Showing posts from September, 2013

Vrindavan: Today, Tomorrow, Yesterday

I don't go out all that much, but whenever I do, the transformations that are taking place in Vrindavan on a day-to-day basis are constantly at the forefront of my perceptions. The other evening I cycled the length of the Chattikara Road from NH2 to the house and found it quite amazing to see how rapidly everything is mutating.

But that is quite the road at night now. New buildings -- hotels, ashrams, guesthouses, apartment buildings, residential developments, temples -- popping up everywhere, many of them looking quite posh in the night with their glass and polished granite facades and colored neon signage. With the dark night backdrop obscuring the old Vrindavan from view, one could be forgiven for thinking we were actually in at least the 20th century.

I went into the huge Akshaya Patra complex and attended arati there. It is a separate ISKCON, just a couple of centimeters different enough to be a "not-ISKCON", with a personality quite different from Krishna Balaram …

Shiksha Patra of Hariraya

Another book I picked up since my return to Vrindavan and which I read from beginning to end, all 650 pages of it, is Śikṣā-patra. 41 letters by fourth generation Vallabhi guru Harirayji Mahaprabhu. I first read it in the English translation by Krishna Kinkari, a disciple of Prathamesh Goswami and godsister of the famous bhajan singer Shyamdasji, who passed away not so long ago. Despite the numerous flaws in the edition, such as spelling and layout, etc., on the whole it is a very readable translation and an illuminating book, understandably one of the important works in the Vallabha sampradaya.

The commentary by Gopeshwar, to whom the letters were written, is also very illuminating with plenty of verses quoted mainly from Vallabha's Sixteen Treatises. Anyway, there are several themes running through the book, mainly to give up anxiety and lamentation as a big impediment to spiritual life, sadhu-sanga, separation, etc. But the idea of grace, p…

The Restless River of Yoga (Intro)

Over the next two weeks, I will be giving my attention back to Yoga-taraṅginī commentary to Gorakṣa-śataka as this project needs to be completed, and all that is left to do is a final redaction of the text and translation, and writing an introduction. So I will try to communicate those portions that I think are important or which affected me as I was doing the work.

I must confess that there has been a considerable change in lifestyles between the way I was living in Rishikesh at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama and the way I am right now in Vrindavan. The three months at SRSG were fairly intense. Most of that time I spent in at least verbal silence, although I still used the internet. But even in that I was far more disciplined than I am now, as I kept my personal computer internet free. Besides that, I regularly meditated three hours a day and did hatha-yoga on a regular basis, including many of the disciplines that are described in the book I was working on.

Since coming back, one of the m…

That mysterious first verse of Gita Govinda

The first verse of the Gīta-govinda has been a source of confusion to scholars and devotees probably since it first appeared. There are a number of problems with it, all of which can be summarized as "it does not fit" what we know about the Radha-Krishna story in any source, Puranic or folk, prior to GG. Moreover, it seems to have little to do directly with the rest of GG.

To begin with, here is the verse:

meghair meduram ambaraṁ vana-bhuvaḥ śyāmās tamāla-drumair
naktaṁ bhīrur ayaṁ tvam eva tad imaṁ rādhe gṛhaṁ prāpaya |
itthaṁ nanda-nideśataś calitayoḥ praty-adhva-kuñja-drumaṁ
rādhā-mādhavayor jayanti yamunā-kūle rahaḥ-kelayaḥ ||1||

Lee Siegel:
The sky is densely clouded, the forest grounds are dark with tamala trees; at night he [Krishna] is afraid. Radha, you alone must take him home. This is Nanda's command, but Radha and Madhava stray to a tree in the grove by the path and on the bank of the Yamuna, their secret love games prevail.
Barbara Stoller Miller:
Clouds thic…

Five Essential verses of Gita Govinda (Verse 5)


Now we come to last verse in our series. This is also the last verse that Rupa Goswami quotes from an external source in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi. The context is the following verse, which is the last "idea" that Sri Rupa presents in his discussion of madhura-rasa.

vidagdhānāṁ mitho līlā-vilāsena yathā sukham |
na tathā samprayogeṇa syād evaṁ rasikā viduḥ ||

