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Friday, April 03, 2009

Discussing Caitanya Caritāmṛta, part 7


Bhakta: In Śrīmad Bhāgavata 10.47.60, Uddhava prays to become grass that would be touched by the gopīs' footdust. Isn't he aspiring for a lower rasa than his sakhya rasa then?"

Advaitadas: "No. First of all, Rūpa Gosvāmī classifies him as a mixture of sakhya and dāsya, and secondly the purpose of that śloka is to glorify the gopīs' glories only. It could have been spoken by anyone who knows about the glories of their prema."

Bhakta: "Smt. Rādhārāṇī prays to be dust of Vṛndāvana so that Kṛṣṇa can step on her. That also seems like a desire to become lower than Kṛṣṇa."

Advaitadas: "The rasa of the speaker is irrelevant, the purpose of such verses is to express extreme loving attachment to Kṛṣṇa  This too, could have been spoken by anyone. In Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Ādi līlā chapter 6, a chapter about Advaita Ācārya, it is explained that devotees in all rasas, from top to bottom, consider themselves servants of Kṛṣṇa. Service is the common foundation of all the rasas. Even if mother Yaśodā binds Kṛṣṇa to the mortar, the gopas step on Kṛṣṇa's shoulders or the gopīs put their feet on His head, this is still all service.'

Bhakta: "In Caitanya Caritāmṛta Antya 13.123-4, it is said that Mahāprabhu gave Pān (betel nuts) to Raghunāth Bhaṭṭa Goswāmī. Did he really eat that prasāda?”

Advaitadas: “It isn't mentioned there but I cannot imagine he would have thrown it away. There is a lot of ignorance about pān in the west – it is feared as an intoxicant, like alcohol or LSD, but it isn't an intoxicant at all. I took it as prasād many times in Bengal but it didn’t make me fly into the sky or so. The nuts and leaves may give heart troubles and are definitely bad for the teeth, so for health reasons it isn’t really advisable. However, I do not refuse it if it is prasāda. One should be frugal even with prasāda. It is not that one should just stuff oneself with delicacies with the excuse that it is prasāda. If you eat too many puris you can get liver problems, etc.”

Bhakta: “People say that it is not literally true that the Six Gosvāmīs slept under a different tree every night.”

Advaitadas: ‘I think that is a hyperbole of glorification. Some argue that the Gosvāmīs must have had libraries in order to be able to compile their huge books with all these quotes from so many scriptures. There are also bhajan kutirs of the Gosvāmīs in places like Nandagrām, Govardhan, Rādhakuṇḍa and Vṛndāvana. Furthermore there is the story in Bhakti Ratnākara how Sanātan Goswāmī ordered Raghunāth Dās Goswāmī to build himself a kutir at Rādhākuṇḍa after he saw how Smt. Rādhāṛāṇī had to stand in the scorching sunshine to shade Raghunātha with Her own divine form etc. etc. Surely those huts were very simple but its not that they literally slept under a different tree every night.

Bhakta: "In Caitanya Caritāmṛta Antya 14.53, quoting Ujjvala Nīlamaṇi 15.167, it is said that the ultimate, tenth stage of separation, is death. Does that mean the gopīs ultimately really die?”

Advaitadas: “The gopīs have spiritual bodies for which there is no death of course. Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda comments on the 10th stage (in his commentary on Ujjvala Nīlamaṇi 15.167) with a verse from Hamsadūta:


sa cen muktāpekṣās tvam asi dhig imāṁ tūla śakalaṁ
yad etasyā nāsā-nihitam idam adyāpi calati


Lalitā told Kṛṣṇa that, to determine whether Rādhikā is still alive or not, she holds a swab in front of Her nose. That leaves doubt, but surely spiritual bodies never die, so it must be some type of extreme spiritual swoon instead. There is this verse in Vilāpa Kusumāñjali (9): tvad ālokana kālāhi daṁśair eva mṛtaṁ janaṁ – this person is dead due to the bite of the black snake of not seeing You.” Not that he is about to die, no - mṛtam janam – ‘I am dead’. How can a dead person write this and then another 95 verses more? So surely this is the expression of a certain extreme feeling rather than a physical death. It only appears as suffering, though. According to Śrī Sanātan Goswāmī (in his Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta-commentary), separation is an even greater ecstasy than union, though it appears to be great misery to the outside observer.”

Bhakta: “Then, from Caitanya Caritāmṛta Antya līlā 14.64, follows the description of Mahāprabhu’s joints getting disconnected of ecstasy. Rādhā-govinda Nāth compares it to steam in a boiler. The full bhāva of Rādhā was more than could be contained in a human body. Mahāprabhu’s body thus simply blew apart.”

Advaitadas: “Mahāprabhu’s body is spiritual. If Vāmana-deva can expand Himself in such a way that His second stride has already covered the whole cosmos, then why couldn’t Mahāprabhu disconnect His joints in this way? The ācāryas say that for ordinary sādhakas or sādhana siddhas embodiment ends at the stage of prema. The further stages of devotional ecstasy cannot be contained by material bodies and are experienced in the prakaṭ līlā only. The Goswāmīs showed the limit of ecstasy in a human form by practically ceasing to eat and sleep.”

Bhakta: “Then Rādhā-Govinda Nāth compares Mahāprabhu’s Kūrmākāra, the form of a tortoise with His limbs withdrawn. The first parallel he makes is with the Tortoise avatāra of Kṛṣṇa.”

Advaitadas: “Mahāprabhu is far superior to Kūrma-deva – He is svayam Bhagavān. It isn't correct to compare the standard of comparison with the object of comparison. The form, pastime and functions are totally different. Kūrma-deva didn’t retract His limbs out of the ecstasy of Rādhārāṇī’s viraha. The comparison Rādhikā made with Kṛṣṇa’s 10 avatāras in Vidagdha Mādhava is different. It shows Kṛṣṇa’s superior sweetness through comparison. rasenotkṛśyate kṛṣṇam – Kṛṣṇa is the supreme in rasa. So also for Mahāprabhu, especially in Purī.”

Bhakta: “His second explanation is that when the flood becomes too much, the tortoise withdraws his limbs and lets himself drift with the tide. So the flood is the bhāva and Mahāprabhu lets it flood over him until it has receded.”

Advaitadas: “That sounds very nice.”Bhakta: "In Caitanya Caritāmṛta Antya 14.109, Kṛṣṇa takes Rādhā into a glen in Mt. Govardhan, glen meaning a narrow valley or depression between two hills or mountains.”

Advaitadas: “The word used here, as well as in Vilāpa Kusumāñjali verse 3, is kandara, which means either glen or cave, but in this world Girirāja has neither glens nor caves. It must be visible only with spiritual eyes or only present in the spiritual world.”

Bhakta: “Or perhaps Govardhan sank into the earth, following Pulastya Muni’s curse, that the caves are now no longer visible?”

Advaitadas: “I have never seen that story, nor is the book in which that story appears, Garga Saṁhitā, ever quoted by the ācāryas, so I cant stick my hand in the fire for it. It is not even mentioned in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Abhidhāna, which even lists books of questionable origin.”

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