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Monday, June 30, 2008

Girish is white

After hearing, back in the days, from my senior-most Guru-brother Nirañjan Prasād Dās that Lord Shiva is white-complexioned and my friend Carukṛṣṇa in Rādhākund suggested the same I have been hoping to find some indication of it in śāstra. Today I found this exquisite verse in Sanātan Goswāmī’s Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta (2.3.50)

karpūra gauraṁ tri-dṛśaṁ dig ambaraṁ 
candrārdha-mauliṁ lalitaṁ tri-śūlinam
gaṅgā-jalāmlāna jaṭāvalī-dharaṁ
bhasmāṅga-rāgaṁ rucirāsthi mālinam

His body coloured gaura like camphor, having three eyes, being dressed just by the directions (naked), wearing a half moon crown and carrying a lovely trident, wearing matted locks sprinkled by Ganges-water, His body anointed with ashes and wearing a lovely garland of bones…..”

Though the word Gaura is usually translated as golden, Monier Williams gives as first meaning ‘white’ -
white , yellowish , reddish , pale red, shining , brilliant , clean , beautiful
white , yellowish (the colour), the filament of a lotus , gold

This finding is added as a footnote to page 5 of ‘Satsanga with Niranjan Prasad Das’, on, linktab 'Articles'.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Śukadeva, the cosmos, fall-vāda.

Bhakta: "It is sometimes said that Śukadeva Gosvāmī is originally a parrot of Smt. Rādhārāṇī. Is that true?"

Advaitadas: "Not to my knowledge."

Bhakta: "One says it is mentioned in Jīva Gosvāmī's Gopāl Campu?"

Advaitadas: "I haven't found it there."

Bhakta: "Or perhaps in a commentary on it?"

Advaitadas: "None of the leading acaryas have written a comment on Gopāl Campu. I have one here by Vīracandra Goswāmī, but that is not the son of Nityānanda Prabhu, but some less known person."

Bhakta: Does the verse "aham vedmi śuko vetti, vyāso vetti na vetti vā; bhaktyā bhāgavatam grahyam, na buddhyā na ca ṭīkayā " (''I (Shiva) know the meaning of the Bhāgavata, as does Śuka. Vyāsa may or may not know it. The Bhāgavata is knowable by devotion, not through the brains or the commentaries." indicate anything about Śukadeva being a parrot?"

Advaitadas: "No, not at all. This verse just shows us that the Bhāgavata cannot be understood through the intellect, but by devotion."

Bhakta: "Bhānu Swami has issued a new book on the 5th Canto cosmology, based entirely on the bona fide comments on chapters 16-26 by Śrīdhar Swāmī, Jīva Goswāmī, Viśvanātha Cakravartī etc."

Advaitadas: "That is very interesting, if it contains the original Sanskrit text of these comments."

Bhakta: "It does. It explains that the Vedic model is based on more of an astral dimension of seeing things. That could explain the mystery of Ugrasena's bodyguards and Nanda's cows. It is compared in this book with Parīkṣit, who is said to have had the whole of Jambudvīp under his control, king Pṛthu had the whole bhū-maṇḍala and Dhruva had the whole universe under his control. What they had under their control? The subtle levels. There you find descriptions of 10,000,000 people and so, but that was possible because it was all on the subtle level."

Advaitadas: "Kṛṣṇa's līlā is not subject to laws of material time and space and hence such fantastic figures are easily possible. If even the mind, which is just a subtle material instrument, can conceive of this, then what to speak of the capacity of Kṛṣṇa's transcendental internal potency sandhini, that displays all these divine realms?"

Bhakta: "Someone came with yet another indication from the Bhāgavata (2.5.19) that we fell down from the spiritual world."

Advaitadas: "No, that is again wrong. This is what the ācāryas say about this verse: Jīva Gosvāmī’s Krama Sandarbha ṭīkā of SB 2.5.19 -

kīdṛśam api badhnanti. tatrāha nityadā muktam api. nanv idaṁ viruddham. tatrāha - māyinam iti. māyā’tra māyā-kṛto moha ucyate. sa cānādir iti eveśa-vimukhasya tasya māyā - pāravaśyād eva. tena ca guṇāveśa eva bandha iti. 

“It is said that the living being is eternally liberated, so how can he be bound? How to solve this contradiction? To this is it said 'māyinam - the delusion is caused by māyā'. He is averse to the Lord from beginningless time and subject to māyā, who keeps him bound in the modes.”

Viśvanātha Cakravartī's ṭīkā of SB 2.5.19 says -

pūrvokta-yuktyā bhagavataḥ pṛṣṭhadeśa-sthānāṁ jīvānāṁ pṛṣṭha-deśa-sthayā māyayā svata eva saṅga-sambhavād iti bhāvaḥ. nitya-muktam iti jīvasya yathā anādy-ajñānaṁ tathā anādi-jñānam apy astīti saptamānte vyaktībhaviṣyati -

“According to previously proposed logic, the conditioned souls are situated at the back of the Lord, where māyā is situated, and that association (with māyā) is by itself or naturally (svata eva) so. Their ignorance and knowledge are both beginningless, as will be revealed at the end of the seventh canto.”

 (Viśvanātha himself has repeated this explanation in his comment on SB 3.7.10, where he also stated there is no reason for our conditioning in this world) And that 10% of jīvas have fallen from the spiritual world is completely new to me even - it is even more bizarre, since there is first of all no limit to the number of jīvas (S.B. 10.87.30) so what is 10% of unlimited, and secondly, it is best to first prove that anyone has fallen from the spiritual world at all before coming with percentages. There is of course no evidence for any of this. tasmacchāstraṁ pramāṇaṁ te (Bhagavad Gītā 16.24) - "Therefore one must act according to evidence from the revealed scriptures."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sādhu Bābā's songbook and adjusting siddhānta

Bhakta: "In the evening Ārati song of your Guru's āshram's songbook there is a mentioning of Gaur Gopāl. How can Mahāprabhu be a cowherd?"

