Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Vrindavan and Goloka in the Gopala Champu

I was reflecting on my Gopala Champu class for which I had not prepared myself properly and wrote:
The sin of a translator, of which I am often guilty, is to start translating before becoming the original.  
How do you become the original? Samadhi. By which I mean you should at least completely forget the language of arrival for as long as it takes to get to the end of the passage you are translating. In other words, not to translate. To get to the point of not translating.
I don't particularly like the "mysterious" style. I am more of a verbose and boring explainer. So I began to examine what provoked those thoughts.

In my class, I explain the passage word by word, so I am translating right from the very beginning. If I haven't understood the passage properly before I start that process, then in the public situation I will only produce an unclear sense, or one that deviates from the purpose of the passage. We were doing GC 1.1.17 and tomorrow we will have to do it again. All glories to the freedom of a daily class which has no end in sight! No purpose to fulfill but its own enjoyment.

And I am, let me say further, enjoying the readings. I cannot, of course, speak for the students. But from a purely objective point of view, it seems very appropriate for them. The first chapter of Gopala Purva Champu is a glorification of Vrindavan and Goloka, so for these students, many of whom are fairly new to Vrindavan, it is a nice introduction. And for me, it is a good refresher course. To be in Vrindavan means to study Vrindavan in both word and deed.

The following is my translation from 1992, which is heavily influenced (and really thanks to) Prof. J. Clifford Wright at SOAS who really picked up on stuff that I totally missed and still am missing -- as today's class proved. (But still needs tweaking!)
In an explanation which will follow in its proper place, based on the account of the Bhagavata Purana and giving all the essentials on this topic, it will be shown clearly that upon his return from the abode of Varuna to 'his own cowherd realm', the original lord (who is an ocean of mercy), plunged in and afterwards emerged from the felicitous Brahman lake where he would later reveal to Akrura [another] special aspect of his glories as found in Vaikuntha. By so doing he created a curiosity in the minds of his own folk [the cowherds and Nanda]; after which he showed them this manifestation of his glory (vaibhava-viśeṣa), rendered [more] miraculous by his own presence as the saviour being praised with Vedic hymns.
The Sanskrit, for anyone interested --

यं खलु वैभव-विशेषं सर्व-सारेण यथा-स्थानं प्रकाशयिष्यमाण-व्याख्या-विशेषावतारेण श्रीमद्-भागवतानुसारेण गोपानां स्वं लोकं वरुणालयाद् आगतः करुणा-वरुणालयः स्वयं भगवान् अक्रूराय वैकुण्ठ-विशेष-लक्षण-स्व-वैभव-व्यञ्जनया सुख-प्रदे ब्रह्म-ह्रदे मज्जनेन तस्माद् उन्मज्जनेन च तज्-जन-कौतुक-जननाद् अनन्तरं चन्दः-स्तूयमानेनात्मनावित्रा विचित्रम् अत्रैव वृन्दावने तदीय-नर-लीला-वेशेन साधारणम् अन्येभ्यस् तेभ्यः सन्दर्शयामास
Madan Mohanji wrote:
Interesting. I noted in the above you say, Krishna's immersion in the Brahma hrada created curiosity in the cowherds, but I thought that curiosity had been roused at the rescue of Nanda and his account of how their own Krishna was worshiped by the gods. It's a ambiguous passage which is evident from diversity of translations. I think Jiva, in Gopal Champu steers clear of what might seem in the Bhagavat an exultation of brahma jnan (?), then he reveals his supreme realm of Vaikuntha beyond time space and the gunas. Jiva equates that with Goloka which is not explicit in the Bhagavat. He seems to have interpreted the Bhagavat in terms of the Padma.
You are right about 10.28. Maybe I should look to find another meaning of kautuka. Or at least specify towards what this kautuka is directed. You are also right about the importance of the Padma "sandarbha" in constructing the Gopala-champu narrative.

I do think, however, that you over-read the Bhagavata emphasis on brahma-jnana here. At least, the commentaries always try to clarify the original intent of the Bhagavatam. They are successful inasmuch as they can demonstrate coherently that their views are justified in the original text, i.e., that they reflect the true intent of Vyasa. Thus, for them, it is a matter of clarifying how the Bhagavatam might be misinterpreted. Here they introduce the section by saying that the intention of the Bhagavatam is to reveal that Brahmajnana, etc., are all inferior to Vrindavan.

Jiva's point is also that Goloka itself is an expansion of the Vrindavan in this world, i.e., that the avatar lila is the source of the nitya-lila. The nitya-lila represents the culmination, the "happy ever after" of the janmadi-lila. And a great part of the happiness is remembering, again and again, the glories of having lived a great story, which is now finally over.

In a sense, in the nitya-lila, Radha and Krishna internally live the prakata-lila, and in the prakata-lila they live for the nitya-lila. The two are mutual cause and efffect. But to answer which came first, the chicken or the egg, it is the janmadi-lila, precisely because, as the name itself reveals, the beginning of both. The story begins with a birth. It begins in this world.

The theological implications are actually far reaching. This is why the "fall from Vaikuntha" debate has significance. The jiva is neutral in the material world, just like a child newborn comes into the world and becomes a story -- as it is for every one of us, therefore we have "nara-lila" -- he becomes a lover of God. He perfects his human life by perfecting love.

That is how Krishna's life is archetypal for Jiva Goswami and so that is how he has to tell the story. Without the purna-manoratha, it is incomplete. Like the old fortune teller lady said in answer to the question, "What if there is no happy resolution at the end?" -- "Then it isn't the end."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, you speak the truth.

The inner sound intensifies, the (meditative) star before the brow rushes forward, and one becomes instantly submerged in a rotating torsion of liquid-light.

One is then re-born back into the physical body from this womb of liquid light to the sound of the inhalated breath "sah".

Text 14-15

With this consideration the Supreme Lord Hari in His great compassion showed the gopas His abode beyond the darkness of matter: the true, unlimited, spiritual knowing that is the light of the eternal absolute the way it is seen by the sages when they in trance are removed from the material qualities.

With this consideration showed the Supreme Lord Hari in great compassion the gopas His own abode beyond the darkness of matter: the true unlimited spiritual knowing that is the light [see brahmâ-jyoti] of the eternal absolute which indeed is seen by the sages in trance being removed from the material qualities


(14-15) With this consideration the Supreme Lord Hari in His great compassion showed the gopas His abode beyond the darkness of matter: the true, unlimited, spiritual knowing

"that is the light of the eternal absolute"

the way it is seen by the sages when they in trance are removed from the material qualities.

(16) They were by Krishna brought to the lake of the One Spirit [brahma-hrada] and submerged in it. Lifted out again they saw the abode of the Absolute Truth the way Akrûra has seen it.

(17) Nanda and the others were overwhelmed by supreme bliss with that vision and were most surprised to see Krishna Himself present there extensively being praised with Vedic hymns.'