In the last three articles, Another look at Aropa and Vatsalya, Worshiping Krishna as the substratum in all beings and The natural loves and prema, I have been responding to Muralisvara Dasa's letter. In these posts we have established several things that beginner devotees find problematic. Indeed, it takes a bit of a paradigm shift to move from the beginning level of duality between God and man in aiśvarya to the eradication of this difference in mādhurya. This is the human dimension of love.
To summarize: Without giving up the basic practice of arcanā, one has to cultivate the middle stage of devotion, which is, as we have all read in the Bhāgavatam:
prema-maitrī-kṛpopekṣāṁ yaḥ karoti sa madhyamaḥ ||
One who behaves with love towards God, friendship to those who depend on the Lord, with compassion to those who are innocent, and indifference to those who hate the Lord, is on the middle level of devotional achievement and practice. (SB 11.2.46)In Kapila Deva's verse, this was expressed as follows:
arcayed dāna-mānābhyāṁ maitryābhinnena cakṣuṣā
Therefore, through charity and offering respect to others, through friendship and by viewing others as non-different [from the Self], one should worship me, who have made my home within all living beings as the Supreme Self. (3.29.27)Maitrī here takes the primary position, and this forms the bridge between the positive and negative paths. I have mentioned this here. This is also applicable to this sādhana in madhura-rasa. But of course, for the sake of this discussion, abhinnena cakṣuṣā, or seeing the devotees or, in particular, partners in sādhanā, as not different or in any way separate from Krishna, is the raison-d'etre and goal of this sādhana.
Krishna is the ultimate Self in all beings. To see and love him within oneself is the inner path. To see and love him in others is the outer path. The combination of both is the full path. Neither is complete without the other.
With this awareness, then, one should understand that āropa is a bit of a misnomer, since we are not falsely attributing qualities that do not exist onto something or someone that does not have them. Krishna in whatever form we wish to worship him, exists in that form in the Other as it manifests in the sādhaka's life, i.e., even in imperfection. If we understand Jiva Goswami's comment cited at the end of the previous post, we will understand that more clearly. The example of the other rasas is particularly cogent.
The point is that one way or another, the sādhanā is learning to love the Supreme Self in the self, in the other and in everything. It is not an artificial construct because there is in fact nothing other than Him. kim atad-vastu rūpyatām. This is how we learn to see Him in the other. When one sees that the Self in the other is the same Self existing within oneself, then the question of selfish desire does not arise. This is how kāma is conquered.
This is how the development of the vision of God as described in the verses 3.29.28-33 evolved from the unconscious to the most conscious entities. It reminded me of the following story from Sam Keen in his To a Dancing God:
Carson McCullers once wrote a short story which suggests the proper place for a course in loving to begin. She tells about a young paperboy who encounters a drunk in an all-night diner. The drunk insists upon showing the boy a picture of his wife who fifteen years previously ran away with another man. He goes on to explain that in those days he did not know how to love but that subsequently he has developed a science of love that will allow him to win his wife's love. The mistake he originally made was to begin with the hardest object of love – a woman. His new science established a hierarchy: first love a rock, then a cloud, then a tree, and gradually your powers will grow until it will be possible to love a woman. There is a wisdom in this story that the Greek philosophers would have understood. Plato also insisted that love had a ladder of ascent whose lowest rung was a simple object. Eros is first directed toward modest objects, and only afterward may it reach the good, the beautiful and the true. Practice in loving best begins with objects, things—rocks and trees, or beautiful machines. (Collins Fontana ed'n, 1971: 58).This is why limiting love of God to the God on the altar, the One "out there," in a heaven or some liberated state, though good as a basis, eventually becomes problematic. Even if we superimpose personality on the object, in some way it keeps some of its limitations, which are not fully perceived by the beginner. Is this not the flaw identified by those who protest against any possibility of love in the world, namely that kāma can make us think of them in terms of our conditioned -- subtle or gross -- saṁskāras objects of sense gratification? In the Vishnu Purana verse quoted in Prīti Sandarbha (The natural loves and prema) the word viṣaya is often mistranslated as "sense object," when it is really meant as in the rasa-śāstra sense as the object of love, like Krishna is the object of Radha's love.
This is the basis for our speaking about "I-Thou" relationships mentioned here and there on this blog. And this is why the Christ's statement is so powerful: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4.20, KJV) [Many translations have "believer" rather than "brother," which also sheds light on the idea of the madhyama stage, where the emphasis is on the loving relationships with fellow sādhakas.]
