Showing posts from 2012

Me and Santa Claus

Ever since I arrived at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama ashram a couple of months ago, people have been suggesting that I take the role of Santa Claus in the annual Christmas celebrations.

Now it is a strange fact, perhaps mostly due to the presence of numerous American and European residents here that Christmas is probably the most celebrated festival on the calendar. Deepavali, Janmasthami, Shivaratri and other important holidays do not go unnoticed, but Christmas is celebrated with a tree and many other familiar trapping, as well as a kind of "talent" night with different ashramites putting on performances of various types.

In past years I have participated. One year I told the Dickens' story "A Christmas Carol" in Hindi, another time I attempted to tell O.Henry's "A Gift of the Magi," with much less success. But the groundswell of requests to have me play Santa this year made me progressively uneasy. Perhaps the five years I have been in India, espe…

Ecstasies of the Yogi

Swami Veda quoted this Bhagavata verse last night in Yoga Sutra class while discussing sutra 4.25.
vāg gadgadā dravate yasya cittaṁ
rudaty abhīkṣṇaṁ hasati kvacic ca |
vilajja udgāyati nṛtyate ca
mad-bhakti-yukto bhuvanaṁ punāti ||

One who is united with me in bhakti yoga, whose words are choked with emotion, whose mind has melted, who cries constanty and sometimes laughs, who shamelessly sings alound and dances... such a devotee purifies the entire world. (11.14.24)
Swamiji does not usually quote full verses in his classes, though he makes a point of teaching his disciples the Sanskrit terminology used in the Yoga Sutra. Needless to say, it was a pleasure to hear him recite this sweet verse so nicely. And he pointedly said that he was doing so for me. Because "Jagat knows the Bhagavata."
The context here was the following sentence from Vyasa's bhashya,
yathā pravṛṣi tṛṇāṅkurasyodbhedena tad-bīja-sattānumīyate,
tathā mokṣa-mārga-śravaṇena yasya romaharṣāśru-pātau dṛśyet…

Human typology and Religious Institutions

Many people criticize and condemn religions and religious institutions because of the evil done in their name. This is often based on a predisposition to anti-religious sentiment. One should recognize that religion is a human institution and subject to the same frailties as all human institutions. Those who are in such institutions should recognize these frailties and take steps to control and counteract them.

According to Patanjali's Yoga-sūtra (4.7), there are four kinds of people. Patanjali does try to estimate what percentage of human society fits into each category, no doubt since modern ways of enumerating populations was not yet devised. In any case, such percentages no doubt change as societies change.

Patanjali divides people according to the kind of work they do in relation to the goal of enlightenment. The first three are (1) kṛṣṇa (black, or dark karmas), which are the actions performed by the evil; (2) śukla-kṛṣṇa or mixed karmas, which evidently are the kinds of ac…

The gopis insult the banyan tree

We have been reading about the gopis in separation and how they are madly asking the trees for Krishna's whereabouts. In 10.30.4, the first trees the gopis approach to ask for Krishna's whereabouts are the ashwattha, plaksha and nyagrodha, all variants of the banyan or sacred fig. This is ostensibly because they are the tallest trees and would have been best able to see Krishna from their lofty height.

They are also the kings of the forest, representing Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma respectively. But when these trees don't answer their polite request, which is accompanied by a confession of their distressed state of mind ("the son of Nanda has stolen our minds and run away!"), Vishwanath paraphrases the gopis' reaction, saying that they insult them, saying, "You are just dirty-minded men and, besides, you just have small fruits!"

When I read this, I burst out laughing because of the implications of this insult.

Some people suggested that the gopis are p…

Only Bhakti is the path of joy

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna describes the joy that a devotee feels in the execution of devotional service. Those who emphasize the jnana, karma and yoga practices described in the Gita have no understanding of how the bhakta experiences such joy in his love for the Lord and the association of other devotees.

mac-cittā mad-gata-prāā bodhayantaḥ parasparam | kathayantaś ca mā nitya tuṣyanti ca ramanti ca ||
Their minds fixed on me, their lives totally dedicated to me, they spend their time in explaining the path of devotion to one another. Speaking of me constantly, they feel intense delight and pleasure. [Gita 10.9]

The Bhagavata Purana also describes the joy the devotee feels in the company of other devotees.

satāṁ prasangāt mama vīrya-saṁvido bhavanti hṛt-karṇa-rasāyanāḥ kathāḥ taj-joṣaṇād āśv apavarga-vartmani śraddhā ratir bhaktir anukramiṣyati
If you have the good fortune to be in the company of devotees, you will hear of my glories, which are like magic medicine for the ears …

Rasa and theodicy

Without situations there are no stories. Without stories there is no rasa. Therefore, the existence of evil in the world is only to create situations. With no obstacles to overcome, love is unrealized in its scope.

