Braj Bhava and the English OS

I have been watching a lot of strange videos over the past few days. A rather abrupt and inexplicable detour from the few days of more intense bhajan in the association of Bengali Babajis in Barsana.

While in Barsana, I was standing in the Ladli temple on the outside terrace portion and someone appeared to have fainted. An elderly Brijbasi Gosai, with a bushy white moustache, a colorful turban and yellow silk dhoti, a stick in his hand, was walking toward me. For some reason I was impelled to say something stupid and started to speak, but my Hindi tongue was tied and could not express, "We must all pass by that."

At the Brajvasi's insistence I repeated myself again without success and ended up stuttering out the words andham tamah. Which I knew the instant they came out of my mouth that they did not fit at all what I really wanted to say, pointless as it was.

The Gusai responded vehemently in a tone of chastisement, but even singing a Brijbhasha song, glorifying Braj Dham as sat-chit-ananda, and how nothing that happens here can ever be andham tamah. I stood there with my head down looking like a stupid schoolboy as he continued, his final word being, "You are only a beginning Brajvasi."

Well better a beginner than none at all. But he is perfectly correct.

This is why I wrote a few days ago that I am cursed by my strong samksaras -- one of the most important of which is the "operating system" called the English language.

It is the software by which we operate the rest of our human hardware, beginning with the brain. And it literally shapes everything about the way we see the world and life and meaning, with both universals and particulars and all the shades in between.

I have been finding it difficult to be a Brijvasi. It is hard to say even what I mean by that. I have been talking about a concept of Braja Bhava sadhana. By that I do not so much mean actually following the local culture as it is today, as following the ideal Brijvasi mood of love for Krishna. The idea of belonging to his land. To be a descendant by connection to the families of Krishna's associates. The Brijvasis don't have to aspire to a world where Krishna is everywhere, they are already living there.

On the other hand, in a very real sense, outsiders also MAKE Vrindavan what it is, by importing their portion of the dream.

Who first implanted this dream here? Outsiders: Mahaprabhu, the Goswamis and their followers and the great discoverers of Vrindavan by the Yamuna -- an unlikely, dusty, barely livable land on the edge of the Rajasthani desert, infested with bandits and local rulers who were little better than thugs.

They came to restore, as they saw it, a spiritual epicenter, an alternative reality, the abode of the Divine Couple, a place of ferment in the arts, attracting people from every corner of India to create a new Brij culture based in the divine romance of Radha and Krishna.

No social expression of any ideal is perfect, but the Love of God in the form of Radha and Shyam is the ruling dream of Braj.

Here I write in English -- and that after exposing myself to English videos and texts of the rather popular kind -- and am coming to feel more and more as though even the touch of the English language corrupts me, exposing me repeatedly to figures such as Donald Trump and the excited total absorption that he has managed to generate in the greatest media triumph in world history.

Billions of people's eyes glued to a reality TV show constantly being chattered about in every public place, in every home, on every screen. What we Vaishnavas would like to have, namely constant and devoted attention paid to God, has been stolen, consumed with expertise by this Jokasura.

Perhaps the first truly modern president, the first one to understand how it works. The global reality show, "What in God's name will he do next?" He has become the world champion of ratings and he may actually get a full eight years to carry it on, if he can survive the first season.

His supporters are laughing and eating popcorn as their reality star has the liberal elites and media pundits pulling their hair out. The late night comedians repeat every nauseating, stupid statement he makes and mock him endlessly -- Oh the entertainment! How much this made-up reality is better than fiction! How much more absorbing such a horror show!

And indeed it is a greatly powerful thing, this media-created world: the interlocking global psyche has successfully become obsessed with Donald Trump. That is, of course, the English-programmed world, the one that "rules the world."

Here in India there are ample protections for a foreigner who does not want to take his India straight. The English language is the most important of them. English is a even more widespread nowadays than when I was first in India in 1975-1985, due to its being deemed necessary for economic success; the opening of the Indian market in the 1990's has resulted in a general expansion of modern education systems, meaning again the expansion of the Indian Anglosphere. For a foreigner, an English speaker, this means he can find a comfort zone and there seems to be no reason to wish to break out of it.

And an English and Anglicized Indian can commiserate together about the horrors of poverty and the garbage, and other such enlightened things, and thereby never really know the reality of life here. Or more accurately, the life of India as it was in our idealized golden ages. The villages of Bengal and Braj. The life of the renounced babajis and the simple villagers who shared their bread with them. It's still there, but quickly being infected with smart phones and TV-dishes.

And indeed, there was a prejudice deep with me against doing that. It happened to me a number of times when the doors of that world opened up to me. I did not have the right kind of anthropological spirit to completely "go native", even though in dress and behavior I was as far as one could possibly go from the norms of my probable destiny as a Canadian. I thought I was better.

