Saturday, April 27, 2013

Becoming a bhūrido janaḥ

Over the last few days I have gone through a few anxious moments. There is no moment in life where a conflict does not lurk. In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, there is a big conflict between the so-called bhajanānandī and the goṣṭhyānandī, introverts and extroverts.

I have been living in Vrindavan, the ultimate destination of all Vaishnavas, at least according to Rupa Goswami, who lived in a different time, a different world from the one today. I love Vrindavan and I wish to cultivate love for Radha and Krishna in the way I do best, by doing bhajan and writing. Indeed, I have a strong introverted tendency. For me it has been characterized by a sense of unworthiness, that I am never good enough or accomplished enough to make a worthwhile contribution. 

On the other hand, in my youth I underwent a period of intense indoctrination in ISKCON to the idea of preaching. And that is characterized, as we often see, by an overinflated and borrowed sense of confidence. Neither of these character extremes can be considered ideal.

But who will not remember Krishnadas Kaviraja's inspired paraphrasing of the gardener Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's wish to share the fruits of love with the world?

ekalā mālākāra āmi kāhāṅ kāhāṅ jāba
ekalā vā kata phala pāṛiyā bilāba
ekalā uṭhāñā dite haya pariśrama
keha pāya keha nā pāya rahe mane bhrama
ataeva āmi ājñā diluṅ sabākāre
jāhāṅ tāhāṅ prema phala deha jāre tāre
As I am the only gardener, to how many different places can I go? And since I am all alone, how many fruits can I pick and give away? It is extremely tiring to gather up the fruits and distribute them by myself; it disturbs me to know that some people will receive my fruit and others will not. Therefore I order everyone to and distribute these fruits of love to everyone they see wherever they go. (CC 1.9.34-6)
ātma icchāmṛte vṛkṣa siñci nirantara
tāhāte asaṅkhya phala vṛkṣera upara
ataeva saba phala deha jāre tāre
khāiyā hauk loka ajara amare
I constantly water my tree with the nectar of my personal desire. As a result, there are countless fruits of love upon it. Therefore, everyone, distribute these fruits to absolutely everyone so that by eating them, they can all become free from old age and death. (CC 1.9.38-9)
So even when I was a babaji in Nabadwip from 1980 to 1985, I spent a great deal of time traveling to towns and villages in Bengal to speak on the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, trying to perfect my presentation in Bengali and trying to share my realizations. It wasn't always easy because my approach started changing. It gradually stopped being the vaidhi bhakti approach of "make your human life successful, become a devotee." That is good, but I wanted to share something more, try something a little different. It was not easy, because to share higher realizations requires different techniques and tactics.

But in Rishikesh also, I spoke on the Bhagavad-gītā to good audiences, intelligent people, yogis. Not devotees so much, but still I got to hone my skills somewhat.

Since coming to the rāgānugā way of thinking, however, I have kept my eyes on Srimati Radharani and her seva, and I have always thought that the crowning jewel of my life would be to glorify her, to have the capacity to chant her glories in the company of devotees. I often remember Narottam Das's verse from Prema-bhakti-candrikrā as a strong expression of that sentiment:

āna kathā āna vyathā, nāhi yeno yāi tathā,
tomāra caraṇa smṛti sāje |
avirata avirala, tuyā guṇa kala kala,
gāi yeno satera samāje |
Other topics are just another source of suffering, may I never go into them. All that suits me is the thought of your lotus feet. May I constantly and copiously sing your divine glories in the company of your devotees. (PBC 40)
It is my feeling that the dual relationship, which lies between the introverted singular and the extroverted plural relation states, is the necessary key to making the other two work. But for one who has developed an unhealthy unbalance to the singular, to the point, you could say, of narcissism, the challenges are not small.

I wrote on Facebook:
Anybody who talks about love is a dreamer, an idealist. Sooner or later, such people have to confront reality and see if love stands.
A number of thoughts followed and I will not go into that out of some embarrassment. This morning, though, I gave my Bhagavad-gītā/Sanskrit class to my audience of two and felt decidedly upbeat afterwards. Then I discovered the following [below the break] on my hard disk, more or less by accident, and I thought, yeah, to become a bhūrido janaḥ is a good ambition, and still not outside the realm of the doable. Someone wrote on the thread following that comment that biography is the best way to judge, in other words your life itself is proof of your commitment to your ideals and beliefs, and the extent to which you have been able to realize them in reality. So I approve that sentiment and realize that there is still quite a bit of work to do where the old prema is concerned. Challenge indeed.

Anyway, all this ended up with the following comments on my part, offering homage to both my introvert and extrovert tendencies:

yasya sphūrti-lavāṅkureṇa laghunāpy antar munīnāṁ manaḥ
spṛṣṭaṁ mokṣa-sukhād virajyati jhaṭity āsvādyamānād api
premṇas tasya mukunda sāhasitayā śaknotu kaḥ prārthane
bhūyāj janmani janmani pracayinī kintu spṛhāpy atra me
O Mukunda, giver of liberation!
Who in the world is there with the courage
to pray for the gift of sacred love,
of which even the slightest manifestation,
brushing slightly against the minds of the great sages,
makes them forget the happiness of liberation,
even as they are tasting it?

My prayer therefore to you is this:
that I should simply desire for such prema,
and that this desire should increase forever,
in this world, birth after birth.

(Rūpa Gosvāmī, Aṣṭādaśa-cchanda, Vastra-haraṇa, 2)

And I will say this: I will preach Prema Bhakti as I have been, whether I do so sitting here in Vrindavan or traveling, whether I get one ounce of support or not, and Prema Bhakti will be victorious.

I am just posting this pretty much as is. Normally, I would work at it more, but I will just post what is there without doing too much further research.


Introduction : In the previous verse, the gopis glorified Krishna’s sweet words. Now they ask who is capable of glorifying such sweetness. In answer to their own question, in this verse they will now say that even when spoken by someone else [in other words simply by hearing from another person], any discussions related to Krishna are better than both kinds of ambrosia [either that relished by the gods or the ambrosia of liberation].

tava kathāmṛtaṁ tapta-jīvanaṁ
kavibhir īḍitaṁ kalmaṣāpaham |
śravaṇa-maṅgalaṁ śrīmad-ātataṁ
bhuvi grṇanti te bhuridā janāḥ ||
The ambrosia of talks related to you is like water to those whose lives burn with suffering; because they destroy all sins, they are sung by the poet-philosophers. They bring auspiciousness to the ears, for they are permeated with good fortune. Those who sing these topics on this earth are the most generous givers.
What makes topics related to you ambrosial? In what way are they similar to these other kinds of nectar? They bring to life all those who have been made to suffer by the great disease of material life and repeated birth and death. At the same time, they bring relief to those who are suffering from the pain of your separation. As such it is greater than the ambrosia of the heavenly planets, as well as that of liberation.

So it has been glorified by great philosophers like Dhruva and Prahlad. For instance, Dhruva states in the verse beginning yā nirvṛtis tanu-bhṛtāṁ (4.9.10) that the two other kinds of ambrosia give him no pleasure:

yā nirvṛtis tanu-bhṛtāṁ tava pāda-padma-
dhyānād bhavaj-jana-kathā-śravaṇena vā syāt
sā brahmaṇi sva-mahimany api nātha mābhūt
kiṁ tv antakāsi-lulitāt patatāṁ vimānāt
O Lord, the bliss felt by embodied beings through meditating on Your lotus feet or from hearing about You from pure devotees cannot be had in the experience of Your Brahman effulgence, what to speak of the temporary pleasures found in the heavenly planets, which is ended by the separating sword of time. (4.9.10)
Furthermore, this ambrosia destroys all sins, including prārabdha-karma, which the ambrosia of the heavenly planets cannot. Indeed the pleasures of heaven simply increase desires and even create new ones. Neither does the nectar of liberation destroy prārabdha. Neither of these kinds of ambrosia are auspicious (maṅgala) like these topics, which simply through hearing are not only relishable, but also bring about the fulfilment of one’s innermost desires.

This ambrosia is śrīmat, because it brings the greatest good fortune or riches, the treasure of divine love. Furthermore, it is ātataṁ, expanded further and further at every moment by those who recite them, which cannot be said for the two other kinds of nectar. Thus those who sing these topics are the greatest givers, they are the most charitable, for they give so much that no one could ever be able to repay them for their gifts.

An alternative interpretation of the verse is given as follows. In the previous verse, it was said just how sweet Krishna’s voice is, but for the gopis, Krishna’s voice alone, without his direct personal association, is unwelcome and a source of great distress. In other words tava kathā mṛtam – “Talk of you is death for us.”

 How is that? taptaṁ jīvanaṁ. It causes our lives torment. The implication is that your kathā is like water sprinkled on boiling oil (rather than bringing peace or pleasure, it causes an explosion). [translating taptaṁ jīvanaṁ as “heated water”]

If that is the case, you may ask why the Puranas have so glorified these topics. In answer, we say that it is in the nature of poets like Vyasadeva and others to simply describe things, which is what they have done here too. But these are simply [empty] words.

