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Monday, October 29, 2007

Natural Bhakti

(Skewed Indian scan)
Natural Bhakti

by Rām Dās

A book review

Yesterday I visited the Munghyr Mandir and had darshan of B.V. Sadhu Maharaja, who knew me though we only met once 22 years ago, and, as I expected, is a friendly, easy-going gentleman. He surprises me by saying that Balaramji is not his brother. I take prasad there on his invitation and meet Ram Das (Ronald Engert), from Germany, who gives me a 68-page booklet he wrote about Natural Bhakti. He is a liberal who objects to forced principles, and it shows in his booklet. He objects against guilt feelings created by breaking enforced rules, but forgets there is a danger that wanton westerners will misunderstand his objections and will think it allright to break the rules. Devotees who break the rules are simply not immune to severe reactions to their failures, that is seen everywhere. He claims that guilt feelings due to breaking the principles can lead to quitting bhakti, but I don't believe that. Bhakti is ahaituki (causeless) and apratihata (uninterruptable). It is more an excess of artificial penance that burns devotees out, or the sādhana and siddhānta is simply too high. Ramdas quotes many good verses from śāstra, proving that bhakti is independent (from rules), which is philosophically correct.

However, there are several warped conceptions in the booklet: he quotes Bhaktivinode's Jaiva Dharma, ch.20, in which he says that a rāgānugī need not follow the Śruti, Smṛti and Purāṇas, which is not correct (see BRS 1.2.296). On page 46 Rāmdas doubts the necessity of discussing the goal as long as we have not reached it, thinking it not humble. I disagree - one needs to know the goal in order to reach it and to be attracted to it. On page 53 Rāmdas claims that rāgānugā bhakti would be dependent on vaidhi bhakti if rules are involved. That is of course a product of all the mis-teachings about rāgānugā being 'without rules' and 'spontaneous'. Following rules is not the intrinsic characteristic of vaidhi bhakti, but aiśvarya bhāva is.

On page 54 Ramdas claims that 'In rāgānugā bhakti there is no need of defence or ideological combat' which is not true (rather, its a hot controversy itself!) and 'everyone can listen to this kathā', which is denied by Jīva Goswāmī in Bhakti Sandarbha and Gopal Campu. Rāmdās is also (still) a fall-vadi: He speaks of the siddha swarūpa as ' we once had' and on p.63 he says: "This is why we fell from Paradise: we ate from the tree of discernment of Good and Evil." This, and his problems with sin vs. guilt, shows he has a Christian background. On p.66 he says: ...they preach like 500 years ago, as if there had never been an age of enlightenment, fascism, a 1968-movement or globalisation." I fail to see how these things have contributed to a pure Vaiṣṇava understanding.

Apart from these points Rāmdās pushes all the right buttons, showing from śāstra that anarthas even exist in bhāva bhakti, one need not be a pure devotee to start rāgānugā, etc.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rāsa Pūrṇimā at Sandīpani's

The Rāsa-līlās at Sandīpani Muni's Āśram are poorly timed - after all introductory performances the actual Līlā starts at 8.15, while many devotees have to leave in time due to early closing-hours of their guesthouses or āśrams.

I sympathise with conservatives who say that children of flesh and blood cannot really portray Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa's transcendental forms, but on the other hand Mahāprabhu recognised Kṛṣṇa in Pratāparudra's son, who had a Śyāma-complexion and yellow cloth, and He also spent time at Kānāi Nāṭśālā, the Bengali village where the whole community was engaged in such performances. I suppose Rāsa-līlā can do no harm in the neophyte stage. Many Rāsa-līlā critics spent their time making politics instead - better see some cute kids playing Kṛṣṇa, as long as we can't perceive the Real Thing yet.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sat-saṅga with Guru-bhāis

October 19, 2007
With a friend I visit my Gurubhāi Dāmu-dā in Gopīnāth Bāgh and enjoy his usual hospitality. He says Golok went back to Navadwip after a 84 Krośa parikramā. Nimāi and Nāru are both here, Nāru has a Sādhu Bābā Āśram in Jñāna Gudrī. Dāmu-Dā's bo makes puris, bhāji begun and miṣṭi dāl. Yummy. Welcome change from all the restaurant-stuff. Sādhu Bābā's mahā-prasāda.

Dāmu-Dā's beautiful photo of the Tin Prabhu on the beach of Puri must be from 1972 or so, because Mukunda Prabhu looks about 12-13 on it.

