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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Reconstructing tradition (2)

This is the 2nd part of a 3-part series on Rebecca Manring's book on Advaita Prabhu and the Advaita Parivāra, called 'Reconstructing tradition', posted to coincide with the Advent Day of Advaita Prabhu. Today 4 subjects: Songs about Advaita Prabhu, various small booklets, some more details on Vijay Kṛṣṇa Gosvāmī and the Advaita Bālya Līlā Sūtra.

PADĀVALI
Padāvalī means ‘series of songs’ and is a very important and popular bhakti-experience, especially in Bengali Vaiṣṇavism. Mrs. Manring quotes a sample or two in her book, and notes that most of the songs about Advaita Prabhu were not written by His own followers, members of His lineage. There are very few songs about Advaita Prabhu’s pastimes other than those that specifically deal with Mahāprabhu’s pastimes in which Advaita might have played a role. This one (her translation) is about Advaita Prabhu’s advent, written by Ghanaśyām Dās:


On the seventh day of the bright fortnight of the month of Magh,
The ocean of great bliss burst forth.
That moon Advaita descended from Labha’s blessed womb at the auspicious moment.
(His father) Kubera Pandit was thrilled,
And gave various gifts to brahmins and the poor
He raced into the childbirth-room and sw his son’s face
And his heart rejoiced
All the people of Navagram came running, and told each other
They had never seen a child like this.
Mishra in his old age, as the result of his good deeds,
Got a jewel of a son like this.
The gods rained flowers down upon them,
There has never been anything like it
The sound ‘victory! victory!’ filled the world
Ghanasyam proclaims this great glory


MISCELLANEOUS ADVAITA-BOOKLETS
Mrs. Manring then continues in chapter 3 of her book with reviewing other booklets about Advaita Prabhu, starting with the Advaitoddeśa Dīpikā, written by Devakīnandan Das, said to be a śiṣya of Kṛṣṇa Miśra Prabhu. He claims that Advaita Prabhu is the cowherd boy Ujjvala, Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the son of Vasudev, Viśākhā (we follow him in that), Sampūrṇa Mañjarī (that was also claimed in Advaita Mangal) and Sadāśiva (we follow him in that too). This is quite a different picture from what Sādhu Bābā had given me - he said Advaita Prabhu is Madhumangal (instead of Ujjval) in sakhya rasa, Mahāviṣṇu (instead of pūrṇatara (2nd class) Kṛṣṇa in Mathura, though perhaps Devakīnandan and Haricaraṇa see them as one and the same), and Rati Mañjarī (instead of Sampūrṇa Mañjarī, which would make no sense. If Advaita Prabhu is so prominent in Gaur-līlā, how could he be a totally unknown and unmentioned mañjarī named Sampūrṇa instead of the famous and foremost Rati Mañjarī?) Mrs. Manring tries to reconcile Advaita being equated with Kṛṣṇa in Mathurā by making the point that Yogamāyā (Sītā devī) appeared along with Kṛṣṇa in Mathurā in Kaṁsa's dungeon. Interesting in any case is that Sītā and Advaita did appear historically before Mahāprabhu, as Yogamāyā always appears before the Lord Himself does. In our branch of the family Sītā and Advaita are considered one tattva and are thus both Yogamāyā. In both Advaitoddeśa Dīpikā and Advaita Mangal Sītā devī is called Kanaka Sundarī, which Mrs. Manring attempts to explain as follows: 'This Golden Beauty is not one of the mañjarīs, but she is instrumental in facilitating the love play of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa....In Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Abhidhāna Haridās Dās describes her simply as Rādhā's maidservant." It may be just another aspect or name of Yogamāyā. In the end of her review of the Dīpikā, Mrs. Manring reveals that Devakīnandan is actually a son of Balarām Gosāi's third wife, though he claims allegiance to both Kṛṣṇa Miśra and Balarām Miśra. Balarām became the head of a branch which claimed Advaita Himself was actually the Supreme Lord (rather than Mahāprabhu. This is called advaita-pāramya vāda), whereas Kṛṣṇa Miśra (from whom Sādhu Bābā descends) accepted Mahāprabhu as supreme. The advaita-pāramya vādīs seem to have moved to Assam, but they are now extinct.

The booklet Advaita Svarūpāmṛta, by Kānudeva Goswāmī, confirms the svarūpas that were ascribed to Advaita Prabhu in Advaita Mangal and Advaitoddeśa Dīpikā, but nonetheless, equating Sītādevī with Rādhā is clearly off the tracks, even if it is done so in three separate books by three separate authors. For starters, if Advaita would be Kṛṣṇa in Mathurā,  how would He match with Rādhā in Vraja? I wonder if there was any relation between Haricaraṇa, Devakīnandan and Kānudeva, in dīkṣā, śikṣā or genetically. Kānudeva does confirm the equation of Sītā and Paurṇamāsī, which we also maintain.

Mrs. Manring reminds us that the Sanatkumāra Saṁhitā, quoted by many a bābājī as an authoritative text, has actually only a few chapters left in existence (which makes one wonder if the remaining text ever existed), which happen to be the ones about rāgānugā bhakti and aṣṭakāliya līlā.

