even in Mathura or Dwarka. This is a very significant siddhanta, because it highlights the superiority of parakiya madhura rasa.

You cannot really say that they are "different" Krishnas, either. Any more than you can say Allah is different from Krishna. And yet in a very real sense they are different.

In fact, I always say that no two Gods are ever absolutely the same. The two Christian priests standing on the same altar saying mass do not have exactly the same concept of God any more than two Hindus or two Muslims, because God reveals Himself to everyone through their experience of life, which is always an individual experience. We only have common families of belief, communities of spirit. This is extremely important to understand.

At the same time, historically these families of belief develop. Sometimes they come together and sometimes they separate. Krishna, Narayan, Vishnu, Vasudeva... all these personalities were originally the gods of different cults, tribes or peoples, which through similarity or analogy were identified with one another, their myths intertwined and their ethics merged.

It is so interesting that so much of the shastra is about identifying one with the other, and then Rupa Goswami comes along and announces--


siddhāntatas tv abhede'pi
śrīśa-kṛṣṇa-svarūpayoḥ
rasenotkṛṣyate kṛṣṇa-
rūpa eṣa rasa-sthitiḥ


This is one of the most important mahavakyas in Rupa Goswami's philosophy. It is basically saying that shastra is useless for higher faith. Everyone is quoting shastra about this one and that one being better, "because it says so." krishnas tu bhagavan svayam is a statement on this order. You can believe it or not believe it. What can be done if someone does not? You say, "to each his own."

But Rupa Goswami says that we are going to "judge" God's various forms on the basis of their effects. He says that if God is sat-chit-ananda, by axiomatic definition, then we must judge Him on the basis of ananda, joy. Where is there the most joy?

This is a huge first step to raganuga bhakti. Because if you are still discussing God's powers, you will never really experience His love.



In this vein, someone else communicated with me to ask for the provenance and correct reading of the following verse:


pañcībhūtaṁ prema gopāṅganānāṁ
mūrtī-bhūtaṁ bhāga-dheyaṁ yadūnām |
ekībhūtaṁ gupta-vittaṁ śrutīnāṁ
śyāmībhūtaṁ brahma me sannidhattām ||


There are two variant readings, puñjībhūtaṁ in the first word, and rāśībhūtaṁ at the beginning of the second line. I think the first variant is the correct reading. The translation (off the cuff) is:

May that Brahman, which is the heaped up (or manifest in the world) love of the cowherd girls, the fortune of the Yadus taken form (or again piled up), the hidden wealth of the Vedas in one place, and has taken a black form, appear before me.

I found it quoted in Shiva Prasad Bhattacharya's commentary to Alankara Kaustubha 5.12. He credits it (and another) to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself, but I cannot recall seeing them in any other text. Perhaps S.K. De has it in his Padyavali as an interpolation. It would be nice to know where Bhattacharya got it.

At any rate, it is highly unlikely that it is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's own, though it fits into a kind of genre of verses that are found in the Padyavali, where Krishna is differentiated in some way from Brahman. You will find many verses like this in Krishna Karnamrita, and others by Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya and Raghupati Upadhyaya, etc., follow a similar structure. Prabodhananda also does the same kind of thing, especially in Vrindavana-mahimamrita. "Brahman to me is this."

A good example from Raghupati Upadhyaya, which is quoted in Padyavali (98) and Chaitanya Charitamrita (2.19.98) is the following:


kaṁ prati kathayitum īśe
samprati ko vā pratītim āyātu |
go-pati-tanayā-kuñje
gopa-vadhūṭī-viṭaṁ brahma ||

To whom can I say it? Who will believe me now when I say it? In the bowers by the banks of the Yamuna, the Supreme Brahman is flirting with the cowherd wives.

For the record, the other verse is as follows:


tad ekaṁ bhajāmas tad ekaṁ smarāmas
tad ekaṁ jagat-sākṣi-rūpaṁ namāmaḥ |
namaḥ purastād atha pṛṣṭhatas te
namo’stu te sarvata eva sarva ||

We worship that One, we remember that One, we bow down to that One who is the witness of all that takes place in the universe. We bow down to You from in front, from behind, we bown down from all direction as You are everything.

The last two lines are the same as in Gita 11.40, so if it is Mahaprabhu's, it is hard to give it much significance.



The following verse is quoted by Swami Veda in the beginning of the Yoga Sutra, vol. 1. He does not give the specific provenance or the Sanskrit.

