Sunday, November 06, 2016

Debate on love in the world at Jiva Institute (video link)

The other day in my Gopala Champu class, I said the following:

"We can't understand the love of God without knowing love in this world. It has to reflect reality. You won't find love of God through failure of love in this world."

This comment did not pass unnoticed and one of the students asked Babaji for clarification. He said he disagreed and the student asked us if we were willing to debate the issue. Since we have been doing Nyāya and Babaji is something of an aficionado, he presented his point of view as a logical syllogism, making that the center of debate rather than my original statement, which made the discussion a little untidy. I was not prepared to answer his argument directly, but many in the audience were disappointed by the radical bifurcation of kāma and prema.

At one point Babaji says that desire is not in the soul. Frankly, I think that there is a bit of confusion in the sampradāya due to the Hindu world-view arising from Mayavada and Yoga. This is why at one point I objected that the Yoga-sūtra should not be considered a final authority, pace the mention of īśvara therein. The goal of Yoga-sūtra is kaivalya, not prema. And though it may be argued that it is useful for individual uplift, it does not give absolute value to love, either in this world or the next.

Nevertheless, if we follow the Yoga-sūtra, we still cannot agree with his idea that kāma and prema cannot exist in the same substratum, even though that existence cannot be simultaneous. YS 3.9-14 discusses precisely this problem in the context of yoga: How do the saṁskāras of samādhi and vyutthāna exist in the same substratum, i.e., the mind of the sādhaka.

Babaji at one point admits that initiation changes the situation, and this is also what I was saying. Once a devotee enters the path of devotion, it can no longer be claimed that he is untouched by the svarūpa śakti, though the material saṁskāras will remain. Otherwise, what need would there be for sādhanā?

Babaji said that the desire to serve Krishna is the product of the svarūpa śakti. We agree, but if desire for material sense pleasure is the character of the conditioned soul and desire to serve Krishna is that of the pure soul, then how is there an absolute break between the two? Desire is common to both; it is only the object of desire that changes. It is Yoga philosophy that denies all desire to the puruṣa itself. The Upanishad says, "...a person (puruṣa) consists of desires. And as is his desire, so is his will; and as is his will, so is his deed; and whatever deed he does, that he will reap." (kāma-maya evāyaḥ puruṣa iti | sa yathā-kāmo bhavati tat-kratur bhavati | yat-kratur bhavati tat karma kurute | yat karma kurute tad abhisampadyate || BAU 4.4.5).

The problem here is that if you deny an essential quality or characteristic that is present in both the conditioned and liberated states, then you fall prey to the same kind of logical inconsistency that is attributed to the Buddhist kṣaṇika-vāda.

Babaji objected to the quotes that I used to open my talk, which were from Taittiriya Upanishad. He quoted the commentary of Shankara saying that ānanda in these texts means Brahman. Of course there is nothing wrong with this, but it obfuscates the meaning of the word ānanda itself, which he also equated with love later in the discussion. This equation is found in Priti Sandarbha 61. The association of pleasure (both giving and receiving) with love is a firm base of my argument.

Brahman is ānanda, of this there is no doubt. But if we understand ānanda as love, then the understanding of Brahman and these quotes changes. And do we not have the right to interpret the scriptural statements in a way that opens the discussion rather than closing it? "The world was created out of love." Why else would the One become Many? This is made clear from other Upanishadic passages.

And without the presence of God, not simply as an underlying force, but as experienced through love, however pale the reflection, would anyone survive or remain alive? Those who are without the experience of love feel no will to live. And those who are inspired to experience life in its fullest are motivated by the desire for love, knowingly or unknowingly. When that desire is fully understood, one seeks the answer to love in God.

In the end one enters into love -- that is the telos, the ultimate end of creation, the prayojana. So we have no quarrel with Shankara here, we simply say, "Let us expand on the concept of Brahman."

On another level of understanding, the world is maintained by the presence of love in it means that God always makes arrangements for the presence of the svarūpa śakti to exist in some form within the world to establish in the conditioned souls the faith that love does indeed exist, by God's grace.

And lastly (from the top of my head) the fundamental idea that runs through my argument is that there is a concept of pure love that exists in the minds of humanity. For the word  "love" exists. A word must have an object, without which this entire discussion would be moot. There would be no possibility of speaking of love at all, even though we may be able to discriminate between higher and lower loves. Therefore there are different systems in the world in which human beings by various processes both recognize the primordial need for love and strive to move towards that as the standard of human perfection. Christianity is a good example and I will write about C.S. Lewis' "Four Loves" as an example of the discourse as he presents it, which I think will be a valuable addition to the discussion. But this is not the only one. I have for instance talked about Martin Buber on this blog on more than one occasion.


Abhi Hedemark said...

