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Thursday, August 31, 2006

In memoriam: Krishnā Dās

Today I received the sad news that my seniormost Guru-sister Krishnā Dās has passed away, on Tuesday, August 8th, 2006 at 5.25 a.m. local time due to diabetes. Her cremation took place on August 11th. She was born as the first of 7 children of Śrīpād Niranjan Prasād Dās in East Bengal, around the time it was partitioned from India and ceded to Pakistan, in 1947. Around 1960 the family moved to West Bengal, where they settled in Navadvīpa dhāma. Krishnā dās studied Sanskrit in Calcutta when her father met Srī Sādhu Bābā. She gave up her career prospects and joined Bābā in his then very austere āshram, becoming his first ever disciple in 1971. She started with menial services like washing pots, but gradually became Bābā's most trusted confidante, to the extent that Bābā authorised her to give dīkṣā on his behalf after his departure. She has faithfully done that for the last 20 years of her life. As a single woman she bore the heavy responsibility of managing Sādhu Bābā's āshram, organising all the festivals that are held there singlehandedly. As a life-long nun she is survived only by her 94-year old father (!)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hidden motives

I read on another blog that bloggers blog to expose themselves almost narcistically for fame and prestige, to gather followers and admirers or even to seduce women. That is food for some deep introspection. My conscious motive was to get a link to the outside world, as I am physically quite isolated here. I suppose that even if bloggers, yours truly included, have vāsanās (subconscious motives) for fame, women and money, it is still worthwhile to read and write blogs because when one has a lot of knowledge it is one's duty to share the same with the wider world, and if one is unable or unwilling to travel the globe to preach one can still offer a contribution to a world which is suffering from ignorance. Also in the comments box and in its ensuing discussions, the proud blogger is able to learn lessons from his commentators......

Monday, August 28, 2006

rahasya kathā sankat

(Tarun and Advaitadas during kirtan in Spiringen templeroom)

It is hard for a lecturer to facilitate everyone - some members of the audience may not at all be ready for mañjarī bhāva and other types of confidential topics while others (including the lecturer) may be craving for this kathā. I found myself sometimes facing such a mixed audience, perhaps a bit like Śukadeva when he lectured to Mahārāja Parīkṣit's assembly. Kṛṣṇadās Kavirāja faced the same dilemma when composing Caitanya Caritāmṛta (Adi 4.231-232) :

e sab siddhānta gūḍha - kohite na juwāy; na kohile keho ihāra anta nāhi pāy. 
ataeva kohi kichu koriyā nigūḍha; bujhibe rasik bhakta nā bujhibe mūḍha.

"These topics are all confidential and should not be discussed, but on the other hand, if they are not discussed no one will know of them. That is why I will speak some confidential topics now - the rasik devotees will understand but the fools won't."

Of course one has to judge each individual audience, not that one reveals this to a large audience of ignorant novices and just one qualified rasik. In my case here, I decided to take the risk, like Kavirāja Gosvāmī did.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Correction Vilāpa Kusumānjali

(On the veranda of Śyāma Priya Kuñja, Spiringen, Switzerland - left to right - Mādhava Dās, Advaitadās, Kṛṣṇacandra, Tarun Govinda, Subal Sakhā)

The eka-niṣṭhatā mentioned in Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu 1.2.291 is not a requirement for the rāgānugā- candidate, as is sometimes mistakenly thought, but a symptom of the Vrajavāsīs. This was wrongly translated by me in my 1990-1993 editions of Vilāpa Kusumāñjali, where this translation (combined with that of the following verse) appears in the commentary on verse 57, p.224:

"Those who become greedy after the mood of the Vrajavāsī-devotees, that are called the rāgātmikā-devotees, in a one-pointed manner and that give up all considerations of scriptural injunctions logical arguments after hearing about the sweetness of their loving feelings, are the proper candidates for rāgānugā-bhakti."

The correct translation of the two verses is:

"Anyone who desires to attain the feelings of the residents of Vraja, who are exclusively fixed in rāgātmikā-bhakti, qualifies for rāgānugā-bhakti. The hallmark of the birth of sacred greed after these feelings is that after hearing of the sweetness of their different emotions the conscience disregards scriptural rules or common sense."

I have added a new pdf-file to the "literature"-linktab to my website, called Vilāpa Kusumāñjali corrections, with this correction as the first entry.

Brahmins dogs

I was reluctant to blog this, but as I saw a debate going on about cats and dogs on 'gaudiya-repercussions' I decided to add my opinion here.

