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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Laghu Bhāgavatāmṛta (2)

LB 5.223 glosses the words śaśvatasya dharmasya in Bhagavad Gītā 14.27 as 'bhagavad dharma', hearing and chanting according to Baladeva, and aikantikasya sukhasya as 'of one filled with prema bhakti rasa'. Devaki-devi is described as para prakṛti sūkṣma " subtle spiritual energy".

In 5.235, Rūpa Gosvāmī glosses the word sadhvasam in SB 2.9.9 as 'the residents of Vaikuṇṭha being free from the fear of falling". Another direct hit for the fall-vādīs.

In LB 5.247-283 Rūpa Gosvāmī quotes from the Sixth Canto of the Padma Purāṇa about the yogapīṭha, the mystical seat of Viṣṇu.

In 5.286, tripād vibhūti is shown indeed not to refer to size but to quality. "Vaikuṇṭha is called tripāda vibhūti because it possesses 3 parts of power. All the power of the material realm are called only one portion. It means that the powers of the material realm do not exist in Vaikuṇṭha."

The story of Brahmā seeing countless Brahmās in Kṛṣṇa's audience-room is narrated in LB 5.320-323.

LB 5.344 quotes SB 10.15.8. Kṛṣṇa used Balarāma as a substitute, for it's inappropriate to say that Lakṣmī desired Balarām's chest. Kṛṣṇa would not reveal His intimate affairs to Balarāma, He was speaking in sakhya-rasa. The story of Lakṣmī desiring Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa eventually granting Her a place on His chest as a golden line, is quoted from Padma Purāṇa in LB 5.351.

In LB 5.429-433 Rūpa Gosvāmī quotes various Purāṇas wherein Kṛṣṇa's pastimes are described in the present tense, and establishes the doctrine, later taken over by Jīva Goswāmī in the Sandarbhas, that present tense indicates eternity (vartamānasyanatvenoktis tan naitya vācika, 432)

In LB 5.450 Baladeva writes a long ṭīkā, quoting from various śāstras that Kṛṣṇa is the son of Yaśodā and Devakī. Later, in 455-460, Rupa confirms this with Bhāgavata-verses.

In LB 461-2, the famous vṛndāvanam parityajya verses, Baladeva argues that if Kṛṣṇa had really never left Vraja, there would be no separation for the Vrajavāsīs, no need for sending Uddhava to Vraja, or meeting in Kurukṣetra.

In LB 5.463 Rūpa Gosvāmī says that Kṛṣṇa went to Mathurā in a manifest form, hiding the fact He was Nanda's son to delight the people of Mathurā.

In 5.467 Rūpa Gosvāmī says the Vrajavāsīs were separated for three months in prakaṭa līlā. A visphurti (semblance of an appearance) of Kṛṣṇa kept them alive.

In verse 468, Rūpa Gosvāmī mentions two kinds of meeting with Kṛṣṇa: āvirbhāva (sudden appearance through Uddhava's message f.i.) and āgati (actual return). To prove that Kṛṣṇa actually returned to Vraja, Rūpa Gosvāmī quotes the same Bhāgavata-ślokas as Jīva later did in the Sandarbhas. That madhūn in SB 1.11.36 doesn't refer to Vraja, but Mathurā, is explained by Rūpa Gosvāmī (5.480): Vraja is within Mathurā, and Kṛṣṇa had anyway no friends left in Mathurā, having taken them all to Dvārakā (SB 10.50.57).

In 5.482 Rūpa Gosvāmī also quotes the Padma Purāṇa-text, saying that Kṛṣṇa returned to Vraja. This too was later taken over by Jīva Goswāmī in the Sandarbhas.

In 5.491 Rūpa Gosvāmī proves from Skanda Purāṇa that the Lord and the siddhas (nitya- or sādhana) can not only merge into an aṁśī (original form, like Droṇa and Dharā merging into Nanda and Yaśodā), but also re-emerge from them.

Commenting on 5.501, a quotation from Brahma Saṁhitā 5.56, Baladeva says that there is no time in the spiritual sky, meaning 'in other abodes of the Lord the divisions of time are present, but not in Goloka.'

On 5.503-5 he comments that 'vaikuṇṭha' in the famous verse 'vaikuṇṭhācca garīyasi' means ' Gokula'. It is eternal, though situated in the material world.

On 519 Baladeva comments that knowledge of time is covered by the līlā-śakti of the Lord (one imagines time to be passing).

The second part of the book, describing the glories of the devotees, is very brief - just 46 verses - culminating in:

trailokya pṛthivī dhanyā yatra vṛndāvanaṁ purī
tatrāpi gopikāḥ pārtha tatra rādhābhidhā mama

"O Arjuna! In the three worlds, the earth, where Vṛndāvana town is, is most fortunate. There the gopīs live, including My Rādhā."

I bought this book in Bengali in 1991, but its in my house in Holland, so I cannot cross-check the translation, but it seems yet another great presentation of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī's work by Śrīpād Bhānu Swāmī.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Laghu Bhāgavatāmṛta

Book Review:
Laghu Bhāgavatāmṛta by Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī
With commentary by Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa
Translated by Bhānu Swāmi

Rūpa Goswāmī wrote this book as a concise version of Sanātan Goswāmī's Bṛhat Bhāgavatāmṛta.