Advaitācārya has also not been spared by the sahajīyas - like all others in Gaura līlā, illicit sexual practises have been falsely ascribed to Him too, particularly in a booklet named Advaita Sūtra Korcā, in which they claim Mādhavendra Purīpāda personally instructed him in the sexual rites with other men's wives - too sick to elaborate on, of course. Mrs. Manring suggests, probably rightly so, that the sahajīyas hijack each associate of Mahāprabhu, projecting and ascribing their perversions on them to gain respect and credibility, a 'political ploy'. Fortunately such booklets are totally unavailable and only respectable literature on Sītānātha remains on the market.

There are two books named Advaita Vilāsa, one by Vīreśvar Prāmāṇik, a compilation from 1899, apparently compiled on Bijay Kṛṣṇa Goswami's request, and an older one by an unknown Narahari Dās, which is not considered authoritative by Haridās Dāsjī. It more or less gives the regular stories on Sītānāth. There is even a booklet about Sītānāth for children, named Advaitācārya, written by Amiya Kānti Datta from Śrī-haṭṭa (Sītānāth's birth region where he may still be popular). At the end of the book Mrs. Manring learns that Prāmāṇik might have edited the books afterwards. Advaita Acarya has also been the source of inspiration for many a padakartā (Bengali songwriter) like Balarām Dās, Locan Dās, Ghanaśyām Dās, and Mrs. Manring provides nice English translations of the songs.

VIJAY KṚṢṆA GOSWAMI
On page 111 Mrs. Manring starts discussing Advaita Prabhu's most famous descendent, Bijoy Kṛṣṇa Gosvami (see my blogs of May 23, 2007 and April 19, 2006) adding more details to his biography, for me at least. So it is described (quoting from Viṣṇu Caran Dāsa’s ‘Life of Vijay Kṛṣṇa') that when his mother Swarṇamayī Devī was pregnant with him she had wondrous dreams. She was in the backyard when the time for his birth approached. She fainted as her labor began, awakening to find the child in her arms and the placenta nearby on the ground. Later, when Vijay studied in Kolkata, his room-mate ripped him off so badly that he had to hit the streets begging for food, and later took another room with that same fellow after he (the roommate) had lost all the stolen money by gambling. It is then that he joined the Brahmo Samaj in 1866 (aged 25). Interestingly, Mrs. Manring claims (p.113): "…..if Vijay Kṛṣṇa is to be held up as a model Vaiṣṇava, then he must of course be dualistic in his religious approach. His hagiographers are all admirers if not disciples. They use this portion (of non-dualistic practise) of (his) life to demonstrate the seductiviness of monism. None directly criticizes this approach, but all are clearly more interested in their subject's return to his family's religious origins (of bhakti)." And, on the following page, "Many of Vijay's hagiographers describe his involvement with the Brahmo Samaj as a necessary step back to the devotional practises of his earlier days...."
Vijay’s seven commandments, which he preached from Gandaria Ashram in Dhākā, are listed on page 117:

1. Never indulge in self-praise
2. Never speak ill of others
3. Nonviolence is a great virtue
4. Have compassion for all
5. Place implicit reliance on the scriptures and the holy men
6. Avoid, like poison, what is incompatible with the tenets of the scriptures and the saints
7. Egoism is the worst enemy


About the time that Vijay Kṛṣṇa lived in Bāblā (his beautiful abode outside of Śāntipur) Mrs. Manring provides the following anecdotes (p.118): “Villagers would often hear beautiful devotional music at this spot but could never find the people who were singing. Vijay Kṛṣṇa said the music was echoing from Caitanya’s time.” And: “One day as he meditated here at Bāblā, Vijay Kṛṣṇa noticed a dog’s unusually persistent interest in one particular spot. Curious, Vijay began digging at the same place, and found a pair of wooden sandals and a set of brass pots used for worship. When he saw ‘Kamalākṣa’ (Advaita Prabhu’s birthname) carved on the sandals he realized they were Advaita Ācārya’s own belongings. To sanctify the place and commemorate the important discovery, he had a small temple built, elevated so that worshipers must climb a flight of stairs to enter. The artifacts have been enshrined beneath the temple images….Vijay Kṛṣṇa suggested to the dog that he now give up his body, since his life’s work was done. The next morning people found the animal’s corpse on the riverbank.” Towards the end of his life Vijay Kṛṣṇa Goswāmī instructed his disciple Gopālchandra Goswāmī to ask Vīreśvara Prāmāṇik to compose a work on the life of Advaita Ācārya, and he produced the Advaita Vilāsa, which (I haven't read it myself) appears to be a regular compilation taken from the major Advaita-biographies, with the exception that it claims that Lābhā Devi committed Satī after her husband Kuber Paṇḍit passed away.