I strongly agree with the stance you took during this debate. I am beginning to see more and more the rift between those who are manufacturing their own way of utilizing the Sastra which disconnects the sadhaka from the world and limits the practical value of those teachings, by making prema and love for Krsna something mystically out of reach, and those who wish to bring the spiritual world into our everyday experience by realising Krsna's actual presence in our life.
I can only imagine and pray for our Vaishnava community to see that the principle of service to the devotee as even higher and more endearing to Sri Krsna then service to his own self.
If the love between husband and wife were served and nurtured as actually being Sri Radha Krsna then the Vaishnava marriage institution would take a dramatic spiritual upliftment. The children born to such lovers of love would be children of pure love.
I have read much of your work and while I don't understand much of the ritual or actual practical application that you promote, I agree with your premise and I see it to be a deeply important message for the propagation of Vaishnava culture.
I would also like to present you a verse which I feel deeply supports your thesis and I, unfortunately, haven't seen you use it as of yet.
saṅgo yaḥ saṁsṛter hetur
 asatsu vihito ’dhiyā
sa eva sādhuṣu kṛto
 niḥsaṅgatvāya kalpate
"Association for sense gratification is certainly the path of bondage. But the same type of association, performed with a saintly person, leads to the path of liberation, even if performed without knowledge."
This is a BBT translation I believe its Srila Prabhupadas but I cannot be sure, I am no Sanskrit scholar. I hope you feel it is accurate.
These principles seem to give family life and the association of other devotees especially ones devotional wife or partner a much greater status in life and sadhana on the path of bhakti. I feel that somehow a certain hard-hearted and fear-driven attitude as crept its way into the vaishnava assembly in the attempt to properly distinguish between selfish lust and selfless love, but in doing so we have only succumbed to extreme dvaitist views that separate prema and kama as two completely different energies when in fact they are the same energy directed in two different directions.

Love is the essence of our being, our reality, our pursuits, our hopes and our ultimate shelter in this endless rotation of both spiritual and material time. If one can see this principle and apply it to every aspect of his life then, seeing through the mask the supreme is wearing, he finds love in all and all in love and because love is Sri Radha Krsna, he finds them to be absolutely integral to his own happiness and existence. Loving them is the essence of loving others, loving others is the essence of loving them.
The Pancha tattva show this detail of love. They are the five features of the self, the five features of love, and the five features of reality. There is no separate reality from them. The mere thinking that there is another world, another reality, is the avidya sthana.

Sexuality is obviously a difficult energy to fully harness in the pursuit of pure love, which is why I believe the acharyas have always preached heavily against its inclusion, However for those who are already enmeshed in the pursuit of sexual delight. How much harm could it do to attempt to link that with Krsna and pure love? However how much better the world would be if this could actually be done?

From a purely theoretical and almost experimental point of view, the merging of ones sexuality, which is by far the most characteristic facet of false ego, the very ahankara itself, with bhakti would be a formidable force to liberate the jiva from its misconceptions of avidya.
I believe that if this is possible at all, it should be paid close attention to and viewed with honest curiosity.

Jagadananda Das said...

Thank you for your long, thoughtful post. It is heartening to see that someone is engaging with my ideas in a serious way. It seems that most devotees react viscerally in a negative way, which is disappointing.

And thank you for the verse (Bhag 3.23.55). I had indeed not noticed it before, strangely enough. The translation is good, the verse is simple and direct and you are right, fits this concept perfectly.

Though I have called myself a Sahajiya, it is my feeling that this is actually the _orthodox_ position. Because it is not possible to speak of it directly, it is hidden in indirect statements. It is possible for us, as Westerners who are a little more open about sexual topics, to discuss these matters openly.

But even there I have been more hesitant of late because of the negativity. I have gotten some encouragement from other readers, but your post shows that you have thought about the matter extensively. Those who agree with me are, of course, more intelligent. ;)

Your last paragraph is actually what makes this doctrine so frightening to the conservatives. At the same time, there is also a very real danger there. This is not meant to be a license for licentiousness. Prema is a pure thing. We must be careful not to degrade the essential idea of purity and sanctity.

Radhe Radhe.

Jagadananda Das said...

I also had this "translation" in my personal database. I don't have a reference whose it is.

If one keeps the company of the wicked, then the result will be a life of deep entanglement. Even if we don’t make the judgment who is a good person and who is bad, we will still receive the results of such association. On the other hand, if we associate with the saintly, we will be freed from all material attachment. (SB 3.23.55)

Vishwanath says that this verse shows that vastu-shakti (the power of a thing in itself) does not depend on knowledge. Therefore the word ignorance applies to both halves of the sentence.

Literally, "Associate with the unholy that is undertaken by an ignorant person is the cause of material bondage. The very same association done in ignorance with the saintly leads to freedom from material attachment."

