Friday, December 30, 2011

Prema-pattanam of Rasikottamsa

A book that I have been interested in finding for a considerable amount of time is the Prema-pattanam of Rasikottamsa (Yadupati Bhatta). I did not know much about this book other than that it has been quoted once or twice here and there, especially in relation to Prabodhananda and Harivamsa and their rejection of many of the rules and regulations of vidhi bhakti.

I have, as I sometimes do in such cases, dropped everything [though I can ill afford to] to go through the book, typing furiously verses and tika for the Gaudiya Grantha Mandir. Will I manage to finish in this race against all external pressures, in this extreme act of renunciation for the sake of rasa? Probably not! But in the meantime, I am discovering a delicious bit of rasika literature, and it is incumbent on ME (!) to share it, after first tasting whatever few drops of this fruit of this all-too-little-known early 18th century Gaudiya text I can manage to swallow. For this is what the Grantha Mandir was meant for!

Edition and commentary

The copy I found in Shrivatsa Goswami's library was printed in 1972 with an excellent commentary attributed to "Adbhuta" (as stated in the colophon) called Prema-sarvasva. These are accompanied by a prose translation of both the commentary and the original verses, as well as a Brij Bhasha verse translation of the same by one Dharma Chand of the Sri Krishnashram in Vrindavan. This edition has been honored by brief blessings and forewords written by Akhandananda Saraswati and Hariharananda Saraswati (Swami Karpatriji Maharaj). Only 300 copies were made.

Whether or not Adbhuta is actually a different person from Rasikottamsa is something that may be drawn into question as there are indications in the commentary that it was written by the author himself. Dr. Swapna Sharma, in her Gadādhara Bhaṭṭa: Paramparā aura Sāhitya (Vrindavan: Braj Gaurav Prakashan, n.d.), in several places conflates remarks in the commentary with the main text of the work.

One verse quoted in the the commentary has also been attributed to Rasikottamsa by Ananta Dasji in his Rasa-darśana, even though Adbhuta clearly says that it was written by some "ancients" (yathā prācīnaiḥ). Nice verse:

prātaḥ paṅkaja-kuḍmalaya-dyuti-padaṁ tat-keśarollāsavān
artho'bhyantara-saurabha-pratinibhaṁ vyaṅgyaṁ camatkāri yat |
dvi-trair yad rasikaiś ciraṁ sahṛdayair bhṛṅgair ivāsvādyate
tat kāvyaṁ na punaḥ pramatta-kukaver yat kiñcid ujjalpitam ||
The ancients have written: A superior poet's verse is like a blossoming, fragrant lotus in the morning. Its words are like its petals , their meaning its whorl and stamen, and suggested meaning, when astonishing, is comparable to the fragrance it emits from within. Two or three rasikas are like the bumblebees who relish the honey sweetness of the lotus poem. That alone is poetry and not the mere ejaculations of some intoxicated would-be poet. (Commentary to passage 12g describing the parks that surround the city of love, where the trees are said to be different literary products like poems and plays.)
Doubts about the authorship of the commentary are further buttressed by a similarity of mood and language. Further instances adding fuel to the suspicion will be given below. In some cases, it may be that the commentary and text have been confused. Whatever the case, the commentary is extremely helpful in exposing the author's intent in a sweet and poetic Sanskrit and it may be said that the two form a single whole.

Author and Date

According to some souces, Rasikottamsa was one of two sons born to Gadadhar Bhatta, the other being Vallabha Rasik, who is known primarily for his Brij Bhasha poems, some of which have been quoted in Dharma Chand's translation. There are a couple of problem with this story.

First, the date of composition seems to be much later than the time of Gadadhar Bhatta (a somewhat younger contemporary of Sri Jiva Goswami), since the author quotes Vishwanath Chakravarti's commentary to Dāna-keli-kaumudī. [And I am thankful for that bit of information because I was having my doubts about Vishwanath's authorship of this work.] According to Krishna Chaitanya Bhatta, an acharya of the Gadadhar Bhatta family, basing his opinion on a number of researchers, Rasikottamsa was a contemporary of Vishwanath.

Second, the reference to Rasika Vallabha as being "my" younger brother is found in the commentary, not the text itself. So unless the author and commentator are the same person, this tells us nothing about Rasikottamsa. Furthermore, if Rasika Vallabha were the son of Gadadhar Bhatta (1560-1630?), how could he be cited by his older brother in the commentary to a work that shows signs of being written much later on?

After summarizing the speculations of various historians of Hindi literature on the dates of the two brothers, Sharma estimates that they were born in the mid 17th century and lived into the first quarter of the 18th.

The commentator Adbhuta mentions in the commentary to verse 2 that Rasikottamsa wrote another work called Mukunda-kundāṣṭakam, of which I have no further information.

Other than this sparse information, unfortunately, nothing is known about this author other than that his name, rasikottaṁsa or "foremost of the rasikas," seems to have been a worthy one. The word uttaṁsa can mean either a crown or a flower decoration for the ears, so the name rasikottaṁsa would mean one who is the crowning glory of the rasikas, or one who decorates the ears of the rasikas [with his poetry], or "the rasika who decorates the ears [of Krishna]". How Yadupati Bhatta came to have this name may be explained in the commentary to his own verse in Prema-pattanam:

māṁ vīkṣya dayita-purato
rasikottaṁsas tavāgato'yam iti |
devi vaco bhavadīyaṁ
madīyam aniśaṁ manas tudati ||
Seeing me standing before her beloved Radha said to him, "Look, your 'Rasikottamsa' has arrived.' Remembering these words of yours, O Goddess, my mind is constantly being overwhelmed." (Verse 140/52)

Commentary: The author of this work, upon completing a verse with the words harir jayati [No verse in the book contains these words.], he offered it to his Lord and went to sleep. Then he suddenly had a dream in which he saw himself in the presence of the divine loving couple. Radha said to Krishna, "Here, the rasika who decorates your ears [with his poetry] has arrived." As soon as he heard these words, [Rasikottamsa] woke up and wrote down this verse.

... Radha spoke these words because she saw him coming as an intimate servant (ceṭaka). And showing great mercy upon him and seeing him as a source of pleasure to Krishna, she said to Krishna, "he is yours" and not "he is mine." With this in mind, [Rasikottamsa says] "O Goddess! O form of transcendent, divine auspiciousness ! My divine ruler [svāminī], Radhe! Hearing you call me Krishna's servant is bringing great pain to my mind, since you did not accept me as your own servant." 
This clearly shows that even [what would ordinarily be called] great happiness is unhappiness [in the "city of love"]. It should also be noted that hearing the name Rasikottamsa in the dream is the reason that the author is known by that name.

The subject matter of the book

This book has 242 verses with 104 of them original to Rasikottamsa. There is also a prose section at the beginning that sets the scene for the portion that follows, which tells us that the "city of love" (none other than Braj) has 35 contradictory "laws" that have been put in place by the king Madhuramechaka's wife Rati. These reversals of natural law in that kingdom are explained with examples from various sources, including principally the Bhāgavatam, Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Govardhan's Ārya-saptaśatī, Jayadeva's Gīta-govinda, Padyāvalī, etc., but also a number of anonymous verses that I could not trace.

The basic premise is that there exists a glorious "city of love" or prema-pattanam, which is situated in the sky (gagane), where everything is topsy-turvy. Adbhuta gives several meanings for "in the sky", concluding it means "in the sky of the hearts of those who know rasa" and is thus an indication of its incomprehensibility, its inaccessibility to the unworthy and its great secrecy (gagane rasajñānāṁ hṛdayākāśe tatraiva sadā sthitaṁ, na tu tair bahiḥ prakaṭitam ity arthaḥ. etena tasya durūhatvād anadhikāritvād rahasyatvāc ca sugopyatvam uktam.) In other words, though elsewhere the city of love is identified with Braj-Vrindavan, it is not to be thought of as a physical place to be perceived externally, but internally.

The other name of this city is naika-śiro-mandiram, "the home of those who do not have one head."

The city's ruler is madhuramecaka ("sweet and black"), who has two wives, Mati ("reason") and Rati ("love"). Mati finds that Rati is the king's favorite and is moreover disrespected by her co-wife, she decides to leave her husband's city and go home to get some peace of mind. But her father, Agama, is poverty stricken and so she is forced to depend on some brahmin boys who go begging for her maintenance. In the meantime, Rati is given complete control of the kingdom by her husband and she proceeds to overturn all the rules that were made by Mati, ordaining the opposite.

In his commentary, Adbhuta goes into great deal into the meaning of these various allegorical figures, which have at least two levels, one of which is that the king is Krishna and Rati is Radha. Ratipati, "husband of Rati" is of course a name for Cupid, which "sweet 'n' black" also indicates, as black is the color of śṛṅgāra-rasa.

There are 35 contradictions found in the city of love.

(1) yatrādharma eva dharmaḥ sthāpitaḥ | Abandonment of duty has become a duty.
(2) yathāsatyam eva satyam | Untruth is truth.
(3) yathānācāra evācāraḥ | Improper behavior is the norm.
(4) tathānādara evādaraḥ | Disrespect is respect.
(5) yatrāsantoṣa eva santoṣaḥ | Dissatisfaction is satisfaction.
(6) yatrāvinaya eva vinayaḥ | Impoliteness is politeness.
(7) yatrālaṅkṛtir evānalaṅkṛtiḥ | Ornamention is to be without ornaments.
(8) yatra puruṣā eva striyaḥ | Men are women.
(9) yatrājñānam eva jñānam | Ignorance is knowledge.
(10) yatra parājaya eva jayaḥ | Defeat is victory.
(11) yatra nikṛṣṭatvam evotkṛṣṭatvam | Lowliness is superiority.
(12) yatra tama eva prakāśaḥ | Darkness is light.
(13) yatra niṣedha eva vidhiḥ | Prohibitions are injunctions.
(14) yatrānuttaram eva pratyuttaram | Silence is the answer.
(15) yatrāśirasa eva sahasra-śirasaḥ | Having no head is having a thousand heads.
(16) yathācakṣuṣa eva sahasra-cakṣuṣaḥ | Having no eyes is having a thousand eyes.
(17) yatrābāhava eva sahasra-bāhavaḥ | Having no arms is having a thousand arms.
(18) yatrāpada eva sahasra-padaḥ | Having no feet is having a thousand feet.
(19) yatrānidratvam eva sa-nidratvam | Where wakefulness is sleep.
(20) yatra viyoga eva saṁyogaḥ | Where separation is union.
(21) yatra saṁyoga eva viyogaḥ | Where union is separation.
(22) yatra maraṇam eva jīvanam |Where death is life.
(23) yatra laghutvam eva gurutvam | Where lightness is heaviness.
(24) yatra stutir eva nindā | Where praise is censure.
(25) yatra nindaiva stutir asti | Where censure is praise.
(26) yatra natir eva paramonnatiḥ | Where bowing down is the greatest upliftment.
(27) yatra vyaya eva lābhaḥ | Where spending is gain.
(28) tatra vismaraṇam eva smaraṇam | Where forgetfulness is memory.
(29) yatrāgarvatvam eva sa-garvatvam | Where pridelessness is pride.
(30) yatra sakāmatvam evākāmatvam | Where desire is freedom from desire.
(31) yatra ravir eva candraḥ | Where the sun is the moon.
(32) yatra candra eva raviḥ | Where the moon is the sun.
(33) yatrāsanta eva santaḥ | Where the unholy are saints.
(34) yatrāsatītvam eva satītvam | Where infidelity is chastity.
(35) yatra satītvam evāsatītvam | Where the faithful woman is considered unchaste.

