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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sinning in ignorance and Gaur-līlā - Satya-nārāyan

I ask Satya Nārāyana Paṇḍitjī about nāmāparādha and sinning in general in ignorance. He says nāmāparādha in ignorance is not as severe as deliberate nāmāparādha  He compares it to the woman with the baby who contaminated the kitchen , causing me to decide not to use the kitchen anymore. She displeased me, be it in ignorance, and that is just what aparādha is: displeasing. So it is with inadvertent nāmāparādha  He agrees with my point of ignorance being an excuse (see my blog of April 19) He says that in Manu Smṛti greater punishment is given to a brahmin for drinking alcohol than to a śūdra, for instance. An insane person who commits murder is not punished as harshly as a deliberate murderer. It is the intention that counts. Punishment has a purpose, it is a lesson. So yes, a westerner is not punished for drinking and meat-eating as a Hindu or Vaiṣṇava is.

About Gaura līlā he says that the personality of Gaura won't be perceived anymore as one immerses oneself in Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa līlā, but the spirit of Gaura, in which one has done Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa sādhana, will remain forever.

Satya-nārāyan Paṇḍitjī confirms that disputes have always been there in the Gauḍīya Sampradāya, though they have not been mentioned in the Gauḍīya granthas.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Evaporation of Gaur-līlā and the mundane Name

Vṛndāvana, September 25, 2006
Yesterday-evening I had a wonderful darśan of one of the senior-most scholars and mahātmās of Vṛndāvana. I ask him two questions. First about Bhaktivinode's statement that Gaura is to be worshipped up to the stage of ruci. He says it is up to the stage of āsakti, which is a near-twin of ruci, but the most interesting thing is that he DOES confirm that Gaura-worship evaporates at a certain stage because Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa is the sādhya. Then, at bhāva and prema-bhakti it is Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa-worship all the way. In a sense Gaura-līlā is nitya because Mahāprabhu thinks of Himself as a sakhī, mañjarī, or Rādhā, but for the sādhaka it dissolves (vismṛti, he forgets) at the stage of āsakti.

I then ask him about the theory that the holy name consists of mundane syllables if pronounced by mundaners. He confirms it, saying that the 10 offences also count for non-devotees, even though they don't know them, just like a child can be cured by medicine inside a sweet, unknowingly it will work anyway. He then quotes Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu (1.3.4)

āvirbhūya manovṛttau vrajanti tat svarūpatām
svayaṁ prakāśa-rūpāpi bhāsamānā prakāśyavat

(created by either rāga- or vidhi-sādhana) manifests within the mind, making it attain its real form. Though it is self-manifest by nature it appears to be manifest by the mental faculties."

Bhāva does not manifest in a mundane mind. hari-nāma is similarly self-manifest but it won't sprout on the barren ground of a non-devotee's heart."

Edited (title changed) July 28, 2008

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Spirit of Subal penetrates Vrindavan

Deity's Modern Attire Creates Disturbance

Sep 16, VRINDAVAN, INDIA (IANS) — Priests at the Bankey Bihari temple in Vrindavan yesterday dressed up the main deity in modern attire, sparking massive protests. Priests at the temple dedicated to Lord Krishna, at the request of some fun-loving devotees, gave the deity on Thursday a modern look, complete with jeans and a shirt and wielding a mobile phone. Activists of groups like Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) termed the move blasphemy and burnt effigies of the priests. They demanded that those who defiled the sanctity of the temple be punished. Sanskrit scholars like Chandan Lal Parasher and Nirmal Giri of the Kailash temple here criticised the wanton callousness of the Vrindavan priests. The Rashtriya Lok Dal and Brahmin Sabha also organized similar protests. Some have called for the sacking of the priests.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Familiarity breeds contempt

Everything is there in the Bhāgavata, including all folk wisdom. Today a friend quoted me this splendid verse of the Bhāgavata, about familiarity, and I like to share it here:

sannikarṣo hi martyānām anādaraṇa kāraṇam
gāngaṁ hitvā yathānyāmbhas tatratyo yāti śuddhaye