Yesterday Tapan Dā confused me by saying we must also offer bhoga to Gopeśwara, Mahāprabhu and Sītānātha. He said Bābā introduced that during his last trip to Vṛndāvana in 1985, because without their mercy we cannot attain Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. He also said that there is no need for prāṇa pratiṣṭhā in our family. dīkṣā itself grants adhikāra for arcanā.

October 20, 2007
I walk to Jñāna Gudrī, from Raman Reti, takes 90 minutes in the heat. I don't find Nāru's Ashram there, but I do get darśan of Vaṁśī Vat and its beautiful new gate.

On the way I phone Tapan Dā, who says that Gopeśvara comes first in the new offering sequence (3) then Mahāprabhu (4) then Sītānāth (5) then Guru. There are no mūla mantras for the three and the dīkṣā mantras remain the same (2 only). When I complain that the offering will then start taking a long time he says the new offerings can be done briefly and mentally. I have yet to try it. Its hard to change after 25 years of practising it another way.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rooftop saṅga

Last night my Swiss friend Kṛṣṇacandra visited me, here's some of what we discussed:

Kṛṣṇacandra: "One should not take an oath to follow the 4 regulative principles. (Though they should be followed of course)"

Advaitadās: "Yes I agree. This vow is not demanded by any Indian Guru, though it is expected that one follows them. In Holland we say "belofte maakt schuld", a promise makes guilt. One gets chained with the hands to one's back with the sins we vowed against, almost like inviting the rules to be broken."

Kṛṣṇacandra: " Is it really better to live in the dhāma or can we also become Kṛṣṇa-conscious outside?"

Advaitadās: " You can also become Kṛṣṇa-conscious outside, but it's more difficult. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said that if you live on the bank of a river (the dhāma)  you need just throw out a bucket to get water, but if you live elsewhere (outside the dhāma)  you need to dig a deep well for water. So the sādhana needs to be more intense outside the dhama. Still, even if you live near the river you need to throw out a bucket to get water. So even in the dhāma one needs to do sādhana too. Whenever Sādhu Bābā came to Vṛndāvana he would not stay longer than 3-4 weeks, and even then he rarely went out of the family home. Maybe once to Bihārījī. When his disciples asked him " Why aren't we going anywhere?" he said "We are not tourists. The holy dhāma is right here, though your retina only perceives an ordinary house." Similarly, in modern times, we see the dhāma vanishing under so many building projects, but the real dhāma cannot be destroyed by any property developer. Not that I applaud all the building - it's a disgrace."

Kṛṣṇacandra: " You say that only an Indian should be Guru, but nowadays some Indian Gurukulas only hire female staff because all the male Indian staff will abuse the children."

Advaitadās: "My opinion on this is not black/white. I'm not saying you should take dīkṣā from any Pappu or Lalloo, but the fact remains that the failure-rate among Indian Gurus is much lower. There must be both birth and quality. There is an exodus going on to older GM Sannyāsīs and Rādhākund Bābājīs, not only for higher knowledge but also for security (against falling Americans). In India even the demons do worship. Kaṁsa and Rāvan worshipped Shiva. A friend of mine was in jail in Mathurā, and he told me that everyone there, even murderers and rapists, was doing pūjā. Compare the lifestyles of western teenagers with Indian ones. Big difference."

Kṛṣṇacandra: " What do you think of ausweihung (uninitiation)?"

Advaitadās: " Like signing divorce papers with the ex-Guru?"
Kṛṣṇacandra: "Yes."

Advaitadās: "Actually when you take (re-) initiation you surrender to the (new) Guru, it automatically cancels the old dīkṣā. My western Guru fell down after I took dīkṣā from Sādhu Bābā, I never met him again after he gave me 2nd initiation even. But if your ex-Guru is stil in good standing and you bump into him often, it may be more peaceful to settle a divorce from the personal poiint of view. There is no such a thing as un-initiation in śāstra, though."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Phone saṅga with Tapan Dā.

By phone I ask Tapan Dā, now my senior-most Gurubhāi, several questions about sādhana and history.

AD: ' Is japa to be done per granthi (a multiple of 4 rounds) or any amount will do, like 11,13, 23 rounds?"

TD: " It is better to do japa per granthi - 4, 8, 12, 16 etc."

AD: 'Is there any copy of the drama Bābā wrote on Prabhu Sītānāth?"

TD: " Bābā did not write it, but he spoke it to Nirañjan Dādā, who wrote it down. I don't know if he still has it (his house was marooned in the big flood of Navadwīp in 2000)."