In verse 1.7 he says that we and the Madhvaites (the fact they are separately mentioned proves Gauḍīyas are not Madhvaites) both accept three proofs: pratyaksa, anumāna and śabda (scriptural evidence). These proofs are in relation to profane objects, not spiritual ones, because they are also subject to faults in the observer, such as bhrama. F.i. for śabda, Kapila's words conflict with those of others. After briefly establishing śabda above tarka (logic), Rūpa Goswāmī establishes Kṛṣṇa's original form (svayaṁ rūpa) as independent, quoting SB 10.44.14.

In his ṭīkā of verse 1.13, the famous īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ-verse, Baladeva explains that anādi here doesn't mean 'beginningless' and ādi not 'the head of others', for these meanings are already covered by 'sarva kāraṇa kāraṇam'. Instead, anādi here means 'not under anyone's control'.

In 2.31-32, Rūpa Goswāmī qualifies Sadāśiva as aṅga-bhūta (a Nārāyaṇa-vilāsa-form) of the original lord Kṛṣṇa. In verse 32 he quotes Brahma Saṁhitā 5.8, saying that Sadāśiva is a Viṣṇu-expansion of Kṛṣṇa whose consort is Ramā (Lakṣmī). In his ṭīkā of 2.32, Baladeva explains all the words indicating Shiva in Brahma Samhitā's creation-tale to mean Viṣṇu, thus reconciling the mystery of Shiva creating the world in that Kṛṣṇaite text.

In verse 3.17 Baladeva reveals that there are two Varāha-avatāras, one born from Brahmā's nostrils and one born from the subterranean waters, and Maitreya, in the Third Canto, put different events in one story since Varāha is one avatāra. Kapila also comes in two forms, one jīva and one an aṁśa of Vāsudeva.

In 3.73 Vāmana even appears three times in a day of Brahmā, taking three steps of land from three different persons.

In 3.83, the jīva Vyāsa merged into the Nārāyan form of Vyāsa.

In 4.53-54 Matsya and Kūrma reside on the hellish planets Mahātala and Rasātala and in 4.64 the material Vaikuṇṭha exists in Satyaloka. All avatāras have material and spiritual abodes. Kṛṣṇa is not really Upendra, Indra's younger brother - Indra only calls Him like that out of love. (premnā, Harivaṁśa 5.5). The six qualities of Bhagavān are fully manifest (parāvasthā) in Rāma, Kṛṣṇa and Nṛsiṁha. (Padma Purāṇa 5.16).

In 5.51 Baladeva quotes SB 10.88.25-26 to prove that one does not even fall from Vaikuṇṭha in the material world (Satyaloka), what to speak of the spiritual world? (Encouraging to read in an Iskcon publication).

In 5.73-75 Rūpa Goswāmī gives sweet interpretations of Kṛṣṇa's names - Mādhava - born from the Madhu-dynasty; Adhokṣaja (born from the cart's axle (akṣa) after being presumed killed by Pūtanā). I notice that Bhānu Swāmī does not use caps to indicate Kṛṣṇa. He writes 'he' and 'his' instead of ' He' and 'His'.

In 5.116 Rūpa Goswāmī again (as in siddhāntatas tvabhede'pi) admits that God is one, but with two aspects - the personal and impersonal.

This is about half the book, so to keep it readable I split the review into two parts.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The best of both worlds

I am too Indianized to ever be a westerner again, yet I never want to be fully Indian either, because of the advantages of western thinking. Here is my synthesis:

I will not pollute the air with cigarette- or kerosine-smoke, nor with loud, silly music (as Indians do),
but I will also not eat meat or drink (as westerners do).

I will bow down to the statues of the Lord (as Indians do)
but I will reject superstitions and blind following of hearsay (as westerners do).

I will wear a dhoti in the Indian holy places (except on the bike) and during my sadhana in the west too,
but I will wear pants on the street in the west or while travelling.

I will not eat a huge meal late at night (as many Indians do)
nor will I refuse prasāda because it is 'not healthy' (too much sugar, oil or spices) as many westerners do.

I support both western cosmology (the vision of the scientists) and Indian cosmology (the vision of the seers).

I admire westerners for their honesty and practical intelligence
and I admire Indians for their forbearance and their faith.

Indians practise sadācāra but no hygiene.
Westerners practise hygiene but no sadācāra.
I will practise both.

I will not consider anyone untouchable merely by birth (as Indians do)
but by sadācāra (or lack thereof).

I will neither respect someone merely by birth (as Indians do),
nor merely by quality (as westerners do).

I will worship the cow (as Indians do),
not the dog (as westerners do).

I cannot live in a room with 6 others (as Indians do)
but I will also not celebrate Christmas (as westerners do).