Advaitadas: "The non-difference of Kṛṣṇa and Gaura does not extend that far. It does not express itself in non-different pastimes. Gaur līlā is quite different from Kṛṣṇa līlā - it is a missionary līlā, a līlā of renunciation, while Kṛṣṇa has no mission at all - He is just enjoying Himself. In no phase of His līlā is Mahāprabhu tending cows, yet through such names as Gaura Gopāl we are reminded that He is Kṛṣṇa."

Bhakta: "Then, at the end of that song it is described that Raghunāth Dās Gosvāmī cries out hu hu."

Advaitadas: "Exclamations are quite different in Indic languages. The word he (pron: hey, as in he rādhe braja devike ca lalite) in India is translated as 'O!' in the west and hā hā is translated as 'Alas!'.

Bhakta: "In Gaura's evening ārati you see that conch-shells resound. Isn't this aiśvarya?"

Advaitadas: 'As I said before, though Gaur and Kṛṣṇa are non-different there is a great difference in their pastimes and manifestations. There is an overall attitude of reverence towards Gaura (with the exception of His wife, mother and sometimes Nitāi-Cānd) throughout the three phases of His pastimes, Mahāprabhu would not eat from Rāmānanda Rāy, but in Kṛṣṇa līlā the cowherds climb on Kṛṣṇa's shoulders when He loses a game!"

Bhakta: "In the Rādhā-evening ārati it is described that She is sitting on a jewelled throne. That seems to be aiśvarya too."

Advaitadas: "Smt. Rādhārāṇī is not the daughter of a cobbler - She is a princess, the daughter of a chieftain. She is not living in a clay hut on the side of the road like so many beggars. The Mādhurya is obvious in everyone's attitude in Vraja - the mañjarīs, little 12/13 year old girls are kicking the Lord out of the kuñja - that is extreme mādhurya! As for the jeweled furniture, we have discussed before that some of this may have been decsribed as such to attract people with glitz. Anyway, what would be the alternative? Shall we seat our princess on the floor, which is so cold in winter and so hot in summer?"

Bhakta: "But somebody wrote that in your āśram, he could have left it out. I wonder why he wrote it?"

Advaitadas: "No no this is a big mistake. These songs we sing in Sādhu Bābā's āśram are not composed by us - they are the general arati songs for the entire Gauḍīya Sampradaya. They are being sung by millions of bhaktas all over Bengal, Bangladesh, Orissa, Manipur, Agartala and Vraja. They are very old too."

Bhakta: "Still the jewelled throne could have been edited out of the song to increase or preserve the madhurya."

Advaitadas: "We do not edit songs, nor is it aiśvarya. We can not seat our princess in any discomfort."

Bhakta: "But if there is too much opulence then it is no longer rural."

Advaitadas: "I agree with that, but again, She is a rural princess, daughter of a local chieftain."

Bhakta: "But then who makes all these things? It is very intricate to manufacture such furniture. In the countryside it must be as simple as possible."

Advaitadas: "Mādhurya does not mean cro magnon or neanderthal, caveman. In the Bhāgavata, early 10th canto, there are such sweet descriptions, yet Nanda Mahārāja also gives profuse charity. They were not walking in deer skins and living in caves like cavemen, having no skills and no sciences. Even here in the west if you go to the countryside or to the woods you will have roads and internet connections, yet the surrounding is very sweet. Perhaps you have seen the 94-episode Hindi Mahābhārat, which was produced in 1988? There is a nice episode in it about Kṛṣṇa's Vraja līlā. There I found the perfect balance between a joyful and comfortable life for Kṛṣṇa within the sweet rural environment. Nanda Mahārāja's house was not a mega palace there but also not a clay hut."

Bhakta: "Then, on page 33 and 35 of the same songbook, is a description of khol mangal, all kinds of rituals are mentioned there..."

Advaitadas: "Yes, the tradition does more about Utsavas (festivals like Gaura Pūrṇimā, Janmāṣṭamī, Nṛsiṁha Caturdaśī etc.) than just fasting and feasting. There are days of preparation, lectures held, 24 hours kīrtan and a day called ādhivāsa - a kīrtan held on the eve of a big celebration (the songs are included in that songbook). Water is brought from the Ganges or Yamunā, banana trees are cut and placed in prescribed places on the utsava-grounds, there is a ceremony called Ghāṭ-sthāpan (establishing the pots) etc. etc. Items like collecting Gaṅgā-water and cutting banana trees wont be possible in the west, but at least ādhivāsa- and 24 hour kīrtan can be organized in devotee societies. Before the Bhāgavata-lecture is given sandal pulp and flowers should be offered to the book, the prasād of which is then usually offered to the khol (mṛdaṅga), and the sandal-prasād is given to the devotee-audience, in the proper sequence according to the devotees' seniority. Proper respect is to be given to khol and karatālas - one should not step on them or over them, f.i. Since I was never in charge of such things while in India I do not know all the technical details. When I last attended the utsavas in Sādhu Bābā's āśram in Kārtik 2003 I told my, now late, sister Kṛṣṇā that some of the rituals would be impossible to perform in the west and she said 'Then just do hari-nāma'.

Bhakta: "Then, on page 33, betel leaves are mentioned. Ordinary jīvas should not take that."

Advaitadas: This song is written by Parameśvar Dās, one of Nityānanda Prabhu's 12 cowherds, and is sung by all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. It is authoritative. Though betel leaves are bad for the teeth and for the heart, and I surely don't recommend profuse use, it is not strictly prohibited."