The words kalmaṣāpaham imply that yes indeed such topics destroy past sins, but it is through the suffering they cause, as suffering is the way that past sins are expiated. Those people who listen to these stories find that their well-being is destroyed [I am not quite sure how he gets this meaning of maṅgala], so if intelligent people consider that by hearing them unhappiness will result, then they won’t listen to them and your topics will die out.

Those who are puffed up with their own good fortune and wealth (or seeking to make a fortune and good name for themselves, but secretly harboring) the hope that everyone will be killed off, travel from country to country, village to village, to preach the words of the Puranas and establish their authority. Therefore this verse says, “Those who glorify these topis are bhūrida”, only here this should be interpreted as meaning those who destroy or tear apart (dyanti from the verb root dya, which means to break asunder and destroy) many, many listeners (bhūri). Those who preach your topics are worse than the wolf that enters in sheep’s clothing (lit. the enemy hunter who acts so nice and kind), and are to be avoided at all costs by anyone who has any brains.

It will later be said [in the Bhramara-gita], in a similar vein –

sakṛd-adana-vidhūta-dvandva-dharmā vinaṣṭāḥ |
sapadi gṛha-kuṭumbaṁ dīnam utsṛjya dīnā
bahava iha vihaṅgā bhikṣu-caryāṁ caranti ||

As soon as the nectar of your pastimes enters the ears of a person, it immediately cause all dualities to cease. The unfortunate person to whom this happens at once leaves his home and family and as a result there are many of them wandering around like birds, begging in the streets. [10.47.18]
In fact, this verse is a vyāja-stuti, praising the greatness of the topics of the Lord and those who speak them, but doing so by pretending to condemn them.

Here is a little bit from one of Sanatan Goswami's commentaries, with some similarity to that given above.:

His second interpretation: When we get these special flashes of your topics (tvat-kathā-sphūrti-viśeṣeṇa) while in separation from you, they kill us. Therefore they are death itself; (tapta-jīvanam) they cause one’s life to become so overcome with suffering, for it is the nature of love to so burn one up in its fires that it immediately brings one to the point of death. Even so the poets glorify these topics because they destroy sin [no further explanation here]. And furthermore, they are pleasing to the ear. Those who are puffed up with their great good fortune, like Brahma and others have spread these topics all over the world (śrīmadātatam). In fact these two descriptions, i.e. of being pleasing to the ear and being spread by those who are obsessed with their own wealth and fame, are criticisms, not praise. Thus those who spread these topics in the world are the causers of great destruction (bhūrida).

Saturday, April 20, 2013

All shastras lead to Braja-nagara

The hot season is here. Satya Narayan Dasji sets off to his summer tour of Europe and America. We spent the last few weeks cramming in the last twenty or so anucchedas of Paramātma-sandarbha, and I must say it was invigorating. I will probably have occasion to talk a little more about Paramātma-sandarbha before I finish editing the translation.

I was thinking of my good fortune to be here in Vrindavan and my day job is having to study and understand Jiva Goswami's Paramātma-sandarbha! I just hope that Sri Jiva Prabhu lets me help work on the last two. In the meantime, the hot season is here, and Vrindavan is beginning to bake. But I notice that last year I had one of the most productive months where this blog is concerned. I think I did a bit of a housecleaning, like I am trying to do now also. Still trying to come up with a magnum opus out of all this.

The last two days, I took a bit of a brain vacation, adjusting to the change of season, remembering a bit how much I enjoyed the heat last year. But that was June. It is still April and the temperatures only get to 40, not 47, which is indeed substantially hotter. I only did three blogs in June 2012.

The last few days I have been spending most of my time listening to recordings of Gīta-govinda by various artists, especially prabandha 24, which is Radha as svādhīna-bhartṛkā, and now 19, which is Krishna trying to pacify Radha's māna and the famous line where Krishna asks Radha to place her foot on his head. In my discussion of Chandi Das, I mentioned this song, a translation of which is found in Vrindavan Khanda of Sri Krishna Kirtan. One of the things I tried to point out in that series was about the kind of audience Chandi Das would have had, especially here: Sadharani-karana revisited. In that article I cross compare with Rupa Goswami's intended audience in the Dana-keli-kaumudi. But I have not so much discussed who would have been the audience for the Gita-govinda.

From a North Indian illustrated edition.
 I don't think that I am really in a position to do justice to the subject, but let me give something of an outline. Jayadeva was a court poet in one of India's most famous cultural royal courts, that of King Lakshman Sen. As Jayadeva makes pretty clear, it was a competitive environment (GG 1.4), but he seems to have been the crown jewel of the jewel studded cast of poets at the court. At least he had no hesitation in declaring it himself.

Now the culture of the court is not the same as that of the common man. It is the "high culture" of the time. And indeed, if there is any sign that court patronage had an effect on national culture, it is here. The Gita-govinda had a profound influence on the culture of both Bengal and Orissa, where the poem is the exclusive entertainment of the greatest king, who gets to watch his own pastimes before he goes to bed each night.

So who is Jayadeva's audience? It is the urban sophisticate of the time, the educated courtier or nāgara. The nāgara was not specifically a religious person. He is the person for whom the kāma-śāstra was written.  It is a typically courtly culture, and as is usually the case, the hero of their literature is also a nāgara. Little wonder that Chandi Das gets a bit of a laugh out of it. His Krishna is no nāgara.

But in our analysis of Rupa Goswami, we have been getting at the point that he sanskritized many of the themes and tropes of the vernacular culture typified by Chandi Das, sat it on top of the weighty foundation of the Bhagavata theological, and synthesized it with the character of Krishna as the Vraja-nāgara.

In the Sarva-saṁvādinī to Bhagavat-sandarbha 107, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī elaborates on the extensive list of quotations showing that Krishna or Bhagavan is the ultimate goal of all the scriptures, directly or indirectly. Verses such as,

sarvaiś ca vedaiḥ paramo hi devo
jijñāsyo nānyo vedaiḥ prasidhyet |
Only the Supreme Lord is to be searched out from all the Vedas. They do not popularize anyone else. Therefore, after studying and deliberating over all the Vedas, a person yearning for liberation should desire to know only Him. (Atharva-śikhā)
In that list, he goes through all the branches of knowledge to explain how each one of them serves a purpose leading to the ultimate purpose, Bhagavan. There is no point in going through the whole list here, suffice it to say that the field of knowledge that would have been the courtier's staple are given pride of place at the end of it, grouped together :

atha vedānugāny aparāṇy api śāstrāṇi vakṣyamāṇa-hetoḥ samanvayante....
kāvyālaṅkāra-kāma-tantra-gāndharva-kalās tu
tasya tat-tac-carita-mādhuryānubhava-vaiduṣya-siddheḥ |
Other scriptures which follow the Veda can be synthesized to that purpose for the following reasons.... The poetic arts [including theater], the kāma-śāstras, and music all help to achieve the perfection in the expertise at experiencing the sweetness of the Lord's relevant activities. (Sarva-saṁvādinī to Bhagavat-sandarbha 107)
Now these are the very staples of the bhakti movement. And for all the dry preliminary achievements offered by the various doctrines and teachings other sciences offer, here one is being offered expertise in relishing the Lord's sweetness. Is there any higher achievement to be aspired to?

The bhakti movement is most associated with the vernacular languages. But as I have been saying, Rupa Goswami was probably doing something similar to what Jayadeva did, namely merging folks motifs and, in Jayadeva's case. particular rhythms into the Sanskritic tradition. Rupa of course had already inherited Jayadeva and his followers as his forerunners and was building on them. Jayadeva is the single greatest influence on rasika Vaishnavism, though all the sources besides the Bhāgavata that Mahaprabhu relished, Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta, Jagannātha-vallabha-nāṭaka, Chandidas and Vidyapati are strands of the rasika tradition that are at the basis of the great explosion of Radha-Krishna culture in the wake of his appearance.

I was just looking at Shashibhushan Dasgupta's Rādhāra krama vikāśa, and he also says (p. 120) that the real vehicle for the development of the Radha cult or culture was in the literary tradition. And it is fairly obvious that the reason was rasa. And that is the particularly ball that Rupa Goswami took and ran with.

There is much to say about how a bhakti tradition, which is essentially democratic and meant for everyone, should be Sanskritized. After all, Sanskritization indicates an elite who not only know the Sanskrit language, but are refined and educated in other ways also. (Again, read this.) Chanting Harinama is fully democratic, but the culture of relishing rasa is something that requires, at least in this tradition, a high degree of accomplishment. To think that the former fulfills all the conditions of the latter without the requisite culture is simply foolish.

Jayadeva was clearly in an environment and tradition that already had developed the rasika side of Radha-Krishna madhura-rasa, while the theological side was still underdeveloped and awaiting the coming of Rupa Goswami. But in his case, perhaps more than anyone prior to him, was to identify the nameless "universal" nāgara, the connoisseur of the Sanskrit poetic tradition with Krishna. As we would expect: the God of the courts would be their "ideal man."

For Rupa Goswami, Krishna may be a cowherd, and the gopis make fun of him for his lack of sophistication, but in fact he will always be the vidagdha-śiromaṇi. More can obviously be said, but to do that you practically have to read everything Rupa wrote. Let's leave that for the time being.