ADVAITA BĀLYA LĪLĀ SŪTRA
In chapter 5 of the book Mrs. Manring casts some doubts on Lauḍīya Kṛṣṇa dās’ Advaita Bālya līlā Sūtra, saying that the Sanskrit verses are sometimes out of metre and wonders why the book is never quoted elsewhere. I think the logical response to that would be, ‘Caitanya Bhāgavat and Caitanya Caritāmṛta focused on Mahāprabhu – there was simply no place there for digressions into Advaita’s personal pastimes.’ To the Sanskrit issue I would reply that perhaps Lauḍīya Kṛṣṇadas (King Divyasiṁha) was not really a Sanskrit-crack, so he might have made mistakes here and there. Later on, Mrs. Manring acknowledges that the Advaita Bālya Līlā Sūtra is mentioned in the Advaita Prakāśa (sanskṛte racilā prabhura bālya-līlā-sūtra, 3rd verse before last of the 6th chapter). Not only that, most if not all material of the Bālya līlā Sūtra has been covered by Advaita Prakāśa, which makes it the best hagiography available about Advaita Prabhu, both in quality and in quantity. After the razing of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhyā in December 1992, Muslims in Bangladesh retaliated by razing the major library in Sylhet (Śrīhaṭṭa, the birthplace of Advaita Prabhu in current Bangladesh), thereby destroying the – possibly – only leftover copies of Bālya līlā Sūtra and Sītā Caritra.

After Advaita Prabhu’s disappearance, Iśāna Nāgara returned to East Bengal, got married and had children (though he was already 70 years old). He passed away shortly afterwards, but not before making many disciples. His eldest son Puruṣottama also made many disciples. The family became known as Nāgara-Advaitas (not to be confused with Gaura Nāgarīs) and were considered part of Sītā-Advaita’s family. On page 166, while reviewing Advaita Prakāśa, Mrs. Manring tells us that Sītānātha’s original Madangopāl-deity, which he found under the bushes at Vṛndāvana’s Advaita Vat, is actually in the Madangopāl temple in Śāntipur but is locked up in storage because it is too old and worn to be worshipped.

(To be continued................)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Reconstructing tradition


Reconstructing tradition
By Rebecca Manring
Book Review

This review will coincide nicely with the annual Śītānāth Utsava, the festival commemmorating Śrī Advaita Prabhu's advent day, which commenced today in Sādhu Bābā’s āshram. When a friend offered to send me a copy of this book about Advaita Ācārya, my Pran Purush, I hesitated accepting the offer, as I had very bad experiences in the past with non-devotee intellectuals giving their regarded opinion on transcendental matters. The book was said to contain many details about the social and sectarean standing of Advaita Prabhu, though, so I could not resist. Now I'm glad that I accepted the offer because, though it is a non-devotee work, Mrs. Manring has done a more thorough reading of the Advaita-books than I was able to do.

In the introduction Mrs. Manring claims that Advaita Prakāśa was not written by Īśān Nāgar in 1568, but in the late 19th century by a descendent of Advaita Prabhu, Acyuta Caran Caudhuri Tattvanidhi. Oddly, whenever she quotes Advaita Prakāśa afterwards, she does ascribe it to Īśān Nāgar. The claim that Advaita Prakāśa is not written by Īśān is made by the mundane scholar B.B. Majumdar, though, who tried to reconcile differences between the book and the Caitanya Caritāmṛta (this has been dealt with in my essay 'In defense of the Advaita Vaṁśa' on my website). Mrs. Manring writes: 'Majumdar was operating from a historical positivist approach, that is, from the presupposition that the biographies were historical documents. This led him to believe that conflicting narrative accounts must represent deviations from truth." 

On page 125 Mrs. Manring reviews the Advaita Prakāśa and reiterates it is written by Īśān. The Bengali publisher Satishcandra Mitra, when he republished it in 1926, also vowed it was an authentic scripture, written by an eye-witness of Advaita Prabhu’s līlā for over 50 years, and it was written long before Caitanya Caritāmṛta. At the end of the book Mrs. Manring argues that the fact that Īśān Nagar’s name is not mentioned in major granthas like Caitanya Caritāmṛta may be because he was just a domestic servant and not a public figure, or a big preaching ācārya etc. Mrs. Manring notes that, though many books have been written about Advaita Prabhu, they are very rare, many of them destroyed by germs, India's heavy climate and sheer neglect. I noticed that because, apart from Advaita Prakāśa, which is widely available, I failed to get any book about Advaita Prabhu anywhere in India. Mrs. Manring suggests that the books on Advaita Prabhu were not quoted by other Vaiṣṇava ācāryas mostly because of their lack of availability.

Mrs. Manring sees Haricaraṇa's Advaita Mangal as presenting a rasa-continuum, with Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa first appearing as Sītā and Advaita and then later as Śrīman Mahāprabhu. She also sees an evolution of rasa in Gaura-līlā's historical sequence - Advaita (the first to appear) as Aiśvarya (which actually is not a rasa) Haridās Ṭhākur as Dāsya, Nityānanda as Sakhya, Sītā devī as Vātsalya and finally Mahāprabhu Himself as Mādhurya. This is interesting, but whether that was Haricaran Ṭhākur's intention or not is another question. It certainly is not explained like this by any major Gauḍīya ācārya.

Proudly I read on page 14 that, unlike other branches of the Gauḍīya Sampradāya, the Advaita Parivāra did not yield to the influence of the British Christians that made itself felt in Bengal in the 19th century (when a non devotee uses the word ‘orthodox’ my ears prick up and I get all interested, because it means something actually genuine is coming up!) Vijay Kṛṣṇa Gosvāmī, Sādhu Bābā's great-grand-uncle and great hero, was originally influenced by the neo-Christian Brāhma Samāj, but later returned to his Vaiṣṇava roots and settled in Śāntipur. He was a rock in the turbulent waters of colonial India.

