Back in Vrindavan

Arrived in Vrindavan this morning after a grueling bus ride. Five hours waiting in a kind of Corner Gas, Indian style, with parking lot with bus stand, convenience store with tea shop, a venue for the local public to watch television -- American wrestling shows are apparently quite popular -- people walking in and out. Sharing a chillum. A young girl and her small brother in rags, laughing and running around amongs the adults. In short, the neighborhood.

Only one or two modern Indian in jeans and teashirts with real luggage and not just clothes wrapped in an old sari or gamcha. Most of the waiting travelers are from some Rajasthani village patiently squatting and talking, like me. It may not be altogether wrong to think that this is the Indian way of life, just clear a space in the detritus, let it be, do the minimum, it is too hot for anything but to sit and contemplate.

This 21st century Haridwar corner café has an interesting feature in that it is the property of the Niranjani Akhara, which is adjoining. The Akhara cowshed is behind a pile of emptied boxes and other refuse through an open door, and there are sadhus of various stripes wearing orange cloth. They walk in and out as they also come to drink tea, buy a snack or hang out with the locals. Most of them look a bit sleazy; one better dressed and coiffed sadhu smoking a filter tip cigarette and talking on an expensive phone strode purposefully through. There was another bunch of frolicking young sadhus, slapping each other on the back and joking, looking somewhat destined for a life of learning the tricks of the sadhu trade.

There is, of course, a coterie of dogs, as there must be, the real owners of the place. They are a pretty cheerful bunch, well fed, well entertained and accommodated by the sadhus, who scratch their stomachs with their feet. They get lots of old biscuits and every kind of akhara food, which means they get bhandara leftovers on a regular basis. I must have disturbed the atmosphere when I was softly chanting the Holy Name because one of the dogs was irritated by it. Suddenly the whole canine tribe -- five or six of them -- were all barking at me in unison in a display of dogged determination to frighten me into silence. Luckily I was not affected and after a few moments, they saw that they were unable to cow me and left me alone. As a matter of fact, they looked a bit ashamed of themselves. I chanted for the original bitch (sorry to say it was one), who was still lying a few feet away from me, and after a few moments of eye contact she seemed to decide that it was okay for me to chant after all.

Then the nine hours to Mathura. Taking the Aligarh route, which in some places has been improved with the main exception of the section from Aligarh to Mathura, the last leg of the journey. It's only 60 kilometers, but the roads are a total mess; and then the Mathura bridge is still closed and we have to take that detour over the Gokul Barrage. The last bit was pretty torturous. What with the constant rattling of the body on interminable potholed roads, and being more or less confined to a space that gives about five centimeters of room for movement if you are lucky. A test for the yogi aspirant who fancies that he has an inkling of asana siddhi.

Arrived just as the day's heat began to make itself felt, and it took me the whole day to adjust.

There was no marching band to greet me, my room had not been painted, some things seemed to be missing, most notably my harmonium, so I was grumpy. It took a three hour nap and about three baths, and a big cup of strong tea, but by evening, after taking dinner with Satyanarayan Dasji I feel like I am finally back in Vrindavan.

Babaji told me of a chacha guru, a man who had served Haridas Shastri’s guru, who came to see him and with whom he shared Harikatha. The man, Babaji said, has the whole of Bhāgavata, Vilāpa-kusumāñjali learned by heart, and quotes them frequently. He was also lamenting the loss of that culture among the modern Vaishnavas, which has been a common plaint ever since I have know the Vaishnava world. Nevertheless, the quality of āsvādana does seem closer to the original when it is done in the original language, and the quest for authenticity leads one to the original works.

This led to some talk about Krishna West. Neither of us huge big fans, partly for the reasons just given. My position is that everything has its place for people according to their level of capacity, and that from the theoretical point of view they are alright, but from the rasa point of view it seems they are going to be partially handicapped. Babaji was talking mostly about the role of dress in the sādhaka deha and how at the very least for sādhana, during those times of day that are consecrated to remembering the Lord, one should prepare and purify the mind by dressing as a Vaishnava. But for me the problem really seems to lie in a general rejection of India itself, and many of the Indian social and cultural ideals, and that most of this was focused on the treatment of women.