We have an edition of Gīta-govinda with Prabodhananda's commentary on the Grantha Mandir. I am going through that as I listen. I am not entirely convinced that this is Prabodhananda's work for various reasons. Nevertheless, it is a damned good commentary, which ties in all the various strands named in Jiva Goswami's list, as well as illustrating many of the points from the Bhagavatam. Though these are some similarities with other commentaries, according to Haridas Das, but I have not been able to compare. But if it proves to be as original as it looks, it is likely worth translating. I wrote something about all that here. [I would wait for the revised edition before downloading, though.]

The Gīta-govinda has been translated and commented on so many times that I likely have little to offer in that respect. Some can be found on the internet. But keeping one eye on Prabodhananda, let us just look at that one song refered to above. This is not an official translation. I just want to highlight a few points.

The first point is that Radha is already somewhat pacified when Krishna sings this song. He knows that he has to be both serious and funny at the same time. If he can make her laugh and at the same time believe in his sincerity, then he will be assured of success.

In the final verse of the song, this is confirmed where Krishna's words are described as caṭula-cāṭu-paṭu-cāru, "sweet, entreating, clever and charming." This is really what the vidagdha-nāgara aspires to.

The first verse is sung as something of an invocation.

vadasi yadi kiñcid api danta-ruci-kaumudī
harati dara-timiram atighoram |
sphurad-adhara-sīdhave tava vadana-candramā
rocayatu locana-cakoraṁ ||2||
If you say anything at all, then the rays of light from your teeth
will efface the terrible darkness in which I flounder.
May your moon face give delight to the chakora of my eyes
by distributing the nectar of your smile.
priye ! cāru-śīle ! muñca mayi mānam anidānaṁ |
sapadi madanānalo dahati mama mānasam
dehi mukha-kamala-madhu-pānaṁ ||dhruva-padaṁ ||
Dear one! Kind-hearted one !
Give up this jealous anger. It has no basis.
The fire of loving desire is constantly burning my mind,
so quench my thirst with the honey of your lotus lips.
Jayadeva makes no real distinction between "lust" and "love." The fire of lust (madanānala). For the nāgara, as for Rupa Goswami's samarthā-rati, there is no real distinction. They are united in a love that is both.


satyam evāsi yadi sudati mayi kopinī
dehi khara-nakhara-śara-ghātam |
ghaṭaya bhuja-bandhanaṁ janaya rada-khaṇḍanaṁ
yena vā bhavati sukha-jātaṁ ||3||
O Radhe, if you are really angry with me
then torture me with the sharp tips of your fingernails;
imprison me in your arms and bite my lips
as much as it takes to bring you pleasure.
"I have committed an offense and I should be punished. So scratch me, embrace me, kiss me. It will make you happy..."


tvam asi mama bhūṣaṇaṁ tvam asi mama jīvanaṁ
tvam asi mama bhava-jaladhi-ratnam |
bhavatu bhavatīha mayi satatam anurodhinī
tatra mama hṛdayam atiyatnaṁ ||4||
You are my ornament, you are my life,
you are the pearl in my ocean of existence!
May you always be favorable to me,
My heart will take great care that this is so.
This is for me one of the most powerful verses for its simplicity and straightforwardness. There is no attempt at humor here, only a sincere statement of love and commitment.


nīla-nalinābham api tanvi tava locanaṁ
dhārayati kokanada-rūpaṁ |
kusuma-śara-bāṇa-bhāvena yadi rañjayasi
kṛṣṇam idam etad-anurūpam ||5||
Slender one! Your eyes are as dark as the blue lotus
but they have taken on a ruby red color [from anger and tears].
If you use them as Cupid's arrows and redden me,
you will make this black Krishna the same as them.
A bit of a tough one to translate. The idea is that when you shoot someone, they are covered in blood, so they become red. But becoming red is the same as becoming attached or loving. So the etymological connection between rāga, anurāga, rakta, etc. from the verb rañj. The word appears several times in the song.


sphuratu kuca-kumbhayor upari maṇi-mañjarī
rañjayatu tava hṛdaya-deśam |
rasatu raśanāpi tava ghana-jaghana-maṇḍale
ghoṣayatu manmatha-nideśam ||6||
May the jeweled necklace dance on your breast pitchers,
may they give color to your heart;
may the belled girdle around your hips ring
and announce the order of the mind-churning God of Love.
The Sanskrit is easy. The English rendition is tough. Anyway, the metaphorical allusion is to the sacrificial ritual, with the establishment of the auspicious waterpots and the musical sounds. But the intent is "let's make love." Here, the poeticians definition of māna as deprivation of the desired embraces, etc., even when there is no external impediment. In other words, Radha wants Krishna and he knows it. So how long is she going to be able to keep it up?


sthala-kamala-gañjanaṁ mama hṛdaya-rañjanaṁ
janita-rati-raṅga-parabhāgam |
bhaṇa masṛṇa-vāṇi karavāṇi caraṇa-dvayaṁ
sarasa-lasad-alaktaka-rāgam ||7||
Your feet are beautiful than the land lotus, the ornament of my bosom,
the enhancer of the highest feelings of love,
O sweet-voiced darling, please order me, and I will
decorate them with the red alaktaka paint.
Krishna here glorifies Radha's feet in preparation for the next verse. Like the gopis want to hold Krishna's feet to their breast, Krishna also wants to hold Radha's feet. Prabodhananda also says this is a sexual position, krauñca-mudrā.


smara-garala-khaṇḍanaṁ mama śirasi maṇḍanaṁ
dehi pada-pallavam udāram |
jvalati mayi dāruṇo madana-kadanāruṇo
haratu tad-upāhita-vikāram ||8||
Your generous feet are the cure for the poison of desire,
they are the decoration to adorn my head, so please place them there.
The intolerably fierce flames of desire are roasting me,
but your feet will remove all its effects.
So that is the famous verse.


iti caṭula-cāṭu-paṭu-cāru mura-vairiṇo
rādhikām adhi vacana-jātam |
jayatu jayadeva-kavi-bhāratī-bhūṣitaṁ
māninī-jana-janita-śātam ||9||
Thus spoke the enemy of Mura to Radhika,
words that were sweet, entreating, clever and charming.
May these words, put in poetic language by Jayadeva
bring joy to all women who are afflicted with jealous rage.
Well, I rushed through that a bit. My point is that this poem is meant to appeal to the Sanskrit-knowing sophisticate of the courts and reflects the lifestyle of the courtier as depicted in various first millennium Sanskrit literary works. The synthesis of the religious and the secular views of love, especially the particular viewpoint of the nāgara, is something that Rupa Goswami is, I think, particularly concerned with and is worthy of exploration.

B.G. Narasingha Maharaj speaks of this in this post Secret of Prema - Rasika or Sahajiya?, where he repeats Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj's warning: "There is a wave of sahajiyaism coming to the Western world and you must preach against this misconception." We are, of course, doing our best to make sure this wave is a tsunami, but we want it to be done right. Here is another article on translating Gita Govinda that illustrates some of the inherent problems.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Gopis vs. The Wives of the Brahmins

Today someone, after reading the following article, Raganuga bhakti and sahaja sadhana (Part I),  presented the familiar argument on FB"Don't you have to be at the stage of anartha-nivṛtti to begin the raganuga path?"

I answered, "How many lifetimes of anartha-nivṛtti do you think it takes to get to where you just like hearing about Radha and Krishna? So, if you like it, you are ready. And you are really ready if someone like your guru says 'don't,' and you do it anyway. Or if someone tells you that you must wait, you say, 'can't'. Then you are ready, nothing else counts. And if you fail (i.e., lose interest), what was the loss?"

This was responded to with the customary protestations: how can one possibly ignore the orders of the spiritual master? There are of course numerous examples of individuals such as Bali who rejected their guru's orders when it went against a higher principle. So in the same spirit as in another recent article, On Fences Around the Devotional Creeper, I would like to draw attention to the glories of the gopis in achieving the highest glories of devotional achievement by abandoning the obstacles arising from their own gurus and even those coming from Krishna himself.

In particular, I think it is interesting to compare two sections of the BhP, namely the chapters dealing with the Yajñapatnīs and the first chapter of the Rāsa-līlā  The following is just some notes that were on my computer. The research here is preliminary rather than thorough. I don't know if I ever published this on line before. These date from around 2005.

From Vaishnav songs website.

There are numerous parallels between 10.23 and 10.29, far too numerous to be accidental. The author of BhP appears to be deliberately contrasting the two situations and clearly using the contrast to illustrate the superiority of the gopis to the Yajñapatnīs. After all, there are no verses by Uddhava in glorification of the latter. The gopis indeed sacrificed everything; the Yajñapatnīs were glorious, but like Lakshmi, did not get to join the Rasa-lila. Just as the wives are being contrasted with their husbands, they themselves are being contrasted with the gopis.

Unfortunately the commentaries do not work this point through in any great detail. Here are a few points of similarity and contrast. Most of the similarity is in the language itself, so may not be so clear to the non-Sanskritist.

(1) The formality of the request. Krishna sends cowherd boys as intermediary to request a gift of food. (That is the extent of his request.) This contrasts with the spontaneity and immediacy of the flute in 10.29.