Nārada told the sages at Kurukṣetra (S.B. 10.84.31): "In the case of mortals, familiarity breeds contempt. It is like leaving the Ganges (while living on its banks) and going elsewhere for purification."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Sri Siksastakam by Swāmi BV Tripurāri

This booklet provides a very nice new elaboration on Mahāprabhu's 8 famous verses, though at various places Swāmījī did get inspired by Traditional Gauḍīya-teachings, notably in his comment on verse 5: On page 85 he makes the point of progressive revelation of the siddha deha based on SB 11.14.26, quoted from Rāgavartma Candrikā, which was first made on Gauḍīya Discussions a year or so ago. On page 86 he has quoted Narottama's āpnāra bhajan kothā nā kohibe yathā tathā and rākho prem hṛdoy bhoriyā, both cornerstone-teachings of Sādhu Bābā, quoted in his biography on my website, and on page 88 he has quoted the point Śrīla Ānanda Gopāla Gosvāmī made in his Vilāpa Kusumāñjali purports that kiṅkara(ī) means kiṁ karomi,"what shall I do?" He and a few other IGM sannyāsīs do have the habit of learning from, getting active support from and even quoting devotees that are considered taboo in their circles, without acknowledging them by name. This in itself is already not very honest, but unfortunately they (I am not sure if Tripurāri Swāmī does this too) sometimes even slam these sources as well, which is really far from proper Vaiṣṇava behaviour.

Interestingly, on page 85 Swāmījī interprets Rāgavartma Candrikā 1.9 to mean that saints, Guru or Supersoul can be alternative sources of the revelation of the siddha deha ("cultivating an inner spiritual identity"). This provides food for thought, though that is not to be literally found in the original text, nor from the context of the verse. The book does give a balanced and fair presentation of the siddha deha issue, which also raises questions about Swāmījī's sources, since the siddha deha-issue is shrouded with mystery, taboo and controversy in his circles. This booklet is fortunately more suitable to a devotee public than some of his previous publications which were clearly targeting the academics. Throughout the booklet Swāmijī gives a nice outline of Rūpa Goswāmī's rasa-tattva, which is badly needed in the western world.

Swāmī did make a few mistakes though. On page 73 he writes: "Although it is true that despite Kṛṣṇa's being primarily lost in love he nonetheless retains his Godhood and can thus hear the prayers of his sādhakas, one can legitimately ask at what stage of spiritual practice a sādhaka's prayers are capable of attracting Kṛṣṇa's personal attention and, furthermore, at what stage a sādhaka's seva becomes līlā-sevā, internal sevā that reaches Kṛṣṇa in his nitya-līlā. while some may insist that Kṛṣṇa personally listens to the prayers of his sādhakas at any stage of sādhana, Thākura Bhaktivinoda says, "The prayers of one who is a śaraṇāgata are heard by Śrī Nanda- kumāra." As we have already learned, śaraṇāgati is complete in the stage of ruci."

Interestingly enough, Tripurāri Svāmi states on page 74 that if one is disheartened by the fact that Kṛṣṇa Himself is not hearing one's prayers, the sādhaka should take solace in the fact that Mahāprabhu as Visvambhara is Jagadīśa (Paramātma) and Kṛṣṇa Himself. Therefore, the sādhaka should pray to Mahāprabhu, presumably until he reaches the stage of ruci when Vrajendranandana Kṛṣṇa Himself reciprocates with his prayers. This (typically Gaura-Kṛṣṇa bheda-buddhi-) theory cannot be verified independently. It is unacceptable that Kṛṣṇa really would not hear the prayers of anyone else but a surrendered soul. I do not know in which context Bhaktivinode says this (Swāmi quotes a song called aḍ aṅga śaraṇāgati), it may be meant as a statement of glorification but cannot be accepted as serious theology. Indeed, it is contradicted by the teachings of Viśvanāth Cakravartīpāda in Rāga Vartma Candrikā 2.1. Also, in the very end of the book (p. 128) Swami translates Svarūpa Dāmodara's famous rādhā bhāva dyuti subalitam naumi krsna svarūpam as 'Pranām to Gaura, who is endowed with Rādhā's countenance and personality'. Here 'Gaura' must be 'Kṛṣṇa'.

