Showing posts from June, 2016

Bhajana Rahasya 4.13: Grace and the Moral Law

tad astu me nātha sa bhūri-bhāgo bhave’tra vānyatra tu vā tiraścām yenāham eko’pi bhavaj-janānāṁ bhūtvā niṣeve tava pāda-pallavam
O my Lord, please bestow this great fortune on me, that I may live amongst Your intimate devotees and serve Your lotus feet, either here in this life as Brahma or somewhere else in a different body, even if it be that of some lowly creature like that of a bird or beast. (Srimad Bhagavatam 10.14.30)

Expanded translation: Lord Brahma prays for service to Krishna, knowing that such service can only come through His mercy: O Lord! O fulfiller of all desires! It seems to everyone that I am very fortunate, for I have attained the supreme position in this universe as its creator. Even so, I do not consider this to be my greatest good fortune. Though I am Your oldest son in this life, it does not matter in which species I am born, as long as I can have the chance to most perfectly serve any one of Your devotees, for it is through service to them that I will attain Y…

Bhajana Rahasya 3.9: Humility and Grace

The third chapter of the Bhajana Rahasya is based on the tṛṇād api sunīcena verse. To elaborate on this verse, Bhaktivinode Thakur depends on Mukunda-mālā and Stotra-ratna, two hymns from the Sri Vaishnava tradition predating Ramanuja. Bhaktivinoda had translated many of these verses in his Gīta-mālā and he reuses those same translations here.

In view of the discussions of karma related to child abuse and so on, these verses may cause a bit of discomfort. Actually to think oneself a sinner, a fallen creature -- this goes against the militant humanism of our "enlightened" period of human civilization.

Certainly, one of the principal criticisms against cults is that they force-feed teachings that are meant to vitiate a person's self-esteem and thus make him more malleable by the "authorities."

In a traditional society, where the leaders themselves would have been trained in humility, and where they bowed down to sages who were completely disinterested in worldly…

Bhajana Rahasya 2.42 : Sruti Smriti Puranadi

This verse gets bandied about a lot. I noticed something in Jiva's commentary that helps clarify the meaning.

śruti-smṛti-purāṇādi pañcarātra-vidhiṁ vinā aikāntikī harer bhaktir utpātayaiva kalpate
Exclusive devotion to Lord Hari which ignores the regulative principles outlined in the Sruti, Smriti, Puranas and Pancharatra scriptures will simply cause a disturbance. (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.101)

Extended translation : Since the path taken by the great authorities has been canonized in the revealed scriptures, it is a flaw to ignore the edicts found in these texts. Vaishnavas should seek out the scriptures or sections of the scriptures that fit their level of qualification and inclination.
If someone out of deliberate faithlessness refuses to accept the scriptural directives, then even if they make a show of exclusive devotion, it will cause a disturbance. If one does not follow these injunctions out of ignorance or laziness, then the same degree of criticism does not apply. (Jiva…

Bhajana Rahasya 2.43 : The verse that got me

I am going through the Bhajan Rahasya for the nth time. I did the first version of the translation in 2002. I have been finalizing it for publication, which will be done by Gopinath Gaudiya Math.

The Bhajan Rahasya has an important place for me in my own spiritual life and as I start reading it again, I can remember back to the powerful effect it had on me way back when I first read it, before there were any translations. This would have been 1979.

It was one of the principal influences that led me to a closer relation with Bhaktivinoda Thakur.

I think that the following verses in Bhajana Rahasya were amongst those that captured my imagination. Up until this point near the end of the second chapter, it was more or less standard fodder, but this part suddenly made the desire for ekānta bhajana awaken in me.

prabhāte cārdha-rātre ce madhyāhne diva-saṅkṣaye kīrtayanti hariṁ ye vai na teṣām anya-sādhanam
The single-minded devotee who chants the Holy Names of the Lord in the morning, in th…

Vaidhi-Raganuga Mentalities and ISKCON

My FB friend PamHo wrote a highly critical article of Bhakti Vikas Swami which he posted to Facebook: Martyr or Mother?

