Understanding aropa through vatsalya rasa and the Mother Goddess

I am at Swami Rama Sadhaka Gram in Rishikesh for a few days, lecturing and tending to some personal business. The other day a visiting sannyasi from the Shringeri Math tradition came to perform a Shri Chakra puja at the newly inaugurated "Mother Goddess" shrine on the campus.

Swami Veda personally supervised the Jaipur sculptors in the forming of the white marble image, which he calls "White Tara" based on the Tibetan form of the Mother Goddess. In particular, he told me, he wanted the image to have soft contours and a divine motherly feel, without the hard edges that are sometimes seen in Tara deities.

Though the puja was supposedly an abbreviated one, it lasted a full five hours. The pujari, who prefered not to have his name publicized,  conducted the entire ritual in complete silence, though he was mentally chanting the complex mantras as ordained in the paddhatis. His knowledge of all the mudras and gestures was clearly apparent, and he maintained a relaxed posture throughout, practically making a dance performance out of the puja.

Bathing the Shri Yantra.

Later I had some thoughts about the Mother Goddess that seemed relevant to the things I am teaching about Radha and Krishna that may or may not be helpful in clarifying certain things.

On the whole, what is a god or goddess anyway? Here, the "White Tara" represents the "Cosmic Mother Goddess." When we think of motherhood, we naturally think of our own human mothers. We are all individuals and our mothers are not equal, but even those who are orphans or who had abusive mothers still were blessed by the mother energy by virtue of our birth. Most of us, however, have better memories of our mothers, even though we may be quite aware of their human limitations.

At the same time, we can compensate for any deficiencies in the worldly mother by taking shelter of the Divine Mother. The mother's job in this world is to make her children grow up, to become adults who are autonomous. So a typical prayer to the Mother, such as the one by Vivekananda, goes, "O Thou, Mother of Strength, take away my weakness. Take away my unmanliness and make me a man!"

In any case, for the religious among us, it is not hard to channel our gratitude for the motherly love we received from our birth mothers and other care givers and project it onto the Supreme Reality in the form of the Mother Goddess. We recognize that this Divine Presence appeared in this world in our mothers and we were blessed by her. This is one kind of āropa, or superimposition of the Divine on an individual person.

When a woman becomes an adult and she herself becomes a mother, she prays for the blessings of the Mother so that she can be "inhabited" by her divine presence and fulfill her obligations as a pure channel of her mercy and blessings. She attempts to align herself with that divine ideal of motherhood. In fact, knowingly or unknowingly, she cannot help but be a manifestation of the Divine Mother, but if she acts in full consciousness or alignment, then she carries out those functions in an elevated and spiritually aware state of consciousness.

In fact, in the Vaishnava tradition of vātsalya-bhāva, the same spirit is being invoked as the devotee sees her act of motherhood as being aligned with the mood of Mother Yashoda, and sees the presence of the baby Krishna in her child. Her motherhood becomes an act of devotion to Krishna in the spirit of protectiveness, nurturing and guiding, in short vātsalya-bhāva. This is especially true during meditative acts like breastfeeding, etc.

This aligning of the divine ideal and the real-life experience is called āropa, or superimposition. One spiritualizes the mundane experience through this superimposition. It may become a permanent mood in relation to God, or it may be an enriching substream, but in either case it is favorable to the general culture of one's devotional mood. It does NOT mean that one either identifies oneself as Yashoda herself or the child as Krishna himself. What it does mean is that the love that you feel for the child is the same qualitatively though not quantitatively as that cosmic vātsalya-bhāva exemplified and symbolized by Yashoda.

At the same time, in a very real sense, through this identification one is also serving that Universal Motherhood principle even as one embodies it. In fact, it may very realistically be said that without embodying that principle one is not able to serve it.

Now, the above will meet with little objection from devotees because it does indeed seem natural and conducive to the culture of devotion. Indeed, being reminded of Yashoda's love for Krishna through one's own experience seems to be nothing if not anukūla for one's own devotional culture, but for some reason, they are some who are unable to see the parallel to Radha and Krishna.

To one degree or another, each of the gods and goddess, represents a particular faculty or aspect of one's psychological makeup, especially where the ideal is being spoken of. When a hierarchy of deity forms is being classified, that shows that a statement is being made about human life and its ideals.