On page 40 Mrs. Manring writes: “Nityānanda, the avadhūta, was a wild-eyed iconoclast with no respect for social convention. His devotion took a very different form than did Advaita's and he garnered, and still has, a tremendous following. Advaita was a caste-sensitive brāhmana, always careful to observe the relevant rules and restrictions.....in the first stage of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava movement the presence of an established and elderly scholar in the midst provided the group with some respectability. The loud ecstatic kīrtan processions Caitanya led through the streets of Navadvīpa....hardly seemed models of priestly decorum." Later, Mrs. Manring concedes: “However, it seems unlikely that a young Caitanya,.......lost in religious ecstasy........would have conceived the idea of of including his parents' elderly friend in his sankīrtan simply for political expedience."

Of course, at the time, including the honorable Advaita in the group might have socially benefited Mahāprabhu’s movement, whether it was done deliberately or not. Mrs. Manring's claim that only or especially Advaita Prabhu's followers are promoting orthodox brāhmanism, is inaccurate, however. In my essay 'Who is a brāhmin, Guru and Sannyāsī' I have provided ample evidence that Nityānanda Prabhu and Mahāprabhu Himself also held up the same standard.

There are quite a few inaccuracies in Mrs. Manring's book - in chapter 1 she contradicts herself by first saying that there are a disproportionate number of biographies of Advaita - compared to Nityānanda, but at the end of that chapter she says that there is so little about Advaita in Gauḍīya literature, and she opens chapter 2 by claiming that Haricaraṇa's Advaita Mangal is regarded in the Gauḍīya tradition as the authoritative biography of Advaita Ācārya, while in fact it is the least accepted of all the biographies.

ADVAITA MAṄGAL
Advaita Maṅgal describes how Vijay Puri, an elderly Godbrother of Mādhavendra Puri, and Śītānāth's maternal uncle, is sent to Navagrām by Madangopāl Himself to seek out the bhakta avatāra (Advaita) there. He appears to the newborn Advaita and tells him that Kṛṣṇa bhakti is not available anywhere, and that Madangopāl is waiting for Him in the bushes of Vṛndāvana. (Things I clearly overlooked when I studied Advaita Mangal to compose my book about Śītānāth) When Śītānāth arrives in Vṛndāvana in his youth, ten Vrajavāsī women alert Him of the whereabouts of Madangopāl one morning, and, after the unearthing of Madangopāl, Śītānāth teaches the local Vrajavāsīs of the supremacy of parakīya bhāva. He then proceeds in telling them in all detail how Paurṇamāsī initiated Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa into the kāma gāyatrī and how their pūrva rāga pastimes took place. Returning to Śāntipur, Advaita becomes a famous Guru who one day announces that Mādhavendra Purīpād appeared to Him in a dream and told Him he would come to Śāntipur the very same day if He summons him with an offering of rice balls. And events transpire just as Advaita had dreamed - Gurudeva appears in Śāntipur and gives him dīkṣā. A challenging scholar (Digvijayi) comes to town and, after being defeated by Śītānāth, is the first one to call him 'Advaita'.

I remember when I wrote the book I found the different books about Śītānāth rather hard to harmonize both in sequence and in mood - especially Advaita Mangal was hard for me to understand, but it appeals a bit more to me now. Haricharan claims to have been educated in Advaita's pastimes by Śrīnāth Ācārya, possibly Śrīnāth Cakravartī, the disciple of Śītānāth and Guru of Kavi Karṇapur.

When Advaita roared during his worship of mother Gaṅgā, performing tapasyā, the Apsarās came to disturb His penance, and eventually took Him to Swarg. When Indra there told Brahmā about Śītānātha's tapasyā, Brahmā decided to join Him in the Sankīrtan movement and took human birth there too (as Haridās Ṭhākur). Śyāmdās, who arranged and instigated Advaita Prabhu's marriage, also built Him a huge mansion with women's quarters.

Advaita Prabhu's tapasya and cries of love not only caused the descent of Śrīman Mahāprabhu, but also of all his eternal associates, like Śacī-mātā and Jagannātha Miśra, the Lord's parents.

Haricaraṇā Ṭhākur then narrates a story to show the non-difference between Śrīman Mahāprabhu and Śītānāth's eldest son Acyuta. After the two boys had gone swimming Acyuta had drunk all the milk meant for both the boys and Sītā devī slapped him for it, leaving a big mark. When the boys sit down to eat the mark is still there and Sītā devī asks Gaura who made the mark on His cheek. Gaura replies: "You did! Acyuta drank the milk and you hit him! Acyuta and I are non-different!" Mrs. Manring rounds out her description of Advaita Maṅgal by narrating how Sītā devī assumes as many forms as there are guests while serving a feast and suggesting that Śītānāth's refusal to any more accept the obeisances of young Nimāi is a part of an evolution from aiśvarya to mādhurya, which is not an uninteresting proposal actually.

In Advaita Maṅgal Advaita Prabhu shows a four-armed form to the Digvijayī, Haridās, Śyāmdās and twice to Gaurī dās. It becomes a lot more understandable now why Sādhu Bābā also gave me this book to translate when he first asked me to preach Śītānāth's glories in the west. It still does contain a lot of controversies, so I suppose Bābā expected me to select the interesting and credible parts from it only. I hope I did. Haricaraṇa’s equating Śītānāth with Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself remains, of course, far-fetched; perhaps something just to read over and turn a blind eye to; it could be seen as an extreme glorification perhaps.