The commentary adds four more such contradictions at the very end: where infamy is glory, where chastisment is mercy, where non-poets are poets, and where students are teachers. He gives one example for each. But there are so many contradictions, how can one mention them all. This is simply an indication of the general direction to take in understanding the world of love. What must be borne in mind is that love is by definition crooked in its movement (svabhāva-kuṭilā) and thus those who experience this love often behave in ways that are puzzling to the ordinary observer, as stated by Rupa Goswami himself:

dhanyasyāyaṁ navaḥ premā yasyonmīlati cetasi |
antar-vāṇībhir apy asya mudrā suṣṭhu sudurgamā ||

The behavior of the fortunate person in whose heart such a new love has blossomed is truly difficult for even those knowledgeable in the sacred sciences to understand. (BRS 1.4.17)

Dharma and adharma

In Prema-pattana, both Harivams, as the author of Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi (RRSN), and Prabodhananda Saraswati, as the author of Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta (VMA), are quoted under the rubric "where irreligion is established as religion."

kaiśorādbhuta-mādhurī-bhara-dhurīṇāṅga-cchaviṁ rādhikāṁ
premollāsa-bharādhikāṁ niravadhi dhyāyanti ye tad-dhiyaḥ |
tyaktāḥ karmabhir ātmanaiva bhagavad-dharme'py aho nirmamāḥ
sarvāścarya-gatiṁ gatā rasa-mayīṁ tebhyo mahadbhyo namaḥ ||
Those who always meditate on Radhika, whose form is the amazing embodiment of all the amazing sweetness of adolescence, filled with the weighty enthusiastic joy of love and whose intelligence has become one with her, are themselves abandoned by duty and they do not even have any possessiveness towards the regulative duties of Bhagavat-dharma. They have attained the most amazing goal filled with rasa and so I repeatedly bow down to them. (82)
likhanti bhuja-mūlato na khalu śaṅkha-cakrādikaṁ
vicitra-hari-mandiraṁ na racayanti bhāla-sthale |
lasat-tulasi-mālikāṁ dadhati kaṇṭha-pīṭhe na vā
guror bhajana-vikramāt ka iha te mahā-buddhayaḥ ||
Who are those greatly intelligent persons here who on the strength of their worship of the guru do not stamp their arms with the conch and discus, who do not mark their foreheads with the beautiful temple of Hari, and who do not place the string of tulasi beads around their necks? (81)
Those Gaudiyas who use the RRSN as a religious book interpret the word mahā-buddhayaḥ ("most intelligent") in RRSN 81 as mahā-abuddhayaḥ ("most foolish"), even though Prabodhananda uses the term in its clear sense in VMA (5.58).

To be properly understood, both verses should be read together as the former makes clear what is meant by mahā-buddhayaḥ. Harilal Vyas points out that the intention of the verses is made clear by the words tyaktāḥ karmabhir ātmanaiva, which means that these devotees do not intentionally or consciously abandon religious principles, but are abandoned by them.

kuru sakalam adharmaṁ muñca sarvaṁ sva-dharmaṁ
tyaja gurum api vṛndāraṇya-vāsānurodhāt |
sa tava parama-dharmaḥ sā ca bhaktir gurūṇāṁ
sa kila kaluṣa-rāśir yad dhi vāsāntarāyaḥ ||
Do all kinds of irreligious works, abandon your own prescribed duties, give up your guru if need be in order to live in Vrindavan. That is your supreme duty and that is devotion to your gurus! Whatever is an obstacle to residence in Vrindavan is a mound of sin. (VMA 17.49)
This appears to confirm that, as a direct neighbor of the Radha-vallabha temple, Rasikottamsa of the Gadadhar Bhatta family was aware that both Prabodhananda and Harivams shared a common attitude towards the external rules, regulations and rituals of religion and that he was sympathetic to this attitude.

Heads and no heads

As mentioned above, an alternate name of the kingdom of love was "the home of those who do not have one head" (verse 6). This idea appears again in the list of contents as subject #15, "Where having no head is having a thousand heads."

In the commentary to verse 6, Adbhuta quotes the verse by his younger brother (?) Rasika Vallabha:

gagana-talād avani-talaṁ 
daiva-vaśād etya sukha-nivāsāya |
pṛcchati muhuḥ sa-śirasaḥ

 sadanam aśirasaḥ paraṁ prema ||
When supreme love fortuitously came down from the heavens on the earth, in order to find a place where it could live happily, it constantly asked the whereabouts of the home of one without a head from those with heads.
This is followed by a number of other quotes, most of which seem to be either Adbhuta or Rasikottamsa's own compositions:

na pītam amṛtaṁ mayā dina-niśākṛtor antare
vanāgama-virodhitā bata kṛtā na sītā-pateḥ |
na puṇya-salilāplutaṁ nija-śiraḥ śivāyārpitaṁ
mudhā bhavitum īhate mama mano rater āspadam ||
I did not drink of the nectar found between the sun and the moon. I did not protest against the banishment of Rama to the forest. I did not immerse myself in the holy waters nor surrender my head to Shiva, so futile is my hope of ever attaining divine love (rati).
This verse may also be by Rasika Vallabha since there is a Brij Bhasha song that seems to be a translation of it. Otherwise, they are introduced by the words yathā vā, which seems to be the mark of original verses from Rasikottamsa's pen [even though these happen to be in the commentary].

dūre lagnaṁ prema-phalaṁ sarvathaiva yad īhase |
nidhehi rasika svīyaṁ śiraḥ sva-padayor adhaḥ ||
If you really want that fruit of love that is hanging so far away, then, my dear rasika, place your head below your feet.
mā prema-pūraṁ viśa vā śiraḥ svaṁ
dūraṁ nidhāyaiva padaṁ nidhehi |
vyadhāyi dhātraiva gatoparodhaḥ
premottamāṅgottamayor virodhaḥ ||
Do not go into the stream of love! Or, first leave your head somewhere far away, and then step forward. For God had decreed that there should be opposition between love and even the best of heads. 
These are "interesting" and mysterious utterances indeed. Adbhuta quotes by way of explanation Bhagavatam 11.21.35 and 4.28.65, where the Lord is said to favor indirect speech (parokṣa-vāda). "Indirect speech such as that used in the story of Puranjana in the Bhagavatam, is comparable to the veil by which a newly-wed bride keeps her face covered, thereby increasing her groom's eagerness to see it; it makes one more aware of the delightful wonder that is hidden in those words; it also has the purpose of hiding the object of one's worship and thereby making the literary composition (sandarbha) more dear to the Lord. (atra purañjanopākhyānādivat parokṣatvena kathanaṁ tu nava-vadhūnām avaguṇöhanam iva nijoktīnāṁ darśanotkalikayā camatkāra-viśeṣārthaṁ tathā nijopāsyasya vastunaḥ saṅgopanārtham nija-sandarbhasya bhagavat-priyatvāpādanārthaṁ ca.)

To what extent we can find a parallel between parokṣa-vāda and the so-called sandhyā-bhāṣā of the Tantriks is debatable; there is no necessity to presume the same kinds of secrets that the Tantriks hide with their language. Though the words na pītam amṛtaṁ mayā dina-niśākṛtor antare are tantalizingly Tantrik in flavor, it would seem to me that the purpose is to mock any indirect practices and their incapacity to reach prema or rati. Nevertheless, the mysterious nexus of human and divine love is something to which one is repeatedly drawn when discussing madhura-rasa and the mystery of the similarity and difference of human and divine.

The idea that allegorical interpretation is necessary, even when the allegory is not obvious as in this case or in that of Puranjan, leaves the doors fairly wide open when we try to determine the meaning of a text. At the very least, it leaves the doors open to a multivalenced interpretation that reminds us of the permanent mystery of divine love and the impossibility of ever achieving full understanding.

Saintliness in the city of love.

anyatra pīta-gītā
bhava-bhītā viṣaya-vāsanā-vītāḥ |
santas tad-viparītā
hanta sakhi prema-pattane gītāḥ ||
Elsewhere people drink the Gita, fear entanglement in material life and free themselves from material desires, they are called saintly, O friend, here in the city of love it is the opposite who are so glorified. (verse 239)
There is a lengthy commentary here, first setting up the verse as follows, "Once upon a time, by some good fortune, a holy woman came to Vrindavan from a far off land. She had regularly been reading the Bhagavad-gītā and the Viṣṇu-sahasra-nāma and other general devotional practices, but being a practitioner in the mood of peaceful devotion, she had no concept of the ways of divine love. Then, by another burst of good fortune, she came into contact with an exclusive rasika devotee whose life and soul was the sweet nectar of devotion to the Divine Couple. So she asked him, 'Why do the Vaishnavas here seem to have no respect for the Gita and these other texts?' In answer, the devotee laughed compassionately and slowly spoke this verse."

The commentary goes on to explain how there are different levels of qualification indicated by the three adjectives in the verse, offering plenty of Bhagavata pramana. Those living in Vrindavan have attained a higher adhikara than that for the Gita because they are free of other desires, karma and jnana, they have no more fear of death or worldly suffering, and here also they take care of their bodies, wearing nice clothes and using sandalwood paste and so on without renouncing them as sense objects. [Quotes 11.6.46 here, indicating that this means prasad.]