The denial of love in this world is the denial of God-as-Love. Sometimes God is thought of by atheist psychologists as a "transitional object" or a kind of substitute for cruel reality (example). The Christian psychotherapist see his role as a kind of guru who acts in the same way as mediator to God. What we are saying is that both these standpoints are correct: We learn to love God in a multiplicity of ways, but its testing ground as well as its laboratory are in human love.
This is also how I read the verse from the Gītā,
avyaktā hi gatir duḥkhaṁ dehavadbhir avāpyate
The anguish for those whose minds are attached to the Unmanifest is greater, because embodied beings can only attain the goal of the Unmanifest with great difficulty. (Gītā 12.5)Here, the unmanifest means the God that does not exist anywhere except as a general concept in the mind. If one loves a mental concept (avyakta or unmanifest), this love does not have the impact that love for something concrete and accessible to the senses will have. And the worship of God in the vyakta corresponds to the sequential order as given in Kapila's verses: from the unconscious elements, worshiped in the deity form, to a human being, and of them, particularly the devotee.
Love for a devotee will always be higher because that love will confirm and increase the love for God in his human form, ultimately Radha and Krishna, since they are absorbed in Radha and Krishna and therefore the Radha-Krishna-ness radiates from them directly.
Not that it is necessarily easier to go there right away, as Carson McCullers' diner drunk recognized, for the person who has not developed the capacity to do so, or who lacks the requisite background knowledge, often chooses an unqualified object of love in the sādhanā stage.
But when a bhakti-yogi recognizes that the devotee is the closest that we can come to experience God in the human, due to his or her embodiment of Krishna-consciousness, and if that is revealed to him or her directly through the numinous experience or epiphany of falling in love, then he or she is ready to start the process of bhāva sādhanā.
The point I want to make is that all sādhana contains within it a process of āropa. We apply God-ness to objects that ordinarily we do not think of having God-ness. The Deity in the temple is called an "idol" by the non-believer for whom the concept of āropa corresponds to idolatry. The devotee defends against the charge: We are told to see Krishna in the deity; we are told Krishna is genuinely present there as a result of mantras and rituals that infuse it with his consciousness (prāṇa-pratiṣṭhā) In fact, there is nothing but Krishna. Krishna is the object of all love. It is only idolatry when we see something else that is meant to serve our interests separate from God. Nevertheless, in real terms, worshiping the deity is an act of superimposition or āropa; it is an act of the buddhi, imposing an awareness of God where in ordinary consciousness there is none. Thus the many legends about awakened murtis, like the story of Nrisingha arising from the Shiva linga.
With the devotee this should be less difficult, but alas our vision is impure. The fault finding tendency battles with our practice of "seeing the truth" (āropa), the so-called "real" and so-called "fantasy" fight it out to no conclusion. Seeing God in the human is not an easy practice.
[Take another look at the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu verses about rāgānugā bhakti in this light as well in that of the Bhakti-sandarbha 106.]
Now, in my view, one has to have undergone a thorough training in āropa in the pravartaka stage before one can start practicing it on the level of human beings. Your mind needs to be imbued with bhakti saṁskāras through hearing and chanting, and meditating on what one has heard, i.e., through the preliminary practices of vaidhī and rāgānugā bhakti. For anyone who has not got faith in the deity form of the Lord, or in the Lord's human pastimes, there is no point in attempting to go further in bhāva sādhanā.
When it comes to madhura-rasa, devotees who might otherwise accept the idea of āropa in vātsalya and other types of rāgānugā devotion find it difficult to make the leap from there to the erotic mood. This is no doubt why Rupa Goswami himself separated rāgānugā into two divisions, one called sambandhānugā (following the relation), the other kāmānugā (following the erotic desire). The latter is further subdivided into sambhogecchāmayī and tad-bhāvecchātmikā (BRS 1.2.297-298). These are then defined:
sambhogecchā-mayī tat-tad-bhāvecchātmeti sā dvidhā ||
keli-tātparyavaty eva sambhogecchā-mayī bhavet |
tad-bhāvecchātmikā tāsām bhāva-mādhurya-kāmitā ||
That devotion which follows the erotic desire is that devotional thirst that follows the love [felt by the gopis] which appears like lust. It has two divisions: that which has as its goal the enjoyment of dalliance with Krishna is called "following] devotion which desires [erotic] union" (sambhogecchāmayī). That devotion which is filled with the desire to experience the sweetness of the mistresses' mood is called "devotion desiring their mood" (tad-bhāvecchātmikā). (BRS 1.2.299)The former has its meaning (tātparya) in erotic enjoyment with Krishna. The latter in the desire to relish the sweetness of the moods of the lovers of Krishna such as Radha.
