Sunday, June 30, 2013

Silence in Rishikesh

I just could not work today, so I decided that I had better get out of the ashram. I packed my kartals and RRSN and headed for the Ganges where I used to give classes, on the ghat near Sadhana Mandir. But it started raining.

Having the cooped up consequences of nearly six weeks without going outside. The clouds were rushing towards the mountain, at first there was a hanging cloud dropping from the black and grey above, all of which surrounded the mountains across the Ganges with mist. The hanging cloud had broken away and was moving swiftly towards the mountain. At first it looked like she had hands outstretched towards it, and then the shape changed and it looked like she was kneeling in prayer, until she merged with the mists and rain.

I went inside the Sadhana Mandir and it was 4.10, so I asked a woman in the meditation hall I could do kirtan for a while. She gave me permission and so I sang Bhaja Hunre Mana and Radha Ramana. Then I went out and talked about Radharani to a couple of old guys who hang out there, old Swami Rama followers, I would guess. They remembered me from my classes on the ghat.

Then I did kirtan on the main road walking back to the ashram. Hare Krishna. I was thinking of Gaura Hari Avadhuta and getting a bit of a kick out of it. At any rate, when I got back to the ashram I was feeling pretty good and I came to meditation pretty much cured of my blues.

Of the many books I have been reading since coming here, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book was definitely a potent influence. That woman is amazing, when you think of it. She is a convert to the modern world, you could say. And it gives pause for thought, of course. Her life was brutal and her picture of Somalia is dreadful. And the effect that coming to Holland had on her, her encounter with "civilization" really made her question the Islamic world view and civilization. She is really good at just telling the facts in a very straightforward way, but it has accumulating power. And drama too.

It took a tremendous amount of courage for her to "convert" to modernity, she does not have to make much of a case, the story itself makes the case for her. So I was impressed by her courage and also by the positive side of Western culture that so impressed her.

Nevertheless, just let me say: What I have learned in this ashram has been invaluable. I came here for a reason and I have made a bit of progress in yoga and meditation, and these things are positive and essential for the culture of a spiritually potent bhakti, which is what Sahajiyaism is all about. It is about para bhakti, the bhakti that comes when you are Brahman realized. The dual is only perfected in oneness. If you don't know what oneness is, then how can you experience twoness? Or twoness in oneness? Or oneness in twoness.

This sadhana that I talk about is about achieving union with another soul. This goes beyond the body and mind. But we don't seem to be able to stop playing these games, and quite frankly, they are becoming more and more tedious to me as time goes by.

I am doing three hours of meditation each day. I would probably do more but for Yoga Tarangini and sleeping. And a bit of music which I am having to cut back on. The YT over the last couple of days required comparing the manuscripts and entering the alternate readings in both the transliterated and the Devanagari texts. Painstaking but necessary.

I am trying as much as I can of the YT recommendations for practice. And along with that I have been reading the I Ching and another book on Taoism. And now I just picked up this thick volume on Zen and the brain, which has a great section on mysticism. Which made me pensive again on the question "Who am I? Where am I?"

I don't feel so bad about trying the Zen/Taoist/Yoga method. I don't feel any more contradiction any more that I have to protect myself against the evil Mayavada. I know where I stand, but at the same time, I know that there is nothing outside of Krishna. This is all a part of my great Radha-Krishna prema adventure. My wonderful life.

It is a good thing I don't have a real life. I tried to work (well it is Sunday) but fatigue got me and I took a nap in the morning and another in the afternoon. I feel a bit better now, but hardly clearheaded. I really want to get some things done today, so I am not going to write much right now.

I picked up a small book of Anthony de Mello's last meditations, The Way to Love. Each meditation is based on a passage from the Gospels, but he sounds more like a Buddhist than a Catholic. He talks mostly about detachment from our preconceived notions, beliefs, fears, etc. One passage that made me think was about using our object of love for our own gratification. I did not bring it with me so I cannot quote verbatim, but he says that we try to remake the person in a way that adjusts to our concept of our own happiness, which he says is not real but only a mental construct, an image, an imagination.

So he gives a little test: Can you give the other person complete freedom to be themselves as they are, to pursue their own self-realization without interference, without trying to change her? If you cannot say this, then you are revealed as a selfish manipulator, and if you can, then you are free from the suffering that your attachments cause you.

