Thursday, January 28, 2016

Meanwhile, Back at the Blog

Meanwhile, back at the blog. Poor blog has been quite neglected these past few months. It really started in Karttik when I was doing both Krishna Sandarbha and Vrindavan Today.

Even so, a little surprisingly, readership has not diminished overall, and I am still running an average of close to 10,000 pageviews a month, which is up slightly from before I stopped posting. In particular I notice I have been getting a surge of Russian readers of late and Russia surged to the top of the list of countries from which readers are coming. This is not altogether unsurprising. VT, on the other hand, gets triple that, over 60% from India, 40% just from Delhi alone, which is also unsurprising. Articles are generally shorter and less demanding.

Vrindavan Today is a fantastic and important project, but so far I haven't been able to find good people who will be able to help move it forward, other than the occasional contributor. We have had a few promising candidates, but so far haven't been able to keep them. Jagannath Poddar is doing a great job, but he also is being pulled in many directions for his seva. Luckily, he does understand VT and is doing what he can, but we need some other Vrindavan lovers who can write. Anyway, the site is still growing. I would like to see much more in depth informative articles about all aspects of Vrindavan history and culture, as well as the environmental and heritage issues we tend to emphasize.

Right now I am back at working on Swami Veda's Yoga Sutra in Rishikesh and this is also a very challenging project, mainly because I make it so and because I believe that Swami Veda had my interests in mind when he entrusted this work to me. Or, to put it another way, God decided I should learn more about yoga, not just intellectually but experientially. This has also led me to undertake a more serious study of Sankhya philosophy, namely Īśvara Kṛṣṇa's Sāṅkhya-kārikā. I have also been lecturing on Sankhya to the Gurukula students here.

Usually when I get into a job like this or Krishna Sandarbha, I do not write much about it publicly, partly because I am usually too absorbed in details to be able to make a coherent presentation. Not only that, but writing for the blog or elsewhere requires time and an effort that I don't always have the intellectual energy to follow through on, especially when the intellectual demand on me are greater.

Whatever the nature of this blog, and I don't expect that it is easy for most people to follow, and certainly the overall philosophy to which it is creeping towards is not firmly grasped by many, or agreed with, but on the whole I strive to achieve a certain standard of professionalism in what I do. Out of respect and love for my gurus, I wish that their legacy should be honoured through my efforts to understand the process and purpose of bhakti-yoga. So that takes time that I usually guard jealously. Thus, whatever reflections I make on the text are primarily reinvested in the work itself rather than externally.

Also, the mind is always in the process of accepting and rejecting. Some of the philosophical conclusions of Sankhya and Yoga do not match my own, and certainly are opposed to the conclusions of the Gita and Bhagavata. It is easy to make light of theological differences, but they do matter, as I will elaborate on in one of the articles to which this is a preamble. And, indeed, Swami Veda Bharati himself, though a worshiper of the nirguna, was a universalist. He felt (and I agree with him on this) that the method of yoga, of inner movement of the mind towards the Self, was universally applicable, whether one is Christian, Muslim or belonging to some other religion. It would probably be more correct to call Yoga an attempt at a practical scientific psychology. As such, the process of inwardness will be the same, regardless of what meditation objects (ālambana) one uses. Other religious followers will no doubt disagree about the merits of the Meditation Object, and that is as it should be. One should only meditate on that which has been invested with numinosity by way of experience. But the processes and external symptoms in the mind, i.e., attaining full absorption in that Object or samādhi, will be more or less the same.

Every sutra of this Chapter III has multiple demands that cannot be understood without following the process of meditation itself. For most people, yoga or religion are confined to what is considered by Patanjali himself to be its external portion. Religion is to be held in the most external limbs, according to yoga, as īśvara-praṇidhāna, which is something that needs to be explained properly to religious people who have not really entered its more spiritual dimensions or are less self-aware. I call these people kaniṣṭhas and there is plenty of stuff on this blog about what a kaniṣṭha is.

There is no harm in being on some external level, since everyone is situated in their own situation and cannot pass beyond it without passing through it, but the real test of yoga is in its internal dimension. This is the subject of the Third Pada, where the three internal limbs (antar-aṅga) of yoga, namely dhāraṇā, dhyāna and samādhi, are discussed.

For me, all this work is ultimately bahiraṅga. But as I just said bahiraṅga here does not mean negligible. You cannot skip steps. Taking a plane to Vrindavan does not get you there any faster than walking. It takes the time it takes in other words. And intervening steps are beautifully important.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The outer-path (bahiraṅga) of the yogin is also the inner-path of the yogin, both are one and the same, the one and same pathless path; for in truth, there is only a pathless-path-to-and-from-one's-own-true-self.