There is an increasing number of western Vaiṣṇavas that start keeping dogs in their house, many of them claiming a quick-fix brahminhood, taking a second birth without having the first birth to start with, saying they are instead brahmins by quality. These qualities are mentioned in Bhagavad Gītā 18.42 as śama damas tapaḥ śaucam. śaucam means cleanliness, and keeping a dog inside the house is certainly not clean - loose mammals like cats and dogs contaminate the whole house, lock stock and barrel. And such devotees usually keep deities inside their house as well! In India not even the sweepers keep dogs in their houses, so why should then the 'qualified' brahmins here in the west do so? Is there then really such a gap between birth and quality after all? How completely opposite was the attitude and conduct of Śrīla Sanātan Gosvāmī - though he was the greatest sadācārī (devotional puritan) he rather burned his foot-soles on the hot beach-path of Puri than to touch the pūjārīs of the Jagannāth Temple. Of course, Śrīman Mahāprabhu delivered Śivānanda Sena's dog, but Caitanya Caritāmṛta mentions (Antya 1.28): prabhu pāśe bosiyāche kichu alpa dūre, that the dog sat at some distance from the Lord. He did not sit on His lap or lick His face, which I have seen happening with the above-mentioned devotees. Sādhu Bābā also had a dog for a short while, but she too was kept far away from the cooking pots, the kitchen and the āśram's quarters, nor have I seen Sādhu Bābā or anyone else touch her.

A pet-loving 'brahmin' then argued that 1) Kṛṣṇa keeps two dogs too (Vyaghra and Bhramarak), but of course these are transcendentally pure eternally liberated souls, and 2) that rāgānugā bhakti is beyond rules and regulations, but that is not the opinion of Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī:

śravaṇotkīrtanādīni vaidhi bhaktyuditāni tu
yānyaṅgāni ca tānyatra vijñeyāni manīṣibhiḥ

(Bhakti-Rasāmṛta Sindhu 1.2.296) 

"All limbs of vaidhi bhakti, such as hearing chanting etc. are also to be practised in rāgānugā bhakti. This is the verdict of the wise."

If anyone still argues that this inclusion only applies to hearing and chanting, then my question is 'when did the rāgānugā role-models Rūpa and Raghunātha keep dogs inside their kuṭīrs where they worshipped their dieties?'

Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda comments on this verse that only meditation on Dwārkā, mudra, nyāsa and worship of Kṛṣṇa's queens are exempt for rāgānugā sādhana.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Readings from Bhakti Sandarbha

Here in Spiringen I had the chance to read the Bhakti-Sandarbha rendering by Satya-nārāyan Dās. Here are some excerpts:

Paragraph 128 - The verses of Devahūti (SB 3.33.6-7), saying that the dog-eater who chants can perform Vedic yajñas, is not literal but only shows him being worshipable - tasmāt pūjyatva mātra tātparyam ityabhipretya. Śrīdhar Swāmī confirms it: anena pūjyatvaṁ lakṣyate.

Paragraph 152 vyādha hatasya pakṣinaḥ kukkura mukha gatasya tat palāyana vṛtyā bhagavan mandira parikramaṇa phala prāptya tādṛśatva prāptir iti -

"A bird died while in the mouth of a dog who ran around a temple and thus got liberated, since he accidentally did parikrama. "

Paragraph 153 - ādhunikānāṁ ca śruta śāstrānām apyaparādha doṣena śrī bhagavati śrī gurau tad bhaktādiṣu cāntarānādarādāv api sati bahis tad arcanādy arambhaḥ kauṭilyam

"Modern people make offences to the śāstras, inwardly disrespecting the Lord, Śrī Guru and their devotees, hypocritically worshiping them externally."

Paragraph 159 - sat sādhakasya manuṣya deha rirakṣisa jāyate sāpyupāsanā vṛddhi lobhena na tu deha mātra...

"The genuine sādhaka preserves the body for bhajan, not just for mere preservation. He is greedy to expand his worship. "

mūḍhānāṁ tu mūṣikādinam aparādhe'pi siddhis tathaiva yukta....atikramyodayat
"The mouse who ate the burning ghee-wick and thus died was an offender but he had no bad intention, so he transcended his offence at the time of death."

atha bhaktyādi kṛtābhimāna...."Pride of bhakti is caused by aparādha and results in Vaiṣṇava-aparādha."

tato'parādhābhāvāt tat kṣayārtham na tatravṛttyāpekṣā -

"Only one who is free from aparādha can chant the holy name at the time of death."

Paragraph 167 - S.B. 7.9.11 Śrīdhara Swāmī's comment - "Bhagavān is the original face and the living entity the reflection. The reflection is only beautified by decorating the original, not the reflection itself. Similarly the jīva is not gratified by pleasing himself but by pleasing Bhagavān."

Paragraph 168 - tatra caihikam niṣkāmatvaṁ bhaktyā jīvika pratiṣṭhādy upārjanam yat tad abhāvamayam api boddhavyam - viṣṇum yo nopajīvati iti gāruḍe śuddha bhakta lakṣaṇāt

"Pure bhakti means one does not perform it for a livelihood or for fame. The Garuḍa Purāṇa says one should not use Lord Viṣṇu for a livelihood."

