VMA 1.82 See the real Vrindavan : God’s playground

Katie Jo Walter with Sewak and his wife. Photo from around 2008. (VT).
rudad api pitṛ-mātṛ-bandhu-putrādikam
apahāya niśamya nārhad-uktīḥ |
hṛdi parama-kaṭhoratāṁ dadhāno
drutam avalokaya kṛṣṇa-keli-kuñjam||1.82||
Ignoring your father, mother, children and other kin,
even though they are crying;
not hearing their words of praise,
hardening your heart to all of them,
quickly look to the groves
where Krishna enjoyed his dalliances.


I recently met with Sewak Sharan after reading Joshua Nash’s series of articles on the Vrindavan Environmental Concept (VEC) and Vrindavan as a “Human Sanctuary.” These are fertile concepts. The idea of human sanctuary came back to me after visiting Radha Bawri;

When speaking with Sewakji, and told him that I planned to restart commenting on Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta, he said that it is this book more than any other that inspired his thinking on the environment and its connection to Vrindavan. The human sanctuary is "God's playground."

Indeed right after that he start to explain Krishna’s ultimate message in the Gītā sarva-dharmān parityājya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja – “Giving up all other dharmas, take shelter of Me alone.” Vraja, he says, means a concentric movement, a constant movement to the center, which in this philosophy of Dham consciousness includes Radha and Krishna, the Divine Yugal as viṣaya and āśraya of prema, Vrindavan, or the natural surroundings in which the Divine Yugal realizes its prema. In terms of the rasa-śāstra, Vrindavan represents the sum total of all uddīpanas. The Dhama is the expansion of Radha and Krishna’s love into a world that is perfectly suited for it.

Finally, the word vraja includes human society or community, which in the most intense aspect of madhura-rasa means the sakhis, but has a wider reach to include all the five kinds of loving relationship.

Sewak Sharanji himself uses the ancient term abhayāraṇya {"the forest of fearlessness") as sanctuary, and this is a term that is used in the ancient epics as the kind of forest ashram life where the ancient munis and rishis lived.

In Sewakji's earlier writing, he emphasized that Sanatan Dharma culture was formulated in these communities. The "rishis" or "seers" lived in this kind of protected atmosphere, where they lived in harmony with nature. Sewakji's naturalistic philosophy is based on an equation of Vrindavan with nature and spirituality combined. A human sanctuary is a place where sattva guna predominates. .

Someone responded to the articles on the Human Sanctuary concept by asking, “Sanctuary from whom ? We humans are the most destructive species, the one all other species must take sanctuary from. Maybe call it human rehabilitation town? Bhaktivinode Thakur called his masterpiece Jaiva Dharma, not Manava Dharma because, he explained, in this Yuga most 'humans' are worse than animals, and if the dharma would consider only humanity proper, most souls in 'human' bodies would not practice it too fallen. But if humans of Kali Yuga can be elevated to the platform of humanity proper via dharmic consciousness, then automatically all other life is naturally given sanctuary. The dharma of the Yuga is to understand that cows are priority.”

This kind of hopelessness is perhaps justified. Like Joshua and most other people I know, except for perhaps some members of Vrindavan's old guard, this air of hopelessness about the direction that the town is taking prevails. Rajas and tamas are predominating in an aggressive and unapologetic manner. The people of the town themselves have sold out to economic development above all other considerations. Vrindavan's spirituality is a commodity to be sold for a profit, and one does not have to be particularly spiritual to profit from it.

The humanistic part of modern economic thinking is that everyone will be most benefited by economic development and the conveniences and amenities that it brings. The full flowering of every human being comes from having the opportunities to develop their own innovative powers and to receive the benefits thereof. But the offshoots of rajas, without the attenuating force of sattva, are usually tamas, and that is what we can feel. Even those coming from other parts of the world feel the tamo-guna as more acute here than in their own homes. This is partly because Westerners have become rather good at keeping tamas hidden away most of the time.

The point is that in the midst of this modern race to "civilization," some of us should consider the roots of Indian civilization and be given sanctuary to cultivate those ideals. And it may be almost impossible to do such a thing "naturally" or organically, so let it be done consciously and intentionally, as a collective value of our human society, by which I mean that it should be included in the nation's development goals.

A human sanctuary is not the same as a modern Hindu ashram. I see it as an attempt to recreate a model human society on the model of the forest hermitages of yore. The acharyas have used the expression “high thinking and simple living.” The idea has been revived again and again in human societies ever since humanity began: Tolstoy and Gandhi come to mind. But certainly in the modern situation, a countervailing force to rajas and tamas are urgently needed.


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