Our homage to Shesha, the snake of eternal Kundalini, the residue that remains after the great dissolution, the one who incarnates again and again to teach the science of yoga.
Art Foundation

I will find that verse in Sanskrit when I go back to Rishikesh. The reference to Sesha as the teacher of yoga comes from the belief that Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutra, was his incarnation.

Zvonimir commented: "It begins to be very interesting when considering our body as the universe, and in the bottom of that universe Sesa dwells; waiting to release its potential by rising above slowly in a magical dance."

Absolutely. It is one of the all-pervading ideas of tantra-yoga, yad asti pinde, tad asti brahmande. This line shows up in various forms, prominently or otherwise, in all yogic traditions. Though it is not given so much prominence in Vaishnavism, it is still present, for instance the second canto of the Bhagavatam appears to be following the idea when describing the universal form, etc. "Whatever is there in the body, is there in the universe." The body is a self-contained unit in which the entire universe can be analogically found.


--o)0)o--

6 comments:

Krishna das said...

Dear Jagadananda,

You stated something obvious yet confronting for some devotees...

"At the same time, historically these families of belief develop. Sometimes they come together and sometimes they separate. Krishna, Narayan, Vishnu, Vasudeva... all these personalities were originally the gods of different cults, tribes or peoples, which through similarity or analogy were identified with one another, their myths intertwined and their ethics merged."

It is generally presented (as tattva) by believers as if it is excactly the other way around. All incarnations have specific meaning and their difference is justified by scripture. Yet sometimes the similarity is like the one between Siva and Neptune.
Of course one can theorize like Jung. But my question is more specific....
What about Jagannatha ? I like him, worship him, but that is because I have happy associatons with Him since childhood. For my non-devotee friends He is nothing more than a tribal totem. Some like the logo too, like an oriental smiley, but the story to why He looks like He looks seems a lot like an attempt... well... like you said.
How do you approach the deity in this regard. Does obvious logic interfere with devotion ?

Jagat said...

This is the problem that many people have with religion and the modern outlook. How can one reconcile faith, especially one that has strong mythological elements, to a rational world view?

I think that this is the principal task that befalls devotee intellectuals. We know that we cannot simply fall back on the tradition. "Someone said such and such and I believe him because he is or was infallible." That may indeed be the seed ground of your faith, but it cannot be your response to the existential question.

I think that you pinpointed an important direction that our response can take. When the acharyas of the parampara like Jiva Goswami try to unravel the different forms of Vishnu, they are observing distinctions that historians attribute to other causes. Their analysis is different of course, but nevertheless, it makes it possible to see the purpose of both in oneness and the difference, like two sides of a coin.

Almost every aspect of modern interpretation can be looked at in the same way, without harm, as long as you are able to think symbolically. Literal interpretation will set you adrift.

Symbolic interpretation can be multilayered, and most of them can be integrated into a increasingly sophisticated understanding of the Deity and your personal response to Him. Why this form of God rather than another? is one of the questions that comes up.

All thinking about the Divinity is of necessity symbolic. I give the example of Radha and Krishna. You may believe in them literally, but the depth of that belief is strengthened by the various symbolic interpretations : Radha is the hladini shakti, mahabhava svarupini, etc., etc. These meanings begin by enriching our understanding of the Divine, but they of necessity influence one's vision of the world itself and our concept of human life in its ideal shape, and therefore of what it means to be human. And as they inform our vision of the world and transform it, they enrich our devotion to God in that form. As such, the literal meaning becomes less important and the symbolic meaning becomes flesh, as it were.

As to Jagannath, I would say that the "obvious" interpretation of the Indradymna myth is still a rather enriching tale of this particular form of the deity. As to his being a smiley face, why not, for God's sake!

The other, less well known stories of how the Jagannath temple was conceived of as a synchretistic center of Vaishnava, Shaiva and Shakta worship also has its inspiring elements.

I would imagine that anyone who entered into a mood of devotion for Jagannath would be much enriched by the long and colorful history of the temple and deity, including of course the episodes of the kings, Chaitanya, the escapes from Muslim persecution, etc., up to the present day.

I would think, "This is one particular manifestation of God, which has inspired devotion in so many. Even though I may be able to look objectively at the history and symbolism, if I can find a meaningful place for Jagannath in my own spirituality, then I must take that as a kind of special revelation to me and follow that inspiration as far as it takes me, using all the faculties that God has given me."