(2) The Yajñapatnīs nevertheless do have a spirit of madhura-bhava. They are described as going on abhisāra and the same example of rivers going to [their husband] the ocean is not given as descriptive of the gopis, but the trope is one that is found frequently, for instance in Gopāla-campu, it is extensively elaborated on. (Verse 10.23.19, abhisasruḥ priyaṁ sarvāḥ samudram iva nimnagāḥ).

(3) They are stopped by their husbands, brothers, and sons. (10.23.20, parallel 10.29.8)

(4) Seeing Krishna 10.23.21-23. Krishna is not alone, but with friends. Nevertheless, some similarities in language. 10.32.8-9 = 10.23.23. “Brought Krishna into their hearts with their eyes and embraced him there, ridding their hearts of all the pain of separation.”

(5) 10.23.24. Krishna smiles and greets them who are tyakta-sarvāśāḥ. (10.29.17)

(6) 10.23.25 Language almost exactly = 10.29.18 svāgataṁ vo mahābhāgā. karavāma kiṁ. "Welcome fortunate women! What can I do for you?" He does not have the dangers of wild animals and other things about a forest in the middle of the night to joke about, but simply says, “You have come out of a desire to see me, so that is well and good.”

(7) 10.23.26-27 has many overtones of the gopis’ speech in 10.29. E.g. 10.23.26 (kurvanti kuśalāḥ svārtha-darśanāḥ… ātma-priye) = 10.29.33 (kurvanti hi tvayi ratiṁ kuśalā sva ātman nitya-priye). The use of ahaitukī and avyavahitā to describe their bhakti is reminiscent of earlier passages in the Bhagavatam 1.2.6, 1.7.10 and 3.29.12, which is a base definition of bhakti. If the Yajñapatnīs exemplify such devotion, why can he not accept them?

According to some commentaries (Srinath Chakravarti, Brihat-krama-sandarbha) Krishna here is already saying, "I cannot reciprocate with you. You will have to be satisfied with your mental embraces." He does not give a specific reason.

(8) Verse 27. The argument we have already encountered several times— "Because of my presence in them, your husbands, your possessions and even your very selves are dear to you. Therefore it is natural that you should hold me dear." This is the gopis' argument to Krishna in 10.29.32.

(9) Verse 28. Krishna sends them back – tad yāta = 10.29.22. Here the duty he describes for the wives is that they need to help their husbands perform their sacrifices.

(10) Verse 29. The first half of the verse is exactly the same as 10.29.31, the first line spoken by the gopis in response to Krishna. tava pāda-mūlam appears in both verses. Both verses include claims to have given up everything to come to Krishna. atilaṅghya samasta-bandhūn = santyajya sarva-viṣayān.

Here are the two verses side by side.

maivaṁ vibho’rhati gadituṁ nṛśaṁsam
santyajya sarva-viṣayaṁ tava pāda-mūlam |
prāptā vayaṁ tulasi-dāma padāvasṛṣṭaṁ
keśair nivoḍhum atilaṅghya samasta-bandhūn || 
O Lord, you cannot speak to us with such cruelty, for we have come to take shelter of you after abandoning everything we possess, ignoring all our family relations. Now that we are her, let us carry the garlands of tulasī leaves touched by your feet in our hair. [bhā.pu. 10.23.29]

maivaṁ vibho’rhati bhavān gadituṁ nṛśaṁsam
santyajya sarva-viṣayāṁs tava pāda-mūlam |
bhaktā bhajasva duravagraha mā tyajāsmān
devo yathādi-puruṣo bhajate mumukṣūn ||

O Lord, you cannot speak to us with such cruelty, for we have come to take shelter of you after abandoning everything we possess. You are so hard to capture, O Lord, but we are devoted to you, so take care of us [as you promise], just like Narayan takes care of the seekers of liberation. [bhā.pu. 10.29.31]

(11) Verse 30. Here the Yajñapatnīs change their tone a little. They say, “Our husbands and families will not take us back. We have fallen down at your feet and have nowhere else to go. So please give us refuge.” By contrast, the gopis were not worried about whether they would be taken back. Here are the verses for comparison.

gṛhṇanti no na patayaḥ pitarau sutā vā
na bhrātṛ-bandhu-suhṛdaḥ kuta eva cānye |
tasmād bhavat-prapadayoḥ patitātmanāṁ no
nānyā bhaved gatir arindama tad vidhehi || 
Our husbands will not take us back, nor our parents, nor our sons. Nor will our brothers, friends or relatives, what to speak of others. Therefore since we fallen in surrender at your feet, please, O destroyer of enemies, make it so that we never have to leave you.[bhā.pu. 10.23.30]
yat paty-apatya-suhṛdām anuvṛttir aṅga
strīṇāṁ svadharma iti dharma-vidā tvayoktam |
astv evam etad upadeśa-pade tvayīśe
preṣṭho bhavāṁs tanu-bhṛtāṁ kila bandhuḥ ||
You, being the knower of dharma, have told us about our womanly duties in serving our husbands, children and family members. All this is true, but in fact applies to you, the ultimate object of all such instructions, the Supreme Lord, the most dear of all, the closest relative of all embodied beings is you. [bhā.pu. 10.29.32]
(12) Verse 31. Krishna assures the Yajñapatnīs that their husbands will not be angry. The same word is used (abhyasūyā) as in 10.33.39 at the end of the Rāsa-līlā, where it is said that the gopis' husbands were bewildered by Krishna’s Maya and so did not envy Krishna.

(13) Verse 32. Krishna returns to a parallel with his initial speech to the gopis = 10.29.27, though perhaps this statement is even more explicit.

(14) Verse 33. They return where, once again, it is stated that their husbands and families did not find fault with them.

(15) Verse 34. One wife who had been held back left her body. = 10.29.11. Most of the commentaries, interestingly, are unclear on where she went. Vaiṣṇava-toṣaṇī (Sanatan Goswami) = Goloka ("like Putana"!), Krama-sandarbha (Jiva Goswami) = aprakaṭa-līlā; Brihat-krama-sandarbha (Jiva Goswami) = a gopi body (!) (gopāṅganānāṁ madhye bhūtvāṅga-saṅginī babhūva.)

Gopala Champu has: "If I were to accept you for my service, you who are the wives of brahmins, that would not be approved of by anyone. We must therefore await the propitious moment." [GC 1.22.34]

So there definitely appears to be an overtone of caste restriction that even Krishna is not willing to transgress, as with the Pulindas, at least in the minds of the commentators. But it appears to me that the real difference is the willingness of the brahmin women to be turned back, whereas the gopis refused to be turned away.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Anthony Weiner saga: Love and Sex in the Political Arena

I heard today that Anthony Weiner, whose descent into unfathomable public stupidity two years ago left him hugely disgraced, now apparently wants to make a return and is testing the waters for a New York mayoralty run. This is relatively (totally, actually) irrelevant to me here in Vrindavan, except for the fact that Jill Filipovic wrote an acerbic article in the Guardian in which she makes some excellent points about the hypocrisy of American public life where sexuality is concerned. She inquires into the acquiescence of such men's wives with some well-placed stupefaction.

I was musing on these matters back then when it all first came out, but I never completed the blog, which was sitting in the drafts. I guess it sneezed. Now I have posted the rather unsatisfying article on Samarthā rati that was going on at approximately the same time as these speculative musings on Anthony Weiner, I will take it as a sign that I should finish this one. But it really should be considered preliminary notes to a continued and much deeper exploration of the subject.

It is necessary to state the relevance of this subject for my overall thesis and purpose. Yugala bhajan, I realize, is not going to be a panacaea for the world's ills, and it is unlikely to end these kinds of events, but surely intelligent people should start thinking about a better way of making use of our sexuality. It annoys me no end that the celibators in the "anti-party" accuse me of promoting sexual promiscuity when clearly that is just a symptom of the disease of material life for which we seek a solution.

Now that I think of it, this really has been one of my big questions ever since the doctorate on Gopāla-campū.  What are parakīya and svakīya? And why is it important and what does it mean for us? 

I have been busy trying to complete the series I started a long time ago on the three kinds of rati. The final article in the series, on samarthā rati is still in the works, being based primarily on a summary of the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi commentaries on the relevant section of the 14th chapter, accompanied by my own insights. As I said in the beginning, the purpose is to try to understand these matters by reference to the world of experience and to see where that takes us.

Sometimes, however, one comes across some article or event that helps to crystallize one's thinking. That happened recently with the latest political sex scandal in the United States, involving Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn South), who was sending photos of his private parts to several girls who were following him on Twitter.

I felt extremely disappointed in Weiner because as a politician, I had found him to be one of the more sympathetic defenders of progressive ideas--outspoken, fearless, funny, clever. Nevertheless, whether one is liberal or conservative, it is hard to escape the consensus that Weiner behaved like an idiot. Even from the practical point of view, for anyone to send photos of his penis to strangers on the internet is asking to be caught, almost as if one were saying, "I don't really want to be a public figure any more." But other than that I was more or less indifferent. Being in India without personal access to the internet, I have not been following such events very closely.

Then I came across an article on Daily Kos by an openly gay man using the alias wecandoit7. He made the familiar argument that sexuality is distinct from personality; sexuality is messy and often troublesome as people go through life dealing with their urges in various ways. But Weiner is a good man, a supporter of progressive causes, who should not be condemned for his foolishness in sexual behavior.

"Anthony Weiner's penis is attached to an amazing human being who does very important and positive things in the world," he writes.