Someone may object: What about horrendous evil?

Evil is not being condoned. Simply it is being said that the greater the evil, the greater the potential for heroism. And love shines all the brighter in the darkness.

This of course requires accepting the world-view of the Bhagavad Gita which says that there is no true death, no true suffering. We are engaged in a play in which the only reality or value is Rasa. raso vai sah.

This of course includes the karma doctrine, which means that everyone answers for their evil. But the law of karma does not answer ultimate questions about evil, for it too faces the problem of infinite regression.

There is a hierarchy of rasas, which are arranged in order from horror (bibhatsa), fear (bhayanaka), anger (raudra), pity (karuna), heroism …

Bhakti and Social Activism

India has recently passed a law that will allow mass retailers to enter the Indian market. This is ostensibly to make the retail sector more "efficient" in the way that Western retail markets are efficient. We should be wary of the effects such a move will have on the Indian economy. The opening of the Indian economy in the last 20 years has resulted in great increases of prosperity for a large number of people, but the limits of such prosperity are currently being experienced in the advanced economies.

Walmart presence in North American towns has resulted in the gutting of the shopping districts of entire towns as its "efficiency" in exploiting economies of scale makes competition impossible. Walmart is famous for its reduction of labor costs by shifting the burden of health care and so on onto the taxpayer, paying the absolute minimum in salaries, avoiding hiring full time workers as far as possible. In many markets, because they have driven all competition into…

American brothers and sisters! Vote for the human being in this election.

There are three kinds of people: the authoritarian followers, who are sheep. The social dominators, who are like wolves. And the autonomous thinkers, who are real human beings.

There are two kinds of wolves, those in sheep's clothing, and those that are openly predatory, the naked wolves. Sheep follow irregardless.

There are two kinds of society, those that are run by the wolves and those run by the human beings. Wolves prefer fascisms and dictatorships of whatever kind. If there is democracy, the wolves try to usurp it. It will be saved by the human beings.

Oh American brothers and sisters! Vote for the human being in this election. Fight back. Take back your country. Don't give into cynicism. Push for hope and real human society. The only hope is for human beings to act.

Too many people have become cynical and think that Obama and Romney, the Democrats and the Republicans are exactly the same, puppets for the real global masters, the Military Industrial Complex, but they ar…

Lalita Prasad Thakur's স্বীয় শ্রীসিদ্ধ-ভজন-প্রণালী

শ্রীগোদ্রুমচন্দ্রায় নমঃ

অকিঞ্চন ললিতাপ্রসাদঠাকুরের
স্বীয় শ্রীসিদ্ধভজনপ্রণালী


স্ব বা স্বীয় সিদ্ধ পরিচয়

ভকতিবিনোদ শিক্ষা ইহাই আমার দীক্ষা
ইহাতেই নিজাভীষ্ট লই
গুরু পদ হৃদে ধরি অনন্য শরণে বরি
ভজন আনন্দে সদা হই ।1

জড় মায়া যাহা হয় চিদে নাহি মিশ খায়
পঞ্চ ভূতে রক্তমাংসাতেই
অতি হেয় তত্ত্ব হয় জন্ম মৃত্যু জানি তায়
অবিনশী আত্মদেহ লই ।2

আত্মার সন্ধান লই জড়দেহ ভুলে যাই
আত্ম দেহ মানসেই বরি
আত্মভাব কৃষ্ণোন্মুখী তাহে হই চিরসুখী
গোপীদেহ মনে বনে ধরি ।3

আমার স্বরূপ যাহা আত্মাবস্থা হয় তাহা
জীবাত্মাই নিত্য কৃষ্ণদাস
অনিত্য অসত্য ত্যজি নিত্য ও সত্যেতে মজি
চিদ্ভাব করি সুপ্রকাশ ।4

আমার চেতন যাহা আচ্ছাদিত হয় তাহা
চেতন উন্মুক্ত আমি করি
চেতনেই চিদ্ পাই সত্য ধরি সদে রই
তাহাতে আনন্দ লাভ ধরি ।5

সত্য সৎ চিৎ ধরি তাহাতে আশ্রয় করি
আত্মার আনন্দ লাভ করা
জীবাত্মার কার্য্য হয় তাহা ভুলা ভাল নয়
গৌরের শিক্ষাতে এই ধারা ।6

গোপীভাবামৃত সিন্ধু আস্বাদিতে এক বিন্দু
লোভে বিধি ছাড়িতে অপার
অনাসক্ত আচরণে থাকি গৃহে কিম্বা বনে
লোকমধ্যে করি লোকাচার ।7

রাগানুগা ভক্তসঙ্গে শ্রীযুগল …