Bhakta: "I thought it was an intoxicant."

Advaitadas: "No it is not an intoxicant. I took it many times when I was in Navadwīp, but it never did anything to my mind at all."

Bhakta: "Isn't it sometimes better or even necessary while preaching to adjust the philosophy?"

Advaitadas: "In my own experience in preaching to scientifically thinking people I realize how difficult it is to preach the actual siddhānta, which is much more abstract than the way it was originally preached to us westerners. It is usually not understood or accepted by such people that many things are 'inconceivable' 'causeless' or 'beginningless', so I have a lot of understanding for those who did adjust and simplify the philosophy, like fall-vada and meritocratic varṇāśrama, to preach and appeal to the rationalistic western public. Most westerners also don't have the simple acceptance that Indians have. Still, the śāstrik truth must be preached as it is, even if it is more difficult to comprehend for people in general."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dui prabhu santāne jagat hobe prabhumoy

Obituary – Madangopal Goswami.

Today I received the sad news that Prabhupād Madangopāl Gosvāmī, the main Nityānanda Vaṁśa Goswāmī in Navadvīp in the past 40 years, passed away in Kolkata on June 4th. "He was about 67. He had been seriously ill since over 6 months. He had brain surgery and suffered severely in a semi conscious state.

I had only a single darśan of Prabhu on October 2, 2003 in his home in downtown Navadwīp – This is an edited transcript of that darśan from my Indian diary of that day:

"darçana of Madana Gopāla Gosvāmī. He tells me that (back in the 1970s) he offered Jagadānanda to do pārāyaëa at his place but after some time he complained "Why are you sitting higher than us?" Then he told him: "I am a kulina brāhmaṇa - I should not even take water from your hand, but still I let you do pārāyaëa here. You cannot give pārāyaëa any more. dainya is the life of bhakti. (Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu ordered:) maryādā rakṣaṇa hoy sādhura bhūṣaṇa. ("Observing the etiquette is the ornament of a sādhu", CC Antya 4..130) We have been doing these ceremonies here for 70 years.” Jagadānanda came back a little later and offered apologies.

About the qualification for having the title Prabhu he says: “prakṛṣṭa rūpe jini avasthāna koren tini prabhu”. pra means prakṛṣṭa, super-excellent, and everyone who is situated in super-excellence is thus prabhu. Mahāprabhu said to Nityānanda Prabhu: dui prabhu santāne jagat hobe prabhumoy - “The descendants of the two Prabhus (Nityānanda and Advaita) will make the whole world full of such prabhus.” The Gauḍīya Sampradāya's goal is to become low, however, not to become prabhu. Indian tradition is such that if in a Brahmin family even a fool is born he is called pandit, like pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. So it is with us - everyone in our families is called prabhupāda. Who will save the world if you and I and everyone will do muni-dharma (mauna)? Mahāprabhu gave the example of the grave responsibility of the sannyāsī by rejecting Choṭa Haridās even when he killed himself. 

He asks me if I wear dhoti etc in the west. I tell him no, only mālā. He agrees that dhoti is too cold in the west, but I should wear tilaka. People will inquire about it and that would be a good way of preaching.”

Prabhu was a very dynamic preacher, travelling widely across north eastern India and Bangladesh. In decades of intense preaching he initiated 10s of 1000s of disciples. Prabhu is survived by his three sons Jay Gopāl, Nitya Gopāl and Prem Gopāl Goswāmī.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Parasites in the Bhāgavata

In Śrīmad Bhāgavata (11.25.15) a person in tamo guṇa is described as being a parasite -

yujyeta śoka-mohābhyāṁ nidrayā hiṁsayā'śayā

"Such a person is characterised by lamentation, delusion, sleep, violence and hope."

"Why is hope tamo-guṇa?" I wondered. Śrīdhar Swāmī and Viśvanātha Cakravartī explain:

udyamābhāvena kevalam āśayā yujyeta

"There is an absence of endeavour and only expectation."

C.L. Goswami of the Gita Press translates the word āśayā as " expectation of help from others (through indolence caused by dullness)."

Monier Williams on āśā: "wish , desire , hope , expectation , prospect".

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More on the rasas of the inert

Bhakta: "Do clouds have consciousness? They are living entities?"

Advaitadas: "In both the material world and the spiritual world. There was the Samvartaka cloud that was sent by Indra to Vraja to shower the Vrajabāsīs so that Kṛṣṇa had to lift Girirāja. parjanyād anna sambhavaḥ  (B.Gītā 3.14)

Bhakta: Is the cloud in dāsya rasa? What is his attitude?

Advaitadas: Look at Śrīmad Bhāgavata 10.21.16 - sakhyur vyadhāt - The clouds are in sakhya rasa. They rendered loving service to Kṛṣṇa by shading Him like an umbrella. Viśvanātha Cakravartī comments on this verse that the cloud is in sakhya rasa because it shares Kṛṣṇa's complexion with Him and they both remove others' distress with a downpour of rasa (rain in the cloud's case). svīya vidyud garjanābhyāṁ pīta-vastra veṇu-nādayoḥ sāmyaṁ dṛṣṭvā ca sakhibhāvam abhimanyamānaḥ “Seeing he is equal to Kṛṣṇa with the rumbling sounds he makes, with his lightning (in the form of Kṛṣṇa's yellow cloth) the cloud identifies himself in sakhya-rasa.” hanta hanta sakhya-bhāva-vanto’pyātmānaṁ kṛtārthayantītyāhuḥ – The gopIs lament about the clouds “Alas! Alas! Even those who are in the mood of friendship with Kṛṣṇa (sakhya bhāva) have become blessed by serving Him.”