Paragraph 172 helā tvaparādha rūpāpyabuddhi-pūrvaka kṛta ....vaiparityena badhyate

"If contempt is expressed unconsciously it does not obstruct bhakti because there is no insincerity. Those, however, who are proud of their petty knowledge and deliberately make offences have their bhakti curtailed."

Paragraph 173 - yat tu yaḥ smaret puṇḍarīkākṣaṁ sa bāhyābhyantara-śuciḥ ity ādau śraddadhānā api snānādikam ācaranti | tat khalu śrīman-nārada-vyāsādi-sat-paramparācāra-gauravād eva | anyathā tad-atikrame’py aparādhaḥ syāt | te ca tathā maryādāṁ lokasya kadarya-vṛttyādi-nirodhāyaiva sthāpitavanta iti jñeyam ||

"The fact that the famous verse says that whoever remembers Pundarikaksa is pure within and without does not mean one should not bathe. One must uphold the dignity of the sat parampara of Narada and Vyasa, otherwise one commits an offence."

yasmāc ca śaraṇāpattau vakṣyamāṇāni ānukūlyasya saṅkalpaḥ ity ādīni liṅgāni | tathā vyavahāra-kārpaṇyādy-abhāvo’pi śraddhā-liṅgaṁ jñeyam | śāstraṁ hi tathaiva śraddhām utpādayati |
ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate | teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham || [gītā 9.22]

About the process of surrender it is said: "One should accept what is favorable and reject what is unfavorable' etc. One should know that a symptom of faith is also the absence of mundane miserliness. Scripture also demonstrates this type of faith, as in Bhagavad Gītā 9.22 - "For eternally engaged devotees, who worship Me by thinking of Me exclusively, I carry what they lack and preserve what they have".

In other words, miserliness is a result of devotee's lack of faith that, when he has spent his last cent, Kṛṣṇa will not provide his next money."

The ill behaviour described in Bhagavad Gita-verse 9.30, 'api cet suduracaro' is sinning on strenght of the holy name, the 7th offence to the chanting of the holy name; the verse only serves to glorify bhakti (bhakti prasamsayam eva) and is not to be taken literally.

My own separate realisation: An initiated devotee is no more obliged to his pre-dīkṣā-teachers: dīkṣā-kāle bhakta kore ātma samarpana, sei kāle kṛṣṇa tāte kore ātma-sama' "At the time of dīkṣā the bhakta surrenders his very self - Kṛṣṇa then considers him equal to himself." (CC Antya 4.192) When meeting the sat Guru one should erase everything that preceded.

Gita quote 9.22 added December 27, 2012, originally posted on MSN spaces July 18, 2005

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Origin of the siddha deha

This is the gist of a discussion I had with Kṛṣṇa Dās (Robert Gafrik PhD Slovakia) on the siddha deha:

Advaitadās: In connection with the origin of the siddha deha the following text is quoted from Prīti Sandarbha (10):

vaikuṇṭhasya bhagavato jyotir-aṁśa-bhūtā vaikuṇṭha-loka-śobha-rūpā yā anantā mūrtayas tatra vartante tāsām ekayā saha muktasyaikasya mūrtir bhagavatā kriyata iti vaikuṇṭasya mūrtir iva mūrtir yeṣām ity uktam

"In the spiritual world, the Supreme Lord has unlimited spiritual forms; they all are expansions of Himself illuminating that world. Of these mūrtis Bhagavān gives one mūrti to each liberated soul. Their mūrti is like the one of Lord Vaikuṇṭha."

The translation is mine, but I am getting my doubts about the word kriyata here. Some people say that this word means that Kṛṣṇa is creating a spiritual body for the soul here."

Kṛṣṇa Das: "The root kṛ  in Sanskrit can actually have any meaning, it does not mean just "create". It is akin to the English "do". One can express every activity with it. Kriyate in the passage does not mean that the spiritual body is created. The text itself says that mūrtayas tatra vartante, they are there eternally, tāsām (out of them) ekayā saha (with one) muktasya (of the liberated) ekasya (of the one) mūrtir (body) bhagavatā (by the Lord) kriyate (assign), i.e. the Lord awards one of the bodies that eternally reside in Vaikuṇṭha (in an inactive state) to the liberated one. vaikuṇṭasya mūrtir iva mūrtir yeṣām, the body that one is given is similar (iva) to that of Lord Vaikuṇṭha. Jīva Goswāmī wants to explain that one achieves bhagavat-tulyatvam at the stage of utkrānta-mukti (gone forth or out, gone over or beyond , passed , surpassed, trespassing , exceeding – Monier Williams) by quoting the Bhāgavata verse (3.15.14 vasanti yatra puruṣāḥ) there (utkrānta-mukti-daśāyāṁ tu teṣāṁ bhagavat-tulyatvam evāha). There is nothing like that that the spiritual body is created at some time. It is eternal. It is aprākṛta. The fact itself should make it clear that it can't be created. "

Advaitadās: "Thank you for that. The word kriyata is the key to the whole issue and as you said it can have any meaning. That makes it extra hard and intriguing. The word vartante means 'they stay there eternally' because it is in present tense and Jīva Gosvāmī said that present tense indicates eternity? And also your addition 'in an inactive state' is not clear to me from the mūla text. If we cannot come to a definite conclusion about the Prīti Sandarbha text, is there any other text in śāstra you could provide to prove your point that the siddha deha is not created?"

