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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Discussing Stavamālā

This is the final installment of my review of Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī's Stavamālā in discussion with one Vaiṣṇava:

Bhakta: "In Cāṭu Puṣpāñjali, verse 23, Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī says 'I beg for your (Rādhā's) kindness so that I can offer proper praise to Kṛṣṇa." I did not know that the mañjarīs would pray like that."

Advaitadas: "Who translated this?"

Bhakta: "Originally it was translated by Kuśakratha, but now it has been edited in a deluxe edition by Pūrṇaprajña Dās."

Advaitadas: "It is totally wrong. I think Pūrṇaprajña has just edited the English, not the Sanskrit-English translation. It also shows that without associating with realized mahatmas one cannot understand the writings of the ācāryas, not even while knowing Sanskrit or while living in Vṛndāvana - yat tīrtha buddhi salile na karhicit janeṣvabhijñeṣu (SB 10.84.13) 'If you only consider a tank of water to be a holy place and not the learned saints, sa eva go kharaḥ, you are surely a cow or an ass." All Bengali translations I have seen of this verse say that prārthana bhājanam means that the mañjarī becomes the object of Kṛṣṇa's prayers. Like in Vilāpa Kusumāñjali 86 - Tulasī prays that Kṛṣṇa will fall at her feet for Rādhikā's darśana. The verse (of Rūpa Goswāmī) is often quoted by Ananta Dās Bābājī in his books with the translation I gave above. Actually in Rūpa Goswāmī's works mañjarī bhāva is less obvious, but this verse is exceptionally clear about mañjarī bhāva."

Bhakta: "In the Vraja Navīna Yuva dvandvāṣṭaka, verse 3, it is said that 'They shook off a great abundance of red sindūra in their playful quarrel."

Advaitadas: "A great abundance? This is about rahasya līlā, not about Holi, you know! One needs some knowledge of līlā and some common sense too. The word mentioned here is amanda, which means either much or bright. Since sindūra is worn by Rādhā in a modest amount, and is bright in colour it obviously means 'bright' and not 'much'.

Bhakta: "In Karpaṇya Pañjikā Stotram (9) Śrī Rādhā's attributes are compared with a mountain of rubies. Is the ruby the greatest gem?

Advaitadas: "In the Bhāgavat (11.16.30) Śrī Kṛṣṇa tells Uddhava: ratnānāṁ padma-rāgo'smi - 'Of gems I am the ruby."

Bhakta: "In verse 18 Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī says of himself: "I'm a cowardly eunuch."

Advaitadas: "Literally speaking that is not wrong (klība means neuter gender or impotent man), but Arpaṇā Devī of the Gauḍīya Maṭh makes it sādhana bala hīna, bereft of strength to do sādhana, and that is more likely."

Bhakta: "In Govardhanoddhāra (19) Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī seems to say that Kṛṣṇa shifted Mt. Govardhana to His little finger. But I thought He carried it there for the full seven days?"

Advaitadas: "The word used here is vinyasta, which just means 'placed'. There was no shift there, the mount is just there, period. Pūrṇaprajña's word-for-word also says 'placed'.

Bhakta: "In verse 22 of the same work it is said the Vrajabāsīs didn't sleep for 7 nights."

Advaitadas: "My Bengali translation says Kṛṣṇa didn't sleep, but I suppose the Vrajabāsīs didn't sleep either, out of ecstasy from seeing Kṛṣṇa lifting the mount."

Bhakta: "That is not nara līlā then."

Advaitadas: "Kṛṣṇa lifting Govardhan is anyway not nara-līlā - its superhuman to lift a mountain for seven days without sleeping or resting, and without the hill, that consists of loose boulders and earth, falling apart. Of course the hill and Kṛṣṇa both have plenty of mādhurya themselves so it is mixed aisvarya and mādhurya throughout."

Bhakta: In Gītāvalī, song 32, Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī writes: kurvati kila kokila-kule ujjvala-kala-nādam; jaiminir iti jaiminir iti jalpati saviṣādam "Now that, with beautiful sweet voices, the cuckoos lament 'Jaimini Jaimini'....

Advaitadas: "No that is wrong. The right translation is 'After the cuckoos have sung their Brilliant song, Rādhikā sadly calls out 'Jaimini Jaimini!' That is because Jaimini is the sage who offers protection against thunderbolts, and Rādhikā is struck by the thunderbolts of the amorously inciting cuckoo-songs. This is not only what the Bengali translation says, it is also logically followed by the following couplet of the song:

nīla-nalina-mālyam ahaha vīkṣya pulaka-vītā; 
garuḍa garuḍa garuḍety abhirauti parama-bhītā

'Aho! When She sees the blue lotus garland She gets goosebumps on Her skin and fearfully calls out 'Garuḍa! Garuḍa!' (mistaking the blue garland for a snake and Garuḍa being a snake-eater who will protect Her).'

Bhakta: "In song 36, the last line, the translator says: "O slender girl, give your love to the eternal Supreme Personality of Godhead."

Advaitadas: "The word sanātana is used as a signature in all these songs of Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī, obviously an hommage to his Guru Sanātan Goswāmī and at the same time at the eternal (sanātan) Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The word Supreme Personality of Godhead is just interspersed here by either Kuśakratha or his editor Pūrṇaprajña. It is an unnecessary strengthening of aiśvarya in the song, and is frankly just not present in the original text. ātmavān manyate jagat - one tends to project oneself upon the world and if one has an aiśvarya view of Kṛṣṇa all statements in śāstra will be seen as aiśvarya and if one has a mādhurya view everything will be seen as mādhurya."