(To be continued......)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Garga Saṁhitā and personal desires

I recently had these two interesting exchanges with Śrīpād Satya-nārāyan Dāsji

January 10, 2009
Revered Prabhuji
Please accept my Rādhe Rādhe
Hope this message reaches you in blissful Vṛndāvan Vāsa.
What is your opinion on the Garga Saṁhitā? It has some controversial passages about all the Kaurava demons coming from the heavens (5.30-31) and about Shiva getting a place in the Rāsa-dance (25.8), whereas Shiva is like a yogi who qualifies at best for aiśvarya bhakti. The book is never quoted by the Gosvāmīs in their books and is not mentioned either in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Abhidhāna. Should we take this book seriously?
Thanks in advance
Advaitadas

Dear Advaita Prabhuji
Jai Sri Rādhe Shyāma
I think this book is good to tell stories to people in general. It is not for siddhānta. So do not take it seriously.
SND

Kṛṣṇadasji had this to add on the Garga Samhitā -
Dear Advaitaji,

I have not read the book but I think that it is a later work since the ācāryas do not mention it. However, it is difficult to know for sure only on the basis of absence of quotations. It does not seem to me to offer anything theologically because it does not feature in anyway in any serious piece of writing I have read.
KD

Then I asked Śrīpād Satya-nārāyan Dāsji the following :

20 january 2009
Revered Prabhuji
Please accept my Rādhe Śyām
In Ujjvala Nīlamaṇi, ch.14, it is said that consorts with samañjasā and sādhāraṇī rati have a certain amount of personal desires. But how is that possible? Can they live in the spiritual world with personal desires, while I have always thought that one cannot enter the spiritual world without giving up all personal desires? I have checked the ṭīkās of Śrī Jīva and Viśvanātha and they just confirm the meaning of the original verses of Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī. Can you explain this mystery please?
Advaitadas

Dear Advaita Prabhuji
Jai Śrī Rādhe Shyāma
A living being has the natural tendency to seek pleasure. The difference between spiritual and material life is on the basis of the desire to enjoy. In material life a person wants to enjoy independently from Kṛṣṇa, and in spiritual life with Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In spiritual life the enjoyment can come in two ways- either by seeking pleasure for oneself with Śrī Kṛṣṇa,  or by getting pleasure through giving pleasure (in other words, by not thinking of one's own pleasure at all, which is Vraja-bhakti or uttamā bhakti). Both of these are called 'not having personal desires' from the material point of view because there is no desire to enjoy independently at all.
There are various grades of devotees in Vaikuṇṭha, and their level is known by how much percentage of either of these two one has. śānta bhaktas are at the bottom because they are not interested in doing personal service and Gopīs are the topmost on the ladder because they even hate to sit and just meditate- they render only favorable service for the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa. Then there are devotees in between.
A sādhāraṇī-devotee has interest in having pleasure for oneself from Kṛṣṇa, not independently. Samañjasā is a khichari and samartha is pure love.
SND

Monday, January 19, 2009

Gaura is Kṛṣṇa, but is not a copy of Kṛṣṇa.

Bhakta: "Can one have svakīya or parakīya relations with Mahāprabhu? In Navadvīp He has one wife, who dies, then He has another wife.... Can He have more wives? Of course He is maryādā puruṣottama..."

Advaitadas: The fact that Mahāprabhu is Kṛṣṇa does not mean He is a copy of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is black, Gaura is golden, Kṛṣṇa is vaiśya, Gaura is brahmin, Kṛṣṇa lives in Braja, Gaura lives in Nadīya, Kṛṣṇa is a cowherd and Gaur is a teacher. Where are the cows in Navadvīp? Where is Mahāprabhu tending any cows? Mahāprabhu has only prakat līlā and this is repeated endlessly, with the two consecutive wives. Their svarūpas are mentioned in Gaura Gaṇoddeśa Dīpikā 45-47. They appear very briefly in Gaura-līlā yet they are eternally His spouses."

Bhakta: "What if someone is really attracted to Gaura-līlā and wants to participate in it eternally?"

Advaitadas: "When you are with God you are with God. You won't notice the difference between prakat līlā and nitya līlā when you're in the middle of it. prakat līlā is like an embassy of the spiritual world. When you enter the Indian Embassy in London you are officially on Indian soil, but still you are in the middle of the United Kingdom too. At any rate, we see Gaura-līlā as the academy of pure devotion rather than the goal in itself and it has been presented as such by the ācāryas too."

Bhakta: "Some say that all the Vaiṣṇava- temples in the material world are embassies of the spiritual world."

Advaitadas: "Only to an extent. The prakat līlā I mentioned before is for those devotees who have attained the first prema siddha, before moving on to rāga, anurāga, bhāva and mahābhāva, while the temples in the material world are filled with mostly neophyte devotees that are still largely under the spell of the material energy. They cannot fully represent the spiritual world as ambassadors."

Bhakta: 'I know someone who claims to have a married relationship with Gaura, like a svakīya Gaur Nāgarī bhāva."