Page 73 furthermore contains the controversial statement that '...the baddha jivas are originally manifest from the Paramātmā', whereas from the Bhagavad Gītā it is clear that the jīva has no origin since it is beginningless - na tvevāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ na tvaṁ neme narādhipāḥ (BG 2.12).
It is not clear what Swāmījī's source is for this theory.

As for the cover design, the artist should have been notified that before 1918 there were no saffron dhotis in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya.

The paragraph starting with 'page 73 furthermore' at the end of this blog is added January 13, 2009.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Prema Vilāsa

While we were in Switzerland my friend Tarungovinda presented me with a copy of Bhūmipati's translation of Nityānanda Dās' 'Prema Vilāsa', which I read during my stay in the alpine āshram. The book itself is controversial enough; it narrates how Kṛṣṇadās Kavirāja died in front of Raghunātha dās Gosvāmī after he heard that his Caitanya Caritāmṛta was stolen by King Bīrhambīr, whereas he actually outlived Dās Gosvāmi for about 30 years.

There is a narration in there how Raghunātha dās Gosvāmī gave his Govardhana śilā and Gunjā mālā to Yadunandanācārya, who rendered service to them, and to Raghunātha Dās himself as well, at Rādhākund, whereas Yadunandanācārya was rather the guru of Raghunātha dās Gosvāmī, and never lived at Rādhākund, nor ever worshipped the Govardhan śilā and Gunjā mālā. Apart from that, the Prema Vilāsa is consistently anti-brāhmana, which is even aggravated by Bhūmipati dās, who was also not exactly brought up in brāhmana-friendly circles. He says that Haridās Thākur gave dīkṣā to a brāhmana named Rāma Dāsa, while the text (already biased against brāhmanas, so who knows if this story is as 'true' as the above-mentioned ones), says: tār śiṣya hoiyā viprer hoilo suddha-mati "The brāhmana's mind was purified by being Haridās' śiṣya." The word śiṣya means both 'pupil' and 'disciple', so we presume it is pupil, since Haridās Thākur is known for having no disciples at all, let alone brāhmanas.

On rāga mārga Bhūmipati writes on page 179: "Before practising rāga bhakti one must make sufficient spiritual advancement. That path is not for everyone. As long as one works under the jurisdiction of the Vedic rules and regulations one cannot serve Kṛṣṇa with spontaneity. Still, one should practise regulative devotion until his heart is firmly attached to Kṛṣṇa  Only then can he practise rāga safely." Though the original text does give a caution against whimsical speculations, the above text is nowhere in sight and originates from Bhūmipati's upbringing too.

Furthermore Prema Vilāsa mentions that Vīracandra's boat was torpedoed by Abhirāma Thākur's flute when he crossed the Gangā to take dīkṣā from Advaita Prabhu, while the Advaita Prakāśa says that he was sent back by Advaita Prabhu himself.

Having said all this, Prema Vilāsa should not be dismissed as a baby with the bathing-water either - it does provide many details about the lives of Narottama, Śyāmānanda and Śrīnivāsācārya. Also on a positive note, the book repeatedly mentions the kāma gāyatrī as a dīkṣā-mantra and mentions (chapter 24, page 276) that those in the Advaita Parivāra (Mādhavācārya or Mādhavī sakhī) serve in the yūtha of Visākhā sakhī.

Advise: read with caution, then enjoy.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Śrī Rādhāṣṭamī 2006

anulikhyānantān api sad aparādhan madhupatir
mahā premāviṣṭas tava parama deyaṁ vimṛśyati
tavaikaṁ śrī rādhe gṛṇata iha nāmāmṛta rasaṁ
mahimnaḥ kaḥ sīmaṁ spṛśatu dāsyaika manasām

(Rādhārasa Sudhānidhi – 155)

"O Śrī Rādhe! Madhupati (Kṛṣṇa) cancels innumerable offenses of anyone who even once relishes the nectarean spiritual flavour of Your name, and in great ecstasy He considers what is the greatest gift He can give to such a person. Who can then imagine the glories of someone whose mind is fixed on becoming Your maidservant?"