All of which led to a very interesting discussion on sex and the habits of modern man and woman. Babaji has a disciple in German who works as a psychiatric nurse treating women and girls who are victims of various kinds of horrendous sexual abuse.

He said, "I talk to people in Europe this way. I start by saying, you are going to think that I am from the stone age, but at least I can tell you the way people used to think and you can judge for yourself. Critics talk so easily about rape in India and the way that the suppression of natural sexual impulses leads to all kinds of evil, but when you see the effects of modern so-called sexual liberty, the results are not any better. Indeed they are worse.

"Sex has two purposes, one is reproduction, the other is producing pleasure. But it is like eating. Eating is both nourishing and pleasurable. If you eat for nourishment, you will get pleasure. That is actually a side effect. But if you eat primarily or only for pleasure, then you will get sick. Everyone supposedly knows this. But where sexuality is concerned, any connection to reproduction has been eliminated in the modern world and so people think it is only meant for pleasure. And the results are not good. In fact, sex really is for reproduction only. Sexuality is so powerful and when it is so cheapened, then it can only have a negative effect. And that is what we are seeing."

Of course, I agreed with Babaji, but with the caveat that it is not so much that sex is not for pleasure. In my view it has other functions besides reproduction. But the fact that sex serves the biological function of reproduction, one of the most sacred functions of the human species, the creation of life itself, one has to be conscious of its sacred nature. And along with that is the sacred nature of the semen for men, and the rajas for women, awareness of which is integral to the practices of Sahajiyaism and yoga. Indeed, it is ingrained in the entire Indian tradition, including Ayurveda.

The Sārṅgadhāra-saṁhitā, a medieval Ayurvedic text, shows that this was a generally held and medically orthodox point of view:

rasād raktaṁ tato māṁsaṁ māṁsān medaḥ prajāyate
medaso'sthi tato majjā tasmāc chukrasya sambhavaḥ
strī-saṅge'pi na patitaṁ reto yasya parecchayā
sa dhanyaḥ puruṣo loke kāma-jetā sa kathyate
From chyle comes blood, from blood muscle, from muscle fat, from fat bone, from bone marrow, from marrow semen. [These are the eight dhātus or bodily secretions. Semen is thus commonly known as the carama-dhātu, or ultimate and therefore most concentrated and valuable of secretions.] A man who, even when in the company of a woman does not spill his semen due to external influence is most fortunate and is said to have conquered over lust.
But the point is that the semen is sacred because of its reproductive function. Therefore when not being used for that function it should not be spilt. Once one has awareness of the sacred character of sexuality, then this is the first way that one honors that sacredness. The next way is to use the power of sexual attraction in a way that heightens one's awareness of the sacredness of all life.

Anyway, it is good to be back in Vrindavan in the company of devotees, where every word is a song and every movement a dance.

And this morning I read a verse from Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi that made me think of starting posting on Vrindavan Today again if I can do it. This has an especially interesting commentary by Harilal Vyas that will be of interest to many I am sure.

sarve'py adbhuta-san-mahimni madhure vṛndāvane saṅgatāḥ |
ye krūrā api pāpino na ca satāṁ sambhāṣya-dṛśyāś ca ye
sarvān vastutayā nirīkṣya parama-svārādhya-buddhir mama ||
All those who have come to this sweet Vrindavan
with its wonderful, eternal glories
possess forms that are eternal
and can bestow the concentrated sacred sentiment;
they are easily visible only to
those who are the greatest of the yogis.
When I saw them as they are --
even though some are cruel or sinners,
and others not worthy to be spoken to or even seen by the pious --
I came to consider them supremely worshipable. (265)


Prem Prakash said…
I'm almost tempted to post this anomomously because it is so heretical. But, anyway, here goes. This isn't so much an opinion as a platform for provocative (in the positive sense) discussion. Because I trust Jagadnanda dass so much, this is about the only place I can think this idea is worth exploring.

What if it turns out that those of us blinded by the gunas, especially sattva guna, fail to see the actual nature of sexuality? What if it turns out that sex is primarilly for pleasure and reproduction is actually the by-product?

I know, I know all the scriptures and acharyas say otherwise. But if what I am proposing is even close to the Truth, certainly it wouldn't be the first time that conventional teachers and texts were meant for the masses and not for the esoterisists.
Maybe the problem is that we are not skilled enough in the ways of love and pleasure to recognize why Nature is so enticing.
Anonymous said…

Dear Jagadananda Das,

Thank you for quoting verse 265 of the Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi attributed to the school of Hita Harivaṃśa Gosvāmī.