But the rather more audacious (for most people) aspect of wecandoit7's article was his open defense of promiscuity as a human trait, which he said was a contribution to the maturing of the human race made by the homosexual community. As such arguments do not often enter public discourse, I found it thought provoking. {More recently, of course, I wrote about this issue on this blog in a review of Sex at Dawn.]

From my point of view, this argument could only have come from a man, homosexual or heterosexual. By suggesting that the gay ethos should be expanded to the heterosexual world, he is really saying that women should be promiscuous like men. No doubt there are women who welcome the suggestion, but most of the women I know are not like men. (Cf., Venus, Penis and Cars)

On the other hand, as wecandoit7 wrote, "Weiner is supposed to be busy in public service, he has a really beautiful wife, and yet he still can't control himself and is sending pictures of his penis left and right. What is his problem?" He ruined his own credibility as a defender of any agenda whatsoever. You can forgive him for his peccadilloes, but one can hardly forgive him for damaging the progressive cause.

Love is only possible by seeing the transcendent in the other, which is only possible if you are a sakhi of Radha and Krishna. Human beings need context for meaning. Myth is a subtle context that is needed almost like language is needed to communicate. It may even be said that it is a subtler dimension of language. In Radha and Krishna we have found a context for sexuality that sacralizes it and turns it into love.

We believe that Radha and Krishna are the ultimate context for everything, by which we mean that love is the ultimate context for everything, whether it is a just society or saving the forests and rivers around the world. One that unless brought to the foreground will leave people absolutely clueless. But love without a role for sexuality and its proper channeling will always be a problem.

The reason so many people are scandalized by Weiner's behavior is because in the West there is an instinctive or socially transmitted meme of romantic "true love." Even though for most people the idea of marital fidelity is often a quite different reality, the two have become mixed up in a single "correct" ideal. So whenever a politician becomes involved in a sex scandal, it is taken as a sign that there is something wrong with him. And this is probably correct, though more likely to be an instinctive reaction rather than one that is deeply thought out.

In the case of Weiner, he externally attempts to present a vision of an ideal or just human society, but this lack of sexual self-control undermines his credibility. I would go further and say that his progressivism is external. Progressive liberal Christians who I admire, like Chris Hedges, believe that personal religious practices are a self-indulgence when there is so much work to do in creating a just world. We tend to side with those who say that first you have to know what you are doing in the microcosm of your own spiritual life, which we further say is pinpointed by your behavior in the most intimate field of love and sexuality. Political life can be karma-yoga, but karma-yoga is a process of self-purification. We cannot expect human perfection, to wander from perfection is the human condition.

The instinctive response to such behaviors is not just titillation.

Many people also try to undermine Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. by pointing to their ideas on sexuality and their sexual behavior. They talked love and non-violence, but their sexuality was problematic. People seem to intuit that the two are contradictory. I have said something similar on this blog on several occasions with regard to those who are spiritual leaders.

As humanity struggles forward in its attempts at evolution, it is important to deal honestly with sexuality and to determine how it can be used to move forward.

Samartha rati II

I have been busy trying to complete the series I started a long time ago on the three kinds of rati. The final article in the series, a full investigation on samarthā rati is still in the works, being based primarily on a summary of the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi commentaries on the relevant section of the 14th chapter, accompanied by my own insights. As I said in the beginning, the purpose is to try to understand these matters by reference to the world of experience and to see where that takes us.

In the last article on samarthā rati, there was in fact very little but the straight information from the śāstras. So we look at these things and they do not register very much at first. In a sampradāya, you listen to your gurus. And you reflect on what they say. That is called manana. And then, when you have come to a solid faith in the conclusions of the śāstra, you engage in nididhyāsana, which is usually meant a constant meditation on that conclusion.

[Please read the linked articles on samañjasā and sādhāraṇī if you have not already. This specific article was the result of a meditation on current Western attitudes of free "lust." Please see here.]

To do a full study of samarthā rati, in fact, entails studying the entire corpus of Gaudiya Vaishnava rasa literature, because in fact that is what it is about, i.e, that is the rasa that the acharyas of our school held above all the others. The whole difference between the Gaudiyas and the rest of the Vaishnava rasika sampradayas is the question of svakīya and parakīya.

The implications of this are to be looked for in the real world, for that is really the only way to understand the controversy. It was indeed in contemplating a real-world event that these musings found their way into words.

There is a disagreement in the commentaries between Jiva and Vishwanath on the first verses of the discussion of samarthā, etc. Each of the words is said to be self-explanatory. That is, sādhāraṇī means common, samañjasā means "compromising" (that is the translation I have been using but which, as shown below, is inadequate) and samarthā ("competent').

My translation of samañjasā flies for Vishwanath Chakravarti's interpretation, but not for Jiva. That is because Jiva says that although the gopis are samarthā, but that does not mean they are not samañjasā, which for him means something like "proper." The former includes the latter, much in the way that madhura contains the other kinds of love.

In other words, Jiva is defending the "higher svakīyā" here. He wants to say that the gopis, Radha, are Krishna's eternal consorts and so there is no impropriety or incorrectness in their love. (Maybe "correct" would be a better translation for samañjasā.)

Vishwanath, on the other hand, takes each of these three ratis to be mutually exclusive. In other words. common love is neither correct/compromising, nor is it competent. Similarly, correct love is neither common nor competent, and competent love is neither common, nor is it correct/compromising.

So, as I was saying before, the big problem we have is distinguishing sādhāraṇī from samarthā. This is because most people (including it would seem Jiva) want to put "correct" love (married dharmic love) at the top of the pyramid. Since sādhāraṇī and samarthā are both "incorrect" as it were, they are indistinguishable for many.

Therefore it is said, premaiva gopa-rāmāṇāṁ kāma ity agamat prathām -- "The gopis' pure love became known as lust." The word kāma is used numerous times to describe the gopis' love in the Bhāgavata (See 7.1.30, 10.29.15, 10.47.59, and 11.12.13).

In my view, we should understand kāma and prema to be fundamentally the same thing as two extremes along the same continuum. This applies in the lila also, but in this case, it might be said that Kubja, at one extreme, is there as a "place filler" to round out the picture of this range of lust to love.
Sādhāraṇī, as in Kubja, appears closer to actual kāma, whereas samarthā is at the prema end of the spectrum. But to the unitiated they appear the same – adharmic or irreligious, whereas samañjasā alone is nice and tidy and all happy.

But from both the "incorrect" points of view, samañjasā is really the big problem because it tries to bind love into a structured, institutionalized format. Regimented, rules and regulations. We love each other because we have to. That is why it falls into the category of vidhi bhakti and why Rupa Goswami makes the rather strong statement:

riraṁsāṁ suṣṭhu kurvan yo vidhi-mārgeṇa sevate |
kevalenaiva sa tadā mahiṣītvam iyāt pure ||
Those who have a desire to enjoy with Krishna [amorously] but serve him according to the vidhi-mārga alone will attain his queenhood in Dwaraka. (BRS 1.2.303)
So those who promote promiscuity and those who promote the kind of "true romance" ideal that is behind samarthā rati are united in their opposition to the constraints on love that are found in samañjasā. (Constraining might be another translation for samañjasā.) In our view, the extreme limit of sexual desire, though kāma, still has vestiges of love, but in the tamas mode. Prema, though appearing in this world in sattva, is always mixed, as that is the nature of the world. True prema comes when this same love is directed in complete purity to the Supreme Truth. To understand how this works is the purpose of this blog.

From the point of view of samarthā, the very essence of which is giving up everything (yā dustyajaṁ svajanam ārya-pathaṁ ca hitvā), that very structure of samañjasā itself is a sign of subtle kāma. The subtle kāma of having the security of being loved by obligation. "Love me because you have to love me." "You have to make the marriage work." Sounds a little tedious already, doesn't it?

A woman needs friendship in a relationship; a man primarily wants availability. A woman wants emotional and mental intimacy. A man wants physical and, if possible, intellectual intimacy. Samañjasā tries to resolve the problem by hemming the relation in through assigning defined roles, rules for behavior that are stereotyped.

Coordinating the needs of the two sexes on the basis of love alone is the big challenge of samarthā. Love only becomes samarthā, "competent, potent," when that level is reached. Samarthā's power is in the fusion of two beings, as individuals, not as generic natural beings, as insamañjasā.

The illustration may be given from A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami's response to a student who wished to get married, "So you want to get married. There are so many girls, pick one." Implying that the individual personality is secondary and that sex desire can be satisfied by purely the physical availability of a woman, sustained through the respective dharmas or roles of a man and a woman.

You see "needing" is the problem." Need or "thirst" (tanhā, trishnā) is the one constant throughout all. But what is needed? The difference lies here.

One on the level of sādhāraṇī thinks it is sex. According to UN, when the sex desire goes down, the love goes down. This appears to me to be a direct recognizable in the physical and psychological effects of orgasm.

Samañjasā thinks "I need a husband [or wife]." In this, both man and woman are primarily generic, meant to fulfill a role.