AD: "The ladies in Bābā's dynasty are said to be from Ārdha Kālī vaṁśa. What does that mean? The descendants of these dynasties are considered non-different from Mā Kālī or are they bhaktas of Kālī?"

TD: ' They are bhaktas of Kālī and are then integrated as Adwaita Vaṁśa Goswāminīs."

My Guru-brothers are so sarala (sweet, innocent, honest). Its beautiful, in the cauldron of pretence and deceit that the Gauḍīya Sampradāya so often is unfortunately. (Unlike me) they sacrifice so much time and their precious money to travel from far and wide to attend Bābā's utsavas, that actually last for just a few days!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Phone sanga (10)

Bhakta: "What is the proper speed of chanting japa?"

AD: "I don't think śāstra gives any clue to that. I think the holy name itself is in control of that. I had times it took me just 4 minutes to do one round, and I had times when it took me 11 minutes. svayam eva sphuratyadah - it is self-manifest."

B: "How to best chant japa?"

Advaitadas: "japa means soft chanting. Falling asleep is tamo-guna, walking around is rajo-guna, and sitting is sattva-guna, the serene mode. (Western ankles are not used to sit on the floor, so) One should sit on a pillow, not too soft, not too hard, close the eyes, with a sober stomach and having had enough sleep (sleeping more than 6 hours need not be tamo-guna, that depends on the individual's needs), and not be distracted by walking or talking. Keep the back straight and head down."

Bhakta: "How much down? 45 degrees?"

AD: "Not that much, 30 or so. Sādhu Bābā told me that, I don't know why that is - perhaps it must be done out of humility. If you keep your eyes open then look at something attractive, like your favorite picture of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. Doing japa alone is less distracting than in company. Then the sounds of others' japa won't disturb. All in all, it takes a long time to master - abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyena ca gṛhyate (Gītā 6.35) "It takes practise and renunciation to control the mind." Renunciation meaning one should follow the principles. A sober stomach is also important. I remember my first Janmāṣṭamī in 1978 - I had been a devotee for just 3 months or so and I had never chanted 64 rounds before, nor had I ever done a full 24 hour fast - I had never flown so high before in my life!"

Bhakta: "What about the custom of chanting the pañca tattva mantra before each round?"

Advaitadas: "This is a fairly new custom. In Caitanya Caritāmṛta there are some verses like jaya jaya śrī caitanya jaya nityānanda jaya advaita-candra jaya gaurabhakta vṛnda, but the current pañca tattva mantras are not that old. pañca-tattvātmakam kṛṣṇam (CC Ādi 1.14) "Kṛṣṇa is embodied by the Pañca-tattva" When I asked my Guru about it he told me 'Just chant what I gave you, that is all' গুরু আমায় য়াই দিয়েছেন তাই আমার সব. That the pañca tattva mantra, which is not mentioned in any śāstra, protects from aparādha is a sheer myth. Judge a tree by its fruits - 95% of all devotees fall down, after neatly chanting 16x a day the Pañca-tattva Mantra. Also the idea that aparādha does not count in Māyāpur / Navadvīp is a sheer myth. Utter nonsense. Can you then gun down or torture a pure devotee in Navadvīp and Gaura-Nitāi will say "Jay Jay! Go on! Great! Do it again!"? Mahāprabhu Himself said he would never forgive Gopāl Cāpāl, in Navadvīp, and, though they were later saved by Nitāi, He wanted to kill Jagāi and Mādhāi. Plus, so many devotees stay in Bengal instead of in Vraja, thinking that they will be saved from aparādha, but I have seen so many of them falling away from the path, from Navadvīp/Māyāpur too....The pañca tattva mantra that is mostly used is highly asymmetric, the 2nd line being much longer than the first (śrī advaita gadādhara śrīvāsādi gaura bhakta vṛnda) creating difficulty in kīrtana. It's like a man whose one leg is much shorter than the other, he needs crutches. Mind you, I'm not against chanting of Guru or Gaurāṅga in the kīrtana, but not because of the idea that there is no offence in them. Rather, because one must respect them - without their grace one cannot attain Kṛṣṇa. If the Pañca-tattva mantra really protected against aparādha everyone who chanted it would have prema by now."

Bhakta: "Is it allright to read Subodhini (Vallabhācārya's Bhāgavat-ṭīkā)?"