"So," the rasika devotee said, "now that you understand the behavior of the local people who have attained this ultimate state of perfection, stop trying to change them! O friend! There is a saying, 'Walk seven steps in the company of a saint and you will get his friendship,' (satāṁ sāptapadī maitrī). If you want to become like them, then live here in Vrindavan, sincerely serve the rasika devotees, and bathe in the Yamuna. These are the only means of attaining this state, as we ourselves testify."

That should give you a little taste of what is in this little-known book of the Gaudiya Sampradaya. The 1.01 version can now be found on the Gaudiya Grantha Mandira.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Snippets of Bhava

These are some notes on the word bhāva as it appears in the BRS and UN, compiled while I was working on Mādhurya-kādambinī. They were originally posted a few years ago on Gaudiya Discussions and the now defunct Wise Wisdoms site. Somewhat modified and updated here.

prāyo dvividha evāyaṁ bhāvo dvividhānāṁ bhaktānāṁ dvividha-cid-vāsanā-sanātheṣu hṛdayeṣu sphuran dvividhāsvādyatvaṁ bhajate, ghana-rasa iva rasāla-panasekṣu-drākṣādiṣu praviṣṭaḥ pṛthak-pṛthaṅ-mādhuryavattvaṁ bhajate
When this bhāva, which is usually of these two types, enters into the hearts of the two kinds of devotees (vaidha and rāgānugā), which are ruled by two different kinds of transcendental desire, it is relished in two different ways. It can be compared to the water (ghana-rasa) that enters various kinds of fruit—mangoes, jackfruit, sugarcane or grapes—but takes on a different flavor in each of them. (Mādhurya-kādambinī 7.4)
The point being: Vishwanath seems to be saying, nay emphasizing, that bhāva, being of the śuddha-sattva, is like water--without color or flavor--but that it takes on its particular color or flavor in the heart of the devotee according to the types of desires, etc., that he has.

atha tasyā eva bhakti-kalpa-vallyāḥ sādhanābhikhye ye pūrvaṁ dve patrike lakṣite, idānīṁ tato’ticikkaṇāni tādṛśa-śravaṇa-kīrtanādi-mayāni bhāva-kusuma-saṁlagnāni anubhāvābhidhānāni bahūni patrāṇi sahasaivāvirbhūya kṣaṇe kṣaṇe dyotayanti. yāny eva bhāva-kusumaṁ pariṇāmaṁ prāpayya punas tadaiva premābhidhāna-phalatvam ānayanti.

Previously [in the second chapter of MK], the two leaves known as sādhana were observed growing from the desire creeper of bhakti. Now, from that creeper many other leaves known as anubhāvas suddenly manifest. These are the same kinds of devotional activities like hearing and chanting found in sādhana-bhakti, but are smoother and more brilliant. Surrounding the flower o bhāva, they shine brilliantly and cause a transformation in it, turning it at that very moment into the fruit of prema. (Mādhurya-kādambinī 8.1)

What was missed in the earlier translations was the comparative in tato'ticikkaṇāni "smoother and shinier" and the understanding that anubhāvas are spontaneous actions that follow (anu) emotional states (bhāva). Thus, in the Mādhurya-kādambinī, we started with hearing and chanting that was done as a practice, i.e., governed by the intelligence and geared towards achieving an inner result (bhāva). Now, we have external actions that are impelled by emotion. Though the active intelligence is still involved (distinguishing anubhāvas from sāttvikas), at this stage it is completely spontaneous. According to Vishwanath, it is the combination of bhāva (as in the previous chapter) with the other ingredients of rasa that leads to prema.

samyaṅ masṛṇita-svānto mamatvātiśayāṅkitaḥ
bhāvaḥ sa eva sāndrātmā budhaiḥ premā nigadyate

When bhāva becomes very intense and completely softens the heart through being endowed with a great sense of intimacy with Krishna, the learned call it prema. (BRS 1.4.1)

ananya-mamatā viṣṇau mamatā prema-saṅgatā
bhaktir ity ucyate bhīṣma-prahlādoddhava-nāradaiḥ

That which reverts the feeling of intimacy towards the body and home into feelings of intimacy towards Sri Vishnu, has been called prema by great saints like Bhishma, Prahlada, Uddhava and Narada. (BRS 1.4.2)

A note about the word mamatā. It is a hard word to translate. Literally, it means "mine-ness." It is used frequently in association with the word ahaṁtā or ahaṅkāra as a quality of material consciousness. It is identification with objects outside of oneself, through which one seeks self-value. Just as identity or ego is purified through understanding that one's true self is servant of God, so too is a devotee's sense of external value established through Krishna.

In other words, aham is about me in relation to the world and God; mama is about God and the world in relation to me.

The word madīyatā, though it has the same meaning, in the context of bhakti-rasa appears to have a stronger sense. Why is madīyatā considered stronger than tadīyatā? Because in the latter, one is still thinking somewhat in terms of one's self.

I was thinking about this the other day: Love means identifying so closely with someone else that you no longer even have a place for the consciousness that "I am yours." We talk about Krishna being the viṣaya and the devotee being the āśraya. Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi says, "You are to identify with the devotee and not with Krishna," likely in order to forestall Krishna imitators "engaging in the Rasa Lila." But in fact, to serve, one has to identify closely with the object of service. Radha says, "I know what Krishna likes, and I will do it for him -- no matter what he says." Chandravali has not achieved that same level of intimacy or identification, so she still responds to Krishna's words rather than to his inner desires.

We do and indeed must identify with Krishna, though not in the sense of ahaṅgrahopāsanā. We identify with Krishna as a part of the process of sādhāraṇī-karaṇa, as explained in the rasa shastra. Observe yourself when you watch a film or TV program. How are your emotions being manipulated? Does it matter really which character is an object of pity or affection for you to be moved? Certainly--to some extent--but ultimately, the potential is there to identify with any character to experience some sentiment--even the bad guys.

In terms of bhakti-rasa, the intimacy with Krishna develops to the extent that we are capable of empathizing with the pleasure or pain of the Other.

In his commentary, Mukunda Das picks up on something that Ananta Dasji follows. Prema is the intensification of bhāva. Mukunda says that whereas rucis (rucibhiś citta-māsṛṇya-kṛt) are the source of ecstasy (i.e., the "melting of the heart") in bhāva, in prema it is the mamatā. The rucis are defined in Jiva's commentary as desires. He further defines them: rucibhiḥ prāpty-abhilāṣa-sva-kartṛkānukūlyābhilāṣa-sauhārdābhilāṣaiś cittārdratā-kṛt -- "the desires to attain the Lord, to be able to act in a way favorable to him, and to achieve intimacy (sauhārda) with him."

So, it seems that the special characteristic of prema is that one becomes ecstatic directly as a result of Krishna's pleasure itself, through intense identification with him. Whereas on the level o bhāva, there is still an element of self, whereby one is moved by one's own desire.

Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi 14.155, the definition of [mahā-]bhāva.

anurāgaḥ sva-saṁvedya-daśāṁ prāpya prakāśitaḥ
yāvad-āśraya-vṛttiś ced bhāva ity abhidhīyate

This verse is interpreted differently by Jiva Goswami and Vishwanath.

Rāga is the shelter of anurāga, and when it has arisen as far as it can, it is called yāvad-āśraya-vṛtti, in other words, permeated every mental and physical function of the lover. When this anurāga has attained the condition of sva-saṁvedya it is known as mahābhāva. And sva-saṁvedya means that only those Vrajadevīs who have attained this yāvad-āśraya-vṛtti anurāga or mahābhāva can know it.

No other type of devotee has mahābhāva. Indeed, it cannot be attained even by Rukmini, Satyabhama or Krishna’s other queens. In it are manifestations of uddīpta and sūddīpta-sāttvika-bhāvas. There are also many other astonishing manifestations of mahābhāva, and it also contains all the features o sneha, māna and praṇaya, etc.

I originally found this verse to be somewhat opaque in its meaning. Jiva and Vishwanath have taken quite different views of it. I will attempt to clarify its meaning with the help of the three commentaries.

The Caitanya-caritāmṛta makes a distinction between bhāva and mahābhāva as follows.

hlādinīra sāra prema, prema-sāra bhāva
bhāvera parama-kāṣṭhā, nāma mahā-bhāva
The essence of the hlādinī potency is love of ṅod; the essence of love of ṅod is feeling (bhāva), and the ultimate development of feeling is mahā-bhāva. (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, 1.4.68)

First a look back at bhāva in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, 1.3.4-5. This pair of verses is refered to by Jiva in the commentary to UN above, and it contains some parallels with the verse in question. Also useful for understanding aspects of Mādhurya-kādambinī.

This verse follows a quote from the Padma Purana (BRS 1.3.3) with that famous Chandrakanti--"Meditating constantly on Krishna's lotus feet, she felt herself change slightly and her eyes filled with tears." So the question is about bhāva's appearance in a devotee within the material world.

āvirbhūya mano-vṛttau vrajantī tat-svarūpatāṁ
svayaṁ-prakāśa-rūpāpi bhāsamānā prākāśyavat
vastutaḥ svayam āsvāda-svarūpaiva ratis tv asau
kṛṣṇādi-karmakāsvāda-hetutvaṁ pratipadyate

Rati/bhāva (though being a property of the internal potency or suddha-sattva) descends into mental processes (mano-vṛttau) of the devotee and becomes identical with them. Even though it is self-manifest, it appears to be something that has been made to appear (by external activities like sādhanas). Though in fact rati is of the nature of relish itself, the actions of Krishna (his energies and his devotees) take on the causality of the relishing.

Here are a few more Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi verses before I get back to the subject at hand. First are Rupa Goswami's three examples of rūḍha-mahābhāva, selected for their relevence to the idea of yāvad-āśraya-vṛtti.


Making even the lower animals cry. This verse is spoken by either Vrinda (according to Vishnu Das) or Nandimukhi (Vishwanath ) to Paurnamasi :

yāte dvāravatī-puraṁ muraripau tad-vastra-saṁvyānayā
kālindī-taṭa-kuñja-vañjula-latām ālāmbya sotkaṇṭhayā
udgītaṁ guru-bāṣpa-gadgada-galat-tāra-svaraṁ rādhayā
yenāntar-jala-cāribhir jala-carair apy utkam utkūjitam

When Krishna, the enemy of Mura, had gone to Dvaraka,
Radha stood by the Yamuna, holding fast onto a hibiscus bush,
hugging Krishna’s upper cloth so as to grasp his fragrance.
Loudly and with a voice full of lamentation,
she sang a piteous song, her voice broken by the rush of tears,
causing even the fish, dolphins and crocodiles
deep beneath the water to wail in harmony.
(UN 14.188, Padyāvalī 373 (Aparajita), SKM 1.58.4 (anonymous); Dhvanyāloka, Vak 2.59; etc.)


