Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Yoga Tarangini completed on Guru Purnima

I am pleased to say that on Guru Purnima, I finally completed the Yoga Tarangini project and handed camera ready copy to Swami Veda Bharati to be sent for publication. Jai Guru.

I have been told that the book will be printed as a combined AHYMSIN and Motilal Banarsidass production.

All this commuting back and forth from Vrindavan to RIshikesh has been very revealing. And I can tell you, of the two I am definitely a Vrindavan person. There is just a little bit of yogi lurking in there that still cries out for attention, but my impression is that the clock is running out on that. What is yoga has pretty much been assimilated and we move on in the direction of primarily bhakti, as always. On returning to Vrindavan, I have been rushing around trying to get the Vrindavan Today project working again, and I have been singing, a lot. kathā gānaṁ nṛtyaṁ gamanam api.

Yoga Tarangini was a great project. Swami Veda asked me to do it, he hired me. I took it seriously and tried hard to do a good job, at least a conscientious one. And the final result looks good to me for someone who is, even though you could say that it is "not my field."

This was a hatha yoga text, an early work from the Nath sampradaya.

So I really had to put some work into first of all editing the Sanskrit, which was fun, comparing manuscripts and stuff. Then translating and doing research where there were difficulties about the meaning and conflicts of opinion in the field of yoga research. I consider this to really be a kind of Ph.D. in hatha-yoga.

Swamiji insisted on getting a CD, a concrete object that I could actually put in his hand. No there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that this Yoga Tarangini work was the grace of Guru.

Swami Veda himself says that Guru is One but he comes in many forms. Coming in many forms is that he comes in forms that are necessary for our spiritual growth. At my age I should no longer have need of a father, but Swami Veda has, I am almost ashamed to say, been a father to me.

One learns in every servant/master relationship. We all find ourselves in circumstances of dependency wherever we go in life. If we pretend that we are not, then we are usually fairly rudderless.

So pick and choose your masters, my friends. On a gross level we learn gross stuff. Lucky is the disciple who sees the Guru up close. Or rather "hears" the guru up close. I should qualify that by saying that a little bit Guru goes a long way, but it is true nevertheless.

You see, You gotta serve somebody. And the person you serve will ALWAYS be your guru. The person you are dependent on is your guru. Like mother, father, etc.

So your employer is also going to be a guru -- especially if you are up close. And that is the problem. You need to have a good guru, otherwise it is a challenge. In this case, I have two very good "employers" you could say, and I have guru-buddhi for both of them. And this has been tremendously enriching, because once you actually DO have guru-buddhi for the person you are dependent upon, the channels of grace are opened. At the level of necessity.

And if that person is wicked (for want of a better term) you will take on those qualities through the service. It will form your character in a way that is pleasing to the wicked person.

If your character is very strong, like a Vibhishana or a Vidura, you might be able to survive, but mostly we mere mortals capitulate. By which I mean we compromise with our true selves in order to serve mortal masters and mammon.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Poetry and rasa

I was recently added to a group on Facebook called Devotional Poetry, where a few devotees have been sharing their compositions and their love of language (English only, of course).

I am not a compulsive poet, nor a regular practitioner of the craft. If I am a poet at all, it is more of an impulsive one, who occasionally is driven by some inspiration or emotional turbulence to express myself. So I haven't written a great deal, and when I do, it admittedly tends to the maudlin because of the excessive charge of immediate, unprocessed feelings.

But without the charge of personal feeling, if a poem is only repetition of another's thoughts, or didactic/intellectual alone, then it loses its edge or capacity to produce rasa. In these cases, what we get is bhāva, not rasa.

The thing about writing, poetry or any kind of literature or artistic production, according to rasa theory, is that it takes emotions (bhāva) out of the realm of the purely personal. Personal experience is what makes rasa possible, but when it is translated into words, it becomes universal, separate from and transcendental to the purely individual. That then becomes rasa.

When you manage to tie that in with God, especially in the form of Radha and Krishna, it becomes bhakti-rasa. God is the "universal personal."

Only an artist can be a true Hare Krishna, a rasika, a connoisseur of rasa. That is why this Facebook group interests me. I think we can better understand the level of devotional experience as it manifests in the followers of the Hare Krishna movement by studying devotees' capacity to produce rasa and at what level.