The cows are also not in śānta rasa, but in vātsalya rasa, according to Viśvanātha Cakravartī's commentary on S.B. 10.21.13 - na ca tatrāpi vātsalya-bhāva eva mohane hetur astīti vācyam “The cows (not the calves) are in vātsalya rasa", and sva manasaḥ kroḍe eva vātsalyāt sthāpayantyas tasthuḥ  “The cows stand still as they take Govinda within their hearts through their tear-filled eyes and embrace Him out of vātsalya bhāva..."

Bhakta: Speaking of clouds, what līlā is Kṛṣṇa playing in the rainy season? Some Rāsa-līlā?

Advaitadas: Jhulan, in August. He sits on the swing with Rādhikā and gets all soaked from the rain."

Bhakta: "That sounds unpleasant."

Advaitadas: Nothing is unpleasant in Kṛṣṇa-loka, it is warm and the rain is like nectar. Though we are in Nara līlā (human like pastimes) ultimately Yogamāyā does have to perform all kinds of tricks. For instance, it is really impossible for a married girl to spend every night 7 hours with a paramour, every single night, even in western culture, let alone the strictly controlled Vedic culture, how come the gopīs never get pregnant etc. etc. So many miracles are still happening in the human-like līlā."

Bhakta: "In Surata Kathāmṛta (54) it is said: "...the bees, that are like panegyrists, sing Your glories." Are they fully conscious? But they don't talk....

Advaitadas:" Same thing here - on the one hand these are human pastimes, in which bees do not speak, but on the other hand the spiritual sky is full of consciousness. In Vraja Vilāsa Stava (72) Raghunāth Dās Gosvāmī offers a long śloka to the bees of Vraja alone. They do a great service, causing great romantic incitement. In Govinda Līlāmṛta (14.1-4) a bee brings Rādhikā into the divine madness of prema vaicittya, in which She falsely thinks that Kṛṣṇa has left Her though He is right there with Her! She speaks like mad to a bee in the Bhāgavata (bhramara gīta, 10.47.12-21) - bees have the same complexion as Kṛṣṇa and nature too (going from flower to flower as He goes from gopī to gopī) - ye bhṛngāḥ paritas tayoḥ sukhabharaṁ vistārayanti - the bees always give great joy to Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. The bees actively assist in the most intimate pastimes, in the above-mentioned manner and also by buzzing dangerously close to Rādhikā so that She jumps into Kṛṣṇa's arms, afraid to be stung by them. In a sense they are much closer than Nanda and Yaśodā, in all their simplicity. Their humming is called 'the kettledrums of Cupid" by the ācāryas."

Bhakta: "How does one ultimately end up with Mañjarī bhāva?

"1. In the course of studying the Gosvāmīs' books you will eventually come across the books of Raghunātha Dās Gosvāmī.
2. You may receive it from Śrī Guru.
3. You may hear about it from a sādhu.
4. Rādhikā will reveal it to you from within.

Some intellectuals come cross it in their systematic studies and feel some attraction and may even take initiation into this sādhana, but since their main drive is intellectual curiosity (jijñāsu, Bhagavad Gītā 7.16) they later change the topic of their studies and leave the practise behind just as easily."

Bhakta: "Rādhikā says in Surata Kathāmṛta (77) "My body vomits sweat-drops" - I thought there was no jugupsa rasa (sub-mellow of disgust) in mādhurya rasa?"

Advaitadas: "In Vedic aesthetics this is somehow used often without aiming at the effect of disgust. There are many instances of this in the Gosvāmīs' books, I can only now think of tavodgīrnaṁ bhojyam in Vilāpa Kusumāñjali (56) wherein Tulasī covets the food vomited out by Rādhikā. I think this should more be seen as spitting out, and even then there is no disgust or horror involved - it is just an expression Vedic poets use often, like that."

Bhakta: 'And then there is all the mentioning of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa's long nails..."

Advaitadas: "Yes well as you know nails (bones) and hairs are impure according to sadācāra vidhi, but such rules do not apply to the spiritual world. In Vilāpa Kusumāñjali (18) Tulasī offers to wipe Rādhikā's toilet with her hair and Kṛṣṇa has long nails so He can claw open the ropes used to tie up the calves, or to scratch Rādhikā with during Their amorous pastimes. Everyone also has long hair in the spiritual world, though materially that is also not considered so pure."

Bhakta: "Someone I know has seen Kṛṣṇa's eyes and says they are brown."

Advaitadas: "One should not impose one's imagination upon an eternal, transcendental and immutable form. Kṛṣṇa's pupils are dark-blue like a bee, the eyeballs are a bit lighter blue, then there is the eye-white and finally He has red borders around the eyes. This is in śāstra."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pratiṣṭhā in the Smṛti-śāstra

Beautiful verses exist in the Gosvāmīs' books, like Haribhakti Vilāsa and Manaḥ Śikṣā, warning against and condemning pratiṣṭhā, or seeking glorification of oneself. However, in the more ancient śāstras there are some nice verses too. For instance, in the Bhāgavata (11.11.39 - yes, everything is in the Bhāgavata!) Śrī Kṛṣṇa says to Uddhava: kṛtasyāparikīrtanam "One should not glorify one's own devotional services."

In a footnote of the Gita Press Edition, C.L. Goswami quotes the Smṛti: dharmaḥ kṣarati kīrtanāt "One's virtue (dharma) is depleted by (self-) glorification."

Though pure bhakti is not regular virtue or dharma, the same warning undoubtedly goes for the path of pure bhakti - one deprives oneself of the result (prema) of bhakti by proclaiming one's own glory.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


A recent messenger-chatlog:

bhakta: "Some people, when ready, will follow all the rules of Haribhakti Vilāsa."

Advaitadas: I think that is impossible,: even in India - you need a lot of money to feed brahmins and give so many donations every fortnight.

bhakta: But I think we better just focus on Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa worship: the 5 basic ones (living in Vraj, chanting, hearing the Bhāgavat, sādhu sanga and deity worship).

