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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.

1 comment:

  1. Advaita-ji

    An excellent review and rebuttal. This little nutshell contains enough debate to fuel conversations for the next several years! Many things to ponder here...