Advaitadas: "It is important to know our own scriptures well first, so that we can not be diverted or confused by reading others' writings. Sādhu Bābā was against book knowledge, but an intellectual must act according to his nature, still, and quench his ever-thirsting brain - sadṛśam ceṣṭate svasya prakṛter jñānavān api...nigrahaḥ kiṁ kariṣyati "Even the learned must act according to their nature....what will suppression accomplish?" (Gītā 3.33) Reading Vallabha's writings should not be harmful if you are grounded in the Gosvāmīs' books first. He's not the enemy.."

Bhakta: "Caitanya Caritāmṛta (Antya 7) speaks very negatively of him."

Advaitadas: "Not only the Vallabhīs themselves, but also historians say that meeting of Vallabha with Mahāprabhu never took place. It's a mystery why Kṛṣṇadās Kavirāja wrote this, and especially why he portrayed Vallabha as a complete fool, which is really an insult. It does not seem to match with Vaiṣṇava etiquette. It is all the more strange because his śikṣā- and perhaps dīkṣā-Guru, Raghunāth Dās Gosvami,was dearly befriended with Vallabha's son Viṭṭhalnāth, as the Stavāvalī testifies. There are other difficult passages in the Caitanya Caritāmṛta as well: in Madhya līlā (18.186-202) Mahāprabhu is quoted as saying that the Koran describes God as having a Śyāma complexion and discusses paths of karma, yoga and jñāna, after a Muslim scholar wants to establish nirveśeṣa brahman based on the Koran. I am not a knower of the Koran but I am sure that these things are not written there. Then there is the instance in which Mahāprabhu tells the Kazi that one suffers in hell for millions of lifetimes for each hair of the cow one eats....."

Bhakta: "That is also written in Mahā-bhārata"

Advaitadas: "Maybe, but that is for Hindus, who have been raised with that understanding and conscience. Muslims and Christians do not have such understanding or conscience, so why should they be punished according to our norms? (See my blog of April 19, 2006)"

In Madhya Lila (7.100-118) it is described how Mahāprabhu converted all the people in South India, which is not an historical fact but may be an ecstatic spiritual vision of the author, and elsewhere (Ādi 10.89)  it is also said paścimera lok sab mūḍha anācāra ("western people are all fools and unclean") which is probably aimed at the Vrajavāsīs, often criticised by Bengalis for their low standard of cleanliness. It is unclear why Kṛṣṇadās Kavirāja went public with such critique. In Antya Līlā (3.56) a verse is quoted from the Nṛsiṁha Purāṇa, saying that Muslims get liberated by saying Hārām Hārām, because it contains the name Rām, but of course the Purāṇas are supposed to be much older (5000 years) than Islam (1400 years). The point he is making is all right, but it can not possibly actually come from a Purāṇa. For the record, in my profile you can read that Caitanya Caritāmṛta is one of my favorite books and it is the most quoted scripture in my blog, too. It is a masterpiece, but the above passages are a bit controversial, though, with all respect."

Bhakta: (Continues asking about one's own mañjarī svarūpa performing different services in different worlds at the same time)."

Advaitadas: "In TV shops you have entire walls full of TVs that all show the same program. Seeing one is seeing them all. That is acceptable to me."

Bhakta: "If Kṛṣṇa is doing different things in different places, we, in our siddha-swarūpas, should also be doing different things at the same time."

Advaitadas: "As far as I can deduct logically from Viśvanātha Cakravartī's teachings, we take birth in a material universe where Kṛṣṇa's līlā is going on, to perfect our prema. But that is temporary. Once we graduate we are promoted to Goloka and thereby our participation in prakat līlā ends. So because the prakat līlā is also eternal, there is a constant shift in personnel, of jīvas that are perfecting their prema during that līlā. Of course, in each universe, each prakat līlā does have a beginning and an end, though it is eternal in principle. As for Mahāprabhu's firebrand prakat līlā,  if we are present there, what would that be a prelude to (if we come there for perfecting prema), since no śāstra mentions a nitya līlā of Gaura in the spiritual sky? That prakat līlā would be the highest attainment. Some devotees so much love Mahāprabhu lila that it is inconceivable to them to abandon it, though it has been suggested in the past (see my blog of September 26, 2006) that one ultimately transcends it and enters Kṛṣṇa līlā. Gaura līlā is an academy of pure devotion."

Bhakta: "Some say that Kṛṣṇa's birth-pastime only happens in the material world, because Kṛṣṇa is not born in the spiritual world."