And as a Canadian I would have been as a "normal person" doing something staid and satisfying like being a professor of something suitably arcane, pontificating on Hindu religious nationalism and its geopolitical implications or whatever and pretending that because I had learned a little of Indian languages and had even lived in India for a little while, that I was ever anything but an outsider there and that I really belonged in the Anglosphere.

And, of course, there is a strong Indian samskar in me. I did spend those years, and I did live the life of a renunciate in Nabadwip and Vrindavan. I had the association of many great saints, knowingly or unknowingly. Even as an outsider, I had a great many significant experiences in my emic adventure. And to say I had not gone native would be wrong. Even to fail at going native leaves indelible marks.

English is for me, in a way, a kind of drug. It is the easy option. It is the fast food of thought consumption and production. For me, it works better as an OS than Bengali or Sanskrit. And yet, for a long time, I have pretended to be close to being able to function entirely in Bengali or Sanskrit. Perhaps I am too old now to think that I can find the continued energy to pursue perfection.

Even though I learn them, I do not think in those languages. I do not spend time discussing matters, in writing or in conversation, in languages other than English.

This is the control English has over me.

Now, it must be emphasized: English is equipped with hubris. Because the English-using world, the Anglosphere, has a disproportionate influence on the world as a whole, it has become "normative," meaning that the spectrum of ideas that are dominant in the normative domain permeate most of the other cultures also, though to some extent they are mediated by their own linguistic and cultural environments. But gradually, by sheer force of its mediatic and economic power, the values, goals and ethos of the Anglosphere penetrate and transform the local cultures also.

Those kinds of entertainments, the idealization of certain lifestyles, but principally it is the mastery of the art of mesmerizing the population with this American formula of mind control, i.e., the creation of a Reality and many subrealities simply for the purpose of making you willingly participate and spend your money.

So, over the past few days I looked at a number of current subcultures of American life and find myself looking at them with the eye of an anthropologist, an observer. I find no attraction to becoming a part of these people's lives, but because of the facility provided by the deep samskaras of the English language, it is easy to access. It turns into a kind of cheap voyeurism.

It would not be possible for me to mix with these American people, from any of their various walks of life. I would not want to mix. And in the end, our cultural worlds are so far apart it is almost impossible for me to be anything other than repelled by all of it. And yet I too return to gape at the turbulence of confusion. A post-truth age, where reality is replaced by an endless series of unsavory possibilities.

These thoughts are serious ones for me. What offense have I committed that I have so little taste, after all these years, for the gifts of my acharyas? It seems that the only solution is to stay off line as much as possible.


Anonymous said…

A relevant discourse from Father Lazarus Al-Anthony:

Click the URL link above and watch and listen from 1:33:44 to 1:45:15
Anonymous said…


Anonymous said…
Take heart brother, whatever the operating system, it matters not; one must transcend it and "cry out".

Mary Magdalene

"To cross (the spine), lift up (the śákti [to pierce] above the skull), bear and carry a large growth”.

A purely tantric affair.

Kind regards,









and ultimately:

Cognates with the Arabic √ word م ر ر ‎(m-r-r‎) - to pass, to elapse, to go by, to cross (passing, passage, going by, transit), sharp.

Magdalene, from Ancient Greek Μαγδαληνή ‎(Magdalēnḗ)

From Hebrew migdál (מגדל) - Tower

From the √ g-d-l (ג־ד־ל) - Forming words relating to “largeness or growth”.

Tower, from Latin tollere

Tollere, infinitive of tollō ‎(“to lift up; to take away”‎), from Proto-Italic *tolnō, from Proto-Indo-European *tl̥néh₂ti ~ *tl̥nh₂énti, from the root *telh₂- ‎(“to bear, carry”‎).
Anonymous said…

J.D. said: "This is why I wrote a few days ago that I am cursed by my strong samksaras -- one of the most important of which is the "operating system" called the English language. "

M.N. replied: No, "we are not machines", language does not control us!

"Andham tamah" you say... Hmmm; sounds like wisdom was preceding the elderly Brijbasi Gosai, did he shake his stick vehemently gesticulating at you whilst chastising "you are only a beginning Brajvasi"?

M.N. smiles: A true reflection of ones self.

andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti
ye 'sambhūtim upāsate
tato bhūya iva te tamo
ya u sambhūtyāṁ ratāḥ



Brijbasi "to shine + to roar"

In Egypt, the name wp-w3wt (Wepwawet) - the anthropomorphic wolf (howler) "opener of the ways" was used as such allegory, and topped the staff of wisdom.

Anonymous said…
Hare Krsna prabhu. I share your sentiments! And your conclusions. I am online, only to read your insightful musings.

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