This verse is an example of being ready to accept even death if it is someone of service to Krishna.

pañcatvaṁ tanur etu bhūta-nivahāḥ svāṁśe viśantu sphuṭaṁ
dhātāraṁ praṇipatya hanta śirasā tatrāpi yāce varam
tad-vāpīṣu payas tadīya-mukure jyotis tadīyāṅgana-
vyomni vyoma tadīya-vartmani dharā tat-tāla-vṛnte’nilaḥ

O Master of my Destiny, I fall down and place my head at your feet,
praying to you to give me this benediction:
Let this body die and all its elements be mixed with the cosmic elements;
let the water of my body mix with the lake where Krishna bathes,
its light enter his mirror, to serve him when he beholds his reflection,
its ether merge with his courtyard, to surround him when he walks, talks or yawns,
may the earth in my body enter the ground upon which he walks
and the life air itself enter the palm-leaf fan used to relieve him from the heat.
(UN 14.189, Padyāvalī 336 (Shanmasika), Spd 3428; Smv 43.32; Sbhv 1355)


This is the characteristic of rūḍha-bhāva, that it perturbs the hearts of everyone who comes in contact with it (āsanna-janatā-hṛd-viloḍanaṁ). This verse is spoken either by Rukmini or one of her friends, speaking in glorification of the gopis’s extraordinary love. It's a double entendre, so I just combined the two readings of the verse--one refering to this world, the other stretching to the Vaikuntha worlds.

sakhyaḥ prokṣya kurūn guru-kṣiti-bhṛtām āghūrṇayantī śiraḥ
svasthā viślathayanty aśeṣa-ramaṇīr āplāvya sarvaṁ janam
gopīnām anurāga-sindhu-laharī satyāntaraṁ vikramair
ākramya stimitāṁ vyadhād api parāṁ vaikuṇṭha-kaṇṭha-śriyam

O friends, the gopis’ love for Krishna is like the sea,
whose waves wash over the land and people of Kuru,
it topples the peaks of the great mountains,
just as it makes the heads of kings like Yudhishtir spin.
It disturbs the countless goddesses in heaven,
as it does everyone who is calm of mind.
and then inundates all Janaloka realm,
as it does everyone in this world.
Its waves over Satyaloka,
just as it overwhelms Satyabhama,
and even extends as far as Vaikuntha,
where it paralyzes the opulences of the goddess of fortune.
... as it does all of us goddesses of fortune. (UN 14.164)

A couple more verses before I get back to the promised commentaries. This first one is an example of "the power to make Krishna faint, even when he is in the arms of another lover." This is actually very relevant to the definition of mahābhāva given. Vishwanath's tika is brilliant, but I am already far enough off base to be able to translate that too. This verse is really great. What is amazing is that it is by the competitor to Jayadeva, Umapati Dhara. I think this verse is one of the most brilliant pre-Chaitanya verses for describing the mood in question.

ratna-cchāyā-cchurita-jaladhau mandire dvārakāyā
rukmiṇyāpi prabala-pulakodbhedam āliṅgitasya |
viśvaṁ pāyān masṛṇa-yamunā-tīra-vānīra-kuñje
rādhā-kelī-parimala-bhara-dhyāna-mūrcchā murāreḥ
In the Dvaraka palace standing
on the shores of the ocean, sprinkled with sparkling gems,
Krishna's body hairs stood on end
in Queen Rukmini's ecstatic embrace.

But suddenly recalling the fragrance
of dalliances joyfully exchanged with Radha
in the reeds by the banks of the black Yamuna waters,
he fainted. May that faint protect you always.
(SKM 1.61.1; UN 14.184; JIva and Vishwanath to BRS 2.4.178)


Rupa next gives two examples of brahmāṇḍa-kṣobha-kāritvaṁ

nāraṁ cukrośa cakraṁ phaṇi-kulam abhavad vyākulaṁ svedam ūhe
vṛndaṁ vṛndārakāṇāṁ pracuram udamucann aśru vaikuṇṭha-bhājaḥ |
rādhāyāś citram īśa bhramati diśi diśi prema-niḥśvāsa-dhūme
pūrṇānande’py uṣitvā bahir idam abahiś cārtam āsīd ajāṇḍam ||

Vishwanath: This is about something that happens from time to time, not always, as indicated by the use of the past rather than present tense. So when Krishna was in Mathura, Radha was feeling his absence so intently that from time to time her sthayi bhava would rise to the mohana level. At this stage, the whole universe would be affected. Once Nandimukhi saw this going on and immediately ran to Krishna in Mathura to tell him what she had seen, to tell him of Radha’s misery.
All the human race began to wail;
the nagas and creatures of the lower worlds trembled;
the assembled denizens of heaven broke into a sweat,
and the residents of Vaikuntha shed a flood of tears.

O Lord! These are the amazing consequences
of the smoke from Radha’s loving breath
as it spread in every direction:
though they were enjoying full bliss,
both the inner and outer universes felt disturbed.
Krishna answered, "You are quite right Nandimukhi. I too was affected, for I was in bed with Rukmini at the time, and yet I fainted; and she too was deeply affected."

This example thus shows that the phrase yāvad-āśraya-vṛttiḥ in the definition of mahābhāva must be extended to include every last creature in the universe, since the potential for devotion is present in them all.

Vishwanath asks himself the question: "I have heard that Krishna’s pastimes are going on constantly. Radha is no doubt experiencing these periods of mohana-mahābhāva, and yet we don’t see the entire universe being affected in this way. Why is that?" His answer is that it only takes place in the universe where Krishna is having his prakata-līlā. (14.186)

My personal feeling though is that the intention here is that since every creature is constitutionally, by nature, an āśraya of bhāva, that every mood, every manifestation of rasa or potential for rasa, is an expansion of that original love that exists in the first act of creation, when the One determines to become Two, and then many.


Second example. In the previous verse, the fiery nature of mohana-mahābhāva was insinuated by the words "smoke from Radha’s loving breath." This same theme is further developed here. Radha says to Vishakha,

aurva-stomāt kaṭur api kathaṁ durbalenorasā me
tāpaḥ prauḍho hari-virahajaḥ sahyate tan na jāne
niṣkrāntā ced bhavati hṛdayād yasya dhūma-cchaṭāpi
brahmāṇḍānāṁ sakhi kulam api jvālayā jājvalīti

How I will be able to bear
the heat of Krishna’s absence,
which is sharper than molten lava,
within my feeble breast, I do not know.

Such a fire is it, my friend,
that should even a puff of smoke
find its way out of my heart,
all the universes would burn to a crisp
from its heat.

Again, Vishwanath reiterates that this mohana-mahābhāva is not a constant state but only occasional, pointing to the phrase "should even a puff of smoke find its way out of my heart."

anurāgaḥ sva-saṁvedya-daśāṁ prāpya prakāśitaḥ
yāvad-āśraya-vṛttiś cet tadā bhāva ity abhidhīyate

My basic problem with this verse stems from the fact that Jiva and Vishwanath (and Vishnudas) have quite divergent interpretations. As I said above, I am not convinced that Vishwanath had Vishnudas’s commentary in front of him when he wrote his commentary. Similarly, it is hard to say whether Vishnudas had ever seen Jiva’s tika. He does not refute, copy, follow, or seem to engage with Jiva's ideas in any way (though I may have missed something). The situation is quite different from the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu where the relations between the different commentaries are very clear. On the other hand, Vishwanath often refutes Jiva’s positions in UN, especially on the parakiya-svakiya question. Here is one case in which they are in clear disagreement.

In general, I assume that Jiva knew Rupa Goswami’s mind fairly well. However, Vishwanath is pretty brilliant and may well have sussed something that Jiva didn’t. This is why it has been necessary to read all the verses and commentaries from the subsequent section of verses in UN, which describe the characteristics of mahābhāva. It must be said, of course, that mahābhāva has subcategories itself, but each of these subcategories and their characteristics must somehow fit the basic general definition of mahābhāva given in this verse.

Here is where the shloka’s anvaya becomes all important. Jiva reads the verse like this : anurāgo yāvad-āśraya-vṛttiś cet, tarhi sva-saṁvedya-daśāṁ prāpya prakāśitaḥ bhāva ity abhidhīyate.

Vishwanath reads it more straightforwardly, changing almost nothing: anurāgo sva-saṁvedya-daśāṁ prāpya prakāśitaḥ, [ata eva] yāvad-āśraya-vṛttiś [syāt], tadā bhāva ity abhidhīyate.

Though Vishwanath does drop the word "if" (cet) from this anvaya, he accommodates it in his next sentence. I’ll come back to this. First, a word-by-word:

1. anurāgaḥ. Each stage of the sthāyi-bhāva develops out of the preceding one, or at least has some relation to it. The definition of anurāga was given as follows:

svānubhūtam api yaḥ kuryān nava-navaṁ priyam
rāgo bhavan nava-navaḥ so’nurāga itīryate
When rāga is renewed at every moment, and one experiences the beloved in an entirely fresh way each time one sees him, this is called anurāga. (UN 14.146)

2. sva. This is a reflexive pronoun, "itself, himself, or herself." The trouble here is that the antecedent is not clear. For Jiva it is the "person who already has anurāga, but is headed towards mahābhāva, in other words, only some special individuals from amongst Krishna’s mistresses" (svasya bhāvonmukhatā-prāptānurāgavatas tat-preyasī-jana-viśeṣasyaiva).

Vishwanath says that it refers back to anurāga, which is grammatically more reasonable—a reflexive pronoun usually refers to the nearest reasonably credible noun. The problem of course is "How does anurāga itself perceive anything?" i.e. Can we say, "When love reaches the stage of only being understood by love"? And if we do, what does that mean?

3. saṁvedya. "to be felt, perceived emotionally." saṁvedanam generally is used to mean intuition, empathy or sympathetic feeling. Of course, this is derived from the same root as saṁvit, so "to be known, understood, or be conscious of" seem a reasonable assumption.

