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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Bengalizing

I just found this post by Chanahari in Gaudiya-repercussions (Academic, controversial, eclectic) of one year ago. Never noticed this one until now: Apr 15 2005, 12:26 PM Post #2

"Advaitadas is the Westerner who reached maybe the most far away point both in effort and in faith in Bengalizing himself. I always wondered how can one so much immerge himself in a culture he is not native in (setting aside the topic whether it is needed or not in reaching Radha-Krishna...). If he is right, of course, then only Bengali and quasi-Bengali* Vaishnavas would reach the highest goal of GV, so there is no point in practicing Vaishnavism in the West at all - most of us can simply give up with any effort and fall back to the samsara, and just wait a few million lifetimes until by happenstance get a Bengali birth (maybe firstly as a monkey or a cow, and then as a woman, and then as a man ).
.....*Quasi-Bengali is, subjectively, one who lives with the Bengali cultural customs, eats the Bengali foods, wears the Bengali clothes, reads the Bengali literature (besides technical instructons), in full or nearly full exclusion of the Western correspondants, despite being not born in a Bengali family. "


This is very funny. (One wonders, of course, how much Chanahari actually knows about Bengali culture because you won't find much of it in Iskcon, not even in Māyāpur, and only a few western devotees have gone beyond such realms into the real Bengal). So let us analyse this 'Bengalizing' : Bengali cultural customs? If sadācāra or ritual purity is referred to, this is from the Vedic smṛti-scripture, and is not culturally Bengali. If fast and late eating is referred to (this is typically Bengali culture), no I don't indulge in that because I don't want to have an ulcer (last time I ate late with Bengalis was one month ago at Rādhākuṇḍa and I had the runs for two days, causing me to shift to a Brajabāsī place). Bengali cuisine is certainly the most delicious in the world, especially if prepared and offered by a Bengali brahmin! I wouldn't scrap it for a fortune!!! Bengali clothes? What is Bengali about a dhoti and a t-shirt? A dhoti is pan-Hindu/vedic and a t-shirt can be bought anywhere in the world. Bengali literature? OK, Caitanya Caritāmṛta and Advaita Prakāśa are favorites of mine, the others are all written in Sanskrit, not Bengali. Yes, I am fluent in Bengali but I only speak it when I am in the company of Bengalis and even then not always. I mostly speak English and Dutch actually.....

On the positive side, virtually all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ācāryas, modern or ancient (that have not fallen down) are Bengalis, Mahāprabhu and nearly all His associates appeared in Bengal, would that be coincidental? Indeed, the word Gauḍīya itself means Bengali.

I myself, however, loathe the Bengali chauvinism about being born or having to be born not only in Bengal but even in certain districts of Bengal. No one has uttered more sarcasm about this tribalism than yours truly, but I leave the last word to Śrī-Śrī Sādhu Bābā (yes, a Bengali brahmin!). When I asked him, in 1984, if a westerner could attain Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in this lifetime he enthusiastically roared 'ek śo bār!' (Bengali for 'you bet!'). I do insist it is a safe bet to take dīkṣā from a Bengali rather than an American Guru. History has vindicated me on this point. Personally I find it even astonishing that a person can still take dīkṣā from a westerner after all his predecessors have fallen down. It is like not believing you will one day die despite seeing all older people die before you. That the Guru's birth matters is of course elaborately insisted upon by Śrīla Sanātan Gosvami and Śrīla Gopāl Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī in the opening chapter of Śrī-Śrī Hari-bhakti Vilāsa..............

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