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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Objective truths, why Kṛṣṇa is blue and ātmārāma, and practical rāgānugā-siddhānta

Rādhākund-cleaning in progress, May 2009

Bhakta: "In Govinda Līlāmṛta (10.15-16) there is a discussion between Nāndīmukhī and Vṛndā, in which Vṛndā says:

"The lovely-browed girls of Vraja are not so astonishing! They are transcendental; their minds and bodies are made for Kṛṣṇa's pleasure only! These girlfriends, that are equal to Śrī Radhika, are the pleasure potency (hlādinī śakti) of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is like the moon for the lily-like gopīs. The essence of this potency is prema, love of God, which is comparable to a vine. This love is personified by Śrī Radha and they are the sprouts, leaves and flowers of this vine. When this love-vine is sprinkled by the nectar of Kṛṣṇa's pastimes, they become a hundred times happier than if they would be sprinkled themselves! This is not so astonishing!"

This verse seems to interrupt the flow of the aṣṭakāliya līlā. Does this discussion really take place or does the author just want to teach something here?"

Advaitadas: "Obviously the author wants to teach something here. It is not compulsory to read every verse of Govinda Līlāmṛta. Those who are well informed of the above facts can skip this verse if it interrupts their smaraṇa, and not only this one but any other verse that may not suit the feeling they wish to cultivate (within the parameters of good taste and sound morality and doctrine of course). Obviously the author here puts words in Nāndīmukhī's mouth. The truth is of course objective - in the Bhāgavata too, a verse may be spoken by Prahlād, Bhīṣma or Nārada, it doesn't matter so much - the teaching itself is what matters. It is universal and objective. In Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Kṛṣṇadas Kavirāja often quotes his own Govinda Līlāmṛta,  putting such verses in the mouths of Mahāprabhu or the Goswāmīs, whereas the book was written nearly a century after Mahāprabhu's manifest pastimes. Of course, that does not mean that these teachings do not originate from Mahāprabhu - hṛdi yasya preranayā. Returning to the verses under discussion here, actually Govinda Līlāmṛta and related śāstras, like all the Mañjarī-booklets, are supposed to be read after deeply studying Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu and Ujjvala Nīlamaṇi, so that one has sound knowledge of rasa and bhāva. Often that proper sequence is not followed (sadly I didn't follow it either). One needs to study in sequence - first primary school, then high school and then college."

Bhakta: "Why is Kṛṣṇa blue?"

Advaitadas: anādir ādir govinda (Brahma Saṁhitā 5.1) - Kṛṣṇa has no beginning and where there is no beginning there is also no cause. The colour Śyāma, a deep indigo colour, is the most attractive colour and that, among others, makes Kṛṣṇa the Supreme God, as Rūpa Goswāmī has said: rasenotkṛśyate kṛṣṇam. In our Sampradāya God is supreme according to attractiveness."

Bhakta: "Why does Rādhā like Kṛṣṇa's Guñjā-Mālā?"

Advaitadas: "There is a sense of non-difference between Kṛṣṇa and His apparel. Devotees are named Pītāmbar Dās, Śikhi Puccha Dās or Maṇihār Dās. Why? Why be a servant of a yellow cloth, peacock feather or jewel necklace? Because these items are so connected with Kṛṣṇa that they are identified with Him personally. Earlier I have pointed out the insanity of dressing Kṛṣṇa up in bluejeans with a cellphone etc. See various blogs I made in June, 2006."

Bhakta: "If Kṛṣṇa needs the love of the gopīs, how can He be ātmārāma?"

Advaitadas: 'It is an inconceivable thing, but we must accept the verdict of the Bhāgavat and the commentators in it. ātmārāmo'pi līlayā (SB 10.33.20) 'Although Kṛṣṇa is ātmārāma (self-delighted) He still enjoyed loving pastimes with the gopīs.' Why? Lord Nārāyan tells Ambarīṣa Mahārāj: nāham ātmānam āśāśe mad bhaktair sādhubhir vinā  (SB 9.4.64) 'I do not covet Myself without the saints who are My devotees', meaning: mat svarūpa-bhūtānandād api mad bhakta-svarūpānando'ti spṛhanīya (Viśvanātha ṭīkā) 'I yearn more for the bliss derived from My devotees than for My personal bliss-potency (internal potency)." The essence of the hlādini śakti (pleasure potency) is prema and that is more pleasing to Kṛṣṇa than His own eternal innate bliss-potency."

Bhakta: "There are quite a few Vaiṣṇava groups who discourage rāgānugā bhakti, līlā smaraṇam and gopī-bhāva."