However, the dictionary provides an interesting synonym derived from another verb root, which none of the three commentaries touches on but fits the example in UN 14.156 very well—"joining, uniting, or fusing." Unfortunately, this only compounds the problems surrounding the word sva mentioned above.

4. daśāṁ. "state, stage, condition."

5. prāpya. "reaching, attaining." So the first part of the verse is literally this: "When anurāga reaches a state where it is only understandable to itself."

6. prakāśitaḥ. "revealed." Shri Jiva explains this as "manifests externally through the uddiptādi-sāttvikas, i.e., the most inflamed ecstatic displays."

7. yāvat. "up to, as far as, to the extreme limit."

8. āśraya. "the container, receptacle, refuge, resort, foundational basis." ḥere again we are faced with a little ambiguity. Jiva and Vishwanath have very different understandings. For Jiva, the āśraya here is the āśraya of anurāga, or its foundational basis, which is rAga. (From the definition of anurāga, we know that rāga, become ever newer, reveals the object of love as ever newer, even when constantly being dwelled upon. The definition of rāga is given as follows:

duḥkham apy adhikaṁ citte sukhatvenaiva rajyate
yatas tu praṇayotkarṣāt sa rāga iti kīrtyate

When pranaya becomes very strong, one considers even the greatest suffering in love to be happiness. This is called rāga. (UN 14.126)
For Vishwanath, however, the āśraya here follows the definition of the rasa shastra, i.e., the receptacle of devotion, as in "the devotee is the āśraya, Krishna the viṣaya."

9. vṛttiḥ. This word has basically two meanings, "a state or condition" or "function (activity, work, things it does)." The latter is the more common usage (like in citta- vṛttiḥ) and Jiva accepts it here in this context.

This compound as a whole would mean either "fully possesses all the possible functions of its āśraya (rāga)" (Jiva) and "its functions (or effects) extend to all āśrayas" (Vishwanath)

10. cet. "if" or perhaps "when." Vishwanath limits its application to yāvad-āśraya-vṛtti, as does Jiva in his anvaya. In his commentary, however, he seems to apply it to prakāśitaH.

11. tadā bhāva ity abhidhīyate. "Then it is known as bhāva."

So: Translation according to Jiva :
If anurāga [in its technical sense described in 14.146] reaches the fullest extent of the functions of its own fundamental basis (i.e. rāga, described in 14.123), then it attains a state comprehensible only to Krishna’s dearest lovers, a state which when revealed through the most extreme ecstatic symptoms is known as [mahā-]bhāva.

Translation according to Vishwanath:
If anurāga attains a state comprehensible only to itself, is then revealed externally and transmitted to all receptacles of love for Krishna, then it is known as [mahā-]bhāva.

Here now is a fuller translation of the commentaries:

Jiva: The word order here should be taken in the following way: ānurāga, which has been defined and discussed earlier, if it possesses the functions to the fullest extent of its basis, then it attains a state where it is perceptible to itself, is revealed externally and is known as bhāva. The meaning of bhāva here is the extreme semantic limit of the word, just as "Sri Krishna" is the extreme semantic limit of the word bhagavān. Thus, in order to make this distinction, the word "mahābhāva" is sometimes used, just as we sometimes say svayaM bhagavān to be clear about what we mean.

The purport here is this: The compound word yāvad-āśraya functions as an adverb of quantity or extent. Just like we might use it in an adverbial phrase, such as "invite as many Brahmins as there are bowls." [English and Sanskrit grammatical categories don’t seem to quite mesh.] The word āśraya can only refer to rāga, for anurāga takes on the nature of bhāva by building further on the characteristics of rāga. Evidence of this can be found in the example that follows, where it is written, "To make a wondrous picture, [Love] himself added color to it [caused anurāga in the lovers] with the vermilion of new pigments (ever-new rāga)." (nava-rāga-hiṅgula-bharaiś citrāya svayam anvarañjayat).

Later in this chapter it will be said,

rāgānurāgatām ādau snehaḥ prāpyaiva satvaram |
mānatvaṁ praṇayatvaṁ ca kvacit paścāt prapadyate ||
ata eva prabandheṣu śrūyate rādhikādiṣu |
pūrva-rāga-prasaṅge’pi prakaṭaṁ rāga-lakṣaṇam ||
The sthāyi-bhāva known as sneha sometimes first becomes rāga or anurāga, and only afterwards mana or pranaya. This is why in certain works of literature, Radha shows the signs of these higher states even when in the first throes of love (pūrva-rāga). (14.228-9)

So the compound yāvad-āśraya-vṛtti is an adjectival compound with an adverb contained within it, meaning "that which has attained all the possible functions found in rāga."

The word sva-saṁvedya-daśā means the condition that is comprehensible to those who already have anurāga, but are headed towards mahābhāva, in other words, only some special individuals from amongst Krishna’s mistresses. Having attained this condition, if on occasion it is revealed through the most extreme sāttvikas (uddīpta), the sthāyi is known as bhāva.

The intent here is this. Rāga has been defined as seeing distressful conditions in love as sources of joy. The most extreme manifestation of distress for married women of good repute from respectable families is to lose their reputation for chastity and to be ostracized by their family and society. Neither fire nor death are as painful for them as this. However, when the relationship with Krishna makes them abandon their religious principles and the loving ties of their families and society, then even these seem to be a source of happiness. This then is the ultimate limit of rāga.

This attitude is seen in the Vraja gopis from the very beginning of their love for Krishna, whereas it cannot even be conceived of in the Dwaraka queens. In order to show that this manifests in the very beginnings of their love, the word "new" in the above-cited phrase from the example verse will be given. ["To make a wondrous picture, [Love] himself added color to it [caused anurāga in the lovers] with the vermilion of new pigments (ever-new rāga)." (nava-rāga-hiṅgula-bharaiś citrāya svayam anvarañjayat).]

It is as a testimony to the marvel of this love that Uddhava praised the gopis with the words,

āsām aho caraṇa-reṇu-juṣām ahaṁ syāṁ
vṛndāvane kim api gulma-latauṣadhīnām
yā dustyajaṁ sva-janam ārya-pathaṁ ca hitvā
bhejur mukunda-padavīṁ śrutibhir vimṛgyām

Ah, but that I could become one of Vrindavan's herbs and plants which are regularly sprinkled with the dust of the gopis’ feet, for the gopis abandoned both their families and their religious principles, both of which are extremely difficult to give up, in order to worship Mukunda, the ultimate goal of all the Vedic literatures. (SB 10.47.61)

This statement indicates that though it was impossible for them to give up these things, they still did so. Thus this proves the degree of their concern for family and religious principles.


atha bhāva iti | anurāga iti svasyātmanaḥ saṁvedya-daśām anubhavāvasthāṁ prāpya prakāśitaḥ san yāvantaḥ āśrayāḥ sajātīya-bhaktāḥ siddha-sādhaka-bhedena dvidhās teṣu vṛttir vyāptir yasya saḥ | yad-anubhavataḥ sarve te’nurāga-vivaśā bhavantīty arthaḥ ||154||

When anurāga reaches a state where it is only understandable to itself, is revealed, and pervades all the receptacles of bhakti in the same genre, devotees on either the stage of sadhana or siddhi, then that is bhava. īn other words, bhava, the experience of which makes everyone helpless with anurāga.


Jiva Goswami’s interpretation of mahābhāva is confirmed in his reading of Rupa Goswami’s example:

rādhāyā bhavataś ca citta-jatunī svedair vilāpya kramāt
yuñjann adri-nikuñja-kuñjara-pate nirdhūta-bheda-bhramam |
citrāya svayam anvarañjayad iha brahmāṇḍa-harmyodare
bhūyobhir nava-rāga-hiṅgula-bharaiḥ śṛṅgāra-kāruḥ kṛtī ||
The God of Love is a great craftsman:
he has taken the lac of Radha's soul and yours,
and melted them together with his perspiring heat.
O king of the elephants in the groves of Govardhan!
He has joined your souls together and washed away
any sense you had of difference between you.
Then, in order to paint the inner chambers
of the universal mansion, he added
yet more vermilion color to the mix. (UN 14.155)
There's a double meaning to this verse that is very difficult to convey. This will just be a first draft. The idea is that the God of Love is an artist who has joined Radha and Krishna's souls. The metaphor is that the artist is mixing paints in lac, adding vermilion to it so that he can paint the inside of the mansion of the universe. He has to melt the hard lac before he can add color to it. Similarly, Radha and Krishna's hearts are like lac. Placing them in the fire of love (sveda means perspiration, which evokes erotic connotations), and melts them together. Then he adds the red color (anu√rañj is the same verb that anurāga is derived from) with the "new vermilion colored dye" (nava-rāga-hiṅgula-bharaiḥ).

This brings the ideas of both rāga and anurāga into the picture, as Jiva did with his interpretation of mahābhāva. Still, the idea of yāvad-āśraya-vṛtti, that this love of Radha and Krishna extends into the universe is found in the words harmyodare -- painting inside the belly of the universe. This is the way Vishwanath interpreted the mahābhāva definition--that this love expands to envelop everyone within the three worlds.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Charisma and legitimacy in Vaishnava sampradayas

Ashudhir Dev was the guru of Haridas, as proven in Nija-mata-siddhānta, not his father. The same is hinted (Dhvani!) in the Bhaktamāla. The hereditary Bankebihariji Gussains from Sharan Behari Goswami onwards, preach the contrary yet they have never been able to come up with hard evidence. SBG’s work does not even bear credibility in this regard. The reverend Amolakram Shastri, the Sadhus of Tatiya Sthan, the Beriwala family, etc., all are Haridasis but they offer their respect to the entire Guruparampara (i.e. Nimbarki until Swami Haridas).

I could do with some enlightenment if anyone has more on the subject. That is, only if it ventures into credibility, beyond for example, the old-scholars-tale that the Haridasis were seeking to legitimize themselves (in the old days) by claiming allegiance with the Nimbarkis. (from a private correspondent).

The Tatia Sthan (Lalita Prakashan) edition of Kelimāl includes a section called sampradāya-vandanā-stuti, which is headed with the following verse:

śrīmad-dhaṁsa-samarambhāṁ sanakādika-madhyamām |
śrī-nārada-yutāṁ śuddhāṁ nimbārka-paribṛṁhitām |
asmad-ācārya-paryantāṁ vande guru-paramparām ||

One will quickly recognize this as the stock-in-trade homage to disciplic successions that are used by many lines. It can be looked at as either an abbreviation to avoid having to name everyone in a long list, or a tacit recognition that no such list exists. In either case, I would hazard a guess that it is a later accretion.