Samarthā, on the other hand,is attracted to the individual: "I need to be one with this specific person, whether there is social sanction or not." Actually, it is the need to be fused absolutely with that one specific person. Only samarthā says, "To hell with everything, I want this person no matter what."

might say that in the beginning, when lust is strong, but after consummation, or after the other aspects of the individual personality of the partner are revealed, etc., it fades. That is the difference. Rupa Goswami does allow that it attains as far as the sthāyi-bhāva of prema, but it cannot reach the higher levels of sthāyi-bhāva.

But there is still a problem with the material plane, i.e., applying this to material world lovers. To understand prema, one has to understand the workings of kāma.

To be successful, lovers must be sādhakas. They have to contextualize everything within Radha-Krishna. otherwise nothing makes sense, and one ends up loving no one and nothing. If they cannot frame their love within the world of Radha-Krishna, they are bound to end up with sādhāraṇī or samañjasā.

Because without them the world doesn't make any sense. Radha and Krishna may be archetypal [in the sense of serving as a general model of human sexual love], but they are also transcendental and sacred.

They are only realized when the pure individuality of soul is realized in the sādhana partner.

* * * * *

So sādhāraṇī means common, or general. It is the lowest level of prema, since it is kāma that is common to everyone. But since kāma is said to be the means (as in the verses above cited from the Bhagavatam), Sairindhrī must also be eligible for prema. After all, she spent the night with the Purushottama, so that was the fulfillment of kāma!

So although she is on the bottom rung, her love can still count as prema, because it has the power of not-breaking in the face of difficulty.

sarvathā dhvaṁsa-rahitaḥ saty api dhvaṁsa-kāraṇe |
yad bhāva-bandhanaṁ yūnoḥ sa premā parikīrtitaḥ ||
Even though there are many reasons for it to come to an end, when the relationship between lovers does not break, then that is called prema. (UN 14.57)
Though Sairindhrī is the lila example here, there is something to be gleaned from all this by the sādhaka in yugala-rasa. If love does actually meet this qualification of unbreakable commitment, it means that it can develop upward. So this means that sādhāraṇī can become samañjasā and be purified through acceptance of a committed relationship. It is necessary to know that kāma can indeed become prema.

And by the same token, in Jiva’s view, samarthā can become samañjasā precisely because nothing can deflate pure love, but also because love seeks permanence, despite the excitement and thrills that come from the first and most challenging stages of this kind of love.

Jiva's Goswami writes in Gopāla-campū:

śṛṅgārasya bhayānakena milane hānir hriyā mādhurī 
tasya syād uditeti sarva-kavibhir bāḍham kṛte nirṇaye 
prācā satyam adharmajā mithunatā dhatte vṛtā vyagratāṁ 
dharmyā cāparayā parantu katarā rasyeti nirṇīyatām
The romantic sentiment is weakened when mixed with fear,
while its sweetness is aroused when combined with bashfulness.
When it has been thus ascertained by all the critics of poetry,
then it should also be determined that
the hidden loving union born of irreligion,
being covered by the first of these,
must truly bring distress, while that religious union
which is combined with shyness
is highly relishable. (2.36.13)
The śṛṅgāra and bhayānaka, etc., rasas, are ultimately not friends, but opposed to one another. Therefore whatever obstacles are considered to be beneficial to rasa in the parakīya situation are ultimately a cause of impediment to the rasa. In other words, the obstacles are a cause of a heightened sense of pleasure in the beginning, but eventually they become a genuine disturbance to relish.

Thus though Jiva admits that some purpose might be achieved by a temporary causing of fear or horror, he states that no useful purpose could be served if fear remained permanently. He ends his discussion of the subject in his commentary to UN 1.21 with a verse from GC that states the same conclusions.

nāmūṣāṁ sahajānurāga-vibhutā bhī-nirmitā kintu bhīr 
laṅghyā syān na tu veti kautuka-maya-jñānārtham antaḥkṛtā 
taj-jñātaṁ yadi dharma-setu-dalanāt tasyāḥ punar vistṛtiḥ 
śuddho py agni-parikṣayāgniṣu yathā sthāpyeta tadvan matā
The power of the gopis natural love
is not a result of their fear,
but rather was accepted by them (antaḥ-kṛtā)
to see whether or not they could overcome their fear.
If by overcoming the social and religious barriers
the power of their love is increased, it is confirmed;
it is like gold which, already known to be pure,
having undergone the test of fire,
is put in the fires once more
[to increase again its purity]. (GCU 2.36.15)
At any rate, the point is that for most sādhakas, the parakīya state, whether coming from sādhāraṇī or from samarthā, is usually best conducted from the samañjasā position.  

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Samarthā rati

A couple of years ago, I started summarizing the three ratis from Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi  I never completed the series, but the first two articles can still be found here: Samañjasā and Sādhāraṇī. I will now try to complete this project by working on samarthā rati. This may require more than one article, and I intend to tie it in with some other ideas.

I will start off this discussion by simply quoting verbatim my translation of Mañjarī-svarūpa-nirūpaṇa, completed in 1983.


The dominant mood of erotic sacred rapture is also given the name of samarthā rati (“competent affection”). Kṛṣṇa is the greatest lover in the supernatural affaires-de-coeur of the sacred land of Vrindavan and there, the supreme among his lady-loves are the cowherd girls. Here Viśvanātha Cakravartin makes some relevant comments about samarthā rati in his commentary on Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi:

This samarthā rati is extremely potent and exists eternally in the gopīs; it does not depend therefore on any other causes such as hearing Kṛṣṇa’s qualities, etc. It is present in them even prior to their attainment of adolescence, first in a general or indistinct (sāmānya) way. Even so, they loved Kṛṣṇa with all their hearts, and all the activities of their senses were for his satisfaction only. Afterwards, in the manifest līlā, when they came of age and sexual desire emerged, they developed a specific affection for him. In their minds arose the desire for physical association with Kṛṣṇa, which was similarly for his satisfaction exclusively. Therefore, no difference whatsoever exists between their personally craving erotic contact with him and their love for him; the two had merged into a single identity. Such a fusion of these two spirits is possible in the Vrindavan gopīs and cannot exist elsewhere. This is the sign of their competence and makes their love for Kṛṣṇa worthy of the name samarthā rati. From the time of their reaching maidenhood, they desired to serve the Lord through this gift of their own bodies—that was their vow; this love of theirs is thus known as madhurā rati.
Again, in the same book, commenting further on UN 14.51, Viśvanātha expands on the meaning of the term samarthā rati:
Because the gopīs’ desire for erotic love has fused with their selfless affection for Kṛṣṇa and has not the slightest hint of egocentricity to it, it is called competent affection. Competent in what respects? First of all, it is competent to tame their lover, the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and bring him to complete submission. Secondly, it gives them the competence to fully relish his form, qualities, talents and sweetness in a way that no one else can. Third, it is competent to bewilder and astonish Śrī Kṛṣṇa, even as he himself bestows appreciation of himself on them. Fourth, it is so potent that it causes Kṛṣṇa’s already extraordinary qualities, forms and talents, etc., to take on newer and newer freshness and thus causes the increase of even their unlimited excellence. Therefore the name of “competent affection” or samarthā rati is exceedingly fitting.
In the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, 10.47.61, Uddhava states that because they had reached the highest degree of attachment for Kṛṣṇa, the Vraja milk-maids were competent (or capable) to give up their relatives as well as the path of conventional morality despite the difficulties involved in such abnegation.

Adopting this path of extreme attraction, they found an unexcelled process for attaining Mukunda, the giver of liberation. This unexcelled process has been searched for by the śrutis, the more ancient portion of the scriptures, but they have not yet been able to discover it. In other words, such an intensity of passion is outside the regular standards of behavior found in the Vedas. Nevertheless, that which is the object of the search of the scriptures is certainly going to be the supremely ecstatic, eternal spiritual truth and not anything else.

The basic definition of samarthā rati as given by Rūpa Gosvāmin is as follows:
According to the school of æsthetics, the affection known as samarthā rati is characterized by a superiority to all other affections such as sādhāraṇī and samañjasā because of its spontaneous and self-manifesting character. It is competent to control Kṛṣṇa because of its intensity; it brings sensuality into tow and unites it with selfless love. It bursts into existence on the slightest contact, either with other mistresses of the Lord or the sound of his name, etc. Even the slightest fragrance of this samarthā rati causes one to leave aside the considerations of family, religion, composure or modesty, and to become oblivious to any obstacles to such renunciation. It is the most intense kind of love, to the extent that no other affection can coexist with it.
This love of the gopīs, as has been previously mentioned, is known by the name of kāma “desire,” or according to Rūpa Gosvāmin, by the longer term, kāma-rūpā rāgātmikā bhakti, “passionate devotion which takes the form of [sexual] desire.” This variety of devotion exists in the gopīs alone.

Jīva Gosvāmin adds in his commentary that the word kāma usually refers to the desire for one’s personal sense gratification. Although it usually implies gross bodily activity, sensual desire has a subtle or psychological aspect also. The mentality of the gopīs is, “May Kṛṣṇa get pleasure from me,” and due to the intensity of that inner feeling, their external activities of kissing and embracing, etc., are also translated into genuine selfless acts of affection or love. This is the competence that earns it the title of samarthā rati by which it has also become known.