Advaitadas: Right, the 5 basic ones - at least.

bhakta: Many rules are anyway rejected in rāga mārga, is that so?

Advaitadas: Not many but some, see Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda’s comment on Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu 1.2.296: meditation on Dvārakā, worshiping the Queens there, mudrā, ahaṁgropāsana and nyāsa.”

bhakta: But all these rules and cautions to not make mistake will cause you just to think about them, not Kṛṣṇa, so what is the point - all the rules have to help to remember Kṛṣṇa.

Advaitadas: Well that is not really true: you don’t think about the way to hold your japa mālā or to drive your car - its an automatism: and so most rules we also follow without thinking about them.

bhakta: Right. Still, many details will spoil the main focus...what do you think?”

Advaitadas: Not really - all our daily manners like sleeping, walking, breathing and speaking so many languages are also automatisms. You can think of other things while doing them; similarly sadācāra rules don’t stop one from thinking of Kṛṣṇa, as they are automatized.

bhakta: SP (ACBS) simplified.

Advaitadas: Oh, all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Gurus simplify, not just ACBS: we all have to. Hari Bhakti Vilāsa is for devatās, not for humans.

bhakta: It is at least very high standard. Not even from the Manu Saṁhitā you can follow everything: it is for another yuga.

Advaitadas: That especially not: that was never the śāstra of the Gosvamis anyway: Manu Samhita is for varṇāśrama : really Indian ancient varṇāśrama, karma mārg.

bhakta: Many quotes in Hari Bhakti Vilāsa are from Purāṇas that were for other yugas: I brought it to you just to compare it to Hari Bhakti Vilāsa quotes from the Purāṇas: rules for other yugas you cannot apply all to the Kali yuga people, not even devotees.

Advaitadas: That too, though Hari Bhakti Vilāsa is written just 400 years ago, it is clearly for Kali yuga.

bhakta: But the quotes are from different Purāṇas, written for other yugas.

Advaitadas: Yes: anyway, everyone agrees that it isn’t possible to follow it all, but that doesn’t mean Sanātan Goswāmī was pressured by smārtas to write that: nitya siddhas are not pressured by conditioned souls. He also did not write things to please them or flatter them: Sanātan Goswāmī was under the sole command of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

bhakta: Just the Vaiṣṇava comunity was criticized that they don't have set of rules: so he compiled them from the Purāṇas.

Advaitadas: That is allright with me: that is the purpose of Hari Bhakti Vilāsa: to present us as a proper sampradāya: and a sampradāya needs a smṛti.

bhakta: "The Hari Bhakti Vilāsa is the first book with elaborate rules and regulations."

Advaitadas: For Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, yes.

bhakta: When it was written the smārtas stopped criticizing the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas.”

Advaitadas: Yes

bhakta: They saw we have something very elaborate so some became Vaiṣṇavas: but we don't follow the rules and regulations just for the sake of following them: how that śloka goes in the NOI?

Advaitadas: atyāhāra prayāsaś ca: prajalpo niyamāgraha – niyamāgraha can mean over-emphasis on rules or under-emphasis on rules, but anyway, point taken.”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Balarāma on armchair scholars

On (Linktab 'Articles', the 'Wisdoms'-file, page 2) I have added this verse, spoken by Śrī Balarāma to the sages at Naimiṣāraṇya, Śrīmad Bhāgavata 10.78.26:

adāntasyāvinītasya vṛthā paṇḍita-māninaḥ
na guṇāya bhavanti sma naṭasyevājitātmanaḥ

“Those who vainly consider themselves learned, but are neither self-controlled, nor humble, so they don’t attain good characters, are just like actors on a stage."

I have added this before the next śloka of the Bhāgavata (10.78.27), which was already posted in that file:

etad artho hi loke’sminn avatāro mayā kṛtaḥ
badhyā me dharma-dhvajinas te hi pātakino’dhikāḥ

"It is for this reason that I have descended to this world – to kill those who pretend to be virtuous. They surely are worse than sinners.”

Though Lord Balarāma speaks about Romaharṣaṇa, whom He had just executed with a blade of grass, the verses are in plural case, and so apply to all high-flying armchair intellectuals, of all times.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Phone Sanga (20)

Bhakta: "Is there anything in śāstra about how Vaiṣṇavas should greet each other?"

Advaitadas: "No. Neither haribol nor Jay Rādhe are mentioned in Gaura līlā śāstras. It is open, though most devotees say Rādhe Rādhe or Jay Rādhe."

Bhakta: "Returning to the topic of Dimock, he is not considered a devotee because he had not associated with Vaiṣṇavas...."

Advaitadas: "No I didn't say that. Surely he associated with Vaiṣṇavas, but your parents have also associated with you for the 30 years you have been a devotee and they never became devotees themselves. Although sādhu sanga works wonders, it does not automatically convert everybody."

Bhakta: 'He may not be initiated but he may still be a devotee. Some people may be initiated but do not have so much devotion. How can you tell?"

Advaitadas: "I have already shown from śāstra (in the previous blog) that a Vaiṣṇava is someone who is initiated and actively engaged in Lord Viṣṇu's worship, and that all others are non-devotees. It is true that many initiated devotees have become non-devotional, but at one point in their life they had so much devotion that they took dīkṣā, which is an act of surrender - dīkṣā kāle bhakta kore ātma samarpan (CC Antya 4). One of the persons who comes to Kṛṣṇa is the curious (B.Gita 7.16, jijñāsu). That is typically a westerner, who doesn't know anything about Vedic religion. They go very deeply into this, studying all the śāstras, but when their curiosity is satisfied they leave. Others are distressed (ārta) because of some broken love affair, and take to celibacy, but when their heartache is over they leave too. In the process they may have taken initiation and are thus marked devotees. Some surrender was there. There is a difference between an initiated and non-initiated devotee. Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī says: kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyeta "Mentally honour those who say Kṛṣṇa" (non-initiated bystanders and sympathisers), dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiḥ "but when there is dīkṣā you must offer full obeisances." (Upadeśāmṛta) That is the difference between the sympathising bystander and someone who took dīkṣā.  In India an initiated devotee is called āśrita, a person who took shelter. All glories to them (dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiḥ)!"