The problem is that Swami Haridas himself does not speak of guru-tattva, as far as I can see. He mentions Asudhira in two sakhis, but never of any tradition. As far as I can seen none of his own disciples or successors like Pitambar, Bhagavat Rasik, Biharin, Jamuna Das, etc., mention any succession.

On the other hand, Lalita Kisori Deva does make the connection, giving full descriptions of the Nimbarka acharyas, but he is already quite a way down the line historically. Yet, most of the vanis in the Haridasi line have nothing to say about these previous acharyas and there is little or no discussion or reverence for anyone prior to Swami Haridas.

The situation seems analogous to the Gaudiya sampradāya's relationship to the Madhva line.

In these and other cases, it appears that many of the 16th century charismatic founders did not feel the need to profess allegiance to any existing lines, but their descendants later were forced to seek legitimacy by connecting to one or the other of the existing lines. This came into being as the "four sampradāya doctrine." As far as I can see, though, this only became an issue in the late 17th or early 18th centuries.

In some cases, like the Radha-vallabhis, there was resistance to this imperative to seek legitimacy: "We don't need to belong to any succession because our founder received direct mercy from Radha." Interestingly enough, though, Hit Dasji seems to have sought legitimacy for the Radha Vallabha sampradāya with some success. I think if you are around long enough, such criticisms of illegitimacy gradually fade away. Survival is the biggest key.

That thought also occurred to me yesterday when I heard Rangili Sharan Maharaj, a disciple of Kripalu, speak. Very nicely quoting Rādhā-sudhā-nidhi verses. Much as it may cause distress to see charismatic figures flaunt socially acceptable behaviors or accepted customs and traditions, if you can build a beautiful marble temple and have a few charismatic disciples, you can leave a legacy that in a century or two has "legitimacy" and must be dealt with as such.

And, to a great extent, there appears to be some justification for such an attitude. A century or two from now, some sincere follower of Kripalu with innocent faith and intense sadhana may become very advanced, irrespective of the evidence of dubious behaviors Kripaluji has bequeathed to future historians.

A similar example can be seen in the Mormon church in the USA. One of the main candidates for the Republican presidential candidacy nomination is a Mormon. Now the other "Christian" candidates are being asked whether he is a Christian. Such a question surely sticks in the craw of the Christians much in the same way as it does for a Gaudiya to accept the truth of Harivams's hagiographies, or for a Nimbarki to accept the independence of Swami Haridas. How can there be any truth when some lie is at the very root of the tradition?

On the other hand, how can anyone resist the push to religious relativism? Whatever you believe is valid, because [the implication goes] all religious beliefs are equally fantastic, i.e., based in the fantastical revelations of some charismatic [and thence untrustworthy] founder. Can a person living in glass houses throw stones at others? How can anyone objectively verify any claims of truth about the divinity of their chosen revelations? As soon as we do so, we are open to accusations of blind belief and fanaticism.

Today, everyone was praising Hit Dasji for "not having a sectarian bone in his body." Without realizing, of course, that he is the one that is the outsider who is served by such relativism. Once outsiders become insiders, however, it is no surprise if they show great enthusiasm for excluding others.

Just like the Gaudiyas, once they had managed to establish their credentials, dubious as they are, of adherence to the Madhva tradition, they became among the most enthusiastic proponents of the four sampradāya doctrine. On the other hand, the Ramanuja line is pretty secure in their status as the oldest and most "legitimate" of the sampradāyas. They don't need any "four sampradāya doctrine."

It is certainly becoming harder and harder in the modern age, with the historical and information resources at hand, to claim legitimacy on the basis of tradition. Indeed, Max Weber is somewhat disparaging of it as "institutional charisma" or a purely bureaucratic legitimacy. Legitimacy based on spiritual gifts such as siddhis is more and more desired, especially in India, despite the pretty poor track record of self-appointed gurus with claims of special revelations or divine status.

I am personally in favor of honoring traditions, even when one expresses some original direction. But it seems that in general, historically, despite the strength of the guru doctrine in Hinduism, there has always been a greater tolerance for purely charismatic authority, and traditions sink or swim on the basis of the legacy that such charismatic founders and their most gifted heirs leave.

The real debate should not really be in the legitimacy or an individual or a tradition, but in the effectiveness and cogency of doctrines and practices. But of course, a "tradition" should mean that there is a body of doctrines and practices with a proven track record. This gives them a strength and resilience that is difficult for charismatic newcomers to equal.

But I am mostly suspicious of those who lack gratitude, and feel it will ultimately infect their spiritual descendants for all time. This means that all paths are valid, but only up to a point. In the interests of truth, at some point one has, with all due respect, to honestly and objectively subject all truth claims to the microscope.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dana Lila in Fateh Krishna's Rasa at Jai Singh Ghera

This post was on Vrindavan Today a while back, but I am adding it here because of the dana theme, which we are covering more or less exhaustively on this site. Without commentary here.


Fateh Krishna Ji pays sashtanga pranams to the swaroops before the performance.

Vrindavan, 2011.08.13 (VT): Today was the last day of the Rasa Lila at Jai Singh Ghera. I have been coming down with a cold and there has been a certain amount of fatigue involved in producing this series, as shallow a presentation as it has been. Still, I am happy that my initiation into this Braj tradition was such a delightful one. My limitations in understanding the language were, at times, acute. Since humorous argument delivered rapid fire seems to be a staple of the Rasa Lila, these limitations were especially evident in plays like today's, the Dana Lila, in which such argument dominates.

The dāna-līlā is a subject I have some interest in, as I have been working on Dāna-keli-kaumudī for some time now. Here the difference is that Radha dresses up as a prince to exact tolls from the other gopis, but who are going this time with Krishna and Madhumangal who are also dressed as women themselves.

To be honest, I could not understand the rationale for such a switch other than just Radha's desire to enjoy things from the other side. Lalita tells Krishna what Radha has planned, and so the whole lila is conducted in full awareness of the role-playing. Radha the prince asks her sakhis to act as her ministers, but they are very well disguised, appearing for the most part like older men!

Radha the prince's courtiers and ministers begin (while Krishna is changing costume) by glorifying Vrishabhanu Nandini as the queen of Braj.

The opposing sides are ranged against each other.
In the next scene, Krishna and a file of gopis, including Madhumangal minus his moustache, dressed as a woman. Later we find out that her wares consist of govar kachoris. The two sides size each other up. On Radharani's side today is the actor who has been playing Madhumangal or Mansukh in about half the other plays. So basically we have two Madhumangals today. The "other" Madhumangal is one of the prince's courtiers. The two of them will duke it out as well as do a bit of wild dancing together.

Radha and Krishna tussling over his wares.
So basically, the two sides argue over what wares they have and how much they should be taxed. Radha tries to snatch Krishna's jug of butter, but Krishna won't let go. It turns into something of a dance.

The lila concludes with Krishna paying his taxes
 by placing butter directly into Radha's mouth.

And of course, all's well that ends well. A bit of a strange pastime I have to admit, one that indicates that Radha and Krishna are fully conscious of role-playing at all times. Well, that concludes our series...almost. I will be adding an interview or conversation I had with Swami Fateh Krishna later on today.

Dana Lila in Barsana : Bhadra Shukla Trayodasi

The dana-lila has so many manifestations. Here is another one that had passed me by. I posted this on Vrindavan Today today, crossposting here:

Women spectators crowded on the slope.

Barsana, 2011.09.14 (VT): The Radhastami celebrations at Barsana turn into a festival that lasts a week. On the Bhadra Trayodasi, which this year fell on September 10, people in Barsana run from door to door through the village with young boys on their shoulders. Dressed as Krishna and Radharani with her girlfriends, these young boys are given yogurt and sweets at each house.

This tradition is a part of the Sankari Khor pastime, which is all about Krishna stopping Radharani and her friends and asking them to pay taxes for their yogurt and other wares. It is also known as the burhi-lila festival,

It is reenacted every year in a very special way at the Sankari Khor site itself. The custom is said to have been inaugurated by Shri Narayan Bhatt, one of the 16th century stalwarts of Braja bhakti, the author of many books about Krishna lila and the Braja 84-kos parikrama.

Sankari means “narrow”. This narrow passageway is between the village of Chiksoli (Chitra) and the town of Barsana. The path becomes very narrow at this place, with the rock coming down sharply making a V. Sankari means “narrow, and khor “path”. This very narrow passage lies below Barsana, between Brahma Parvat and Vishnu Parvat. This path would separate Vilas Garh Hill from the main hill. It is so narrow that you can only walk down it by putting one foot in front of the other.

Sankari Khor on a quiet day. (Lake of Flowers photo)
The story is told as follows:
After milking the cows every day, the gopis would carry the milk on kamvars, or bamboo sticks with ropes attached to each end for carrying loads. They would take this route to cross from one side of the hills to the other.

Taking advantage of the narrow pathway, Krishna and his gopa friends would block the gopis' way and and demand milk, yogurt and butter as a toll tax from the gopis. If the gopis refused to give any tax, as they felt was their right, Krishna and his friends would forcibly plunder and eat their milk products. Krishna would sometimes break Radharaṇi’s milk pots when she would not pay the tax.

It is said that you can still see the marks of the broken pots embedded in the stone at the spot, which is called Dan Garh or Dan Ghati in commemoration of this pastime.

The gopis started to get fed up of these daily encounters and decided one day to retaliate. Under the leadership of Lalita, they decided that they would hide in the caves and dense kunjas on the hill on both sides of the narrow pathway. A few other gopis would cross Sankari Khor carrying pots of milk, yogurt and butter on their heads. The plan was that the moment Krishna and his sakhas tried to stop them to plunder their wares, the hidden gopis would come out from their ambush and teach Krishna and his sakhas a good lesson.

The next day, thousands and thousands of gopis divided into groups and hid themselves in the dense kunjas and large caves around Sankari Khor. Then, as usual, a few gopis placed pots of milk and yogurt on their heads and made their way through the narrow passageway.

Krishna, Madhumangal and the other sakhas obstructed their path and began their usual games. At once, the harassed gopis signalled the others who descended on the surprised boys. Five to ten girls caught hold of Krishna; another five to ten caught of Madhumangal, and other groups encrircles Subala, Arjuna, Lavanga and the other sakhas.