Advaitadas: "Where does it end? Gaur Nāgarī bhāva is already at the other end of the imagination the way it is (parakīya) - now there is even svakīya Gaur Nāgarī bhāva as well! There is also a party that claims that Mahāprabhu's wives assist Him in His pastimes with other men's wives - too much! And none of this is rasābhāsa? As I said just earlier, Gaur is not an integral copy of Kṛṣṇa - Gaura has the attitude of a bhakta (āśray tattva), not of an enjoyer like Kṛṣṇa (biṣoy tattva). Next they will imagine themselves to be one of 16,108 wives of Mahāprabhu too, like Kṛṣṇa in Dwārakā. rasābhās hoy yadi siddhānta virodh, sohite na pāre prabhu mone hoy krodh (CC Antya līlā) - If there is rasābhāsa or bogus philosophy Mahāprabhu will not tolerate it but get angry instead." Besides, Mahāprabhu is the head of our sampradāya - depicting Him as a Nāgara would bring great disgrace upon our sampradāya. Mahāprabhu was so strict, following all the rules of a brāhmin and a sannyāsī, all the way to the end, when His pastimes became wildly ecstatic.

Bhakta: "You say Gaura is not a copy of Kṛṣṇa but I heard that all the places of Kṛṣṇa's pastimes are also in Navadvīp, such as Keśī Ghāt."

Advaitadas: "I have already shown in the beginning of this conversation that Gaura and Kṛṣṇa līlā are different in all respects. Now look at their abodes - does Braja consist of nine islands (like Navadvīp)? Does Navadvīp consist of 84 Krośa?"

Bhakta: "Couldn't there be an internal vision of Keśī Ghāt being in Navadvīp?"

Advaitadas: "If that were so, then where is the description of Mahāprabhu killing Keśī? Or Ariṣṭāsura, or Kaṁsa? Where are the cows in Navadvip, etc. etc.? "

Bhakta: "Mahāprabhu chanted Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa hey' so He seemed to be focused on Kṛṣṇa, but then He also chanted Rāma Rāghava Rāma Rāghava."

Advaitadas: "You need to see this in context. There are different levels of Mahāprabhu-līlā - a more conventional one and a more esoteric one. Roughly speaking, Navadvip līlā and the South India trip (during which Mahāprabhu chanted this) are the more conventional ones and Puri līlā the more esoteric one. Then also, in Caitanya Bhāgavata Mahāprabhu is Lord Nārāyaṇa and in Caitanya Caritāmṛta He is Kṛṣṇa in the mood of Rādhā. Not all of Mahāprabhu līlā is about rāgānugā bhakti and mañjarī bhāva. Returning to the differences between Gaura and Kṛṣṇa-līlās: Kṛṣṇa-līlā starts with the mādhurya (Vraja līlā) and turns into aiśvarya (Mathurā- and Dwārakā līlā), with Gaur the sequence is reverse - the earlier Navadvīp līlā is not showing the intensity and esoterics of the later Puri līlā (as far as the līlās are comparible at all). At the end Mahāprabhu would not even invite His devotees anymore to visit Him for the caturmāsya but would just relish Kṛṣṇa's madhura līlā with Rāma Rāy and Svarūp Dāmodar. There is no Rūpa Goswāmī and Svarūp Dāmodar in Navadvīp. They appear in Purī..."

Bhakta: "We discussed before about emanations and expansions. In Jaiva Dharma the verse Oṁ Pūrṇam adaḥ Pūrṇam idaṁ pūrṇāt purnam udacyate  from the Iśopaniṣad is translated as 'Even if the complete is subtracted from the complete it is still complete.' Who's crawling out here? I thought they were all eternal."

Advaitadas: "There is a deficiency in western languages, that were not made for such concepts of eternality and beginninglessness. For instance, the word avatārī can best be translated in English as 'origin of the descents', but that would at once create the impression that the avatāras emanated from the avatārīs, in historical sequence, but that is of course not the fact. All the forms of God, as well as all the jīvas, are eternal. kṛṣṇa bhūli sei jīva anādi bahirmukh (CC) - we forgot Kṛṣṇa, but not historically so, beginninglessly so. You need to scrap the time-factor in such philosophical statements. The pūrṇāt in pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate is indeed in the 5th case, which means 'From the full, the full is coming". This creates the illusion that there was some origin, some historical sequence."

Bhakta: "There seems to be some subtraction going on in this verse, like one thing comes from the other."

Advaitadas: "No. It looks like that but it is purely a philosophical statement. Just like the other Vedic statement 'eko'haṁ bahu syām' 'I was one, I became many'. That is not an historical event, but a philosophical statement only. Bhagavad Gītā's very first lesson shows us that the soul is beginningless and therefore never originally emanated from God - na tvevāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ na tvaṁ neme narādhipaḥ (Bhagavad Gītā 2.12). "Never was there a time when I (God) did not exist, nor you (the jīva) etc. " To those who may argue that the soul may have always been there, but originally was an integral part of Kṛṣṇa, I wish to quote another line in the Bhagavad Gītā (15.7) mamaivāṁśo jīvaloke jīva bhūta sanātanaḥ - the word sanātana indicates the soul is eternally a particle of Kṛṣṇa  Also, the Bhāgavata says time and again that the conditioning of the soul (and thus its separation from Kṛṣṇa) is beginningless. The point of the Īśopaniṣad verse is not that things emanate from God but that God is complete, eternally so. He can never be depleted."

