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Globalization and the Dham (Part I)

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I wrote the following article at the request of Steve Rosen, the editor of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies, for an issue about tirthas, so I tried to distinguish Braj from other tirthas in India. I have written a lot about Vrindavan over the past decade and it was something of a task to extract the essence of my experience of Vrindavan and express it in the present moment. I will publish the article on this blog in three parts.

Part I of this three part series. [Introduction, Places of Pilgrimage: Tirtha, Kshetra and Dham, Vaishnava criticisms of tīrtha-yātrā, Braj/Vrindavan is a dhāma]Part II of this three part series. [How a Gaudiya Vaishnava performs pilgrimage to the Dham, The eternal glory of residence in the Dham]Part III: Sattva-guṇa and Nirguṇa, Globalization and the Dham, Can a culture truly be translated?


Introduction

The town of Vrindavan, now a part of the municipality of Mathura-Vrindavan, and the wider area in which is lies, Braj, which also goes by the name Mathura Mand…

VMA 1.92 : For those making excuses

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ṛṇa-grasto yāyāṁ katham ahaha vṛndāvanam ahaṁ
tyajeyaṁ vā vṛddhāv agati-pitarau dāra-śiśukān |
kathaṁ vā maj-jīvān bata parihareyaṁ nija-janān
satāṁ ślāghyo bhūtvātma-phala-kalano muhyati kudhīḥ ||1.92||
"I have so many debts, how can I go to Vrindavan?
How can I abandon my helpless parents in their old age,
or my wife and little children?
How can I leave my community,
as dear to me as my own life?"

Such a one, who seeks the benefit of the soul,
though praised by the good, is bewildered,
his intelligence corrupted.

VMA 1.88-91 : Prayers for Vrindavan Residence

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gṛhāndha-kūpe patitaṁ kadā mām
uddhṛtya mūḍhaṁ krpayā svayaiva |
kāmādi-kālāhi-guṇair nigīrṇaṁ
māteva vṛndāṭavi neṣyase’ṅkam ||1.88||
I have fallen into the blind well of household life,
I am being devoured by the black snakes
of lust and other vices.
O abode of Vrindavan!
when will you lift me out of this well
and, acting as a mother,
give me shelter on your lap? (1.88)

Nagari bhava, an apasampradaya in the eyes of the orthodox Gaudiya Vrindavan mood

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I left Birnagar yesterday, a day early, because of worries that on Wednesday there will be a disruptive widespread politically motivated strike. This is an unpleasant feature of life in India.

The other day I made a quick visit to see Gadadhar before leaving. On my return to Birnagar, I had a bit of an argument with Harigopal Dasji, since he and Gadadhar don't see eye-to-eye on many issues. As a matter of fact, it is quite clear that Gadadhar is a complete outlier. Nobody, not the Radha Kund guardians of Gaudiya Vaishnava orthodoxy, what to speak of the Gaudiya Math and ISKCON, and not even our own goṣṭhī leave any wiggle room on what is acceptable -- mañjarī bhāva in Golok Vrindavan is the only permissible goal, and kāntā-bhāva (here and here) and Gaura-nāgara bhāva are considered apasampradāyas, and no distinction is made between them and the Sahajiyās or Bauls..

Poor Gadadhar Pran is mad for Gaura in Nabadwip lila, the Gaura that was seen by the Nabadwip Nagaris. And what can…

VMA 1.87 : Renounce the affections of the sense enjoyers

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I am on my way to Vrindavan after two months in Gauda Mandal Bhumi. Currently in Kolkata waiting for my train. Liminal is the word that best describes my "in-between" state of mind. There is something about the interplay of Gaura and Krishna lila that is unique to our sampradaya, another of those mysteries that life and bhajan are full of. I see that this post was originally made exactly a year ago day before yesterday.


unmatta-prāya-vācaḥ parimūṣita-dhiyo māyayānartha-bījaṁ
svārthaṁ matvā kṛtārthā atha na sukha-vivekādayo grāhya-vācaḥ |
svīyāḥ sarve jighāṁsanty ahaha bahu-mṛṣā sneha-pāśair nibadhya
śrī-vṛndāraṇya yāyām aham ahita-samājāt kadā nisṛtas tvām ||1.87||Alas, my own family and friends all want to kill me
by binding me in the ropes of affection,
all of which are completely false.

Their intelligence has been stolen by illusion,
and they speak almost like madmen.

They take the seeds of unwanted sufferings
as their true self-interest,
thinking themselves fulfilled by them,
and …

VMA 1.86 : I have no taste for anything but Braj

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viṣaya-viṣa-kṛmīṇāṁ bodha-mātrātma-bhājāṁ samaya-samaya-sarveśaika-bhakty-āśritānām| na nija-ruci-karaṁ vartmotsṛjantaḥ sthitāḥ smo vayam amala-sukhaugha-syandi-vṛndāvanāśāḥ || The paths followed by the worms
eating the poison of the sense objects,
and by those who say the self is consciousness alone,
and even by those who have taken exclusive shelter
of the all-powerful Supreme God,
     are not appealing to us,
         so we have given them up;
we invest our hopes in Vrindavan,
     which brings forth
         gushing streams of spotless bliss. (1.86)
Commentary