Our main avenue of understanding of bhakti comes through Rupa Goswami, who is the rasika-bhakta par excellence. So to be a rūpānuga really means to be a poet. But being a poet here, now, today cannot be exactly the same as being a poet in the 16th century. That experience has to be transposed into modern experience in order to produce rasa in the modern audience. And the modern audience also needs to be trained -- as it has in every epoque -- in order to develop the capacity to experience the rasa that is being shared.

That is why rational or historical understanding on the one hand, imitation on the other, do not produce rasa, at least not the higher levels of rasa to which Rupa Goswami was pointing.

The theory is there and correct, but the actual production of bhakti-rasa through poetry is a mystery that only a poet, with the help of the rasika audience, can penetrate.

Sink the Horned Hare.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Vidyāvatāṁ bhāgavate parīkṣā

I am racing along trying to do a quick first edit of the translation and commentary to Kṛṣṇa-sandarbha. My thought for the day: I would say that by any objective measure, the six Sandarbhas are a chef d'oeuvre. It is said

dhanaṁjaye hāṭaka-samparīkṣā
mahāraṇe śastrabhṛtāṁ parīkṣā|
vipatti-kāle gṛhiṇī-parīkṣā
vidyāvatāṁ bhāgavate parīkṣā||
One tests gold in the fire, the wielder of weapons in battle, the wife in times of difficulty, but the test of the learned is in their mastery of the Bhagavatam.
What a book the Bhāgavatam is, and what mastery to make sense of it all!

First he argues, boldly, that this is the ultimate authority. Then he says, Now this is what the Bhagavatam says. There are many, many things in the Bhagavatam, but what is the consistent and fundamental teaching, and how do we deal with apparent contradictions? And how can you defend your position?

When you chop up the Bhāgavatam in this way, distilling the important elements, rejecting those portions that for whatever reason, do not fit into the global vision you have adduced from it, you end up with something that is really quite different from the original. As much as Brihad Bhagavatamrita is different from the Bhāgavatam. Or Vidagdha-mādhava and Lalita-mādhava, or Gopala-campu from the 10th canto.

It is interesting, in one sense, because you can look at the Sandarbhas objectively, without attachment, just seeing what Sri Jiva does, admiring first of all his knowledge and love for the Bhāgavatam. His overall grasp of the Bhāgavatam in minute detail. And then come his hermeneutical techniques, his arguments, sometimes almost gratuitous, from grammar or Mimamsa or Nyaya or Vedanta. Whatever suits the purpose.

Looking at things objectively naturally means isolating them from their context, or rather seeing the object of examination in its context, knowing the context, and seeing mutual influences, and only then attempting to draw out its essence, as though it could exist in total objective purity.

On the other side, there is the sense of ultimate concern, the attachment to the belief that "the Truth lies here." In one sense, this could automatically be a hindrance, because we start our endeavor with a commitment to a preconceived result, whereas the Bhāgavatam is a little more subtle than that. Pre-commitment to a dogma is always going to hamper your perception.

But if one honestly engages in the first exercise with the conviction that here lies my Ultimate Concern, the Truth can only reveal itself in the way that it will be revealed, as fully as one deserves.

Hari Parshad Das added the following comments, which I found good:

The only thing with Srila Jiva Goswami is that in writing the sandarbhas, he wants to specialize in a particular aspect (prakaraṇa) of the grantha, and that is the specialty of Sri Radha and her service. The entire mastery over the Bhāgavatam, and all the techniques are used to prove that the Bhāgavatam is the highest and the greatest, are done to bring one to the point that the ultimate entity in the Bhāgavatam is someone whose name is not even spoken in it (or at best, spoken indirectly).

The aim of the Sandarbhas is to say that the ultimate principle in the Bhāgavatam is Śrī-rādhā. A verse by verse commentary like Sridhar Swami helps you count the leaves of the trees in the orchard, but you had come to eat the mangoes, right?

even if one does not want to find Śrī Rādhā in the Bhāgavatam, one cannot but leave with the conclusion — yathā vraja-gopikānām.

If someone wants that, fine! Take that conclusion! But doesn't it haunt us that Sri Shukadev speaks all sorts of names of places, demons, kings, queens, their children, trees, oceans, planets, demigods, sages, hunters, prostitutes, and all sorts of people, but when it comes to the gopīs, not even one deserves her name to be mentioned? Not even one of them is important enough? Or are they so important and closely revered by him that he will never speak their names?

ātma-nāma guror nāma
nāmātikṛpaṇasya ca
śreyas kāmo na gṛhṇīyāj

Should all the secrets be spoken of in the Bhāgavatam, or some of them should be left for a sampradāya ?