This ties in nicely with the passage in the 11th Canto, Chapter 12, where various ignorant devotees are said to have attained perfection through sanga, including the gopis. (11.12.10-13). Those verses are interpreted in a specific way related to the lila by Jiva Goswami, but I tend to think that the entire insight of the Vedic literature is concealed in the words "atithi-devo bhava" ("see God in the guest").

The "ignorance" of the gopis is the same ignorance as of those in knowledge. Let me quote a couple of those verses:

tā nāvidan mayy anuṣaṅga-baddha-
dhiyaḥ svam ātmānam adas tathedam |
yathā samādhau munayo’bdi-toye
nadyaḥ praviṣṭā iva nāma rūpe ||

They knew nothing of themselves or their kin, of this world or the next, for their intelligence was bound in attachment to me; like sages in samadhi, like rivers flowing to the ocean, they merged completely into my name and form. (11.12.12)

mat-kāmā ramaṇaṁ jāram asvarūpa-vido’balāḥ |
brahma māṁ paramaṁ prāpuḥ saṅgāc chata-sahasraśaḥ ||
Desiring to have me as their paramour lover, these girls attained Me, the Supreme Brahman, in their hundreds and thousands without even knowing their own true spiritual nature, just due to My 1holy association. KS 177

A similar point is made in Uddhava's glorification of the gopis,

kvemāḥ striyo vana-carīr vyabhicāra-duṣṭāḥ
kṛṣṇe kva caiṣa paramātmani rūḍha-bhāvaḥ |
nanv īśvaro'nubhajato'viduṣo'pi sākṣāc
chreyas tanoty agada-rāja ivopayuktaḥ ||

What comparison can be made between these forest-dwelling women who are tainted by their infidelity [to their wordly husbands] on the one hand, and this most elevated love for Krishna, the Paramatma, on the other. Surely the Supreme Lord grants the highest welfare to one who constantly worships him even without knowing his reality, just as the king of medicines, heavenly ambrosia, cures all diseases even when used unwittingly. (10.47.59) KS 145

This is an interesting concept. Love can free you, but you have to love the right person. The closer to God the better, i.e., the closer to Love Personified the better. But most of us have no capacity for that. If we have spontaneous love for a saintly and elevated person, that is already the result of many lifetimes of sadhana. Fortunate is the person who is spontaneously attracted in love to a pure devotee, Krishna's walking manifestation in this world.

But such spontaneous love in this world, even among devotees, is mixed, and therefore requires the usual discriminatory processes. We are sadhakas.

Jagadananda Das said...

Vraja Kishor, Vic di Cara, sent me the following comment on the debate:

Is There Love in This World

The recent debate at JĪVA institute was really a pleasure to watch and hear, but I was a little dissatisfied. I thought Jagat Jī could have argued his position much better, and that Mahāmuni Jī should have taken a more active role and brought the debate to a clearer conclusion.

I believe that when a debate begins, the moderator should require the debaters to establish definitions of the key terms being contended. I don’t know if this is a formal principle for traditional debates, but it makes a lot of sense to me. The topic of contention was, “Does love exist in this world?” Discussion of this topic cannot proceed effectively without first defining (a) “love,” and (b) “this world.”

I feel that Jagatjī’s strayed into indefensible tangents. I wish he would have instead stuck more closely to the topic of the debate and established his argument in this manner:

“This world” is a reality that is a facsimile of Bhagavān’s reality
Beauty and love exist in Bhagavān and his śakti
Therefore some facsimile of beauty and love must exist in the facsimile of Bhagavān’s reality.

Comprehending the transcendent by way of its mundane facsimile is a major theme in Gītā (Chapters 10, 7 and 9), and in important Vedic concepts like tat tvaṁ asi and anyārtha parāmarṣa. In fact, “prajanaś cāsmi kāṇḍarpaḥ” could even be quoted to show Krishna himself stating that erotic love in this world has some utility in comprehending Krishna, and thus cannot be completely unlike the real thing.

I think the moderator failing to play his important role at the end of the debate was really disappointing. I believe it is essential that the moderator either give a judgement or establish saṁvāda (resolution).

I think saṁvāda is definitely attainable in this debate. Specifically, I see the saṁvāda as: “The perfect form of love exists only in the original reality, Vraja Dhāma, but this does not mean that the facsimile is completely devoid of any love at all.” Thus the uniqueness of Vraja Prema is protected, but not at the cost of denigrating love as an everyday experience giving meaning to all kāma, artha, dharma, and mokṣa.

This can be supported with Gītā 7.12 (matta eveti tān viddhi na tv ahaṁ teṣu te mayi), for it shows that the fact that Krishna is not fully present in this world does not mean that he is not present at all.

Prem Prakash said...

Seems many of these things are easier to sing about than debate.

Anonymous said...

Prem Prakash said: Seems many of these things are easier to sing about than debate.

M.N. replied: Actions speak louder than words (especially when one call out) "take the love above the skull", what else is there to say?