Advaitadas: "Yes, I opposed such discouragement for years but disappointing experiences with both myself and others have caused me to soften my stance. I see it differently now - there is a scriptural truth and there is a practical truth about adhikāra for rāgānugā bhakti. From the purely scriptural point of view the discouragers may seem wrong but from the practical point of view they are bloody well right. It is sad but true. If, in the past few centuries, the rāgānugā doctrine was so badly abused in Bengal, which is after all a region of pious India, then what to speak of trying to introduce the rāgānugā-for-all doctrine in the lewd west? It is not an exaggeration to say that of the hundreds of westerners I have seen coming to Rādhākund in the last 30 years, aspiring to perform rāgānugā sādhana, just a handful of them are still practising anything at all now, and of those who have remained some preach disturbingly controversial things. Quite appalling. So 'practical truth' means 'yes, only lobha may be the gateway to rāgānugā bhakti, but better first become a pure devotee on the niṣṭhā or ruci level anyway, for the obvious reasons that the last 30 years have sadly shown us. 'lobha' has mostly turned out to be some fleeting sentiment or intellectual curiosity rather than something substantial. On top of it, some preach that in rāgānugā bhakti one does not follow the rules so strictly - making matters infinitely worse if your audience consists of American and European hippies. The 1-2% of sincere aspirants may ignore this sermon, of course, but they are exceptions rather than the rule. See my blogs of January 12, 13 and 26 (part 2), 2006 and June 16, 17, 19, 20, 22 and 23, 2006."


  1. What the western raganuga or Vaisnava bhaktas who have accepted shelter and learnt bhajan practices within the Caitanya sampradaya are lacking in the west is a sense and spirit of community, or some sort of organization. There is none. Other spiritual devouts like those of the Hare Krishnas have communities and institutionalized rules and commitments that keep members together, often times fear based, as in many western religions. For what its worth, it creates in the mind of those who follow a sense of social belonging that helps strengthen their spritual practice. Unfortunately, our own inmaturaties of alienating and diparaging members within our own has weakened the prospects of arising a sense of community of following a raganuga bhajan tradition.

  2. Radhapada-ji,

    I also feel that devotees who follow Raga marga won't easily disclose their mind to others about the status of their bhajana (in nista or bhava stage) and their relationship with the Divine Couple. May be they prefer personal bhajana?


    It is interesting to note your point on many westerns who go to Radha-kund to practice bhajana but won't stand very long. In that context, I feel that Srila Prabhupad had a better vision for ISKCON. He knew that many of his disciples and followers need lots of anartha-nivriti, so he encouraged them to follow Vaidi-marga and once their heart gets purified the Supersoul will eventually guide them for next stage. Hats off to him :)

  3. Anon, this blog was not a ringing endorsement for one school or the other. The blog said 'quite a few Vaishnava groups discourage raganuga bhakti'- that includes most branches of the Gaudiya Math and the Haridas Shastri/Satyanarayan school as well.
    Linking your comment with Radhapada's - it is not that Iskcon-devotees are any more successful than all those Radhakund-failures - the dropout rate in Iskcon is about the same - 90+ %. And that while they do have a community to give them spiritual support!

  4. Dear Advaita, I think we can't even talk how GV or any practice inside GV affect people today. Why? Let's step back and observe: did Caitanya come to give us reverence, neutrality, no taste for rasa, dharmic rules, superstition, dogma, outdated world view and varnasrama caste system? But that's all we're left with in GV today.

    In every sense GV is disassociated with the world today. However, we can see that 500 years ago it was so progressive and did bring in a wide array of changes, starting from positive social and cultural influence, change, equality and hope for everyone, even outcast and fallen (according to rules of Indian varnasrama system).

    Again, quite unlike today. I pledge you, tell me: what is progressive and stimulating in GV today?

    So no wonder 90% of all newcomers fall off, and probably 90% of those who stay are mostly there because of: a) fear, b) they've adopted some sort of institutional life which provides them some kind of security.

  5. The reason that so many western bhaktas have given up on raganuga as you described, is due to their destiny. But we can also see that the problems they had when they took up raganuga were usually due to their immediate misconceptions that they went into raganuga with.

    To make my point clearer: It was due to having a perverted conception of bhakti-yoga in general, due to their education and conditioning from IGM, which made it impossible for them to even understand the purpose of raganuga; what to speak of understanding how to practice it properly so that it would be efficacious.

    In particular IGM perverts the authentic teaching on how we should see ourselves in relation to Radha Krishna, e.g. instead of seeing ourselves as soulmates and equal with Radha Krishna, we are taught to see ourselves as slavish and unequal. Raganuga is supposed to be all about following the mood of the vrajavasis, i.e. they don't see Radha Krishna as God, they see them as friends and lovers and family. That mood is what Gaudiya Vaishnava bhakti-yoga is supposed to teach. That mood is what advancement in raganuga and self-realization is what is necessary in order to advance into real bhava.