May all the blooms of Vrindavann receive the Song of the Bee:

āsām aho caraṇa-reṇu-juṣām ahaḿ syāḿ

vṛndāvane kim api gulma-latauṣadhīnām

yā dustyajaḿ sva-janam ārya-pathaḿ ca hitvā

bhejur mukunda-padavīḿ śrutibhir vimṛgyām


Kind regards,

M. N.
Jagadananda Das said…
Sorry I got back to this so late, Prem, I have been having a lot of internet troubles. I also have been staying in the ashram and working on Krishna Sandarbha, etc., as much as possible and avoiding the streets. Even after two weeks I haven't been for darshan to any of the temples...

My point is exactly what you say. Sexuality is actually for spiritual pleasure. This is the exact point I have been trying to make since the beginning of this blog. But in this article I was only trying to say that the reproduction role helps us to understand the sacred character of the sex organs, the sex act, and the sexual fluids.

Most people think that the pleasure of the sexual act lies in the emission of sexual fluids. This is primarily a male issue, since ejaculation is the biological imperative of the sex act.

Seminal retention is necessary for spiritualizing the sex act. First of all because it eliminates the "phalAbhisandhi", i.e., the fruitive "payoff" that seems to be the logic of the sex act itself. This means that rajas cedes to sattva.

This can be done primarily by turning the sex act into one of meditation and devotion. When one internalizes the sexual act and makes it one of subtle communion with one's partner, then one also internalizes and spreads the pleasurable feelings throughout the bodily system instead of localizing it in the genitals alone.

All the shastras say that pleasure is the purushartha. It is wrong to say that sex IS the purushartha (although kama is one of the purusharthas), but when sex is incorporated into the culture of love, as it should be, and combined with bhakti and yoga practice and discipline, it can become an integral and effective part of one's sadhana.

Even if we accept that sexuality itself is something that is to eventually be given up -- which is logical considering bodily aging and death -- it is still something that needs to be acknowledged and purified or dovetailed with one's spiritual life if one wishes to truly rise above it.

Jai Radhe.

Anonymous said…
Ādeśa – Dear Jagadananda Das,

David Gordon ​White's paper entitled 'Ashes to Nectar' has a piece of interesting information regarding the 'Mahavedha' (the great penetration) from the Amaraughaprabodha which is relative to your comment:

"Even if we accept that sexuality itself is something that is to eventually be given up -- which is logical considering bodily aging and death -- it is still something that needs to be acknowledged and purified or dovetailed with one's spiritual life if one wishes to truly rise above it."

See page 20:

Kind regards,

Anonymous said…
One may also wish to gain a nodding acquaintance of 'Matsyodari-yoga' on pages 228 - 229 of D. G. White's 'The Alchemical Body':
Prem Prakash said…
Jagadananda Das, I was also travelling and then my computer went down so I haven't seen your response. It's my personal opinion that the centuries of occupation by the Mulsims and then British destroyed much of the body-positive nature of Indian spirituality. Talk about oppressive and repressive cultures; it's a miracle India survived at all. The point I want to make in this context is that even the Krishna bhakti tradition has wavered far from what I percieve as the essence of the world and body-positive vision.

There's no better example than our ol' friends at ISKCON. Presented with a deity who portrays a love of family, friends, nature and romance, they figured out a way to cull feelings out of relationships and castigate any appreciation of the natural world. As for sex, well, Prabhupada could arise from the dead and drop three of his regulative principals but he'd still be afraid of sex.

Due to their fear, they misunderstand the koshas as prisons rather than vehicles. The koshas are not with Maya's jail cells (what sick mind could perceive life in this way?), they are vehicles for conveying love. As such, all relationship, and all forms of relationships, have the potential for divine expression. Of course, there's a huge gulf between the mad rush of orgasmic impulse felt by the ordinary pashu, and the rolling frolic of the erotic spontaneity of the pashupati. So we nurutre the qualities of the latter, weeding out the former. We don't throw the baby out with the bathwater because unless we appreciate the divine erotic, there's no baby anyway.

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