Clever lovers find that there is more pleasure in all the varieties of their mutual dealings than there is in sexual union per se. This is the conclusion of the knowers of rasa. (15.253) Jayadeva's verse is given as an illustration of this point:

pratyūhaḥ pulakāṅkureṇa niviḍāśleṣe nimeṣeṇa ca
krīḍākūta-vilokite’dhara-sudhā-pāne kathā-narmabhiḥ
ānandādhigamena manmatha-kalā-yuddhe’pi yasminn abhūd
udbhūtaḥ sa tayor babhūva suratārambhaḥ priyambhāvukaḥ

As the battle of the love arts began,
there arose so many obstacles--
When they tried to embrace each other intensely,
they became covered in goose bumps;
when th…

Five Essential verses of Gita Govinda (Verse 4)


Radha, the Empress of Love
Our fourth essential verse of the Gīta-govinda or Gita-govinda pañca-ślokī, comes in the final chapter and summarizes the last prabandha or song 24.

racaya kucayoś citraṁ patraṁ kuruṣva kapolayor
ghaṭaya jaghane kāñcīṁ mugdha-srajā kavarī-bharaṁ |
kalaya valaya-śreṇīṁ pāṇau pade maṇi-nūpurāv
iti nigaditaḥ prītaḥ pitāmbaro’pi tathākarot ||
Radha said, "Draw pictures on my breasts,
decorate my cheeks with dots of musk,
tie a sash of bells around my hips,
braid my hair with a charming garland.
Place bangles on my wrists and
jeweled ankle bells on my feet."
So being told, the yellow-robed Krishna,
being pleased, did so. (12.25)

This is the last verse that contains a description related to the overall dramatic theme of the Gīta-govinda. Rupa Goswami quotes it at UN 5.93 as an example of the svādhīna-bhartṛkā. As we have been saying, the eight situations of the heroine are the principal theme of GG and this is the culmination of that cycle: Radha'…

Five Essential verses of Gita Govinda (Verse 3)


Radharani's māna
viharati vane rādhā sādhāraṇa-praṇaye harau
vigalita-nijotkarṣād īrṣyā-vaśena gatā'nyataḥ
kvacid api latā-kuñje guñjan-madhu-vrata-maṇḍalī
mukhara-śikhare līnā dīnāpy uvāca rahaḥ sakhīm||
When Radha saw Hari frolicking in the forest,
treating all the women with equal affection,
she felt her own special status had melted away.
Envy and anger arose in her, and she went off.
Somewhere, in a vine covered bower,
where bees buzzed in circles overhead,
she hid, and forlorn in her solitude,
confided to her friend. If the first two verses of our five described Krishna as the viṣaya and then as the āśraya of love; now this verse points to the essential mechanism that transforms him from the one role to the other. This will be further explained in our analysis of the fifth verse.

The third verse of the Gīta-govindapañca-ślokī appears in the latter portion (verses 25-35) of BRS 3.5, the abbreviated chapter on madhura-rasa, which could be seen as equivalent to the last chapter …

The Five Essential Verses of Gita Govinda (Verse 2)

Krishna, the Lover of Radha
Our second verse is taken from Gīta-govinda's third chapter—

kaṁsārir api saṁsāra-vāsanā-baddha-śṛṅkhalām |
rādhām ādhāya hṛdaye tatyāja vraja-sundarīḥ ||
Krishna, the enemy of Kamsa, took Radha, who is the link that makes all his hopes for happiness possible, into his heart and left aside all the other cowherd beauties. (3.1) The context in GG is provided by the next verse we will cite. Radha has seen Krishna as described in verse 1.48 and is not pleased. She has become overwhelmed by jealous anger and has left the scene of the rāsa. We shall discuss this further in the appropriate place.

In Rupa Goswami's categorization of the madhura-rasa in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, this verse is given as an example of kṛṣṇa-rati, which in this case does not mean (as is customary in BRS) love for Krishna, but Krishna's own love for another, in this case Radha. Although from the theological point of view it goes without saying that God loves his devotees (Cf.…