Dominating in numbers, they slapped the boys' cheeks until they were swollen. They tied the boys to the branches of the trees by the tuft of hair on the back of their heads and asked them, "What pleasure is there in plundering our yogurt? Will you ever do it again?"

Madhumangal folded his hands and prayed at the feet of Lalita. "Please spare me. I was very hungry. I am a simple brahmin boy who fell under the influence of that fickle Krishna. I shall never behave like this again."

Meanwhile Radhika, Vishakha and some other gopis had captured Krishna. They slapped his cheeks a few times and then made him dress in a blouse and skirt like a woman. They even put vermilion in the parting of his hair, bangles on his arms, anklets on his feet, and so on. They covered half his face with a veil, placed a pot of yogurt on his head and began to make fun of him by demanding tax on the yogurt.

From the top of the hill, Lalita Sakhi aimed a stone at the pot of yogurt on Krishna's head, breaking it and drenching his whole body. This is the source of the name mutki-phor, or breaking of the pot.

All the sakhis began to laugh and clap, and Shyama felt very ashamed. "Will you dare to demand tax on our yogurt ever again?" they asked. "Hold your ears and vow, 'From today, I will never try to tax the gopis' yogurt.'" They forced Krishna to repeat this.
Spectators making their way down the hill.
Gudda Baba recounts the way it was reenacted just a few days ago:
Brajabasi men from Barsana and Nandagram square off, sitting opposite each other and sing out this most intimate pastime of where Krishna would stop the gopis and steal their yogurt.

A boy playing Krishna stops another boy dressed as Radharaṇi, who tries to walk by carrying a pot. These boys are carried on the backs of two strong, sure-footed Brajabasis, who are able to scamper up the hill with ease to initiate this pastime.

What a spectacle as Kanai and Shri Ji’s representatives on each side chant wonderful bhajans in unison in glorification of their own ishtadeva. Each traditional bhajan has been passed down for the last 500 years, and you can perceive how much the present-day residents enjoy their own life-long heartfelt memorization of these songs.

First, a mahant from the Nandagram side sings a song in glorification the greatness and superiority of Krishna Kanhaiya, the mood being of tax time… ”Now pay up to the Lord of Vrindaban.”

Gosai from Nanda Gram taking Krishna's part.
Then the Barsana vasis would counter, correctly describing the superiority of Srimati Radharaṇi: “She is the queen of this forest, how dare you tax her?”

And so these loving arguments would go on, back and forth, taking the opposite sides of love.

Shri Ramesh Babaji Maharaja was seated in the center, silent, immersed in the internal bhava of the lila, while the others stand, chastise, defend, acting as external puppets of the Female or Male Supreme.

Ramesh Baba takes a turn, taking Radha's side, of course.

In between, the Brajavasi youth wearing sunglasses, chewing pan and sporting a comical demeanor as the "elders" performed the role play.

Behind on Vilas Garh Hill, the Brijbasi women watch the fun, dressed in a multicolored rainbow of saris, waving leaf fans and broken branches to counteract the heat of the day.

One cannot help but appreciate how this is the most powerful interactive lila where the participants become ‘extensions’ of the Deities. Such rasa, argument, and dominating conclusions, is a ‘true to life’ enactment of the Lord’ lila, an unforgettable cultural chisel on the heart of every observer.

Sources: Gudda Baba, Brij Discovery.

Pretty good video: You Tube of 2009 Sankari Khor pastimes.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The path within, the path without

Anyone who has studied the Bhagavad-gītā will know the following verse:

ārurukṣor muner yogaṁ karma kāraṇam ucyate |
yogārūḍhasya tasyaiva śamaḥ kāraṇam ucyate ||
For one seeking to rise to the platform of yoga, work is said to be the cause. For the same person when arisen to the platform of yoga, mental pacification is said to be the cause. (6.3)
This somewhat innocuous verse says a great deal about the structure of the Gītā and the sixth chapter, and indeed about the entire Gītā philosophy of yoga. As many will already know, Madhusudan Saraswati has divided the Gītā into three six-chapter sections, on karma, bhakti and jnana, respectively. This scheme has been accepted by the two Gaudiya commentators, Vishwanath and Baladeva, also.

The sixth chapter also serves as a bridge from the karma section to the bhakti section as the number of references that Krishna makes to himself, to thought of him, to the vision of him, etc., is substantially greater than in the earlier chapters. And, finally, this transition is completed when Krishna clearly states in the last verse that "of all yogis, one who worships me with faith is the most united with me in yoga." (6.47)

For their part, the Shankaraites do not give much independent value to the various kinds of karmas described in Chapters 3-5; they only serve as external aids to purification. This seems to be substantiated by the verse quoted above. Karmas are only meant to bring one to the level of yoga sādhanā or mental discipline, when one is actually on the path of yoga, where directly controlling the mental processes is the principal task.

Something analogous goes on in the bhakti path as well. Bhakti has external forms, but the sādhya of bhakti is internal, bhāva or the feeling of love. As with karma, there is a process of internalization that takes place, without which the external actions remain unfulfilled.

Now, one of the things that I have been trying to communicate here is the somewhat non-intuitive idea that such internalization is also external in another sense, especially for the bhakta. That is why the sahajiya calls it the pravartaka stage.

The externality of the "internal" path can be understood when you recognize that its preoccupation is self-realization. Now I have come to the conclusion that "self-realization" (or "Self-realization" depending on whether this internalization process arrives at realization of the self as a spiritual monad or in relationship with the Paramatma) is essentially "self"-centered. It moves the practitioner away from material consciousness, but eventually he has to encounter the "Other." In this pravartaka stage, his concept of God is such that though he appears to be encountering the Other internally, in fact he is still establishing an external ideal and internalizing it. Because it is still fundamentally ideal, i.e., confined to his own internal reality and not entirely conforming to the external reality, it is incomplete, hence external, even in its higher or more advanced stages such as rāgānugā.

Now Sahaja sādhanā is about a transition from the "self-centered" bhajan to a dual form, an external-internal sādhanā, where there is a connection to the "other" in the form of the bhajan partner. See here for more.

In the siddha stage, the external is transformed by the internal, in the sense that the internal accomplishment in prema manifests in external transformations. Changes can be gross or subtle, but the most subtle transformations take place in the transmission of prema and its attendant consequences. Nothing inauspicious can result from a premi bhakta.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Do I believe in Srila Prabhupada?

A question I often get asked is, "Do you still believe in Srila Prabhupada?" Or some variation of this question. This was most recently asked by someone who had just read the article About Jagat, where I have tried to summarize the major events in my life.

This question often puts me off my guard a little, as I suspect that the questioner has a very naive understanding of guru-tattva or is out to entrap me by getting me to submit to a kind of loyalty test.

To make a succinct statement, I will just paraphrase what I wrote yesterday in my article Anti-intellectualism and Anti-Semitism join forces in the Krishna consciousness movement:

I have been out of ISKCON for more than 30 years and have developed a way of thinking that I see as being at least three steps removed from it as a result of my contacts with (1) traditional orthodox Gaudiya and rasika Vrindavan Vaishnavism; (2) with Sahajiya Vaishnavism; and (3) with the Western academic study of religion, all three of which have altered my understanding of spiritual life considerably. But none of these influences has altered my self-identification as a Vaishnava for which I pay my undying obeisance of gratitude to Srila Prabhupada.

Perhaps this will satisfy my questioner. But what does "believing in Srila Prabhupada" mean? Judging by the kinds of rigid ideas that some Prabhupadanugas have, you practically have to live in a mental straightjacket to "believe in Srila Prabhupada." And I once again point to the above article.

What I believe is that the gurus give us their ucchishta, their remnants. They set us on the road to discovery, but they can never answer all our questions. Most of the time, our questions don't come until long after they are gone.

For each disciple, according to their understanding, the guru's remnants are different. Just as on the guru's plate, there may be rice, chapati or sabji or something else remaining, so different disciples see a particular aspect of the guru's mission as being their own field of work, the area in which they can complete the work of the spiritual master.

This means that for some, who are actively inclined, the mission is to spread the message as they have received it, without any changes, without any question, and through the implicit faith that they have in the guru and the tradition, to bring Krishna consciousness to those who have never heard the message.

For others it may be an attempt to rigidify the guru's tradition and to be absolutely faithful to the letter of the guru's law.

For others, the goal might be to try to go deeper into understanding the message, into clarifying what is there, into validating logically and experientially the essence of the tradition and teaching.

For me, the guru's remnants has meant that we have to really find out the answers in this way – through combined study and practice -- in order to keep the tradition alive, to make it meaningful.

Therefore I feel that simply lip service to Srila Prabhupada becomes "idol worship" in the true sense. Everyone is held to a standard of faithfulness toward a figure from the past. People who can claim they were personal servants, or who have some "Prabhupada nectar" to tell, are exalted above all others.

Prabhupadanugas spend all their time knocking ISKCON for not following Prabhupada faithfully and spend all their time condemning innovations or for "thinking themselves to be equal to or better than Srila Prabhupada."

In my opinion, this is all idolatry and saps the very life out of Krishna consciousness. Krishna consciousness, as Bhaktivinoda Thakur said, is progressive. That means that as human understanding and experience expand, our understanding of religious and spiritual phenomena can also expand. We have more tools for understanding spirituality, mythology, ritual and religious practice today than we did a century or five centuries ago.

But this does not mean, as Bhaktivinoda Thakur so correctly pointed out, that we deny the legacy of the past. As Newton said, "If I saw far, it was because I stood on the shoulders of giants."

Somehow, our task is to combine the experience and insights of the past with the experiences and insights of the present. Putting old wine into new bottles means this. It means repackaging the essence of spiritual practice into terms that modern man can understand and find meaningful. Without this, faithfulness to a mythology or to a tradition becomes artificial and dry, an empty shell. Strangely enough, we end up with an old bottle and no wine.

We live in a different world from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Bhaktivinoda Thakur, and even from the world of the 60's when Srila Prabhupada started his teaching. We must recognize the particular world we live in and bring Krishna consciousness alive in that world.

You cannot simply promote escapism and denial of the world we live in. Mere promotion of a return to some imaginary "Vedic culture" is a pipe dream that has failed several times. Unless we reimagine these things according to modern sensibilities, there is no way that we can make Krishna consciousness real for the people of today.

