Monday, September 28, 2009

Another Shot at Meta-analysis

Image taken from

Three recent letters, all from women, have provoked a great deal of thought in me and made me realize it was time for some meta-analysis of the material that we have been looking at of late. Some preliminary thoughts have appeared in response to the comment made to the Bana-khanda post and it is probably from there that we should commence. But that anonymous letter is the third in the series. And there have been posts since then, so I really should ignore them all ! The first (Letter A) was posted a little earlier:
About the Gosvamis "representing the ideals of our tradition," in this vein I had questioned elsewhere in this blog the fact that the lila might be too Indian for it to be an universal mode of meditation. Especially considering the misogynistic and racist aspects of Indian culture. In modern times, if anything, these traits are anti-ideals. Any comment/reply?
The other (B), which was a private correspondence, goes like this:
I looked at your website, and yes, I agree, you're not really in this world. You're some place else, speculating like crazy about what you think is going on in the spiritual world.

Krishna reserves the right to keep secret the most secret of all secrets and as much as we poke around thinking we've got it all figured out, we're not even close to the real transcendental and divine pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

My honest feelings after seeing your website is that you should just stop everything, dust off your bead bag and chant and listen to the Hare Krishna maha mantra. And read one chapter a day of Bhagavad Gita. The basics. The real basics.

On Youtube, there is a video clip under "Lord Caitanya's moon is rising." It is beautiful and inspiring. I do remember that along with all your brain power you also do have a considerable amount of humility. I hope you will call on it now and take my words to heart.

It's just that truly, how much time do we have left in this world? Are we ready to die? Will we take birth again in any of species of life, or will we love Krishna enough that He will be so pleased with us that He will personally bring us back to Him?

When I read your stuff it doesn't make me feel good at all. What happened to the real you? Someone who cares will always tell you the truth.
We will call the letter on the Bana-khanda post "C."

Now, what I am trying to get at is a Sahajiya concept of spiritual life. As such, I am concerned with a certain approach to the interplay between the ideal with the real. And each of these letters, in a way, shows a similar concern between reality and the ideal.

My whole idea, in a nutshell, is that we are to some extent in control of our ideals.

But not entirely. By which I mean that we are all a part of a tradition, or rather a multiplicity of traditions. We have to recognize both our debts with reverence, but at the same time we cannot be complete slaves to it. Trying to be free of this conditioning is like trying to be free of language. We may be able to understand theoretically a state transcendental to language, but even our efforts to understand such a state are mediated by language itself.

This immediately causes a problem, especially for devotees. We have been trained in Iskcon to have a very literal view and uncritical acceptance of Indian culture. That is not so good.

Here, I am taking the position that we have to look to the symbolic significance of things, most especially Radha and Krishna. The fundamental theological debate of monism and theism is a separate issue, but one in which we participate. But that we could do in any religious tradition. The essence of Gaudiya Vaishnavism is Radha-dasya and we have to hold that front and center. We have to hold it before us like the sun, even if it blinds us. Our whole effort is to make Radha-dasya meaningful. In order to do that, we have to contextualize it, primarily by the concept of "prema prayojana."

Now this is how we become somewhat freed from the cultural limitations

  • Organic relationship with our tradition. Traditions are necessary for community, but communities are made of individuals who influence it in positive or negative directions, for good or for bad.  
  • Faith that the symbols themselves act, or that God mediates His revelation through archetypal symbols, that though they may have trappings of cultural relativism point to something beyond them.
  • This faith leads me to believe that nothing but auspiciousness can arise from the effort to develop a religious social medium and institutions (hard or soft) that promote the culture of love.

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