Advaitadas: "I haven't seen that in śāstra, it may be in Laghu Bhāgavatāmṛta, but why can He not be eternally born in Goloka too? If He enjoys to be born it will be a līlā of His anywhere. Same with killing demons. In Bhakti Sandarbha Jīva Gosvāmī says that in Goloka there are pratimās, images of demons that Kṛṣṇa kills. Hiraṇyākṣa and Hiraṇyakaśipu pleasing Him by fighting Him is extra. He can fight here, there, wherever He likes and He can make the demons assume any form He likes. If kids in this world have unlimited choice in video games, why would Kṛṣṇa have less than that?"

Bhakta: "Some compare this pratimā with a televised image."

Advaitadas: "I agree. If you push a TV or PC screen you don't really touch the image on it, just the screen. The words yantra, machine, and pratimā, statue or image, are used here. Though anger is a secondary bhakti-rasa - Jaṭilā is described as having it - there seem to be no devotees engaged in combatting Kṛṣṇa in Goloka. These yantras and pratimās may well be just still lifes, parts of the sandhini śakti."

Bhakta: "We understand why Gaura took Rādhā's feelings, but why Her complexion?"

Advaitadas: "He did not want to be recognised as Kṛṣṇa. There are several explanations given. This avatāra is the most human of all, so even His complexion is that human. Mahāprabhu is called channa avatāra, a hidden avatāra. Rūpa Gosvāmī writes in the apāram kasyāpi verse: "Being curious to relish all the limitless rasa of love of one of His beloveds (in Vraja, Śrī Rādhā) Kṛṣṇa stole Her luster and covered His own (blackish) splendor with it, revealing this new golden luster to everyone...." Rādhā-govinda Nāth writes in his comment on CC Antya 14.67: Rādhā is a solid gold vessel and Kṛṣṇa a gold-plated copper vessel. mādana mahābhāva is like nitric acid, which a solid gold vessel can easily handle, but a copper one cannot. Rādhā's complexion is a protective shield."(See my blog of October 23, 2005. Note: I do not consider Rādhā-govinda Nāth an infallible authority, but this point he made very nicely)

Bhakta: "So the rivals of Rādhārāṇī are there to increase Her eagerness for Kṛṣṇa?"

Advaitadas: "Yes, though ultimately she has nothing really to worry about - She is His inseparable śakti, and the role of Her rivals in aṣṭakālīya līlā books is very very limited. They hardly feature there. Its like American crime-movies - the good guy always wins, a single fist blow knocks out the opponent for the rest of the show so the good guy can win the whole situation over. So in the līlā it seems Rādhā's parents, husband and rivals are tremendous obstacles but throughout the day you see Her actually enjoying long periods of time with Kṛṣṇa. Rivals and relatives hardly come into the picture. The scenarios in Ujjvala Nīlamaṇi that Rādhārāṇī really spends the whole night without Kṛṣṇa, being deceived by Her rivals, seem hardly realistic to me. Of course, every līlā of Kṛṣṇa is real and eternal, but these descriptions seem to me more like examples of different feelings that can arise in Her in different circumstances - māna, khaṇḍitā, kalahāntaritā, vāsaka sajjikā etc. I can personally not imagine that She would ever really spend the whole night without Kṛṣṇa."

Bhakta: "You said you would make a list of verses that show the superiority of mañjarī bhāva?"

Advaitadas: "Did I? I cant remember, but to summarise - the best examples are given in Ānanda Gopāl Gosvāmī's purports of Vilāp Kusumāñjali. Then there is Viśvanātha Cakravartī's Saṅkalpa Kalpadruma and there are selected verses of Prembhakti Candrikā, Stavāvalī, Utkalikā Vallari, Rādhā-rasa Sudhānidhi and Vṛndāvan Mahimāmṛta. To compile such a list would be a huge job. But above that, one needs to have one's own realisation that this is the highest thing, taste-wise. It does not depend on scripture and logic, as Rūpa Gosvāmī says 'na ca śāstraṁ na yuktiṁ ca tallobhotpatti lakṣaṇam' "It is attained by greed, not by scriptural evidence or common sense arguments". Elsewhere he said that only thirst can help one appreciate a drink. If there is no thirst, the drink will be right in front of you and you wont drink it, however delicious it is."

Bhakta: "There is a verse in Vṛndāvan Mahimāmṛta which says that the mañjarīs are like foam that emanates from the ocean- like feet of Rādhārāṇī, seemingly suggesting that they, or we, are svarūpa śakti. Others also say that jīva śakti comes from Rādhārāṇī's feet."