Bhakta: "In the previous phone sanga you mentioned the hyperboles and figurative statements in the Bhāgavata. Where can we read about it?"

Advaitadas: "Unfortunately at this stage there is not much about this in English yet, but look at this in Jīva Gosvami's Bhagavat Sandarbha (109):

yathā ca siṁho devadatta ity atra gauṇyā vṛttyā śaurya-guṇa-yukte devadatte siṁha-śabdaḥ pravartate. yathā ca gaṇgāyāṁ ghoṣa ity atra-lakṣaṇayā vṛttyā gaṇgā-śabdas tasminn ity asambandhe taṭe pravartate 

"siṁho devadatta (lion Devadatta) does not mean that he literally is a lion, but that he is (a human being) endowed with the quality of (lion-like) heroism. Similarly, though 'gaṅgāyāṁ ghoṣaḥ' literally means 'a village in the Ganga' it of course means 'a village on the bank of the Ganges'.

Bhakta: "Is there an injunction that one must chant one's 64 rounds in the morning?"

Advaitadas: "No. nāmnāmakāri bahudha nija sarva śaktis tatrārpita niyamita smaraṇe na kāla "All divine energy is there in the name and there is no rule on the time for chanting it. Some devotees have early morning or late night shifts and they cannot chant in the morning, so they have no choice but to chant on other times. The morning is good because the mind and body are fresh and so the mode of goodness reigns. The name is always great, though, also in the evening because then it dispels the predominant mode of ignorance (fatigue)."

Bhakta: "I was surprised that in Nikuñja Keli Virudāvali, Viśvanāth Cakravartī is praising Kṛṣṇa only, while, as a mañjarī, he should be just into Rādhārāṇī."

Advaitadas: "All ācāryas, even those who were fervently into mañjarī bhāva, like Raghunāth Dās Gosvāmī and Viśvanāth Cakravartī, have done their fair share of praising Kṛṣṇa as well. Raghunāth Dās Gosvāmī also wrote Madan-gopāl Stotram, Gopal-rāja Stotram, Vraja Vilāsa Stava, Prayers to Mt. Govardhan etc. etc. No ācārya has written exclusively about Smt. Rādhārāṇī."

Bhakta: "We have discussed before that sthāyi-bhāva cannot be changed, yet in Caitanya Caritāmṛta we see that even Satyabhāmā covets the fortune of the gopīs."

Advaitadas: "The women of Mathurā praise the gopīs in Śrīmad Bhāgavat 10.44.14-16, and the queens of Dvaraka do so too in Śrīmad Bhāgavat 10.83.43. The fact that they know about the gopīs' glories does not mean that they actually can enter into gopī-bhāva, however. Look at Śrīmad Bhāgavat 10.16.36, where it is described that Lakṣmī could never attain Kṛṣṇa's feet, even after eternal penance! nāyaṁ sriyo'nga u nitanta rateḥ prasādaḥ (Śrīmad Bhāgavat 10.47.60) If ever a person is seen to graduate from aiśvarya to mādhurya, from vaidhi to rāga, then it must be understood that the latter, not the former, was his sthāyi-bhāva. For instance, in his ṭīkā to Śrīmad Bhāgavat 10.83.43, Viśvanāth Cakravartī says that the 8 principal queens could not be swayed from their (Dwārakā-) feelings towards Kṛṣṇa, but secondary queens were later kidnapped by Kṛṣṇa and taken to Gokula."

Bhakta: In Nikuñja Keli Virudāvali, (29) it is said that Kṛṣṇa bites Rādhā's lips and then drinks the nectar and sprinkles it on Her. Is that blood?"

Advaitadas: "Hahaha, no - Kṛṣṇa is not a vampire. That is horrid, and horror in relation to Kṛṣṇa is rejected as jugupsa rati, the secondary rasa of disgust. saptamyās tu rater vasāt (Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu 2.5.41) - Jugupsa does not apply to Kṛṣṇa, most specially within madhura rasa. Otherwise, biting is a common item of Vedic lovemaking (see Kāma-sūtra). In retrospect these things like sprinkling are not mentioned in the Sanskrit of Nikuñja Keli Virudāvali 29. I must have taken this interpretation from the Bengali translation."

Bhakta: "Speaking of jugupsa, do the gopīs have hair under their armpits?"

Advaitadas: "It looks bad, and I have never read of a mañjarī service of shaving Rādhā's armpits."

Bhakta: "One Vaiṣṇava organization claims that Vaikuṇṭha will ultimately be folded and everyone will ultimately get into mañjarī bhāva."

Advaitadas: "That would be wholly contrary to the principle of sthāyi-bhāva. Besides, there is not a shred of evidence for that theory. Vaikuṇṭha is eternal and eternal means eternal. sthāyi-bhāva means permanent emotion, and permanent means permanent. Can you imagine, not only countless jīvas would transfer to Goloka, but Lord Nārāyan would cease to exist altogether? That is crazy. When Jīva Gosvāmī speaks of the eternality of the spiritual sky in Prīti Sandarbha (10) he specifically quotes a verse from Śrīmad Bhāgavat (3.15.14) that describes Vaikuṇṭha. vaikuṇṭhasya bhagavato jyotir-aṁśa-bhūtā vaikuṇṭha-loka-śobhā-rūpā yā anantā mūrtayas tatra vartante.