When we say that Radha and Krishna are the highest forms of the Divine Truth, that is a simply statement about fundamental human psychology and the kind of love that is the dearest and most profound in our own lives. Just as Yashoda is an archetype of motherly love, Radha and Krishna are the divine archetypes of romantic affection, and they play exactly the same potential role described above, only in relation to erotic love. In our external forms we reenact the eternal lila in our own individual lives; internally, we serve the principle of Love itself. This is called mañjarī-bhāva. The dual nature (identity and difference) of this sādhanā can be summarized in the line from Caitanya-caritāmṛta: sakhī bistariyā sakhī āsvādaya: "The sakhis (manjaris) expand the lila and they relish it."

Those who worship Radha and Krishna without becoming empowered in the art of human love are like someone with a chintamani stone who lets it gather dust on a shelf and admires it without putting its powers to use, without actually truly discovering what those powers are. They do not in truth serve that highest principle of Divine Love.

premā yo'sau rādhikā-kṛṣṇa-yugmaṁ
svānandena plāvayitvā sakhīś ca |
śaśvad viśvaṁ plāvayan suprasiddhaḥ
so'yaṁ buddhiṁ naḥ samiddhāṁ karotu ||
That love, it is well known,
first inundates the divine pair of lovers,
Radhika and Krishna,
with its own bliss --
and their girlfriends too --
and then constantly engulfs
the entire universe.
May this very love
here inflame our intelligence. (Gopala-champu 1.15.4)
Here one should understand yo'sau... so'yam "that love... which is this very love here."


Anonymous said…
Heard Dr. Ramnath Aghori went looking for old mother truth, and found it.


The Kubjikā Upaniṣad (by Teun Goudriaan & Jan A. Schoterman).

The System of Five Cakras in the Kubjikāmatra Tantra 14-6 (Dory Heilijgers-Seelen).

The Kubjikāmatratantra: Kulālikāmnāya Version - Critical Edition (by T. Goudriaan and J. A. Schoterman).
Muraliswara das said…
I'm trying to understand your conception, Jagadananda Ji, but I'm afraid that I fail to do it. As far as I understand essentially you make one simple point: human love IS Love Divine. Let me quote from your writings: "You should understand that the love that exists between you and your wife is the very same feeling as that which exists between Radha and Krishna". Or, as you've said in this article, "What it does mean is that the love that you feel for the child is the same qualitatively though not quantitatively as that cosmic vātsalya-bhāva exemplified and symbolized by Yashoda". How is it possible? I'm neither theologian nor intellectual but I've heard something about Krishna-prema from certain Vaisnavas, and I heard from them one simple thing: human love is kama, Love Divine is prema and kama is PERVERTED REFLECTION of prema, and kama and prema although looking similar are opposite in nature, they are like Southern and Northern Poles. Then how can they be "same qualitatively", as you say? You know better than me what Srila Swami Maharaj Prabhupad told on this point: "As there is a difference between iron and gold, so there is a difference between material lust and Kṛṣṇa's loving affairs with the gopīs" (CC Adi 4.164). Although such loving affairs may sometimes resemble material lust, the difference is as follows:
ātmendriya-prīti-vāñchā-tāre bali 'kāma'
kṛṣṇendriya-prīti-icchā dhare 'prema' nāma
"The desire to satisfy one's own senses is called lust, while the desire to satisfy the senses of Kṛṣṇa is called prema, love of God" (CC Adi 4.165).
Your idea of aropa or IMAGINING ourselves (human couple, I mean) to be Divine Couple is beyond my understanding. It is just imagination and it will remain such forever. Because imagination is the product of material mind. What does it have to do with spiritual soul, what to speak about Supersoul, what to speak about Supersoul in Its highest manifestation (nara-lila of Sri Krishna)?

Anu Krishna (you know whom I'm talking about) has told me that you are a simple and open person. I'm not - even remotely - as sophisticated and educated as your interlocutors on FB, but I want to know the truth of matter. What the Divine Love is and how to get it - that is all I want to know. Would you kindly comment upon what I've said?
Jagadananda Das said…
There is a lot to say and most of it I have already said. Try this one:

Muraliswara das said…
Thank you so much, Jagadananda Ji.

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