    The problem with people from IGM backgrounds is that they have been conditioned to see Radha Krishna with awe and reverence, to see themselves as unworthy and unqualified to see themselves as equal with Radha Krishna. Then, when they take up raganuga, they continue with that misconception and end up getting bored because they are not getting the promised result of bhava. They then may think it is the fault of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and lose faith altogether, or they may think they are too fallen and therefore lose the desire to continue on with bhakti-yoga. Or they can delude themselves into thinking they are advancing by becoming sentimentalists who absorb themselves in the poetic romanticism of rasa-katha and rasa-shastra, while not actually developing a real bhava and rasa, they take that absorption in the external poetics of lila as a sign of their advancement.

    I don't think Prabhupada or others who discourage raganuga got it right. The cause of the lack of advancement among their followers is due to perverted teachings (and destiny). That doesn't require that the teachings on the qualification for raganuga (lobha) should be disregarded and changed to what Prabhupada taught, i.e. raganuga is only for "liberated" or "self-realized" or "pure devotees". Mahaprabhu taught that raganuga is a much more powerful form of bhakti sadhana than vaidhi. Vaidhi doesn't lead to raganuga, ragaguna is awoken when the jiva is attracted to an intimate bhava and rasa. That attraction is due to destiny and comes in the form of hearing about lila from authentic sources in an authentic manner.

  6. About Raganuga, I agree with you Advaita.

    Personally I don't so much believe in mass preaching. Or rather that with mass preaching, what one get is what is seen today. That is maybe nice, in some kind of way. Quite like any other religion. But among all those persons, there will be one here and there, who has the aptitude and desire to go further. Who is not satisfied with just having a religion, living in this world, but want to become a true bhakta. For those very few, I think raganuga need to be there. It is quite a selection process, not by a board, or voting for popularity, or something like that, but of desire.

    But not, as you say, before reaching nistha/ruci. And here, my belief is that a majority don't know what that is, even theoretically. Since if they knew, they would not go back. I don't think you do, when you get there. You can't, since you will never forget the taste of Krishna's name, and everything else is tasteless or taste bitter, wretched.

  7. "But not, as you say, before reaching nistha/ruci."

    This is apasiddhanta from ISKCON.

    Raganuga bhakti and vaidhi bhakti are two separate sadhanas from the beginning. That means from shraddha itself.

    The difference between the two lies in the mood of the devottee, not in the external practices, because the external practices are more or less the same; shravana, kirtan, etc.

    Whether one is practicing raganuga bhakti or vaidhi bhakti, the "rules" are the same; to accept all things favorable for bhakti and to reject all things unfavorable.

    For all those persons that took up the sadhana of raganuga bhakti at Radha Kund but later drifted off due to whatever reason, I say all glories to them! For some time in their lives they were focused on Radha and Krishna in the association of vaishnavas at the highest place in the world.

    Who could ask for more?

    In their future lives they will agian do the same. There is no loss or dimunition.

    And the same goes for people who practiced vaidhi bhakti but gave it up (their numbers are in the thousnds?). In their future lives they will again take up some form of bhakti. It may be that they may even get the association of raganuga vaishnavas and take up raganuga bhakti.

    There is no loss.

  8. I agree that there is no loss. So for some years or even a lifetime some soul does not perform raganuga bhajan. In the eyes of eternity, so what? Bhakti is not destroyed, even in its smallest form of faith and fostered by initiation from a raganuga guru, mantras and bhajan. It may recede for some time due to material conditioning, but not eliminated.

    Another point I disagree Adwaita is your lamenting that the rasika literature should not have been revealed to westerners. It is not your literature, but Mahaprabhu's. He made you an instrument to translate and you did, qualified or not to translate it or to having read by others. So a portion of society misinterprets it, so what? What is worse, to misinterpret or misunderstand God as an amorous lover, or misinterpret God as a warrior king, like Rama or Krishna in Dwaraka, or a killer of demons like Nrsimhadeva? There are so many Hindus who want to imitate Krishna or Ramachandra as the God of war by beating up and killing non hindus like Muslims in India. Is this better than misinterpreting Krishna as a love God because there is no risk of becoming a sahajiya?

    It takes a rare and simple hearted soul to accept teachings without putting forth ones own version or interpretation of something. Such people are at high risk of getting brainwashed in cult following.

    There is not a perfect world here and one does the best he/she can do.

  9. The cleaning of Radhakunda, I so wished I were there. I would roll in that mud, just for once, be mad...

  10. hi
    can u explain me please what is raganuga-bhajan please?
    I am doing some work on the bengali vaishnava, and can understand it
    thanks a lot in advance

  11. Anon who posted last -
    raganuga adhikara is explained in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, 2.270-306, as well as in Raga-vartma Candrika by Visvanath Cakravartipada. Furthermore I wrote a small essay on it too on my website, linktab 'Articles'