The following is an example from Viśvanātha’s “The Nectar of thinking about Kṛṣṇa” (Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta, 9.65). It is described that when when the Divine Couple first meet for their noontime dalliances, they embrace and begin to exchange kisses and caresses. These embraces and caresses begin to increase the beauty of their love just as the rays of the moon increase its loveliness without being something distinct from it. In other words, just as the moon and its cooling light are not different from one another, neither are Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s love for one another and their expression of it in erotic activity. The moon and its rays may be distinguished for the sake of analysis, but actually one is simply the expression or by-product of the other; so too is it with the Divine Couple’s love and its expression in embracing, kissing, etc.

The same applies equally to all the other girls of Vrindavan. By way of contrast, in mundane sexual affairs no such distinction between external expression and internal feeling can be made, for true selflessness in the carnal act is nowhere to be found.

In Rūpa Gosvāmin’s hymn containing Rādhā’s 108 names, he calls her Gokulendra-suta-prema-kāma-bhūpendra-pattanam: “the capital city of the king of lust-like love for the son of the king of Gokula.” When Rādhā feels lusty desire for Kṛṣṇa, that should be known as pure love or prema and nothing else.

Kṛṣṇa’s servants, friends and parents also feel passionate devotion for him (rāgātmikā bhakti). They also have an intense craving to unite their senses with his form, taste, touch, sound and smell. This they do in accordance with their own status and propensity. The distinct features of the gopīs’ erotic desire is that, due to it, they crave for the touching of hearts as well as the union of every limb of their body with his. “My heart cries out for the touch of his heart,” sings the gopī. It can thus be concluded that spontaneous craving or passionate devotion for Kṛṣṇa reaches its zenith in the mood of the gopīs. Thus we conclude that there is no difference between the kāma-rūpā bhakti of the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu and the samarthā-rati of Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi.

In the Prīti-sandarbha also (367), Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmin has described samarthā rati as being natural to the gopīs. “Though its external form is that of carnal desire, it is pure love or prema. The love that Rādhā feels for Kṛṣṇa is spontaneous to the extent that she does not have to hear his name, what to speak of seeing him, in order to sense him within and without at all times.”

Rādha’s love is self-manifesting (svataḥ siddhaḥ); it does not arise from any other source. Thus Rādhā and the gopīs have an unconstrained, unlimited craving to experience Kṛṣṇa’s bodily beauty and fragrance, the sound of his voice and flute, the taste of his lips and the feeling of his embrace—all for his enjoyment alone! Thus the meaning of samarthā rati and sambhogecchā-mayī kāma-rūpā bhakti is the intense desire for union of their every limb with his for his satisfaction.


The descriptions of samarthā rati are lengthier than for the other two, and somewhat more difficult to understand. For this reason, the commentaries are also lengthier. Here is the relevant section from the UN.

kaṁcid viśeṣam āyantyā sambhogecchā yayābhitaḥ |
ratyā tādātmyam āpannā sā samartheti bhaṇyate ||52||
sva-svarūpāt tadīyād vā jātā yat-kiṁcid-anvayāt |
samarthā sarva-vismāri-gandhā sāndratamā matā ||53||
Now for the explanation of samarthā rati: When love reaches a particular special quality in which it attains an identity with the desire for sexual union, then it is called samarthā, or "competent." Produced either from the nāyikā’s innate nature or from that of the nāyaka, with only a slight temporal disparity, even a whiff of this samarthā rati has the ability to make one forget everything. It is therefore considered to be the most intense [of the three kinds of rati].
Here Jiva Goswami makes the familiar distinction which we all know very well. He says there are two kinds of desire for sexual union, one that is self-directed, the other which is directed to the pleasure of the love object.

The first example is now given, Rupa Goswami's own verse:

prekṣyāśeṣe jagati madhurāṁ svāṁ vadhūṁ śaṅkayā te
tasyāḥ pārśve gurubhir abhitas tvat-prasaṅgo nyavāri |
śrutvā dūre tad api bhavataḥ sā tulā-koṭi-nādaṁ
hā kṛṣṇety aśruta-caram api vyāharanty unmadāsīt ||54||
[O Krishna!] When they saw the new bride possessed of a sweet beauty incomparable anywhere in the entire universe, her in-laws become worried that she would become attracted to you and so forbade anyone to talk of you in her presence. But even so, when she heard the sound of your ankle bells from a distance, she began to call out your name -- though she had never even heard it before! -- becoming completely intoxicated.
sarvādbhuta-vilāsormi-camatkāra-kara-śriyaḥ |
sambhogecchā-viśeṣo’syā rater jātu na bhidyate |
ity asyāṁ kṛṣṇa-saukhyārtham eva kevalam udyamaḥ ||55||
pūrvasyāṁ sva-sukhāyāpi kadācit tatra sambhavet ||56||
iyam eva ratiḥ prauḍhā mahābhāva-daśāṁ vrajet |
yā mṛgyā syād vimuktānāṁ bhaktānāṁ ca varīyasām ||57||
A particular quality of sex desire is never separated from this kind of love, which possesses an astonishing beauty, filled with waves of all-astonishing playful manifestations. As such all efforts [conducted in this rati] are performed exclusively for Krishna's pleasure, whereas in the prior rati it is possible that occasionally some are done for their own pleasure. When this rati becomes fully mature it reaches as far as the state of mahābhāva, which is sought after by the liberated souls as well as the greatest of devotees.
etāḥ paraṁ tanu-bhṛto bhuvi gopa-vadhvo
govinda eva nikhilātmani rūḍha-bhāvāḥ |
vāñchanti yad bhava-bhiyo munayo vayaṁ ca
kiṁ brahma-janmabhir ananta-kathārasasya ||58||
These cowherd women have justified their human bodies on this earth, for they have achieved the most elevated feelings of love for Govinda, the soul of the unlimited creation. This is something that is wished for by the saints who fear material existence and by ourselves, as well. Oh! What is the need for a life even as long as that of Brahmā for one who is immersed in the infinite joys of hearing about the Lord? [SB 10.47.58]

There is clearly far too much to be said about this rati, except that in order to make sense of it, we need to understand it as a human phenomenon and consider that all the interdictions and warnings are pointless, except as confirmation by negative means that these indeed are manuṣī līlā, bhajate tādṛśīṁ krīḍām and all that. So let us leave this raw material here for today and we will return for a meditation on it at some later time.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

A few comments on evolution, science and so on

I think this will be the last article I post from 1997. After reading one of the others, a friend on Facebook told me that this scientific mode of thinking has reached its limits and that mystical techniques including psychotropic substances open one's "doors of perception" in ways that scientists have yet little hope of understanding, precisely because they are subjective experiences.

I will have to return to this question later, but it does indeed form the crux of much of the thinking that I am just now in the process of crystallizing. It centers on the left-brain/right-brain type duality that it is imperative, our psychological and spiritual duty, that we learn to synthesize. Functional equilibrium is far from meaning genuine synthesis. 

Different personality types will always lean to one or the other styles of thinking and experiencing reality. But my friend Mathura Das [for it is he!] is fundamentally right on the principle of bhakti. Bhakti is ultimately not communicated intellectually as much as it is aesthetically, sensually, and emotionally. It is mediated through the brain by direct sensual means. This is the point of hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa-sevanam, hearing and chanting, etc.

On the whole, this was the argument I was making back in 1997, but I was still very much unbalanced towards the intellectual side, much to the detriment, I believe, of my bhakti. Nevertheless, I believe that I have assimilated both sides fairly well now -- just watch me get thrown into a total whirlpool of confusion and distress as punishment for such a brazen statement -- we are totally ready to get to the point of rasa.

One last thing I must say is that I do tend to "follow my nature." And even when I don't want to, I keep getting sucked back in. One day I will truly become a rasika, I swear it. Jai Sri Radhe!

Little known to those who think that science and religion are diametrically opposed, the Protestant reformation and the Puritan ethic played an important role in the development of the scientific outlook. Scientific research was seen to promote discipline, work and serious rather than idle thoughts. Puritans sanctioned science because they believed understanding how nature works gives humanity a better insight into the works of God.

I think that this idea is still applicable. yasmin vijñāte sarvam eva vijñātaṁ bhavati. What does this mean? Surely vijñāna cannot mean here detailed and scientific knowledge? And what does it mean to have "realized knowledge" of the Supreme? If one cannot know him completely, how can one expect to know the infinite manifestations of his energies? It seems that we are really talking about something else...

Acknowledging that sense perception is defective is the beginning point of scientific thinking. It asks the question, how can I overcome defective perception? Rather than just accepting a statement because some so-called authority claimed it (and who is likewise in conflict with x number of other authorities, Biblical, Quranic, Buddhist, Taoist, Amerindian, etc.) who all have different revelations, let me establish, to the best of my ability, the truth. In order to do this, I must be careful to protect myself from the bhrama, pramāda, vipralipsā and karaṇāpaṭava that dog my usual thinking. This will not be accomplished by simply accepting any authority.

Thus was born the scientific method, which calls for rigorous verification of every claim. A statement such as that there are 8,400,000 species is so empty of content that it is laughable to think that any scientist would "save time or trouble" by accepting it. This kind of statement also falls into the chutzpah category, by the way.