Bhakta: There seems to be a book named Sanatkumār Saṁhitā, in which Sadāśiva explains the Aṣṭakāliya Līlā to Nārada Muni or Vṛndā devī. Is this a genuine scripture?"

Advaitadas: "One verse of it is quoted by Narottam Dās Thākur in his Prem Bhakti Candrikā, so at least that must be right. As for the entire book, I find it a bit hard to believe that this is an ancient scripture because if it was, the Gosvāmīs, who were always so eager to prove their points with scriptural quotations, would certainly have quoted it to prove the validity of Aṣṭakālīya līlā, but they didn't. This text would have been a dream come true for them. So I have my doubts about it. The same with so many verses from different Purāṇas and Upaniṣads, that are supposed to prove the Godhead of Mahāprabhu - if they were genuine, the Gosvāmīs would have gratefully used them to prove their point, but they didn't. "

Bhakta: "In chapter 39 of Jaiva Dharma, Bhaktivinode says that '...in your spiritual form your age begins at ten and, as you make advancement in service, increases up to the age of sixteen."

Advaitadas: "Hmm. He might speak about the prakat-līlā here. Rūpa Gosvāmī and Viśvanātha Cakravartī say that before you are elevated to Goloka you are first trained in the prakat-līlā of Kṛṣṇa and you take a regular birth there as a gopī in the womb of a gopī and grow up there, with parents etc., just like any other girl. It could not apply to the spiritual sky because the forms should be eternal there."

Bhakta: "Then, a little later, he says: You will be the follower of a certain sakhī. Her cottage at Rādhākuṇḍa will be your residence also."

Advaitadas: "That is the way I received it from Sādhu Bābā too. Some Vaiṣṇavas give a personal abode (kuñja) to each mañjarī sādhaka, to entertain Kṛṣṇa there but we don't do that because the mañjarī is not after her own personal enjoyment with Kṛṣṇa.  We serve in the cottage of Viśākhā-sakhī only, without our private space. Even ancient European queens' ladies-in-waiting did not have their private spaces - they slept in the queen's quarters only."

Bhakta: "So the service of the mañjarīs is ultimately service to Kṛṣṇa too?"

Advaitadas: "Yes, that is how Sādhu Bābā explained the verse jīvera svarūpa hoy kṛṣṇer nitya dās in the context of manjari bhava. Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa have no separate interests from each other, so serving one is serving the other - śakti śaktimatayor abhedaḥ - there is no difference between the energy and the energetic. rādhā snehādhika bhāva is, however, the highest relish in rasa. In Utkalika Vallari and Vilāpa Kusumāñjali there are descriptions that the mañjarīs kick Kṛṣṇa out of the kuñja and He can only come back with the goodwill of the mañjarīs themselves. All this seems like mistreatment of the Supreme Person but in fact it gives the highest relish to both Him and to us. Kṛṣṇa's active aggressive masculine nature gets challenged and that gives Him great relish."

Bhakta: "Does Candrāvalī have some awe and reverence? If so, then how is she in Vṛndāvana?"

Advaitadas: 'She has more awe for Kṛṣṇa than Rādhikā, but not that she thinks He is God or so. Her awe is called ghṛta sneha ('ghee-affection') in contrast to Rādhikā's madhu-sneha ('honey-affection') which causes Rādhikā to act more freely towards Kṛṣṇa. But in Vraja no one considers Kṛṣṇa to be God."

Bhakta: "Then, later, Bhaktivinode quotes Vraja Vilāsa Stava verse 29, to prove he/she serves under Lalitā."

Advaitadas: "That is correct. He was initiated by Bipin Bihāri Goswāmī, who was in Nityānanda Prabhu's family. They serve under Lalitā, while we in Advaita Prabhu's family serve under Viśākhā, like Raghunāth Dās Gosvāmī, who was a grand-disciple of Advaita Prabhu. In his Vilāpa Kusumāñjali (99) he offers a prayer only to Viśākhā, not to Lalitā. He offered prayers to both of them in Vraja Vilāsa Stava because that is a very generic stava, which offers praises to all of Kṛṣṇa's associates in Vraja, regardless of any personal relationship he/she may have with them."

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

aṣṭakāla arcanā and tri-sandhyā vs āhnika.

Phone sanga.

Bhakta: "Just as we chant Hare Kṛṣṇa for Rādhārāṇī's pleasure both when She is separated from Kṛṣṇa and when She is together with Him, do we perform deity worship similarly?"

Advaitadas: "In the mood, yes, in the mind, yes, but not that we separate the Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa deities in the times of the day when Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are separated, ha ha ha. Deity worship is more formal and has its own rules. I do remember there was a doctor living close to Banki Bihāri temple (in Vṛndāvan), I used to visit him in 1988, he had deities in his chamber and not only that, he had an entire pavilion for the deities with all the items of Their aṣṭakāl līlā enjoyments in it - wine glasses (without real wine), a swimming pool (like Rādhākuṇḍa), swings, a table with the dice game, beds etc. etc. Of course he was so busy with his profession that he could not possibly move the deities from place to place in the pavilion, or to separate them in the proper time."