Advaitadas: "Mahima means glorification. This is not a tattva statement. There is no evidence that jīva śakti comes from Rādhārāṇī's feet. jīva śakti doesn't come from anywhere. It has always existed, parallel with svarūpa śakti and Kṛṣṇa. It has never been created as an historical event."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Phone sanga (9)

Bhakta: "You said you chant the mahā-mantra to relief Rādhārāṇī from the pangs of separation from Kṛṣṇa. But She is not always in separation from Him."

Advaitadas: "Yes but there is also something called Prema Vaicittya, when Rādhārāṇī feels separation from Kṛṣṇa even while sitting on His lap. Viśvanātha Cakravartī gives very intricate explanations in his Ujjval Nīlamaṇi tikas of how viraha and milana are intertwined. There is also the anticipation of separation. Rādhārāṇī knows that soon Her union with Kṛṣṇa will be over and She will suffer separation again. So there is separation, fear of separation or the illusion of separation. That is especially so in parakīya rasa but even in svakīya rasa - remember the story of Rukmiṇī fainting like a banana tree when Kṛṣṇa jokingly told her He was going to leave her (S.Bhāgavat 10.60). They are legally married and they can spend all day together, yet even then there is the anticipation of separation. It is of course not realistic to only chant the holy name in the times of the day (in aṣṭakālīya līlā) when Rādhārāṇī happens to be separated from Kṛṣṇa."

Bhakta: "So you increase the union by reminding her of separation by chanting? The union becomes more intense when you produce an extra form of Kṛṣṇa by chanting His name?"

Advaitadas: "Sounds interesting, but time will tell if this is actually siddhānta in the sense of yukti and śāstra. What does sound reasonable to me is that when you chant Rādhārāṇī will remember that you were chanting that to Her during times of separation and She may get the apprehension of separation. Another explanation is that the separation-scenario depicted by Dās Gosvāmī may not be the only scenario in which the holy name is to be chanted, because its totally unacceptable that there is any situation in the līlā where the chanting would be unsuitable. Finally there is of course the possibility that this famous mahā mantra vyākhyā is not actually written by Raghunāth Dās Gosvāmī (God save us - where will it end?)"

Bhakta: "In Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa's commentary on the Vedanta Sūtra it is mentioned that one can have 1020 siddha svarūpas and some (Śaṅkara, Rāmānuja) comment on that, saying it means unlimited."

Advaitadas: "That could mean that we, as liberated jīvas, can also, like the svarūpa-śakti, participate in the līlās in all the material and spiritual universes. Nevertheless, all the Gosvāmīs have mentioned that we should meditate on a single siddha svarūpa. In our lineage we follow that siddhānta and sādhana of a single svarūpa, in allegiance to the previous ācāryas. Sādhu Bābā argued that one cannot meditate on so many svarūpas since our mind is only one, and the śāstras constantly say that the svarūpa is created by constant meditation on it."

Bhakta: "So the siddha is rendering different services in different universes?"

Advaitadas: "At the time of siddha praṇālī one gets one particular service from the Guru, though throughout the day one may be required to render other services too. Some services, like making garlands or making the bed, cannot be practised all day long. Of course we discussed before that one can just watch the līlā too, as a service, but in Caitanya Caritāmṛta (Madhya 22.155) Mahāprabhu also told Sanātan Gosvāmī -

mane nija siddha deha koriyā bhāvan; 
rātri dine vraje rādhā-kṛṣṇera sevan

'Mentally serve Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in Vraja day and night, in your siddha deha'.

The service you get from the Guru is your main service, your expertise, but need not be the only thing required of you to do. I have not considered the possibility of being engaged in different universes simultaneously, though, not even if my service would be the same everywhere. But to be a monkey in Rām-līlā and at the same time a mañjarī in Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa līlā is not something I have learned from my Guru, or which I have read anywhere in the Gosvāmīs' books. Viśvanātha Cakravartī's famous comment on Bhagavad Gītā 2.41 comes to mind -

"The instructions that my Gurudeva has given me about hearing, chanting, smaraṇa, pāda-sevanam, etc. of Śrī Bhagavān are my very practise, my very goal and my very life. I am unable to give them up in either the stage of practise or perfection. My single desire and only engagement is to follow them. Besides this, I have no other desire or engagement, even in my dreams. There is no loss for me, whether by following these instructions I attain happiness or misery, or whether my material life is destroyed or not."

vyavasayātmika buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana -"A one pointed mind means a fixed intelligence." bahu śākhā hyanantaśca 'But when you are many-branched, or unlimitedly interested' buddhaya avyavasāyinam - 'This is not a fixed intelligence."