Bhakta: "But everybody will want the highest thing..."

Advaitadas: "That is subjective. Everyone thinks they have the highest relationship with God anyway and is satisfied with that. With such logic the cowherd boys and Nanda-Yaśodā would also go extinct, or what? You must understand things with śāstra (scripture) and yukti (common sense) and such theories have neither. Also the idea that there will be no Kalki avatāra after Mahāprabhu's yuga is nowhere in śāstra, like Laghu Bhāgavatāmṛta, and not even in the Caitanya-śāstras."

Bhakta: "(In connection with this) I read that Śrīmad Bhāgavat is not written for this kalpa."

Advaitadas: "That is absurd. The Śrīmad Bhāgavat we are reading is meant for people of this Kali-yuga, not for another yuga - kalau naṣṭa dṛśam eṣā purāṇārko'dhunodita (Śrīmad Bhāgavat 1.3.43). Can you imagine we are reading a Śrīmad Bhāgavat for the wrong kalpa?"

Bhakta: "But other Purāṇas are spoken for or in other kalpas."

Advaitadas: "Let it be. śāstraṁ bhāgavataṁ pramāṇam amalam - śrī caitanya mahāprabhor matam idam - Mahāprabhu has said that the Śrīmad Bhāgavat is the spotless authority."

Friday, June 06, 2008

Nitya līlā in Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta

In the second of a series of re-publications of my old, now offline MSN-spaces madangopal-blog, the one from April 26, 2005, called "Nitya lila in Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta":

In Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta 2.6.14 it is clearly said that Gopakumāra got to Śrī Goloka (śrī golokaṁ taṁ cirād āśālambanaṁ prāpto), and there he went to the Mathurā-segment (tasmin śrī mathurā rūpe gatvā madhupurīm aham, verse 15), where Kaṁsa had deposed of Ugrasena (nigṛhya pitaraṁ svayam, verse 16). Verse 20 is also very interesting – it describes how all the customs in Goloka are just like those in India (etasya bhū bhārata-varṣakiyar yāvarta deśasya nirūpya rītim), though it is unattainable even by the pārṣadas of Kṛṣṇa (or Viṣṇu perhaps?). Anyway, while reading this, I remembered that in Govinda Līlāmṛta, which is Goloka nitya līlā, in verse 6.83 Kṛṣṇa says :

am arya vasudevena dūto'tra prahitaḥ prage;
guptam prasthāpitas cauraḥ kaṁsena kānane gavām

"Yes, revered Madhumangala! My father has secretly heard from Vasudeva's messenger that Kaṁsa will send his hoods to Vṛndāvana to steal our cows!”
So Kaṁsa is a part of the scene in Goloka too…..

Though some say one should not make a historical and literary sequence between the different Gosvāmīs books, I can't help noticing that so many of the nitya līlā descriptions can be found in chapter 6 of the 2nd canto of Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta - Kṛṣṇa's goṣṭha-yātrā, His returning home, the many ingredients of His meal, how mother Yaśodā thinks that the kajjal, pān and scratch marks on Kṛṣṇa's body are caused by His playing outside with His friends in the day (instead of by His līlā with the gopīs at midday), how Kṛṣṇa goes out to the meadows and persuades His parents not to follow Him, how Kṛṣṇa takes a glimpse of Rādhā, reclines and most remarkably - how gopīs like Rādhā, Candrāvalī and Lalitā fan Him, offer pān and water, sing for Him and speak with Him - while He reclines at Nanda-Yaśodā's home! It is a hint at svakīya vāda - not that I am a svakīya defender, but its interesting ammunition for them.

In verses 206-208 Sanātan Gosvāmī states that Droṇa and Dharā merge with the nitya siddha pārṣadas Nanda and Yaśodā, as Jīva Gosvāmī has later done in his ṭīkā on the Bhāgavata canto 10 chapter 8.

In verse 243 Sanātan Gosvāmī describes how Kṛṣṇa, after defeating the Kāliya snake, takes the gopīs along to dance the Rāsa on the snake's hoods while all the Vrajavāsīs watch (another svakīya hint?). After defeating Keśī and Ariṣṭa, Kṛṣṇa uses Keśī as a riding-horse and Ariṣṭa as a bull pulling a bullock-cart! In Goloka, too, He leaves Vraja for Mathurā, but as He rides out He jumps from Akrūra's chariot to console the weeping gopīs by taking them each into a different kuñja to enjoy with them. Balarāma, on Akrūra's request, then seeks Him out. Seeing Kṛṣṇa surrounded by the gopīs, Balarām keeps a polite distance and Akrūra starts loudly weeping about how Kaṁsa is daily tormenting Vasudeva and Devakī, making it clear to Kṛṣṇa that He cannot let them down like this."

Monday, June 02, 2008

Phone sanga (19)

Bhakta: "Could the statement vaṁśī priya sakhī  in Brahma Saṁhitā be considered figurative?"

Advaitadas: "Symbolism is not māyāvāda, because even the staunchest anti-Māyāvādī, Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī, has given symbolical interpretations of Kṛṣṇa līlā and the Bhāgavata itself openly preaches symbolism here and there. Viśvanātha says that the six sons of Devakī that were killed by Kaṁsa are the six faults lust, anger and greed etc. that need to be killed before one can see Kṛṣṇa. When the gopīs call Kṛṣṇa's flute 'a dead piece of wood' that is certainly figurative, because there is no dead matter in the spiritual sky, which is manifested by the svarūpa śakti's sandhinī śakti in toto. There once was a poor brahmin who got angry with Kṛṣṇa about his poverty and out of protest scrapped the word 'vahāmyahaṁ' from Bhagavad Gītā 9.22, where Kṛṣṇa promises to carry all His devotees' needs. Kṛṣṇa then came to his door disguised as a boy, carrying his needs on his head and the brahmin asked him in astonishment: "Oh dear boy, you have a scratch over your face - who has done this to you?" "You did" the boy said. "No that is impossible because I never saw you before." The boy replied, "I am My word and you scrapped My word." So first believe, then see, not first see and then believe."