But let me make it perfectly clear that Srila Prabhupada set into motion something that appears to be very powerful, and despite all the negative things that have happened, a wide variety of manifestations of the bhakti movement appear to be growing in many parts of the world. I recognize that all these manifestations have their value and purpose, even those I oppose.

So I am happy to be a part of this world-wide phenomenon and recognize with gratitude my debt to him as the original source of what has become my own life's central theme.

evaṁ janaṁ nipatitaṁ prabhavāhi-kūpe
kāmābhikāmam anu yaḥ prapatan prasaṅgāt |
kṛtvātmasāt surarṣiṇā bhagavan gṛhītaḥ
so’haṁ kathaṁ nu visṛje tava bhṛtya-sevām ||

I was fallen into the darkened well of material life, where I was engaged in seeking sense enjoyment after sense enjoyment in bad association. The rishi of the gods, Narada, took me, O Lord, and made me his own. So how could I ever abandon the service of your servant? (Prahlad to Nrisingha, 7.9.28)
Truly, everything I do is a service to Srila Prabhupada and not a day goes by when I do not remember him. And, as I tried to show in my "About Jagat" article, I also feel that everything that has happened to me since his departure, beginning with my going to Lalita Prasad Thakur, was also by his grace -- even when it appeared to be against his written or spoken instructions.

And though I believe in each manifestation of the guru that has appeared subsequently, it would be dishonest for me to deny the importance of the one who set me on the path that I still follow.

At the same time, all external gurus are manifestations of the internal guru. And, ultimately, it is that guru in the heart that we must "believe" in. It may be the hardest lesson of all that the caittya-guru trumps all manifestation of the external guru.

Anti-intellectualism and Anti-Semitism join forces in the Krishna consciousness movement

Somehow, while surfing the Internet, I came across an article, ISKZION, which caused me some concern. The author asks questions about the preponderence of Jews in ISKCON leadership positions and speculates about the Vaishnava society and Jew-related conspiracy theories. The author even cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a book that has passed into the annals of racist defamation as one of the most pernicious [and successful] examples of its kind; this is certainly the red flag of anti-Semitism par excellence.

Now, even though I myself am not of Jewish extraction, I would personally argue that since Jews are disproportionately represented in almost every field of merit... music, science, the arts and cinema, political commentary, finance, philosophy, etc... it would perhaps be more of a problem if Jews were underrepresented in ISKCON and Krishna consciousness. Since Jews seems to know a good thing when they see it, that would almost prove that they have no merit whatsoever!

And if Jews were truly engaged in a great conspiracy to infiltrate other religious organizations in their furtive quest for world domination, one would wonder why so few of them have risen to the upper echelons of Southern Baptism or the Jehovah's Witnesses, or indeed the Catholic Church. On the other hand, there appears to be no shortage of Jews in Buddhism, Yoga, New Religious Movements, or indeed, the Hare Krishna movement.

I personally do not know what Jews do to rise to positions of primacy and influence wherever they set their sights: Is it because they are "God's Chosen People," or because they have extraordinary intelligence, are better at networking, are ruthless power seekers, or possess magical powers that accrue to them through nefarious rituals? Or is it because they are part of a global conspiracy in association with extra-terrestrial forces? These are questions I am not equipped to answer.

Nevertheless, vaguely recalling that I had seen other stirrings of anti-Semitic thought in the Hare Krishna movement some years before, I did a quick Google check on "Jew Krishna" and "Jew ISKCON," and came across a couple of articles from the Sampradaya Sun from two years ago, which show a little more how such kinds of discourse arise in absurd contexts, revealing anti-Semitic biases that in all likelihood arise everywhere Jews rise to positions of disproportionate influence and power. And it is really this article that prompts me to write here.

Tamal Krishna Goswami
The first article, submitted by a certain Mukunda Das with a few introductory comments, is in fact the reprint of a paper ("Constructive Theologizing for Reform and Renewal") published by the now departed Tamal Krishna Goswami (Thomas G. Herzig) and Krishna Kshetra Das (Dr. Kenneth Valpey), which appeared in in The Hare Krishna Movement: The Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant (ed. Edwin Bryant and Maria Ekstrand, Columbia Press, 2004).

Mukunda Das's introductory comments contain the deliberate but entirely irrelevant mention of both authors' Jewish extraction. In response to a subsequent accusation of anti-Semitism, Mukunda Das makes his point much clearer, associating Judaism with a kind of scholarship that is he feels subverts the entire ISKCON movement and is furthermore offensive to Srila Prabhupada himself.

The issue is that when you analyze the movement’s development towards academia, liberalism, pluralism, corporatism, and impersonalism, you will find devotees who hail from a Jewish background. The real issue is that these [Jewish background devotees] JBD's are steering the movement into becoming a generic religion and using academia and interfaith ideologies to do so. These JBD’s don’t make public their papers and ideas, which are well guarded by the walls of academia and cries of Anti-Semitism by apologists and uneducated disciples and associates...

How many of our leaders who are JBD’s promote pluralism, academia, secular education, interfaith and liberalism? Then see if I am being Anti-Semitic, or am I being realistic. Diacritical theology is the main thrust of the various religious academic Institutions and interfaith dialogues. This form of theology demands an academic approach to scripture and its implementation. Diacritical theology, put simply, means that one must use one's intelligence to critically analyze scriptural text and the word of the guru or theologian.

And of course, he makes the familiar accusation, the argument ad hominem to end all arguments: "They think they know better than Srila Prabhupada."

At least here Mukunda says what it is that is bothering him. In the first article, he seems to expect everyone to understand immediately what he is getting at. His language is uncompromising and inflammatory, but in fact reveals not only his own ignorance, but the great intellectual poverty at the heart of ISKCON conservatism, which is perhaps the most serious problem it faces. He writes of Herzig and Valpey's article,
...this piece of literary dribble is nothing short of the most offensive material ever to be produced by an alleged ISKCON devotee. Every line in this material I found to be most offensive and depreciative to our Srila Prabhupada, even though they hide behind pseudo-academic word jugglery.

Dr. Kenneth Valpey
Mukunda derides the two authors for calling Prabhupada a "'charismatic' personality that used a top-down (vertical) authoritarian approach that did not allow any room for questioning or intelligent independent thought." The irony of this comment is that Mukunda then proceeds to insist on an authoritarian approach that does not allow for questioning or intelligent independent thought.

Part of Mukunda Das's criticism of Tamal's argument is yet another ad hominem argument, that he himself was "authoritarian" in his "rule" as an ISKCON guru, so what right does he have to criticize Srila Prabhupada for authoritarianism? Such comments are disingenuous at best. It seems that, if anything, Tamal Krishna's experience as a guru in ISKCON had opened his eyes to the disastrous nature of authoritarianism. He had been struck by the necessity of modernizing Krishna consciousness, and it is not unlikely that his own experiences playing the authoritarian cult leader had some influence on his perception of the way forward.

Now, to be honest, I personally don't care about what happens in ISKCON or what its leaders do. I have been out of that organization for more than 30 years and have developed a way of thinking that I see as being at least three steps removed from ISKCON through my contacts with (1) traditional orthodox Gaudiya and rasika Vrindavan Vaishnavism; (2) with Sahajiya Vaishnavism; and (3) with the Western academic study of religion, all three of which have altered my understanding of spiritual life considerably. But since none of these influences has altered my self-identification as a Vaishnava [for which I continue to pay my undying obeisance of gratitude to Srila Prabhupada], it is in the last capacity as an academic that I feel I must condemn Mukunda Das's slanderous and malicious articles with all my heart. In fact, the only meritorious thing he did was to publish Krishna Kshetra and Tamal Krishna Goswami's paper in full. And on rereading that paper, I have to say that I support entirely the exercise in which they were engaged.

I was actually quite sad at Tamal Krishna's untimely demise in 2002, as I saw in him a possibility for a rational revision of Krishna consciousness. At the very least, he was instituting a dialogue that recognized the evolutionary nature of all religion, what to speak of Vaishnavism. It is no accident that the two authors cite some of Bhaktivinoda Thakur's most liberal passages about the progressive nature of devotion, passages that most progressive devotees hold to their hearts as breaths of fresh air in the stifling enclosure of the current Krishna movement, and how they also condemn the conservative ISKCON position, represented by no less a hypocrite than Hridayananda Goswami, who after a too long sojourn in academia has himself apparently changed stripes to submit to the all-conquering rule of "diacritic theology."
The members of ISKCON, who live perpetually at the feet of Shrila Prabhupada, may speculate how Shrila Prabhupada’s statements are true, but they may not challenge his statements, or claim that they are false. This is precisely what it means to accept Shrila Prabhupada as the founder-acharya.
I have always sensed that the basic problem in the Ritvik camp or the other anti-ISKCON die-hard Prabhupada-as-he-is-don't-change-one-dot-or -iota arch conservatives that were spawned by Prabhupada's preaching is precisely their idolatry of Srila Prabhupada, their absolute conviction of his untouchable perfection in everything he did and said. Since this seems to be the teaching, the "guru-tattva," they are left with nothing but a dogmatic negative reflex to anything that calls anything he said or did into question. And like Mukunda Das here, they may pretend to have understood, use big words and accuse their opponents of "pseudo-academic word jugglery," while in fact they can do nothing better than fake it themselves.

And then, of course, the ultimate ad hominem, the suggestion of a Jewish conspiracy! So, the sum and substance of Mukunda's argument is a serious of ad hominem arguments meant to distract everyone from the substance of Tamal Krishna's paper and to whip up a frenzy against intellectuals, Tamal Krishna personally, and finally Jews, by accusing them all of being offenders to Srila Prabhupada. All red herrings meant to distract people away from the paper's content. Way to go, quite a feat.

At any rate, I will not go into any further discussion here, except to say that research along the lines suggested by Valpey and Herzig is the only long-term hope for the Krishna bhakti movement. I hope that all ISKCON devotees will read it carefully and consider seriously the implications of Tamal Krishna's intent here. Indeed, I hope that they will take up the challenge implicit in the paper to apply their intelligence to the study of Krishna consciousness, rather than simply parroting the words of the previous acharyas without deliberation.

Unless Krishna consciousness can be made meaningful to people of the modern world, it will never interest more than a small coterie of misfits, who will go on arguing about obscure points of guru-bhakti and dream of world domination and "10,000 years of world peace" with everyone prancing around like ISKCON devotees from the 1970's.