One thing about Hinduism and even Vaishnavism is that they do not lock you in to a particular mode, but allow you to explore one manifestation of God as far as you can go, and then, if you feel you have reached its limits (let's say of a Vishnu for a Rupa Goswami), you can move on without impediment.

I don't know if that was a helpful answer, but it more or less indicates the path that I have taken.

Anonymous said...

"Absolutely. It is one of the all-pervading ideas of tantra-yoga, yad asti pinde, tad asti brahmande. This line shows up in various forms, prominently or otherwise, in all yogic traditions. Though it is not given so much prominence in Vaishnavism, it is still present, for instance the second canto of the Bhagavatam appears to be following the idea when describing the universal form, etc. "Whatever is there in the body, is there in the universe." The body is a self-contained unit in which the entire universe can be analogically found."


It is also found a bit in 11th canto Bhagavatam chapter 27:like verses:
(23)pinde vaayv-agni-saMshuddhe
hRt-padma-sthAm parAM mama
aNvIM jIva-kalAM dhyAyen
nAdAnte siddha-bhAvitAm
To meditate in the lotos of the heart, thorough sound on the form of Narayana.

(47-48)iti sheZAM mayA dattAM
shirasy AdhAya sAdaram
udvAsayec ced udvAsyaM
jyotir jyotiZi tat punaH
arcAdiZu yadA yatra
SHraddhA mAM tatra cArcayet
sarva-bhUteZv Atmani ca
sarvAtmAham avasthitaH
(49)evam kriyA-yoga-pathaiH
pumAn vaidika-tAntrikaiH
arcann ubhayataH siddhiM
matto vindaty abhIpsitAm

"Whether worshipped by vaidhika or tantrika procedure a man obtains perfection."

Tarun said...

"This is one of the most important mahavakyas in Rupa Goswami's philosophy. It is basically saying that shastra is useless for higher faith. Everyone is quoting shastra about this one and that one being better, "because it says so." krishnas tu bhagavan svayam is a statement on this order. You can believe it or not believe it. What can be done if someone does not? You say, "to each his own.""


In a better world we'd say that. What gets said alot is impersonalism' or 'subreligion', like that. Don't people on the summit of religious experience have better things to do than put down everyone else?

"But Rupa Goswami says that we are going to "judge" God's various forms on the basis of their effects. He says that if God is sat-chit-ananda, by axiomatic definition, then we must judge Him on the basis of ananda, joy. Where is there the most joy?"

And where there is the most joy there must be an absence of malice, no? But of course all this mischief is caused by us kanishtas. And competitive religiosity is a sport like any other. More intense in a lot of ways. You don't want to lose that one. Got a lot riding on it. Our egos strong identification with the 'best', maybe 'only' way. Oh, I may be the lowest, but my religion is the highest. So what's that make me really? And you others. Where does that leave you. I know I've used that crutch a lot. These feelings of inadequacy, of not being good enough, a reject from the material world can be ameliorated to some extent. But the place to really, effectively deal with inadequacy, is in 'spirituality 101'. "Like everyone else, I am as God created me. Perfect and complete. Created by Love,in Love,as Love." After that, the way of worship is all bliss. Bhakti begins on the spiritual platform.

Lemmie said...

Thanks for the interesting read Jagat. You said ""But Rupa Goswami says that we are going to "judge" God's various forms on the basis of their effects. He says that if God is sat-chit-ananda, by axiomatic definition, then we must judge Him on the basis of ananda, joy. Where is there the most joy?""

This is so true. Also I think as sadhakas or practicioners on a path, we need a suitable daily practice. For a lasting spiritual joy, it cannot be just a quick immature fix, like the last fad movie or video game (to fill that longing)? After ten years study of Chaitanya philosophy I was blown away intellectually by the poetic beauty, and the science of love. Something I will never forget. But without a committed Guru, who can discern the disciples inner needs, no amount of 'do it this way' offers a stable path. One day I picked up the Quran, a book on salvation, and found my inner quest begin and stabalize. And a steady sadhana, everyday now. Slowly growing. We each have our place by the love of God's hand, and if we surrender (submit) to this higher offering, and opening, granted by a higher platform...a man becomes happy ;)And more peaceful within. Personally I think no Guru stating shastra can open that door, unless God sanctions it... And polemics can harden the heart and offend others.

Jagat said...

Thank you, Lemmie. Radhe Radhe!