Bhakta: 'In song 38 Kṛṣṇa seems to enjoy all the gopīs at once, whereas I thought the gopīs always compete with each other."

Advaitadas: "The late great Rohiṇīndranāth Mitra told me that Vasanta (spring-) time is the time for a truce between the gopīs. Since this song is in the vasanta rāga and this may be why they are described as being all together with Kṛṣṇa here."

Bhakta: "The next song, 39, says 'the cuckoos are playing Mṛdaṅga-drums'.

Advaitadas: "Hahaha - don't picture birds actually playing drums here. This is allegorical. The singing of birds or bees is sometimes compared to different musical instruments. There are many similar statements in Gītā Govinda, Govinda Līlāmṛta, Vilāpa-kusumāñjali etc."

Bhakta: "In song 42, Pūrṇaprajña says 'he places his eternal Kaustubha ferociously splendid gem against your cheek pretending that you are its reflection'

Advaitadas: "Arpaṇā Dāsī just says that the gem is reflected on her cheek, period."

Bhakta: "The opening line of Lalitāṣṭakam says rādhā-mukunda pada-sambhava-gharma-bindu-nirmañchaṇopakaraṇī-kṛta deha-lakṣām 'Lalitā worships the sweatdrops of Radha-Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet. That seems unpalatable."

Advaitadas: 'The same Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī teaches us that there is no jugupsa rati (feeling of disgust) towards Kṛṣṇa. Everything about Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa is delicious, including sweat, saliva, stool and urine. Misery is a result of sin and there is no sin in the spiritual sky. Hence everything there is pleasant. In Vilāp Kusumāñjali Raghunāth Dās Goswāmī prays he/she can sweep Rādhikā's stool with his/her hair. One needs to give up mundane conceptions to understand this."

Bhakta: "Shouldn't it be disgusting just to fulfill nara-līlā?"

Advaitadas: "No, nara līlā doesn't go that far. Only the pleasant sides of human manifestations are present there. After all, it is not just nara (human), but it is also līlā (play)."

Bhakta: "Then, in verse 3 of the first Govardhanāṣṭakam, the translator says: 'The caves and the clouds are the moon's friends...."

Advaitadas: "This is wrong. The word indu means not only the moon but also camphor, because they have a cooling effect, and the word kanda simply does not mean 'clouds' but 'bulbous roots'. Thus it should be 'The bulbous roots of Govardhana delight Kṛṣṇa with their camphor-flavor.' This is also what the Bengali translation says."

Thus ends the review of  Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī's Stavamālā


  1. Being a dasi, I’d like to comment about the ruby.

    I would have thought that Krishna would have said diamond is the best of all gemstones.

    Because, firstly, diamond is indigenous to India. It was mined first in India 6000 -3000 years ago and is used as a religious icon for a long long time.

    Secondly, diamond is highly esteemed because of its interesting nature – it’s only composed of carbon molecules – of its brilliance and its rarer availability compared to other gemstones. That’s why it’s the most pricey of all. Ruby is relatively cheap.

    Although I have read that ruby verse, I still prefer sapphire because its deep blue colour reminds me of Krishna. I’m actually wearing sapphire earrings right now. -:)

    Funnily enough, quickly checking wiki, I found out that in the bible a Hebrew word that was translated as “ruby” was thought to be wrong and “jewel” or maybe “pearl” would be a more suitable translation.

    Which brings me to your previous blog about the seizure fit of Mahaprabhu which was termed as epilepsy.

    I doubt that epilepsy is the right word, fainting would be more appropriate because the word epilepsy was only first used in the 1900s. I’m sure Krishnadas Kaviraj wrote C. C. much, much earlier than the 1900s. And also of course we know that epilepsy has a strict medical definition. I also think historical diagnosis should NOT be resorted to when translating.

    I do not mean to downgrade the bhakti involved in translations work by devotees. However I think as Gvism matures in the west, devotees should be more careful and thoughtful when translating.

    You hear non-devotees translation work taking years to complete!!

  2. Malati,
    1. It may not have been due to the financial value of the gem that Krishna compared himself to the ruby.
    2. The word epilepsy may have been coined just around 1900, but surely the disease existed before that, too.

  3. Advaitadas: "The late great Rohinindranath Mitra told me that Vasanta (spring-) time is the time for a truce between the gopis. Since this song is in the vasanta raga and this may be why they are described as being all together with Krishna here."

    The sisterhood at that time between Candravali and Radhika is nicely depicted in Chapter 14 of Kavi Karnapura's Ananda Vrindavan Campu, which deals with the vernal Holi pastimes.

  4. On his blog of April 14 Jagat quoted the following verse, quoted by Madhvacarya from Varaha Purana in his SB tika 3.31.35

    sat-puMSu ca tathA strISu na saGgo doSam Avadet |
    yathA-yogyaM guNA naiva doSa-kRd dRSTa-jantuSu

    In my opinion the translation should be thus: "There is no sanga dosha or flaw in association of saintly men with saintly women. In the public eye there is no fault if their attributes are proper."

    The verse is great, but I surely hope that Jagat does not think it applies to him or gets him off the hook in any way. A man who is under two marriage vows and two sannyasa vows who goes around wantonly hunting women and encouraging Vaishnavas to do the same on the internet is not 'a saintly man' and women who abandon their husbands and little children to have a carnal relationship with such a debauch are not 'saintly women' either. Nor does the word 'sanga' in this verse mean 'carnal intercourse'. The true meaning of the verse is that a pure-hearted brahmacary or sannyasi can have affectionate platonic relationships of mere spiritual friendship with saintly ladies.