Who will accept such bold statements found in scripture? Rasaraja answers his own question, as does nearly every devotee, fundamentalist Christian, Muslim, etc. who faces similar questions: It is for the person to whom it is more important to know that "he is being cared for." Now why someone who believes that there are 7,136,287 species (whatever a species is) cannot believe yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham, I cannot say.

Certainly such acceptance simplifies our lives. I don't have to go out and count species ourselves (especially not on the basis of fluid definitions insuring the result will come out as EXACTLY 8,400,000, with EXACTLY 400,000 human species, etc.), I can just accept and go on with my life. If man has been to the moon or not has very little effect on whether I myself have food on my table tonight or whether my wife and I will still love each other after twenty years of marriage, so in a way, these arguments are purely academic. It is an amusement, a passe-temps like the X-Files for those to whom they are the new gospel.

Some people show a hesitant step towards a reconciliation of the faith-based and science-based point of view. This is a phenomenon that can also be seen in Islam as well as in Hinduism, which apologists will make, taking the form: "The [pseudo-scientific] statements of scripture are compatible with modern science."

Rasaraja cites Prabhupada and, of the moon landing issue, says that one of the following statements must of necessity be true: 1. claimants have not gone to the moon OR 2. claimants didn't see any living entities there because of their imperfect senses. The other possibility, that Prabhupada could have been wrong, that one of the four faults nyāya attributes to human thought might have affected him, was not raised. By prioritizing shastric truth, even when it is irrelevant to the claims of religion, we unfortunately become prone to accepting any nonsense as truth.

What ticks me off in all this is the fundamental hypocrisy that underlies it. Scientific procedure has resulted in real improvements in our lives. This very act of communication via the internet would be an impossibility without the combination of thousands of discoveries accumulated through hundreds of years of application of the scientific method and then the practical application of these discoveries. When I think of all those devotees who passed through India and literally went crazy because of the lack of amenities there, it stuns me to still hear their pompous denigration of Western culture and civilization.

Prabhupad thought of Westerners as the blind man and India as the cripple. There can be little doubt that he admired Westerners for their technical prowess, but this technical prowess did not fall from the sky, it was not created ready made at the beginning of the universe. It came about through the discovery of the principles of creation by the application of the scientific method.

Now I can use this computer with only the vaguest notion of how it functions. But I will at least honor the process that led to its being a possibility. Whether those people who made these discoveries were atheists or not has absolutely no bearing on the matter. I think it is a matter of respect for the truth. I repeat, respect for the truth. Yes, I am shouting. [But not as loudly as I was in 1997.]

It is likely that the way something is used (whether for good or evil) is more important than these other considerations. A person entirely ignorant of scientific method can be a good and holy man or woman, I will not deny it. But to willingly close one's eyes to the discoveries of the scientific method on the basis on one person's say so even while using its fruits is nothing less than hypocrisy.


I don't know what the Bhaktivedanta Institute is up to these days, but the last publication I saw was trying to "disprove" evolution on the basis of so-called evidence that had been "hidden." Once again we have another conspiracy theory to add to the conspiracy to make us believe that men had actually been to the moon and the conspiracy to make us believe that the earth is round and that it goes around the sun. What to speak of the conspiracy of historiography, which will tell us that the Bhagavatam was NOT written 5,000 years ago by Vyasadeva...

A scientist starts with an open mind and tries to find a theory that fits the evidence, and then as far as possible tries to find ways to verify his theory through experimentation. The point being that we subject the theory to a test that either confirms or disproves its validity. Here we start with a dogma and ask how can I find things that will defend it.

It is a bit like Satsvarupa's book on Indology. I am not denying that Satsvarupa made a few good points, as may well the Bhaktivedanta Institute scientists, but his overall argument is seriously flawed. The same kind of thing goes on in Indology also. Sudhir Kak was famous for his ability to make etymological arguments to prove that Hinduism and Sanskrit were once universal and that all civilization derives from them. Thus the Shankaracharya, on the basis of a fanciful etymology of the word California, "proves" that certain events of the Mahabharata took place there. I can see some of you nodding, "Yes, that sounds right."

Prabhupad once said that all theists should ally to combat atheism, but this kind of alliance with the anti-evolutionists and all the rest of the fundamentalist Christian anti-scientist fringe like the Jehovah's witnesses just alienates anyone with a developed brain.

Krishna is satyam, he is nihitaṁ ca satye, 'hidden in the truth':

satya-vrataṁ satya-paraṁ tri-satyaṁ
satyasya yoniṁ nihitaṁ ca satye |
satyasya satyam ṛta-satya-netraṁ
satyātmakaṁ tvāṁ śaraṇaṁ prapadye ||

[See here for commentary.]

But if you start by accepting on faith that something which is not proved is true, and then you close your eyes to all evidence to the contrary, you are unfortunately not truly devoting yourself to the truth. You may have heard what happened to Galileo because he said that the earth went around the sun and other such things. Just recently it appears that the Catholic Church has discovered that it doesn't really matter whether the earth is round or flat, God remains God. So, they have reinstated Galileo. It took them 500 years to come to their senses.
Devotees do not have any desire to control or worship or manipulate material energy, for sense gratification or any reason. Their goal is to worship Krishna and seek dependence on him.
On the contrary, a devotee is attached to neither action (which by definition means manipulating the material energy) nor inaction (which means avoiding all contact with the material energy, an impossibility recognized by Krishna in the Gita). For the service of Krishna, everything is usable. The distant first rumblings of devotional service are in karma-yoga and varnashram dharma (see Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu). This means action in this world. To do your duty according to the varnashram dharma means manipulating the material energies.

What was Arjuna doing on the battlefield? He used the weapons of the gods, which I assume were technologically superior to those of the humans. Without karma you can't keep your body alive. Read Gita, chapter 3 once more. Being dependent on Krishna is not to say Inshallah and sit on your fanny. You KNOW this, so I don't think I have to say any more.

[The following quotes are from Visoka Das.] When confronted with threats of mystic power or otherwise, the devotee does not surrender to the material energy for protection. Durvasa challenged the devotee Ambarisa with his mystic power, creating a formidable demon. Ambarisa did not counter him with another display of mystic power, but only relied on Krishna's protection, which proved to be much greater than Durvasa's demon.

When confronted with the unknown or powers beyond our control, yes, we have no recourse but to turn to Krishna. Floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters, political uncertainty, war and genocide, unemployment, economic uncertainty, what to speak of inevitable diseases and death, all these things are generally speaking beyond the control of the individual. At these times he must surrender to Krishna. If he has a little time at his disposal, however, Krishna might open up to him, through his intelligence, a plan of action how to deal with these elements. Say for instance, a dike to stop a flood, concrete buildings to protect him from the hurricane, political action to stop the war, unions to deal with employer exploitation, etc. This is all varnashram DUTY and comes from Krishna. sva-karmaṇā tam abhyarcya siddhiṁ vindati mānavaḥ.

Materialists spend their whole lives in pursuit of controlling of material nature, usually just to increase the comforts of the material body. Srila Prabhupada always explains how this is a waste of human life. Devotees from the western sphere may be habituated to certain amenities, that is true, but still we may understand that the goal of life is Krishna and self-realization, and that making a career of service to the material body will not give us real happiness. We are intelligent to understand that. We are habituated to toilets and defecating in water, etc., still we do not make a career of service to the body, and still try to minimize it as much as possible. The toilets and such are not making a slave out of us.

Materialists try to control material nature for their sense gratification. But devotees also need material stability to engage in devotional service. That is why Yudhisthira was highly praised in the First Canto, was it not?

Devotional service is basically a leisure activity. For most people, the basic needs of food, shelter, health, security, etc., have to be dealt with before devotional service becomes an option. All propagandists understand this. I would even say that Prabhupad understood it when he instituted the prasadam distribution program (though this is confused with the magical properties of prasad). [I would be happy to return to this point later.]

So yes, toilets and other amenities are not per se against devotional service. And yes they don't bring real happiness, but just take them away from some high thinking devotee who looks down his nose at the materialist karmis and see how long he lasts. I lived in India for 11 years and I saw so many Westerners go "stir crazy." One French devotee was accused, with about 14 of us, of attempted murder in the 1977 fiasco at Mayapur. None of us was permitted to leave India for several years after that. Stuck in Mayapur, the holy dhama, without permission to leave! Is this Krishna's mercy or what? You will have to ask him how he felt about it. He wanted his flush toilets and his sour cream.

The point is, what is our true business? Just like these discussions we have, what is our true business, of which points of philosophy should we write about? There are so many arguments, but we should narrow it down to essential points of philosophy that will benefit the whole of society.

I agree with you, this is exactly what I have been saying: render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. But I don't think that we can come to any essential points if we pick only convenient "truths." I have pointed out that devotion to some extent rests on the material well-being of society. This is a natural action of the mode of creation (called by some passion). The kind of attitude you are promoting is on display as transcendental, but has certain elements of tamas, which is closing your eyes to the light.

Also, as said before, nobody went to the moon or mars, or beyond 25,000 miles from earth, they are all liars. There is proof of this, and this is not really a controversy any more. Srila Prabhupada was right all the time.

And here, Visoka, with this brilliant non sequitur, you show that you cannot maintain your own principle. You say it's not important and yet here you are, like a dog with a bone, insisting that this dubious position has been proven. It is not a controversy for me, either, but not because I agree with you.