Bhakta: (Quotes various songs and verses depicting the sakhīs apparently witnessing Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa kuñja līlā). You said the mañjarīs have access where the sakhīs don't, but it is mentioned that the sakhīs have access too."

Advaitadas: "Rādhārāṇī feels embarrassed when the sakhīs see Her in an undressed state, but they are also sakhīs, girlfriends, you know. They are not strangers and they are also not stupid - they know what is going on in the kuñja. But the mañjarīs' superiority in intimacy is described in Vraja Vilāsa Stava (38) prāṇa-preṣṭha sakhī-kulād api kilāsaṅkocita bhūmikā - Even Her heart's friends cannot enter into that - asaṅkocita bhūmikā - but the mañjarīs are the abodes of Her complete confidence. sakhīnāṁ lajjayā (Vilap Kusumanjali 92) - "Rādhā feels shy before Her sakhīs." All this evidence is there. Having said all this, the sakhīs are not strangers to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa's pastimes either - each mañjarī serves in the Yūtha (party) of a certain sakhī - devotees of Nityānanda under Lalitā and devotees of Advaita under Viśākhā. Elsewhere in the Stavāvalī, (Sva Saṅkalpa Prakāśa Stotram) Raghunāth Dās Gosvāmī, as Tulasī Mañjarī, offers prayers to each of the eight sakhīs. In Vilāpa Kusumāñjali (99) there is a prayer to Viśākhā sakhī just after verse 92, which describes how Rādhārāṇī is shy before the sakhīs.  That all proves that the sakhīs are not outsiders, but not complete insiders either. The sakhīs are intimate and the mañjarī are very intimate with Rādhā."

Bhakta: "In the paddhatīs of Gopāl Guru and Dhyānacandra it is mentioned that the mother of Rasa Mañjarī is named Līlā Mañjarī. How can a bud (mañjarī) become a mother?"

Advaitadas: "Good question. Maybe she is a retired mañjarī who got married and had children (laughs). Seriously, I have no idea. Maybe here mañjarī is a surname, like so many ladies in India that are named Goswāmī. I can only give this general answer:

1. In the Advaita Parivāra we do not follow such paddhatīs.
2. In any case we don't spy on the neighbors, in the sense that it is not vital information for our sādhana.

There are many opinions out there. Related to this, there are some who say that the mañjarī don't even have a yoni (female organ) because they do not render intimate services to Kṛṣṇa anyway. Others say that the cowherd boys also don't have liṅgas (male organs). I think that this is complete nonsense. There is no need for functionality in the causeless world. In the material world one should engage in sex only functionally, for procreation, or else face the karma-bill, but such laws do not exist in the spiritual world. Kṛṣṇa is just having fun and He never needs to pay His bills. The manifestation of nitya līlā is of course completely human, despite the karma-exemption."

Bhakta: "Is separation higher or union?"

Advaitadas: "That is an ever-ongoing debate. I can find evidence on both sides. Those who preach that separation is the highest quote this verse:

saṅgama-viraha-vikalpe varam iha viraho na tu saṅgamas tasya
ekaḥ sa eva saṅge tribhuvanam api tanmayaṁ virahe

“Of the duality of union and separation I still prefer separation, not union with Him. When I am united with Him I see Him in a single form, but when I am separated from Him I see the three worlds filled with Him only.” (Padyāvalī, 239)

Kuntī-devī prays in the Bhāgavata (1.8.25) "Let us always be in trouble because then we will always think of you. When we have fun we will forget You."

Those who preach the supremacy of meeting quote:

nikuñja yūno rati keli siddhyai yā yālibhir yuktir apekṣanīya
tatrāti dakṣād ati ballabhasya vande guroḥ-śrī caraṇāravindam

"Sri Guru is very expert in arranging for the meeting of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in the nikunjas."

Generally mañjarīs' mission is to accomplish the meeting of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. I wonder if there is any ultimate answer to the question whether separation or union is higher, and I wonder if it makes any difference to the residents of the spiritual sky."

Bhakta: "Many of these descriptions of services rendered to Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa appear very self-centered."

