Thursday, February 03, 2011

The fullness of ānanda



sevā vṛndāvana-stha-/
sthira-cara-nikareṣv astu me hanta ke vā
devā brahmādayaḥ syus /
tata uru-mahitā vallabhā ye vrajendoḥ |
ete hy advaita-sac-cid-/
ghana-vapuṣo dūra-dūrātidūra-
sphūrjan-māhātmya-vṛndā /
bṛhad-upaniṣad-ānandajānanda-kandāḥ ||


May I always render service to the creatures of Vrindavan, moving or still. Ah! What are great gods like Brahma to me? Those dear to the Moon of Braj are far greater in glory than they! All have non-dual bodies of condensed spiritual being and consciousness and their wonders have burst forth to the far, far corners of the universe! They are the roots of the joy born of the joy of the great Upanishads. (Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta 1.61)

The words bṛhad-upaniṣad-ānandajānanda-kandāḥ are probably a reference to Bṛhad-āranyaka Upanishad 3.9.28(7), where Shankara goes into a prolonged discussion of the word ānanda and how it means Brahman. Prabodhananda is here saying that the joy spoken of in the "Brihad Upanishad" is thus Brahman, and the joy born of Brahman realization is rooted in the parikaras of the Divine Couple in Vrindavan. And all parikaras have their original in Radha.

QUESTION: Do you interpret the ānanda in Upanishads to reflect the bliss of Divine Couple? Is this because we always try to interpret all verses of anything we read in terms of what we believe in, though there is no way to know which one is true?

I found this discussion online with Patrick Olivelle where he discusses his views on these topics. The portion after 20 minutes (continuing into part 2) was particularly interesting to me. He denies that the Upanishads have one single philosophy as Balaji said, and he denies that Shankara's advaita can be derived just from the Upanishads or that the Upanishads can be called as being advaitic. Let me know what you think of it. Obviously to interpret any verse as Gaudiya also will be problematic.

I like Radhakrishnan's statement that just as all of Western philosophy can be called footnotes to Plato, all of Indian philosophy can be called footnotes to the Upanishads.

The Upanishads are ecstatic revealed utterances, first glimpses of revelation that have a "numinous" quality. This gave them the authority of Veda. Of course there is no consistency in the Upanishads which come from a variety of times and places over a period of several hundred years. There are really only the seeds of a consistent philosophy.

Later writers, especially like Badarayana in the Vedanta Sutra, tried to find patterns of consistency and applied a certain vision to the interpretation of those revelations. Clearly, not everyone thought the same way subsequently.

But certain themes have been persistent throughout. Atma, Brahman, sac-cid-ānanda, etc. It is the delving into the potential that these words have that the different schools and practices of Hinduism have developed.

So, when a statement like raso vai saḥ, yam hy evāyam labdhvānandi bhavati is taken seriously and meditated upon (srotavyaḥ, mantavyaḥ, nididhyāsitavyaḥ), then its potential is realized gradually, over time.

So, yes, of course, I believe that Radha and Krishna represent the fullness of ananda. Radhe Radhe!

3 comments:

Jagannathdas said...

Jagat, Whilst avoiding the main topic of ananda, I differ on a couple of points and raise others.
The first point I draw concerns your statement "The Upanishads are ecstatic revealed utterances." From the academic point of view, the Upanishads are the result of philosophical speculation on the meaning of the ritual. Much of this knowledge is from mental activity and insight (manasa) but that does not necessarily mean that this insight is 'ecstatic,' this philosophical speculation often deals with contemplation and in the Upanishads we see philosophies being worked out through debate. Quite a regular form of philosophy rather than ecstacy. The idea of revelation also needs addressing as in this process, individuals are enquiring into cosmic connections and such like through meditation, they are trying to work it out for themselves. This process is akin to the tantric approach of one's own search for knowledge and insight, which is what I find inspiring here. When that insight is excepted, then it becomes known as revealed. What I'm trying to do here is show the difference between how the seers worked and how it changes to mere acceptance of the 'truth' for those that follow. The same thing happened before with the formation of the Vedic canon, what was originally creative became just memorisation. It is the diffference of taking religious knowledge in terms of belief and truth, as things fixed, or seeing that there is development, working out, process and progress, which allows us to be involved with it. I also doubt that we can call the Upanishads utterances. In the Veda that deals with the ritual proper, especially Sama Veda, the udgitha goes something like OM-O2-O2-O-O-O-O-O2-O-O-O-O-O-O-O2, it is not easy to explain these other than utterances or chants. So it would not be incorrect to speak of Vedic utterances. However, in the Upanishads, the philosophical speculation derived from the ritual, it is rather dealing with philosophical dialogue, debate and discourse on the meaning of ritual rather than the mechanics.
My second point is your statement that the Upanishads are the 'first glimpses of revelation that have a "numinous" quality'. This gave them the authority of Veda." This is incorrect as the first glimpses appear in Rig Veda, in particular RV 1.164.41-46 regarding aksara and Vac. 'therefore flows the syllable, on it lives the world' and various references to Vac as ekam sat The One Real or One Existent principle. If your interested van Buitenen has written an article called aksara (available on JSTOR), which shows the development of aksara with brahman. It could be said to be the first glimpses of a cohesive doctrine like that of Advaita Vedanta, but the Upanishads are well on the way of thought into a noumenon. There is obviously little in the way of consistency. What gave the Upanishads the authority of Veda? the noumenon or the revealed utterances? I'm not clear which of these you mean. There authority is clear through their link with the Brahamanas and Aranyakas to the Vedic ritual, where speculation on the meanning of the ritual is provided separately.
Jagannathdas

Jagannathdas said...

I agree with you on the point of consistency, but want to draw out a thought derived from this. That is, the Veda is not entirely consistent. There is clear evidence of disagreement and in forming the canon these disagreements were kept as a record. some were of the opinion that Indra should not be the main beneficiary, indeed they ask, has anyone actually seen him? What is does show is a community of people working together, albeit with differences. The Upanishads are inconsistent, but show various individuals working through ideas. Again we can see this as a community effort. Fast fwd to Caitanya and we have various factions that worked together as a community. What western devotees do not seem to have learnt is to be able to work with eachother irrespective of ideological differences. What we have is high walled enclosures to separate the faithful from those that may choose to disagree, I'm thinking ISKCON Mayapur and Vrndavan here.
The other point I want to bring up is raso vai sah, verily all this is rasa. The statement provides authority to Gaudiya Vaishnavas, but I'm doubtful if we can interpret the Gaudiya usage of rasa with the way it was originally intended in the Upanishad. I wanted to check this by going through Taittreya Brahmana, but found this to obscure so gave up the endevour. However in the Rig Veda rasa is usually linked with water. In the Indra Vrtra story it is the Cosmic Waters that give life. I do not think it too far fetched to link theories that water is the principle that all life has been founded upon, and in the cosmic scheme, that we are made up of and surrounded by water. I think we can be sceptical of putting too much emphasis on something that may turn out to have only 'political' value - the vedic stamp of approval.

Jagat said...

Thank you for your insights. Radhe Radhe.