Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The taste of Radha Krishna katha

I think that once a devotee gets a taste of Radha-Krishna katha, there is no going back. They will never get a taste for "prema" or "bhakti" or "Truth" or "transcendence" without Radha Krishna. All the words will be just so much fluff in the air. I am just trying to understand why and how to transmit that taste.

tad eva ramyaṁ ruciraṁ navaṁ navaṁ
tad eva śaśvan manaso mahotsavam
tad eva śokārṇava-śoṣaṇaṁ nṛṇāṁ
yad uttamaśloka-guṇānuvarṇanam
Those words describing the glories of the all-famous Personality of Godhead are attractive, relishable and ever fresh. Indeed, such words are a perpetual festival for the mind, and they dry up the ocean of misery. (SB 12.12.50)
I think that even if you just chant this verse from the Bhagavatam, feel its rhythm, you will get a glimpse. But how many lifetimes of preparation will it take someone to come to the point of just letting those sounds roll on the tongue and dance in the heart?

Who can give you those lifetimes of preparation?

And most of what we do produce in the vernacular will, to a great extent, I believe, be calqued on the originals. But just as ISKCON is to a great extent a hybrid: It is mostly a Western idealized sense of Indian culture. And in India, that is combined with another layer: the Indian's idealized sense of Western culture. So there are all these prisms through which the original tradition is being looked at.

But these things are normal because of the nature of changing time and place. It is just curious to observe when you have a little perspective of multiple viewpoints, i.e., Vaishnavism in different times and places, historically, culturally, according to different traditions.

God is always essentially an idea, an ideal. He exists in the mind. At least, our conception of God exists in the mind. It is therefore essentially a psychological complex that affects our evolution as human beings. As our concept of God clarifies, so do we evolve and mature as human beings.

But I am a great believer in having faith in and sticking to your personal revelations, which usually come through some parampara, some guru lineage or another, whether you want to call it that or not. Once that revelation has come, it is your life's duty to follow through on it. That revelation is, like Chaitanya Charitamrita says, a seed that you have to grow into a fully blossoming and fruit-giving tree.

You try different kinds of fertilizer. You play different kinds of music for the plant's growth. Sunlight. Heat. Whatever you can to make the bhakti plant flourish. This Radha-Krishna prema tree has such delicious fruits. People will say, "What is this exotic fruit I never saw before? Why not some good Christian apples? Or yoga peaches?" And we will say, "Just try some of these Radha-Krishna mangoes. They are very good."

So, for me, anyway, these languages... that unique, special sound of Sanskrit, Bangla, Brij... they dance in a way that prods my heart. They are a powerful irrigation technique for that seed. After all, that seed came in the form of foreign sounding sounds in the first place, so why not?

Let us put it another way: I am not telling anyone to become Indian, but I do have faith in the Indianness of this tradition. That is not saying that I have faith in modern India, or in Indians as such. Like everywhere, there is good and bad. But I have faith in what has been revealed to me, which comes to me through the medium of India, its language, its culture, its holy places, its gurus.

It is a matter of taste. And like Joseph Campbell said, you have to follow your bliss. And for me, that bliss is in the sound of Banke Bihari's name.

Mahaprabhu speaking of Sri Rupa said:

madhura prasanna iṅhāra kābya sālaṅkāra |
aiche kabitva binu nahe rasera pracāra ||
“His poetry is very sweet, clear and ornate. Without such literary skill, one cannot bring the rasa forth.”
*****
Prabodhananda Saraswati writes:

dagdho bhīma-bhavāṭavī-bhramaṇato duḥkhaugha-dāvānalair
ādāya priya-mugdha-vṛtti-kariṇīḥ sad-vartmago jīvitaḥ |
sāndrānanda-rasātiśītalatare tāpa-trayonmūlane
rādhā-keli-sudhāmbudhau mama mano mattaḥ karī majjatu ||
After wandering through this dense forest of material existence, scorched in forest fires fueled by repeated miseries, the intoxicated elephant of my mind, taking with him his sweet and lovingly behaved (vṛtti) queen, found the path of truth and survived. Now, may it bathe in the ocean of nectar that is Radha's dalliances, the cooling waters of which are deep and joyful, and which uproot all the three miseries. (Saṅgīta-mādhava 15.12)
Prabodhananda was a very learned scholar. It is almost certain therefore that he used the word vṛtti in full consciousness of yoga terminology. The mind elephant and the vṛtti she-elephant, would in this way appear to represent purusha and prakriti.

Prabodhananda is comparing his own mind to an elephant, and the mind's vṛttis to a she-elephant. In yoga, this is purusha and prakṛti, except that prakṛti is always seen as a source of bondage and the vṛttis are to be stopped (yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhah).

But for Prabodhananda it means something different. The pure consciousness follows the vṛttis of the mind in sadhana bhakti to bathe in the ocean of rasa, just as the male and female elephants cavort sensuously in the water pool together. Here the citta-vṛttis are seen in a positive light.
That verse by Prabodhananda reminded me of this one by Raghunath Das:

ābhīra-pallī-pati-putra-kāntā-
dāsyābhilāsātibalāśva-vāraḥ |
śrī-rūpa-cintāmaṇi-sapti-saṁstho
mat-svānta-durdānta-hayecchur āstām ||
I pray that my heart, the powerful cavalier of desire to serve the gopa-prince's beloved, in its desire to find a suitable powerful steed may become yoked to the thought-jewel horse of Rupa Goswami. (Abhīṣṭa-sūcanam, 1)
In Raghunath's verse, he prays that the desire for prema, which is the purest element of the soul, should be yoked to the horse of Rupa Goswami's mind. Rupa Goswami is of course the guru. The citta-vṛttis of the sadhaka follow those of the guru. In both cases, the element of engaging the mind in following is preeminent.

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