I have been thinking a little about the issues raised by Bhakti Vikas Swami in his book about women and the role of women in ISKCON, though not having read the book I haven't gone into any great depth. I do know him by reputation and from some articles I have read. I see him as the conservative pole of current ISKCON and Hridayananda Maharaj being at the other extreme, with the GBC navigating the middle.

I am not particularly supportive of either of those individuals nor their course, nor do I have any skin in the game of ISKCON's future direction. I find the issue of women's roles, etc., really something that cannot be subjected to a purely traditional scriptural rule of law. My position is that in the larger society, in the current context, women should be free to develop as individuals without being hampered by limitations imposed by male masters. But…

Bhajana Rahasya 2.37: Dealing with Vaishnavas

kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyeta dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiś ca bhajantam īśam śuśrūṣayā bhajana-vijñam ananyam anya- nindādi-śūnya-hṛdam īpsita-saṅga-labdhyā
One should mentally honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Krishna. One should offer his humble obeisances to the one who has undergone spiritual initiation [dīkṣā] and is engaged in worshiping the Deity. And if one encounters a pure devotee who is advanced in undeviating devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others, one should associate with and faithfully serve him, recognizing him to be the ideal spiritual companion.

Bhaktivinode Thakur's translation in Bhajana-rahasya:

If you hear someone sincerely chanting the Holy Name, then you should offer him respects in your mind, again and again.

If he has joined a devotional disciplic line (sampradāya) through initiation and is engaged in worshiping Krishna, then you should respectfully fall down and take the dust of his …

Reflections on Bhajana Rahasya

As I go through the Bhajana Rahasya for hopefully the last time, I am still finding some verses for which no commentary was added. Sometimes this is understandable and has to be left aside, because giving explanations of something like vaco-vegam might take pages or even books in their own right.

In fact, too much explanation is the wrong way to go with Bhajana Rahasya. Someone who is ready for this summary by Bhaktivinode Thakur of how to enter into and take up ekanta raganuga bhajan, should already be pretty familiar with most of the concepts, which are being given in reminder fashion, rather than as narrowly focused guide to eliminating anarthas.

In the later sections where the verses summarizing the entirety of the sakhi kriyas or the different kinds of sambhoga, etc. are meant to indicate to the practitioner the _next_ level of study. The same is applicable to the Ashta-kala-lila sutras that come at the end of each chapter.

It is rather cool, actually, the way that Bhaktivinoda …

Bhajana Rahasya 2.16: Combatting anarthas

The indirect process: combatting the anarthas

Weakness of heart, thirst for the impermanent, and offenses must be overcome through the indirect method. In other words, one must make an effort to avoid unproductive desires and activities. The methods recommended to overcome the first three categories of anartha will now be given, one by one. Rupa Goswami states there are six urges that create obstacles to devotional service:

vāco vegaṁ manasaḥ krodha vegaṁ jihvā vegam udaropastha vegam etān vegān yo viṣaheta dhīraḥ sarvām apīmāṁ pṛthivīṁ sa śiṣyāt
A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind’s demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals can teach the entire world. (Upadeśāmṛta, 1)

Expanded translation: O Lord Hari! I have fallen into this world of five elements where I have no refuge. I see no shelter other than Your feet, which are the only recourse for the helpless, and so I have made You the essential truth in my life.

I have no pious deed…

Bhajana Rahasya excerpts (Introduction)

I first did the translation work on Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Bhajana Rahasya in 2002 on behalf of Mandala Publishers, which was the publishing arm of Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj and the Gopinath Gaudiya Math, the current Acharya of which is Sripada Bhakti Bibudh Bodhayan Maharaj.

They gave me a great opportunity to study this book again in depth, since this book played an important part in my own spiritual life and progress. Once again I have to show my great gratitude to the Gaudiya Math and its branches. As it happened, this book and Harinama-chintamani, which I also worked on at around the same time, were never published. Recently through the intercession of a couple of ISKCON sannyasis who had seen the earlier work on these books I had done, recommended to Srila Bodhayana Maharaj that he should publish them. Bodhayan Maharaj agreed and so for the past month I have been revising my work and upgrading it, and with Bhajana Rahasya especially making additions.

I thought that …