Advaitadas: "Yes, the false ego of ego-centrism in the material world gets transformed to a pure ego of servant-hood, as you know, but even then one remains self-centered, be it in a devotional manner. When you talk to your Guru you also consider yourself to be the center of his attention. In his commentary on Vilāpa Kusumāñjali, verse 17, Śrīla Ānanda Gopāl Gosvāmī gives the example of Tulasī Mañjarī getting kicked on the arm by Swāminījī and then proudly going from kuñja to kuñja to show off the lac-mark on her arm. There is no more false ego left then, though. "āmrā rāi-er abhimāna" It is the self-esteem of 'we belong to Rāi (Rādhā)'. "

Bhakta: "Some say that jīva śakti can turn into svarūpa śakti."

Advaitadas: "Not as far as śāstra is concerned. On the other hand, having spoken all this śāstra, ultimately we are all out there, standing shoulder to shoulder with Lalitā, Viśākhā and all the other members of the svarūpa śakti, and it's not that we are aware of who is jīva and who is svarūpa śakti while we render our services. It's not that we all carry ID cards on our chests like members of a conference or of a security guard. Ontologically speaking the distinction is there forever, but not in the līlā and sevā."

Bhakta: "Can vaidhi bhakti cause greed?"

Advaitadas: "Greed is the impetus of rāgānugā bhakti and is caused by the grace of Kṛṣṇa and His devotees. Vaidhi bhakti itself cannot cause greed."

Bhakta: "How can we feel separation from someone we never met?"

Advaitadas: "Though we neither fell from the spiritual world, nor is prema dormant within the heart, we do belong to Kṛṣṇa (mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke jīva-bhūta sanātana) and the potential for loving Kṛṣṇa is with us as well. You get acquainted with Kṛṣṇa by reading śāstra. You then realise how attractive Kṛṣṇa is and start missing Him. It cannot be compared with material relationships. Take pūrva-rāga - Rādhārāṇī is attracted to the name of some boy, the sound of His flute and His picture and misses Him before even meeting Him. That is beautifully described in Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmīpāda's Vidagdha Mādhava-drama. pūrva-rāga is one of the four types of separation from Kṛṣṇa. Attraction increases to the point of feeling separation, though you have not really met Him before. But as I say, this is a spiritual thing. Meditation on Kṛṣṇa is meeting Kṛṣṇa Himself- taṁ sākṣāt pratipedire (Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu)."

Bhakta: "The caves of Govardhana Hill are described as places for Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa to enjoy. That is pretty rough."

Advaitadas: "In the Bhāgavata (10.24.24) Kṛṣṇa says -

na naḥ puro janapadā na grāma na gṛhā vayam; 
nityam vanaukasas tāta vana śaila nivāsinaḥ

"Dad, there are neither cities nor territories nor villages nor houses in our possession. We always dwelled in the forest, woodlands and on mountains." Jīva Gosvāmī comments: nityaṁ vanaṁ na kadāpyanyatra prayāma "Eternal means that we never go anywhere else." That is quite the opposite of some of the jewelled palaces we see in other līlā granthas. As for the caves, I am sure the mañjarī will make nice arrangements inside with a soft flower-floor, nice pictures, lamps, incense, a sandal fire for warmth and so. But basically the idea of making love in a cave is extremely romantic. Extreme mādhurya. Intriguingly, if you go now to Mt. Govardhan you will not find caves there. Perhaps they were shut in due course of time or they only exist in the nitya līlā, who knows?"

Bhakta: "Other sampradāyas worship Candravali."

Advaitadas: "In Raghunāth Dās Gosvāmī's Vraja Vilāsa Stava (40) Candrāvali is praised for increasing Rādhārāṇī's fortune, great pride, ecstatic bewilderment and other characteristics of an amorous heroine. Ultimately the vipakṣa (enemies) are another group of sakhīs (Ujjvala Nīlamaṇi Hariballabha 1-2). They can never break Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa's relationship permanently. māna (jealous anger) can cause Swāminījī to storm out on Kṛṣṇa but that will never last long. Anger, jealousy - this is all prema-rasa. It flatters Kṛṣṇa's ego if the girls fight over Him."

Bhakta: "How do we know which statements in śāstra are exaggarated?"

Advaitadas: "Primarily through their authorized commentaries. Insincere people should not get the opportunity to play down the verdict of śāstra to find an excuse for sense enjoyment. Apart from that, it is a matter of adhikāra. If you would tell a new bhakta that some things are exaggerated you may destroy his/her faith in the bud. More experienced devotees, who have deep taste and realizations and firm faith can make such distinctions though. Nanda Mahārāja thought all the stories about Kṛṣṇa's miracles were exaggerated - he would never accept that He is the Supreme Lord. That is his mādhurya jñāna and his high level of adhikāra."