There is no doubt that all of us pressure the ones we claim to love to be whatever it is we imagine them to be in our mind's eye, what we would like the other to be.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Revisiting old questions about Raganuga

Chandan Goswami asked on Facebook, after hearing yet another person accuse almost everyone in the Vaishnava world of being a Sahajiya, "Have you found or met accidentally any such person in Gaudiya Sampradaya who you think is a Sahajiya?" In other words, have you met someone who fits your own description and still calls himself a Sahajiya?

If there is any such thing as a "Sahajiya," it should be a person who calls himself by that name. If I call you a "Green Duck" that is me calling you something, not you yourself. If I then say "Green Ducks are like this or that" then it is clearly propaganda. Like people calling each other "Communists" or "Nazis" in political discussions. No one has asked the Green Ducks for their opinion.

There are no doubt real Communists and Nazis, but before trying to define what one is, it may do well to find one and talk with that person to find out what they do and what they believe. Then your critique will have some substance, otherwise you are simply creating monsters to shadow box.

Such an exercise only has the purpose of strengthening your own sense of moral superiority and your adherence to a particular morality that is most probably difficult for you to follow.

It is thus what C.G. Jung called "the Shadow" archetype. Examining the Shadow is most profitable when we realize that it is our own possession and not something "out there" that we can "defeat."

* * * * *

kṛti-sādhyā bhavet sādhya-bhāvā sā sādhanābhidhā
nitya-siddhasya bhāvasya prākaṭyaṁ hṛdi sādhyatā
That devotion that is executed by [external] actions but which is meant to produce feelings of love [or the sthāyi-bhāva] is called sādhanā bhakti. The goal of the practice is to manifest eternally existent loving feelings in the heart. (BRS 1.2.2)
The words in this verse that are most debated are nitya-siddhasya bhāvasya, which is not glossed in any of the three commentaries as anything other than that it is a manifestation of the svarūpa-śakti. Since the jiva is taṭastha-śakti, clearly prema does not exist in him. Jiva Goswami and the other commentators recommend reading BRS 1.3.1 :

śuddha-sattva-viśeṣātmā prema-sūryāṁśu-sāmya-bhāk |
rucibhiś citta-māsṛṇya-kṛd asau bhāva ucyate ||

The words to watch here are śuddha-sattva-viśeṣātmā, "Having a special aspect of pure spiritual being as its essence or soul." The word viśeṣa is used specially to show that this is NOT in the jiva. śuddha-sattva- on its own might indicate that the jiva through self purification could attain bhāva or prema. The example of the sun also indicates that it is something external to the jiva. It comes to the conditioned soul through the grace of the premi-bhaktas.

As to rāgānugā practices, there may or may not be appropriate times for discussing these things, but the main problem is not the subject itself, or even some external qualification of the recipient of such instructions. The camel has no taste for mango buds, but prefers thorns. Similarly, the practices of rasika-bhaktas do not appeal to those who have not got the ruci. For those with no taste to condemn those who engage, talk about, practice or teach it, is as silly and short-sighted as a camel crticizing a koil for liking the taste of mango buds.

And as to sahaja-sādhanā, this is even harder for many devotees to understand as they have been conditioned to thinking that the world is false, like the mayavadis, and are thus phalgu-vairagis.

* * * * *

Most polemics against Sahajiyas begin with the purpose of condemning them, and then looking for evidence to support that argument. The goal is not to find the truth.

As a result, there is usually an indiscriminate conflation of a variety of unorthodox practices (according to their vision of orthodoxy) that range from simply listening to Radha-Krishna lila to engaging in sexual practices, whether or not a part of devotional sādhanā, making the assumption that any kind of sexuality whatsoever is immoral except when used for procreation.

This is a wide range and obviously those who are under attack will pick and choose which parts they agree with or disagree with to save themselves from the slur. But it is necessary to disentangle these various strands so that they can be analyzed individually. We have taken the position that it is better to embrace the name and let it stand for something. Then if someone says, Sahajiyas are this or that, at least people will be able to ask, "What does Jagadananda Das think about that matter?"