Bhakta: "But the devotee's chanting will be different according to times of separation and union, huh?"

Advaitadas: "Yes but that would require a very advanced and very absorbed devotee. In times of union the chanting becomes like accompanying music, music that accompanies the intimate pastimes, while in times of separation it is meant as support for the suffering Rādhārāṇī. Many sādhakas get the mañjarī-service of singing and in Stavāvali, Raghunāth Dās Goswāmī also prays to Viśākhā-devi that she can teach him/her how to sing."

Bhakta: "Gāyatrī is to be said three times a day. You practise that?"

Advaitadas: "As you may know, the inclusion of Brāhma Gāyatrī into Vaiṣṇava diksa is a recent development. Originally Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā means just the Kṛṣṇa dīkṣā-mantras. These mantras are practised once a day, hence the practise is called āhnika (daily), not tri-sandhyā, which means 'three times a day' and which is a Vedic brahminical practise, not a Vaiṣṇava practise. The principle is that one practises these mantras after showering, putting on clean clothes and practising ācamana. I have not seen that practised in places where this tri-sandhyā is being practised here in the west. They pull their brahmin threads out of their pants on the airport or on the parking lot, or at best in a bench in the park, without showering, changing clothes or doing ācamana. Also chanting Gāyatrī behind the steering wheel is popular in the west, like nāma japa. So tri-sandhyā is really very impractical, even if it were endorsed by scriptures at all for non-brahmins."


Kirtan with Vaiyasaki Das, Amsterdam June 15, 2008
(yours truly on the top right)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Prabhu Sītānātha's festival 2009

Thanks to modern technology I got even my annual invitation to Sītānāth's utsava by e-mail this year. (Special thanks to Subrata Adhikary, who visited Sādhu Bābā's āshram with his family)

My Guru sister Mālatī thought it a good idea to post it on the blog along with an English translation. The location of the utsava is Prācīn Māyāpur, just before the Bhajan Āshram, northern Navadvīp, at a stone's throw of the (Nitāi-Gaura Rādhe Śyām administered) Janmasthān Mandir. Here is the English translation of the Nimantran Patra -


Śrī-Śrī Rādhā Madan Gopālaḥ Śaraṇam
JAY PRABHU SĪTĀNĀTH

rādhā madana gopālādvaita prāṇaballabham
sītānāthaṁca tad bhṛtyaṁ vande gaurāvatārakam

sei navadvīpe boise vaiṣṇavāgragaṇya
advaitācārya nāma sarva loke dhanya

(Caitanya Bhāgavat ādi 2)

"In that Navadvīpa lived the foremost of Vaiṣṇavas, named Advaita Ācārya, who was blessed in all the worlds."

śrī-śrīman mahāprabhu pravarttita premabhakti patha pathikeṣu

To all those who tread the path of Prema Bhakti promulgated by Śrīman Mahāprabhu -

As in previous years, this year on Monday February 2, 2009,the auspicious advent day of the most merciful Prabhu Sitanath is celebrated on Makara Saptami day, so in front of Śrī-Śrī Rādhā Madan Gopāla, the beloved deity of Śrī-Śrī Sādhu Bābā, in Śrī Navadvīp Dhām's Rāmacandrapur district a great 5-day devotional festival will be held for His satisfaction, starting on Thursday January 29th. Items will include Pārāyan, discussions on devotional scripture and Kīrtan.

Please bless us by attending this festival. This is not an invitation, it is an anxious cry by Prabhu Sītānātha's servants to have their sensually polluted consciousness lifted into absorption into bhakti rasa. Petitioner -

Crown jewel of merciful Prabhu Sītānātha's family, engaged in nitya līlā -

PRABHUPĀDA ŚRĪ NIKUÑJA GOPĀL GOSWĀMĪ

On behalf of the fallen servants and maidservants of his lotus-feet,

Namitā Sāhā and Tulasī Sāhā



PROGRAMME -


Thursday 29 January 2009 in the evening Maṅgal Ghāṭ Sthāpan and Ādhivās

Friday 30 January and Saturday 31 January 2009, main program -

5-6 a.m. Nagar Saṅkīrtan
7-9 a.m. Bhakti Grantha Pārāyan
9-11 a.m. Śrī-Śrī Rādhā Madan Gopāla's Śṛṅgār Ārati
12-1 p.m. Śrī-Śrī Rādhā Madan Gopāla's Bhoga Rāga
3-5 p.m. Śrī Līlā Kīrtan
5-7 p.m. Discussion on Bhakti Granthas and glorification of Sītānāth.
7-8 p.m.Sandhyā Ārati Kīrtan
8-11 p.m Śrī-Śrī Līlā Kīrtan

Sunday 1 February 2009 24-hour Tārak Brahma Nāma (Hare kṛṣṇa) Kīrtan

Monday 2 February 2009 In the morning Śrī Nagar Saṅkīrtan, Prabhu Sītānāth's Abhiṣekha
Kīrtan of His birth pastimes and Prasād.

PS According to necessity the program may be altered.

Kīrtan Groups:
Servants and students of Śrī-Śrī Sādhu Bābā -
Śrī Śacīnandan Karmakār (Pākur, Bihār) and others.