I support the principle of the blind (the west) carrying the lame (India), combining western material intelligence with Indian spiritual vision.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Siddha Praṇālī for sannyāsīs and selfless giving

Rādhākund, December 8, 2007 -
Sakhīcaran, my backdoor neighbor, tells me that in the Nitāi-Gaur Rādhe-Śyām Sampradāya, Ekādaśa Bhāva is only given after bhekh (to sannyāsīs only) - they are strict like the IGM and Haridās Śāstrījī. I tell him that revelation is an alternative (especially since their Guru passed away right after their dīkṣā).

Advaitadas II also comes and gives me expensive medicines, but does not want any money (he's not rich). He says that Rūpa Goswāmī's dadāti pratighṛṇati does not refer to a precisely calculated exchange of gifts, but to spontaneous loving gestures. When I argue that Bhīṣma-deva lay on his bed of arrows until all accounts were settled and everyone was satisfied, he says that those were the general populace, not his near and dear ones. Take Kṛṣṇa Himself - He is really nasty - urinating on mother Yaśodā's floor, stealing butter, seducing other mens wives and then leaving Vraja never to return - still we tend to give everything to Him. Yet, Uddhava says (SB 11.29.6) that Kṛṣṇa cannot be repaid because He comes as the Guru. Speaking of Guru, the Guru and one's mother come on the other side of the scale - however much you may mistreat them, they will always love you. Perhaps this is why in India the word dhanyavāda (thanks) is not really used?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Silver Praṇālī

In the last one of the silver jubilees (the jubilee of my leaving ISKCON was posted on Jijaji's now defunct forum back then, on May 20, the jubilee-day) the jubilee of my siddha praṇālī, now silver praṇālī. This is from my Indian diary:

December 3, 1982 — My Guru brother Nārāyan-dā comes into my room and says Bābā calls me upstairs on the balcony. Bābā sits there on the floor, wearing his spectacles and completing writing on a huge sheet of paper. He has filled it in single-handedly. He hands it to me and explains to me how it works. It is the siddha praṇālī I so much desired. I bow down to Bābā in gratitude and ask him: “Must I memorize all this?” Bābā: “At least your own svarūpa, the Guru’s svarūpa, parama Guru’s svarūpa and Prabhu Sītānātha’s svarūpa. Keep this between the two of us – don’t reveal this anyone, not even to your friends!” (Hence on this blog I don't fill in the details) I am surprised he gave it to me so soon, for when I took dīkṣā, just 2 months ago, he said I should first be purified by bhajana before becoming ripe for siddha praṇālī.

Bābā: ‘By practising meditation on the siddha deha and siddha sevā the siddha deha is gradually developed. Whatever you always think of you will attain as you end this body.” As Bābā had already revealed, Prabhu Sītānātha Himself is present in all four rasas: sakhī-bhāva (Viśākhā), dāsī bhāva (Rati Mañjarī), sakhya bhāva (Madhumaṅgala) and vātsalya bhāva (Paurṇamāsī). Whatever you always think of you will attain as you end this body.”

yam yam vapi smaran bhavan tyajantyante kalevaram
tam tam evaiti kaunteya sada tad bhava bhavitah 

(Bhagavad Gītā 8.6)

Above the siddha praṇālī he has written:

mane nija siddha deha koriyā bhāvana 
rātri dine kore braje kṛṣṇera sevana

“The mental practise is to meditate on one’s own siddha deha and thus serve Kṛṣṇa in Vraja day and night.” (C.C. Madhya 22.156), and:

ārādhyo bhagavān vrajeśa tanayas taddhāma vṛndāvanaṁ
ramyā kācid upāsanā vrajavadhū vargeṇa yā kalpitā
śāstraṁ bhāgavatam pramāṇam amalaṁ prema pumārtho mahān
śrī caitanya mahāprabhor matam idaṁ tatrādaro naḥ para

The worshipable Lord is Kṛṣṇa, the son of  Nanda of Vraja.
The abode in which we worship Him is Vṛndāvana.
The delightful method of Worship is that of the cowherd wives of Vraja (the gopīs).
The holy scripture the Bhāgavata is the spotless authority.
The greatest pursuit of human life is prema, love of God.
This is the opinion of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
This deserves our highest respect, care and love.

Bābā says it is written by Śrīnātha Cakravartī, a śiṣya of Advaita Prabhu, and explains the entire Gauḍīya siddhānta in a nutshell.

About siddha praṇālī and the first verse of Vilāpa Kusumāñjali Bābā says: “Rūpa Mañjari is not married. The word anāgata here means ‘your husband has not come yet, you are still a virgin. The kiṅkarīs have no kuñjas of their own because the sakhīs are hostesses to Kṛṣṇa and make Him enjoy, while the mañjarīs have a service function, and therefore don't need their own kuñja. We all serve in the great kuñja of Viśākhā-devī because Advaita Prabhu is Viśākhā."  (Hence we also have no svabhāva.)"

My American friend Madhusūdana later tells me: "Prabhu (Lalita Prasāda, his Guru) also told me once: "What do you need a husband for? Go into the kuñja! There is no time for this!"

It is noteworthy that Sādhu Bābā fully instructed me on all these matters on the very same day and never again spoke to me about this.