Vishwanath argues in his commentary to BRS 1.2.298 that this process the following of the gopis is not to be taken as imitation (anukāriṇī). Here he decries the "Sauramya" school, which is generally associated with Rupa Kaviraj, one of the earliest Vaishnava Sahajiya philosophers, about whom far too little is known. Jiva Goswami also emphasizes that of the two, the latter path is superior. This is because any ordinary jiva who thinks that he has the capacity to be a nāyikā who can control Krishna with her love the way that Radharani does is surely engaged in a futile pursuit. And the desire for sexual union contains a whiff of personal desire that is entirely absent in the tad-bhāvecchātmikā devotees, namely the manjaris or sakhis.
So the problem is here associated specifically with the sambhogecchā-mayī mood. It has been hinted at in other ways by Jiva Goswami. For example in Bhakti Sandarbha 310-311 where two verses of the 11th Canto are cited from Pingala's soliloquy. These are used by him as examples of rāgānugā bhakti, specifically to show that Pingala was not bound by rules and attracted to Narayan purely by ruci. The terms sambhogecchāmayī and tad-bhāvecchātmikā are not used in Bhakti Sandarbha, but Pingala clearly belongs to the former category.
taṁ vikrīyātmanaivāhaṁ rame’nena yathā ramā ||
He [Bhagavān Nārāyaṇa] is the friend, the most beloved, the master and Self of all embodied beings. I shall purchase Him through the price of my self-surrender, and thus delight with Him, just like Goddess Lakṣmī. (SB 11.8.35, Bhakti Sandarbha 310)Moreover, from her prayers, we can see that Pingala also belongs to the svakīyā mood.
viharāmy amunaivāham ātmanā ramaṇena vai ||
Feeling contented and living upon with whatever I get, with full faith, I shall now sport with him alone as my husband, for he is my own true Self. (11.8.40, Bhakti Sandarbha 311)
Here Srila Jiva Goswamipada makes the distinction that Pingala is lamenting that her "natural husband" is the indwelling Lord, but she has instead chosen to prostitute herself to worthless men out of a desire for money and sexual pleasure. He states that in the world, marriages are based on mantra and ritual and are therefore the oneness of husband and wife is artificial (kṛtrimam ekātmatvam), not innate or natural. But in the case of Bhagavān this oneness is not so because He is the Supreme Self by his very constitution. But this statement applies to couples marrying within the varnashram system. As we have already stated above, the sādhaka is situated in the knowledge that it is not artificial, but as a ground for practising the presence of God in relationship.
To the second verse Jiva says that the sexual relationship with Krishna for those following Pingala's path, i.e., in this kind of rāgānugā bhakti, the mind is most important. This prevents the insolence (auddhatya) of physically engaging in such acts with the deity form. I am sure we will all agree that something does not sound quite right -- that would be a very gross understanding of the erotic relation with God -- and the fact that Jiva Goswami even had to mention it raises questions. But we also agree that the ground of rāgānugā is in the mind. And if one has not imprinted the mind with the image of the Yugala, the path of Yugala Sādhanā will be full of potholes.
In this post, I have discussed the following verses from Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, which are also relevant here. I will just conclude with the following reminder:
ity evaṁ bhakti-śāstrāṇāṁ tātparyasya vinirṇayaḥ
rāmādivad vartitavyaṁ na kvacid rāvaṇādivat
ity eṣa mukti-dharmādi-parāṇāṁ naya īryate
Those who wish for true joy (śam) should identify as devotees and not as Krishna. This is the conclusion of the devotional scriptures. "One should identify with Rama and not with Ravana, this is the method followed by those who are devoted to deliverance and justice." (UN 3.24-25)The art of love lies in becoming the āśraya not the viṣaya. It is because of this whiff of personal desire that the sambhogecchā and svakīyā moods are considered lesser, as well as being associated with one another. (See BRS 1.2.303)