Bhakta: (Returning to the point of bhajan being selfish, unlike preaching)

Advaitadas: "To think that doing bhajan is selfish is superimposing social morality and a material conception of what is the self on absolute surrender to the Objective Absolute. bhajataṁ prīti pūrvakam - "They do My bhajan with love" (Gītā 10.10)

Bhakta: "Earlier (May 12) you quoted Raghunāth Dās Gosvāmī saying:

rādheti nāma nava sundara sīdhu mugdha
kṛṣṇeti nāma madhurādbhuta gāḍha dugdha

"Rādhā, that name is like fresh sweet nectar and Kṛṣṇa, that name is like sweet astonishing condensed milk." which seems to be about Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa nāma both and yet you say that the mahā mantra is all about Kṛṣṇa."

Advaitadas: "Raghunāth Dās Gosvāmī is writing on different levels - bāhyāveśa and antarāveśa - internal and external level. The mahā-mantra vyākhyā, if indeed it is his, is on the internal level of mañjarī bhāva, and the rādheti verse is on external level. It is actually a verse of discipline, in the mood of Manaḥ Śikṣā, chastising his tongue, that it should taste the nectar of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa's names instead of palatable dishes. It does not refer to the hare kṛṣṇa mahā mantra. Rādhā-nāma is also regularly chanted by Vaiṣṇavas as they customarily address each other with Rādhe Rādhe."

Bhakta: "You said the mañjarīs have no husbands in your lineage, but Narottama Dās Thākur sings yāvaṭe āmāra kobe, e pāṇi grahaṇa hobe, "When will I be married in Yāvat?" (Prarthana - 30)

Advaitadas: "This is optional. Most Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sādhakas get a husband in siddha praṇālī but we in the Advaita Parivāra don't. Check the daily life of a mañjarī - where on earth would she even have a split second time for a husband? This statement of Narottama also needs to be seen in the proper philosophical context - everything is eternal in the spiritual world - there is no birth, death, old age and disease and there is also no marriage. Even those Vaiṣṇavas who do have a husband don't have any mentioning of him in their līlā smaraṇa manuals."

Bhakta: "There is a commentary on Caitanya Caritāmṛta by Rādhikānāth Gosvāmī?"

Advaitadas: "No. That commentator's name is Rādhā-Govinda Nāth, a gṛhastha. Unfortunately his commentary is also less than perfect. He made some errors too, though I wouldn't dismiss it as useless. (See blogs of October 23 and 25, 2005 and November 1, 2005). Rādhikānāth Gosvāmī is another person - though in Advaita Prabhu's lineage, he was controversial because he took red cloth sannyāsa, perhaps thinking it was all right for him as he was a brahmin. Sādhu Bābā was also a brahmin however, and though he never officially took sannyāsa (as far as this is official in our sampradāya anyway) he wore white. In retrospect Rādhikānāth Gosvāmī made some controversial comments on Kṛṣṇa Bhāvanāmṛta too, like saying that one can ascend to Vaikuṇṭha without a Guru (aguru, verse 4.36). I spontaneously translated his comments 20 years ago without any deep preparation, but in retrospect I am not happy with everything he wrote. There are not many authorities that I trust blindly, only the 6 Gosvāmīs really. Unfortunately I have learned to read the more recent ācāryas' works cautiously. I don't reject any of them out of hand either, all of them have taught brilliant things but they are also shrouded in controversy. Each of their teachings have to be tested according to śāstra and conscience."

Bhakta: "What about Prof. Dimock's commentary? He quotes Rādhā-govinda Nāth a lot in it."

Advaitadas: "It may be of high intellectual quality but a non-devotee, which he essentially is, can never understand the mystical intricacies of bhakti - bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvan yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ (Gītā 18.55) "You can only know Me in truth by bhakti." bhajataṁ prīti pūrvakaṁ dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ (Gītā 10.10) "I give divine intelligence to those who worship Me with love." We are not scientists, but devotees. śāstra is not just read to gain knowledge but also to imbibe the bhakti of the authors and commentators. It's a type of sādhu saṅga."

Bhakta: "How do you judge if someone is not a devotee?"

Advaitadas: "Haribhakti Vilāsa (1.55) says:

gṛhīta-viṣṇu-dīkṣāko viṣṇu-pūjā-paro naraḥ
vaiṣṇavo’bhihito’bhijñair itaro’smād avaiṣṇavaḥ

"The wise call someone who has taken initiation in Viṣṇu mantra and is actively engaged in serving Viṣṇu a Vaiṣṇava. All others are non-Vaiṣṇavas."

Bhakta: "It is said in Ujjvala Nīlamaṇi Kiraṇa that the colour of the sweethearts dresses is fixed. If variety is the spice of life why they always dress the same?"

Advaitadas: "We're not talking of mundane textile here - these are transcendental items of the svarūpa śakti of sandhinī. In the Bhāgavata (12.11.10-23) the apparel of Kṛṣṇa is symbolically interpreted, which proves that they are not just external mundane coverings that are changed according to fashion-trends, like in this profane world. The dress Śrī Guru gives at siddha praṇālī too is also not just textile, since according to Jīva Gosvāmī (Prīti Sandarbha 10) the spiritual body is eternally resident in the spiritual sky. There is only ever-increasing ecstasy there, it is never boring, on the contrary."