The basic problem of the jiva is one that has been bandied around for so many years that I am not really interested in discussing it. I think the point is fairly clear: The jiva is bound since eternal time. The jiva is taṭastha śakti, with the potential of being associated with the internal potency. There is no question of the jiva falling from the liberated state. Thus there is no question of the jiva having a predetermined relation with Krishna, at least not in terms of the individual consciousness on its progressive path towards God. At the same time, the fact that such potential exists in the jiva means that the predisposition is there to love. What is missing is the direction that this predisposition takes.

The question of predestination or predetermination is of course necessarily connected to the discussion of the jiva. God controls everything, but my opinion here is that whether or not everything is predestined, one is obliged to act as though it is not the case, as though one has free will, etc. In the matter of ruci or taste for devotion in particular, the taste for a particular rasa in relation to God, these things are developed as though we had free will.

The gopis ran to Krishna after hearing his flute. Did they do so out of free will or not? Perhaps they were forced by the awakening of passionate desire on hearing the flute, but when Krishna sent them back to their husbands, they had the opportunity to choose and they did.

Again, free will is one of those questions that goes into infinite regress, so there is not much point in arguing it. Simply let us say that we are obliged to act as though we had free will, make the decisions that circumstances force on us, and like Arjuna decide whither we shall proceed.

So in the matter of bhajan, we will find ruci coming into conflict with dharma and the necessity to make choices, not once but again and again. The need to surrender to the divine will is more important, ultimately than any legalistic instruction that admonishes us to act in one way or another. The highest principle of surrender is that of love, and love alone is the ultimate measuring stick of our spiritual worth.

* * * * *

The ekādaśa-bhāva was accepted by Bhaktivinoda Thakur was given to him in dīkṣā from Bipin Bihari Goswami in the tradition of Ramai Thakur and Jahnava Mata, and was taught by him to Lalita Prasad Thakur, my Sri Gurudeva, and taught by him in Jaiva Dharma, Śrī-caitanya-śikṣāmṛta, Bhajana-rahasya and Harināma-cintāmaṇi and who condemned anyone who did not accept the siddha-paramparā that followed this tradition.

There are differing opinions about the ekādaśa-bhāva system of bhajan. Are these spiritual bodies real or not? There are various statements that indicate, for instance, that they are lying there in the spiritual world in wait for the sādhaka to attend to his own eternal form. These kinds of statements are needlessly confusing and distract from the eternal, timeless nature of the spiritual world.

In my opinion, their primary purpose is to help in cultivation of the nitya-siddha bhāva. They should never be seen by anyone as the achievement of perfection, and indeed, despite Gaudiya Math objections, I have yet to meet anyone who sees it as an attainment of perfection in and of itself.

There are plenty of people who think that dīkṣā (whether that dīkṣā includes rāgānugā practices or not) is in and of itself to be a state of perfection, and there are shastric statements to that effect, but they should be seen in context and not as absolute. Initiation means that siddhi is inevitable, but not that it has already been attained. Woe to the person, any person, but especially the mere beginner, who claims to be siddha.

* * * * * 

The next leg of the GM argument is that rāgānugā bhajana, meditation on the Radha Krishna pastimes of madhura rasa, etc., inevitably lead to sexual downfall in the person who has not already reached the highest stages of sexual detachment.

This is a paradox that Rupa Goswami himself mentions in BRS, 3.5.2, when he intimates that those who are renunciates are in fact ineligible for madhura rasa. At the very least, he says that anyone who confuses material sexuality with spiritual sexuality is ineligible.

Those in ISKCON and the GM, who seem quite confused on the matter, are thus ineligible. They may try to bring everyone down to their level, due to their own lack of comprehension, but that does not make them right.

The question of "sexual downfall" is a problem in and of itself. The dry renunciate with deep-seated antipathy to the opposite sex, a closet homosexual in denial, who is either constantly battling with sexual desire or is simply indifferent to that aspect of human experience (which is, let's face it, central) is hardly to be considered as the exemplar or ideal in human character or spiritual development. This is why I call it phalgu vairāgya and hidden Mayavada.

In my opinion, the divine madhura rasa, as stated in Bhagavata Purana 10.33.40, is the key to overcoming the material disease of lust. May everyone come to a proper understanding of this great gift.

Jai Radhe.