Kṛṣṇa Das: "As far as I know there is only the discussion in Prīti Sandarbha and the prayujyamāna-verse (SBhāgavata  1.6.28 or 29, according to edition) with commentaries that deal with the siddha deha. Apart from that there is a discussion about this issue in the 4th chapter of Vedanta-sūtras, where it is said that the liberated soul can exist with or without a body. It would be good to see commentaries of the ācāryas on the sūtras. I don't have them here now. If both meanings are possible one has to see the context. And I would say that the context rules out the interpretation that the body is created because in the previous sentence Jīva Gosvāmī says that mūrtayas tatra vartante. They are there and the Lord gives (kriyate) one such form to the devotee. This is a natural sequence. Otherwise one will have difficulty to explain why he says that the mūrtis are already there. Yes, vartante is in present tense; more precisely, it is something we would call present simple in English, and the tense mostly indicates that something happens or is always, ie. eternally. The verb vartante itself denotes existence. In addition, siddha-deha or spiritual body cannot be created because it is transcendental. We can say only about material things that they are created. The logic behind my phrase "in inactive state" is that we are limited by our language and our experience when we talk about transcendental things. These things are actually acintya but we need some explanation so we say that it is in an inactive state before one is awarded such a body. The verse from Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu (1.2.294-5) about siddha-deha does not mean that the body is created. My Guruji once told me that it descends into the mind of the devotee in a "shadow" form. It is eternal but makes itself manifest in the mind. The body has a beginning only from our material perspective."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


On Vilāsa-kuñja, Mādhavānanda Dās wrote an excellent article on the relativity of the dīkṣā-paramparā  Indeed, we in the first generation of Western Traditional Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism have over-emphasized it mainly because we were taught such over-emphasis by the senior Vaiṣṇavas we consulted at the time. At that time, in my zeal I hardly noticed that Sādhu Bābā did not really emphasize it all that much, though he did note that such a paramparā should be there. I found this entry in my Indian diary, December 1982:

"I try to incite Bābā to saying something about the value of an unbroken guru paramparā. Bābā reacts coolly. He does not seem to find it as important as I do, since I was educated in an institution without paramparā and just left that place half a year ago. After I insist several times he finally says: guru paramparā yadi ṭhik ṭhik nā thāke bhajane siddhi hobe na “If Guru-paramparā isn't exactly there you cannot have success in bhajan”.

I said it before and I will say it again - many devotees with an unbroken dīkṣā-paramparā, both Indian and Western, have fallen down and are falling down, so certainly taking dīkṣā in an unbroken paramparā is not a hocus-pocus-wave-the-magic-wand-and-u-r-instantly-siddha magic. It takes surrender to attain siddhi and nothing less than that. I also agree that those who insist that 'all-you-need-is-dīkṣā-paramparā' can be classified as kaniṣṭha adhikārīs - arcāyām eva haraye pūjāṁ yaḥ ś bhakta prākṛta smṛtaḥ (SB 11.2.47) Those who believe only in ritual (which dīkṣā basically is) worship of Hari are mundane devotees." So Sādhu Bābā said one should take dīkṣā,  Haribhakti Vilāsa and Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu say we should take dīkṣā, but there is obviously more to it than just that.

Concerning dīkṣā vs śikṣā-guru - one should recognise the dīkṣā-guru in the teachings of the śikṣā-guru and never worship the śikṣā-guru separately. Those who quote S.B. 11.9.31 to prove that one can have many gurus should read Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda's comment on it:

"One must worship a single Guru who knows Me, as is said in the 3rd chapter of the 11th Canto: "Surrender to a Guru and ask him about the highest welfare." Even Śvetaketu and Bhṛgu did not take shelter of many Gurus. Surely the only worshipable Guru is the one who instructs in My mantra. One can, however, consult śikṣā-gurus to find out what is favorable and unfavorable to one's upāsanā. Hence only to strengthen one's knowledge this verse says that there are many śikṣā-gurus. Gentle people only take learned and wise men as śikṣā-gurus  There are many sages like Gautama who follow different opinions but I will only seek those teachers who are similar minded to me."

Link to Vilasakunja deleted 13-1-11, site went offline.