As Prabodhananda so often does, he comes back from contemplating the good fortune of Radha's kiṅkarīs and the inability of Lakshmi Devi to enter into that rasa to explain what he means. He does so, not by making a philosophical argument on metaphysics, but simply by stating his preference, his ruci, and to leave it at that. His taste is based in his experience, and his experience is the ultimate arbiter. This is to tell us quite cle…

VMA 1.85 : Radha’s dasis get more rasa than Lakshmi

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alakṣyāḥ śrī-lakṣmyā api ca bhagavatyā bhagavataḥ sadā vakṣaḥ-sthāyā madhura-madhurāḥ kecana rasāḥ | aho yad dāsībhiḥ satatam anubhūyanta ūrubhiḥ prakārais tāṁ rādhāṁ bhaja dayita vṛndāvane vane || There are some sweeter than sweet tastes
that are beyond even the glorious Lakshmi Devi,
the Supreme Goddess, who constantly resides
on the Lord's chest.

Ah but those same rasas are experienced
by Radha's maidservants in so many ways.
So, dear friend, please worship Radha
in the Vrindavan forest. (1.85)

Commentary

This commentary follows on from the previous verse. A frequently stated trope in all glorifications of the madhura-rasa of Vrindavan is to state that Lakshmi Devi, who is eternally situated on Lord Narayan's chest, still hankers to have the loving mood of the gopis, but cannot have it because she cannot shake her feelings of reverence for her husband, that is, her awareness of his being the supreme deity.

Ramananda Raya, in his conversations with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, said…

VMA 1.84 : The Supreme Person who wanders in Radha’s forest

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This post came after a long hiatus -- as has often been the case with these Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta postings on VT. This one and those that followed were inspired by Premananda Baba [here also] after I went and heard one of his VMA classes at Madan Ter. I wrote in my introduction that these VMA commentaries "serve as my Vrindavan Today philosophy," which I have been developing as I actually live in Vrindavan. The idea is that there is a philosophy behind living in the Dham. You can read here and here, though some of this material is also being employed in these VMA commentaries.
This makes for an interesting reflection as I prepare to return to Vrindavan in a couple of days after two months in Gauda Mandala Bhumi. Living in Vrindavan is not an easy matter or given to everyone.

This verse follows on nicely from the previous (1.83).

tad-akhila-bhagavat-svarūpa-rūpā- mṛta-rasato’py atimādhurī-dhurīṇam| kuvalaya-kamanīya-dhāma rādhā pada-rasa-pūrṇa-vane bhramad bhajāmaḥ || We worship …

VMA 1.83 I worship the two splendors

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rati-ratipati-koṭi-sundaraṁ tat pramuṣita-koṭi-ramā-ramāpati-śri | kanaka-marakatābha-mūrti vṛndā- vipina-vihāri maho-dvayaṁ bhajāmi || I worship the two splendors
that cavort in the Vrindavan forest,
         one with the effulgence of gold,
the other that of sapphire.
They have more beauty
than millions of Ratis and Kamadevas,
and it seems they have stolen the glory
of millions of Lakshmis and Narayans.
I missed a few days of posting VMA. Actually, verse 1.83 had no commentary and I wanted to write one, but it took a little time. I am still in Birnagar but will be traveling back to Vrindavan on the coming Wednesday. I am busy typing out a commentary to the 17th Century (śataka) and hoping I can finish it before leaving so I can return the book to the author. Before proceeding with the rest of VMA, I thought it was important to do the 17th, since I am quite certain that this was written before the other 16. In actual fact, I was a bit uncomfortable about continuing with VMA at all until I ha…

Religion and Idolatry: Why I worship stones

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I was trying to find an old article I wrote and it wasn't on the blog. I will need to rewrite and comment on Jiva Goswami's vicāra-mārga and ruci-mārga, an important discussion that I often find myself refering to and need to have a link to send people to. So, looking for that I found this, which probably was on some on-line forum 15-20 years ago and never put on this blog. So, for the record. It is relevant to my earlier post about Jordan Peterson and meaning.


Someone wrote:

The Vaishnavas also say they believe in the oneness of God. That it is a fundamental doctrine of the Vaishnava creed. But really guys, come on, you have so many "deities" floating around. Are the Muslims right when they accuse you of "idol worship" and "dividing the ONENESS?" I have heard Vaishnavas say "we are not "idol worshippers" like the Hindus or Pagans. But it looks the same. What is the difference?
The word "pagan" evokes all kinds of strange …

Jordan Peterson's all-beef diet and ideologically possessed devotees

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My friend, Paramadwaiti Maharaj’s young sannyasi disciple from Argentina, Padmanabha Swami, recently wrote me a note thanking me for introducing him to Jordan Peterson after I posted a few links on my Facebook page. He then wrote an article, extracting a few points from Peterson’s latest book, Twelve Rules for Life An Antidote to Chaos, that he felt were compatible with Vaishnava teachings. At any rate, Peterson’s full-throated defense of religious belief and his debates with neo-atheists like Sam Harris have attracted the attention of Christian pastors like Paul VanderKlay who use his insights in their own understanding and explanations of religion.
I have not written directly about Peterson very much on this blog, as my own journey is taking me away from the kind of academic explanations of religion that were a concern earlier on in this blog, after I had gone through religious studies at McGill University. Nevertheless, that is what first attracted me to Peterson was his explana…